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Thursday, September 25, 2008

On Vacation

We're in Chicago this week on a family vacation--seeing the sites and friends and family.

Sites so far:

Brookfield Zoo

Field Museum

Garfield Park Conservatory

Chicago Art Institute

Millennium Park

And that's just since Monday...

Of course, our trip probably won't include an interaction like our friends the Ledford's (see recent the write up in our local newspaper).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Matt's Messages "Love is Kind"

“Love Is Kind”
Learning to Love
September 21, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:4

“Love is patient. Love is kind.”

We’re learning to love, and we’re learning together what love is like when it’s in action.

1 Corinthians 13 is not a definition of love. It’s a description of love in action.

When love does its thing, this is what it’s like: “Love is patient, love is kind.”

What is kindness?

Again, like patience, it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it, don’t you?

You know it when you experience it.

This last week, as I’ve been meditating on kindness, I’ve seen the word “kindness” everywhere.

You know how when you are thinking about buying new car, and you look at a particular kind, you begin to see that car everywhere you go?

It’s been like that for me with kindness.

We’re reading a book with our kids called “The Little Princess,” and the main character is a little girl named “Sara” whose main character trait is kindness.

She keeps being kind to the other little girls in the book. And the story revolves around her kindness.

The other day, I caught my wife being kind to me (which is not a strange occurrence, of course, though my noticing it might be!). I was going on and on about something (that’s not a strange occurrence, either), and it all of a sudden occurred to me that she was being kind. She was very patiently waiting in a doorway on her way to something else that she needed to do, but she was being very kind and giving of her time and attention to my ramblings.

She could have disappeared while I was talking. She could have begged off as she had something to do. But she was...loving me. She was being kind.

For one of my classes, I’m reading a book on bi-polar disorder, one woman’s struggle manic-depressiveness. And in the book, the woman’s brother is kind to her in practical ways, and it makes a huge difference in how this woman copes with her struggle. Kindness.

A few of you have been kind to me this week, or I’ve seen how you are kind to others.

This last week, as I’ve been ruminating on kindness, I’ve seen it pop up in multiple places. Both kindness and unkindness, actually.

Kind words. Unkind words.
Kind actions. Unkind actions.
Kind gestures.
Kind touches.
Planned kindness and spontaneous kindness.
Random acts of kindness and orchestrated acts of kindness.

Kindness can take a lot of different forms, can’t it?

Let me try to define it for you.

Kindness is wanting good for someone and giving good to them.

Kindness is wanting good for someone and acting on it as a gift.

It almost always involves some kind of giving.

A giving of yourself or of something good for someone else.

If patience is receiving, or taking something negative, some perceived evil either from people or things and being okay with that (contentment while waiting for change), then kindness is giving.

It’s giving something positive. It’s responding to the evils of this world in an unexpected way–with something good in return.

It’s highly relational. You can be patient about things, but you are kind to people or least to living things–I supposed kindness extends to animals and even plants.

But mostly, it’s people-relational. You are kind or unkind to people.

By giving. By wanting good for them and then giving good to them–even at a personal cost.

Kindness is a kind of mercy. A synonym would be “graciousness.”

It’s not giving someone what they deserve but what they need and even more.

It’s doing for someone what they need or could use even if they haven’t earned it.

It’s normally doing something extra. Something beyond what is expected or required.

And it’s a powerful thing. Isn’t it?!

Kindness is a powerful thing.

When you see kindness in a leader, how do you feel?

You want to follow them, don’t you?

When you see a child be kind to another child, how does that make you feel?

It warms your heart, doesn’t it? And you want to praise them!

At our home, we almost never use the word “nice” with our children.

We don’t say, “Be nice to each other!” We say, “Be kind to each other.” That’s a biblical word. And when we see it, we praise it up and down!

“That was kind! Good job!”

It’s a powerful thing in our marriages.

When I see a couple that is unkind to one another, I see a marriage that is in danger.

But it only takes one of them starting to practice kindness to start to turn a marriage around.

Did you experience kindness this week?

It’s a powerful thing.

“Love is patient, love is kind.”

One writer describes it this way, “Kindness is a readiness to do good, to help, to relieve burdens, to be useful, to serve, to be tender, and to be sympathetic to others. It has been said, ‘Kindness is love in workclothes.’” [Leading with Love, pg. 44]

I like that, “Kindness is love in workclothes.” ....

Now, this is important. Kindness doesn’t always mean being “nice.”

Just like being patient doesn’t mean being passive, being kind doesn’t always mean being “nice.” Namby-pamby nice.

Jesus wasn’t always “nice.” But I don’t think he was ever unkind, either.

We have to speak the truth in love. Love often speaks.
We have to do hard things sometimes in our relationships. But we don’t have to be unkind.

Kindness is not the same thing as niceness.

Kindness is wanting good for someone and giving good to them, often at a personal cost.

And sometimes, that “good thing” that we’re giving won’t be seen by others as “nice.”

But it will still be kind. ...

Now, I asked, “Did you experience kindness this week?”

The other question is, “Have you been consistently kind yourself this week?”

We’re learning to love. “Love is patient, love is kind.”

Are you kind? Am I kind? Or do we have something to learn here?

As I was pondering kindness this week, I came up with a list of principles for how to grow in kindness. How to Kindle Kindness. There’s six in this list. Let me give them to you.

