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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Matt's Messages - The Law of the Harvest

“The Law of the Harvest”
July 30, 2006
Hosea 9:1-10:15

Three weeks ago, when we were last together in our study of Hosea, we learned about the “biblical law of the harvest.”

In God’s world, you harvest what you plant. Or you reap what you sow.

In God’s world, you harvest what you plant.

And we saw that Israel had sowed the wind and reaped...[what?]...the whirlwind. That was God’s judgment.

Well, chapters 9 and 10 have pretty much the same message. They are two of the saddest chapters in the whole book, and the whole Old Testament, even the whole Bible. Because in Hosea 9 and 10, God basically tells Israel that they are going to get what they deserve.

The key verses for these two chapters are in chapter 10, verses 12 and 13. And they are the central idea of today’s message:

“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception.”

Here’s the biblical principle again. In God’s World, You Harvest What You Plant.

What you are planting with your life will determine what you harvest.

God gave Israel a choice all along. He said (again in chapter 10, verse 12):

“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception.”

Sadly, most of chapters 9 and 10 explain that last sentence: “But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception.”

Let’s look together at the sad seeds that Israel had planted. The first was idolatry. Chapter 9, verse 1.

“Do not rejoice, O Israel; do not be jubilant like the other nations. For you have been unfaithful to your God; you love the wages of a prostitute at every threshing floor.”

What is that? It is spiritual adultery which we have learned this Summer is idolatry.

Spiritual adultery is idolatry.

Israel has been unfaithful.

Like a prostitute, she has gone after other gods. Notably, the Baals.

And what will she reap? The evil of exile. V.2

“Threshing floors and winepresses will not feed the people; the new wine will fail them. They will not remain in the LORD's land [the Promised Land]; Ephraim will return to Egypt [slavery] and eat unclean food in Assyria. They will not pour out wine offerings to the LORD, nor will their sacrifices please him. Such sacrifices will be to them like the bread of mourners; all who eat them will be unclean. This food will be for themselves; it will not come into the temple of the LORD. What will you do on the day of your appointed feasts, on the festival days of the LORD? Even if they escape from destruction, Egypt will gather them, and Memphis will bury them. [A foreign graveyard is their destiny.] Their treasures of silver will be taken over by briers, and thorns will overrun their tents. The days of punishment are coming, the days of reckoning are at hand. Let Israel know this.”

Israel planted the wickedness of idolatry and will harvest the evil of exile.

All of the religious trappings and familiar surroundings of Israel will be taken away from them as they are dragged off into slavery.

“The days of punishment are coming, the days of reckoning are at hand. Let Israel know this.”

Israel planted the wickedness of idolatry and will harvest the evil of exile.

Idolatry is worshiping someone or something that is not God.

And we’ve learned that you don’t need statues of Baal to do it.

Anything other than God will do.

This Summer, we have been challenged to root out “idols of the heart” that take the place of God in our lives.

I have recently come to recognize that one of my strongest heart-idols is being liked and receiving the praise of men. I crave approval.

But I’m called to be a God-pleaser, not a Man-pleaser, so I have some heart-work to do. One my memory verses I’ve been thinking about recently is Proverbs 27:21, “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but [Pastor Matt] is tested by the praise he receives.”

How about you?

Are you planting the seeds of idolatry or rooting them out?

I hope that you are not neglecting them.

Remember my carpenter ants? Well, I haven’t done a thing about them yet. I’ve been too busy trying to keep my van running (with the help of some friends) and get my lawn mowed. And I’d hate to kill those ants and lose the opportunity to use them as a sermon illustration!

But if I don’t get them sometime, they’ll ruin my house from the inside out.

And if we don’t root out the seeds of idolatry, we’ll have a painful harvest.

The second sad seed of wickedness that Israel planted was hostility. Idolatry and hostility to both God and God’s messengers. V.7

“Because your sins are so many and your hostility so great, the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac. The prophet, along with my God, is the watchman over Ephraim, yet snares await him on all his paths, and hostility in the house of his God.”

Israel should have loved God and listened to the truth of His prophets. But they treated Hosea like he was crazy, and they set traps for him.

They not only rejected God, but they hated Him, too.

And they hated His messengers.

They sowed the seeds of hostility.

And what will they reap? Hate in return. V.9

“They have sunk deep into corruption, as in the days of Gibeah. [We’ll see more about that in chapter 10.] God will remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins. [They will reap what they have sown. They will get what they deserve.] When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert [it was a happy time]; when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree [surprised by joy!]. But when they came to Baal Peor [Numbers 25], they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved [idolatry and hostility together, therefore:]. Ephraim's glory will fly away like a bird–no birth, no pregnancy, no conception. Even if they rear children, I will bereave them of every one. Woe to them when I turn away from them! I have seen Ephraim, like Tyre, planted in a pleasant place. But Ephraim will bring out their children to the slayer.’”

“Give them, O LORD–what will you give them? [What would be right?] Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry. ‘Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds, I will drive them out of my house. I will no longer love them; all their leaders are rebellious. Ephraim is blighted, their root is withered, they yield no fruit. Even if they bear children, I will slay their cherished offspring.’ My God will reject them because they have not obeyed him; they will be wanderers among the nations.”

Do you have a theological category in your brain for the hate of God?

God is a God of love. But He also hates sin. V.15 again.

“Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal [a leading idolatrous city], I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds, I will drive them out of my house [like an adulterous wife who is no longer welcome]. I will no longer love them...”

And Hosea was called to name his daughter, “Lo-Ruhamah”–Unloved.

Now, notice that God’s hate is not capricious or impulsive. It is a proper response to the wickedness that Israel had planted. V.17

“My God will reject them because [of hostility] they have not obeyed him; they will be wanderers among the nations.”

God has been more than patient and more than compassionate. But He will not be mocked. They have earned His hate. “Woe to them when I turn away from them!”

You know what? That is what happened to Jesus when He hung on the Cross for you and me.

The Father turned His face away. Jesus bore the same kind of punishment then that God is promising here. He absorbed the hate of God on our behalf.

God is promising that if Israel is going to forsake and reject Him in hate, then He will hate them back.

But if you and I belong to Christ, He has absorbed the hostility of God for us, on our behalf. That’s the gospel!

If we have faith in Christ, we reap what he sowed!

Are you trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation? Why wouldn’t you?!

Turn in your hostility against God for faith in Christ Jesus!

The third sad seed of wickedness that Israel planted was hypocrisy. Idolatry, hostility, and hypocrisy. Chapter 10, verse 1.

“Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself. [Sounds good.] As his fruit increased [...He gave more praise to God, right? ...] he built more altars [!]; as his land prospered [...He glorified the LORD...], he adorned his sacred stones[!].”

