Good Wednesday Dear Church,
I hope and pray that you are having a wonderful sunny-though slightly chilly afternoon. Tonight at our Wednesday Bible Study we will be talking about Romans 1:8-17. One of the fascinating things about this paragraph is that phrase in verse 16, the "power of God for salvation." This means at least two things. First, this means that God is a powerful God. In fact, he is not just somewhat powerful, but he is all-powerful, omni-potent. We have a bit of power, a bit of potency. We are semi-potent. But he is omnipotent and all powerful. But secondly, it also tells us that God uses his power. And what does he use his power for? He uses his power for salvation. God's power goes to work for our salvation! Isn't that amazing? And how does he do that?
In the "gospel."
Where is the greatest power of God exerted, greater even than when he created the world? Greater than when he brought Israel out of Egypt? Greater than when he let the Cubs finally win a World Series?
In the gospel. Specifically where? In the manger. On the cross. In the empty tomb. In the ascension. When he returns to judge the living and the dead. The whole of the gospel from start to finish is the powerful God working in a marvelous and awesome way to reconcile all things to himself, to announce freedom to the captives, to justify the condemned, to give life to the dead, to reconcile the estranged, to adopt the orphans, to make heirs out of rascals. It is on the awful, blood stained executioner's cross that the angels from ages long ago desired to look. It is at the empty grave where earth itself trembled in joy. That is where the glory of God shone the brightest, the word of God resounded the clearest, the armies of hell cowered the lowest. This is the power of God.
It is this power of God for salvation that we invite you to explore with us tonight as we continue our study in the book of Romans.
Good Wednesday Dear Church,
I am very excited, because tonight we are beginning our Wed. Night Bible study on the book of Romans. Centuries ago, a young man named John went to a Bible study on the book of Romans in the city of London. As he began to hear about the contents of Romans, he felt his heart "strangely warmed" and he was truly converted. John Wesley would go on to preach the gospel to thousands and thousands. It was in reading the book of Romans that Martin Luther, the Father of the Reformation came to see the great love of God for humanity. It was about the book of Romans that John Calvin said, "When any one gains a knowledge of this Epistle, he has an entrance opened to him to all the most hidden treasures of Scripture." In my own personal devotions, I try to spend time every year meditating on and reading through the book of Romans.
Needless to say, I am very excited to read through Romans 1:1-7 tonight at 6 PM! And we would love to have you join us!
Good Afternoon Dear Christians,
I hope this Wednesday is treating you well! Today as we're preparing for our last study on the End Times, I am struck by the confidence that believers can have in the return of Christ.
As Peter says in 1 Pet 1:13, "Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
I think this is an incredibly practical and comforting doctrine. When life is overwhelming, when you don't know what is headed your way tomorrow, when you don't know how you're going to face tomorrow, you can have hope. As my old pastor used to say, "Hope is faith stretched out." Hope is when we can have certainty not only in what Christ has done in the past, but in what Christ will do in the future. We can look forward to Christ's return with joy, expectation, faith, confidence, and above all, hope.
While we might not know all the details, we can have all hope in all that Christ will do in the future.
Tonight at 6 PM, if you want to know more about the hope that we have in Christ's return, we would love to have you join us!
P.S. As we've been announcing, we have moved our online home for Sunday Services from Facebook Live to Youtube. Next time you see Tony & Leesa Huddleston, please give them a big thank you for this practical way they serve our church family!
Good Afternoon Dear Church,
I hope and pray that you are having a wonderful Fall day! I love this time of year, when the leaves start changing, the fire pits start burning, and the apple cider starts flowing. And this makes me think of what I was reading this morning in the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. There is a "time" and a "season" for everything. There is a time for Summer, and (thank the Lord!), a time for Fall, a time for Winter, and then a time for Spring. There is a time for "joy" and a time for sorrow. Some things in life are particularly glad and joyful: the grin of a 7 month old baby, the celebration of a wedding, the delight of a hard day's work. There are some things in life that are particularly sorrowful: the loss of a friend, a time of particular stress, even tensions between family. There is a time for everything.
