“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” II Corinthians 4:5-6

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Gospel not Lent (April Newsletter)

Often it is much easier for me to tell you what I don’t like about something verses telling you what I would like instead. Maybe this is the case for you too. Have you ever found yourself saying something along the lines of “I don’t know what I want for dinner, but I know I don’t want what you just said we are going to have”?

After I wrote last month’s newsletter article on the reasons I don’t observe Lent. I felt I shouldn’t leave you with just the “what I don’t do” speech about Lent, but also provide an answer to the question of “how do we pursue holiness for the glory of God?” If it is not done primarily by abstaining from things or from observing certain days, how is it done? That is the question I hope to begin to answer this month.

Notice I said “if it is not done primarily by…” I want to begin by making sure that we understand that fasting and observing certain days is not prohibited by scripture. Paul tells the church in Rome that some “esteem one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5) Paul is saying that it is ok to observe days differently. Scripture also encourages us to fast. Christ himself taught that it is good to fast and that are appropriate ways and times to fast. So, let’s be clear; abstaining and observing can be good things to do.

Now back to the question. If abstaining and observing is not the primary way that we pursue holiness, then what is? Questions about pursuing holiness usually fall under the doctrine of sanctification. Sanctification is the term we use to describe the reality of maturing in our faith, or growing in holiness, or becoming more like Christ and less like the world. The New Testament is full of teaching on how this is done. Some major sections of sanctification in the New Testament are: Romans 8, Philippians 3, Galatians 3, I Peter 1, Hebrews 12 and many more. Every one of these chapters in the Bible helps us understand and pursue what it means to grow in holiness.   

One of my favorite books of all time was written to help Christians understand the process of sanctification and the role of Holy Spirit in that process. The book is called “The Holy Spirit, His Gifts and Power” by John Owen.  Owen’s chapters on sanctification are simply the best, bar none. Here are a couple of wonderful quotes from his book:

 “The sanctification of the Spirit is peculiarly connected with, and limited to the doctrine, truth, and grace of the gospel; for holiness is the implanting, writing, and realizing of the gospel in our souls.” page 247

“There never was, nor is, nor ever will be the least particle of holiness in the world, but what flowing from Jesus Christ, is communicated by the Spirit according to the truth and promise of the gospel.” page 248

I’ve summarized Owen’s teaching on sanctification into what I call the “4 L’s”. In order to grow in holiness we must:

Learn the Gospel
Love the Gospel
Live in light of the Gospel
Leave temptations by remembering the Gospel

See the pattern? It all has to do with the Gospel. The Good News of the work of Christ is what grows us in holiness. The Holy Spirit uses the Gospel to grow our love of Christ, which in turn grows our desire to bring glory to God in every avenue of our life. The key to growing in holiness is not abstaining from certain things or observing certain days but knowing, trusting, and resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ! It is not what we do, but what Christ has done. Seeing more of the Jesus in the gospel every day will mature us in our marriages. It will mature us in the way we fight temptation. It will conform us more and more into the image of Christ.

 How do we pursue holiness for the glory of God? We learn the Gospel, Love the Gospel, Live in light of the Gospel, and Leave temptations by remembering the Gospel. 

Worship Through the Word (Sermon Notes for 3/26/2017)

“Healthy Hellos (An Introduction to 1st Timothy)”
1st Timothy 1:1-2 (Page 991)

Context: The Apostle Paul wrote three pastoral letters (1st & 2nd  Timothy and Titus) as his ministry was coming to an end. He wrote this letter to Timothy (Paul’s “true child in the faith”) instructing him to teach those in Ephesus about how believing the gospel leads to practical, Christ-exalting changes both in the individual Christian’s life, as well as the corporate life of the church.  Paul warns Timothy about the danger of false teachers and their false doctrines. He also encourages Timothy with very practical ways to keep the church healthy. Today’s text reminds us that the gospel changed everything about Paul—even the way he said “hello”.    

Central Idea of the Text:  “The Gospel Changes Everything!”
The gospel, and all the healthy doctrine that flows from it, changes everything about the lives of those that believe it.

The Apostle Paul’s spiritual health was so strong, that even in the way he greeted Timothy, he was communicating gospel truths.

Paul communicates gospel truths in his greeting by telling Timothy:

Who God is:                 The Father
                                    Our Savior
                                    Jesus the Son
                                    The Messiah/ Christ
                                    Our Hope
                                    Our Lord
What God does:          gives grace
                                    gives mercy
                                    gives peace

Conclusion for us: Today we were reminded about how the gospel changed the lives of both Paul and Timothy. Do you believe the gospel? Has your life been changed by the teaching of the gospel? Do you desire to know more about the doctrines that flow from the gospel? May we at Grace Fellowship desire to know and be changed by the teaching of the gospel and all the doctrines flow from it!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Worship through the Word 2/12/2017

 “Hubris or Humility?”
James 4:13-17(Page 1013)
The book of James was written to encourage Christians by reminding them how they should live. James gives wise counsel to those who are struggling in living for the glory of God. He encourages Christians by giving them very practical counsel on issues like: suffering and trials, the rich and the poor, how to fight worldliness, how to submit to the will of God, how to pray, and what it means to bear fruit in keeping with true faith and repentance.  This short book has much to say for us in the 21st century. In today’s text James helps us see another area of our life in which we should demonstrate humility— making our future plans.