That’s all messed up. Instead of giving God the glory, Israel went the wrong direction. But he wouldn’t confess to it. V.2

“Their heart is deceitful, and now they must bear their guilt. The LORD will demolish their altars and destroy their sacred stones. Then they will say, ‘We have no king because we did not revere the LORD [then they’ll be truthful]. But even if we had a king, what could he do for us?’ [Here’s what they’re like...] They make many promises, take false oaths and make agreements; therefore lawsuits spring up like poisonous weeds in a plowed field.”

They are hypocrites.

On the outside, they claim to be fine upstanding citizens of God’s Kingdom enjoying His blessings.

But on the inside, their hearts are deceitful. They make promises and don’t keep them.

Lawsuits spring up like ragweed in a fertile field because nobody keeps their word.

They are hypocrites. They are sowing hypocrisy.

What will they reap? Terrible destruction. V.5

“The people who live in Samaria fear for the calf-idol of Beth Aven [1 Kings 12]. Its people will mourn over it, and so will its idolatrous priests, those who had rejoiced over its splendor, because it is taken from them into exile. It will be carried to Assyria as tribute for the great king. Ephraim will be disgraced; Israel will be ashamed of its wooden idols. [Hypocrisy will be judged.] Samaria and its king will float away like a twig on the surface of the waters. [Samaria was the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel. It will be turbulently destroyed like a twig on a wave. V.8] The high places of wickedness will be destroyed–it is the sin of Israel. Thorns and thistles will grow up and cover their altars. Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Cover us!’ and to the hills, ‘Fall on us!’”

They will reap total destruction, so much so, that death will be preferred to life.

Does that last sentence sound familiar? V.8

“Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Cover us!’ and to the hills, ‘Fall on us!’”

The Lord Jesus said used those words in Luke 23 to describe those who will one day want to escape God’s judgment.

And John used those words in Revelation 6 to describe utter despair of the kings of the Earth as they try to get away from the wrath of the Lamb.

This is a foretaste of the great judgment to come.

All because of hypocrisy. Because their hearts were deceitful.

Are you and I sowing seeds of hypocrisy or do we love and live the truth?

Last week, we talked about learning, loving, and living the Bible. And a number of us had made commitments to growing in our learning, loving, and living the truth.

What do our lives say 7 days later?

Have we made any progress?

Are we still committed?

Are we saying one thing and doing another? That’s hypocrisy.

And we might think that we’re getting away with it, but in God’s world, you harvest what you plant. Guaranteed.

Be sure your sin will find you out.

The fourth sad seed of wickedness that Israel planted was the seed of immorality. Idolatry, hostility, hypocrisy, and immorality. V.9

“Since the days of Gibeah, you have sinned, O Israel, and there you have remained. Did not war overtake the evildoers in Gibeah? When I please, I will punish them; nations will be gathered against them to put them in bonds for their double sin.”

This is the second mention of Gibeah in today’s passage. The first was in chapter 9, verse 9. Gibeah’s story is told in Judges 19-21 and it is a sordid tale that I don’t want to repeat this morning.

It’s a story about gross rampant sin that was eventually judged by the nation of Israel.

God is saying that Israel now is worse than Gibeah was then. And it will take other nations to judge her.

In chapter 9, verse 9, He said, “They have sunk deep into corruption, as in the days of Gibeah.”

They have sown immorality. What will they reap? Military destruction.

“Nations will be gathered against them to put them in bonds for their double sin.” Sin of forsaking the Lord and trusting in other gods and other nations.

Here is the context that the key verses come in. V.11

“Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh [she likes the simple life of chugging along and eating as you go]; so I will put a yoke on her fair neck. I will drive Ephraim, Judah must plow, and Jacob must break up the ground.”

God’s will is for Israel to be judged. But here is the call:

“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors [which won’t help!], the roar of battle will rise against your people, so that all your fortresses will be devastated–as Shalman devastated Beth Arbel on the day of battle, when mothers were dashed to the ground with their children. Thus will it happen to you, O Bethel, because your wickedness is great. When that day dawns, the king of Israel will be completely destroyed.”

In God’s World, You Harvest What You Plant.

And if you plant immorality, if you plant wickedness, you will harvest complete destruction.

Galatians chapter 6, verse 7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

You see that the opposite is true, as well.

Israel did all the wrong things. They planted the sad seeds of idolatry, hostility, hypocrisy, and immorality, and they harvested destruction. They reaped evil and ate fruit of deception.

But that’s not what God was looking for!

And it’s not what God wants for us!

He wants us to sow to please the Spirit!

He wants verse 12 for us!

“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.

First, SOW FOR YOURSELVES RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Righteousness is right living, just living, goodness and living in God’s right way.

We find out in both testaments that righteousness is only possible by faith. “The righteous shall live by faith.”

So, it takes faith for us to sow in righteousness.

And as we trust, we obey and live in God’s plan. That’s what sowing in righteousness is. It’s living out faith in God’s way.

It’s the opposite of sowing idolatry, hostility, hypocrisy, and immorality.

Sow for yourselves righteousness.

What do you reap?

“Reap the fruit of unfailing love.” That’s God’s love. God’s unfailing love comes to His people.
His covenant love. His never-stopping, never-fainting, never-sleeping, never-ceasing, never-quitting, never-breaking, never-halting, never-slowing, unfailing love.

Second, BREAK UP YOUR UNPLOWED GROUND.

I think that means repentance. Allowing yourself to receive the grace of God by allowing your hardness to be broken.

Remember, repentance (or turning) is not just a one-time event. Martin Luther said that the Christian life is race of repentance.

We need to turn from our idolatry, hostility, hypocrisy, and immorality daily (hourly! minutely! secondly!) and break up our unplowed ground.

And third, SEEK THE LORD.

Hosea says, “It’s time to seek the LORD.”

Run hard after Him.

Meet Him in His Word.

Talk to Him, pray to Him, relate to Him through the day.

Seek the LORD. And what will you reap?

Showers of righteousness.

“It is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.”

And that’s His righteousness at work in your life: filling it, refreshing it, setting right, bringing joy to it, putting your life back together like it belongs under His righteous rule.

A shower of righteousness from the LORD.

That’s what He wants for us.

He wants to have His way with us.

The Law of the Harvest is that you reap what you sow.

In God’s world, you harvest what you plant.

What you are planting with your life will determine what you harvest.

What are we planting?

It comes down to are we living in verse 12 or verse 13?

Verse 13 was the sad downfall of the Northern Kingdom.

Idolatry, Hostility, Hypocrisy, and Immorality reaping destruction.

But verse 12 is what He wants for us.

Sowing in righteousness, breaking up our unplowed ground, and seeking the LORD.

He wants to have His way with you.

What are you planting with your life?

Friday, July 28, 2006

iTunes



Isaac enjoying Robin's new CD player.

Daddy & Da Boys



My daughter Robin took this one herself!

