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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I Resemble that Remark!

I don't know all of what I think of this article, but it's really funny, especially for us baldies.

And I was just thinking about getting a "soul patch."

Reformation Day

Today is Reformation Day, celebrating the 490th anniversary of Martin Luther's nailing his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenburg. Among other things, it was the beginning of a recovery of the gospel of grace.

Here are Luther's own words about his re-discovery of the gospel:

“I greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, ‘the justice of God,’ [Rom. 1:17] because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him.

Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant. Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that ‘the just shall live by his faith’ [Rom. 1:17]. Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas the ‘justice of God’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressively sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate of heaven….”

- Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 34: The Career of the Reformer IV, Helmut L. Lehmann, ed. (Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 1960), 337

[HT: Of First Importance]

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mitchell Mohawks?




Never thought I'd see the day...
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Monday, October 22, 2007

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Smiley Faces Up Close

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Matt's Messages - Real Christians Really Pray

“Real Christians Really Pray”
Real Christians
October 21, 2007
Matthew 6:5-15

This Fall, we have been learning what it means to be Real Christians.

Honest-to-goodness, sincere, authentic, true-to-life, Real Christians.

We’ve learned that:

Real Christians Believe the Real Gospel. That’s where it all starts.
Real Christians Really Love God. Once His enemies, now seated at His table.
Real Christians Really Love People. Even their enemies!
And Real Christians Are On a Real Mission, Making Real Disciples.

In other words, Real Christians have a real relationship with God through Jesus Christ that changes every area of their lives.

And today, we’re going to talk about a key part of that relationship–talking.

Talking with God.

Today, we’re going to learn about that communication with God that we call, “prayer.”

“REAL CHRISTIANS REALLY PRAY.”

If that sounds basic, and that’s because it is. We’re back-to-basics this Fall. And one of the basics of Christianity is Christian prayer.

Real Christians Really Pray.

Jesus taught about prayer quite a bit. And one of the most important teachings He ever gave, is found right here in Matthew chapter 6, verses 5 through 18.

Let’s read it and see what He has to say. Matthew chapter 6, starting in verse 5.

[scripture reading, prayer]

Jesus understands human nature, doesn’t He?!

He knows what we are like!

In this Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven, what God’s righteous rule is like, what it’s all about.

What Real Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven are like: Real Christians.

And here in these verses, Jesus contrasts Real Christians with fake ones. Hypocrites.

A hypocrite is someone who says that they are one thing but are really another.

In this case, someone who claims to be a godly person, but is only doing it for show.

Verse 5 again. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”

Fake Christians may pretend to pray, but they don’t really pray.

Real Christians really pray.

Fake Christians put on a good show. So, it’s not always easy to tell if someone is real or fake.

But the real kind prays in secret. V.6

“But when you pray, [Real Christian,] go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Real Christians really pray. Do you pray?

J.I. Packer has said, “I believe that prayer is the measure of the man, spiritually, in a way that nothing else is, so that how we pray is as important a question as we could ever face.”

In other words, our prayer life is a clear indicator of whether or not we are Real Christians.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne said it like this, “What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is, and no more.”

That’s very convicting for me.

“What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is, and no more.”

I confess that being a praying man is one of if not the hardest thing about being a Christian for me personally.

But I recognize the truth of this statement: Real Christians Really Pray. And that’s why I return again and again prayer.

Real Christians Really Pray. Are you a Real Christian?

Now, it’s important to note that lots of people pray who aren’t Christians.

Muslims pray, Hindus pray, Jews pray, and so forth.

Jesus knew that, too. V.7

“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”

Jesus knew that nonChristians pray, too.

Here he points out that their prayers are often full of babbling and endless, mindless repetition.

But there is a difference between pagan prayer and Christian prayer.

And the difference is one of relationship.

REAL CHRISTIANS RELATE TO GOD AS THEIR FATHER. V.8

“Do not be like [the pagans], for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Muslims don’t pray to God as Father.

God is Allah. To be submitted to and feared.

But Christians, Real Christians, have been adopted by God into His family because of what Jesus did on the Cross. We have become God’s own children! And therefore, our prayers are marked by relationship.

That is amazing!

We can pray because of the gospel!

We have access to God because of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians chapter 2, verse 18. “For through [Jesus we] have access to the Father by one Spirit.”

What Jesus did on the Cross opened up access between us and the Father.

We now call Him Father and are invited [and required!] to pray to Him as Father.

And that makes all the differences for our prayers. Real Christians Relate to God as Their Father. If you never really pray, then you aren’t a real Christian.

And here’s how Real Christians pray. V.9

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”

I call this, the “Lord’s Model Prayer.”

It’s not really the Lord’s Prayer, because He wouldn’t have prayed all of the things in this, like: “forgive us our debts.”

But it is the model that the Lord gave us. So, it’s the Lord’s Model Prayer.

It’s model, not just to be prayed itself, but to teach us HOW to pray for ourselves.

Notice that it begins with relationship.

“Our Father in heaven...”

Do you sometimes wonder where to start when it comes to prayer?

I’ve noticed that some people have a hard time praying in a group because they don’t know where to start.

Start here. Reaffirm your relationship with God.

“Father. Daddy. Father. Dad.”

I like to say that prayer is simple. Think about whom you are talking to and then share your heart.

Don’t be flippant. This is God you’re speaking to. This is Your Father.

He’s in Heaven! But He is your Father. So talk to Him.

