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Friday, October 31, 2008

Piper on the Election

John Piper is one of my pastors.

I don't don't go to his church, and he doesn't know me, but what he writes and says, often goes right to my heart.

Today, I watched the following 7 minute video about his thoughts coming into the election on Tuesday. He said things that I've been thinking and feeling, but he also (as usual) said just the things I needed to hear (and no, he doesn't tell us who to vote for). I appreciate his ministry:

"He Is Praying for Me"

“If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”

—Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, ed Andrew Bonar (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth: 1960), 179

[HT: Of First Importance]

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ken Sande on Rising Conflict in a Falling Economy

Ken Sande writes:

"The economy is crumbling. Investments are withering. Fear is mounting. But you don't have to sit there feeling helpless—there is something you can do to turn our country's financial crisis into a life-changing investment opportunity."

Read all about it: Rising Conflict in a Falling Economy

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Matt's Messages "Love Is Not Proud"

“Love Is Not Proud”
Learning to Love
October 26, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:4

How are we doing at learning to love?

This is our sixth message in this Fall’s sermon series–learning to love has been our subject. 1 Corinthians 13 has been our textbook. And God Himself has been our teacher.

How are we doing at learning to love? In all of our relationships.

Let’s say our memory verse together.

“Love is...patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

How are we doing at learning patience?

Patience is contentment while looking for something to change.

How are we doing at learning to be patient with others?

How are we doing at learning to be kind?

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

How are we doing at being kind in our relationships?

How are we doing at NOT envying?

Envy is being unhappy with someone else having something good.

How are we doing at NOT envying? Is envy getting in the way of our relationships?

And how are we doing at NOT boasting?

We learned last week that boasting is praising yourself for some good that you think you have. It’s “a mouthful of pride.”

How are we doing at NOT boasting?

That’s what love looks like when it does its thing.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, [and today] it is not proud.”

If you are like me, you’re probably struggling a bit with this sermon series.

It sounded good going in. “Oh, good something on love. That sounds nice.”

But it turns out to be hard. It turns out to be about developing patience and kindness and rooting out envy and boasting–which seem to be much more deep and difficult things to change about myself than I might have expected.

It turns out that I don’t naturally love. I like being loved, but I don’t naturally love others in this 1 Corinthians 13 kind of way.

And today, we find out why. It’s because of a heart attitude that IS natural to us, as sinners, that gets in the way of biblical love.

It’s the heart attitude called pride.

If you haven’t already, I invite you to open your Bibles with me to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians chapter 13, verse 4. 1 Corinthians 13, verse 4. Pew Bible Page #1137.

Verse 4 ends with these words speaking of love: “it is not proud.”

Paul says, “Love is not proud.”

Paul means that someone who is loving will not be prideful.

Notice that Paul is still being negative here.

The first two were positive: patience and kindness. Love IS patient. Love IS kind.

But then he went negative. Love DOES NOT envy. DOES NOT boast. And now, love IS NOT proud.

That’s a categorical statement.

Love does not exist where pride does.

Pride drives out love.

Pride and love are mutually exclusive.

Love is not proud. Period.

Pride is the opposite of love, and where it thrives, it kills love. Pride is a love killer.

And, so, if we’re really going to learn to love, we’ve got to kill our pride.

What is pride?

Let me give you the simplest definition that I could come up with:

Pride is believing that you are greater than you really are.

Pride is believing that I am greater than I really am.

It’s a heart attitude. It’s a belief.

It’s a perspective. It’s a considering of myself, my person to be better, greater, more important, more impressive, more...just about anything than I really truly am.

Pride is believing that I am greater than I really am.

The Greek word here in 1 Corinthians 13:4 is “phusioutai” and it literally means to be arrogant or puffed up. I think the King James version translates it like that.

I like the word picture in the King James – “puffed up.”

An inflated sense of greatness.

The Corinthians struggled greatly with pride. Paul has had to use this word to describe them 5 times already in this letter.

They were an arrogant, puffed-up bunch.

Full of hot-air and full of themselves.

And Paul has had to take them to task for their pridefulness.

Now he tells them in chapter 13 that they must put away their pride or they won’t be the loving church that God calls them to be.

He says, “[Love] is not proud.”

What’s wrong with being proud?

When you are you proud, you are so full of yourself that you can’t be full of God and can’t have a heart full of others.

Pride stands in the way of loving.

And we all struggle with it.

Think about it. When you are having a difficult time loving someone else–let’s say your spouse, or your child, or your co-worker, or your parent, or your neighbor–when you are having a difficult time loving someone else, what is the probably the number one reason for it?

Most of the time, if we are honest, it’s something to do with ourselves. Isn’t it?

It has to do with that middle letter in the English word pride. Pr-I-de. The three most important people to me: Me, myself, and I. It’s about me. It’s about how I feel. What I want. What I think I need. How that person makes me feel. What I think I deserve.

And when we’re thinking those things, we don’t see ourselves as arrogant.

We’re blind to it. But we’re in trouble with that blindness, because it’s leading us down the wrong path.

Others can see it. We are excellent at sniffing out pride in someone else, but we have a hard time seeing it in ourselves.

I read a quote this week, “Pride is the only disease that makes everyone sick but the one who has it.”

