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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent 2008: Week 1

LEFC Family Advent Readings
Advent Week #1: To Us a Child Is Born
“Wonderful Counselor” - Isaiah 9:6-7
November 30, 2008

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

This Advent season, we are celebrating the arrival of the Messiah foretold 800 years before His birth, in Isaiah chapter 9, verses 6 and 7:

[READ ISAIAH 9:6-7]

The first candle of Advent reminds us that the child born to us on Christmas will forever be our Wonderful Counselor.

[LIGHT FIRST CANDLE]

The counselors of this time in Israel’s history weren’t personal counselors who helped people with their life problems. They were military advisors–military strategists who understood enemies and battle tactics.

Isaiah says that the Messiah would be a Wonderful Counselor. His plans, strategies, advice, and counsel would be like nothing ever seen before. It would be full of wonders. And anyone who took His counsel would not fail.

The Apostle Paul said that all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Jesus Christ. His counsel is like no other. It seems foolish to the world, but when we receive and live on His wisdom, we cannot fail in life’s battles.

This first candle is a candle of Jesus’ wisdom.

Let it remind us that Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor whose wisdom we should receive and live out. “To Us a Child Is Born”


Advent Bible Study for Families

1. As a family, read Isaiah 9:1-7 at least twice. This is a beautiful passage about the coming of the Messiah–light dawning on those who live in the shadow of death. What jumps out at you when you read it? Have each family member share something they noticed.

2. The child to be born is called “Wonderful Counselor.” This is not His name but one of His titles. Why is this a good title for Jesus? What is some of His wonderful counsel? What makes it wonderful?

3. What specific teaching of Jesus are you trying to incorporate more fully in your life? How are you receiving and living out the wisdom of the Wonderful Counselor? What changes are you making? Have each family member share.

4. As a family, sing Good Christian Men, Rejoice!

Good Christian men, rejoice
with heart and soul and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say:
News! News! Jesus Christ is born today!
Ox and ass before Him bow,
and He is in the manger now:
Christ is born today! Christ is born today!

Good Christian men, rejoice
with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye hear of endless bliss:
Joy! Joy! Jesus Christ was born for this!
He has opened heaven’s door,
And man is blessed for evermore:
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!

Good Christian men, rejoice
with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye need not fear the grave:
Peace! Peace! Jesus Christ was born to save!
Calls you one and calls you
all to gain His everlasting Hall:
Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!

Matt's Messages "Love Does Not Delight In Evil But Rejoices With the Truth"

“Love Does Not Delight In Evil But Rejoices With the Truth”
Learning to Love
November 30, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:6

Since September, we’ve been learning to love. This is actually the eleventh message in this series.

All together now: “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.”

I realized mid-week that I hadn’t told you how far to memorize for this week.

Some of you probably just memorized the phrase, “Love does not delight in evil.”

That’s the eighth negative statement in row that Paul uses to describe love when it does its thing.

But then he follows it up with this positive phrase, bringing out its opposite: “But rejoices with the truth.”

Let’s say the whole thing of the new sentence together [v.6]: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

That’s our meditation for today:

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

Have you found this sermon series helpful so far for your relationships?

I hope so.

One of you told me last week that this series has been especially helpful at work.

They said that just a few minutes after getting to work each day, they are reminded of something that we’re learning together from 1 Corinthians.

Being patient with co-workers.
Being kind to customers.
Not being envious of co-workers.
Not being boastful with colleagues.
Not being proud with bosses.
Not being rude with employees.
Not being self-seeking with partners.
Not being easily angered by vendors.
Not keeping a record of wrongs with co-workers.

Is that easy to do? No.

We’ve learned that love doesn’t always come easily, but it is extremely powerful when it’s truly practiced.

And not just on the job, but in every relationship in life.

Marriage, Family, Neighborhood, Church, School–whatever.

Love should be the defining characteristic of our side of any relationship.

For the Christian, love should be the defining characteristic of our side of any relationship.

Today, we focus on the one sentence in verse 6:

“Love Does Not Delight in Evil But Rejoices With the Truth.”

Notice that this verse is about what our hearts rejoice in.

What thrills our hearts.
What makes us happy.
What makes us glad.
What we delight in or rejoice in.

The “delight” in the first part of the verse and the “rejoice” in the second part of the verse come from the same root word–[kairo] to find our join in something.

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

There are two parts to this verse; let’s take them one at a time.

“LOVE DOES NOT DELIGHT IN EVIL.”

If we are truly loving people, then we will not find our heart’s joy in evil. King James: “iniquity.” ESV: “wrongdoing.”

“Love does not delight in evil.”

Now, in my mind there are two ways to delight in evil.

The first is delighting in evil DONE BY OTHERS.

We see someone doing something wrong, iniquitous, bad–and we are happy about it.

This is a little hard to believe, but it does happen.

Someone is stealing at work, and you get a kick out of it.
Someone lies to someone else, and you’re in on the joke.
Someone cheats on their test, and you laugh.

Those are examples of delighting in evil done by others.

I think that watching the soap operas in the afternoon are an example of this one.

Did you know that I used to watch soap operas when I was in High School?