But, just because there is a time for everything does not mean that all times are created equal.
In fact, in the long run, the tears of today will fade into the joy of tomorrow like snow in the summer. For Christians, our sorrows today, real they are, are "light and momentary" (2 Cor 4:17). As Paul says in Romans 8:18, "For I consider that the sufferings for this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." In the time to come, a day of resurrection, of the New Creation, of seeing our Lord face to face, we can have a glory that outweighs any loss we have endured here on earth.
So my encouragement for you today Christian, whatever your stress, whatever your pain, whatever your sorrows today, look to tomorrow. Look for the day ahead, when Christ will wipe away every tear and death will be no more. Look forward and rejoice! For the Kingdom is at hand.
Good Wednesday Dear Saints,
I hope and pray that you are doing well! One of the things that I love to do as a pastor is to put resources in front of you all! So I wanted to spend my midweek email sending a few emails your way!
Trusting God in the Midst of Suffering - Listen to this testimony of a dear Egyptian brother in Christ, Sherif, describing how God was near to him and his family in suffering.
Hebrews set to Music - Are you looking to get more out of Sunday's sermons and get to know the book of Hebrews better? Check out this beautiful rendition of the book of Hebrews by the band Psallos (also on iTunes, Amazon Music, etc.).
The Briefing - Are you looking to understand the news better from a Christian perspective? Listen to Al Mohler's brilliant dissection of today's current events and news. It is my wife's favorite!
Understanding Revelation - For those of you attending our current Wed. Night Bible study (tonight @ 6 PM), I commend to you Tom Schreiner's excellent discussion of Revelation!
Free Books! - Finally, let me commend to you Desiring God's excellent library of free books. Most of what John Piper (one of my favorite writers) has written, such as Desiring God, Esther, Don't Waste your Life, and many more are for free on this site. Highly commend it to you!
Videos Mentioned Above:
Good Afternoon Dear Church,
I hope and pray you have had a good start to the week! Tomorrow (Wednesday) we will be starting a new series in our Bible Study entitled "Are We Living in the End Times?". It is a question I get a lot as a pastor. Many want to know how much longer do we have to wait until Christ returns? Should I bother paying my taxes if I think that Jesus will come back tomorrow? (yes, you should) With all the earthquakes and wars, don't we think Jesus is going to return soon? And what will it be like when Jesus returns anyways? It is a question we're going to explore over the next 5 or 6 weeks, and I would love to have you join us! Indeed, this is why I am sending out my midweek email a day early, in order to remind you that we are starting this new study tomorrow in case you would like to join us.
But, in all of this, I don't want us to lose sight of the hope of Christians, the return of Christ. I believe that Paul says it so beautifully in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord." The good news of the Christian belief is that we get to be with Jesus - forever. After all the trials and tribulations, the joys and the pains of this life, we will be with him as his people and he will be our God. He will wipe every tear from our eyes and pain will be no more.
Do you want to learn more about this? Please join us tomorrow at 6 PM!
Good Afternoon Church Family!
I hope and pray that you are having a wonderful week! Today, as I was preparing for our Wed Night Bible Study (at 6 PM!!), I was thinking about the Church. Now, this might be a little strange, because we are studying Proverbs 31 tonight. Now, Proverbs 31 is a relatively well known ode to Godly women (thank God for them!). Listen to a couple of things that Godly women ought to be praised for:
1) "She is far more precious than jewels" (31:10)
2) "She opens her mouth with wisdom" (31:26)
3) "She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy" (31:20)
4) "She does him (her husband) good, and not harm, all the days of her life" (31:12)
5) "Strength and dignity are her clothing" (31:25)
But most importantly, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." (31:30)
I am thankful that in our church and in my life there are many Godly women like that! (I am married to one of them)
Now, all this made me think of the Church. That may seem odd. After all, the Church has many faults. Lots of imperfect people are there. Lots of nobodies. People get into arguments about insignificant things. People are sometimes cruel and mean. People don't always keep their word. Sometimes the pastor preaches too long, sometimes too short. He almost always says a joke that nobody understands. The Church is far from the woman of Proverbs 31. Or is she?
