Good Afternoon Dear Christians,
Perhaps one of the most well known descriptions of Satan in Scripture is from 1 Peter 5:8. He is the "adversary" who "prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." Satan wants to devour the people of God, and he is wandering around, picking off the stragglers, attacking the unsuspecting, and hunting down the fool. Satan has a whole arsenal of strategies to find and to consume the people of God.
Perhaps one of his most surprising strategies is what we might call "coddling." What Satan does so often is fatten us up, fill up our cups, overload our plates. He wants to lull us into a false sense of security. He convinces us that sermons should be "entertaining". He tells us that church is "boring." He loves to lull us into a false sense of security. He convinces us that he's a good little lion who's really lost his taste for Christians, and besides, have we seen the latest hit YouTube video? Wouldn't it be easier to sleep in than to go to church? And just when we close our eyes, resting our heads on his growling stomach, we will be right where he wants us to be. And the last sight we'll ever see is him licking his lips.
So Christian, "Be watchful" (1 Pet 5:8). Stay spiritually fit. Stay mentally ready. Don't listen to his lies. Don't let yourself fall for it. He's coming for you. Keep your sword sharper than his claws. Keep your prayers stronger than his grasp. Keep your mind disciplined. Don't let yourself be coddled. That's what lions do to their prey. But Christ wants his people to be ready.
So, in that vein, tonight we'll be readying ourselves to face Satan at 6 PM, continuing to study Romans 4:9-25. We would love to have you join our training ground with us.
Good Afternoon Dear Church,
This week I am reminded that Scriptures tell us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17).
I am always amazed at how God uses that prayer. As many of you know, I pray for everyone in our church every month. That really doesn't take a lot of work. Each of you has a day assigned to a name. Most days have about 3-4 names. Often, as I'm praying for names on my list, I will text those people to let them know I'm praying for them. Many of you know this firsthand, because you've gotten texts from me letting you know I'm praying for you. Sometimes I'm a few days late. But rare is the month where I don't pray for you. Additionally, once a month, our elders pray for everyone in our church by name. Each of those prayers is something unique, something specifically for you.
You would be surprised, or maybe you wouldn't, at how many times God has used these prayers. Often, when I pray for someone (even if it is a few days late), it is at the perfect time. So often a family crisis, a hiccup at work, a child tantrum, or even just a case of waking up on the wrong side of the bed coincides with that prayer. Many of you can testify to that.
Of course, none of these things surprises God. He knows the path ahead of us far better than we do! There is nothing in store for me today, or tomorrow, which the Lord is not sovereign over. But then again, that is just as true for my prayer. After all, he commanded us to pray. He is the Lord of prayer. Perhaps when God commanded us to pray in his Word, he knew exactly what I would go through tomorrow, and he knew I would need to pray today to be ready for it. If God is ruling over my tomorrow, he is also reigning in my prayer. He is like a Father who never intends to do anything less than good for his children (James 1:17), but who wants to be asked by them nonetheless. God has given us prayer precisely because he knows what tomorrow holds, and he knows we need to ask him for his help. The question is, will we be obedient? Will we truly, unceasingly pray?
Tonight, consider joining us as we gather for a time of Word and prayer. We'll be walking through Romans 4:1-8 and praying for one another. We would love to have you join us tonight at 6 PM as we obey through prayer together!
Merry Wednesday Dear Church,
I hope and pray you are doing well! I am excited because tonight at Bible Study we are reading through one of the richest parts of the Bible, Romans 3:21-31. However, one of the problems we often have in understanding that passage is that some of the vocabulary is a little bit, well, dense. In particular, there are three words which are often difficult to understand. Yet, I think when we do come to understand them, we will see that they are some of the precious words in the whole Bible.
The first one is justification. Justification is a term that simply means someone is "declared" just. Nobody can be in God's presence unless they get this justification. The trouble is none of us are just. In fact, all of us are under the righteous condemnation of God. Here is the good news: Christ was condemned so we might be justified. We give him our condemnation, and we get his justification. We only get this by believing and trusting in him.