I hate to admit this one, but I was a soap opera junkie.

General Hospital was my worst one. I would come home from school, eat a snack, fold the newspapers for my paper route and watch the terrible things people did to each other on General Hospital.

And then at school the next day, I’d talk with the girls in the lunch room about the awful behavior exhibited on General Hospital.

Am I alone on this one?

I truly hope so!

We’d talk about that show and our disdain for the way the characters act–[They are all scumbags, by the way]–but why were we watching it?

To delight in evil.

Of course, there are worse things than General Hospital. There is People Magazine. And all of those other tabloid papers at the check-out line at the grocery story.

Who cares who did what to whom?

We do. We delight in evil. Those papers SELL.

Now, you could probably think of other examples, maybe from work or from school.

Love does NOT delight in evil, evil done by others.

Here’s the other one. Love also does NOT delight in evil, evil DONE TO OTHERS.

If we are loving people, we are not happy when something bad happens to someone else–even our enemies!

Have you ever seen a kid be a tattle-tale?

A kid will come up to their parent and say, “Little Billy did such and such!”

Why are telling you?

Does it have anything to do with them?

No, they just want to see little Billy get into trouble.

That’s delighting in evil, too.

It’s delighting in something bad happening to someone else.

Siblings do it all them time.

But so do co-workers, right?

Have you ever said, “Serves him right!” with smirk?

I know that I have.

In the Bible, Jonah wanted to do this. He wanted to sit on his little hill outside of Nineveh and watch his enemies get pulverized into the dust.

He was delighting in evil.

The older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son was the same way. He wanted his brother to “get it”–and not the fatted calf!

There is a real temptation to delight in evil done to others.

King David refused to do this to King Saul. When things stopped going Saul’s way, David could have rejoiced in triumph that Saul was getting his comeuppance.

But when Saul died, David said, “How the mighty have fallen! Tell it not in Gath.”

David refused to delight in evil.

Why is it so bad to delight in evil?

It’s because evil is evil–no matter who it happens to.

And loving people don’t love evil!

Let me put it another way: LOVE IS HOLY.

Love is a holy thing. If love is truly in your heart, you won’t love what is evil. Either evil done by others or evil done to others.

You’ll hate it.

The Bible says to “hate what is evil and cling to what is good.”

That’s what love does!

W. Graham Scroggie said this: “What a man rejoices in is a fair test of his character. To be glad when evil prevails, or to rejoice in the misfortunes of others is indicative of great moral degradation.” [W. Graham Scroggie, Quoted in Strauch, Leading with Love, pg. 77]

Love is holy. It does not delight in evil.

Now, this, like all of the others is difficult. It’s not easy.

It’s especially hard in our day and age when our culture calls “good” what the Bible calls “evil.” There is a lot of mix-up in our world today.

But this is true. Love does not delight in evil.

Now, let’s get practical here. Like we’ve done every week.

Let’s apply this to one aspect of our lives. You could probably pick another aspect and apply it, but here’s one to think about.

BECAUSE LOVE DOES NOT DELIGHT IN EVIL, LOVE DOES NOT ENGAGE IN GOSSIP.


I think in some social situations, if you took out all of the gossip, there wouldn’t be any conversation at all!

Is that how it is in your break-room?
In the driver’s room?
In the teacher’s lounge?
In the beauty parlor?
In the barber shop?
In the coffee shop?

What is gossip but delighting in evil?

It’s rolling around a juicy bit of gossip on your tongue and in your heart.

Proverbs 18:8 says, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.”

Delight in evil.

And spreading that delight.

Loving people don’t gossip. They don’t listen to it, and they don’t pass it on.

I struggle with this one a lot. Not so much because I like bad things to happen to people, but because I like to know everything–I’m an information junkie.

And the bad stuff about folks is what other folks want to hear, so I get caught up in it–and it’s bad for me.

I’m learning to repent and learning to love and learning to keep my mouth and ears shut to gossip.

How about you?

A lot of people don’t think that gossip is a very bad thing–but the Bible presents gossip as a terrible thing–a thing that must be rooted out of the Christian’s heart and the body of Christ.

I’ve actually thought about doing a doctoral project on grappling with gossip–because I see it as a huge unsolved problem in the church today.

And at heart, it stems from delighting in evil.

What changes might you need to make about gossip in your relationships?

Ladies, do you talk to other ladies about all the bad things your husband does?
Men, do you complain about your wife?
Kids, do you pass gossip around the lunch room?

Love does not delight in evil.

What changes might you need to make about gossip in your relationships?

Love does not delight in evil.

Can you imagine the Lord Jesus Christ gossiping?

Can you imagine Him offering others or Himself swallowing down the choice morsels of gossip?

Never!

And yet, Jesus died the death of a gossip.

The wages of gossip is death–and Jesus had all of my gossip and all of your gossip placed on His shoulders–and then He died for it.

He paid the penalty for all of my delighting in evil–done by others and done to others.

Jesus died for my sins.

And then God raised Him to life–to give me a new life.

A life of love.

A life that is not characterized by delighting in what is evil.

Have you received that new life, as well?