“...Hallowed be your name...”

This is adoration for Who God is and how holy He is. It is recognizing the Godness of God.

Too often, we run right into our requests. But this model prayer reminds us to start with Who God is.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name.”

“...your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

This is a reminder that we need to pray for God’s will. For what God wants to be become a reality.

The amazing thing is that God wants to use our prayers to effect His will in the world!

Sometimes, we think that because God is sovereign, there is no need for us to pray.

But the truth is that [mysteriously!] God works out His sovereign plans through our prayers.

That’s part of how He does it!

“...your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Real Christian prayers are kingdom prayers. They are ministry prayers. They want what God wants.

How is God’s will done in heaven?

How obedient are the angels?

God’s Will is done immediately. Perfectly. Gladly. Joyously. With no hesitation or deviance.

This is a prayer that God’s commands would be carried out by God’s people–especially by the one praying this prayer!

Did you ever think about how if you’re going to ask for things, you’ve got to be willing to be used for the answer?

But it’s not just the big things that we pray about it. It’s the small, every day items, too. V.11

“Give us today our daily bread.”

We pray for our needs. We pray for physical things like healing and provision, for jobs–for the nitty-gritty real things of life.

We shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that our daily needs are too little for God to care about.

I had to send in my computer for repair a couple of weeks ago. And I asked the board to pray for me as I was without my computer for over a week.

Now, that’s not a big thing. Though I might have acted like a big baby about it!

It’s a small thing. But there isn’t anything too small to pray about.

And every request is answered.

Did you know that?

Every prayer request prayed by a Real Christian is answered.

Sometimes, it’s “Yes.” Sometimes, it’s “No.” And sometimes, it’s “Wait.”

We never get a busy signal. We always get through. And we always get an answer. The best one for us.

When Heather and I began praying for some land to build a house on, we got specific in our prayers. We had a list of 5 things we were looking for:

1. Land within 3 miles of the church campus.
Our house is just over a mile away!

2. Land in the West Branch School District.
Which of course was solved by the answer to #1.

3. At least 3 acres of land so that the kids had space to run around on.
We got to buy 5 and 1/3 acres.

4. We wanted a wooded lot.
We now have lots of trees to enjoy.

5. We wanted land that was north of Route 80.
And we now live a few hundred yards SOUTH of Route 80.

God said yes to 4, and no to 1. And He was right. Not us.

Of course, North or South of 80 doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things.

What about your important prayer request that you’ve prayed for years and years and God doesn’t seem ready to answer?

God is answering. Every time you pray....Sometimes, it’s not a NO answer. Sometimes, the answer is “wait, not now.” Wait, my child.

Have you ever said something like that you your children?

“Daddy knows what you want. And Daddy also knows what is best for you. And because Daddy loves you, He is going to ask you to wait for that.”

God always answers our prayers. But the answer is not always exactly what we want.

Of course, our physical needs aren’t as important as our spiritual ones. And we’re to pray for both. V.12

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Here are our spiritual needs: pardon and protection.

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

This is a reminder that we need regular confession of sin to stay current with God.

Our sins are paid for by the Cross, but we receive that regular assurance of forgiveness and steady stream of cleansing by confessing our sins. Pardon.

And protection. “...lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

You know that Real Christians are in a Real Battle, don’t you?!

And we need Real Protection! “Deliver us from the evil one.”

Is prayer for spiritual protection a normal part of your prayer life?

Did you notice how personal these prayer requests are?

I’ve heard Christians say that they never pray for themselves. Just for other people. That praying for themself would be selfish.

But they don’t understand how needy they are. Real Christians Are Real Needy of Real Prayer!

Yes, we pray for God’s will to be done in the world and for others. Intercession is a huge ministry of prayer.

But we also pray for daily bread, daily forgiveness, and daily spiritual protection.

Real Christians Really Pray.

I’d to make this message really practical by ending with 11 points of practical application.

I don’t think that I had to work hard to convince you that Real Christians Really Pray.

But we could all agree with that and then not be changed by it very much. So I want to offer 11 points of practical application for us to consider this week.

#1. Trust Jesus for Access to the Father.

If you don’t know Jesus as Savior and Lord, you don’t know God as your Father.

You can’t say, “Our Father.”

But there is no reason why you can’t turn from your sins now and trust in the Savior.

Right here, right now, you can believe the saving Gospel of grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and be saved.

And if you do, you will become adopted.

And, then, you can really pray.

Tell God right now that you want to turn from your own way and trust in what Jesus did on the Cross on your behalf.

Tell Him that you believe that Jesus died for your sins and was raised to life to give you new life. And that you want God as your Father.

And then #2. Thank Jesus for Access to the Father.

I don’t think we are thankful enough for what God has done through Jesus. We need to be Cross-Centered people who are overwhelmed with how we have been loved.

Every day, we need to be thanking Jesus for providing our access to the Father.

And then #3. Use Your Access to the Father!

Pray. Really pray. Don’t just pretend for show. Don’t just babble on like a pagan.

But pray. Really pray.

How?

#4. Evaluate Your Current Prayer Life.

Where are you weak? Where are you strong?

Use the Lord’s Model Prayer. Are you praying the kinds of things we just went over?

How often?

Are you just praying for yourself and not for others?

Are you just praying for others and not yourself?

Are you praying Kingdom Come kinds of prayers or just Daily Bread?