Scarey bunch aren't we?

My Sweet Gaptoothed Girl



Robin's first baby tooth fell out this week.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Matt's Messages - What We Learned At Family Bible Week

“What We Learned At Family Bible Week”
July 23, 2006
Joshua 1:6-9


We will return, Lord-willing, to our study of Hosea next week, but we just had a very big week of ministry, and I thought it would be a good idea to do a post-game analysis of “What We Learned at Family Bible Week.”

And before we do that, I want to start by saying two things: I am very proud of you and thank you.

As your pastor, I am so proud of you for putting together and putting on such a quality ministry as Family Bible Week this last week. I talk with a lot of pastors, some of much bigger churches than ours, and most of the time when they hear what kind of ministry you folks have done the last 5 years, they are amazed (and some of them jealous!). God has been at work among us, and as your pastor, I am very proud of you.

And thank you. Thank you for serving the Savior by serving His Body and the community around us. Thank you to those of you who gave for the missions fund. That was a very big goal, and you have been very generous. Thank you for those of you who taught and led a small group and organized and passed out food and set things up and played an instrument and carried out the trash. Thank you. You know who you are and so does God. And He is pleased with faith-filled service. And glorified by it, too. Thank you.

The theme verse for Family Bible Week this year was taken from the first chapter of Joshua. Joshua 1:9. And today, I want to center on it and a few verses that came before it. Joshua 1:6-9.

The book of Joshua tells the story of the people of Israel leaving the wilderness wanderings and conquering the Promised Land.

In God’s discipline, they have wandered for 40 years in the desert, until an entire generation died, including Moses. And now, God has raised up a new leader, Joshua, to take his people into the Promised Land.

Chapter 1 is all about getting Joshua ready for this task.

“After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide: ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them–to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. [The Promised Land.] Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates– all the Hittite country–to the Great Sea on the west. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

Sounds like Hebrews 13 doesn’t it? Here are our key verses for today. V.6

“‘Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.’”

And here is Joshua’s response. Obedience. V.10

“So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: ‘Go through the camp and tell the people, 'Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.'’ [Verses 12-15 are special instructions that are reminder of previous promises. We’ll skip those today and hear the response of the people in v.16.] Then they answered Joshua, ‘Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!’”

What We Learned at Family Bible Week. Just two points this morning:

#1. LEARN, LOVE, AND LIVE THE BIBLE.

We saw last week in Psalm One that the destination of the path of the righteous is blessing. And the path of the righteous is not going along with crowd and loving the the words of God.

We see the same thing here in Joshua 1. Look at verse 6-8. God is speaking to Joshua.

“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

The word “law” in v.7 and v.8 is the same word as “law” in Psalm 1 last week: Torah. It stood for the first 5 books of the Bible. God’s Word.

It isn’t just rules but all that God has said in His Word up to this point.

God wants Joshua to remember, meditate on, and obey His Word.

All week long at Family Bible Week, we stressed the importance of the Bible.

All of the kids’ classes came out of the Bible. And the adult class learned about studying the Bible for ourselves: observation, interpretation, application.

Why? Because God puts such a premium on His Word!

In principle, what He said to Joshua applies to us.

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.”

Now, that doesn’t mean don’t ever talk about the Bible. “Don’t let it depart from your mouth.” It means, don’t ever stop talking about the Bible!

Don’t let it depart from being something your mouth talks about!

And meditate on it day and night.

Those are the same Hebrew words that were in Psalm 1 last week.

Chew the cud. Put a pinch of Bible between your cheek and gum and suck on it all day long.

Get the Bible inside of you. Learn it. Love it.

And live it.

Notice that he stresses application.

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.”

It’s almost worthless if it is not acted upon.

Just do it.

James says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (1:22). That’s what God was saying to Joshua.

And He promises him something, too: blessing.

Learn, Love, and Live the Bible and Be Blessed.

V.7 “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

Notice that the blessing comes with obedience.

With obedience comes blessing.

Not that it earns blessing. Blessing is all of grace. But blessing accords with obedience because that’s the way God has set up His world.

This principle runs through the Bible. We saw it last week with the picture of the sturdy tree that stands against the storms and yields fruit in season and out of season. That’s a picture of the blessed life.

We learned at Family Bible Week to Learn, Love, and Live the Bible, and Be Blessed.

One key thing that we talked about in the adult class it the need for follow-up and an implementation plan for Bible study.

Change hasn’t happened until change has happened.

It’s not good enough to say that we want to love and live the Bible. We need to actually do it.

What is your plan?

A number of people in the adult class said things like this, “I plan to put what I’ve learned into action as I read the Word almost every night before going to sleep.” And, “I’m going to spend more time applying the ways we used this week in my Bible reading and thinking more on the application areas.” And, “I’m going to attempt to be more disciplined in my Bible reading, study, and prayer.” And, “I’m going to take memorizing Scripture a little more seriously now.”

That’s awesome! And if that happens in our lives, Family Bible Week will have been a huge success.

Learn, Love, and Live the Bible, and Be Blessed.

#2. The second thing that we learned at Family Bible Week was to BE COURAGEOUS.

This was the main theme of the kids’ classes. And they were reminded of Joshua 1:9.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
That’s God talking to Joshua.

He had a lot to be scared of. There were giants in the land. The people who lived in Canaan weren’t going to be happy that Joshua and the Israelites wanted to come in and set up shop.

But God wouldn’t allow Joshua to be afraid. Did you see how many times the command “be strong and courageous” appeared in chapter 1?

V.6, V.7, V.9.

And then the people chime in and say it, too, in verse 18. “Only be strong and courageous.”

That’s what Joshua needed to do.

And the same is true for us in the New Covenant, as well.

The New Testament is full of commands for us to be bold in sharing our faith and courageous in standing up for what is right.

For example, 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.”

In the Upper Room, what the adult class studied, we saw that Jesus expected life to be hard for His disciples, but regardless, they were to testify to the gospel of Christ.

Jesus ended His teaching in the Upper Room by saying, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! [NASB: take courage!] I have overcome the world.”

We Learned at Family Bible Week That We Need to Be Courageous.

Are you ready to be courageous?

Courageous on the job?
Courageous when school starts again?
Courageous at your family picnic?
Courageous in the face of ridicule?
Courageous at West Branch Community Days?

Jesus is calling us to follow Him, and that takes courage.

But we also learned that whenever He asks us to do something, He offers us all of the promises we’ll ever need to do it.

Notice how Joshua could be courageous: God was with Him. V.9

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

He will be with us to very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39).

He will not leave or forsake His children (Hebrews 13:5)!

