I came across something in my journal from a few years ago that I thought might be helpful. It shows a snippet of family life...and the grace of our Savior.
Friday, February 27, 2004
Monday Laura called me and asked me to stop at Papa Murphy’s on the way home and pick up a pizza. I waited in line for about 8 minutes and then got to the counter. I asked for our pizza and they didn’t have one under our name. I called Laura and she had pulled one of those where she didn’t read the coupon closely. The Papa Murphy’s she called was probably by Ward Road—way west of our home. I didn’t respond well to that. In fact I ended up apologizing to her for my response. At one point during my poor response Laura asked me with tears in her eyes, “What do you think God is trying to teach me through this?” I didn’t tell her at the time, but I knew He wasn’t trying to teach her anything. He was trying to teach me something.
Yesterday Laura told me that the kids had the day off on Friday. I hadn’t heard that before, but it got my wheels turning. I called home and asked her if she wanted to go to her parents’ house. She eagerly agreed and we made plans. We picked up the kids right at 3:30 and got on the road. As we were driving on I-76 I asked Justin if he had the day off Friday. He said he didn’t. Laura thought he was kidding, but I was not sure. I called the school and the school secretary told me that they did have school on Friday. Laura had not read their school sheets carefully. We had to turn around and go home. Talk about disappointment. Same situation as Monday night only worse. Yet, by God’s grace I responded in a way that pleased Him. Thank you Lord.
Isn't it great to know that you're not alone? I need to be sanctified too. Just like He did in 2004, God is still working in my life through mundane incidents like these. He is showing me my need of His grace in Jesus. And He is changing me. He will change you too.
Christians and Non-Christians, Married
Once again the folks at CCEF are a blessing to the body of Christ by how they think through issues. This post from them is encouraging and challenging. God's grace is sufficient for all of our challenges.
God Makes No Mistakes
On Sunday we looked at Ruth 1:6-22 and briefly talked about the temptation Christians face to believe that God makes mistakes--or at least He's made some in their lives. I wanted to expand those thoughts and give you some Scripture to meditate on.
All Christians need an unshakeable faith that God doesn’t make mistakes. All of us face difficult trials that test our faith in God’s providence.
Why doesn’t God make mistakes? He’s incapable of making mistakes with your life. Your circumstances are not evidence of God’s mistakes, but of His work.
God never makes a mistake of ignorance.
He knows everything.
Psalm 139:1-6 (ESV), O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
A.W. Tozer may have explained God’s omniscience best.
God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creaturehood and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feeling, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell.
Because God knows all things perfectly, he knows no thing better than any other thing, but all things equally well. He never discovers anything. He is never surprised, never amazed. He never wonders about anything nor (except when drawing men out for their own good) does He seek information or ask questions.
God never makes a mistake of impotence.
He is able to do whatever He wills.
Daniel 4:35 (ESV), all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
Jeremiah 32:17 (ESV), ‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who has made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.
God never makes a mistake of immaturity.
He didn’t have to grow into His job. He’s always been all wise. Yes He has power and knowledge, but He also makes wise decisions. You can be confident that He is working out the best plan in your life.
Romans 11:33 (ESV), Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
God never makes a mistake of indifference.
The first three wouldn’t be comforting if we didn’t also know also that God loves us. He loves you and proved it at the cross.
1 John 4:8 (ESV), Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
John 3:16 (ESV), “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Forgiveness After Adultery?
This was a wonderful blog by Ed Welch with CCEF about God's grace to couples struggling with past adultery. It's hopeful, biblical, and encouraging. Read it and be blessed by God's truth.
A few weeks ago I planned to use this at the end of a sermon as an application. I thought it fitting to put it in the blog. Hope it helps you think critically about serving God.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV), All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The purpose of God's Word is to equip you for every good work. How were you equipped today? Are you going to use the truth you’ve learned? What’s the next step you need to take?
This passage (1 Cor. 16:5-12) clearly shows that the Apostle Paul made plans to serve God. Do you have any plans for ministry? Paul’s example teaches us that sitting and soaking isn’t an option. The work of the ministry needs to get done, but more importantly you need to do the work of the ministry. You need to serve more than the work needs to get done. Maybe the next step for you is to answer the call of God and serve. Maybe you’ve heard of certain ministries in our church where you could fit. Will you take the next step and serve there?
Do your service opportunities have to be exactly like you want them? Can you just serve where you’re needed even if everything isn’t exactly the way you want it? The sad fact is that some ministry is more exhausting when certain Christians serve than if the work was done without them. They’re prima donnas. They don’t show up as scheduled and don’t cover their responsibilities because that’s what prima donnas do. We should just be happy they show up at all. When they do show up they have all sorts of complaints about how the ministry is being done. It’s as if they’re doing God a favor by serving. Could I be talking about you?
One of the truths I tell my kids is that serving means making life easier for others, not more difficult. That needs to be balanced with other biblical truths obviously. For example, confrontation is biblical and it certainly doesn’t make someone’s life easier. However, generally I can tell whether I’m serving me or serving someone else by whether I’m making it more difficult for them or more difficult for me.