When we have an inflated view of ourselves, we don’t see God rightly and we don’t see others hardly at all.

And then it creates a host of other problems. Pride is a root sin that breeds all kind of other sins.

Last week we saw an obvious one–boasting. That’s a mouthful of pride. It’s broadcasting our pride.

But the week before that we saw that envying comes pride, as well. Envy says, “That good thing that they have, I deserve it. I may not have it, but I am worth it. I need it. I deserve (at least more than they do) to have it.”

That’s pride, too.

Pride is an insidious enemy that still lurks within the hearts of redeemed Christians.

And it must be rooted out.

And here’s the biggest reason why: 1 Peter 5:5.

“God opposes...what?...the proud.”

God opposes the proud.

Whoa.

How many here want to invite the active opposition of God Almighty?

I sure don’t.

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

And that’s the answer–we have to cultivate humility in our hearts.

We have to root out pride and cultivate humility in our hearts–or else we will not love and we will experience the active opposition of God.

WE NEED TO HUMBLE OURSELVES.

Now, how do we do that?

How do we poke a hole in the inflated balloon inside our hearts?

Humility is not self-hate.

Pride is a kind of self-love, but humility is not a kind of self-hating, self-loathing.

We don’t become humble by humiliating ourselves.

We become humble by having our hearts filled with the glory of God.

We do it by seeing ourselves in the proper perspective.

Humility is not saying, “Oh, I hate myself!” That’s just another kind of pride and vain conceit.

Humility isn’t a false kind of modesty that puts oneself down all the time.

Humility is not a focus on oneself at all! It’s a focus on God and then on others.

Phillip Brooks, the author of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” said this:

“The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is.” [Quoted in Burning Out for God, E. Skoglund, p. 11]

In other words, the antidote to believing you are greater than you are is to see the greatness of God.

That’s how humility is born.

WE NEED TO FOCUS ON THE GREATNESS OF GOD.

Our pride will deflate when we see and savor how awesome our God truly is.

John Piper has often said that people don’t go to the Grand Canyon to increase their self esteem.

When we compare ourselves to God as He really is, we don’t put ourselves down, but we realize how small we really are.

God is the Creator.

Remember Isaiah 40?

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? [Everything fits right here for God.] Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?”

“Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? [Nobody.]
Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? [Nobody.] Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding? [Yeah, right!]”

“Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.”

“Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires, nor its animals enough for burnt offerings. Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing.” He is so holy that you could burn down a forest and not have enough wood to make the sacrifices He is worth!

“...He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. [Whether they are named Obama or McCain!] No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

"To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

That’s Who God is.

Who are we compared to Him?

But it’s more than that, isn’t it?

He isn’t just great, He’s loving. And He’s stunning in His graciousness.

God isn’t just the Holy One standing over everything, saying, “I’m so great!”

He is so great that He sent His One and Only Son to live and to die for us.

He didn’t do that because we were so great.

It shouldn’t make us prideful that Jesus died for us.

It should humble us to understand what a sacrifice God made for us.

And then, we should be like Him. We should be humble.

Jesus was not proud. He was not arrogant.

He was a servant.

Remember what He said?

When James and John wanted to sit at his right and left hand?

He said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. [They are puffed up.] Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

He showed His true greatness by humbling Himself and putting others first.

Giving His life as a ransom for mine and yours.

When our hearts are full of that truth, we won’t be full of ourselves.

And we can get busy in love.

Have you trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Your Rescuer and King?

Have you trusted in His ransom-payment of His life to forgive your sins?

If you have not yet, I invite you today to place your trust in Him and what He did on the Cross. It was the ultimate in humility–and it’s the answer for our pride.

WE NEED TO FOCUS ON THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.

In view of the greatness of God and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we need to root out our pride and cultivate humility.

Now, at this point in the message, I was going to give you a list of 17 ways to cultivate humility that I got from this excellent little book by C.J. Mahaney, that I’ve talked about before–Humility: True Greatness.

But I’m going to leave that for another time. You can borrow the book if you want.

We need to cultivate humility and kill our pride.

But instead of giving you 17 good points, I want to just give you one thing to think about and apply this week.

And it’s this: WE NEED TO LEARN TO SAY THAT WE’RE SORRY.

There’s lot of ways that pride comes into relationships and messes people up.

But here’s one I want to focus on.

Pride keeps us from apologizing when we’ve done something wrong.

And we need to humble ourselves and say that we’re sorry.

Remember the Fonz from Happy Days?

I loved Fonzy on Happy Days when I was a kid.

The Fonz was the definition of cool.

And he knew it, right? He was proud.

What was it he couldn’t say? “I sssssssss....”

I was, “Wrrrrrrr....”

He couldn’t humble himself and ask for forgiveness.

What difference would it make in our relationships if we learned to say, I’m sorry?

Love is not proud.

What would it do to your marriage if you said, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.”

What would it do to your parenting? It can be really hard to apologize to your kids, can’t it?

What’s it like at work? If you apologize, it might be seen as showing weakness.

“I’m sorry.”

In the last month, I messed up at meeting, and I needed to apologize to a specific person and a group of people who were at the meeting.

And I actually felt that I needed to write a letter to everyone who had been at the meeting to communicate my apology.

That wasn’t easy to do.

