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Monday, December 31, 2007

The Other Half of the Year (In Book Reading)

Here's the list of books I've completed in the second half of 2007.

Remember, just because I read it doesn't mean that I recommend it! Utilize discernment! And read your Bible more than you read other books--even books on the Bible.

The first half of this year's list is found here. 2006 is here and here. 2005 is here and here.

July-December 2007:

Ingalls Wilder, Laura Farmer Boy

Poythress, Vern Redeeming Science

Singer, Randy False Witness

Beschloss, Michael Presidential Courage

Grisham, John The Broker

James, P.D. A Taste for Death

Rusaw, Rick and Eric Swanson The Externally Focused Church [My book review.]

Stewart, Gary et al Basic Questions on Sexuality and Reproductive Technology

Cole, Dennis The New American Commentary on Numbers

Allen, Ronald The Expositors Bible Commentary on Numbers

Wenham, Gordon The Tyndale Old Testament Commentary on Numbers

Ingalls Wilder, Laura On the Banks of Plum Creek

Huckabee, Mike Character Makes a Difference

Tchividjian, Tullian Do I Know God?

Roberts, Mark D. Can We Trust the Gospels?

Stewart, Gary et al Basic Questions on Alternative Medicine

James, P.D. Original Sin

Rusaw, Rick and Eric Swanson Living Life on Loan

Benge, Janet & Geoff George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans

Duguid, Ian Preach the Word Commentary on Numbers

Kidd, Chip (ed.) Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz

Eareckson Tada, Joni & Nigel Cameron How To Be A Christian In A Brave New World

Canfield Fisher, Dorothy Understood Betsy

Schulz, Charles M. Peanuts Treasury

Garfield, James B. Follow My Leader

Galdwell, Malcom The Tipping Point

Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Morley, Patrick et al No Man Left Behind

Getz, Gene The Measure of a Man

Weil, Ann Red Sails to Capri

Piper, John The Future of Justification

Pruet, David Deer Hunting 101

Estes, Eleanor Ginger Pye

Dever, Mark What is a Healthy Church?

Ortlund, Raymond Lord, Make My Life a Miracle!

Bellesi, Denny & Leesa The Kingdom Assignment

Dungy Tony Quiet Strength

Ingalls Wilder, Laura By the Shores of Silver Lake

Frye, Bob Deer Wars

Nancy, Ted Letters from a Nut

Schaap, Jeremy Cinderella Man

Stafford, Tim Shaking the System

Saturday, December 29, 2007

All You Have to Lose Is Your Damnation

RCO hasn't slowed down in his new blogging.

In this post, Pastor Ortlund envisions the New Jerusalem and ends with this:

"The Savior of the world says to us all, "So then, what are you? What are you, London, Tel Aviv, Nashville? Whatever you are, bring it on. All you stand to lose, by coming to me, is your damnation. And everything else about you I will make eternal, to the glory of God."

How can we not love Someone like that?"


To Escape Criticism: Do Nothing, Say Nothing, Be Nothing.

Randy Alcorn posts today: Comments on the Comments. He's had a war-zone in his comments section, and in this article he explains his policy for comments, and exhibits a great attitude.

My favorite quotes:


"To Escape Criticism: Do Nothing, Say Nothing, Be Nothing."


"Some have said it’s unfair to condemn my Heaven book without reading it. My response is, if you can’t take criticism, you shouldn’t write. If your skin doesn’t thicken, you’re going to lose a lot of sleep. So far I haven’t lost sleep over any comments on this blog. (Please, don’t consider this a challenge to ratchet up the criticisms to see if you can cost me sleep.)"


"If you don’t like me, take a number. Sometimes I don’t like myself. But while I have to live with me, you do not. (Well, unless you're Nanci, my wife and best friend, but she can handle it.)"


"I could understand your resentment if I were coming to your house at midnight, trudging up on your porch with muddy boots, kicking your cat, and nailing my blog to your door. Or if I were shouting it through a megaphone or forcing open your mail slot and screaming at you, or holding a gun to your head. Or to your cat’s head.

But there's not more than a dozen of you I do this to. So please, if you're not one of them, feel free to read something else. You will be happier. Unless, of course, what makes you happy is to be angry and critical. That’s not for me to judge, but you might ask the Lord about it, just as I regularly ask Him about things in my life."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

God Save Us From Godless Godliness!

Pastor Ray Ortlund has been blogging up a storm this week with great quotes and reflections.

Today's best thought: God Save us From Godless Godliness.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Advent 2007: Christmas Day

LEFC Family Advent Readings
Joy To the World, the Lord Has Come
Christmas Day
December 25, 2007

Joy to the World! Christmas is here!

Jesus has come and is coming again.

This Advent season, we have been preparing our hearts for Christmas and for Jesus by contemplating the differences between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming.

[LIGHT CANDLE #1 AGAIN]

Our first candle shines to show that Jesus came in surprising humility, but that one day, He will come with full majesty.

[LIGHT CANDLE #2 AGAIN]

Our second candle highlights that when Jesus first came, very few worshiped Him, but when He comes again, every knee will bow.

[LIGHT CANDLE #3 AGAIN]

Our third candle reminds us that Jesus first came to a life filled with sorrow, but that at His second advent, He will be full of glorious joy and bring amazing joy to His people.

[LIGHT CANDLE #4]

Our fourth candle is both a candle of salvation and condemnation. At Jesus’ first advent, He came to save, not to condemn. However, when Jesus returns, He will save His people, but He will also bring judgment on those who have not believed.

[LIGHT CHRIST CANDLE]

The Christ candle reminds us this Christmas Day that Jesus came the first time to bear sin but will come again to bring salvation.

[READ HEBREWS 9:26b-28]

Jesus is coming back, but not to bear sin again. He did that all the first time. But to bring salvation to those who are longingly waiting for Him.

Let that be us!

Amen.

Christmas Bible Study for Families

1. Observation. Re-read Hebrews 9:26b-28. Why is important to get right with God now? How did Jesus make that possible?

2. Interpretation. Review what you have learned about the differences between Jesus’ first advent and His second. What does Hebrews 9:26b-28 add to your understanding?

3. Application. What truth about Jesus’ two comings has been the most meaningful to you (ask each family member). What difference does this truth make in your life today? How can our family celebrate Jesus’ coming in a special way this Christmas day?

4. As a family, sing Joy to the World, the Christmas Carol by Isaac Watts:

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy. No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Advent 2007: Christmas Eve Message

“Joy To the World, the Lord Has Come”
Christmas Eve Candlelighting
December 24, 2007

“Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming–tomorrow. Jesus has come and is coming again.

