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Friday, December 19, 2014

Good News of Great Joy!

By Paul Hamline

As I sit at my desk this morning and wrap up the last lesson from our study of the book of Jeremiah, my heart leaps with great joy. What a grand finale this book has after a very tumultuous relationship between God and His people! The Lord has not forgotten the Davidic line! After thirty-seven years of exile, King Jehoiachin - who reigned a mere three months and spent thirty-seven years imprisoned - suddenly appears, and the Davidic line is still alive!

On January 11, 2015, we will crack open the book of Acts, and leaping out from those pages is the Gospel on the advance! A tiny movement of twelve men suddenly explodes into a tidal wave of Gospel advancement. This is the continuation of God’s unfolding plan and declaration regarding Israel in Jeremiah 33:8-9.

“I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned against Me and by which they have transgressed against Me.

It will be to Me a name of joy, praise and glory before all the nations of the earth which will hear of all the good that I do for them, and they will fear and tremble because of all the good and all the peace that I make for it.”

I would like to extend an invitation to each of you to come be a part of this study as we watch the Gospel Advance setting the stage for provoking Israel to jealousy and God sovereignly drawing them - as well as the nations - to Himself.

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
(Revelation 7:9-10)

This truly is good news of great joy!

“For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
(Luke 2:11)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Principles Related to Our Mission of Making Disciples

By Tim Senn

The Christian mission is about making disciples! As we have been studying the “Sermon on the Mission” from Matthew 10, Jesus has taught us 13 principles concerning the mission of the Church:
  1. Mission is a vital part of our Christian discipleship. (vv. 5-6)
  2. Our mission is to proclaim truth & to express compassion. (vv. 7-8)
  3. Our mission depends upon God’s power and provision. (vv. 8-10)
  4. Our mission is a partnership between goers and givers. (vv. 11-13)
  5. Our mission will face opposition and resistance. (vv. 14-15)
  6. Our mission is dangerous. (vv. 16-20)
  7. Our mission is divisive. (vv. 21-22)
  8. Our mission isn’t done! Not until Christ returns! (vs. 23)
  9. Our mission requires faith, courage and the fear of God. (vv. 24-31)
  10. Our mission requires public identification with Jesus Christ. (32-33)
  11. Our mission demands sacrifice. (vv. 34-38)
  12. Our mission is a matter of life and death. (vs. 39)
  13. Our mission will be rewarded! (vv. 40-42)

We have studied each of these in detail over the past couple of weeks. If you missed any of the sermons, you can listen to them here.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Invisible Parenting Tool

The most important tool in our parenting toolbox is invisible. As a result, we too often fail to put it into use until the last moment when we’ve tried everything with no success.

I had a husband and wife come to me and share that their five-year-old child refused to remain in bed after they tucked him in. Every night they went through a long routine of repeated encouragement, admonishment, and correction that lasted for upwards of an hour while their son again and again voiced excuse after excuse for why he couldn’t go to sleep. They tried waking him very early, the reward system, looking for the idol in his heart, and even allowed him to stay up late till he wanted to go to bed, only to discover the same result tucking him in at midnight. They were at their wits end. “What else can we do?” they lamented in my office with tears. “We have tried everything.”

They were wrong. They forgot the invisible tool at their disposal. I noticed they hadn’t mentioned it, so I asked, “Have you tried prayer?” They were quiet as they dealt with the immediate embarrassment of the moment. After all, no respectable Christian wants to forget prayer. They remembered a few desperate prayers but admitted that they largely were trying to fix the problem on their own. So I encouraged them with two things. First, God was probably working in their lives through this trial and helping them to learn to depend on Him in it. Secondly, they didn’t have to walk alone but could pray and ask God to help them persevere and give their son more immediate rest. We only had one session–the problem resolved itself shortly after they began praying.

So what about you? How quickly do you reach for the invisible tool of prayer for your family? God is able to help us in our time of need and strengthen us for the trials we are in through prayer. In prayer you are conversing with the very same God who created the universe and keeps our planet spinning. If that is the case, then he is able to care for us in our little needs. The problem is that we are too self-sufficient and full of unbelief. We trust in ourselves until God allows us to fail, leading us to cry out in desperation for His help.