Learning to Be Kind. How to “kindle” kindness:

#1. LEARN FROM THE MASTER.

Who is the King of Kindness?

It’s our Teacher for this course: God Himself.

Remember Titus 3 from last month? “He Saved Us?” Titus 3:4

“When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”

The kindness of Christ is our greatest example because it’s the greatest kindness!

We didn’t deserve His wanting good for us.
We didn’t deserve His giving us good–giving us His own Son on the Cross for our sins!
We didn’t deserve His bearing that cost for us.

But He did it out of His kindness.

Jesus is patient. Jesus is kind! So much we can learn from the master!

His kindness is not just our example, it’s also the power that enable our kindness, isn’t it?

If we hadn’t experienced His kindness at Calvary, we, as Christians wouldn’t have much power to be kind to others.

But because He endured so much for us, He gives us the ability to not only be patient and receive, but to be kind and give.

When your co-worker “disses” you this week, your natural inclination will be to “diss” him or her back, won’t it?

But if you are a Christ-follower, saved by the kindness of God our Savior, you don’t have to spurn them, snub them, or gossip about them in the office.

You can be kind to them.

When your teammate steals the glory this week. Hogs the ball. Makes it all about them and maybe does something in your face, you don’t have to retaliate. You can be kind to them.

When your brother or sister steals your toy, uses your stuff, breaks your mp3 player, you don’t have to throw a fit.

You can be kind.

Because Jesus did for you.

1 Peter 2:23&24: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. [It takes faith to be kind.] He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.”

Learn from the Master.

#2. LEAN INTO PEOPLE.

What I mean is lean towards people. Take a step in their direction. Be giving towards people.

The opposite of kindness...What is the opposite of kindness? The total opposite of kindness is meanness. It’s harshness. It’s becoming scratchy, shrill, abrasive, abusive, hostile. It’s coming against someone.

But that’s the polar opposite.

You can also be also be unkind by just being civil. Can’t you?

By leaning away from someone. By not giving to someone.

By only doing what you must towards someone.

We see this in marriage, too, don’t we?

“I did what I had to do.”
“I gave what I needed to give, and that was all.”
“I was just and fair and equitable and give them what I had said.”
“I kept my end of the bargain.”

Okay. But were you kind?

Lean towards people.

This will mean repentance for some of us. We will have to ask for forgiveness of God and others for not leaning toward people.

God went out of His way to do good to us. We need to do it for others.

#3. BE KIND DESPITE PEOPLE.

To whom are we supposed to be kind?

Jonathan Edwards in his book, Charity and Its Fruits, suggests these three types of people to be kind to:

A. The Good and the Bad.
B. Your Friends and Your Enemies.
C. The Thankful and the Unthankful.

Ouch.

This might cost more than I reckoned for.

To want good for the good isn’t hard. But for the bad? Won’t that just encourage them to keep being bad?

To do good to my friends, sure. But to want good and do good to my enemies?

Friends, that’s Christian love. We love our enemies.

And we do good to them.

A couple different people opposed me this week. Neither are really my enemies in any strong sense, but they were on the opposite side of an issue from me this week in two different situations, and I felt it.

And I wrote them strong letters defending my position and my interests in these matters.

And then I didn’t send them. I sat on them. And I prayed over them.

And then latter I sent them much different letters that communicated kindness.

I hadn’t changed my position. But my heart had been changed. And it changed my actions.

Our kindness is not dependent on whether or not the person we are interacting with deserves what we are giving them.

In fact, kindness is (almost by definition) giving what they don’t deserve.

Moms and Dads. This is key for parenting.

Are you kind to your children? Maybe you keep them in line. That’s fine.

But are you kind?

Will they remember growing up in your home as living in an environment of kindness?

That was my experience. That’s what my childhood was. My folks are some of the kindest people on Planet Earth. And they keep pouring out kindness on my family.

Kindness reigned in our home. I don’t remember an unkind word! They might have been there, but I don’t remember them.

There was plenty between my brother and me! But not from my folks and not in front of us between them, either.

Did we deserve that? Were my brother and I worthy recipients of my parent’s kindness?

No! But we benefitted from it, and still do.

Be kind despite people.

But, Pastor Matt, you don’t understand! You don’t know that person has done to me!

I don’t doubt that it was terrible. And still is.

But we crucified the sinless Savior, and He’s kind to us. ...

Be kind despite people.

#4. EXPECT NOTHING BACK.

In some ways, this is saying the same thing. Do it regardless of whether or not they deserve it.

But I’m also saying this. Don’t do it expecting to be paid back for being kind.

That’s not being kind.

If you are trying to flatter someone to get flattered, or trying to butter someone up by doing good stuff for them, you aren’t being kind.

Kindness is not bootlicking or currying favor.

It’s not a strategy to get someone to like you.

Some of us, me included, try to do things that look kind so that people will like us.

And sometimes it works. But that’s not kindness.

Expect nothing back.

Give freely. Give with no strings.

Expect nothing back–from them.

We should expect something from God.

In God’s world, giving results in reward.

We can expect God’s reward when we are kind.

I’ll tell you one thing. It feels good! Doesn’t it?!

Doesn’t it feel good to genuinely practice kindness?

I know it does for me. In a few of the times when I was genuinely kind this week, I got a real buzz from it!