I know that I say this every week, 52 Sundays a year.

But it’s that important!

Is Jesus Christ your Lord and your Savior?

Has He rescued you from delighting in evil and passing it on to others?

Have you turned from your sins and trusted in what Jesus did for you on the Cross?

If not, I invite you to trust Him today.

Ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, your Rescuer and your King.

Ask Him for new life–the ability to live a new way.

To live in holiness! And to NOT delight in evil.

“Love does not delight in evil BUT REJOICES WITH THE TRUTH.”

This is the flip-side.

Love rejoices with the truth.

This is the new way of living that Christ-followers can walk in.

Love rejoices with the truth.

Notice that Paul doesn’t say, “Love rejoices with the good.”

We might have expected him to say, “Love does not rejoice in evil but rejoices with the good.”

But he says, “with the truth.”

Now, I think is saying with the good, but there is more going on here.

This truth is gospel truth.
This truth is truth applied.
Truth lived-out.

Love is happy when the truth wins out in someone’s life.

When good comes out of the truth.

That’s when righteousness happens!

When good comes out of the truth.

Love is ecstatic when some good comes out of the truth!

Love loves GOOD.

And love loves it when good things happen to people.

And when the truth transforms people so that good things are done by people.

A loving person loves few things more than when they know that someone is walking in the truth.

The Apostle John wrote the letter we call Third John.

It’s right there in the back of your Bible two books away from Revelation.

It’s a letter he wrote to man named Gaius. Listen to what he says:

“To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”That’s how we are supposed to act!

That’s what love does.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

This is definitely true of parenting, right?

We should be catching our children at doing good.

And praising them (and God!) when they do.

“Way to go! That was love at work. You’re living the truth!”

And we need to do it with our spouses, too.

This week, Heather and I were talking about something in her life, and I got to encourage her that she was growing in wisdom and love.

And it delighted my heart!

We need to do this in the locker-room, the board-room, and the lunch-room.

Love rejoices with the truth. When truth produces something good.

Notice that it says, “with” the truth. That little word “with” is the difference between the delighting in the first part of the verse and the rejoicing in the second part of the verse.

It might just intensify the word. Don’t delight in evil. But REJOICE in truth.

But it also might reflect the relationship here.

Join with others in rejoicing in the truth.

When something good happens to someone else–even someone who is your enemy, you can rejoice with them in the truth.

That’s what the Father did when the Prodigal Son returned. He killed the fatted calf and then threw a party for his repentant son.

Rejoice with me!

Rejoice with the truth!

Rejoice that the truth is winning out!

Rejoice that Jesus Christ has come and is saving the day–and saving lives forever.

How can you apply this this week?

It may be that someone else gets a monster buck this week.

I’m going hunting tomorrow for the first time in my life.

I’m a little nervous about that. Being in the woods with loaded weapons.

But I’m hoping to see and shoot a deer. I don’t know, we’ll see.

Should I be happy if someone else gets hurt? I don’t think so.

Should I delight in telling others if someone else does breaks the game-law and gets in trouble for it? I don’t think so.

Should I rejoice if someone else gets a 10 point buck, and I don’t? You bet I should.

How does this apply to you?

Not just cutting out the gossip, but actually rejoicing with the truth?

I would imagine that some of us need to get busy discipling others.

Maybe you don’t have someone in your life that you can rejoice over that they are learning and applying the truth in their life.

We should all be becoming disciples and making disciples of others.

As we sat down to Thanksgiving this week, Heather and I agreed that some of the sweetest things that we are thankful for this year are how you folks have received the truth and are living it out day by day to the glory of God!

You are an encouragement to us.

We rejoice with you in the truth.

In fact, we love you.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Fair Test of His Character

“What a man rejoices in is a fair test of his character. To be glad when evil prevails, or to rejoice in the misfortunes of others is indicative of great moral degradation.”

- W. Graham Scroggie, Quoted in Strauch, Leading with Love, pg. 77

Love Does Not Delight in Evil...

“...like the fake self-righteousness that feigns moral indignation in the face of salaciousness, but secretly revels in the crudeness and vulgarity. It does not enjoy endless discussions about what is wrong with the churches and institutions we serve, and takes on such subjects only when competing demands of righteousness require it. If there is any report of something right or truthful going on, love will quickly rejoice over it, or, if the compound verb that is used is not merely intensive, love will join with others in rejoicing over the truth. ‘Love does not seek to make itself distinctive by tracking down and pointing out what is wrong; it gladly sinks its own identity to rejoice with others at what is right.’”

- D.A. Carson, Showing the Spirit, pg.63

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Overlooking an Offense

In the last two messages, I've talked about overlooking offenses.

One of the most helpful places on the web for dealing with conflict in a God-honoring biblical way is Peacemaker Ministries.

This week on their excellent little blog, called Route 5:9, Molly Friesen gave some helpful counsel to know when and how to overlook an offense.

Matt's Messages "Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs"

“Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs”
Learning to Love
November 23, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:5

“Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs.”

That’s what Paul says at the very end of verse 5.

“...it [love] keeps no record of wrongs.” It’s the 9th quality that Paul uses to describe love. “Love keeps no record of wrongs.