Are you praying just Kingdom Come and not Daily Bread?

Evaluate your current prayer life.

I guarantee that noone here will be completely satisfied with where they are at.

That’s okay. But where has God met you in your prayer life? What is going well?

And what do you need to work on?

#5. Make a Plan to Really Pray.

Henry Ford said that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

And that’s really true with prayer, isn’t it?

Have you ever noticed how prayer is one of those things that is easily forgotten?

I often forget that I’m praying when I’m praying!!!

So, we’ve got to plan for it.

When, where, what.

Make an appointment with God. I’ve said that a lot this Fall. We all need it.

When is your next appointment with God?

Where will it be?

What are you planning to talk about?

What’s on your prayer list?

Get a prayer list. I have several that I use. One is a list of all of the Fish Cards that we are praying for.

When, where, what.

Make a plan to really pray.

Here it said to do it in secret. That doesn’t necessarily mean that no one else knows when it will happen. Maybe you need an accountability partner for this.

Someone who will ask how many times you have prayed this week.

The key is to not do it for them! That’s the hard thing. You have to do it FOR the One who is unseen and is in the secret place with you.

But plan to do it!

I’ve begun to receive coaching from Super Jeff Powell on intentional living. And one of the requirements is a monthly prayer and planning retreat.

I’ll be praying for you on my next retreat which will be a week from Tuesday. On the 30th. It’s really helpful to me that I’ve announced that time and will be accountable to Super Jeff for that time.

It’s a plan. We’ve got to make plans to really pray and start right away.

On the flip side, #6. Live Your Life on Speakerphone.

It’s not enough to plan to really pray and then pray at those times. We need to be praying all the time!

Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, to “Pray continually.”

And when we get up in the morning, we need to hit the button for speakphone for our thoughts and heart, opening them up to God, and then to have a running dialog with Him all day long.

Here’s the other side to that, #7. Pray Out Loud Whenever You Can.

One of the best practical things I’ve ever learned is to pray out loud. It makes it so much more real to me when I pray out loud.

Praying in my heart is fine, on one level, but it’s so easy to get distracted, and for it to seem unreal.

If we want to be Real Christians who Really Pray, I think we ought to pray out loud, verbalizing our prayers as often as we can.

If you don’t want to do that when you are alone, fine. But I would ask myself why I don’t want to.

#8. Pray with Other Christians.

Real Christians pray in groups.

Come on Wednesday nights. We have about dozen people who pray and have a great time together.

Join a Link Group that prays. Every one of our Link Groups spend time praying together every week.

Sign up for the Prayer Phone Tree or the Email Prayer Broadcast.

Get a prayer partner. Do the 10 Second Prayer with other people here at church.

Here’s the biggest one: Pray with your family. Pray as a family.

If you are married, pray with your spouse. Out loud.

Heather and I say that every meeting with a couple we are taking through pre-marital counseling. Every meeting.

If you are married, pray with your spouse. Out loud.

I would doubt if anyone gets divorced if they are in the habit of doing that every day with their spouse.

#9. If you are able, actually get on your knees.

Why?

Let me show you. [Kneel]

Does this communicate humility, or what?

This is bowing before God.

It’s the opposite of rubbing a genie’s lamp and telling God what to do.

It is recognizing Who God is, “hallowed be your name.”

And it will help you to remember what you are doing as you pray.

I don’t do this enough. I’ve been learning to pray as I walk.

But I need more of this.

#10. Study Prayer.

Learn more about prayer. You do that by praying. That’s the best way.

The second best way is to learn by other people’s prayers.

I have several books that I recommend on the subject of prayer. Some of them are actually books filled with prayers that you can learn by praying.

My wife’s favorite is called the “Valley of Vision.” It’s a funky name, but a great book. I commend it to you.

E.M. Bounds, Andrew Murary, D.A. Carson, Bing Hunter, John Piper, Henry Blackaby. These all have good books that you can read and learn more about prayer.

And then, #11. Get Ready for Answers.

Because when Real Christians Really Pray, God Really Answers.

“Your Father, who sees what is do in secret, will reward you” (V.6).

Our family just finished reading a book about George Muller.

George Muller was a Real Christian who lived in the 19th century.

And he ran orphanages for British children.

He ran them on prayer.

He prayed for everything: money, food, clothes, buildings, everything.

He never asked for anything from others except for prayer.

And God provided in amazing miraculous ways.

The five orphanage buildings he built cost 100,000 pounds! And every dime was given to him as an answer to prayer.

Sometimes they didn’t know where the next meal was going to come from, and all of those little mouths to feed!

But they would pray. Sometimes, sitting at the table with no food in the kitchen.

And then, there would be a knock at the door. And someone would “just happen” to be coming through with a whole mess of food that had to get eaten.

When Real Christians Really Pray, God Really Answers.

Secret Prayer

“What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is, and no more.”

- Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Smiley Faces (2)


Here they are! And, yes, the other pumpkin is Heather's.
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Friday, October 19, 2007

Smiley Faces


Guess who!
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hospitable

Pastor Thabiti has been doing a series on what it means to be an elder and how to recognize potential elder qualities in men.

Today's post is about being hospitable. Excellent thoughts!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bird In a Tree


Can you see the Robin?
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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Matt's Messages - Real Christians Are On a Real Mission

“Real Christians Are On a Real Mission”
Real Christians
October 14, 2007
Matthew 28:18-20

We’re still in our back-to-the-basics series of what it means to be honest-to-goodness, authentic, sincere, bona fide and true, Real Christians.