And sometimes, the dynamic of the relationship will change.

If you are patient and kind with someone, it’s hard for them to stay angry and bitter towards you. They might still do it! But it’s hard.

Sometimes the dynamic of the relationship will change.

But whether or not it does, do it!

Expect nothing back.

Except from God. Jesus has promised great reward for great giving. Listen to this promise:

“Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful....Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” [Luke 6:35, 36, & 38]

Those are Jesus’ words!

That’s an incentive to be kind, isn’t it?

#5. GIVE SOMETHING EXTRA, FROM YOUR HEART.

It’s really saying what we’ve already said so far, but I want to emphasize this word “extra.”

When Heather listened in the doorway to my rambling, she was doing something extra and it was kind and it was from her heart.

Kindness is little (and sometimes big) extras and they come from a hear of love.

So, if your boss is being very demanding, don’t just do what he or she says, but do it with a smile and a friendly word.

If your sister wants something you think is unreasonable, maybe you don’t give it to her out of love for her or love for someone else, but you go out of your way to creatively think of another way to achieve what she is really looking for.

That vendor you’re working with at work is driving you nuts? How about dropping them a thank-you for something good they’ve done, even if it’s just filling the order like they said they would.

Give something extra in this relationship. And do it out of your heart.

You say, “I don’t have it in my heart.” I know. I don’t always either.

That’s why we need the Holy Spirit. That’s why we need grace. That’s why we need to be saved people, changed by the gospel to be truly kind.

We need to be kind, to do extra, to do it from the heart.

And number 6. To not stop.

#6. DON’T STOP.

I’m glad that Jesus doesn’t stop being kind with me!

We’re going to be tempted to give up on our kindness.

How long do we have to be kind to that person?

“Love IS patient, love IS kind.” It doesn’t have expiry date on it.

Here’s where Jesus’ Golden Rule of Thumb comes in again.

How kind would you want that person to be for you?

Don’t stop. Keep on kindling kindness.

Become a King or Queen of Kindness.

We have a Queen among us today in Amber Lockwood. A Homecoming Queen.

I want us to be a church full of Kings and Queens of Kindness.

I think of Nicholas and Nancy Black, the kind folks in Glenside, Pennsylvania that put me up for 2 weeks while I was taking my doctoral classes at CCEF.

They fed me (up to 3 meals a day), gave me a place to stay, gracious conversation, took an interest me. Asking nothing in return. King and Queen of Kindness.

I think of my classmate who purchased lectures and outlines for me even though I had done nothing to earn them. A Queen of Kindness.

I’ll bet you have a King or a Queen of Kindness in your life that you can point to. And want to become like.

In your marriage.
In your parenting.
In your relationship with your parents.
With your brothers and sisters.
With your fellow church members.
With your neighbors.
With your co-workers.
With your teammates.

With your enemies.

Kindness is powerful!

Patience was powerful. Think about how it combines and work with kindness.

Patience AND kindness. That’s dynamite!

And it reflects the Lord of Lords and the King of the Kings of Kindness.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Flowers of Kindness

"You can no more have love without kindness than you can have springtime without flowers."

-W. Graham Scroggie quoted in Leading with Love by A. Strauch, pg.44

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Matt's Messages "Love Is Patient"

“Love Is Patient”
Learning to Love
September 14, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:4a

Last week, we began a series that we’re calling “Learning to Love.” And we saw that our lesson plans call for us to learn to walk in love, to learn to live a life of love. Our textbook for this is 1 Corinthians 13. We’re going to read it every Sunday between now and Christmas. And our Teacher is going to be God Himself. Jesus Christ. I’m just a teaching assistant for this class, as I am no expert in love. But Jesus is, and He’s going to lead us into learning to love.

Last week, I assigned some memory work. Can anyone, without looking at their Bible or their bulletins tell us what we were going to memorize for today?

“Love is Patient”

Very good. That’s what we want to think about this morning. “Love is patient.”

Doesn’t it feel good...when someone is patient with you?

This last week, as I meditated on this little phrase, “Love is Patient,” I was struck by the number of people who have been patient with me over the years.

My wife being #1.

My mom being #1 before her! My dad, too.

My kids.

And you guys. Especially our staff and Leadership Board–who work closely with me in leading the church.

I know that I am not always the easiest to get along with.

But you folks, and many others, have been patient with me.

And it’s an awesome thing to think about.

How good it feels for someone to be patient with you.

It feels like...love. Right?

Love is patient.

Like we said last week, 1 Corinthians 13 is not a definition of love. Rather, it is a description of love in action.

What does love look like when it is doing its thing?

The first thing on the list is patience.

When love is present, so will be patience.

“Love is patient.”

Now, what is patience?

Patience is one of those things that is hard to define.

We all know it when we see it, but it’s not so easy to put into words, is it?

We know that patience involves a lot of waiting, don’t we?

I’m always telling my kids to “be patient, please.”

And what I mean is, “Wait.”

But not all waiting is patient, is it?

There is patiently waiting and there is impatiently waiting, isn’t there?

Which one do you do when you’ve gotten behind a “Sunday-driver” on a Monday morning on your way to work?

Patience involves waiting, but it’s more than just simply waiting.

It’s waiting with a good attitude, isn’t it?

When I asked my wife yesterday how she defined patience, Heather said, “Contentment while looking for something to change.”