The King James Version translates this phrase, “Love thinketh no evil.”

The word translated “think” is literally to “reckon” or to count. To reckon the evil.

To think about it, dwell on it, remember it against someone’s account.

Love keeps NO record of wrongs.

The English Standard Version is helpful again here. It translates it: “Love is not resentful.”

It does not keep a grudge.

It does not nurse an old wound.

It does not seek revenge.

Love is not resentful.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Isn’t that a helpful way of thinking about it?

I read an extreme story this week that illustrates this.

There was a “troubled couple who visited a Christian counselor for help. The wife’s physician had advised her to see a counselor because she was developing an ulcer that apparently had no physical cause. During the session, the wife slammed down on the counselor’s desk a manuscript ‘one-inch thick, on 8½ by 11 paper, typewritten on both sides...a thirteen-year record of wrongs that her husband had done to her.’”

Can you imagine?

“The counselor could immediately see that the wife’s resentment of her husband’s many faults and her meticulous documentation of each one had made her bitter. Keeping a record of her husband’s sins had only made matters worse, to the point of causing this woman to become physically ill.” [Quoted in Alexander Strauch’s Leading with Love, pg. 72]

Now, we shake our heads at that because it’s extreme, but we’re all guilty of this kind of behavior, aren’t we?

We might not write them down, but we can keep a list, can’t we?

Sometimes, we tell others what they’ve done wrong–we parade out the list and don’t put it away.

Other times, we keep the list secret from others, but we’re still keeping it.

It amounts to unforgiveness.

Unforgiveness ruins relationships.

Keeping a bitter record of wrongs will undermine any marriage.

It will poison any parenting.

It will destroy any friendship.

Keeping a record of wrongs will kill a business partnership.

It will upset a neighborhood.

It will churn a church inside out.

Unforgiveness ruins relationships.

And bitterness will bite you back.

Often, the person hurt the most by keeping a record of wrongs, is the record-keeper themself.

Can you think about how this plays out in your relationships right now?

Think about your chief enemy right now.

Now, they may be your best friend, too. But they are also your chief enemy right now.

Someone with whom you have a disagreement, or a conflict or that you’re on the opposite of an issue from.

Isn’t it easy to tally up the things they have done to you?

The things they’re doing wrong.

The things they’ve said.

The things that have hurt you.

I’ll bet we could all give a pretty good run-down on that list.

Now, could you go the other way? Could you give a list of the ways that you have offended them? The ways that you have sinned against them in word and deed?

I’ll bet we have a much harder time coming up with an accurate list.

Why is that? Because we’re spring loaded to think much of ourselves and little of others.

But love keeps no record of wrongs. Right?

What’s the opposite of record-keeping?

Forgiveness.

Paul could have said it this way: “Love forgives.”

That’s what he means when he says that love keeps not record of wrongs.

Love forgives.

A few weeks ago, we learned about saying, “I’m sorry.”

“I was wrong. I’m sorry.”

Now, we need to learn to say, “I forgive you.”

Love “keeps short accounts.”

That’s how my wife and I talk about it in our marriage.

We talk about keeping “short accounts,” meaning that when we sin against each other, we quickly move to make it right.

You do know that we sin against each other, right?

I do it more than she does.

But we are both sinners, as are everyone in this room, and we all sin against each other. Every relationship on Earth is sinners relating to other sinners.

The best marriages of the greatest, godliest believers are still two sinners who said, “I do.”

I’m reading a book on marriage right now titled, “When Sinners Say ‘I Do.’” That’s exactly right.

And when I sin against my wife, she is faithful to confront me on it. And then, she’s faithful to forgive me.

Forgiveness is cancelling a debt.

Forgiveness is releasing someone from the debt they created by hurting you.

Not making a record of the debt to continue to hold against them.

Love forgives.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Now, forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. Not in the sense of not remembering that the offense ever occurred.

It does mean not remembering it against that person. Not holding it against them. Not keeping a standing record of their wrong–ready to be used against them.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Love is not resentful.

Do you know who Clara Barton is? She was the founder of the American Red Cross, the “Angel of the Battlefield” in the Civil War. “Like any prominent person she had critics. When a friend of hers reminded Clara of the criticism someone had made of her work, Clara [claimed she] couldn’t remember it. Surprised, her friend said, ‘You don’t remember it?’ Clara’s response is classic: ‘No, I distinctly remember forgetting it.’” [Strauch, pg. 75]

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Now, is that easy?

No, it’s not. But it’s powerful.

What would happen in our marriages if they were marked by forgiveness?

Keeping short accounts?

What would happen in our families? Brothers and Sisters saying, “I forgive you.”

I will not hold this between us any more.

So many families are wrecked by bitterness and unforgiveness.

But they could just flower into something beautiful if the record of wrongs was crossed out.

What would happen at work?
What would happen in the neighborhood?
What would happen at our schools if forgiveness reigned?

It would change everything.

Now, there are two kinds of forgiveness in the Bible.

There is ATTITUDINAL FORGIVENESS and there is TRANSACTIONAL FORGIVENESS.