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

One of you said this week, “I was reminded of the level of courage it takes to live in the world as a follower of Christ. However, knowing that He has overcome the world and that He prays for us as He had for his disciples brings me comfort when times are hard.” Another one of you said, “I was reminded to persevere. I’ve been very backward about sharing my faith because of rejection, but I’m going to push through it and try.” Another one said, “I was reminded that it doesn’t matter what people might say or think about us...but that Jesus Christ is proclaimed and glorified.” And one of you said, “I have prayed this week for the Lord to help me be light for Him and to not be ashamed of Him and of being a child of God. I’ve committed myself to sharing His word with unbelievers and to be light to others.”

That’s being courageous, and we need lots of it.

What are you facing tomorrow?

Are you ready to stand up for Christ no matter what?

I’ll bet you aren’t facing a mean looking nation of Canaanites like Joshua was.

But the same God that promised to be with Joshua, Has promised to go out with you wherever you will go.

Be courageous in Jesus’ Name.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Birthday Month

Four of the six of us Mitchells have their birthdays in July (it's kind of like Christmas in July for all of the presents!):

My lovely bride was born in July 10th.

Robin and Peter were both born on July 12th (3 years apart). Robin is 6 now (that's half of 12 and a third of 18, YIKES!). Peter is 3.

And our "baby" Isaac will be 2 tomorrow.

I have a friend who says that days are long but the years go fast. How true.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Matt's Messages - What's At Stake at Family Bible Week

“What’s at Stake at Family Bible Week”
July 16, 2006
Psalm 1

We’re going to take a break from our study of Hosea today to think about “What’s at Stake with Family Bible Week.”

Tonight at 6pm, our 5th Annual Family Bible Week will begin. Hopefully, we’ll have about a hundred people gather to eat, sing, pray, and study together for the next five days. I hope that you all come and you bring a friend.

What’s at stake with Family Bible Week?

Well, the name says a lot. Family Bible Week.

It’s a week (five days) designed for families (there’s something for everyone, including time when the whole family is together at a table or together singing in worship)...a week designed for families to learn the Bible.

How important is that?

It’s incredibly important. And that’s what Psalm 1 is all about.

Notice that Psalm 1 divides all people into 2 categories. Look at v.6.

“The LORD watches over the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked will perish.”

There are 2 ways to go in life. Two paths. And they are not BOTH/AND; they are “EITHER/OR.”

Psalm 1 makes it clear that there are 2 ways to go in this life. Two paths. And they are either/or.

You and I are faced with a choice (or a series of choices). Will we go the way of the righteous or will we go the way of the wicked?

Either/Or. The choice is yours.

Each way (the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked) has a final destination. Each path points to certain destination. And the beautiful thing about Psalm 1 is that those destinations are painted in stark, vivid colors.

Now, in life, the paths are not so clearly marked. Sometimes, it seems like the way of wickedness prospers. For example, that was Asaph’s problem in Psalm 73. “Why do the wicked prosper?”

But Psalm 1 makes it crystal clear where each path eventually leads.

Last Sunday and Monday, our family got to go camping for the very first time (all 6 of us) in Cook Forest (my favorite place on God’s green Earth)! And we got to go on hike together. I love hiking in Cook Forest! I don’t know about you, but I like to know when I start out on a hiking-trail, where it is going to end-up. Will we get back to the car, will we have to walk back up hill after a down-hill trail, will we end up near camp or far from camp? These are important questions to ask when hiking.

Psalm 1 stands in the Bible like a huge sign-post at the head of two very different trails. Warning us from the one and urging us to take the other. Verses 1, 2, and 3 describe the path and destination of the righteous. Let’s read them again. This is what’s a stake at Family Bible Week.

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

Does that sound good, or what? The destination of the path of the righteous is blessing.

V.1 says, “Blessed is the man.”

We really don’t comprehend what that word, “blessed” mean. It means more than just to be happy. It means to be in state that should be congratulated. It means “worthy of rejoicing,” “honored,” “praiseworthy.” The person on this path is being recognized (by GOD!) as being in a place worthy of celebration.

How would you like God to open up the heavens right now, look down on you, and say, “Way to go! You are in the right spot now! Congratulations on your recent choices! Good job!”

That’s what this verse does. “Blessed is the man [woman or child]” who is on this path...].

Twelve years ago, I was sitting in chapel at Moody Bible Institute, the guest preacher that day was D.A. Carson of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. And he spoke on the blessedness of this path. And I wrote in my Bible (it’s still there today), “Father, make me a Psalm 1 man.”

I want this blessing. And I want it for you, too. I want it for all of the families attached to our church. I want this blessing for Family Bible Week.

More on that blessing in a second...how do you get there?

Vv.1&2 describe the path. First negatively, then positively. Negatively, this path is not giving in to the crowd and positively this path is loving God’s words.

V.1 again.

“Blessed is the man who does NOT walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.”

Notice the progression: walking, standing, sitting. It’s a downward spiral of giving in to the crowd. Walking in the counsel of the wicked means listening to the advice of the world. What the world says about what matters: money, sex, possessions, success, popularity, power, external beauty, and so on. The blessed person does not listen to that counsel and believe it. They tune it out.

Last week, our Challenge ladies reminded us in their presentation that the world wants to feed us a pack of lies. Those on the path of the righteous don’t buy it.

Not standing in the way of sinners means not choosing to go along with the crowd and do the self-seeking sinful things that our nonbelieving friends and family want us to do. The NIV makes it sound like we’re stopping sinners by standing in their way, but it really means that we’re in the middle of their path, and we’ve identified with them and what they want us to do.

Did you know that peer pressure is not a teenage thing? It’s a human thing. It is a sinner thing. It affects all ages. The way of blessing says no to peer pressure for sin. The godly man or woman does not stand in the path that sinners stand in.

Do you stand out amongst your friends because you don’t do all of the things that they do?

Refusing to sit in the seat of mockers means valuing godly things instead of scorning and ridiculing them. It’s an attitude thing. In our culture today, there is a cynicism and disdain for spiritual things. But the road of blessing does not go through that town! It maintains reverence and respect for God and the things of God.

Are you running with crowd? Are you just going with the flow? The way of blessing says no to the press of the crowd and goes it own way.

Family Bible Week is about cultivating a counter-cultural lifestyle and swimming upstream.

Now here’s the most important part...

The way of blessing comes from loving God’s words. That’s in v.2.

“But [instead of giving in to the crowd] his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

The Law or “Torah” of the LORD was the first 5 books of the Old Testament. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. That was probably all of the Bible that the psalmist had in writing at this point.

So when it says the Law of God, think the Scriptures. What God has said. The Bible.

The blessed man or woman loves the Bible.

Loves. V.2 “His DELIGHT is in the law of the LORD.” Not just that he reads the Scriptures. Not just that he is disciplined in reading the Daily Bread. The blessed person delights in the Scriptures because they bring him close to God.