When one of our daughters was around ten, my wife and I began to notice a serious pattern of sloth in her life. I’m not sure why we picked prayer as the answer. I think I reached back to the parenting tool box without looking and grabbed for a tool. I pulled prayer out, and my wife and I gave it a try. We prayed consistently for God to remove sloth from our daughter’s life and help her grow in diligence. We prayed for a while but then suddenly one day, after she took initiative to clean the house without being asked, we realized God had completely changed her. Today, she is one of our hardest working kids and doesn’t procrastinate at all, working diligently to get things accomplished. The change was so dramatic my wife and I see it as a miracle of God. No other tool could have accomplished the same result.

Not every prayer results in the same kind of dramatic change in the circumstance. Sometimes prayer changes us in the midst of our circumstances so that we are better able to minister to our children and guide them effectively. Whatever your challenge, don’t forget to pray. Make a list of all that you want God to do in your life and the lives of your children and pray. Pray believing God is able to do more than you ask (Ephesians 3:20) and that He knows your prayers even before you ask (Matthew 6:8). God won’t answer every prayer to suit our desires, but He will hear every prayer and give us what is best. Prayer is not a last resort, but our greatest tool. Yet because it is invisible, we too often don’t believe it is there until we are forced to trust it. The next time you run into a problem, pull out prayer first and then expect God to move.

By Marty Machowski
Author of Gospel Story Curriculum, The Gospel Story Bible, Old Story New, and Long Story Short. Posted with permission.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Gospel Meditation on Micah 6

By Eric Campbell

With what shall I come to the Lord 
And bow myself before the God on high? 
Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, 
With yearling calves? 
Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, 
In ten thousand rivers of oil? 
Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, 
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 
He has told you, O man, what is good; 
And what does the Lord require of you 
But to do justice, to love kindness, 
And to walk humbly with your God? 
(Micah 6:6-8 NASB)

Why does he mention his firstborn, or the fruit of his body?

The movement is from lesser to greater...
burnt offerings
yearling calves
thousands of rams
10,000 rivers of oil
my firstborn
the fruit of my body

In other words, your child is your greatest commodity, your dearest possession.

What could compare in an earthly sense, other than your spouse or a dear family member (parent, brother, sister, etc.)?

Imagine sacrificing your firstborn son on the altar.

Abraham did.

More importantly, that is what God did for us in sending His only Son.

How terrible, how unthinkable, how perplexing!

How great, how wonderful, how sacrificial, how loving!

"How deep the Father's love for us,
How great beyond all measure.
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I Cannot Say

Recently, Tim Senn preached two messages on the Lord's Prayer, also known as the Disciples' Prayer. At the end of these messages, he shared the quote below by an unknown author summarizing the prayer:

I cannot say “our” if I live only for myself.
I cannot say “Father” if I do not endeavor each day to act like His child.
I cannot say “who art in heaven” if I am laying up no treasure there.
I cannot say “hallowed by Thy name” if I am not striving for holiness.
I cannot say “Thy kingdom come” if I am not doing all in my power to hasten that wonderful day.
I cannot say “Thy will be done” if I am disobedient to His Word.
I cannot say “on earth as it is in heaven” if I will not serve Him here and now.
I cannot say “give us our daily bread” if I am unwilling to work.
I cannot say “forgive us our debts” if I harbor a grudge against anyone.
I cannot say “lead us not into temptation” if I deliberately place myself in its path.
I cannot say “deliver us from evil” if I do not put on the armor of God.
I cannot say “Thine is the kingdom” if I do not give to the King the loyalty due Him as a faithful subject.
I cannot attribute to Him “the power” if I fear what men may do.
I cannot ascribe to Him “the glory” if I am seeking honor only for myself.
I cannot say “forever” if the focus of my life is set completely on the things of time.