The second word is redemption. Redemption is actually a financial word. It means to "buy" something. Of course, before Christ, you and I are all slaves under sin. We could not get our way out. The price to redeem us was simply too high. But Jesus redeemed us by his own blood. The price for our freedom was the cost of his death. He was sold so we might be freed.
The third word is propitiation. Now, the Bible teaches that all of us are under God's wrath because of our sin. In the Bible, only a sacrifice could pay the penalty for our sins. Then, the wrath of God would be "propitiated" and the sinner would have peace with God. The problem was, of course, as Hebrews 8-10 teaches us, the sacrifices of animals could never pay for the sins of man. Here is the good news: Jesus Christ gives himself up as our sacrifice. Jesus Christ bore our wrath, and we get his peace. He is our propitiation, our sacrifice, our atonement.
You are probably noticing a common theme, what we might call "substitutionary atonement." This is just the idea that what happened on the cross was an exchange, a glorious exchange in fact! Jesus took our guilt, our estrangement, our sin, our wrath, our condemnation, our slavery, our death. In exchange, we get his relief, his reconciliation, his holiness, his peace, his justification, his freedom, his life. In other words, we give him our sin and we get his salvation. We give him our guilt we get his grace. All that these words, these precious words, are trying to tell us is this: Jesus is our substitute, our sacrifice, our salvation. Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Merry Christmas Happy Church,
We'll be taking a slight break from our study of Romans, and we'll be discussing Psalm 51. I love Psalm 51. The author was King David. Now King David was a bit of a wild card. He had an affair, killed the woman's husband, and lied to cover the whole thing up. And yes, this is the same King David who had killed the villain Goliath, had been persecuted by Saul, and had to fight a brutal civil war to be the king that God had called him to be. But it wasn't long before getting on the throne, he started to drift. To some of our perspectives, David was a bit of disappointment. Here is someone literally handpicked by God who crashes and burns so spectacularly.
Nevertheless, when David is caught for the whole disaster about his affair, he has the audacity to ask God to "Have mercy on me" (Ps 51:1).
Why does he think that God will possibly give him mercy? Why does he think that God could possibly forgive him?
He tells us why, "According to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy" (Ps 51:1).
The reason that David thinks he can find forgiveness from God is because God has "steadfast love" and "abundant mercy." David thinks he can find forgiveness and mercy because God is a merciful and forgiving God. In other words, God forgives because God is forgiving. God loves because God is loving. God shows mercy because God is merciful. It is who he is. This is good news. Because if I ask God to be forgiving and he is not fundamentally a forgiving God, then I am in trouble. But if I ask God to forgive and he is forgiving, then I have a sure and steady place to put my feet, a shelter and sanctuary from the storm. It is good news, because it means that when I mess up and I need a place to turn, there is someone who is disposed to hear me, to welcome me, and to be gracious and kindhearted to me. I have someone who loves me and brings me home from the heat.
The question is, do we have the audacity to, like King David ask, "Have mercy on me, O God!"? I pray we do.
Happy Advent Dear Saints,
I hope and pray that you have been having a wonderful week. This week I have been preparing for our next Advent sermon with which we will light the candle of "Joy." I have to say it's been a strange Sunday morning to prepare for. For one thing, as a pastor, I know Christmas conjures up many mixed emotions. While it is a time of joy, it can also be a time of loneliness, heartbreak, and bitterness. For another, if you read our passage for Sunday, Isaiah 8, you can see that Isaiah must have felt bittersweet when receiving the Immanuel prophecy. We can see in this passage that great suffering is in store for the people of God. It is in the midst of this that we have a truly remarkable verse,
"I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him." (Is 8:17)
Isn't that so different than the way our world approaches suffering? Sometimes, our culture tends to obsess on suffering, to sit in pow-wows and to reminisce about misfortune, to revel in darkness. But sometimes, it papers over pain. It squeezes out a smile over the brokenness, it puts a mask over lament, it pretends that all is well.