The Bible doesn’t use those words, but the concepts are there. Both are called forgiving, but they are forgiving in two different ways.

Attitudinal forgiveness is that forgiving that needs to happen in our hearts regardless of whether or not the other person is repentant. Regardless of whether or not they ask for forgiveness.

We might call it: releasing bitterness. Jesus praying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Even though they weren’t repentant, Jesus was forgiving them.

This includes what we talked about last week: overlooking an offense. It’s a glory to overlook an offense–do it if you can, if the sin will not wreck the relationship or someone else’s relationship–overlook an offense in your heart.

Cross Out the Record of Wrongs.

This also includes those times when someone sins against you, but they won’t repent of it. Those are some of the hardest things to deal with in all of life.

But you can’t let their sin eat you alive!

You’re stance towards them must be LOVE.

Ready to forgive fully. Ready to be reconciled when they are truly repentant–if they ever are.

Releasing bitterness. Keeping no record of wrongs in the sense of not being resentful.

Now, that does not mean don’t hold them accountable. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be a change, sometimes, in the relationship. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be consequences for their misdeeds–especially if they won’t repent of them.

But you can’t let their sin eat you alive.

You’re stance towards them must be LOVE.

It’ll be the toughest form of love for you to maintain, but you can do it in Christ!

I have a friend right now who has been sinned against in a major way–betrayal, really.

But he’s handling it like this. He’s loving his enemies. He’s not keeping a record of wrong.

It’s awesome to watch! It’s beautiful. It’s love!

Transactional Forgiveness is even better.

That’s when the other person is repentant, and you get to reconcile with them!

You get to throw open your arms!

You get to throw away the record book!

Transactional forgiveness is when you get to say, “I forgive you.” And it restores the relationship. It may not be like it was before–it might even be better.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Love forgives.

A few weeks ago, I told you that I needed to talk with someone who had been the victim of sexual abuse. I had to hold an interview with an abuse survivor and talk with them about their experience and how the Bible has or could help them deal with what happened to them.

Thank you to those of you who volunteered.

Heather and I met with one of you.

I had hoped to be an encouragement to you–but you were an encouragement to me.

You were a story of grace.

You see, this person, in our midst suffered many things at the hands the evil people.

But today, this person is not in the grip of bitterness. They are instead, full of grace, full of peace, full of forgiveness.

They still remember what happened to them. But they keep no record of wrongs against those who mistreated them.

It doesn’t make the mistreatment any better.

But it’s beautiful to see. Heather and I came away from that interview so encouraged and blessed!

And I asked this person what made it possible for them to forgive like that?

Do you know what the answer was?

It was the gospel.

It was the good news about Jesus Christ.

It was the Cross of Christ.

They said, “I am forgiven. I can forgive those who hurt me.”

That’s exactly right. The Bible says, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Because what we’ve done to God is much worse than what anyone has ever done to us–no matter how bad it is.

And the Cross is God’s instrument of forgiveness for us.

The Bible says that at the Cross, “He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”

God didn’t keep a record of wrongs with us.

HE CROSSED THE RECORD OUT!

And if we could be forgiven like that, then we can forgive others.

Have you been forgiven like that?

Have you had your record of wrongs nailed to the Cross?

Have you had your record CROSSED out?

If you have never trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, your King and your Record-Crossing Rescuer, then I invite you to turn from your sins and trust in Him today.

All of your sins, not in part but the whole can be nailed to the Cross and born by you no more.

Jesus offers full forgiveness. Eternal life in Heaven with Him.

Freely given. Freely received–by faith.

And if you have done that, if you believe the gospel, then you are forgiven and can forgive others.

You don’t have to keep a record of wrongs.

We, as Christians, don’t have to keep a record of wrongs.

I think that probably some of us in this room are keeping score.

And we think, somehow, that we have to do it. We have to keep this record or maybe justice won’t be done. Or maybe I won’t get what is due me. Or maybe they won’t get what is due them.

Trust Him.

Throw the record away.

That sin against you will be judged–either in Hell for eternity (perfect justice) or at the Cross–perfect justice and perfect mercy.

Either way, you don’t have to hold onto it. God will take care of it.

Justice will be and will be seen to be done.

Trust Him.

Throw the record away.

And Love! Live in Love.

That’s how He treated you!

God CROSSED OUT your record. You can cross out theirs.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

God's Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

“He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

Psalm 103:10-12

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Matt's Messages - "Love is Not Easily Angered"

“Love Is Not Easily Angered”
Learning to Love
November 16, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:5

How many here, raise your hand, were hoping that we didn’t get to this phrase?!

“...it is not easily angered...”

“Love Is Not Easily Angered.”

I’m willing to bet that everybody here struggles with this.

You may not recognize your struggle with envy or boasting or rudeness, but I’m willing to bet that everybody here can recognize their struggle with quick and sinful anger.

“Love is not easily angered.”

Ooh, I was hoping he wouldn’t talk about me!

Actually, I tried to get out of this one this week. I was saying to wife just yesterday, “I’m having a hard time preaching on being easily angered because it’s just not my besetting sin. I just don’t have that much experience with this one.”