This Advent season, we have been preparing our hearts for Christmas and for Jesus by contemplating the differences between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming.

[LIGHT CANDLE #1 AGAIN]

On the first Sunday, Blair and Ruth Murray reminded us that at His first advent, Jesus came in surprising humility, but that one day, He will come with full majesty.

He was a king, but He didn’t look like it. On that day, He will!

[LIGHT CANDLE #2 AGAIN]

Our second candle was lit by Jeff and Nancie Banghart. It highlights that when Jesus first came, very few worshiped Him, but when He comes again, every knee will bow.

At His first coming, there was only Mary, Joseph, and a few smelly old shepherds. That’s all. But on that day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

[LIGHT CANDLE #3 AGAIN]

Davey & Kelly Williamson lit our third candle that reminds us that Jesus first came to a life filled with sorrow, but that at His second coming, He will be full of glorious joy and bring amazing joy to His people.

He was a man of sorrows, but He will bring Joy to the World!

[LIGHT CANDLE #4]

Yesterday, Charlie and Pam lit the fourth candle. A candle of both salvation and condemnation. At Jesus’ first He came to save, not to condemn. However, when Jesus returns, He will save His people, but He will also bring judgment on those who have not believed.

One Lord Jesus Christ. Two Advents.

Tonight, on Christmas Eve, we light the Christ Candle. The center candle that reminds us why Jesus came the first time, how He will come again, and how we should make ourselves ready for Him.

[LIGHT CHRIST CANDLE.]

Let me read to you a key passage from the book of Hebrews that talks about Jesus’ first and second coming.

It’s in Hebrews chapter 9. Verses 26-28.

“He [that is, Jesus] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

I want to point out some things to you from that passage.

First, notice that we all have an appointment with death and judgment.

Verse 27 said, “Man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment.”

The King James Version says, “It is appointed unto men once to die...”

I don’t know about you, but generally I like appointments. I love to schedule a time to meet with someone. I like to have one scheduled for every morning of the week.

I like to be busy with appointments. But there are some appointments that I don’t like. Who looks forward to their dentist appointments? If you do, you’ve got a problem!

There is one appointment that I don’t look forward to very much at all. And that is my date with death. Do you realize that you have an appointment with death?

That is an appointment you will not miss. You didn’t make it! But You will show up for your appointment with death.

I remember, as a teenager, reading this story told by Peter Marshall, the late chaplain of the US Senate about a servant of a merchant in ancient Baghdad. “One day the merchant sent his servant to the market. Before very long, the servant came back, white and trembling, and in great agitation said to his master: ‘Down in the market place I was jostled by a person in the crowd, and when I turned around I saw it was Death that jostled me. Death looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Master, please lend me your horse, for I must hasten away to avoid Death. I will ride to Samarra and there I will hide, and Death will not find me.’ The merchant lent him his horse and the servant galloped away in great haste. Later the merchant went down to the market place himself and found Death standing in the crowd. He went over and asked, ‘Why did you frighten my servant this morning? Why did you make such a threatening gesture?’ ‘That was not a threatening gesture,’ Death said, ‘It was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.’”

You and I will show up for our appointment with Death.

But really, that is nothing! What is an even more terrible thought–after our deaths–we will all face judgment. “And after that to face judgment.”

God is saying in His Word that everyone (you, me, everyone we will ever meet, everyone) is destined to face judgment.

We will stand before a Holy God, a consuming fire and give an account!

Are you ready for that appointment? So many are not ready.

But here’s the good news:

JESUS CAME THE FIRST TIME TO TAKE AWAY THE SINS OF MANY PEOPLE!

He came to bear sin!

And He did it by dying on the Cross. Listen again to verse 26.

“[Jesus] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

That little boy born in Bethlehem town and placed in a manger did not stay a baby.

He grew to be a man.

And then He died on the Cross to bear the sins of many.

The Gospel is that Jesus Christ took on the punishment for sins that you and I deserve.

His died as a substitute for us! In our place!

I deserved to die on the Cross. But Jesus took my place. That’s the gospel!

And when He came back to life, it proved that He was all that He said He was and that He had accomplished all that He said He would do!

And our job, is simply to trust Him and what He did on the Cross for us.

That’s what gets us ready for our appointment–Jesus’ Crosswork.

But that’s not all there is to the good news!

The good news gets even better.

JESUS IS COMING A SECOND TIME (NOT TO BEAR SIN) BUT TO BRING SALVATION TO THOSE WHO ARE WAITING FOR HIM!

That’s what this candle represents.

He came once to bear sin. He comes again to bring salvation.

Listen to Hebrews 9:27&28 again.

“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once (AND ONLY ONCE!) to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin (HE DOESN’T HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN!), but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

Jesus is coming again.

And He’s coming with salvation in His hand!

The question is: “ARE WE WAITING FOR HIM?”

Are you waiting for Him?

If you are not, you are still going to die. And you will NOT be ready for your appointment with judgment.

It’s a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Some people think, “I’m not so bad and God’s not so mad.”

But that’s not true. I am bad. And God is mad at sin.

And if I’m not hopefully waiting for the Lord’s return, I’m not ready to meet Him.

But you don’t have to be! Christ came to bear your sins so that you don’t have to!

Turn and trust!

Let this Christmas Eve be the first day of your eternal life.

Turn and trust in the Savior. So that you are expectant of Him!

Are you waiting for Him?

If you are, congratulations! Because Jesus is going to bring you salvation!

Salvation from sins!
Salvation from Satan!
Salvation from this world!

Joy to the World!

The song Joy to the World is more about Jesus’ second advent than His first.

And it expresses the wonders that are coming our way when Jesus comes back.

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,

Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,

That, and so much more, is what we have to look forward to when Jesus comes back.

He comes back not to bear sin this time. He did that all the first time.

But to bring salvation and joy to those who are waiting for Him.

Are you waiting for Him?

You can know if you’re ready, if you’re waiting.

When I was growing up, my brother and I and the neighbor kids would play hide and go seek. I’m sure that almost everyone here has played it at some time. Everyone hides except for one person. And that person is the seeker. The seeker buries his or her eyes and counts to (50 or whatever, 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi...). And then when he or she finishes the count, what do they do? What do they yell?

“Ready or not, here I come!”

Jesus Christ is delaying His return so that the full count of sinners will come into His salvation.

But ready or not, He is coming.

And He is coming for those who look for Him. For those who long for His appearing. Those who are ready for their appointment are those who trust Him and love Him and are eagerly waiting for His return.

Let that be us!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A New Blog to Read

Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. is now blogging as part of Immanuel Church in Nashville.

RCO was a favorite professor of mine at TEDS, and I'm looking forward to reading what he has to say.