(Author Unknown)

Friday, June 28, 2013

God’s Transformation Agents

By Tim Senn

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:13-16 (NAS)

In this passage, Jesus first warns that salt can lose its taste, or “saltiness.” To the modern mind, this teaching is troublesome, because we know that sodium chloride is a stable compound, and thus salt cannot lose its properties as salt! But Jesus was not speaking scientifically, but ethically – remember, these are metaphors! The phrase “has become tasteless” literally means to lose effectiveness or to become worthless. Because of how it was mined, most of the salt in the ancient world was mixed with other minerals such as gypsum. Because the salt was soluble in water, often a tablet or block of salt could become diluted to contain only the impurities and other minerals. Thus, it became worthless as a preservative and lost its flavor, so it was thrown out upon the streets and roads and was “trampled underfoot by men.” We know that this “worthless” residue of white, salt-less powder was used in the Temple in Jerusalem in the winter to prevent worshippers from slipping.

How then do believers “lose their saltiness” or effectiveness in the world? It is when we become just like the world and indistinguishable from it! The danger confronting Christians is that when we engage the world, we face the risk of being “squeezed into the world’s mold” and being more influenced by it than we are exerting an influence over it. As salt, we are to engage the world and be “rubbed into it.” And yet, if the world rubs off on us more than we rub off on them, we lose our influence and will have no impact! Therefore, to be salt, we need to resist worldliness and maintain our distinctiveness as Christians.

If the danger to salt is worldliness, then the danger to light is cowardice. Jesus describes it as “hiding” your light under a basket. This is the tendency among believers to withdraw from the world out of fear or indifference. We are so frightened of being influenced by the world, or so fearful of being rejected by the world, that we hide our light and refuse to let it shine.

Perhaps we have been rejected by others or persecuted when we have tried to share our faith, and thus we have retreated into the comfort and security of being a “private” Christian. But in making sure that the world doesn’t exert an influence upon us, we fail to exert any influence upon them! As we share our faith with others, some will reject us and the Gospel we believe, but others will be drawn into the light! According to Jesus, hiding your light is just as worthless as losing your salt – a private Christian or secret believer is just as useless in the world as a worldly Christian!

It is the very nature of salt to impede corruption, and it is the very nature of light to shine. This makes the Christian life quite simple! Wherever you go, be salt and light. To everyone you meet, be salt and light! If you are a Christian, you can’t help but be salt and light!

But practically speaking, perhaps these are better questions with which to examine ourselves:

  1. In what areas of my life have I become indistinguishable from the world?
  2. Which individuals or groups of people influence me more for evil than I influence them for good?
  3. What areas of compromise exist in my life that I need to repent of and resist so that I can regain my saltiness?
  4. With whom am I afraid to share the Gospel?
  5. In what situations do I shrink back or cower from identifying myself as a disciple of Jesus Christ and witnessing to the truth?
  6. In what areas have I retreated into comfort and safety rather than shining my light for Christ?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

And Now These Three Remain: Faith, Faith, and Love

By Eric Campbell

What ever happened to hope? Sadly, for many of us, we omit “hope” from 1 Corinthians 13:13, and we think it’s all about striving for more and more “faith” to meet life’s challenges. The world says, “All you can do is hope,” but that kind of hope is uncertain, based on an outcome that is unlikely.

But a biblical hope is quite different, isn’t it? Christian hope is certain, steadfast, and based on the Word of God. It is an eager expectation for something unseen, not yet realized, but promised by God for our future good. However, even for us as believers, hope can be lost, completely missing in our lives, or placed in uncertain, earthly things.

We must be sure that our hope is placed in the right object: God and His Word, not in earthly circumstances, which may fail us. And hope is important in this life alone, because we will not need it in eternity. Hope then will be realized and fulfilled, but for now it is actually something we all desperately need.