And she gave me that little cock of the head and raised one eyebrow, as if to say, “Are you being serious?”

Well, it was worth a try!

I didn’t know that I could be such an angry man until I had kids and they didn’t just live on my terms, happily obeying all of my rules without my even speaking to them, and always doing what I want.

Kids come along and parents don’t always get their way!

And that began to provoke my sinful anger.

Love is not easily angered.

That word “easily” is important.

It’s not saying that loving people never get angry about anything.

Jesus got good and mad at times. So, for that matter, did His apostles.

There is a time and a place and a way to have righteous anger.

But very seldom is it quick.

Very seldom is it easily reached.

Love is not easily angered.

The King James translates this, “Love is not easily provoked.”

A loving person does not allow themselves to be quickly provoked, pushed, prodded, and poked into anger.

Heather’s favorite translation, the English Standard Version, translates it, “...it is not irritable.” I like that. That speaks to me. “It is not irritable.”

Are you irritable?

I’m sure that you don’t want to think of yourself that way, but would what would others say? Others who know you.

One writer unpacks it like this:

“In personal relationships, love is not easily angered; that is, it is not touchy, with a blistering temper barely hidden beneath the surface of a respectable facade, just waiting for an offense, real or imagined, at which to take umbrage” [Carson, Showing the Spirit
, pg. 62]. That’s really good.

The book of Proverbs has a category for someone who is easily angered.

Solomon calls someone like that a “hot-tempered man.”

We can easily see how anger like this rips through our relationships.

Our marriages.

Perhaps some of the couples in this room could give us a testimony of a hot-tempered moment that happened today, maybe on the way to worship!

The other night, Heather and I were traveling to a ministry-related meeting, and we were doing just fine and then I made a little joke that had too much of an edge to it. Heather didn’t think it sounded like a joke. And I immediately flamed up inside and started to defend my little joke–I was instantly mad that she had called me on it.

And all of sudden our evening–on the way to do ministry together–was sour.

And that was just a little one, for which she has forgiven me.

But what happens when our marriages are marked by hot-tempers?

Someone’s going to get hurt.

How about in our parenting?

What does a hot-tempered parent produce?

Either one of two things. Hot-tempered-children or living-in-fear-children. Maybe both.

Proverbs 22:24&25 says, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.”

What if you can’t get away from him. What if he’s your Dad? Or she’s your Mom?

How about at work?

Don’t you just love the hot-tempered co-workers? Don’t you just want to be around them? Aren’t you glad they’re on your team?

Or turn it around. Do people avoid you at work? Do you think it could be because you’re hard to be around? You’re irritable? You’re easily provoked?

Same is true at school, in the neighborhood, on the soccer field and the basketball court.

And at church.

Have you ever been afraid to express your opinion about something at church because you’re afraid of what some hothead may say or do or think about it?

I have. And I have probably intimidated some of you, too. And I’m sorry for the times I have.

Paul told the church in Ephesians 4 to work out their anger so as to not give the devil a foothold.

Satan loves to work anger into the midst of a church.

One writer says it this way: “Within the church, it is easy to see how those who are easily provoked to anger carelessly frighten, hurt, and divide people. They invite and accentuate conflict.”

“Angry people are focused not on others but on their own emotions and issues [notice how that fits with self-seeking from last week]. When leaders are angry, problems are exaggerated, mis-communication and misunderstanding abound, and objectivity and reason disappear. When anger rules, small problems become big explosions that can blow a church to pieces” [Alexander Strauch, Leading with Love, pg. 67-68].

And many in this room can identify with that.

Anger is one of the most destructive forces in the universe for relationships.

But that’s not the way its supposed to be in our relationships.

Love is not easily angered.

Loving people don’t get hot fast.

Now, I keep saying “hot,” but there is a cold kind of anger, too, isn’t there?

There is an anger that is obvious and on the surface and revealed for all to see.

And there is a hidden anger, a concealed anger that is just as deadly, isn’t it?

And sometimes I think I’d rather deal with a hot-head than someone who kills you with a cold-blooded look.

I once knew a couple who lived in the same house and for a year didn’t talk to each other–for a year!

Love is not easily angered.

So, another way of saying it is “Love is slow to anger.”

How do we get like that?

How do we become more loving people and less prone to irritability?

It’s not just automatic. Automatic is anger. Slow to anger is something supernatural. It’s something we’ve got to learn. Something that’s got to be worked inside of us.

And it’s more than just “Count to 10.”

That sounds great, but there’s this stuff in my heart. I can’t just “Count to 10!” I need more than that.

Let me suggest seven biblical applications today for uprooting our anger.

These are not everything that could be said, but I think they’re some of the main things that will actually make a difference.

#1. REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE NOT GOD.

One person has said that there are two fundamental realities in the world: there is a God and you’re not Him.

But when we get sinfully angry, we forgot that.

We think that we are God, or at least, that we should be.

You and I tend to think of anger as primarily an emotion. It does have an emotional component. But it is also a thought that we have. It’s a mind-set. It’s a judgment we make.