I had to swallow my pride, deflate the balloon and put it in black ink.

How about you?

Is there someone that you need to humble yourself before and ask for their forgiveness?

Kids? It’s not good enough to say, “I’m sorry!” You don’t really mean that, do you?

We need to humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness.

I have someone right now that I need to ask their forgiveness, and it’s been 3 months since the offense.

I forget about it, until I see it on a note that I’ve written to myself on my to-do list.

I’ve called before and haven’t gotten through. This person lives a little distance away and I don’t see them very often.

But if my pride wasn’t in the way, I would have gotten done by now.

If my heart is full of God’s greatness and glory and my heart is full of thanksgiving for the Cross of Christ, I can humble myself and say, “I’m sorry.”

Husbands?
Wives?
Kids?
Church folk? Is there someone here that you have sinned against and you need to make it right?

With your neighbor?

With someone at school?

They probably sinned against you. Maybe even worse.

But that’s not what I’m talking about right now. I’m talking about you.

About love not being proud.

About humble yourself and asking for forgiveness.

Jesus humbled Himself and granted forgiveness.

We can humble ourselves and seek it from others.

Love is not proud.

What’s standing in your way? Don’t think of yourself as greater than you are.

You might have heard the saying, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

That’s absolutely false.

Love is learning to say you’re sorry.

Love is not proud.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

CCEF & Biblical Counseling

Want to know what I've been learning as I take my CCEF classes?

This month's 9Marks E-Journal is dedicated to doing just that!

These articles are by the faculty team at CCEF (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation).

Looking at the Past and Present of Counseling

An interview with David Powlison

Can biblical counseling draw from the Puritans? How are churches today doing at counseling? What is CCEF doing that's unique?


Cultivating a Culture of Counseling and Discipleship

An interview with Tim Lane

Tim Lane talks about counseling from the pulpit, the ideal church, recovery groups, promoting discipleship, and more.


Sorting Out the Spiritual and the Physical in Counseling

An interview with Michael Emlet

Former medical doctor and now CCEF instructor Michael Emlet discusses his own background and what pastors should make of the mind-body connection in their counseling.


Premarital Counseling, Pornography, and Marriage

An interview with Winston Smith

Today's buzzword for marriages is "compatibility." But counselors and couples need more wisdom than that, especially as pornography attacks marriage like never before.


What Should Pastors Do with Fear, Medication & Addiction

An interview with Ed Welch

Welch considers questions like, Should pastors give more thought to fear? Are psychiatric medications unbiblical? Should pastors keep their hands off the psychiatric issues?

And the motherload: an hour long audio interview with David Powlison!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Voting As If Not Voting

John Piper has keen insight and a Paul-like paradoxical way with words.

This week's column: Let Christians Vote As Though They Were Not Voting is a case in point. Clear, sharp, beautiful truth expressed in carefully chosen, helpful words.

Read it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Matt's Messages - Love Does Not Boast

“Love Does Not Boast”
Learning to Love
October 19, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:4

We’re learning to love.

Love is not just a warm-fuzzy feeling that we enjoy.
Love is not just a natural affection we have for someone else.
Love is not just a passing phase that we fall into and then out of.

Love is an act of the whole person, especially the will–to desire and choose what is best for someone else even at a personal cost.

Love is an active thing. It’s not just a descriptive adjective or a concrete noun.

It’s a verb. Love is a verb.

And we’ve been learning, with God as our teacher and 1 Corinthians 13 as our textbook, to do this thing called love.

We’ve been learning what it looks like when love does its thing.

Let’s quote our memory work together:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast...”

That’s what love is like. And it’s one of the most powerful forces on Planet Earth.

Last weekend, our family got to go up to Buffalo and see Niagra Falls.

It was our kids’ first time and Heather and my first time together.

Wow. There is power there! The rushing water going over those falls provide 4 million killowatts of electricity–enough energy to power 48 million 100 watt bulbs!

And they don’t harness a fraction of the power of the Niagra River!

But let me tell you this. Biblical love is even more powerful than Niagra!

Because Biblical love is powered by the Holy Spirit! It’s powered by the Creator of Niagra Falls!

When you see patience in action, you’re seeing God’s power.
When you see kindness in action, you’re seeing the power of God.
When you see contentment and happiness for someone else (that’s the opposite of envy), then you see a Niagra of power unleashed by the Holy Spirit.

We tend to think that when God’s power is evident, then it will show up in showy ways. The Klieg lights will come on! Boom!

But often, when God’s power is at work, it’s much more subtle, but much more effective.

For example, when you DON’T see...boasting.

“Love Does Not Boast”

1 Corinthians 13, verse 4 says, “Love Does Not Boast.”

I am proud to announce today that I believe that I have, this week, become the most humble person on Planet Earth!

I can’t even say it with a straight face!

No, I’m not.

In fact, even though I have a lot to be humble about, I struggle with pride.

And one of the ways that it comes out is in boasting.

We saw, last week, that pride (strangely enough) can lead to envy. Well, it can also lead, on the other side, to boasting.

What is boasting?

Boasting is praising yourself for some good that you think you have.

You might have something good or you might not, but you sure think you do. And you’re telling others. Boasting.

Remember last week that envying was being unhappy that someone else had something you thought was good.