Actually, here is how Paul speaks of the Church, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of the water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." (Eph 5:25-27)
Not dirty, but cleansed. Not profane, but holy. Not worthless, but having "splendor." Not foolish, but wise. How does this happen? Through the gospel and through the Word. Through the gospel the Church is positionally pure. And through the Word, she is progressively pure. It is through the preaching of the gospel from the Word that Christ purifies his bride to make her as she already is in Him. Some people say they can be Christian without Church. I'm not sure how that makes any sense. Instead, we ought to love the Church and give ourselves up for her just like Jesus did. Contrary to all expectations, the Church is the ultimate "Proverbs 31" Woman.
So Christians, let us love the Church. She is, and one day will be, the embodiment of wisdom, the fulfillment of Proverbs 31. After all, she is the bride of Christ. And if we love Christ, we better love his bride.
Good Afternoon Church,
As many of you know, this Saturday (September 11) is our first Men's Muster at SHCC at 8 AM!
Since we've announced it, I've gotten quite a few questions about this. I think underneath is mostly a more nagging question, which is "Why?". Why bother with a men's ministry?
Why should a Church have a men's ministry? Men are not the only people in the church. In fact, they are the minority. In my experience, men are less vocal about their opinions in church than women. Men don't like to sing as much. Men typically don't like sermons as much as women. Men are usually working, so getting them involved at church is harder. Typically women's ministry and children's ministry are better attended. Why bother?
Here are a few reasons:
- Approximately 61% of churchgoers are female (compared with 39% male)
- Men are much less likely to be religiously active than women, only 1% are involved in a significant way beyond Sunday service.
- In families where the fathers do not go to the church, only 2% of the children end up attending church. When the father does attend church, approx 77% of children are more likely to be involved in church at some level.
- 70% of young men abandon the church in their teenage years (especially without older male role models).
Quite simply, it is long-term suicide for a church to ignore these problems.
Add on to this the fact that many of the chronic complexities of our community (drug use, alcoholism, unemployment, homelessness, violence, fatherlessness, etc.) are mostly caused by men. Quite simply, we are living in a culture where men are left to their own devices, infantilized, and allowed to remain perpetually adolescent. They are not called to something greater, higher, and better. They are not men, but, as one pastor says, "boys who can shave." And, worst of all, women and children pay the price. If we are going to be a church that is not simply reactive to the problems of our community, but proactive, we need to buck these cultural trends. The reality is we need to challenge, disciple, and commission men because we care about the women and children. It is not too much to say that a church that does not prioritize discipling men is a church that does not care about women and children.
But most importantly, we need to disciple men because God cares about men. "Male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27). "Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely." (Prov 28:5) "Act like men, be strong." (1 Corinthians 16:25) God is not revolted by manhood. He loves it. He created it. Just like he did with womanhood. It is good and glorious and part of his precious design. Broken, yes. But also restored through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So, do you care about this church? Do you care about this community? Do you care about the spiritual well-being of your family?
Good Afternoon Dear Church,
I hope and pray that you all are doing wonderfully! This week I've been thinking a lot about how Spiritual Growth works. It can be confusing sometimes. There are a lot of words Christians use to talk about Spiritual Growth (sanctification, discipleship, holiness, the Christian walk, "etc."), but when it all comes down to it, it is all a matter of following after Jesus. It is a matter of having an intense, intimate, personal knowledge of him. The more we know of him, the more we are overwhelmed with his goodness and his holiness. The more we are overwhelmed with him, the more we love him, desire him, and savor him. And the more that we desire him and savor him, the more that we start to live "like him." Jesus is an acquired taste. A good example is my "obsession" with coffee. The more I know about coffee, the more I like coffee. And the more I like coffee, the more I start making it part of my daily life. It is similar with Jesus. The more we know about him, the more we want him. The more we desire Jesus, the more we start to live like him.