[HT: JT]

Matt's Messages - To Us a Child Is Born

“To Us a Child Is Born”
December 23, 2007
Isaiah 9:6-7

This is one of those famous passages of Scripture that gets into your head and cycles around every Christmastime.

George Frideric Handel thought these words were exceedingly beautiful and incorporated them into one of the most famous pieces of music in all of Western Civilization: Handel’s Messiah.

Isaiah 9:6-7 is a prophecy of the Messiah of Israel–the promised ruler who would make all things right once more.

Verses 1 through 5 of Isaiah 9 talk of people walking in darkness who have seen a great light, on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

And that light is the joyful reversal of the curse on the world and the end of all war.

And that light comes in the form of a child. Isaiah chapter 9, verse 6 and 7.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”
Isaiah wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit about 800 years before the first Christmas. Before the birth of Jesus Christ.

He didn’t know Jesus’ name. But He could see the day when Jesus would come.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given...”

God was promising to send a Messianic Ruler, born as a little human baby–born full of hope and promise.

And this little child would be a gift. A gift, Isaiah says, “to us.”

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given...”

Now, originally that “us” was Israel. But John tells us that God so loved “the world” that He gave His One and Only Son.

So this child was born to all of us. And He changes all of our lives.

Verse 6 says that He would have several great names.

These are titles that would be appropriate for this coming child.

It’s not that they would be the name that His mother would give him.

She didn’t yell out the kitchen window, “Hey, Wonderful Counselor Mighty God Everlasting Father Prince of Peace, come in for dinner!”

No, these four titles would accurately express who this child would become and what He would accomplish when He began His rule.

Let’s take a little bit of time and meditate on each one. V.6

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor...”

#1. WONDERFUL COUNSELOR.

Now, when we use the word “counselor,” we tend to think of a Bruce Weatherly type. A dapper fellow in a cardigan sweater who carefully listens to our personal problems and then helps us to solve them with his soothing voice dispensing advice.

But the kind of counselors we know weren’t around in the 8th century before Christ.

The kind of counselors everyone listened to then were what we would call “Military Advisors” or “Military Strategists.”

These were men who understood the enemy and understood battle tactics.

They were rough and tumble men who had what it takes to give you a plan to win a war.

Isaiah says that the Messiah would be a “Wonderful Counselor.”

His plans, His strategies, His advice, His counsel would be like nothing ever seen before!

It would be “wonderful!” Full of wonders.

And therefore, anyone who took His counsel would not fail.

The apostle Paul said that all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Jesus Christ.

He is the child born to us and He is full of wonderful counsel.

His advice is like no other:

You have give up your life to save it. Blessed are the poor in spirit.
You can’t earn your salvation, you must receive it.
It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Those kind of statements aren’t natural wisdom!

But they are wonderful!

Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. And those who follow His strategies never fail.

I think the application of this title for us this Christmas is to marvel at Jesus’ wisdom and to seek it out.

Are you seeking the wisdom of Christ?

Or are you trying to do things your way? Or the world’s way?

Often, Jesus’ wisdom seems foolish to us.

People come to me with problems, and I try to give them Jesus’ wisdom–often it sounds like craziness to them and they don’t give it more than a half-hearted try.

Counseling can be a pretty frustrating thing.

But Jesus’ wisdom is wonderful! It’s full of wonder!

And when we do things His way, the world may scratch their heads, but in the end, we will all marvel at the result!

Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor.

#2. MIGHTY GOD. V.6

“He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God...”

This child to be born would appropriately bear the title “Mighty God.”

I wonder what Isaiah must have thought when the Spirit led Him to put those words down on paper!

A baby was going to be born, a son, and He would be called “Mighty God.”

Mighty God!

That’s unbelievable! There are no words to describe this!

Mighty God has become a baby boy!

A baby boy is Mighty God!

That’s mind-blowing stuff.

We’re too used to it because we sing the Christmas Carols every year.

And we’ve gotten used to Christmas pageants and Christmas Cards.

But this mind-blowing stuff.

Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, and He was and is Mighty God!

I think the application of that title is simply to worship Him!

Worship Jesus in His power and His glory.


Every day, to get down on our knees and worship Him.

To center our lives around Jesus.

To make Him the focus of our faith.

A lot of people seem to believe in God. But the Bible says that that is not good enough.

It’s not enough to believe in God!

We must worship Jesus, the God-Man.

He is glorious and all-powerful deity. Deserving all of our praise and worship.

Jesus is Mighty God!

#3. EVERLASTING FATHER. V.6 again.

“He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father...”

Now, Jesus is not God the Father.

This is not a reference to His oneness with God the Father.

And humanly speaking, Jesus never married or had any children as a human father.

But that’s not the kind of Father this is talking about.

This is more like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

People we call the “Fathers of our nation.”

They were the foundational leaders of our nation who led and guided it.

And the Messiah was to be a Father to His people.

Now, not everyone has had a great father.

But that word Father is supposed to conjure up connotations of care and wisdom and authority and strong leadership.

This is the ideal Father that everyone longs for and all good earthly fathers aspire to be like: loving, sacrificial, and strong.

Verse 6 said that the “government will be on his shoulders.”

He would shoulder the government! That’s a big responsibility, calling for very big shoulders.

As a Dad, I understand what it means to have the weight of a family rest on your shoulders.

Well, the weight of the world would rest on the shoulders of this child.

That’s what it would mean for Him to be “Father” for His people.

But He wouldn’t just be Father. He’s be Everlasting Father!

This does point to His deity!

His Fatherhood, His loving leadership would be a never-end-never-stopping-always-coming-through kind of leadership!

Where earthly fathers (all of them, all of us) will fail, this One never will!

I think the application of this title is to trust and to obey Jesus.

“To follow the Father” and to trust and obey Jesus as loving leader.

He is so wise! Wonderfully wise!
And His so powerful! Mighty God!
And He is such a loving leader! Everlasting Father.

We can trust Him. And we can do what He says.

Are you going through a hard time right now?

Jesus is a Father. Like a Shepherd, you can trust Him and you can do what He says, and He will take care of you.

To us a child is born, and He is an Everlasting Father. Trust Him and obey Him.

And last (#4). PRINCE OF PEACE.

“And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The Messiah’s rule will be characterized, not just by the absence of war (though that will be amazing!) but by the presence of harmony, justice, righteousness, and peace.

Shalom. And Shalom forever! Look at verse 7.

“Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. [It will just get better and better and better!] He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”

This peace has come, but it has not come fully yet.

The Kingdom has been inaugurated but has not been fully consummated.

When Jesus was born, the angels sang, “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.”

Because the Son had come!

And when He comes again, He will establish this Kingdom that will never end.