The first week, we were reminded of the first and most important mark of a real Christian: Real Christians Believe the Real Gospel.

Real Christians believe the saving Good News message of grace through Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and are trusting in that gospel alone for the forgiveness of sins and the sure hope of eternal life. Real Christians Believe the Real Gospel.

The second and third messages talked about the fundamental changes that occur in Real Christians when they come to believe in that Real Gospel:

Real Christians (Come To) Really Love God,
And Real Christians (Come To) Really Love People.

The Gospel changes us from being god-haters and lovers of self to lovers of God and lovers of people made in His image.

Are you a Real Christian? I hope so!

Now, today, we’re going to learn this: When Real Christians come to believe the Real Gospel and their hearts are changed (not perfectly, but truly) to really love God and to really love people, then they come to accept that God has a Real Mission for each of them to be sent on.

“Real Christians Are On a Real Mission.”

And Matthew chapter 28 is the story of our Lord sending His followers on that Real Mission.

Chapter 28 is Matthew’s version of the Resurrection story. After Jesus died, He came back to life. He began to appear to his followers, first to the women, then to the rest of the disciples. And He promised to meet them in Galilee.

And He did meet them. At the end of the chapter, they are reuninted on a mountainside. Some worshipped Him right away, others took a little more convicing.

And then Jesus gave His disicples (and, by extension, us) these marching orders. Matthew chapter 28, verses 18 through 20. Familiar words, but listen to them:

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This morning, I want to point out 3 Real Things about this Real Mission from these 3 verses.

[You’re going to hate that word “Real” by the time Christmas comes this year! I’m going to use it again and again and again.]

Three real things about this Real Mission.

#1. OUR REAL MISSION COMES FROM JESUS’ REAL AUTHORITY!

Look again at verse 18. “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’”

Now, that’s Real Authority!

“Authority is the right and power to hold sway in a given relationship” (What Jesus Demands from the Word, pg. 364).

And Jesus claims here to have ALL authority. A-L-L. And not just on Earth, which is quite a claim! But “in heaven and on earth.” That means everywhere.

All authority. Everywhere.

That’s what Jesus is claiming.

And it comes right on the heels of the resurrection.

Now, Jesus is God’s Son, and has always had all authority by being Who He is. But in some new and amazing sense, the Crucifixion and then the Resurrection took Jesus’ authority (which was already absolute!) to a whole new level!

The Father has conferred upon His Resurrected Son (it says “given”) absolute authority over everything (excepting Himself, 1 Cor. 15) in Heaven and on Earth.

That’s Real Authority! Do you believe that Jesus has that kind of absolute authority? I do. Jesus is King!

And it’s from that authority that Jesus gives us our mission. V.19

“Therefore...”

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. THEREFORE, here is your mission...”

And you and I need to come to grips with this authority.

This Real Mission is not optional for Christians. The Great Commission that we are each asked to accept does not come to us as the “Great Suggestion.”

It comes to us with all of the authority that there is in all of the universe.

And all of God’s real children accept this mission for that reason.

Real Christians Are On a Real Mission.

What is the mission?

#2. OUR REAL MISSION IS TO MAKE REAL DISCIPLES FOR JESUS.

Look at v.19.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Now the word “go” and the words “baptizing” and “teaching” are all participles in the original Greek that modify and explain the main verb here which is the heart of the mission: making disciples.

Jesus’ marching orders for His followers after His resurrection can be summed up with these words: “Make Disciples.”

“Make more disciples for me.

You are my followers. Make more of you.

In fact, make followers out of all of the nations, the tribes, the people groups. Not just the Jews, but the peoples of all of the world. Make disciples out of them.

I have all authority. And I use it now to summon you to make disciples for me.”

That’s the mission.

It’s the mission that creates this church.
It’s the mission that drives our ministries.
It’s the mission that we are to give our lives to.

Our Real Mission Is to Make Real Disciples for Jesus.

Now, notice that I say, “Real Disciples.”

Jesus isn’t interested in faking disciples. He’s interested in making disciples.

He says that this consists of 2 things: “Baptizing” and “Teaching.”

V.19 “Make disciples of all nations [how?], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Real Disciples Are Baptized.

That is, Real Disciples are introduced to Jesus Christ and His Real Gospel. And when they come to put their faith in Him, they get baptized to show the world that they have become Real Disciples.

Baptism is the sign of inclusion in the New Covenant that was ratified with Jesus’ blood.

It symbolizes identification with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. And it paints a beautiful picture of new life in unity with Him.

And with His Father and with the Holy Spirit!

Notice the trinitarian nature of baptism. Baptized in “the name” (singular) “of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” One name...three persons.

Our God is Three in One and One in Three.

A mystery, yet a truth that is embodied in baptism.

Real Disciples Are Baptized.

And then they are taught. “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them ... (verse 20) and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Real Disciples Are Taught to Obey.

Notice here that we are called to make disciples, not just decisions.

Around here, we get very excited when someone makes a decision for Christ.

And rightly so! It’s the most important decision that anyone could ever make.

But for that decision to be real, it must be followed up by a lifetime of “learning to obey everything Jesus has commanded us.”

Not just decisions, but discipleship.

Because Real Christians Are Taught to Obey.

Notice that Real Christians aren’t just given information, but they are taught application!