I think that’s really good.

Patience is contentment while looking for something to change.

Now, that something you’re looking for change in might be a red light into a green.

Or it might be someone who has offended you deeply, and you’re looking for them to apologize and change their ways.

Either way, it’s a contentment in the meantime. That’s patience.

You know, this world requires a lot of patience. It’s a fallen world. It’s a curse-bearing world where things don’t work right.

Machines fall apart.
Lines form where they needent.
Rain comes on the day of the picnic.

The fallenness of the world requires patience from believers.

But even more so do relationships.

Because our world is not just broken, people are broken in our world.

We are not as we should be.
We sin against each other.

In every one of our relationships, sin is present.

And because of that, patience will be required.

When you and I enter any relationship with another person, we are relating to a sinner–and they are, too!

And that means that they will disappoint us. They will offend us. They will rub us the wrong way. They will hurt us. They will injure us.

In short, they will sin against us.

And we will be forced with a choice. What does love do when sinned against?

The Bible says, “Love is patient.”

This is especially obvious in the King James translation of 1 Corinthians 13. Can somebody read that for us?

“Charity [that’s an old word for love] suffereth long.”

In other words, “Love is long-suffering.”

That word says, it all, doesn’t it?

It means that there is some suffering bound up in patience, and it doesn’t always go away quickly! “Long suffering.”

Our English word, “Patient” comes from the Latin “pati” to suffer.

The dictionary defines patience as “that calm and unruffled temper with which the good man bears the evils of life, whether they proceed from persons or things” [Unger’s Bible Dictionary, pg. 966].

One writer has defined patience as the “endurance of injuries without retaliation” [D.A. Carson, Showing the Spirit, pg.62].

And we love it, when someone exhibits patience with us.

But it’s not always easy to do for others, is it?

How many here are very patient?

You would describe yourself as “very patient.” This is something you’re good at.

I don’t like to think about myself as being impatient, but if I’m not a patient guy, what does that mean I am?

I guess that’s why we are studying this, isn’t it?

We’re learning to love.

We’re not there yet. We’re not patient like we should be.

So, how do we get there?

How do we grow in patience?

Well, it doesn’t really work to just say, “Be patient!” Does it?

That isn’t good enough, is it?

If I just got up this morning and said to you, “Be patient,” you wouldn’t necessarily change at all this week, would you?

It’s not just something that we can work up on our own.

We can do better. We can concentrate on it some and do better, at least for a time.

But that’s not how genuine change comes, is it?

Remember this Spring when we studied the Holy Spirit? Remember the fruit of the Spirit? What was that?

“Love, joy, peace...patience.” Same Greek word as here, “makrothumia.”

True patience is something that the Spirit has to produce in us.

Of course, we have a part in that, too, don’t we?

Let me give you a list of 5 principles for developing loving patience.

These are not the only things that could be said, but I think they are biblical and helpful.

And they are in a logical order, but I’m not saying that they are “steps to patience” as in, do this, do this, do this, like a recipe and then {bam!}, you’re suddenly patient.

5 Principles:

#1. REMEMBER HOW PATIENT GOD HAS BEEN WITH YOU.

Remember Who our Teacher is in the School of Love!

God is patient.

And He’s been patient with you and me.

Hasn’t He?

Think about all of the times you have sinned against God.

Think about what kind of a disappointment you and I have been to the Lord.

And how has He responded? Longsuffering. Patience.

The apostle Peter says, “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.”

God is patient. And He’s been patient with me.

I’m supposed to imitate Him. I’m supposed to copy.

I love others patiently, because He first loved me patiently.

At our house we sing this song:

Be patient, be patient
Don’t Be in Such a Hurry
When you get impatient
you only start to worry

Remember, remember that God is patient too
Think of all the times when others have to wait on you! [by Agapeland]

That’s no small thing!

God has been patient with me.

I know it because of the Cross of Christ.

Jesus didn’t get fed up with me and abandon His choice of the Cross.

He loved me INSPITE of my sin and died for me.

He had contentment while looking for something to change.

And He even made that change happen!

Remember how patient God has been with you.

Rehearse it in your mind.

Replay the Gospel in your heart.

Get filled up with thankfulness and gratitude for His patience, and that will motivate your patience with others.

#2. TURN FROM YOUR IMPATIENCE.

Impatience doesn’t just happen. It wells up in the human heart and then it gets chosen.

Temptation to impatience happens all the time.

What are you choosing to do with it when it comes?

Let me put it this way.

My children have never made me impatient!

They never have.

They have provoked me to impatience.
They have tempted me to be impatient.
They have done things that have made we want to become impatient.

But they are not the cause of my impatience.

My children have never made me impatient!

But I have chosen it so many times with them. Regrettably.

When the temptation arises in my heart, I need to turn from it.

You know what I’m talking about. Don’t give in. Fight that urge.

Let’s get specific.

Let’s say it’s your husband’s job to take the trash out. And he hasn’t yet.

You have this feeling welling up inside of you.

You want to say, “Why haven’t you taken the trash out yet like you said you would? You lazy bum!”

What do you do in that moment?

We have to treat impatience like it is. As sin. And we have to say No, to it.

Remember Titus 2? “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age...”

We don’t have to be impatient.

Jesus died for our impatience.

Ever think about that? Jesus died for the sins of our impatience. He took our impatience on His own shoulders when He went to the Cross.