So, I think the application here is to rejoice in Jesus’ peace and long for Him to bring the kingdom of peace forever.

Jesus has brought peace with God.

If we trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, banking on what He did for us on the Cross, we have peace with God!

And we can begin to have peace on Earth, as well. As we embrace His principles for peacemaking.

But one day, coming soon, the whole world will be filled with peace.

Justice and righteousness will flow like mighty waters.

And of the increase of his government (resting on His mighty shoulders) and His peace–there will be no end.

While we work at that now, we long for that day!

Verse 5 paints a picture of that day when “every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.”

If the boots and the uniforms are being tossed into the fire, where do you think the weapons are?

There will be no more war!

There will only be peace!

Because of the Prince of Peace!

Do you long for that day?

We’ve been thinking about the return of Christ this whole Christmas season.

Is it in your blood? Is it in your heart to long for the return of the Prince of Peace–for that Kingdom to be established and to grow without end?

How will this happen?

How can we know that this kingdom will, in fact, come?

Sometimes it seems like it never will!

And we could never do it. V.7

“The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”

We can count on it!

God is jealous to see His glory manifested in the New Creation!

He has committed Himself to this, and He will not fail to bring it about!

“The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”

And we can count on that!

And all because a child has been born–to us.

Given to us.

All we have to do is to receive Him.

Have you received this Child?

Have you received the gift of His life?

To you a child has been born. To you a Son has been given.

And He will be called:

Wonderful Counselor.

Marvel at Jesus’ Wisdom and Seek It Out.

Mighty God.

Worship Jesus for His Power and His Glory!

Everlasting Father.

Trust and Obey Jesus’ Loving Leadership.

Prince of Peace.

Rejoice in Jesus’ Peace and Long for Him to Bring the Kingdom of Peace Forever.

“The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”

Advent 2007: Week 4

LEFC Family Advent Readings
Advent Week #4: Joy To the World, the Lord Has Come
“Salvation & Condemnation”
John 3:16-18
December 23, 2007

“Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming. Jesus has come and is coming again.

This Advent season, we are preparing our hearts for Christmas by contemplating the differences between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming.

[LIGHT CANDLE #1 AGAIN]

Our first candle shines to show that Jesus came in surprising humility, but that one day, He will come with full majesty.

[LIGHT CANDLE #2 AGAIN]

Our second candle highlights that when Jesus first came, very few worshiped Him, but when He comes again, every knee will bow.

[LIGHT CANDLE #3 AGAIN]

Our third candle reminds us that Jesus first came to a life filled with sorrow, but that at His second advent, He will be full of glorious joy and bring amazing joy to His people.

[LIGHT CANDLE #4]

Today, we light our last candle before Christmas Eve. At Jesus’ first advent, He came to save, not to condemn. However, when Jesus returns, He will save His people, but He will also bring judgment on those who have not believed.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 3, we read: [READ JOHN 3:16-18.]

When Jesus was here on the Earth the first time, He brought a message of free salvation through faith in His name. It’s a glorious offer, one that anyone can receive. Whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish but have eternal life!

But whoever does not believe will receive condemnation when Jesus returns.

May this candle remind us how serious Jesus’ coming really is. He has brought salvation to all who believe, but condemnation awaits all who do not.

Let us pray and share the Gospel this Christmas Season with those who need to know that God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son.

Advent Bible Study for Families

1. Re-read John 3:16-18. According to these famous verses, what is the Gospel? What does this passage teach about salvation and condemnation? Why is faith/belief in Jesus so important to God?

2. Read John 5:19-29. What did Jesus teach here about the time of judgment to come?

3. Application. Because Jesus will bring judgment and condemnation, how should Christians act today? How should we relate to unbelievers? What can your family do this Holiday Season to share the truth that God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son?

4. As a family, sing Joy to the World, the Christmas Carol by Isaac Watts. Joy to the World is actually more about Jesus’ second advent than His first:

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

5. [EXTRA FOR FAMIILIES WHO WANT TO DIG DEEPER.] Read Isaiah 61, an Old Testament prediction of the Messiah that Jesus applied to Himself in Luke 4. What did Isaiah prophecy about Jesus’ ministry of salvation and condemnation? In Luke, Jesus stopped reading Isaiah 61 in the middle of verse 2. Why? What does that teach about the differences between His first advent and His second? What difference does that make for us today?

Friday, December 21, 2007

6 Gifts from Isaiah 9

I'm preparing to preach from Isaiah 9 on Sunday, and I was encouraged by this meditation from Sam Storms.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Gift of the Magi

Back to the Bible presents a Christ-centered dramatic telling of O. Henry's classic Christmas story.

Listen to: The Gift of the Magi.

[HT: GT]

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Trust Promises, Not Providences

Wise advice today from Jon Bloom at Desiring God.

And much needed for my little family. We're buffeted with our 2nd case of bronchitis this month and in need of prayers.

Just this morning, I told my 7 year old that our joy is not determined by whether our life is going as we'd like, but by how we respond to however our life is going.

Bloom ends his post with this quote from Puritan Thomas Wilcox:

Bless God for shaking off false foundations, for any way whereby He keeps the soul awakened and looking after Christ; better sickness and temptations, than security and superficiality.
Amen.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Advent 2007: Week 3

LEFC Family Advent Readings
Advent Week #3: Joy To the World, the Lord Has Come
“From Sorrow to Joy”
Isaiah 53:3 & Hebrews 12:2
December 16, 2007

"Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming. Jesus has come and is coming again.

This Advent season, we are preparing our hearts for Christmas by contemplating the differences between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming.

[LIGHT CANDLE #1 AGAIN]

In His first advent, Jesus came in surprising humility. In His second advent, He will come with full majesty.

[LIGHT CANDLE #2 AGAIN]

In His first advent, very few worshiped Him. At His second advent, every knee will bow.

[LIGHT CANDLE #3.]

When Jesus came the first time, He came to a life filled with sorrow. But when He returns, He will be full of glorious joy and bring amazing joy to His people.

The prophecy of Isaiah 53 says that Jesus would be “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.”

After He was born in Bethlehem, Jesus lived as a refugee in Egypt. When He became a man, He was chased around by crowds, persecuted by religious leaders, and crucified for crimes He did not commit.

Jesus knew suffering and sorrow. But He also knew that it was worth it!

[Read Hebews 12:2.]

For the glorious joy set before Him, Jesus endured the Cross.

And when He returns, Jesus will bring joy to His people!

Isaiah prophesied of that day: “Gladness and joy will overtake God’s people. Sorrow and sighing will fee away.”

May this candle remind us to fix our eyes on Jesus and to anticipate Joy to the World, because the Lord is Coming. Amen.