Boasting is thinking that you have something good and then broadcasting it...with the emphasis being on yourself and your worthiness for this good thing.

I like to say that “Boasting is a mouthful of pride.”

When I’m boasting, I’m praising myself for some good that I think that I have.

Now, sometimes it’s blatant. Like my opening statement about my supposed humility.

But often it’s subtle.

Boasting (though it sounds like a loud word) doesn’t always come with loud words.

It is simply broadcasting your pride about yourself to others.

It’s making a show about yourself.

It’s making a relationship all about YOU. All about ME.

I knew that I shouldn’t have started this series on learning to love because I would begin to be convicted about my own heart and behavior.

This week, I was in a meeting that where, in the middle of the meeting, I suddenly became aware that I had made several remarks that showed that I thought the subject of this meeting was ME.

Now, I didn’t say, “Hey! This meeting is now about me!”

But because I’m growing in sensitivity to my own tendencies, I was able to see how I had turned the conversation back to me.

It was all about me, me, me.

Now, it’s possible that the other folks in this meeting may not have sensed that. I hope so. But it’s even more likely that they have seen it before I did and felt it.

Boasting.

Boasting is not patient.
Boasting is not kind.
Boasting may not be about envy (though it may), but it can provoke others to envy.

It’s the opposite of love.

And it’s ugly. Boasting is ugly.

We all feel that way when we come upon a braggart, don’t we?

Do you have any braggarts at your place of work?

You know, someone who can always top the last story with a story of their own and how they did this or that?

I read a story this week about a bragging woman who was visiting Washington D.C.

A sightseeing bus was making the rounds through Capitol, and the driver was pointing out spots of interest. As they passed the Pentagon building, he mentioned that it cost taxpayers millions of dollars and that it took a year and a half to build. While everyone was looking at it, a little old woman piped up: “In Peoria we could have built the same building for less, and it would have been completed even sooner than that!”

The next sight on the tour was the Justice Department building. Once again the bus driver said that it cost so many millions to build and took almost two years to complete.

The woman repeated: “In Peoria we would have done it for less money, and it would have been finished much sooner.”

The tour finally came to the Washington Monument, and the driver just passed slowly by without saying a word.

The old woman was curious. “Hey,” she shouted to the driver, “what’s that tall white building back there?”

The driver looked out the window, waited a minute and then said, “Search me, lady. It wasn’t there yesterday.”

We all get tired of boasting...when it’s other people that are doing it!

We know that they are not loving, so we are turned off by it.

Kids, can you think of other kids at your school or on your team that are known for their boasting?

If they are boasting about something they truly have, like athletic ability, then we can sometimes respect them for that thing that they possess, but the boasting still normally turns us off, doesn’t it?

Muhammad Ali said that it “ain’t bragging if you can back it up.” But I think it still is.

Boasting turns people away from each other.

We aren’t attracted to boasting. We’re repelled by it.

Think about what boasting does in a marriage.

If the husband or the wife or both of them consistently have a mouthful of pride, it drives a wedge in between them.

I know that I can run down my wife’s battery faster than a short-circuit by talking about myself and my thoughts and my accomplishments (however modest they really are) for 10 or 15 minutes.

It wears her down.

I’m not talking her down. I’m just talking myself up. But it wears her down.

Because it’s not love.

Love Does Not Boast.

Boasting kills churches.

Remember, Paul was writing this letter to a church that was proud of itself, even though it had very little to be proud of.

Corinth was a church that had spiritual gifts. Some of the members of this church had the showy spiritual gifts and some didn’t.

Those who didn’t were probably tempted to envy. (What we talked about last week.)
But those who did were tempted to boast.

So, Paul says, “Church, love does not boast.”

The Greek word here for “boast” in 1 Corinthians 13:4 appears only here in the Greek New Testament, and it’s the first occasion that we have it in all of Greek literature.

It’s possible that Paul even made up the word: “perpereuetai.”

It literally means to “behave as a braggart” or “be a windbag.” [Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, pg. 637]

And it’s the opposite of love.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait until after this election season is over so that we don’t have to listen to the parade of candidates continually telling us how awesome they are and what they are going to do once we elect them!

Boasting is not love.

So, why do we do it?

If we all recognize that boasting gets ugly when we see it other people, why would we get caught up in it? Especially as Christ-followers?

It’s because we’re proud people full of ourselves. And what we are full of comes out of our mouths.

Jesus said that out of the overflow of our hearts our mouths speak.

So the main way to bust our boasting is to do some heart-work.

We have to deal with our pride.

Now, we’re going to go further into pride next week, because [memorize this], “It is not proud.” That completes 1 Corinthians 13 verse 4.

But we have to talk about pride right now because it’s where boasting comes from.

In our hearts, we are proud when we fail to recognize who we are in comparison with Who God is.

We shove God out of our way and into a corner.

And we make much of ourselves.

And that’s what’s coming out of our hearts in a mouthful of pride.

What we need is humility.

Repentance and humility.

We need, we all need, a greater vision of the greatness and glory of God.

I don’t think that I’ve been talking enough about the glory of God the last few months.

I think we’re starved for the glory of God.

God is infinitely glorious.

God made the sunrise.

God made the power of Niagra Falls.

And God is holy.

God is righteous. He has never sinned.