My friend, Bob Jones puts it this way:
It starts when we legislate required behavior for another. We may or may not choose to tell the other person. For example:

• When thou drivest thine automobile, thou shalt not turn to the left or to the right in front of me, except thou signalist thine intention to do so with thy turn signal.

• Thou shalt not let the sun go down on my phone call or e-mail, but thou shalt return it today, while it is still called today.

• Thou shalt love me the way I want to be loved, with thy whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.

If you break one of my statutes, I log your violation in my mental record book. I may or may not present the evidence to you, depending on my preference (after all, I can do whatever I want in my imaginary world in which I divinely reign!). In either case, I am both the star witness and the chief prosecutor against you. Moreover, I play both judge and executioner. I sound the gavel, pronounce you guilty, sentence you to whatever punishment within my power, and mete out justice.
Does that sound familiar? That’s what goes on, sometimes in a split second when we are easily angered.

We need to remember that we are not God. We don’t call the shots. We don’t see things the way they really are. We are not the judge. We are not the prosecutor. We are not the executioner.

That’s why James says this in chapter 1 of his letter:

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, [why?] for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

We are not God.

How our relationships would be different if we could keep that in mind!

It would be obvious to us to be quick to listen. We’d be humbled. And slow to speak–we’d be cautious. And slow to be become angry.

God is God. And we are not.

#2. CONSIDER HOW GOD HAS BEEN SLOW TO ANGER WITH YOU.

I looked up in my Bible program how many times the words “slow” and anger or angry come up.

How many times do you think? Just 10 times.

One times is this James 1:19&20. And that’s talking about us, calling us to be slow to anger.

Guess whom all the rest of them are about?

The Lord.

Most of them come from His self-revelation to Moses when He showed Him the tail-end of His glory.

Remember that? Exodus 34?

The Lord talking about Himself? “He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness...”

And the other 8 occurrences talk about how that’s exactly how God has treated His children!

God is slow to anger.

And friends, God has much more to be angry about than you and I do.

He’s slow to anger.

Aren’t you glad for that?

God is not irritable. God is not resentful. God doesn’t have a hair-trigger.

Consider how God has been slow to anger with you.

Does that change things in your relationships?

Young people, does that change how you might respond to your teacher, your coach, your parent, your brother or sister?

God, the King of the Universe has been slow to anger with you!

Can you let up a little?

Do you want to be godly? You have to be slow to anger.

Let’s take it a step further.

Not only was He slow to anger. But He sent His Son to absorb His anger against us.

#3. REMEMBER HOW JESUS ABSORBED GOD’S ANGER AT YOU.

God was not easily angered, but He was righteously angered at our sin.

He cannot be neutral about our God-dishonoring behavior, falling short of His glory, rebelling against His standards, thinking, wanting, and doing what displeases God.

He hates sin. And He will bring righteous judgment against it.

But He so loved you and me that He sent His One and Only Son, Jesus, to absorb His just wrath–His burning anger.

That’s what was happening on that Cross!

The Anger of God met the Love of God and Jesus took our punishment.

He took our punishment for all of our sin–including the sin of rash anger.

Every time I’ve snapped at my kids. Every time I’ve raised my voice in a self-serving way. Every time I’ve made someone else the butt of quick joke–I was heaping up wrath–and the Father placed it all on His Son.

That’s the gospel, friends.

My irritability on Jesus. The wages of irritability is death.

And Jesus died for me. And for you, if you’ll trust Him.

But He didn’t stay dead, did He?!

Jesus was raised to life to give us life.

To give us love.

And to help us to love others.

We don’t have to be irritable any longer. We’ll still be tempted to be irritable–and sometimes it will be so hard that we will give in. But we don’t have to be.

Jesus has died for us, in our place.

The Cross changes everything.

Can you see how this, if we can keep the gospel in mind, changes how we relate to others?

Why would I want to be irritable if Jesus has absorbed the anger of God against me?

Doesn’t that change everything?

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” - Psalm 103:11&12

Remember, how Jesus absorbed the anger of God against you.

That assumes that you have trusted in His perfect sacrifice. If you have not yet, I invite you to do so today.

Believe the Gospel. Repent of your sins and trust in Jesus.

And if you do, then the power of gospel can increasingly empower you to say no to sinful anger.

That’s number 4.

#4. TURN, IN THE MOMENT, AWAY FROM SELF AND ANGER TO OTHERS AND LOVE.

This presupposes that God has done a work in your heart. You can’t just choose to do this and have any lasting change.

But if you belong to Christ, you can do this. You can repent.

And it’s repenting, in the moment, turning in the moment away from self and to others. Away from anger and to love.

That guy cuts you off? You don’t have to flip the finger.

That co-worker does that irritating thing again? You don’t have to sigh so loudly.

Your spouse is late? You don’t have to ream them out the second you see them.

Turn. Turn, in the moment, away from the temptation to be provoked and turn towards others and love.

Number five is related.

#5. DISCIPLINE YOURSELF TO WAIT BEFORE YOU GET ANGRY.

This, also, takes the Holy Spirit to really work.

Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It’s not just something that we can work up.

But if the Holy Spirit has free reign in our lives, then we can discipline ourselves to wait before we get angry.

You know why that’s important?