Advent Bible Study for Families

1. Read Isaiah 53 which predicts Jesus’s life and death and resurrection 800 years before His first advent. List all of the words and phrases that focus on sorrow and sad things. Why did Jesus have to know such sorrow? List all of the words and phrases that talk about His victory and joy, as well.

2. Re-read Hebrews 12:2. What do you think was the “joy set before Him?” How did it make it possible for Jesus to endure the Cross? Why should we “fix our eyes” on Jesus? How do we do that?

3. Have different family members read these passages: Isaiah 51:1-11, Jude 24-25, and Revelation 21:1-5. These are all predictions of the future, when Jesus returns and makes all things right. What do these texts say about sorrow and joy?

4. What sorrows are your family going through right now? How does the truth of Jesus’ advents affect your perspective and attitude to your trials?

5. As a family, sing Joy to the World, the Christmas Carol by Isaac Watts. Joy to the World is actually more about Jesus’ second advent than His first:

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Matt's Messages - Real Christians Really Look Forward to Christ's Return

“Real Christians Really Look Forward to Christ’s Return”
Real Christians
December 16, 2007
2 Peter 3:1-18

This is the 12th and last message in our sermon series on Real Christians.

For the last 12 weeks, we’ve been learning how to spot a Real Christian.

Like the license plate on the back of our bulletins, we’ve asked ourselves the question: RU4REAL? And how do you know?

How do you spot honest-to-goodness, authentic, bona fide, true Christians?

And how do you recognize a fake one?

Back at the beginning of football season, we learned that Real Christians Believe the Real Gospel.

There is only one message of good news that saves people from their sins: the gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ.

That’s the first and most important mark of a Real Christian.

And after someone comes to believe this real Gospel, it create a real change within them.

Real Christians (begin to) Really Love God and Really Love People (even their enemies!).

And then God gives them a commission: Real Christians Are On a Real Mission – to make real disciples. Disciples with a real love relationship with Jesus Christ.

That relationship involves both talking to and hearing from Him.

Real Christians Really Pray and Real Christians Really Delight in God’s Word.

But they are not exempt from trouble. In fact, we are promised trouble.

We just react to trouble differently: Real Christians Trust God in Times of Trial.

Because we know that we have enemies. The World, the Flesh, and the Devil.

The Flesh is our Internal Enemy. But Real Christians Walk in the Light. We are “simul justus et peccator.” Simultaneously righteous and sinful. But we confess our sins and are forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus.

The Devil is our Infernal Enemy. And we are in a war with Him. Real Christians Are In a Real Battle. But we have everything we need in Christ to stand firm in it.

And the World is our External Enemy. Real Christians Are IN the World but are NOT OF the World.

No, we are OF the Church. Real Christians Really ARE the Church. That’s what we learned last week.

Now, there are a lot of other things I could add to this series. We could go at least another year with marks of a Real Christian.

But I want to end today with one last major area of basic Christian teaching. I was encouraged that one of you wrote it down on your blue survey sheets for a message that you were hoping I would cover before the end of this series:

Real Christians Really Look Forward to Christ’s Return.

Forty days after Jesus’ resurrection, He told His disciples that He was going to give them the Holy Spirit. And that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

And after He said this, He “was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”

“They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white (angels!) stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’”

Jesus is going to come back some day riding on the clouds.

And Real Christians Look Forward to His Return.

I invite you to turn with me to the second letter we have from Peter, the third chapter.
1 Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.
2 I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.
3 First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.
4 They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation."
5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water.
6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.
7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives
12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
15 Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.
16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
17 Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.
18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (NIV)
Two points this morning:

Number One. Real Christians Really Look Forward to Christ’s Return...

BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT HIS COMING IS REALLY COMING.

We know that Jesus IS coming back.

Now, not everyone believes this! You won’t hear about it on tonight’s nightly news.

That’s why Peter writes verses 3 through 7.

He says that there are going to be “scoffers.” V.3 again.

“First of all, you must understand that in the last days [we’re living in the last days] scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’”

Have you ever heard anyone with that perspective? “Where’s Jesus? Did He forget about us down here? If He’s supposed to be coming back soon, where is He?! Nothing really changes.” Not true. V.5.

“But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. [Things have changed before and they will change again.] By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

His second coming IS really coming.

Why hasn’t He come yet? He is patient. V.8

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. [He can afford to wait.] The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

The scoffers are going to be surprised.

Jesus hasn’t been tardy. He’s been patient.

He’s waiting for the full number of His chosen ones to turn and to trust in Him.

But His coming IS coming! We don’t know when, but we know it is. V.10

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. [No warning!] The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.”

His coming IS really coming. We can count on it.

In fact, we’re supposed to look forward to it.

Did you see that in verse 12 and verse 13 and in verse 14?

Look Forward to the Day of God.
Look Forward.
Look Forward!

One of the key marks of a Real Christian is that he or she does not just live for today, but looks forward to “that day!”

Real Christians Really Look Forward to the Return of Christ.

The New Testament says that again and again and again.

One of the biggest problems I had this week in figuring out what to say was to pick just one passage to preach. This idea of looking forward to Christ’s return is all over the New Testament.

Jesus told His disciples to “watch” for Him.

Paul describes Real Christians as “waiting for” Jesus, and “eagerly waiting for Jesus,” and “longing” for Jesus’ appearing.

The book of Hebrews talks about a yearning for Jesus’ return when He brings salvation to His people.

Real Christians Really Look Forward to the Return of Christ.

Are you looking forward to Jesus coming back?

Let’s see what we have to look forward to.

The biggest thing is Jesus Himself. V.12 calls this return, “The Day of God.”

That’s because it’s all about Him!

Jesus is what makes Heaven Heaven!

If He wasn’t there, it wouldn’t be!

Do you look forward to being with Jesus?

1 Thessalonians 4 says, “the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

Does that thrill your heart?

Really Christians Really Love Jesus. And therefore, they really can’t wait to be with Him forever!

What else do we have to look forward to?

Well, verse 12 says that the day of God will be day of judgment. V.12

“You look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.” Verse 7 said, “the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

Now, that doesn’t sound “nice,” but it is really wonderful because it means that justice will be done and will be seen to be done.

Have you ever read the newspaper and wondered if justice will ever be done?

Maybe someone is treating you unfairly right now. And you wonder if there will ever be justice!

Listen to this: In the Day of God, every wrong will be made right!

And even Christians will be judged. 2 Corinthians says that we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ and receive what is due us.

For believers, there will be no condemnation there. But there will be loss of reward for unfaithfulness and REWARD for faithful obedience!

That’s something to look forward to! Reward from the hand of Christ Himself!