By that standard some of you might not be serving very well. Even when you’re involved in a ministry, you’re more of a hassle to the person organizing that ministry than you are a blessing to them.
Maybe the next step for you looks like serving with imperfect people in an imperfect ministry. Maybe it means serving without demanding that things be different. Maybe it means your service makes it easier for the organizer of your ministry, not more difficult.
If we’re teammates, we’re all supposed to pull our weight, right? It’s not just the pastors that are supposed to do the ministry, correct? In fact, our job is to prepare you for ministry.
Ephesians 4:11-12 (NKJV), And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
So are you pulling your weight? It’s easy to think that someone else will do that ministry. If you don’t take the opportunity, surely the pastors will get someone else to do it. Or maybe they’ll do it themselves. However, we’re a team. Each one of us needs to pitch in where we can. Again, not just because the work needs to get done. There is always more work to do. No, we need to pitch in because we need to get done. God works on us through our service. Ministry is a way that God sanctifies us. How about it? Are you a teammate or are you a spectator in the stands? Maybe the next step for you is to become a teammate.
My family’s life has revolved around the church ever since Laura and I got married. Even when I was working in a parachurch ministry, we were serving in our church. When Laura and I were laypeople and we had preschoolers, we were involved in our church’s junior church, nursery, choir, adult Sunday school, and the diaconate. So we were serving before I was getting paid to do this. I know what it’s like to get home after work on Wednesday, eat supper quickly, and then get to church in time to serve in the nursery. Frankly that particular ministry was not one of my more enjoyable ones. I naively expected the nursery ministry to give my wife and I time to talk. Not so. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. You expected a ministry to be one thing, but it turned out to be another. Paul made plans for ministry too. They didn’t always work out as he planned. He submitted them to God. Can you accept your ministry for what it is, not what you want it to be?
So what could we learn about you by looking at your schedule? Your calendar? You must serve. Paul teaches us that in 1 Corinthians 16:5-12.
Whats In Your Daydreams?
I came across this blog post by a wonderful Christian thinker and thought it would be a blessing to our church. Read and enjoy.
What To Do With The Poor
I'm teaching from Proverbs 19 tonight and verse 17 prompted these thoughts.
There are two opinions in Christianity about helping the poor. One says that the only help they need is the Gospel. In our country, you can always take care of yourself if you’re willing to work hard. If I give to the poor, I am likely just encouraging their bad, sinful habits—habits like expecting others to take care of them.
The other viewpoint says that they will never listen to the Gospel if you don’t help them with their social needs first. When I’m hungry, I’m interested in food, not the Gospel. And besides, all through Scripture we’re told to care for the poor. Giving to the poor is a way of showing Christ’s love.
It’s simplistic and reductionistic but we could say one view says all they need is the Gospel and the other says all they need is money (and eventually the Gospel).
How do we biblically analyze those viewpoints? What’s right and wrong with those perspectives?
1. We are encouraged to care for the poor. If I think the only gift I need to give is the Gospel, I’m not being biblical.
- Deuteronomy 15:7-11 (NASB95), “If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. “Beware that there is no base thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,’ and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing; then he may cry to the Lord against you, and it will be a sin in you. “You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings. “For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’
- Proverbs 14:21 (NASB95), He who despises his neighbor sins, But happy is he who is gracious to the poor.
- Proverbs 21:13 (NASB95), He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor Will also cry himself and not be answered.
2. We are lending to God, not the poor. They may abuse my gift, but God will still repay me. If I think I can only give to responsible people, I am being stingy, not generous. o Proverbs 19:17 (NASB95), One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, And He will repay him for his good deed.
3. If they are unbelievers, their greatest need is the Gospel, not money. If I only take care of their social needs, I am not being biblical. I’m living as if this life is all there is.
How we respond to the poor says a lot about our spiritual lives. Did you know that Christ was poor?
Matthew 8:20 (NKJV), And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
When we look down on those below us on the economic ladder, we are exhibiting pride. Maybe you do work harder than them. Who gave you that ability? Who gave you that drive? Maybe you work smarter than them. Who gave you that ability?
Your life might be completely different if God hadn’t graced you with your background and talents. Do you really believe that the reason you have more money than someone else is because of you?
Do you care for the poor? Do you think they deserve their poverty? If you do, then you’re saying that you deserve your good circumstances. Not so, always of God’s grace.
Reasons For Church Membership
I hope these are a help to you. Some are pragmatic and some are biblical. They arose out of our study of 1 Corinthians 12 and the metaphor of the church as a human body that the Apostle Paul uses. Let me know what you think.
1. Local Churches Couldn’t Exist If All Christians Made The Same Choice Not To Join A Church.
Just extrapolate, what would churches look like if all Christians decided not to join? A local church couldn’t exist.