Now, get that. This is not describing someone who loves Bible Trivia but not the Author of the Bible. This is someone who realizes that God has spoken and feeds off of His words. Eats’em up. [Jeremiah 15:16]

This is the person that says, “What did God say? I want to know! I want to know! Tell me. Tell me what God says!”

And when he gets that information he doesn’t let it go. V.2 again.

“On his law [on His words] he meditates day and night.”

The word here means to mutter, to mumble, to meditate. It means to chew on a word like a cow chews its cud. Over and over again, the words of God are rehearsed and turned over on the tongue.

Day and night. That means all the time, focusing on the Word of God. Thinking about, chewing on, soaking in God’s Word.

That’s the key to the blessed life according to Psalm 1. Not giving in to the pressure of the sinful crowd but making your own way through loving the word of God.

If you love the word of God, you will not choose to walk, stand, or sit with the world.

The Word of God re-adjusts your priorities and your values. It becomes the lens through which you view the world, the grid that you make all your choices through, the yardstick that you measure the worth of everything by.

Does this describe you?

Are you becoming a Psalm 1 man or a Psalm 1 woman, a Psalm 1 teen, a Psalm 1 boy, a Psalm 1 girl–enthralled by, delighted in, enraptured by the words of God? That is the road to blessing.

That’s what’s a stake at Family Bible Week. Blessing.

The Psalmist describes that blessing in v.3. I love the imagery here.

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

Do you see in your mind a picture of a sturdy palm tree standing tall and firm against the elements? The picture here is of a stable life. A life that does not fall when the wind of adversity blows. A tree planted by streams of water doesn’t run out of nourishment because the words of God are more satisfying than bread or honey from the comb. A tree which yields its fruit in season is a life that is productive and effective in the Lord’s service. A tree whose leaf does not wither is a person who does not fall apart when the hard times come.

Eventually and ultimately, God works everything for the prosperity and good of those who love Him and His words like this!

The ravages and storms of this life do not even shake this kind of a tree. Jeremiah 17 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Vv7-8).

That’s the kind of life that I want. And I want it for this congregation. That’s why I get up every Sunday and preach the Word. That’s why we have a Bible component to every one of our ministries. That’s why Bible is the middle name of Family Bible Week.

Because the road of blessing runs through the love of the Bible as it brings us nearer to knowing God.

Boys and Girls, Men and Women: Do you love the Word of God?

I want this to be a church family of mighty trees. With deep roots in the soil and nourishment of the Scriptures.

That is blessing. That is prosperity. And that is the destination of the righteous path.

The other path ends up in a very different place...

The destination of the path of the wicked is death. Vv. 4&5.

“Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.”

The wicked are those who do not love the words of God. The wicked are those who go with the flow of the crowd. Listening to their counsel. Choosing their sinful paths. Mocking the holiness of God. And ignoring the word of God.

Vv.4 and 5 are a warning sign at the head of this path, cautioning us to stay far from it. Because at the end of this road is destruction.

The Psalmist says, “Not so the wicked!” No blessing here. There may be a temporary prosperity for those who thumb their noses at God. But not for long. God’s justice will triumph. And they will be destroyed.

If the blessed righteous are like sturdy trees, the wicked (according to Psalm 1) are like chaff that the wind drives away.

“Chaff is the leftover dust and plant refuse that comes with the harvest. In modern farming...the chaff would be all of the junk that spits out the back end of the combine as it makes its way through the fields. It is the chopped up parts of the plant that are no good to anybody.

In ancient farming...there were no machines for separating the good grain from the chaff. What would happen at harvest is that the heads of grain would all be gathered and then left to dry. The good seeds of wheat and barley would be all mixed together with the husks and shells and stems.

And so, the farmer–in order to clean his crop–would have to thresh. On a windy day he would...take his dried heads of grain and toss them up into the air, over and over again. As he did this the heavier, valuable seeds of grain would fall back to the ground around his feet while the lighter, worthless pieces of chaff would be caught by the wind and carried away....

The life of the wicked, the Psalmist is saying, is like that chaff. The literal reality this image is picturing for us is a life of instability as the wicked float from one whim to the next. ... ‘All they are is dust in the wind.’

Or, to change metaphors, they are like boats without anchors. They have nothing solid to latch onto, nothing permanent to define their lives. Instead, as they make their choices according to the fancy of their feelings, they are blown aimlessly through life” [Russell J. Muilenburg, “The Costs of Living a Life Without God” morning sermon, January 9, 2000].

Do you want to be: a mighty tree or chaff in the wind?

V.5 says more. “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.”

Judgment day is coming; and those who have not come into a love relationship with Jesus Christ by feasting on the words of God in the Scriptures will not live through the judgment. When the “church of the firstborn” joins in heaven to sing the praises of Christ our Savior, these people will not be present.

Like chaff from grain, there will be a separation of the righteous and the wicked. Those that love God’s words and those who do not.

The two paths will diverge and their destinations will be very different. V.6 makes this plain. It is either/or.

“For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

Either/or.

The wicked will die in the judgment. If you choose that path–to walk in the counsel of the wicked (what messages are you listening to through the media?), to stand in the way of sinners (what choices are making about how you will live your life?), to sit in the seat of mockers (God will not be mocked. What attitudes characterize your life?)–if you choose that path, it ends in perishing.

But the other path, the path of delight in God through His Word, ends in being “watched over,” guided, directed by God Himself in personal relationship. V.6 again.

“The LORD watches over the way of the righteous.”

Never out of His sight. Never out of His watch-care.

Psalm 121 says “He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed he who watches over [you] will neither slumber nor sleep.”

God doesn’t rest in caring for the travelers of the righteous road.

That is such good news!

But it’s one or the other. We must choose. It’s Either/or.

That’s what’s a stake at Family Bible Week.

Matthew 7 says, “Enter through the narrow gate [take the righteous road to blessing through delight in God through His Word!]. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

That’s what’s a stake at Family Bible Week.

Blessing or Death.

Maybe you’ve been walking the path of the wicked.

Today, I want to challenge you to take a detour. To repent.

That’s what repent means–to take a detour, to change direction, to jump paths.

I challenge you to turn off of the way of the wicked and place your trust in Jesus Christ and what He did on the Cross. Because on the Cross, He took the punishment for sin and He paid the penalty that sin had accrued.

You don’t have to find your own way.

Jesus made a way for you. And He has laid it out in His Holy Word. You just have to trust Him and set out on the path.

We’ll go together. That’s the point of church. We help each other out on the way of the righteous.

That’s the point of Family Bible Week.

The whole family cultivating a love for God by learning and loving God’s Word together.

Growing together as sturdy trees enjoying the blessing and watchcare of God.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Crew

My friend Josh Perry is planting an EFCA church in the Tri-State area of West Virginia. Check out his new, cool blog--Real: A Crew Community Church Blog.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Matt's Messages - Reaping the Whirlwind

“Reaping the Whirlwind”
July 9, 2006
Hosea 8:1-14


All Summer long, we’ve been studying the book of Hosea together. This is our 6th message in Hosea. Let me remind you what we’ve learned so far.