More than that, verse 13 says that there is a whole new world coming. V.13

“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”

A new heaven and a new earth!

Brand new. Fresh. Righteous. No sin. No sorrow. No tears. No suffering!

Everything right! Everything like it should be!

Do you long for that?

I believe it’s in the heart of every person to long for that!

God has put eternity in the hearts of men.

But Real Christians, even more, long for that New Heavens and New Earth because it is our Real Home!

The Home of Righteousness.

Do you ever feel like this can’t be your home?

Maybe your body is falling apart.
Or maybe your family is.

Or maybe everything is going great for you right now.

But it just doesn’t satisfy like you think it should.

That’s because this world is not the home of righteousness.

This world is fallen, finite, and fractured.

It’s not home!

“This world is not my home, I just a’passin’ through.”

I have a new home to look forward to!

A home where righteousness reigns!

Joy to the world! the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing! Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns; Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains Repeat the sounding joy! No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found! He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love!
That’s what we have to look forward to!

Are you looking forward to that new world?

And, did you know that we will have a new body to live in that new world?

I think it was two weeks ago that I read to you Philippians 3:20.

“Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control [far as the curse is found!], will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

A New Body to Enjoy the New Heavens and the New Earth!

Are you looking forward to the Return of Christ?

Some people claim to be Christians, but don’t care a bit about the world to come.

I have to wonder if they really are Christians.

It’s like saying that, I love lunch, but that the smell of that Christmas dinner hanging around the corner, doesn’t do a thing for me.

It’s got to make you wonder.

Real Christians Really Look Forward to Christ’s Return.

Because We Know that His Coming Is Really Coming.

And it’s going to be good!

Now, my second [and last] point is a point of application.

Number Two. Real Christians Really Look Forward to Christ’s Return...

THEREFORE WE OUGHT TO LIVE HOLY AND GODLY LIVES.

That’s why Peter says (v.11). “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.”

We ought to live holy and godly lives. And look at verse 14.

“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”

We ought to live holy and godly lives.

Let me divide that up into 3 categories.

#1. Get Right With God. #2. Get Ready for Your New Home. #3. Get Busy Sharing Christ Until He Comes.
#1. Get Right With God.

This brings us back to the Real Gospel.

You absolutely cannot look forward to the Return of Christ if you don’t belong to Christ right now!

All of that stuff about rewards, and a new home, and a new body and being with Jesus doesn’t apply to you if you don’t belong to Jesus Christ.

Instead, you’re headed for the fire, for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

And you don’t know when it’s coming.

Life is a vapor!

Before I finish this sentence you could slip into eternity.

Get Right with God!

Right now, He is patient with you. Not wanting for you to perish, but for you to come repentance. That’s why you’re alive and listening to this appeal.

Get Right with God.

The way to do that is to turn from your sins and put your trust in Jesus Christ and Him alone.

He died on the Cross to fully pay for the sins of all who really believe in Him.

Believe the gospel and get right with God.

That’s how you know you are (v.14) “at peace with Him.”

Don’t presume on His patience any longer. Trust in the Savior!

Second, Get Ready for Your New Home.

If we are going to live in the home of righteousness, we need to practice it right now.

That means that we need to re-prioritize our lives.

If you knew today that your funeral would be this coming Thursday, would you live any differently?

Any different priorities?

Knowing that Christ’s Coming Is Really Coming should change what is really important to us.

It should affect our giving. We would store up treasures in Heaven.
It should affect our use of time. We should study God’s word and meet with God’s people.
It should affect our choices. We should live holy and godly lives.

Getting ready means getting ourselves on guard. Look at verse 17.

“Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.”

Be on your guard!

Jesus said that in the last days, the love of many would grow cold and many would be deceived.

Well, the last days are here. Maybe the last of the last days! And many are being deceived.

Getting ready means being on guard. Knowing your Bible and being discerning so that you don’t lose ground.

Getting ready also means growing. Look at verse 18.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

I wanted to have a message just on this verse. Real Christians Really Grow.

Real Christianity isn’t just a destination, it’s a direction.

If we are going to the home of righteousness, then we should be growing in righteousness right now.

1 John 3 says, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)

Are you going to Heaven, but you are living like Hell?

That doesn’t work!

Are you harboring some sin? Some habit? Some relationship? Some secret in your life that would not fit in the “Home of Righteousness?” Are you walking in darkness? “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”

“Spotless, blameless and at peace with Him.”

Get ready for your new home!

And third, Get Busy Sharing Christ Until He Comes.

Did you catch that phrase in verse 12? “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.

Now, God has that day already set in His mind.

But, mysteriously, we can somehow help it get here faster (from our perspective!) by getting busy sharing the gospel until Christ returns!

This Friday, I was real close to writing the message a day early, which almost never happens! And I was just about to start writing, and the phone rang.

There was a trucker stranded at the Truck Stop, and would come up and help him get a meal and a night in the motel.

You know, I was so tempted to not care. And I admit, I struggled to get over there and help that guy when I could be getting my “work done.”

And I didn’t even have a gospel tract with me to give to him.

So, I didn’t even bring up the gospel with him. I just got him a room and left in defeat.

But yesterday morning, when things opened up for me to write my message in the morning when I didn’t think I would have time, I remembered that that guy was still up at the Truck Stop.

And I realized that I needed to take Him a copy of Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ and the Jesus Film.

My priorities needed to change right then and there. This was a real person who really needs Jesus! And I really needed to do a little bit to speed the coming of the day of God. So I did.

Are you looking for opportunities to share Jesus this Christmas season?

Are you looking forward, not just to Christmas, but to Christ? And His return?

Kids, are you looking forward to Christmas? Presents under the tree? Stockings full of good stuff? A family dinner? Lots of love?

That’s nothing compared to what is around the corner for all Real Christians!

The early Christians had a saying in Aramaic that appears in the Bible.

“Marana Tha!”

It means, “Lord, Come!” May that be our cry today and every day until He does.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Don't Disregard Doctrine

“Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.”

- J. I. Packer, Knowing God

[HT: Joe Thorn]

Friday, December 14, 2007

Depression

Here are two items of biblical wisdom on the subject of depression from Ed Welch at CCEF.

A Video on Depression

An Interview on Dr. Welch's book A Stubborn Darkness

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Our Gang

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Advent 2007: Week 2

LEFC Family Advent Readings
Advent Week #2: Joy To the World, the Lord Has Come
“Every Knee Shall Bow”
Philippians 2:5-11

December 9, 2007

"Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming. Jesus has come and is coming again.

This Advent season, we are preparing our hearts for Christmas by contemplating the differences between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming.