A few years ago when my kids were small, some parents were deciding not to have their children immunized. Their theory as I understood it was that their child was more likely to get the disease through the immunization than they were in normal life. And that was true. Because immunization has been so successful, you child was more likely to get some childhood diseases through the immunization than through normal life. It was a very tiny percentage, but it was possible. There was also the theory since debunked that immunizations could cause autism. If you didn’t immunize your child, don’t get stuck on this illustration. Hang with me here. Why could some parents choose not to immunize their children? Because the risks of immunizing seemed greater than the risks of not immunizing. And why did it seem that way? Only because most parents did immunize their children. If all parents made the decision not to immunize their children, then childhood diseases would come back with a vengeance. Some parents could choose not to immunize because they were presuming upon the majority of parents that did immunize.
Stay with me. Here’s the segue. I believe that some Christians can choose not to be members only because most Christians choose to be members. If all Christians chose not to join churches, then churches couldn’t exist. What would the church look like if everybody made the decision not to be a member? There would be no structure. You couldn’t call a pastor, or own a building, or support missionaries, or vote on a budget. Churches wouldn’t exist. Without some members, churches couldn’t exist.
2. Church Membership Provides Many More Opportunities To Use Your Gifts (1 Cor 12).
Certain ministries are open to non-members, but some must be restricted to members. We cannot have non-members working with children or teens, for example. We can’t have non-members on most committees. We cannot have non-members leading Bible studies. So the scope of ministries where you can use your gifts is seriously reduced.
According to what we’ve learned in 1 Corinthians 12, God wants you to use your gifts. I think God wants you to have a wide range of areas where you can use your gifts. So join a church.
3. Pastors Have To Know Whom To Shepherd (1 Peter 5:2-3)
I have to know who’s in and who’s out in order to shepherd the flock. How can a pastor be expected to faithfully shepherd a flock when he can’t know who’s in the flock? And if non-membership is the norm, then there’s no way to know whom to shepherd. I cannot be held responsible if the flock isn’t defined. But I am held responsible, so the flock must be defined. The obvious way to distinguish one flock from another or one flock from wolves is through membership.
4. Non-Members Cannot Submit To Pastoral Leadership (Heb. 13:17)
Is it possible for non-members to submit to a pastor or pastors? I don’t think so. This corresponds to the previous reason. A pastor isn’t watching for your soul if you haven’t committed to his flock. And you aren’t submissive to him if you’re not a member. Members of the public at large that walk through our doors are clearly not expecting to submit to my leadership, and the Bible doesn’t expect them too. All Christians shouldn’t submit to my leadership either, and the Bible doesn’t expect them too. So what group should? It has to be those that have joined the church.
5. You Can’t Be Excommunicated From Something You’re Not In (1 Cor. 5:12-13; Mt. 18:15-20)
These passages indicate that persistently sinning Christians that refuse to repent are supposed to be excommunicated. There has to be an outside if there is an inside. So some people are inside the church and some people are outside. Who are those people that are inside? It cannot be simple attendance. We know that if a Christian shows up one Sunday with unrepentant sin, our church doesn’t have the responsibility of pursuing church discipline just because they attended. So if it’s not attendance, how do we distinguish between those inside and those outside? Membership is the obvious criteria.
Of this passage in 1 Corinthians 12, John Piper says,
Church membership is implied in the metaphor of the body in 1 Corinthians 12:12–31. The original meaning of the word member is member of a body, like hand and foot and eye and ear. That’s the imagery behind the word member in the text. Verse 12: “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”
So the question this imagery raises for the local church that Paul is describing in 1 Corinthians 12 is: Who intends to be treated as a hand or foot or eye or ear of this body? There is a unity and organic relationship implied in the imagery of the body. There is something unnatural about a Christian attaching himself to a body of believers and not being a member of the body.
– http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/how-important-is-church-membership (accessed on 2/22/2011.)
I hope you'll join a church. It's important for your spiritual growth.
I was at a conference a week ago and one of the speakers said, "If your hope and joy go up and down, then they're anchored to something other than Christ." Is that you? Sometimes that's definitely me. We can say this because Jesus is the Rock that doesn't change. If my hope is based on Jesus, then it doesn't change either.
There are lots of things that could cause my hope and joy to go up and down. I could base my joy on...
- the respect of others
- success in my job
- my spouse's appreciation
- my bank account (that definitely goes up and down!)
- my kids' obedience
- feeling loved
- and many others
If my hope and joy are based on any of those, then they will go up and down depending on whether my particular itch is being scratched. However, I can have joy even if I don't get any of those other things because Jesus' love for me doesn't change. Base your hope and joy on Him and you'll have more hope and joy. Base it on anything else and your life becomes a scramble to eke out some hope and joy. Your hope and joy are fickle. Base them on Christ the Rock and they are stable.
Have a joyful and hope-filled day!
I came across a short blog on anger that asks a series of great questions. The kind of questions that convict, but also give help with this universal sin. www.ccef.org/angry-person-always-last-know