He paid for my impatience. And His death gives me the power to say No to impatience and yes to longsuffering.

I think that we, for some reason, don’t expect evil enough.

For some reason, we don’t expect things to go wrong, for things to not work.
We don’t expect others to sin against us. I don’t know why.

We are sinners living with sinners in a fallen world. We should expect sin and plan to be patient accordingly.

And we also, somehow, don’t expect the temptation to impatience to come up in us. But it will, so we have to get ready to deny it.

Does that make sense?

Turn from your impatience.

But that’s not good enough by itself, is it?

You have to have something you’re turning to, not just away from.

That’s #3. TRUST IN GOD’S PROMISES.

One of the reasons why we get impatient is that we mistakenly believe that if this change doesn’t happen NOW then some necessary blessing will never come to me.

If that woman doesn’t apologize NOW, then I’ll never be able to forgive her.
If that product doesn’t become available NOW, then I’ll never get the thing I need.
If that doctor doesn’t come through that door, then I’ll die before I should have.

We begin to believe that every hinges on that thing we’re waiting for.

But there are a thousand specific promises in the Bible that undercut those worries.

And if we lean on them, we can “rise above” our impatience.

Isn’t there something about “rising above” impatience in the moment?

When you realize, this thing isn’t really that big in the grand scheme of thing (which is what the promises of God really are!).

Isn’t that how we talk to ourselves to become patient?

This really isn’t that big in the grand scheme of things.

Even if that guy keeps doing it?
Even if that kid doesn’t stop?

This really isn’t that big in the grand scheme of things. And my God and Savior are in control.

Meditate on the promises of God, and you can rise above impatience.

I’m starting to get a little worried about my post-course assignments for my doctoral classes. They are due in mid-November, which seems a little way off, except that I haven’t got much done on them yet, and I have a vacation in the meantime, a visit from my in-laws, and we’re hoping to install a outdoor wood-furnace in our spare time in October.

All of a sudden, November seems really soon!

And I can get impatient with anyone who stands in the way of my getting my assignment done.

I have to remind myself that God has been patient with me, and then fight the urge when it comes, and trust in God’s promises.

Like for example, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

He’ll take care of my needs. I just have to be faithful.

And that’s #4. WALK IN PATIENT LOVE.

Just do it. Trust God and do it. Imitate Jesus. How patient He was! Copy that.

Walk it out. Actually practice patience.

It sounds dumb, but often, we forget to just do it. Be patient. Choose it in the moment.

Forebear. Endure. Suffer long.

Take the hit. Don’t retaliate. Absorb the pain. And smile anyway.

Walk in patience.

Love is patient. Be loving. Do it–not in your own power–but do it.

And #5. EXPECT THE REWARD OF PATIENCE.

Good things really do come to those who wait.

The Bible says that those who wait patiently will get great reward.

Proverbs 16:32 – “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.”

We don’t celebrate patience enough in our culture! We prize the warrior who goes out and grabs what they want. But the Bible says that it’s better to be a patient man who can control his temper. He will be rewarded.

Proverbs 14:29 – “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.”

And you know what happens to fools.

Jonathan Edwards, the great Pre-Revolutionary American preacher wrote a book on love called “Charity and Its Fruits.” And he says that long-suffering-ness is a mark of “greatness of soul.”

It marked Jesus as one of greatness of soul.

And it will mark us.

Patience leads to reward. Christlike character.

And so much more, too!

When you are patient, it causes others to think about being patient. It changes the dynamic.

Often, patience diffuses a conflict.

Patience leads to reward. Expect it.

Now, hear this. It says, “Love is patient.” But it doesn’t say, “Love is passive.”

There is a big difference between being patient and being passive.

It might look the same from time to time, but one is loving and the other isn’t.

You might be in a situation that calls for action, and now you this saying that you need to be patient.

But patient doesn’t necessarily mean not active.

It means contentment while looking for something to change.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t take action when appropriate. And measuring that out requires wisdom that we need to ask God for and seek counsel on.

You might be saying, “How long should I be patient?”

And I think one answer for that is Jesus’ Golden Rule of Thumb.

How patient do we wish someone else would be with us?

How patient has God been with you?

Again, that doesn’t mean that we don’t act, it just means that even as we act, we do it out of love for the other person and out of wisdom, not out of impatience and self-seeking.

Patient, but not Passive.

Now, as we close, I want you to ask yourself how you are going to apply this truth to your life this week.

Get interactive with this.

How does this affect your marriage, if you are married?

It’s easy to say, “I wish my spouse would be more patient!”

But are we saying to ourselves, “How can I be more patient with my spouse?”

Apply this your family.

Parents, how can you be more patient with your kids?

Remember God’s patience.
Turn.
Trust.
Walk.
Expect the reward.

Kids, in what ways do you need to grow in your patience with your parents? With your brothers? With your sisters?

Don’t apply this to someone else. Apply it to yourself.

Singles. How does this affect your relationship with your roommate, your housemate?

Your co-workers? Your boss?

Love is patient.

Are you?

Would patience be a helpful virtue for businessmen to develop?

We sometimes think of business people as action-oriented, and we should.

But patience isn’t passive. It’s just content.

If run a business or oversee employees or are a salesmen, how will work patience into your plan for this week?