“Taught to Obey.”

You will know if you are being discipled, if you are being taught to put what Jesus has said into action.

That’s why we emphasize application in all of our instructional ministries here at Lanse Free Church.

We have to be taught information. And good information!

But that’s not good enough. We must be taught to obey what Jesus had said to us.

A disciple is not a disciple who doesn’t follow!

A follower is not a follower who doesn’t follow!

Jesus isn’t interested in faking disciples, but in making real disciples.

That’s our Real Mission.

And here’s the best thing about it. We don’t have to do it alone.

We aren’t sent on this mission. We are taken on this mission by the Master. V.20

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

#3. OUR REAL MISSION IS GUARANTEED BY JESUS’ REAL PRESENCE.

Our Real Mission Comes From Jesus’ Real Authority.
And Our Real Mission Is to Make Real Disciples.
And on top of that, Our Real Mission Is Guaranteed to Succeed because of Jesus’ Real Presence with Us On Our Mission.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Praise God! We aren’t sent on this mission alone.
We are taken on this Mission by the Master Himself.

If you are wondering if you can accept this mission, if you can handle it, if you can take it, don’t worry about whether or not you’ll be on your own.

You won’t.

This promise is specifically given to disciple-makers: Jesus will be with you.

By His Holy Spirit. And until He comes back to consummate His Kingdom!

“And surely, disciple-makers, I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

This mission will not fail. Jesus has said that the gates of Hell won’t prevail against it!

And that’s because Jesus Himself is leading the mission.

He’s really with us! And He’s taking us out on our real mission.

Isn’t that good news?

Real Christians are on a Real Mission with Him.

Now, before we’re done, we need to make this personal. We need to apply it.

And here’s the key question I want to ask each of us to ask ourselves:

HAVE I ACCEPTED MY REAL MISSION?

Have you made the Great Commission, your mission in life?

I preached this text before in the Fall of 1998.

How many were here in the Fall of 1998?

Does anybody remember that sermon?

Let me jog your memory. As I was starting to preach that Sunday, the sound of a match went off and then a familiar soundtrack started to come over the loudspeakers.

Dumpt, Dumpt, Dumpt-Dumpt...Dumpt, Dumpt, Dumpt-Dumpt
Dumpt, Dumpt, Dumpt-Dumpt...Dumpt, Dumpt, Dumpt-Dumpt
Dannan, Dannan...Dunda...Dunda
Dannan, Dannan...Dunda...Dunda

And then, three teeangers, Steve Gibboney who is now married and a missionary in Thailand and Nate Weatherly who is now married and a missional photographer in Pittsburgh and Tom Fisch who is now married and studying missions in Chicago came running in from the back with fake guns and did somersaults down the aisle and acted like secret agents while the smooth announcer voice of Keith Folmar came over the loudspeaker and said: “Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. This mission will not self-destruct but will be successful until the end of the age.”

Anybody remember it now? We were all just kids then!

The key question is: “Have We Each Accepted Our Real Mission?”

Most of the time, when this text is read, we immediately jump on that word “nations” in v.19 and think that this is a missionary text with only application to missions.

But this is a text for each of us.

All authority has been given to Jesus.
All nations (which is just another name for people groups) are to be reached and discipled.
All things that Jesus has commanded are to be taught for obedience.
And Jesus is all the time going with His disciples on this mission.

This is a Real Mission for each and every one of Jesus’ Real Disciples.

Is it your mission?

How can you tell?

Well, first off, are you a real disciple yourself?

Have you meet Jesus and begun to trust Him for salvation?
Have you heard the Real Gospel and become a Real Christian?

Because you can’t be on Jesus’ mission unless you believe Jesus’ Gospel yourself.

I challenge you to learn about the Gospel and place your faith and trust in Jesus’ Crosswork and Resurrection.

And then, have you been baptized?

Because we’ve seen here in v.19 that Real Disciples are baptized as a outward sign of the inward reality of their faith in Christ. Real Disciples are Baptized.

If you haven’t been baptized yet as a faith-follower of Jesus Christ, I want to talk to you.

Why don’t you sign up for the Baptism class that we’re offering on October 25th here at the church? We’d love to have you.

And then, third, are you learning to obey everything that Jesus has commanded?

I just told the Uth boys on Wednesday nights that that’s what we’re trying to do them.

I told them that Coach Kerlin and I are trying to make them into disciples of Jesus Christ.

Not just to make a decision for Christ, but to become disciples of Christ.

How about you? Are you learning to obey everything that Jesus has commanded?

I’ve been reading John Piper’s newest book: What Jesus Demands from the World. And it’s basically just a list of what Jesus has commanded in the four gospels and some helpful explanations of how to begin to do that. I recommend it to you.

Disciples follow their Lord. It’s part of the very definition.

Someone who says that they believe but doesn’t follow, doesn’t really believe.

How about you? Are you a faith-follower of Jesus Christ, learning to obey everything that He has commanded?

Then you are a real disciple yourself.

And that means that you will be personally committed to fulfilling the Great Commission yourself!

Because one of the things that Jesus commands is that we make disciples.

That we accept our Real Mission. Have you accepted your Real Mission?

Let me get at it from this direction:

Are you willing to GO wheverever He sends you on this mission?

The main point of this passage is not “going.” But it raise the issue, doesn’t it?

There are nations to be reached with the gospel! People groups that haven’t heard, that don’t have the Bible in their language or a church among their city.