We’ve learned that Israel, especially the northern Kingdom, had been spiritually adulterous and had made for themselves idols and worshiped Baal. And because of their spiritual infidelity, God was going to bring destructive judgment upon them. And before He did that, God sent Hosea to tell them in advance what was going to happen. He did that in picture form in chapters 1 through 3 by sending Hosea to marry Gomer–an adulterous wife. And then to have children that were named “Coming Judgment, Not Loved, and Not My People.” And then in chapters 4-7, God has been further explaining this picture of coming judgment for rejection of God.

And that’s what chapter 8 says, as well.

Chapter 8 continues where chapters 1 through 7 left off. It says in prophetic words that Israel will be reaping the consequences of their actions.

Chapter 8 contains that famous phrase that everybody knows but few people know where it comes from: “They sow the wind and reap [what?] the whirlwind.” “Reaping the Whirlwind.”

Hosea chapter 8 is a great example of the biblical “law of the harvest.”

You know what the “biblical law of the harvest” is, don’t you?

In God’s world, you reap what you sow.

Or to put it another way, IN GOD’S WORLD, YOU HARVEST WHAT YOU PLANT.

And we’re talking spiritually here.

Galatians chapter 6, verse 7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (vv.7-9)

That’s the biblical law of the harvest: In God’s world, you harvest what you plant.

What did Israel plant?

Hosea chapter 8 verse 7 says, “They sow[ed] the wind and [will] reap the whirlwind.”

Israel didn’t sow anything worthwhile. They planted worthlessness, just wind.

And wind is what they got back...and did they ever!

“They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.”

They planted a worthless breeze, and they harvested a terrible storm.

What did they plant? Three things.

They planted rejection of God’s ways, construction of false gods, and confidence in all the wrong places.

Let’s take those one at a time.

First Wind-Seed: THEY REJECTED GOD’S WAYS. V.1

“Put the trumpet to your lips! [Hosea. You need to announce this one big time!] An eagle is over the house of the LORD because the people have broken my covenant and rebelled against my law.”

An eagle seems to have been a symbol of coming judgment. The word could also be translated “vulture.” This eagle is not like this one up here that stands for beauty and majesty. This is an swooping eagle ready to devour the people of Israel. But Israel says that they don’t deserve it. V.2

“Israel cries out to me, 'O our God, we acknowledge you!' [We know you!] But Israel has rejected what is good; an enemy will pursue him. They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval.”

Notice all of the rejection words in these first 4 verses:

V.1 “The people have broken my covenant.”
V.1 They have “rebelled against my law.”
V.3 They have “rejected what is good.”
V.4 “They set up kings without my consent! [5 kings in 13 years, 3 by assassination of the one that came before him.] They choose princes without my approval.”

What’s going on here?

They rejected God’s ways.

That’s what they planted, and they will reap the whirlwind for it. V.1 An eagle is coming. V.3, “An enemy will pursue...”

Assyria will swoop down upon Israel and destroy it, carrying off many into exile.

Why? Because they rejected God’s ways.

In our home, we have a saying for this: “With Disobedience Comes Danger.”

The biblical law of the harvest teaches that if you plant the wind-seed of rejection of God’s ways, you will harvest the windstorm of God’s displeasure.

Is that what you are planting with your life?

I’m sure that’s not what you would say with your lips. But what does your life say?

Israel said (v.2), “O our God, we know you!”

But God knows better and cannot be mocked. In God’s World, You Harvest What You Plant.

What are you planting?

Many people claim to know God but have really rejected God’s ways.

We see it all the time:

Professing Christians getting unbiblical divorces.
Professing Christians having sex before and outside of marriage.
Professing Christians cheating on their taxes or not paying their debts.
Professing Christians gossiping about their neighbors.
Professing Christians refusing to forgive those who have sinned against them.
Professing Christians cussing up a storm.

Jesus saw it, too. He said in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me, Lord, Lord and do not do what I say?”

What are you planting? Are you planting rejection of God’s ways?

Or submission to God’s ways?

That’s what Israel should have done. Look down at v.12

“I wrote for them the many things of my law, but they regarded them as something alien.”

What should they have done? They should have submitted to God’s ways.

He gave them the law. They should have obeyed it.

What happens if obedience is what you plant?

Well, the biblical law of the harvest says that you harvest what you plant. So if you plant faith-filled-obedience, you will harvest blessing.

In our home we say (just about every day): “With Obedience Comes Blessing.”

Now, that’s not a one-for-one occurrence every day because the Curse is at work in this world and sometimes we have to wait for the next world for that blessing to come through. And this is not an earning of blessing as if it was a work, but a receiving of a blessing by faith–faith-filled obedience is what receives this kind of blessing.

But it’s absolutely true. With Obedience Comes Blessing.

We need to submit to God’s ways.

Have you reached a point in your life where you are ready to surrender to the Lordship of Christ?

What God says goes?
What God says to do, you will do, no matter the cost?

That’s what it means to be a disciple. And none of us do it perfectly, but real disciples do it authentically.

And everyone else is just sowing the wind.

We need to submit to God’s ways.

Are there any of God’s commands that you consciously know right now that you have no plans to submit to?

If so, you are sowing the wind. And you can expect the whirlwind.

The second wind-seed is this: THEY CONSTRUCTED FALSE GODS.

They not only rejected the ways of the true God, they constructed for themselves false gods. V.4.

“With their silver and gold they make idols for themselves to their own destruction [whirlwind]. Throw out your calf-idol, O Samaria! My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of purity? They are from Israel! [Shocking!] This calf–a craftsman has made it; it is not God. It will be broken in pieces, that calf of Samaria.”

King Jeroboam I had created two golden calves, one at the top of the kingdom and one at the bottom, to keep the Israelites from going down to the true temple in Jerusalem. And when he did it, he told the people, “Here is your god!” (2 King 12)

I think he took a page out of Priest Aaron’s playbook.

Well, those golden calves were a real snare to the people of the northern kingdom. They worshiped them instead of the LORD.

And the LORD will not stand for any rivals. If you sow idolatry, you will reap God’s hot displeasure.

Notice how almost beside Himself, God is in v.5 “How long will they be incapable of purity? They are from Israel!”

God almost can’t believe it. And it pains Him to no end.

They Constructed False Gods.

We do, too, don’t we?

Most of the time, they aren’t exterior false gods. They are internal false gods. “Idols of the heart.”

How are you doing with your carpenter ants?

I still haven’t sprayed around the perimeter of my house. I was sick last week, and this week was the fourth of July, and I’ve been pretty busy, and a bunch of other excuses.