How about at church. Do we need to be patient with each other? Do you need it on your sports team? In your neighborhood? At school?

I’d love to hear about 30 different conversations about how “love is patient” has changed your life this week. Let’s hear some testimonies next week about what God is doing in us.

And, here’s your assignment for next week.

Take it one step further. Add “Love is kind.”

“Love is patient. Love is kind.” Can you remember that? Repeat it in your mind and ponder it in your heart.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mike on Ike

Mike Bullmore on natural disasters (like Ike).



Our family of churches, the EFCA, has a Hurricane Relief Fund that we can give to to help folks who are affected by Gustav and Ike and their dangerous family.

Keep praying for those in the path and wake of these hurricanes!

[HT: Andy Naselli]

Charity and Its Fruits

Jonathan Edwards is helping me get my sermons done this Fall.

My series, "Learning to Love," is a study of 1 Corinthians 13, and my main discussion partner over the text and its application is Edwards' Charity and Its Fruits.

It used to be that I couldn't read Edwards because of his ponderous style, but I guess I've gotten better at reading harder texts--and I'm thankful for it.

Tomorrow's message on "Love is Patient" echoes Edward's chapter "Charity Disposes Us Meekly to Bear the Injuries Received from Others."

Patience is not easy. But it is deliciously sweet fruit.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Ledfords and The Bushes

The President of the United States got to meet some special people this week.

Dan Ledford writes about the Ledford's amazing experience on Friday:




"Still can't believe it happened! We are also going to have the photo sent to us that was taken by the White House Photo Office. I'll post it when we get it."


"The sermon introduction:

Our girls are learning about the Civil War at the beginning of this school year, and so we made a field trip down to Gettysburg this past Friday. One of our stops was at the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

As we walked around the cemetery we saw some security personnel show up and asked what was going on. They said, “We were told a VIP might be showing up, but we’re not sure.” We walked around some more and then saw a full motorcade pull up to the Gettysburg Address memorial. It was the President of the United States.

The Secret Service invited us over and – standing at the spot where Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, We met the President and First Lady. We got our picture taken with George & Laura Bush. And then the President stood and talked with us for a few minutes.

He told us how much he has valued the prayers of the people. He talked to us about how – he didn’t do it when he was younger but – he has read the Bible every day in the Oval Office. And I told him that I was a Presbyterian pastor and with a huge smile on his face he said, “Thank you for preaching God’s Word.”

What an incredible experience. We left trembling, in shock at what had just happened. The President gave Abbi, Rachel and Noelle official Presidential Pins. Noelle was trying to put hers on, and dropped it. The President of the United States kneeled down and picked it up, and pinned it on her shirt.

Wow! I’m still trembling as I tell you about this.

Over the past 36 hours since then, replaying it in our minds and talking about it, I realized that I want to have more times when being with the Lord leaves me trembling like that.

This morning we conclude a look at the 11 attributes of God given in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which asks, “What is God? God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” Charles Hodge described this as “probably the best definition of God ever penned by man.”

It is our goal that in looking at these attributes that we would know God – that he would draw us even closer to himself. Exodus 34:6-7 is the Scripture cited by the catechism for the last 3 attributes of God. So we will look at all 3 together in that passage. May we draw near to God, so much so that it may leave us trembling."

[Read Dan's whole sermon here.]

Matt's Messages "The School of Love"

“The School of Love”
Learning to Love
September 7, 2008
Ephesians 5:1-2

“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.” (NIV)

This is the first Sunday of our Fall Sermon Series entitled (as you can see on the back of your bulletin and up here on the chalkboard): “Learning to Love.”

And today’s message to go along with our Back 2 School theme is titled, “The School of Love.”

Class, welcome to the School of Love!

Let’s read Ephesians chapter 5, verses 1 and 2.

“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.”

Here’s the “lesson plan” for the school of love. Look at verse 2.

“Live a life of love.”

That’s a direct command of God through the apostle Paul to you and me.

Class, we are called to “Live a life of love.”

The King James Version is more literal here than the NIV.

It says that we need to “walk in love.”

To walk out our lives, one step at a time, in such a way that we are characterized by love.

“To walk in love” is the subject matter of the school that we are now entering for this Fall.

As a whole church, every Sunday, week in and week out, we are going to be talking about love–learning to love.

You see, as the song says, “Love Don’t Come Easy.”

Living a life of love is not natural for people like you and me.

It’s something that we have to learn. It’s often a hard thing to love.

Right?

Wives? Am I right?
Husbands? Am I right?
Kids? Am I right?

It’s often difficult, a hard thing, to walk in love.

Our culture talks about “love” all the time, but our society doesn’t really know what love is.

The songs on the radio make it sound like love is something that comes and goes and hits you like a ton of bricks or a Mack truck and then might just drive away for good leaving you wondering what hit you.

Well, maybe sometimes romantic love can be like that. But Ephesians 5 isn’t just talking about romantic love. It’s talking about living a life of love in all of your relationships–walking in love.

How many of us here are scoring A+’s in this subject matter?

Anyone want to claim that they are an honor-roll student in the School of Love? Qualified to teach the class as an expert?

I can’t say that I am, much as I hope that my grades are improving!

Learning to Love.

I see this sermon series as a way of working on all of our relationships. All of them.

How we relate (as Christian people) to others.

Learning to Love.