Just like we sang this morning. Thank you for picking that song, Tom.

Only You are never sinning - Only You have never lied
Only You cannot be tempted - Only You can never die
Lord, there is none like You...

For You Are Holy!

That’s God. And we are nothing in comparison to Him.

But more than just being the Creator and the Holy One.

He’s also the Lover of Our Souls.

When we rebelled, He rescued!

When we stabbed Him in the back, He opened His arms and received us.

He gave His One and Only Son to die in our place to demonstrate the greatest love there ever was!

And He saves us without regard to our sins.
He saves us by grace through faith–a gift that we receive and do nothing to earn.

That’s Who God is. He is glorious! ....

And that should put us into perspective in our own eyes and our own hearts.

When we see Who God is, it gives us a proper understanding of who we are.

And it changes what comes out of our mouths.

Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Your King and your Rescuer?

He can save you from your sins, and He can fill you up with Himself.

He can change your heart. And that will change whom you boast in.

I invite you turn and trust in Him for the forgiveness of sins and the filling of your heart. ....

With that kind of a heart, let me give you three points of application this morning that will help us to bust boasting in our relationships.

#1. RECOGNIZE BOASTING IN THE MOMENT.

With the description we’ve just gone over, it should be easier to see it when we’re doing it. And when we do, we need to change course.

Ladies, when you are talking with your girlfriends, watch out for replying to every story about them with a story about yourself or your kids or your man.

Men, when you are having coffee with some buddies, watch out for a preoccupation with your stories, your achievements, your thoughts about whatever is the topic.

Husbands, ask your wife about her day. And don’t tell her about your day until she asks.

Same thing with you, wives.

Kids, ask other children what they’d like to do for fun. Don’t just tell them what you like to do for fun.

Teens, be careful in the locker room when everyone gets to tell their story about the contribution they made to the team today.

Be different. Catch yourself in your boasting. And turn from it.

Same thing at the workplace.

Recognize when you’re boasting in the moment, and, in your heart, turn from it.

Fill up your heart with the glory of God, and you’ll find that there is no room for boasting. It is excluded.

And then change your behavior accordingly.

#2. DON’T BROADCAST YOURSELF.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to talk about yourself.

No, there is a way to talk about yourself and even the good things that God has given you without boasting. Sure there is.

There is a humble way of talking about yourself. The Bible is full of godly examples.

But, our bent, if we are learning humility, our bent will be to take the spotlight off of ourselves and beam it elsewhere.

“Love does not boast.”

Or, as the King James says, “Charity vaunteth not itself.”

Listen to what Jonathan Edwards writes about this.

Jonathan Edwards was one of the best theological minds that America has ever produced.
He pastored a church in the colonies before the American Revolution and was one of the presidents of Princeton University.

He writes, “Humility tends also to prevent an ostentatious behaviour. If the truly humble man has any advantage or benefit of any kind, either temporal or spiritual, above his neighbors, he will not affect to make a show of it. If he has greater natural abilities than others, he will not be forward to parade and display them, or be careful that others shall know his superiority in this respect. If he has a remarkable spiritual experience, he will not be solicitous that men should know it for the sake of the honour he may obtain by it; nor does he affect to be esteemed of men as an eminent saint and a faithful servant of heaven; for it is a small thing with him what men may think of him. If he does anything well, or does his duty in any respect with difficulty and self-denial, he does not affect that men should take notice of it, nor is he careful lest they should not observe it. He is not of the behaviour of the Pharisees, who, it is said, did all their works to be seen of men, but if he has done anything in sincerity, he is content that the great Being who sees in secret beholds and will approve it.” [Charity and Its Fruits, pg. 139]

Wow. A lot of wisdom there, huh?

Don’t Broadcast Yourself.

Of course, if you don’t broadcast yourself, you may not be noticed as much.

The world may not pay attention if you don’t blow your own horn.

On the other hand, you may also be noticed more. Humility is very attractive.

It even attracts God’s gaze.

Isaiah 66, verse 2 says, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”

Humility is incredibly attractive!

Do you know someone who is humble? They are have so many good things going for themselves, but they don’t broadcast themselves.

They don’t have a mouthful of pride.

Do kids love people like that? You bet they do.

Most of us love people like that.

Humility is very attractive.

Don’t broadcast yourself.

Proverbs 27, verse 2 says, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.”

Don’t be the one to praise yourself. Let someone else do that. And let God take care of that.

Don’t broadcast yourself.

Instead #3. PRAISE GOD AND PROMOTE OTHERS.

More than just recognizing boasting in the moment and not broadcasting ourselves, we need to go one step further and give praise where praise is due.

We need to praise God. And, in love, promote others.

Our mouths will be full of something. Let’s let them be full of praise to God for Who He is and what He has done.

If we have something good, instead of boasting, let’s praise God for it. In humility, making it clear that we know that we don’t deserve it.

That it’s all of grace. That it’s a good gift from a great God.

We need to praise God. We need to boast in God–not ourselves.

And more than that, we need to promote others.

We need to build them up. If we’re going to talk about good things, why not talk about someone else’s good things?

One area where I don’t have much to boast about is shooting.

Yesterday, I brought home the booby prize for poor marksmanship on the rifle range at the Men’s Ministries Outing.