The Greek word for hope, elpis, occurs approximately fifty times in the New Testament, with the highest concentrations in Acts and Romans. From these references, we learn quite a few interesting things!
  • Hope can be lost, so it is something to which we must hold fast. (Heb 6:18)
  • Hope does not bring shame. (Rom 5:5)
  • In our hope we rejoice and boast; it is something we confess. (Rom 12:12; Heb 3:6)
  • It is to one hope that we were called by God. (Eph 4:4)
  • Before Christ, we had no hope, so all unbelievers are hope-less. (Eph 2:12)
  • Our hope is in heaven, where Christ is, so when we get there we won’t need hope anymore! (Col 1:5)
  • Hope is like a helmet that protects the head, and like anchor that secures the soul. (1Th 5:8; Heb 6:19)
  • It is a “living” hope, because Jesus is alive! (1Pet 1:3)

For what do Christians hope?
  1. The resurrection of the body (Acts 2:26)
  2. Our adoption as sons (Rom 8:23-24)
  3. The glory of God (Rom 5:2)
  4. The renewal of all creation (Rom 8:20-21)
  5. God Himself (Col 1:27)
  6. The future, permanent home of righteousness (2Co 3:12)
  7. The second coming of Christ (Tit 2:13)

What are the benefits of Christian hope?
  1. It puts present troubles and hardship in perspective. (Rom 5:3-4)
  2. It helps us through the loss of loved ones. (1Thes 4:13-18)
  3. It’s a good witness to others. (1Pet 3:15)
  4. By hoping in Christ you purify yourself. (1Jn 3:3)

How about you? Are you filled with hope? Do others see you as a “hopeful” person? If not, consider these practical ways hope can be cultivated and restored in your life:
  1. Ask God to pour out His love into your heart by the Holy Spirit. Try this! (Rom 5:5; 15:13)
  2. Seek for the encouragement of the Scriptures. Feed on the Word. (Rom 15:4)
  3. Fix your thoughts on Jesus, the firstfruits of the resurrection, for we will be like Him! (1Jn 3:2)
  4. Think about God’s promises for the future, the second coming, the resurrection of the body, and the renewal of all creation.
  5. Sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19) that cultivate hope in your heart (e.g. "In Christ Alone," "Be Unto Your Name," "The Solid Rock," "On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand").

In Christ alone my hope is found:
He is my light, my strength, my song.
This Cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
-Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

In Christ,

Friday, January 25, 2013

Encourage and Build Up With These Words

By Paul Hamline

The Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore, encourage one another and build up one another, just as also you are doing." The term "encourage" means exactly what it says. The term "build up" means to "make someone more able." In this case Paul is asking us "to make one another more able" to stand fast and make one another more able to persevere to the Day of the Lord. There are four truths from God’s Word in 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 that believers can speak into the lives of other believers "to build them up, (make them more able) to keep on to the Day of the Lord."

  1. You have escaped the wrath of God: (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5) - The Day of the Lord will not "overtake" the brethren. The term "overtake" implies being overtaken; it catches up with you. You think you have escaped it, but it catches up with you and unleashes slaughter, destruction, and judgment. But that will not happen to "you, brethren." You have escaped the wrath of God. Speak this often to one another to encourage and build up one another.
  2. You have been entered into the family of God: (1 Thessalonians 5:5) - Paul says, "We are sons of light and sons of day." This is a double Hebrew idiom. When the Hebrew people heard the phrase, "you are the son of . . .," to their ears it meant whatever you are a son of has a dominating influence on your life. So in the milieu of life, remind your brothers and sisters whose sons and daughters they are and the nature they have of light and of day.
  3. You can anticipate the Day of the Lord with great enthusiasm: (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8) - Be ready and be looking for the day! Exhort one another to be busying themselves with preparation for their departure to live together with Him forever. It means telling one another to be busy in the work of sanctification. Make sure you are clothed properly. "The breastplate of faith" - trusting in Christ alone - and "the breastplate of love" - devotion and unchallenged, unrivaled love of God. Finally, "and as a helmet, the hope of salvation" - dwell and fix your mind on the final consummation, the glorification aspect of salvation. Exhort one another to remember our blessed hope.
  4. Remind one another of God’s glorious intentions for the brethren: (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10) - "For obtaining salvation" - the full and complete salvation and rescue of man. That is God's glorious intention for those whom He calls. (See Isaiah 46:8-11). Then God reveals a second glorious intention for the brethren: "so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him."
Just a word of hope to those who are presently "in darkness" and "of darkness and of night." You too can know and experience these encouraging and building up truths if you will come to God through Jesus Christ who died for us. May the four truths mentioned above be true of your life today!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Baptism - Our Entrance Into the Local Church