Are you willing to go wherever He sends you on this mission?

You realize that might mean a short-term missions trip. Roger Dorris is coming in just two weeks to get our church ready for short-term missions ministry.

You realize that may not be foreign missions at all? It may be across your yard.

Because the nations are not just over there. They are our neighbors.

The nations need to be reached.
And the neighbors need to be reached.

And we need to go to them.

That’s one of the reasons why I have decided to start delivering meals on wheels each week. I’ve signed up to deliver a hot meal to 20 senior citizens every Thursdays.

It turns out that meals on wheels deliverers are able to share their faith as they serve.

Now, I know that some of them will be Real Christians already. In fact, I think I’ll be delivering to some of you. But some will not be Real Christians.

And I’ve accepted my mission. I have to take the Gospel with me and make disciples wherever He sends me.

Are you doing that?

Are you introducing people to Jesus? Are you fishing?

Are you praying for lost people and looking for opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them?

Are you inviting people to faith and followership?

Are you making disciples?

Are you teaching someone to obey everything that Jesus has commanded?

Are you a part of what Jesus is doing in this world? Or are you just sitting there?

Going on a mission requires sacrifice.

If you are “missional” (meaning, centering your life on this Christ-given mission), then that’s going to mean giving some things up.

Maybe that means money, by becoming a District Church Planting Partner like Wally is talking about.

Or maybe that means time or something else.

On Friday night, I took my bride to see the Penn State players do a big musical theater production called Big River. Wow! Those young adults could really act and sing!

And it reminded me of how much I love the theater.

At one time, I had thought about trying to make a go of it as an actor myself.

[I know that’s hard to believe because of how shy and undramatic I am!]

I loved the attention and the thrill of acting out the story.

And along the way, I’ll probably do some more of that.

But I’ve come to realize that my part of the Great Commission is worth so much more than being the center of attention on the stage.

My part of this real mission calls on me to humble myself and serve others for the Gospel–not to draw men and women to myself.

Real Disciples Make Real Disciples and they give up whatever it takes to do it!

Have you accepted your real mission?

If you aren’t committed to making disciples yourself then I can’t give you any confidence that you are a Real Christian.

I’m not saying that everyone needs to be a missionary or a pastor.

I’m saying that everyone needs to be committed to the Great Commission.

Real Christians are on a Real Mission.

Now, remember, you don’t become a Real Christian by joining the Real Mission. It isn’t a work that earns you eternal life!

But if you are a Real Christian, you will accept your real mission.

We don’t have to do it on our own!

Jesus promises to go out with us. “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We don’t have to do it on our own.

But we do have to do it.

Because He said so. And He has all authority.

“Dumpt, Dumpt, Dumpt-Dumpt...Dumpt, Dumpt, Dumpt-Dumpt”

Your mission, should you choose to accept it...and you’ll only know you are real if you do...is to make real disciples for Jesus Christ.

Let’s get busy doing it.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Matt's Messages - Real Christians Really Love People

“Real Christians Really Love People”
Real Christians
October 7, 2007
John 13:34-35, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, Matthew 7:12

We’re returning this morning to our Fall sermon series called “Real Christians.” We are “back to the basics” of what it means to be a real, honest-to-goodness, authentic, bona fide, true Christian.

You’ll notice on the back of your bulletin where you can take notes, our resident graphic artist, Jeff Schiefer, has created a logo for our series: a license plate with the letters: “RU4REAL?”

Isn’t it great to have a graphic artist?!

We all need to examine ourselves to make sure that we are “for real,” and we need to know how to recognize a spiritual counterfeit when we see one.

On the first Sunday of this series, we talked about the first and most important mark of a Real Christian. This is where it all starts: Real Christians Believe the Real Gospel.

Jesus Christ died on the Cross as our substitute, paying for our sins, and He came back to life to give us new life. If we believe that Gospel, trusting in that Savior alone, we are saved and have the sure hope of eternal life. Real Christians Believe the Real Gospel.

If you don’t, you aren’t.

And then in the second message, we learned about the first and greatest CHANGE that the Gospel effects in the lives of Real Christians: Real Christians Really Love God.

As we just sang, once, we were God’s enemies (even if we didn’t know it), but the Gospel has changed us! Now, we love God! Not perfectly, but really.

Real Christians Really Love God.

If you don’t, you aren’t.

And today, we’re going to see the twin-truth that goes right along with that. The
second change that the gospel produces in Real Christians: “Real Christians Really Love People.”

In many ways, this message works perfectly with what Ralph Magill taught on last week, in terms of “receiving” each other. I got to listen to his message this week on CD. Is it just me, or did he get even better as a preacher after his knock on the head? Maybe that’s what I need!

This is a defining mark of a Real Christian: Real Christians Really Love People.

Have you found John 13:34&35? This is how Jesus said it the night before He died:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Real Christians Really Love People.

Notice that Jesus says that people will know that we are His disciples, His followers, Real Christians, if we have love.

“By this [by having love] all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love...”

This is how they will tell.

It doesn’t say that they will know because we have big church buildings.
It doesn’t say that they will know because we have little fish symbols on our cars.
It doesn’t say that they will know because we tell them so.

None of those things are wrong, but none of them are the way to tell.

“By this all men will know that you are my [Real Christians], if you love one another.”

Here’s one way to tell a fake. If they claim to be a Christian, but can’t stand other Christians, they aren’t real.