Yet, the Bible gives Christians a different way. On the one hand, we are able to acknowledge our pain, our deep pain and suffering, our loneliness and heart break. Isaiah acknowledges God's discipline of his wayward people. Yet, on the other, we are given a "peace that surpasses all understanding" (Phil 4:7), "though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day" (2 Cor 4:16). In other words we have in the midst of despair, hope. In the midst of darkness, light. In the midst of sorrow, joy. This is Isaiah's only hope.
As Job defiantly says, "Though he slay me, I will hope in him" (Job 3:15)
So Christian, though slain, stand strong in him.
As always, we will continue to meet tonight to study God's Word, our hope and refuge, and we would LOVE to have YOU! We meet at 6 PM at the church. All are welcome!
Good Afternoon Dear Saints!
Christmas time has many wonderful things! One of those is that we have many opportunities to reach the lost that we might not have otherwise. This past Sunday in my sermon, I preached something to the effect that we need to be faithful in sharing the good news and let the Lord worry about the results. I believe that (otherwise I would not have said it). But one thing I was not able to address in my sermon was how to do that in wisely. Luckily, Jude 22-23, gives us some advice.
Jude 22-23 gives us three types of people we evangelize to. 1) First there are "those who are doubting". Those people need our mercy. Thus, we should be firm, but gentle. Convicted, but kind. In other words, some people need to hear the mercy of Christ and not only his holiness. That when they mentally doubt the faith, the love of Christ can compel them to trusting in the gospel. 2) Second, he tells us to "save others by snatching them out of the fire." These people are virtually the opposite of the first group. They are more prone to presume upon the kindness and patience of God. They not only need to know about God's love, but also about his hatred of sin. They need to smell the sulphur. 3) Then there is the third group. We are told that we should "show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh." In a way, we might think of these as somewhere between the other two. On the one hand, they need to know about God's mercy. On the other, we dare not partake of, nor ignore, their sin. For this group, we must be careful with our words. We should speak, but we must back up our talk with our walk. In some ways, this third group requires the most wisdom, because these people lack the discernment to distinguish between God's love for them and his holiness. In his unending goodness, God has given us to them to be an example of and tell them about both his love and holiness.
What strikes me about all this is that God has given us the great privilege of joining Christ as he shakes the gates of Hell wide open (cf. Matt 16:18). In fact, we get to join Christ as he frees our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and enemies, neighbors and strangers from the grip of the Evil One. What greater calling could God put on our lives than this? Yet, it also strikes me about what is perhaps one of the greatest truths of Advent, that God meets us where we're at. He came to us not lording himself over us, but as one of us. In the same way, God sends us not to browbeat our loved ones into conversion, but to compellingly, earnestly, faithfully, obediently, share the good news in the way they need to hear.
So come all ye faithful, there is work to do, the harvests are ripe and the fields are well-prepared for our feet!
Good Afternoon Dear Saints,
This past Sunday, I had a nice long, dry, post-thanksgiving, coma-inducing turkey. I mean sermon... all prepared for you all on how God's Word prepares us for eternity. Then disaster struck! Well, actually, I was struck down by an annoying-some fever and cold early Sunday morning. So I got on the bat-phone and called my trusty right hand Doug and I asked him if he'd be willing to preach a 15-20 minute sermon that morning, just something simple to prepare the hearts of God's people for communion.
Instead, he delivered this excellent and powerful message on Psalm 95 (with only an hour of warning, mind you!). I was so proud of and thankful for him. Even though I was sick, God put the right words in the right mouth of the right man for the right people on the right morning at the right time. In other words, even though we were all caught off guard, God wasn't. And though I may have been ready with a sermon, God wanted another sermon heard on Sunday. And it was a good one. That's Providence.
I think sometimes we think that God's Providence is how he gets away with playing mean tricks on us. Or how God teaches us a lesson. Or how he shows us how powerful he is and how pathetic we are. And while those might all have some truth to them, the Bible actually tells us God's providence is for our own good.