Remember, Jesus said that the 2nd greatest commandment is to love others–to love your neighbor as yourself? This command is all over the Bible–and we don’t yet have it licked.

So, this Fall, we’re going to go to school on it.

Learning to Live a Life of Love – in ALL of our relationships.

This will help our marriages. If you are married, make plans now to come to church every Sunday from here to Christmas, and we’ll improve your marriage as you both apply what you learn from these messages.

But it’s not just for marriages. This is true for all of our relationships.

This is going to help our singles.

This is going to help our families. Parent and child relationships. Mom and Son. Dad and daughter. Sibling relationships. Brothers and sisters.

Relationships on the job. Co-workers, bosses and employees. Vendors and Contractors.

Neighborhood relationships. Next door neighbors. Over the fence neighbors.

Church relationships. How we relate to each other here. How leaders need to lead and how the church needs to treat one another.

Relationships with lost people and with enemies.

School relationships. Teachers and students. Faculty and administration. Everybody.

This teaching will help us with all of our relationships if we put it into practice.

Because! This is what we are called to. To live a life of love. To walk in love.

That’s the lesson plan for the School of Love–all Fall into the Winter.

Learning to Love.

Sound good?

Now, what is love? And how will we learn it?

Our textbook for this School of Love is going to be 1 Corinthians chapter 13.

1 Corinthians 13 is the watershed passage in the Bible on the subject of love.

It’s not so much a definition of love, as a description of love in action.

Because love is not so much a noun as much as it’s a verb.

Listen to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. It should be familiar to you. And I promise you it WILL BE familiar to you by Christmas!

“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.”

That’s our textbook! Sound good?

Is that something your family could use? I know that mine can.

Is that something your marriage could use?

Is that something that your various relationships could use?

I know it is. And we’re going to grow in it together this Fall.

This will be one of the most practical sermon series you’ve ever been a part of.

Learning to Love. It won’t be easy! But it will be good.

How many have here 1 Corinthians 13 memorized?

Let’s memorize it together in the NIV this Fall. We’ll read it every Sunday, and we’ll work a phrase at a time, adding a phrase upon a phrase until we’ve all got it committed to memory. Would you do that with me?

We’ll start next week with “Love is patient.”

Okay. So, our lesson plan is to learn to love, to live a life of love, to walk in love.
And our textbook is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Now, who do you think is going to be our teacher?

Let me give you a hint, it won’t be me. I’m just a “teaching assistant” for this class.

Who do you think is going to be our teacher in the School of Love?

It will be God Himself. Back to Ephesians 5:1&2.

“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.”

God Himself, especially God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ IS our teacher in the School of Love.

That’s what he means when he says (v.1), “Be imitators of God.”

The Greek word there is “mimatai.” We get the word “mimeograph” from that.

He’s telling us to “copy God.” Copy God.

God is the ultimate in loving. The Bible says that God is so loving you could sum it up by saying, “God is love!”

And we are called to imitate Him. To copy His love.

What kind of copying? Are we supposed to look over His shoulder and right down His answers on the test?

No. This kind of copying is bearing the family resemblance. Look again at verse 1.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children...”

You see, it’s amazing to think, but we are (by faith in Christ Jesus) “God’s kids” and we’re supposed to grow up to be like our Heavenly Dad.

We’re supposed to take on the family resemblance?

Whenever I take my boys out in public, someone inevitably says, “Well, we don’t have to wonder where those boys came from!” They look like me.

Pastor Eric Tober says that they are 3 little clones of me.

And I look like my Dad. I think that might mean something unfortunate for the hair on those 3 boys!

They are growing to look like their father.

Children learn to do what they see their Father doing.

And we are supposed to, as well.

He is loving. And we are to live a life of love, too.

Does that make sense?

We’re going to talk about that every week for the next 12 weeks.

“Love is patient.”

How can you and I learn patience? Well, we start by seeing it in our Heavenly Dad.

He has been patient with us. We can learn to be patient with others.

As dearly loved children.

But more than that! As those who have had the ultimate loving sacrifice poured out for us. Look again at verse 2.

“[L]ive a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

This is the ultimate in love!

Jesus has shown us the ultimate in love!

Think about those words. “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us...”

“Christ loved us and gave himself up for us...”

That’s what Jesus was doing on the Cross. He was loving us.

He was showing us what love truly is.

Jesus was the embodiment of 1 Corinthians 13.

He was the embodiment of love.

“Christ loved us and gave himself up for us...”

We see that love is sacrificial. It is costly.

That’s one of the reasons why love doesn’t come naturally for us.

Naturally, we want to preserve ourselves and don’t want to sacrifice for others.

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this, while we were still sinners–still His enemies–still rebels against Him, Christ died for us.

“Christ loved us and gave himself up for us...”

As what?

“As a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

This is drawing from Old Testament imagery. In the Old Testament, there were various burnt offering sacrifices that were required of the Israelite people.

And when they were conducted in faith and obedience, the Bible pictures the aroma of the burning sacrifice, rising up into the nostrils of God and pleasing Him.

God was pleased with their sacrifice. Pleased with their obedience. Pleased with the substitute that stood in place of their sins. And pleased, then, ultimately with them.

Paul is saying that Jesus’ sacrifice was like those.

It smelled good to God.