They have not yet grasped the Gospel! Because the Gospel changes us.

John understood what Jesus was saying and he latter wrote, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21).

The Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord your God with everything in you. And the second is like it, to love others as you love yourself.

And all Real Christians do. If you don’t, you aren’t.

Real Christians Really Love People.

Not perfectly. No one claims that! But really. Authentically. There is in the heart of all Christians a love for people.

That’s how they will know.

We just sang it, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

Now, here it says that we will “love one another.”

In other words, Real Christians Really Love Other Real Christians.

And that’s not always easy, is it?!

But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus upped the ante! He said that we are to love, not just our brothers and sisters in the church, but that Real Christians even love...their enemies!

Jesus said in Luke chapter 6, verse 27: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Real Christians Really Love Other Real Christians.
But Real Christians Also Really Love Real Enemies!

I was talking about this at the dinner table this week, and my 7 year old daughter Robin said, “The only enemy that we aren’t supposed to love is Satan.”

And that’s right!

Jesus says that it’s no big deal to love those who love us. That’s not hard. Everybody does that.

But Real Christians even love those who hate them.

Even Muslims?

Don’t be fooled. Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion, and in most of its forms, Islam is not a religion of peace or of love.

This month is the month of Ramadan, the Muslim’s month of fasting. So, during Ramadan, our family is praying for a different Muslim people-group every morning at breakfast this month.

Because we need to love them, even if they hate us.

Real Christians Really Love People.

But what is love?

How do we know real love when we see it?

Leave a finger or a bookmark in John 13, and let’s turn over to 1 Corinthians 13.

We’ve heard this passage read at many weddings.

But it’s not primarily about married love. It’s about Christian love in the church. How Real Christians are to really love one another and fulfill Jesus’ “New Command.”

1 Corinthians 13, starting in verse 4: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Now, this is not a definition of love. It is a description of love in action.

You see, love is a verb. It’s an action. It’s a choice. It’s not just something we feel, it’s something that moves us to act in a certain way.

It does somethings and it doesn’t do other things.

This isn’t a definition. It’s a description of love at work.

Love is patient. The word translated "patient" in the NIV, is translated “long-suffering” in the KJV. That's probably a better rendering of this word. It means “enduring injury without retaliation.” Now, that's powerful. Imagine in one of your friendships that you hurt your friend. You did something that hurt them deeply. If they love you, then they will be long-suffering and patient and won't try to hurt you back for your sin against them. That's what love does.

Love is kind. Love doesn't just take the brunt of hurt and then not retaliate, love goes the extra mile. Love is kind. Love repays evil with good.

It does not envy. What someone else has or doesn't have, is none of our business. Envy rots out a relationship. If someone has something (let's say money or a better job or a four-wheeler, or a newer car, or more compliant kids), don't lust after it. It will destroy you from the inside and bring something between you on the outside. Love does not envy.

And it does not boast. Here's the other the other side. We aren't supposed to envy, but when we have something that's good, we're not to lord it over other people.

It is not proud. Pride is seeing yourself as the center of the universe. Putting yourself first and before others. It's tied to the next two in v.5: rudeness and self-seekingness. Love is not proud and does not demand it's own way and seek in all things to have your way be “the” way.

Not being “self-seeking” means not just giving up your agenda. Sometimes it means giving up your legitimate rights.

Heather and I have found that these words are perfect for explaining to our children how they are behaving. Not just “Kids, be nice!” Or “That wasn’t nice!” But “Son, you are being rude.” “Remember, kids, God wants us to be patient.” “Is that showing love?” “Kids, is love self-seeking?”

Love is not self-seeking, and it is not easily angered. Love has a long-fuse.

Do you have long-fuse or a short one?

Love keeps no record of wrongs. Quick. Think of the name of your best friend. Okay, Quick. What were the last 3 things that they did that hurt you? ... Keeping no record of wrongs does not mean, forgetting that the wrongs ever happened, it means when they are forgiven, and dealt with, when you are reconciled, they never come up again to be used to fuel another conflict.

Love keeps no record of wrongs, (v.6) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. In other words, love seeks and wants the best from someone.

Imagine that you just heard that someone you know has been caught cheating on his income taxes. Love does not delight in your friends wrongdoing (that he did it OR that he got caught doing it). When evil is present (in any way), love is not happy. Love rejoices in the truth.

Imagine that you just heard that someone you know has received an award for integrity in the workplace. Love rejoices and delights in the honesty of your friend. Love rejoices in the truth.

Now, we've gotten to verse 7. Paul pulls out that powerful, potent, all-embracing word to sum it all up: ALWAYS.

V.7 "Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

Love always protects. That same word could be translated "endures." Love puts up with an awful lot. Love always trusts. When it says that love always trusts it doesn't mean that love is gullible. It means that love is quick to be open and accepting rather than suspicious and cynical. It makes “charitable judgments.” Love always hopes. Love hopes for the best, even when disappointed by persistent hurts. Love always perseveres. Love courageously carries on even through the hardest of circumstances and trials.

“Always, always, always, always.”

This is powerful stuff.

By now, it is probably obvious that the love we’re talking about here is not just a feeling. The love in 1 Corinthians 13 and John 13 is not the wishy-washy emotion that you hear about on “Top 40" radio. The love described here as potent and powerful to make relationships that endure and produce great joy is not just a feeling.