Lloyd Hampton has a broken arm and he shot better than I did! [That’s just a joke. Lloyd didn’t shoot.]

Some of the men in our church are excellent marksman. They consistently find the bullseye.

But you know what, they didn’t brag about their shots. They bragged on each other.

They razzed each other, too, all in good fun and manly love.

But they also praised each other and promoted the good that each other did.

They were showing love.

I might not have noticed that except that I had been thinking all day about boasting.

But boasting wasn’t there. Humility was.

Love promotes others.

And that’s true in all of our relationships.

Kids, do that on the playground. Point out how great someone else is at what they are doing. It will make their day! Do that on the soccer team. That’s love.

Husbands, promote your wife. Tell your kids what an amazing mother they have. Tell her parents and your parents how blessed you are that you have this woman in your life. And mean it. That’s love.

The Bible commends husbands for praising their wives in the city gates.

Wives, promote your husbands. Talk them up. Notice the things they do for you and for the rest of family. And talk about it. Promote them to the children. Promote them with your girlfriends. Don’t complain about your husband. Praise him. If there’s not a lot to praise, praise what there is to praise a lot. That’s love.

Workers,on the job, pass out praise. Promote your co-workers. Even your enemies.

I’m not saying to flatter people. I’m saying that we need to have our eyes open to the good that others truly have and do and then talk about it.

Parents, catch your children doing something well and then tell them and others what they have done. And don’t make it about yourself. “My little Billy finally listened to me and did this...” No. “I was so encouraged to see little Billy do this. Can I tell you how blessed I was?”

The same is true in the neighborhood. Promote your neighbors.

And in the church. I see that you did that for me this week. Thank for the picture and note in the Progress. It totally encouraged me that you called me a broken gospel record for the last 10 years. Thanks for promoting me.

I want to be worthy of the way you love me.

Love does not boast. It praises, not ourselves, but God. And promotes others.

Can you think of someone that God is calling for you to build up and praise and promote this week? Maybe even today?

That’s love. And we are learning to love.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Niagra In a Day



Heather's folks, Nana and Papa Lundeen, are visiting us right now and yesterday we took off for Niagra Falls (our kid's first time and Heather and my first time together). We had a blast--spending the night (all 6 of us in one room) at the Best Western (with an indoor pool!), crossing over into Canada, riding the Maid of Mist IV, walking all the way along the Canadian side upto Table Rock, driving back slowly through the Fall Colors in Western NY and Northwestern PA, and getting home happy and safe tonight.

A good time was had by all. We even saw a rainbow!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Matt's Messages "Love Does Not Envy"

“Love Does Not Envy”
Learning to Love
October 12, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:4

Last weekend was the Pastors and Wives Retreat in Painesville, Ohio.

Our Allegheny District pastors and their lovely brides gather at a hotel, worship, and hear a guest speaker from the National Office, and have lots of free-time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. Heather and I got to go on a 5 mile hike at an arboretum.

And one of the things that happens when pastors get together is they talk about how church is going.

“How are things at church?”
“How’s church going?”
“How are things at Lanse?”

You know. We’re talking “shop.”

And some pastors have good things to share.

And some pastors have bad things to share.

We’ve got about 3 different conflict situations right now going on in churches in our district. And that’s hard stuff. We need to be praying for those churches and for Super Jeff Powell and Jim Culbertson as they work with them to resolve their problems.

I know that as I listened to some of the stories this year, I just was overwhelmed with thankfulness for you folks. For our church. And for the good things that the Lord is doing here among us.

I am very thankful for you. You call this “pastor-appreciation month.” But I call it “church-appreciation month!” I’m glad we have a mutual-appreciation society!

But it’s not always like that every year.

Sometimes, there are a lot of stories of things going really well for our other churches in our district. Conversions. Growth. Exciting outreaches. Disciplemaking. And so on.

And you know what is a major temptation for pastors at a retreat like this?

Envy.

“I wish it was going as good for me as it is for that guy.”

Envy.

1 Corinthians 13, verse 4 says, “It [that is, love] does not envy.”

The first two things Paul said about love were positive.

Love is patient and love is kind.

Love is content even while waiting for something to change. Patient.
And love is not mean, or harsh, or prickly. It is gracious and giving, at a cost. Love is kind.

Love is patient. Love is kind. That’s positive.

But now, Paul goes negative for the next several descriptions of love in action. I think the next 8 are stated negatively.

This one is “love does not envy.”

One thing that love is not is envious.

If you want to know what love looks like when it’s doing its thing, one thing you will not see is envy.

Love does not envy.

What is envy and where does it come from?

Let’s boil it down to this:

Envy is being unhappy with someone else having something good.

It’s that feeling you get in your heart when you see that someone else has something that you consider good...and it’s not a good feeling.

You’re unhappy that they have it. In your eyes, they probably don’t deserve it.

And you’re probably unhappy that you don’t have this good thing that they have.

Now, when I say “thing,” I don’t mean that it has to be a physical object.

When we think about envy, we often think of money or possessions.

But we’re much more creative sinners than that. We can envy all kinds of good things.

We can envy status.
We can envy privileges.
We can envy qualities.
We can envy time that someone else has on their hands.

There is an ever expanding list of possibilities that we might envy.