So far, my house is still standing. But you and I both know that I need to get at those ants or they will destroy my house from the inside out.

Idols of the heart are the same way. If we let them go unchecked, they will destroy us from the inside out.

What are you planting?

Is it construction of a false god?

Maybe that idea of an idol of the heart is a hard idea to wrap your mind around.

My friend Bob Jones has recently published a book entitled, Uprooting Anger. And in it, he offers this list of possible heart-idols. See if you can relate to any of these desires:

Be free of intense problems and pressures.
Privacy
Hold and express personal opinions
Have money/possessions and use them as you choose
Plan my daily schedule
Be respected, appreciated, considered important
Friends, close relationships
Be loved and accepted
Be understood, listened to
Be supported and cared for
Make my own decisions
Plan my future
Good health, adequate medical care
Date or marry
Loving, caring, committed spouse
Sexual fulfillment
Children
Raise children the way you choose
Children who obey, respect, appreciate you
Children who work hard and succeed in school/job/marriage
Be successful in job, family, or church
Satisfying employment, enjoying your job
Affirmation from your employer
Day off from work
Coworkers respect, appreciate you
Personal hopes and aspirations fulfilled
Be treated fairly
Have fun in life
Be physically protected, secure
Now, is there anything bad on that list? No. Everything there is a good desire in its proper place.

But any desire there that takes the place of God, is a false god and needs to go.

What does God say to Israel in v.5?

“Throw out your calf-idol, O Samaria!”

Throw it out! It’s got to go.

Why? V.6 “It is not God!”

None of these things can satisfy. The Old Testament makes the case again and again that idols are man-made and therefore are not god. If it can be constructed, it shouldn’t be worshiped.

It is not God.

So, how are you doing this Summer at throwing out your heart-idols.

I have really struggled with that this Summer. If Hosea isn’t for any one else this Summer, it’s for me.

Last night, I got another picture in my head of what it’s like carting around these idols of the heart.

We still have two in diapers right now. I’m hoping that one or both of them move out of the diaper stage in the next few months. But for the last 6 years, we’ve had this thing called a diaper pail in our house. You’re familiar with what goes in there, right?

Well, every evening, we take the bag out of the diaper pail and tie it up and toss it out the steps to be put into the garbage cans. For the last several years, that has often been one of the kids’ jobs–to take out the garbage. It’s cute to watch Isaac do it, for example.

Well, last night, I thought to myself, what if I didn’t throw them out, but clung to them and hid them around the house. In the cupboard, in the fridge, under the bed, in the closet, and so forth.

Because they are good things, right? Diapers are a great idea. Especially the paper kind, I’d love to thank the person who came up with Pampers! They are a good thing.

And what if I continued to cling onto that good thing?

Well, our house would become uninhabitable, wouldn’t it?

My wife would leave me!

If that’s what I planted, the harvest would really stink. [Pun intended.]

Well, that’s what are doing when we cling to our heart idols. And God wants us to “throw them out.”

The New Testament book of first John ends by saying, “Dear Children, keep yourselves from idols.” And John knew that it was the heart-idols that stunk the most.

What are you planting?

Israel constructed false gods.

We need to throw them out. And worship God alone.

In God’s world, you harvest what you plant. V.7

“They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. The stalk has no head; it will produce no flour. Were it to yield grain, foreigners would swallow it up.”

In other words, Israel is getting what they deserve.

In God’s world, you harvest what you plant.

The third wind-seed that Israel planted was confidence in all the wrong things.

THEY PUT THEIR TRUST IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES.

Others. V.8

“Israel is swallowed up; now she is among the nations like a worthless thing. For they have gone up to Assyria like a wild donkey wandering alone [nothing more stupidly independent than a wild donkey]. Ephraim has sold herself to lovers. Although they have sold themselves among the nations, I will now gather them together. They will begin to waste away under the oppression of the mighty king.”

Israel thought that they should put their trust in bad alliances.

Israel put their confidence in their bonds with other nations. And God thinks of that as adultery, too!

When Israel should have trusted in God alone, instead they trusted in other people.

We do the same thing, don’t we? We look to other people to make us happy.

A husband, a wife, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a roommate, a child, a parent.

A boss? An employee.

Now, we are to trust people in a limited way, but not exclusively and definitely not at the exclusion of God.

We are to love people and trust God.

Israel put their confidence in all the wrong places.

Others. And religion. V.11

“Though Ephraim built many altars for sin offerings [sounds good], these have become altars for sinning. I wrote for them the many things of my law, but they regarded them as something alien. They offer sacrifices given to me and they eat the meat [looks good], but the LORD is not pleased with them. Now he will remember their wickedness and punish their sins: They will return to Egypt. [They will return to slavery.]”

It’s not that these people weren’t religious. They were very religious.

In fact, they were trusting in their religion to get them by!

But God cannot be mocked.

He doesn’t care about our religiosity if it isn’t based upon true relationship with Him.

He’s the One we need to trust.

But Israel put their confidence in all the wrong places.

Other nations, religion, and worst of all, themselves. V.14

“Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces; Judah has fortified many towns. But I will [bring the harvest] send fire upon their cities that will consume their fortresses.”

Israel forgot God and trusted in their own abilities.

That’s what a palace and fortress and a fortified town signify.

Instead of trusting in the God, they trusted in their own abilities to protect themselves.

Have you ever done that? I know that I have.

Self-reliance is what they planted. What did it harvest? V.14

“I will send fire upon their cities that will consume their fortresses.”

If you sow the wind, you will reap the whirlwind.

If you plant the wind, you will harvest the windstorm.

What are you planting?

Confidence in all the wrong places or trusting in Jesus?

Do you know that Jesus never planted, never sowed, to the flesh?

He never sinned.

And because He never sinned and because He died in our place, He gives us His perfect score at submitting to God’s ways, rejecting false gods, and trusting in God alone.

You might hear a message like this and think, “I’ll never make it. I’ll never submit perfectly to God’s ways. I’ll never get the 100% best of my heart-idols. I’m always putting my trust in other people who will let me down, religiosity, and self-reliance.”

And you’re right. But as much as this passage is about planting towards righteousness, it’s also about how we can’t do it ourselves.

Hosea chapter 8 points us to our need of a Savior Who did it all perfectly on our behalf.

Are you trusting Him?

He is worthy of your trust.

If you are not yet a faith-follower of Jesus Christ, I challenge you to begin to follow Him today by placing your trust in Him and what He did on the Cross.

Tell Jesus that you want to submit to God’s ways.
Tell Jesus that you want to worship God alone.
Tell Jesus that you want to trust Him and not other people, religion, or yourself.
Tell Jesus that you want to begin to sow to the Spirit and to reap eternal life.

Because if you don’t, your whirlwind will be an eternal fire.