Central Idea of the Text: “Humbly Trust God!”
One way we live humbly is by trusting God’s plans for our future and by doing what we know is right for today.  

5 arrogant boasts from James 4:13:

                Future, Place, Time, Activity, Result (HT, JAMES…C. Morgan & D. Ellenburg)

5 truths from James 4:14-17 that help us humbly trust God for today and for the future:

1.       We do not know what tomorrow brings. (14a)
2.       Our life is temporary. (14b)
3.       God’s plans always over rule our plans. (15)
4.       Boasting in our plans and works is evil. (16)
5.       We are commanded to do what we know is right today! (17)
Conclusion for us:

Over the last several weeks we have learned that God gives us the grace to humbly obey him. Last week James showed us that a good test of our humility is the way we judge and talk about each other. Today we learned that another test of our humility is the way we trust God’s plans for our future and by doing what we know is right for today. Do you trust in your plans or in God’s? Do you concern yourself more about tomorrow than today? Do you rejoice in the sovereignty of God over all things?  May we at Grace Fellowship live humbly by trusting God’s plans for our future and by doing what we know is right for today!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Worship Through the Word (Sermon Notes for 1/15/17)

 “Grace, Grace, Grace! Part II”
James 4:1-12(Page 1012)
The book of James was written to encourage Christians by reminding them how they should live. James gives wise counsel to those who are struggling in living for the glory of God. He encourages Christians by giving them very practical counsel on issues like: suffering and trials, the rich and the poor, how to fight worldliness, how to submit to the will of God, how to pray, and what it means to bear fruit in keeping with true faith and repentance.  This short book has much to say for us in the 21st century. In today’s text James moves from challenging us to see if our hearts are full of spiritual wisdom or earthly wisdom to showing us the amazing truth that God gives us grace to live at peace with him and others.

Central Idea of the Text: “God Gives Grace!”
God gives us the grace to humble ourselves and repent of our sin so that we can be at peace with Him and others.  

                                Grace- power given to the helpless.
                                Humility- sense of nothingness in light of God’s all.
                                Peace- absence of conflict and a state of well-being.

                The Strife (verses 1-5)
                                We are at war with others, ourselves, and God.

                The Solution (verse 6)
                                God gives us grace (power) to see and fight this war.
                                We respond by humbly repenting of our sins.

                The Steps (verses 7-12)
                                We submit to God and resist the devil.
                                We draw near to him through repentance.
                                We learn and obey the law of God.

Conclusion for us:
Today we learned that God gives us the grace to humble ourselves and repent of our sin so that we can be at peace with Him and others. God’s grace is seen in our lives not just in saving us, but also in sanctifying us. Is there strife in your life right now? Are you experiencing the consequences of a heart that is at war?  Do you plead for the grace of God to work in your life? Or do you seek to solve this war through your own strength? May we a Grace Fellowship look to God for the grace needed humble ourselves and repent of our sin so that we can be at peace with God and others.  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Mr. Standfast's Speech

“This River (death) has been a terror to many, yea, the thoughts of it also have often frighted me; but now methinks I stand easy, my foot is fixed upon that upon which the feet of the Priests that bare the Ark of the Covenant stood, while Israel went over this Jordan.

 The waters indeed are to the palate bitter, and to the stomach cold; yet the thoughts of what I am going to, and of the conduct that waits for me on the other side, doth lie as a glowing coal at my heart.

 I see myself now at the end of my Journey; my toilsome days are ended. I am going now to see that Head that was crowned with thorns, and that Face that was spit upon for me.

I have formerly lived by hear-say and Faith; but now I go where I shall live by Sight, and shall be with him in whose company I delight myself.
I have loved to hear my Lord spoke of; and where-ever I have seen the print of his shoe in the earth, there I have coveted to set my foot too.
His Name has been to me sweeter than all perfumes.

His Voice to me has been most sweet.

His Countenance I have more desired than they that have most desired the light of the Sun.

His Word I did use to gather my food, and for antidotes against my faintings.

He has held me, and I have kept me from mine inequities; yea, my steps hath he strengthened in his Way.”