Envy is being unhappy with someone else having something good.

And it’s very natural. It comes naturally. And it’s very wicked and dangerous, too.

It’s very natural. No one has to be taught how to envy. Though we do learn about it by watching and listening to others, too.

But we are all born naturally envious. We are Naturally-Born-Enviers.

But about different things.

It’s easy to not be envious about some things but hard to not be envious about others.

Right?

We all have different things that we naturally are envious of.

For some of us it might be someone else’s wealth or status.
For others of us it might be someone else’s freedom or health.

And what is tempting to one might not be tempting to another.

In fact, catch this, often what someone else is envying seems ridiculous to us, but we don’t see how ridiculous we ourselves are.

Isn’t that true?

Take the biblical story of Joseph. How many here are envious of someone’s colorful coat?

Maybe you work with someone who has a colorful coat.

Are you envious? No, it seems petty, and silly, to most of us. Maybe not all of us.

But it had gotten to life or death for Joseph and his brothers.

One of the things I’m tempted to be envious of is all of your hubcaps.

You may have noticed that I can’t seem to keep a hubcap on my van! I’ve lost 11 hubcaps off that van in the last 5 years. I had 3 when I went on vacation, and I only came back with 1!

I saw one of them roll away down a Chicago street.

I’m tempted to be envious of all of you who have these hubcaps that want to stay on your vehicles.

Is that silly? Yeah it is.

But you probably are envious about something that I would laugh about if I wasn’t trying to understand.

I’ve tried to explain my envy at times to my wife about various things, and I’m dead earnest about how so and so doesn’t deserve what they have, and how I do, and how much use I would make out of such and such.

And I’m serious! I don’t see how envious I really am. And she sees it clearly and has to point it out to me.

It comes naturally.

Because it comes out of our hearts.
Envy comes out of our wicked hearts.

That’s what the Lord Jesus said in Mark chapter 7. He was explaining that it isn’t what we put into our bodies that makes us sinful. Our sin comes out of our hearts.

Jesus said, “From within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'”

That’s quite a list that envy is part of, isn’t it? The same list as murder and lewdness?

It comes out of our hearts. And it comes out of our pride, doesn’t it?

If we are unhappy, in our hearts unhappy, because someone else has something good and we don’t, what does that say about our view of ourself?

It’s probably an inflated view of ourself.

Envy comes from pride. Isn’t that interesting?

For the next two weeks, we’re going to be talking about pride because love does not boast. [By the way, that’s your memory work for next week. “It does not boast.”] And love is not proud.

We think about boasting as prideful.

But so is envy. Envy says, “I deserve that thing you’ve got. I do!”

And that’s pride, too.

We’ll be talking more about killing our pride in the next 2 weeks.

Envy is natural, and it’s wicked, and it’s dangerous.

It’s not good for you.

Here’s a proverb you should memorize. I’ve got it memorized, and you should to.

It’s Proverbs 14:30 – “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

It’s like a cancer. Like bone cancer.

Envy is something rotten inside of you that destroys you from the inside out.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

And it doesn’t just affect you does it? It affects the people you are in relationship with.

It divides people. It devours people. Envy destroys relationships.

Ever see two kids go from playing happily with one another right into clawing at each over what? Over a stupid toy?

“I had it first!”
“You already had it!”
“I wanted it.”

Envy.

And we laugh at that, but it doesn’t stop when we grow up.

Do you see envy at your place of work? I’ll bet you do. We’ve certainly seen it on Wall Street recently!

Do you see envy at your school? I’m sure you do. And feel it sometimes, too.

Can envy be in the church? You bet it can.

That’s why Paul wrote this, you know. There were problems with spiritual gifts at work in the church. Some had showy ones and others didn’t.

And Paul is saying that those without the showy gifts shouldn’t envy those who do have them.

Do you see envy in your neighborhood? I’m sure of it.

Who has what new vehicle in their yard? Or what new boat? Or tool? Or how their house is landscaped or cared for.

Does that sound dumb to you? Well, it’s probably something different for you, then.

Families.

Kids, do you sometimes envy your parent’s authority and freedom?
Parents, do you sometimes envy your kid’s energy and freedom?

How does this work in marriage?

I promised that if you come every week to this series and faithfully apply what you are learning, it will improve your marriage.

Does envy play into our marriages?

I think it does. It gets in the way of our marriages.

Our spouse has something we think is good and we don’t have it.

Maybe it’s approval from someone else.
Maybe it’s job satisfaction.
Maybe it’s a bigger piece of the pie.
Maybe it’s free time when you have to be slaving away.

And you heart, instead of being happy for them, is unhappy. You might not ever put the word “envy” on your lips, but that doesn’t mean that the reality isn’t in your heart.

And love does not envy.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

And it rots our relationships, too.

So, what should we do about it?

Three quick points of application.

#1. RID YOURSELF OF ENVY.

I get this from 1 Peter chapter 2, verses 1-3.

Peter says, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Rid yourself of envy.

I wouldn’t tell you to do that if Peter did say it first.

Because I know that’s easier said than done!

It’s not easy to just “rid yourself of envy.”

Okay, I’ll just stop! It doesn’t work that way. It’s too ingrained in us. Too natural for our wicked hearts.

But Peter says that we can do it, and that we must do it. So do it we must.