Trust Him right now.

If you are a faith-follower of Christ today, I challenge you to live like it.

Because if you don’t, your whirlwind could be a painful discipline.

Our girls who went to the Challenge Conference this week were challenged to actually live the Christian life.

To submit to God’s ways. What He says, goes.
To worship God alone and throw out their heart-idols.
And to trust in God alone and not in friends, religiosity, or themselves.

To sow to the Spirit.

To not forget your Maker but to trust in Him with all your heart.

I challenge you to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

It’s the greatest adventure you could ever live.

And it leads to the greatest blessing.

Because the biblical law of the harvest says, “In God’s World, You Harvest What You Plant.”

What are you planting?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

An Old Book Review: The Supremacy of God in Preaching

The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper
November 5, 1997

Summary Of Contents

This book should be read by every preacher. It puts into perspective the toil, emotional strain, the theological digging, and all the rest of the personal investment that makes up the preaching task. According to Piper, every part of preaching should be for the glory of God, grounded in the Cross of Christ, delivered in the power of the Holy Spirit making God supremely central.

Piper develops this thesis in a two part book. The first part describes the motivations for God-centered preaching. Piper gives the theological underpinnings of the supremacy of God in the proclamation of His word. First, the glory of God is the goal of preaching. Second, the basis of all effective preaching is Christ's CrossWork. Third, the Holy Spirit himself, alone is the "power" of powerful preaching. Only the Holy Spirit can turn your work into a message from God.

Finally, in probably the most helpful section of the first part, Piper explains the manner of approach that the God-centered preacher will take to this task: gladness and gravity. Piper defines this approach as "Gladness and gravity should be woven together in the life and preaching of a pastor in such a way as to sober the careless soul and sweeten the burden of the saints" (52). Gravity is not somberness but a "blood-earnestness" that communicates through its intensity the weighty importance of the biblical principles being exposed.

The second part of the book uses the life and ministry of Jonathan Edwards to illustrate how to put God squarely and supremely at the center of one's preaching and keep Him there. Edwards must have been a powerful man of God; Piper draws ten principles from his time on earth that paint a picture of a fully-yielded preacher of God's word. Were a preacher to take half of these timeless, practical injunctions to heart, he would be richly rewarded, as would his congregation.

Value of The Supremacy of God in Preaching

for biblical interpretation

In part two, Piper emphasizes the religious affections. We need to study the Scriptures to determine not only the lexical, syntactical, and applicational meanings of the text at hand, but the inclinations of the heart that the text intends to engender from the reader as well. Only then, will we have the full exegetical message that the biblical author is intending.

for Christian living

Preaching is a lifestyle. Our study of the Word with gladness and gravity (p. 47f) will yield fruit in our life which will transform our preaching. We will need to rely upon the Holy Spirit for our power because we will see our own frailty as preachers. Piper writes,

All genuine preaching is rooted in a feeling of desperation. You wake up on Sunday morning and you can smell the smoke of hell on one side and feel the crisp breezes of heaven on the other. You go to your study and look down at your pitiful manuscript, and you kneel down and cry, "God, this is so weak! Who do I think I am? ... My God, who is sufficient for these things?" (37-8)

for Christian ministry

This theocentric preaching will best glorify God and bring us the most happiness. Piper is convincing when he argues that God is most glorified when we enjoy Him most. If this is true, ministry of the word can no longer be a drudgery. It can no longer be work but holy food and the only true sustenance for the preacher's soul.

We will need to preach to engender the same holy affections that we discovered in our study. The response of the heart's motivations and inclinations from our people will be the glad fruit of this effort. (cf p.82-3)

We will need to speak to the hearts not through silly, light, romantic stories but with weighty, intense, theological content (cf. pgs. 84-5, 103-5). The human soul needs biblical meat not watery platitudes and trivialities.

We will need to use carefully chosen analogies, images, illustrations, and stories in our preaching to pound home the intended effect of the biblical authors. If an exegetical/theological point is the nail, the hammer force would be the "well-put" illustration. (cf. 88-90)

The biggest change that this book calls for in terms of philosophy of ministry is the "blood-earnestness" that must characterize all of our preaching. The importance and weight of our message is one such that we cannot fail to plead in brokenness for a response, threaten the biblical threats, warn the biblical warnings, and probe the inner-workings of the heart. (cf. 90-101) Piper hopes that we would preach like Jesus, ". . .the great example for preachers--the crowds heard him gladly, the children sat in his lap, the women were honored. Yet no one in the Bible spoke of hell more often or in more horrible terms" (pg. 63).

Conclusion

I intend to read this book every year to remind myself of the importance of my task as a preacher, the power that is behind me, the message of the Cross that provides the basis for every good thing I can say, and the principles that will enable God to speak and present himself through my messages. God must become supreme in my preaching!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Splashin'

Half a Year of Bibliophilia

Time for my semi-annual list of books I've completed so far this year. Remember, making this list is not an endorsement of the book. Read with discernment. [For last year's lists: July 2005, December 2005.]

Foster, Richard J. Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home

Arnold, Clinton E. Three Crucial Questions about Spiritual Warfare

Kamstra, Douglas A. The Praying Church Idea Book

Piper, John A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer [Read online for free.]

Austen, Jane Northanger Abbey

Hunter, W. Bingham The God Who Hears

Storms, Sam Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist

Waldron, Samuel To Be Continued? Are the Miraculous Gifts for Today?

Grudem, et al Are Miraculous Gifts for Today: Four Views

Graustein, Karl Growing Up Christian [Check out this book's website.]

Ladd, G.E. The Blessed Hope

Grudem, Wayne Christian Beliefs

Newton, Phil Elders in Congregational Life

Bolt, Peter G. The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel

Edwards, James R. The Gospel According to Mark (PNTC)

Piper, John God Is the Gospel

Carson, D.A. The King James Version Debate

Whitney, Donald How Can I Be Sure I Am a Christian?

MacDonald, George The Curate’s Awakening

Whitney, Donald S. Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health

Seu, Andree Won’t Let You Go Unless You Bless Me

Jones, Robert D. Uprooting Anger

Lundgaard, Kris The Enemy Within

Ryken, Philip Graham Art for God’s Sake

Sayers, Dorothy L. The Traveling Rug

Collins, Jim Good to Great

Murrow, David Why Men Hate Going to Church

Dever, Mark 9Marks of a Healthy Church [Check out the website for this book.]

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Home from Denver

Got in this afternoon, and boy am I happy to be here.

Conference was good this year, but it was an ordeal to get there and I went through a minor stomach flu while there! (Lessons in joy during trials and trust in the inscrutible providence of God!) Looking forward to worshiping with God's people in Lanse tomorrow.

For content of the conference, again, I think Byron's thoughts are very similar to mine.

Coming soon: my list of books finished in the first half of 2006.