~John Bunyan, “The Pilgrim’s Progress”

In honor of Esther Rust,

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Edersheim's Poetic Commentary


A few years back, an older pastor friend gifted me a large portion of his personal library. It was a wonderful gift. I’ve already read many of the books that he gave me. My personal favorite is Edersheim’s “Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”. I was unfamiliar with Edersheim. Now I love reading his work.  There are few commentaries that read like Edersheim’s.
Case and point.
I’m preparing for this Sundays’ message on the Lord’s Supper. Here is a brief section on Judas:
“Judas was drawn to Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, and he believed in Him as such, possibly both earnestly and ardently; but he expected that His would be the success, the result, and the triumphs of the Jewish Messiah, and he also expected personally and fully to share in them. How deep-rooted were such feelings even in the best, purest, and most unselfish of Jesus’ disciples, we gather from the request of the mother of John and James for her sons, and from Peter’s question: ‘What shall we have?’. It must have been sorrow, the misery of moral loneliness, and humiliation, to Him Who was Unselfishness Incarnate, Who lived to die and was full to empty Himself, to be associated with such as even His most intimate disciples, who in this sense also could not watch with Him even one hour, and in whom, at the end of His ministry, such heaviness was mentally and morally the outcrop, if not the outcome. And in Judas all this must have been an hundredfold more than in them who were in heart true to Christ” ~p 473

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The book of Proverbs and Abortion

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter”
Proverbs 24:11

If you haven’t seen the video, here it is.

How does one even start to rescue unborn babies in this country?

The Apostle Paul told Timothy that “All scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Rescuing babies from death is a good work.  So, how does the scripture help us fight the slaughter of the unborn in our country? I’ve been reading a lot from Proverbs lately, so let’s look there.

Here are 10 ways to help us fight Abortion from the book of Proverbs:

Acknowledge that only by fearing the LORD will we know how to stand for the unborn.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction”
Proverbs 1:7

Understand that those who do not fear the LORD see nothing wrong with killing the unborn.
“Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.”
Proverbs 1:16

Confess and remember that the LORD has been gracious and merciful to us.
“Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil”
Proverbs 3:7

Realize that the LORD has given us an opportunity in this government to be a voice for good.
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.”
Proverbs 3:27

Know that the LORD hates. There are things the LORD hates, like the killing of innocent babies.
“There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyesa lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”
Proverbs 6:16-19

Love your spouse and turn away from the sexual immorality of this culture. Most abortions would never take place if the family unit was strong. Husbands love your wives and lead your families.
“Let not your heart turn aside to her(sexual immorality) ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.
Proverbs 7:25-27

Speak words of life and not words of violence to all people and about all people.
“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence”
Proverbs 10:11

Think hard about our government’s policies on everything. Do not support governmental parties and politicians blindly. Many republicans care nothing about Abortion, except to gain your vote.
“The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.”
Proverbs 14:15

Be content with what you have. Do not encourage the pursuit of money above everything else, especially in issues of justice.
“Better is a little with righteousness that great revenues with injustice”
Proverbs 16:8

Do not be  ignorant of Abortion.  Look to the LORD to be your strength and to give you the words to say when standing for the unborn.
“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say ‘Behold, we did not know this’ Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it? And will he not repay man according to his work?
Proverbs 24:10-12   

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sermon Extras... Holy Week Prep

The Word of God is powerful. The author of Hebrews was absolutely right. It cuts deep. It cuts right to the bottom of my pride and self-righteousness. The Spirit soothes my soul with the Word too. He always knows when to wound, and when to mend. The Almighty truly is the great physician!
Case in point:
I’ve been preparing for Holy Week; dividing my preparation time between Palm Sunday and Good Friday.  Palm Sunday’s sermon is all about expectations. I’m going to be preaching from Zechariah 9. Good Friday is all about forgiveness. I’m going to be speaking from Exodus 12 and the Suffering Servant Song from Isaiah 52 & 53.
As I’ve been thinking about Isaiah 52 & 53, I asked the Lord to work on my heart. Sometimes I’m so used to hearing a certain passage like Isaiah’s Suffering Servant Song that I don’t take the time to really think about what is being said.
So, on my short walk to my office this morning, I was going over the passage in my head. And all of sudden I said the very first line out loud. “Behold, my servant shall act wisely”.
What an amazing thought! There it was hundreds of years before Jesus showed up; the amazing truth that when the messiah came, he would act wisely. There would never be a moment in Jesus’ life where he did something foolishly. He would never act out of an evil heart. He would never have an evil heart. Every thought and action would be characterized as wise! He would be wise in the way he chooses what to say and what to reveal to people. He would be wise in his choosing of the disciples, including Judas! He would act out of wisdom every time he chose to heal, or not to. Jesus acted wisely. All the time.
I do not.
This is why I need Jesus. This is why we all need a savior. A servant of God that always acts wisely.
Oh praise the infinitely wise Jesus!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sermon Extras... Luke 9:7-17

Jesus alone satisfies. A simple truth, yet a truth I often forget. According to the Bible, I'm not the only one...

The Bad News…
“…my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God.” Romans 3:10-11

The Good News…
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” Isaiah 55:1-2

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:35