God was pleased with Jesus’ choice to die in our place.
Pleased with His obedience.
Pleased with His substitution, taking our penalty, our death, our place.
And because He was pleased with Him, He is pleased with us.

Friends, that’s what we call “the Gospel.” The “evangel” that’s our middle name.

It’s the Good News that Jesus Christ has died in our place and (praise Him!) come back to life to give us life and to empower us to live for Him—lives of love.

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

I want to invite and challenge everyone here to believe in Him and put their trust in what He did on the Cross for them.

“Christ loved [you] and gave himself up for [you] as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

If you belong to Him, then you smell good to God!

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

The song says–"Jesus Loves Me, This I Know
For the Bible (Ephesians 5:2) Tells Me So"

Yes, Jesus Loves Me
Yes, Jesus Loves Me
Yes, Jesus Loves Me
The Bible Tells Me So

Does that make sense?

Because He loves me, I can learn to love others.

I think of our friends Paul and Shelley who were here visiting last month. They minister in Pakistan, a place that is generally not friendly to Americans–and not especially friendly to the gospel.

Paul and Shelley have had things stolen from them–by close friends.

Paul shared last month that they had a significant amount of money stolen from them by a co-worker and then he torched the place to hide his theft.

I’m afraid, that if it were me, I would shake the dust of my sandals off and walk away from the Pakistanis.

But not Paul and Shelley. They know God’s love. They know that God has loved them in Jesus Christ and His sweet-smelling sacrifice.

And they turn around and love the Pakistanis for Him.

Yes, Jesus Loves Me
The Bible Tells Me So

Do you have someone in your life right now that is hard to love?

I’ll bet you do. God allows them into our lives to sanctify us!

The Bible says that we love because He first loved us.

Because He loves me, I can learn to love that difficult person.

Yes, Jesus Loves Me
The Bible Tells Me So

And because He loves me, I can learn to love others.

He’s the Teacher, I am the Pupil.
He is God, and I am called to imitate Him.
God is my Father, and I am called to bear His likeness.

Let’s dedicate ourselves this Fall to knowing His love and becoming loving people in all of our relationships.

Living a life of Love.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sin and Suffering

The most surprising aspect of my CCEF classes should have been the least.

I was surprised by the depth and breadth of sin and suffering in the world.

In these classes, we learned about marriage problems, addictions, depression, bi-polar mania, chronic pain, anger, sexual victimization, bulimia, anorexia, and so on for almost 80 hours of classroom experience.

It was overwhelming at times--the sheer weight of the suffering experienced by sinners.

Yes, the Gospel speaks to these suffering sinners.

God has something truly transformative and life-changing to say to us in Jesus.

But still, my eyes were opened again to the effects of the Curse.

Marantha! Come, Lord Jesus.

Biblical Counseling and Physiology -- The Question of Medication

David Powlison offers some helpful clarifications on the Biblical Counseling perspective on psychoactive medications.

This is the kind of thing I am learning through my CCEF Classes. This is not the only thing that can or should be said, but I do think it is insightful.

Very interesting, thought provoking, and, I think, helpful.

[HT: JT]

The End of Acts and the Beginning of Romans

Byron Harvey has just finished the biggest preaching project he's ever undertaken--the Book of Acts.

And now, he's turned the page and is taking on the greatest epistle ever written--the book of Romans.

Looking forward to his exposition and applications.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

CCEF Class Update - Post Course Assignment Time

In case you thought it was all over, you need to know that it's only half way there.

For all four of my CCEF classes, I have a post-course assignment that is bigger than the pre-course assignment was, and due in a shorter amount of time (mid-November).

So, I'm still a man standing in the need of prayer, and I appreciate every one.

Vote for Jesus

You don't hear about politics here at Hot Orthodoxy.

It's not because I don't have opinions (boy, I've got 'em!), but because I'm mainly a Christian pastor who is trying to point people towards Jesus in a spiritually hot and doctrinally orthodox way.

Of course, what we believe about Jesus affects what we believe about politics! He is Lord, after all! But I'm not sure that my many ruminations about these things are maturated enough to blogcast to the world. If I have something wise like that to share someday, I will.

But I do think these posts by my friend and fellow EFCA pastor, Marty Schoenleber -- the Chosen Rebel, are worthy of consideration as we march towards the next election. Marty is running a new blog called Vote for Jesus which includes penetrating thoughts from the book of Proverbs and neat stories about elections.

Check it out.

The Congregation United in Song

John Piper on the importance of corporate singing.

I agree wholeheartedly. I have heard him say this part before:
Thirteen years ago we asked: What should be the defining sound of corporate worship at Bethlehem, besides the voice of biblical preaching?

We meant: Should it be pipe organ, piano, guitar, drums, choir, worship team, orchestra, etc. The answer we gave was “The people of Bethlehem singing.”

That has been so helpful to me as we've navigated the worship-style-waters here at Lanse Free Church.

What's important? That the congregation unites in song.

Read the whole thing.

The Beauty of Living and Dying

Kendra Petras, church-re-planting pastor's wife of Mark, recounts the moving story of Mark's mother's home-going at about the same time she got to see her son Nathan come into the world.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Kingdom Families

The most recent 9marks E-journal is devoted to developing Kingdom Families.

I profited from reading all of it.

I especially was blessed by the bullet-point list of do's and don'ts for parenting by Matt & Elizabeth Schmucker.