Romans 8:28 says: "We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
In other words, when James 1:17 tells us that "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" that includes a fever that comes in the middle of the night and just won't leave you alone. In other words, the Father who has adopted us in Christ by the Spirit never gives us anything less than what is good for us. It might be sickness, it might be trial, it might be annoyance, but it is always for our good. God is never anything but good to us. And that is something worth celebrating!
In other news, I am feeling much better! I sincerely appreciate everyone's prayers for us. We will resume our weekly Wed. Bible study tonight at 6 PM. Can't wait to see you all there!
Good Morning Dear Church,
I just wanted to send a quick email today to tell you how very thankful I am for you! This week in our elders meeting we were praying for all the college students as they go home and those who are traveling this season and we were celebrating how very thankful we were for our baptismal service this past week. For the first time since I've been the pastor, we ran out of both bulletins and communion elements! I am so thankful for all of you how earnest you are in your prayers and eager you are with your hands.
It reminds me of what I was reading in 2 Corinthians 8-9 this week. There the apostle Paul is trying to encourage the Corinthian church to be generous. He does it by pointing them to the example of Jesus: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who though he was rich became poor, so that you might become rich by his generosity." (2 Cor 8:9) Because of this, the apostle tells them that they can respond in a "liturgy/ministry of service" (9:12).
I am thankful for everything Christ has done for us in the ministry of the gospel, and I am immensely grateful that you have responded with your own ministry!
So saints, enjoy your thanksgiving! Give thanks to him, for all is from His loving hand!
Good Wednesday Dear Church,
I hope and pray that you are having a wonderful week! I try to read through the book of Psalms relatively frequently, and the other day I was reading through Psalm 4. In Psalm 4, the Psalmist wrestles with various doubts and questions. He deals with questions of humiliation (vs. 2), dishonesty (vs. 2), anger and frustration (vs. 4), and the appearance of evil (vs. 6). But the Psalmist stays steadfast and says, "The Lord hears when I call to him" (vs. 3) and ends by exclaiming, "In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety" (vs. 8).
You know, every day on my way to the church, I pray my way through the Lord's Prayer. And in the prayer, I start by calling out to my Heavenly Father. I can only do that because of what Psalm 4 assures me of, "The Lord hears when I call to him." So when I feel anxious, when I'm having a bad week, when my life seems turned upside down, I know that he hears me. He makes me dwell in safety. He gives me peace and my soul rest.
So Christian, are you feeling tossed by the storms of life? Are you being drowned by a torrent of guilt? Are you overwhelmed by waves of shame? Are you feeling completely powerless in the gales?
The Lord hears when you call to him. And you can do so, because he has called you his own.
Hello Dear Christians,
I love the Bible. That will probably come as no surprise to you, but I love all the complexities, the ins and outs, the back alleys and the main thoroughfares. Getting to know the Bible is full of drama and mystery, suspense and tensions. There are heroes and heroines, villains and villainesses. There are princes and paupers, average Joes and Janes. But throughout all the different stories, there is one awesome God, one magnificent Savior, and one big story, the biggest story of them all-the Gospel!
As Christians, it is our great privilege to share that story with the whole world! And a great time to do that is the Holiday season. So there are two missions projects we're going to be part of this Christmas season!
First, per the usual we're going to continue to help with Operation Love's basket collection. We are collecting marshmallows and we are still a couple dozen bags of Marshmallows away, so please, please, please bring marshmallows!
Secondly, we are partnering with our missions partner "A Heart for Kids" to provide copies of "The Biggest Story" by Kevin DeYoung for all the kids at their Erskine collection. Check out this video to find out more! There are two things we need from you all!
First, would you think about writing a handwritten-letter to give to the kids telling them all about the story of Jesus that we can include in the book?
Second, we are collecting fleece throws to distribute with the books (see a sample on the Missions table at church). Would you consider picking one of these up next time you're at Meier?
Southern Heights Christian Church
Come here for thoughts on how to follow Jesus in our every day life!