Rid yourself of envy.

That means, I think, to repent of it when we can see it in our hearts.

If you know that you’re envying, turn from it.

Examine yourself to see if you are full of envy and run from it.

Hate it.

Don’t mollycoddle it. Don’t dress it up with another name. Don’t pretend it’s not there.

Hate it.

You are in a relationship. Let’s say that you are a single. And you’re living with some housemates. And they get something good that they might not even deserve and that you’d like to have.

Fight the urge to envy. Call it what it is and turn it down when it rises in your heart.

The 18th century pastor, Jonathan Edwards says it this way:

[A Christian] though he may have envy as well as other corrupt feelings in his heart, yet abhors its spirit, as unbecoming in himself as a Christian, and contrary to the nature and will and spirit of God. He sees it to be a most odious and hateful spirit, and he sees its odiousness not only in others, but also and equally in himself. And therefore, whenever he perceives its emotions rising within him on any occasion, or toward any person, so far as he is influenced by a Christian spirit, he will be alarmed at it, and will fight against it, and will not allow its exercise for a moment. He will not suffer it to break forth and shew itself in words or actions; and he will be grieved at whatever he sees of its movements in his heart, and will crucify within him the hateful disposition, and do all in his power to go contrary to it in his outward actions. [Charity and Its Fruits, pg. 115]

Rid yourself of envy.

Does that sound like work? It will be.

Love is work.

1 Corinthians 13 sounds so beautiful when you read it, but to truly love like this takes blood, sweat, and tears.

Ridding yourself of envy is not possible without the flipside.

#2. CULTIVATE CONTENTMENT.

Contentment is the flipside of envy.

You can’t just stop being envious. You have to start being content.

We put-off envy and put on contentment.

Paul could have said, “Love is content.”
It’s being happy with what you have.

And because we are in Christ, we have everything we need!

The gospel makes it possible to be content.

Jesus was.

He lived a life of poverty.
He lived in a backwoods town in a backwoods nation.
He lived under the oppression of Roman rule.

And He was content.

Lots of people around him had things that he would have considered good.

But He never envied.

And, then, He took on the punishment we deserved for all of our envy!

And He took it on His shoulders to the Cross.

And He paid the full price.

And we get all of the blessings that He deserved credited to our account!

Our sin on Him. His righteousness on us.

What have we got to complain about?

We need to count our blessings–in Christ.

And realize that we have everything! So we don’t have to envy anyone.

That 1 Peter 2 passage again says, “[R]id yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk [spiritual growth food], so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
We who are Christians have tasted that the Lord is good.

And that taste is enough.

It’s enough to not envy.

Why would I envy what someone else has when I have tasted that the Lord is good?

Cultivating contentment means reminding ourselves of what we have in Christ.

Of course, if you don’t have Christ, then you will be consumed with envy.

If you are not yet a Christ-follower by faith in Jesus alone, then I invite to today to become one.

Turn from your sin and your way of life, and trust in Jesus and what He did for you on the Cross. Put all your faith in Him, and He will both save you and give you a taste of all that He has for you.

He’s better than life itself. And you’ll never have to envy again.

I invite you to trust Him.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

And become content in Him.

It will change your life.

Remember Proverbs 14:30? “A heart at peace gives life to the body....”

A heart that is content will have health.

It will feel good. Envy rots your bones, but contentment feels healthy!

Cultivate Contentment.

And #3. REJOICE IN GOOD GIVEN TO OTHERS.

This takes it one step further.

Not only being content with what we have in Christ, but being happy for the prosperity and goodness and happiness that someone else has.

Kids, do this with one another!

Be happy that that kid scored the goal.
Be happy that that kid got that toy.

Husbands, do this with your wife.

Be happy that your wife had a good day.
Be happy that your wife has a good relationship with her parents.

Wives, do this with your husbands.

Be happy that he got a promotion.
Be happy that he got the bigger portion at the dinner table.

Sisters, do this with each other.

Be happy for what your sisters have gotten.

Brothers, do this with each other.

Be happy for what your brother has gotten.

Do this at work.

Be happy for your co-worker, yes, even the one that doesn’t like you very much that they got that praise from your boss.

Do this at school.

Be happy for someone else that got a A, got a date, got a break.

It’s something that we have to chose. It won’t come naturally.

But it will come by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As we rid ourselves of envy and cultivate contentment because of the blessings of the Gospel.

We can be happy for someone else that they have something good.

That’s what love does.

And we’re learning to love.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Mitchells on Vacation

The Ledfords go on vacation and get to meet and get their picture taken with the President and First Lady of the United States.

We go on vacation and get to meet and get our picture taken with...


a giant kangaroo? Hmmmmmn.

Friendship Counseling

David Powlison with 3 articles on how to help our friends change and get through whatever they are facing:

Friendship Counseling, Part 1
We can change when the God of loving truth intersects some actual human need.

Friendship Counseling, Part 2
The heart of ministry — cooperating with God's transformational agenda — lies at the intersection of our lives and God's Word.

Friendship Counseling, Part 3
The psalmist shows us how to move from questions to answers.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Monday, October 06, 2008

2000 Miles

2000 miles, tons of friends & family visited, and multitudes of sites seen--we're home!

The chickens are happy to see us.