This love is a choice. This love is a commitment. This love is an act of the will. And it is a non-negotiable for Real Christians.

Here’s my definition from what we’ve seen here and in the rest of the Bible:

Love is my desire, commitment, and chosen actions towards another person for what is best for the other person regardless of the personal cost.

Have you ever read 1 Corinthians 13 and realized how hard it really is?

I used to think that this was just a pretty, flowery, nice passage of Scripture.

But I’ve come to understand that this kind of love: “agape love” is really difficult to practice.

Especially with people who are difficult to love.

Do you have someone in your life that is hard to love? Most of us do.

Maybe it’s someone that has hurt us before. And we don’t want to get hurt again.

Or maybe it’s someone that is just a lot of work. You get tired just thinking about them.

Maybe they are your enemy in a real way. Or maybe they are just a difficult person.

Real Christians Really Love Real People.

Not just the people we want to love. But the real people that God has placed in our lives.

That’s how people will know that we are His disciples!

Of course, it’s not always easy to know how to love someone. 1 Corinthians 13 gives us a great description of love in action. But applying that description isn’t always easy.

That’s why Paul prays for the Philippians church that they would have what I call, “Smart Love.” You’ve heard of “Smart Bombs?” Well, this is “Smart Love,” the wisdom to know in a specific situaton what love looks like.

Paul writes in Philippians chapter 1, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.”

That’s “smart love.” And we need to to ask for it again and again.

Jesus gives us a “Golden Rule of Thumb” in Matthew 7:12.

Other people had said similar things before Him, but they had said them negatively. Jesus said it positively:

“Do to others as you would want them do to you.”

That’s Jesus’ “Golden Rule of Thumb” for knowing how to love.

Do to other people what you would want them to do to you.

That rule doesn’t always work because sometimes we’d like the wrong thing done to us! Our desires can be messed up that way. That’s why it’s a rule of thumb.

But in general, this works wonderfully and is a great way of figuring out what love will do in a specific situation quickly as the need arises.

Do to other people what you would wan them to do to you.

Now, my kids have a hard time understanding this rule, because they think that it means, “Do to other people what they have done to you!”

And that leads to an eye for an eye and no grace at all.

But love says, “Do to others what you would WANT THEM to do to you if you were in their position.”

Don’t just NOT DO what you would want them to NOT DO.

But actually GIVE THEM what you would HOPE they would GIVE YOU.

Is that easy?

It’s impossible! Except for the Gospel. Except for the Love of God. Except for the gift of the Holy Spirit!

Real Christians Apply the Golden Rule of Thumb and Love Others as They Would Want to be Loved.

Because God has loved us first!

Turn back to John chapter 13.

Did you notice that He says, “A new command I give to you?”

What is so “new” about this “new command?”

The command to love is in the Old Testament. Even loving your neighbor as yourself is in the Old Testament.

What is new about Jesus’ new command?

Look at verse 34 again.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

What is new is that there is a new example of love, a new standard of love.

Jesus’ love for His followers is the new standard of love for us to follow.

Paul said in Ephesians, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (5:1-2).

Remember, we don’t love to become Real Christians.

We love because we believe the Real Gospel.

We love because we ARE Real Christians.

We love because He first loved us at the Cross!

Worship at the Lord’s Table

That’s why we meet around this communion table.

Because, once we were His enemies, but now we are seated at His table.

That is, if we have believed the Gospel.

Maybe you are not yet a Real Christian. You recognize that you have not yet received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and believed the glorious gospel of grace.

I invite you right now in your heart of hearts to turn from your sins and put your trust in Jesus and what He did on the Cross for you.

Tell Him that you want to become a Real Christian and experience the forgiveness of sins and a love relationship with Christ that will last for all eternity.

And He will not turn you away, but instead will receive you. And make you His child. And give you new life. And give you a real love for Him.

And a real love for other people.

If that describes you, we ask that you not eat and drink with us, but instead establish that new relationship with God right now.

If you are already a faith-follower of Jesus Christ, I want to ask you to make this message personal right now.

I want you to think of 2 people that you need to demonstrate this kind of love to thi week. One person, perhaps that is a brother or sister in Christ. And you need to stretch out and love them in a real and practical way.

Who would that be? Write that person’s name down. Maybe they are hurting. Maybe they have hurt you. Maybe they just come to mind and you don’t know why. Pray for smart love to really love them this week.

And a second person. Write down the name of an enemy. Some that is opposed to you in some way. Maybe you’re on opposite sides of an issue. Maybe it’s a neighbor. Maybe it’s a co-worker. Maybe it’s a family member.

Pray for smart-love to demonstrate real love for them this week.

How would you want to be treated if you were them?

Do that this week.

If you think that sounds too fanciful and impossible, then you don’t yet know the amazing love of God!

“As I have loved you...”

His body broken for you.
His blood shed for you.

“As I have love you...love.”

“By this all men will know that you are [Real Christians] if you love...”

As you eat and drink, remembering His love, commit yourself this week to loving as He loved you.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Unplugging the god of Information Technology

A great article by Joe Carter on taking an "Info-Techno Sabbath."

Here's his conclusion:

Why not take an info-techno Sabbath this weekend? No doubt your synapses will scream from the perceived dehydration. After drinking from the firehose of information a day without info tech will seem like a year long drought. But by unplugging the god of Technology you might just find something new in the pause — a still small voice sharing the information that truly matters.
Read the whole thing.