By Tim Senn

Just as Spirit baptism marks our entrance into the community of the universal church, likewise water baptism marks our initiation or entrance into the community of the local church. In Spirit baptism, a person becomes part of Christ’s body, and in water baptism, a person becomes part of the local expression of that body in the community of the church. Thus, because of the reality of Spirit baptism, we should be committed to several non-negotiables concerning its sign, water baptism:

  1. Water baptism should be for believers only! It is designed for those who have repented of their sins and have put their faith in Christ. The Church is not a “mixed” entity, as was OT Israel. But every true member of the Church has been regenerated! This is why we ask for a “credible profession of faith” from those whom we baptize. They must be able to articulate what it means to believe in Christ, and their life must consistently match their profession of faith. We don’t look for a sinless life of perfection, but we do look for signs of genuine fruit and obedience.

  2. Water baptism was ordained and commanded by Christ and is part of Christian discipleship. Following Christ means that you will desire to publicly identify yourself with Him, and will not be ashamed to confess Him before men!

  3. Water baptism should be by immersion. This is the example set by Scripture, and it is the best picture of being buried with Christ and raised from the dead!

  4. Water baptism presupposes regeneration, and is a sign or symbol of regeneration. It is the New Covenant sign!

  5. Water baptism assumes repentance, expresses repentance, and should result by God’s grace in a life of ongoing repentance!

  6. Water baptism identifies a person as belonging to God, and one who has “passed through the waters of divine judgment” and has been rescued from future wrath by Jesus Christ.

  7. Whether administered in the church building or in a public place like a lake or river, baptism should be part of the worship of the assembled church. It is a corporate, not an individual, event. If it marks entrance into the local church, then the church body should be invited to attend and witness the baptism.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Genuine Repentance

By Tim Senn

Repentance is really a switching of allegiances from personal sin and enslavement in the kingdom of darkness to faith in Jesus and being transferred into His kingdom. Repentance is the only proper entrance into the presence of a Holy King!
  1. Repentance begins with a fundamentally different outlook upon sin and human nature. 
  2. Repentance continues with an emotional hatred of sin and disgust with its filthiness.
  3. Repentance continues when we turn away from sin and turn to serve and obey God.
  4. Repentance continues throughout the entire life of a Christian – it is a way of life. Jesus doesn’t want you to just change your mind – He purposes to change your entire life! Christ came to make you the person that God wants you to become!
  5. Genuine Repentance will produce “fruit,” or characteristics of the new life. It is characterized by new attitudes and new actions. Genuine conversion produces attitudes like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, humility, and goodness. It produces actions like a desire to worship, relate personally to God through Bible reading and prayer, service to others, fellowship with other Christians, and sharing your faith with unbelievers.
Genuine Christianity begins with something that God through Christ performs within you – a radical transformation of your desires and disposition – and with a divine Person who comes to reside within you – the Person of the Holy Spirit! Genuine conversion is thus a supernatural experience and cannot be attained through personal effort or performance! Christianity is composed of people who are “new creatures” in Christ!

Repentance is therefore not about good intentions, but about moral transformation! It is about a completely new direction in life! In repentance:
  • The greedy become generous!
  • The selfish become servants!
  • The complainer becomes content!
  • The promiscuous become pure!
  • The idolater becomes a worshipper!
  • The spiritually apathetic become spiritually passionate!
  • The criticizer becomes a comforter!
  • The drunkard becomes disciplined!
  • The burglar becomes a benefactor!
  • The hard-hearted becomes humble!