But here is the clincher, this does not happen overnight. It is a gradual renewal, a gradual transformation (Rom 12:1-2). It only happens inch by inch.
We are instantaneous people: we want internet NOW, we want pizza NOW, we want to grow up NOW. But those things don't happen right away. Instant works well with neither coffee nor Christlikeness. They take a long time. A lot of prayer, a lot of obedience, and a lot of pondering Jesus.
Which means, that the chances that I have to ponder Jesus today make me look like Jesus tomorrow.
How well I know and look like Christ today is a cumulative result of how much I have considered him in my life up until now. All the thousands of sermons I have heard, the groggy mornings in God's Word, the times praying on the way to work, the "I don't know, what do you think this passage means?" questions over lunch, or coffee, or at Bible Study have all added up until now. How much I look like Jesus today is simply the cumulation of how much I have thought about him, prayed in his name, and savored him yesterday.
It also means that when I miss those things, when I sleep in instead of go to church, when I forget to read my Bible, when I allow myself to be too overwhelmed to pray or go to Bible Study, I am robbing myself of holiness tomorrow. How much I ignore Jesus today will accumulate in looking less like him tomorrow. It also means that I am robbing myself of joy, true, soul satisfying, thirst quenching joy when I ignore Christ. Just as a farmer's planting, a broker's investing, or an athlete's training, if I do not put in the hard work today, I will regret it tomorrow. But if I work hard today, I will rejoice tomorrow.
Looking like Christ takes a steady, day in day out, disciplined lifestyle of knowing, understanding, and desiring him. We gain the glory of eternity through inches, feet, and miles as we run the race that is set out for us, competing for the crown (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Good Afternoon Dear Saints,
This afternoon as I was preparing for our Wed. Night Bible Study (6 PM!), I was struck by Prov 28:25.
"A greedy man stirs up strife. But the one who trusts in the LORD will be enriched."
Now, the first line makes a lot of sense to me. The person who is greedy, will necessarily seek after greed, and they will do anything they can to get it. We would call that a violation of the 10th commandment, "Do not covet." The essence of coveting, or greediness, is wanting something so bad that you are willing to sin to get it. This necessarily leads to strife, dissension, and division (cf. James 3:13-18), as people are willing to do whatever is necessary to get what they want.
And to be honest, the second half of the Proverb makes sense to me too. The person who trusts in, or has faith in the LORD, will be enriched. Now we understand that doesn't necessarily mean having a giant bank account or a huge house or a Ford F750 series truck. What it means is that they can say with Paul, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Phil 1:21)
Now what I gave me pause is why these two parts of Proverbs 28:25 are put together. What is the relationship between greedy persons stirring up strife and one with faith being enriched? I think we are supposed to see them as opposites. And here I think we learn something about the nature of greed. Just as when we have faith, we are trusting in that thing to carry through on its promises, so greed trusts that the object of our greed (whether it is approval, status, or stuff) will give us what we think it will. In other words, greed is a mutated form of faith. Unfortunately, greed never works. The object of our greed is never trustworthy. It never follows through. When we are willing to sin to get something, whether it is a new car, a feeling, or even approval from others, the payoff is never worth it; it always leaves us feeling somewhat empty inside.
By contrast, greed also tells us something about faith. Because if greed means desiring something, that means that our faith must include desire. In other words, our faith must include a sense of our need and want for Christ. We must actually want him. Faith is not merely knowing information and agreeing to it. Faith is hungering and thirsting for Christ. It is abiding in him like a branch does a vine. Faith is clinging to Christ for salvation. Faith is, exactly what Paul says, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Phil 1:21) In other words, faith is not just wanting Christ because of what he can give us (and what he gives us is pretty good: righteousness, forgiveness, reconciliation, hope, etc.). Faith is wanting Christ because He is His own reward. If you have Christ, what else do you need?
Southern Heights Christian Church
Come here for thoughts on how to follow Jesus in our every day life!