[LIGHT CANDLE #1 AGAIN]

In His first advent, Jesus came in surprising humility. In His second advent, He will come with full majesty.

[LIGHT CANDLE #2]

In His first advent, very few worshiped Him. At His second advent, every knee will bow.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, very few people came to worship Him. There was only Mary, Joseph, and a few smelly old shepherds. That’s all.

But the Bible says that when Jesus comes again, every person everywhere will bow before Him!

In Philippians chapter 2, the Apostle Paul writes:

[READ PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11]

Jesus’ birth is no longer a secret. We are called to get the word out!

This candle reminds us that the day is coming when every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.

Amen.


Advent Bible Study for Families

1. Skim Luke chapter 2:1-20. List all of the people that knew about Jesus’ birth. Why were so few present to worship the newborn King?

2. Re-read Philippians 2:5-11. As a family, outline the steps that Jesus took–from equality with God down to death on the Cross up to receiving the highest name. You might want to draw a picture to show how low He went for us and how high He was and will be. What does it mean that “every knee will bow?”

3. What practical applications can be drawn from this passage? Notice the context in Philippians 2:1-4. The apostle Paul uses this as an illustration of how we can consider others ahead of ourselves. How should the truth of Jesus’ condescension (down) and exaltation (up) affect our lives today?

4. One day, every tongue will confess. What can your family do this week or this month to get the word out that Jesus is Lord?

5. As a family, sing Joy to the World, the Christmas Carol by Isaac Watts. Joy to the World is actually more about Jesus’ second advent than His first:

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

6 Years Young


That's my son, Andrew!

Cross-Centered Worship

I've written before about the Hot Orthodoxy in Song of Sovereign Grace Music.

They now have a new website and their leader, Bob Kauflin has a great article at Boundless on The Cross: Crucial in Worship. A true gift to the church!

Matt's Messages - Real Christians Really ARE the Church

“Real Christians Really ARE the Church”
Real Christians
December 9, 2007
1 Corinthians 1:1-3

Last week, in our series on Real Christians, we learned that Real Christians are IN the world, but we are NOT OF the world.

We live here among the world (sent here by God!), but we are not OF the world (we are no longer part of it). We have been saved (spiritually) OUT of the world, and someday we’ll be saved totally out of the world.

For right now, we are IN but NOT OF the world.

But that raises the question, doesn’t it, so what are we OF?

And the answer is: we are OF the heavenly colony here on Earth known as the church.

We are OF the church. And that is the subject of our message today.

“Real Christians Really ARE the Church.”

I would like to shock you now, if I can. Can I try to shock you?

Listen to this:

There is no verse in the entire Bible that says that Christians should go to church.

If you find a verse that says, “Go to church.” I want to see it!

And here’s why.

Because, in the Bible, the church is not something that you go to. It’s something that you ARE.

The church is not something you go to. It’s something that you are. (Or aren’t if you aren’t.)

The church is not something you go to. It’s something that you are a part of.

Real Christians Really ARE the Church.

There are a lot places that we could go to see that in the Bible, but the specific place I’ve picked for today is 1 Corinthians chapter 1 and the first 3 verses.

This is the “Hello” section of Paul’s letter where he pretty much just says who’s writing, whom the letter’s to, and greetings with grace and peace.

We’re really only going to focus on verse 2 this morning, but I’m going to read all 3.

1 Corinthians chapter 1, verses 1-3 in God’s Holy Word.
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ-- their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I’d like to point our 4 things from verse 2 about the church.

Here’s #1.

#1. THE CHURCH IS PEOPLE.

Let’s read verse 2 again. And see what he says about the church.

“To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours...”

Now, this may be obvious, but remember, we’ve been studying the basics this Fall.

Paul is writing to people. The church is people.

He isn’t writing to a building.

He isn’t writing to a community center with a Cross on it.

He isn’t writing to a religious business.

He isn’t even writing to an institution.

He is writing to a people called the church.

The verse doesn’t make sense unless that’s true. Try putting the word “building” in verse 2 where it says “church,” and it doesn’t make any sense. That’s true of every place in the Bible that talks about the church!

Sometimes we talk like this building is the church. But it isn’t. Tear this thing down, and the church remains.

That’s why I like to talk about this as our campus or as our facility or our ministry center. It’s not the church.

We are the church. The church is people.

Even this meeting that we are in right now is not the church!

When we talk about going to church, we often mean going to a Christian meeting. A service or a celebration.

But this is not the church. It’s a meeting of the church.

Meeting is something the church does. Public worship is something the church does.

But it is not the church. The church is people.

Real Christians Really ARE the Church.

The church is people.

I know a lot of people who think that the essence of Christianity is attending a worship service somewhere regularly.

“I know that I need to go to church.”
Or, “I’m glad that I go to church.”
Or, I know that she is a Christian because she goes to church.

But attending church meetings is not the essence of Real Christianity.

I’ve said this before: just because I live in a garage, doesn’t make me a car.
Just because I go to church, doesn’t make me a Real Christian.

Because Real Christians REALLY ARE the church. Not just go to meetings.

Does that make sense?

It’s not how we always talk about it or how we use the words. But it’s how God uses the words in His holy Word!

The church is people.

Look around you. Look at the people sitting in front of you. Look at the people sitting behind you. Look at the people on either side of you down the aisle.

There. You’re looking at the church. The church is people.

Now see this, #2. THE CHURCH IS BOTH LOCAL AND GLOBAL. Look at verse 2 again.

“To the church of God [WHERE?] in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours...”

The Church is both local and global.

You’ve heard that phrase, “Think globally, act locally?” That’s true of the Church.

The church is all of the Real Christians throughout history and throughout the world, and it has specific expression in local churches that are manifestations of that global church.

The church is local. Corinth. Galatia. Ephesus. Rome. Lanse. Philipsburg.

A specific group of Real Christians banded together in spiritual community in local communities. In the world but not of the world. In their communities (sent into their communities) but not OF their communities. OF the church. A heavenly colony here on Earth.

The church is local.

But it’s also global. Look at the end of verse 2 again.

“Together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ– their Lord and ours...”

“All those everywhere.”

All Real Christians Really Are The Church.

The church is global.

That means that we are the church with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Cap Hatien Haiti. And our brothers and sisters in Christ in China. And in Africa. And in Denmark. And everywhere else. “All those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The church is global.

When I was a kid growing up in Sunday School, we used to sing a little song. I’ve sung it to you before:

The Church Is Not a Building
The Church Is Not a Steeple
The Church Is Not a Resting Place
The Church Is a People.

I Am the Church.
You Are the Church.
We Are the Church Together.
All of God’s People, All Around the World,
Yes, We’re the Church Together.

And that’s one of the most powerful things I learned growing up.

The church is people, and it’s people both local and global.

Both are important.

I see some people who neglect the global aspect of the church.

They think of the church as just being them and a few of their friends, and they forget that they are spiritually tied to Real Christians everywhere. “All those everywhere who call on the name...”

Or they think that their little denomination (and our denomination is little–just 1300 churches) is all that there is.

But that’s not true. The Church is much bigger than we often think. And we need to strive for unity in the church at large. I wanted to have a sermon about Real Christians strive for unity in the church. Because the church is global.

But I also see many who neglect the localness of the church.

They think of themselves as part of the global church, but they don’t do much if anything to bring expression to that in the local church.

They don’t join.
They don’t participate.
They don’t fall in love with the local body of believers.
They don’t submit to church leadership.
They try to go it their own or at least semi-independently with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude to the local church.

Remember, think global, act local.

I can see how this could be misunderstood.

I mean, someone could think that because the Bible nowhere says to go to church that therefore the church is not important!

But that would miss most of the New Testament and its teaching on the church.

The church should be an essential part of the life of every Real Christian.

The church (not this building!) should be an essential part of the life of every Real Christian.

Because Real Christians Really ARE the Church both locally and globally.

Here’s a third thing I’d like you to see.

#3. THE CHURCH IS HOLY AND CALLED TO BE HOLY.

See how Paul describes the body of believers at Corinth. V.2 again.

“To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified [set apart] in Christ Jesus and called to be holy...”

Sanctified is a big word that means to be set apart or to be made holy.

Jesus did that for the church when He saved her from her sins on the Cross.

We are positionally holy in Christ.

We are counted righteous with the righteousness of Christ if we have believed the Real Gospel.

At the same time, we are simul justus et peccator, right? We are saints but we are still sinners. We are righteous in Him, but we’re not totally righteous in practice yet.

Positionally but not practically.

So, God calls us to holiness.

We are called holy and called to holiness. “Sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy.”

That’s one of the major emphases in the New Testament on the church.

The church is supposed to be a holy people.

We are not OF the world.

We are OF the church. We are OF the colony of heaven here on Earth.

We are OF the Spirit.

We are OF Christ.

We are called to be holy.

Now hear me! We are not saved by striving to be holy!

No, we are “sanctified in Christ Jesus” and what He did for us on the Cross. We are saved by calling “on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

But we are called to progressively become what we are. We are called to grow in holiness.

How are you doing at that?

Are you growing in holiness?

One of the purpose of the church is to help each other to do just that.

We are holy and called to be holy.

And #4. THE CHURCH IS JESUS CHRIST’S.

Let’s read verse 2 once more.

“To the church [who’s church?] of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours:”

The church belongs to Jesus Christ.

He bought it with His blood.

Sometimes, people ask me how my church is doing.

And I know what they mean. They mean the church that I serve as a pastor.

Or they mean the church that I love as a member, of which I am a part.

But it sometimes we can get to thinking that this church is mine in another way.

As if I own it. As if it exists for me. As if I have control over it or possession of it.

I can get into that mindset. Even thinking of our church as a business. How can I grow the church? As if we were a business. And if we were, it wouldn’t be my business, anyway. It would be Jesus’.

He said, “I will build MY church.” It’s His.

And I belong to Him. And we belong to Him together.

The church that meets in Lanse...“Together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours:”

The church is Jesus Christ’s.

So, how do we apply this message to our lives. Let me give you four quick points of application:

#1. Think of Yourself As Part of the Church.

If you are a Real Christian, who believes the Real Gospel, think of yourself as a part of the Church. Because the Church is a people, both local and global, made holy and called to be holy, belonging to Christ.

Don’t think of church as something to go to.

Think of it as something to be a part of.

And #2. Be a Part of the Church.

Don’t just think it globally and then not act locally!

Fully participate in the life of the local church.

Join the membership. We have a meeting in just a few minutes when 4 of you are going to welcomed into church membership. That’s a great application for this message.

I believe that every Real Christian should be a real member of their local church. And as your pastor, I’m striving to see that be true of everyone here.

Be a part of the church.

And I mean the whole thing. Don’t just attend the meetings. Be a part of what God is doing in the world through the church.

Take full advantage of what your church is offering and teaching.

I had 5 more messages that I wanted to bring this Fall, but I ran out of Fall!

They relate to our purpose statement, and I preached about them before.

They are the 5 main ways that our church (as a worshiping community) glorifies God by bringing people into a love relationship with Jesus Christ.

Worship, Instruction, Fellowship, Evangelism, and Service.

Real Christians Really Love Jesus in Corporate Worship
Real Christians Really Learn of Jesus in Instruction.
Real Christians Really Link to Others in Jesus in Fellowship.
Real Christians Really Lure Others to Jesus in Evangelism.
And Real Christians Really Live for Jesus in Service.

These are also real marks of Real Chrsitians.

And they are what our church is all about.

Are you involved in all 5?

I’m very concerned about people who say they love the Lord but won’t really commit to worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service, won’t really commit to functions of the local church.

Be a part.

#3. Do Your Part in the Local Church.

One of you, on your blue survey sheet, asked me to preach on Real Christians Serve God.

And that’s right. We are all called to find our places of service and use our gifts in ministry in the local church.

In a few minutes, we’re going to affirm our leadership for 2008.

Some of our leaders have been leaders here for many many years.

And some of the rest of us need to step up to leadership and finding our own place in ministry.

We each need to do our part.

And that includes giving. I wanted to preach a message this Fall on “Real Christians Give Generously.”

That’s part of each of us doing our part.

In a minute, we’re also going to approve our operating budget for 2008.

It’s not an ambitious budget. It’s scaled back by $17,000 dollars from what we set out to do last year.

But we’re still going to need to give generously to meet it.

And I want to go on record as thanking you for your generous giving this last year.

We started the year in financial difficulty and we’ve ended it on a position of strength, with our remaining debt almost paid off.

I praise the Lord for how you have sacrificially done your part.

And #4. Never Part from the Church.

You can’t, really, if you are a Real Christian. Christianity is a team sport.

If you claim to be a Christian, but you have no real connection with a real church, your salvation is suspect. I can give you no assurances that you are Real.

1 John says that those who depart from the church show that they were never really a part of it (2:19).

We need you and you need us!

Love the church. And stay committed.

The Bible says that Jesus Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.

Can we do no less?

Real Christians Really Are the Church.

The Church is People.
The Church is Both Local and Global.
The Church is Holy and Called to be Holy.
The Church is Jesus Christ’s.

So, Think of Yourself as Part of the Church.
Be a Part of the Church, for Real.
Do Your Part in the Church.
And Never Part from the Church.