Because snap-judgments are often wrong-judgments. Right?

How many times have we gotten angry so fast, only to find out that we were wrong about what was happening?

Wait before getting angry.

Proverbs 25:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”

That’s hot or cold anger. Hold off and see what’s really up before you react.

But even when the offenses are real, we can still grow in love by overlooking them.

#6. LEARN TO OVERLOOK AS MANY OFFENSES AS POSSIBLE.

Yes, people are going to sin against you.

But you can rise about a lot of those offenses. They don’t all have to be confronted.

Proverbs 19:11 (Hasn’t it been interesting to see how many Proverbs help us in our quest of learning to love? Proverbs is a book about a lot of things, but one of those things is how to love others skillfully!). Proverbs 19:11 – “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.:

Notice the connection again between patience and kindness. This is love. Wisdom leads to patience which leads to overlooking offenses which is to our glory!

Now, we’re going to talk more about this next week when we consider our phrase [which you should memorize in the next 7 days], “...it keeps no record of wrongs.”

But here’s the practical point. If you can go on without the relationship being disrupted, then you can learn to overlook a lot of offenses.

Husbands and wives.
Singles.
Kids.
Siblings. Adult Siblings!
Co-workers. Bosses and Employees. Vendors and Contractors.
Neighbors.
Teachers and Students. Administration.
Church members.

If you can go on without the relationship truly being hindered, then you can learn to overlook a lot of offenses.

Just let it go.

Those sins are paid for at the Cross, or they will catch up to them.

But you don’t have to be the one to do the catching.

“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”

Love covers over a multitude of sins.

Love is not easily angered.

I want to sum it up with this one:

#7. HAVE YOUR HEART “STOCKED UP” WITH JESUS AND HIS GOOD NEWS.

When am I slow to anger?

When I am close to Christ.

Around here, we call it, “a love relationship with Jesus Christ.”

When we are walking in fellowship with Him, we remember that we are not God. And we remember that God has been slow to anger with us. And we remember that Jesus has absorbed God’s anger at us.

And that empowers us to turn, in the moment and love us. And discipline ourselves to wait before getting angry. And learn to overlook offenses as they come.

What would it be like if this week, we got our hearts stocked up with Christ so that we were slow to anger in all of our relationships?

What difference would that make?

How would it change our relationships?

How would it glorify God?

How would it open up doors for the gospel?

Let’s not just look into the mirror of the Word and agree that we can be angry people.

Let’s gaze into the mirror and let the Lord change us.

So that we can be a blessing to others.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Why Do We Nurse Our Anger?

“Of the seven deadly sins, anger is probably the most fun. To lick your wounds, smack your lips over grievances long past, roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontation still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back–is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”

Frederick Buechner, quoted in Uprooting Anger, pg. 157

Anger Is Playing God

Bob Jones writes, “It starts when we legislate required behavior for another. We may or may not choose to tell the other person. For example:
  • When thou drivest thine automobile, thou shalt not turn to the left or to the right in front of me, except thou signalist thine intention to do so with thy turn signal.
  • Thou shalt not let the sun go down on my phone call or e-mail, but thou shalt return it today, while it is still called today.
  • Thou shalt love me the way I want to be loved, with thy whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.
If you break one of my statutes, I log your violation in my mental record book. I may or may not present the evidence to you, depending on my preference (after all, I can do whatever I want in my imaginary world in which I divinely reign!). In either case, I am both the star witness and the chief prosecutor against you. Moreover, I play both judge and executioner. I sound the gavel, pronounce you guilt, sentence you to whatever punishment within my power, and mete out justice.

What does repentance look like? I throw away my statute book. I drop the charges. I cover your offenses with the blanket of Christian love and erase them from my ledger. I lay down my gavel, descend my judicial ben, and remove my black robe. I refuse to punish you but instead begin to love you."

Robert D. Jones, Uprooting Anger, pg. 69

Not Easily Angered

“In personal relationships, love is not easily angered; that is, it is not touchy, with a blistering temper barely hidden beneath the surface of a respectable facade, just waiting for an offense, real or imagined, at which to take umbrage.”

-D.A. Carson, Showing the Spirit, pg. 62

Friday, November 14, 2008

CCEF Conference

Of course, I can't get away from CCEF (and don't want to).

This weekend is their Annual Conference. The theme is "The Addict in All of Us."

You and I probably can't be in Philly right now, but Tara Barthel is doing a great job of "live blogging" the sessions--almost feels like you're there!

A New Era - After CCEF 2008


After 7 months (no daffodils in this picture), my CCEF Classes are finally done.

So, I bought a new pile of books!

Sweet Relief!

Ahhhh.

I just put all four of my CCEF post-course papers into the mail--off to Glenside!

This chapter is closed.

Thanks for praying.


The Journey of CCEF Classes:

Down to the Wire
CCEF and Biblical Counseling
Sin and Suffering
Biblical Counseling and Physiology -- The Question of Medication
CCEF Class Update -- Post Course Assignment Time
This Is the Kind of Thing I'm Getting All Day for 2 Weeks
Big City Sophisticate
The Bumpkin Has Landed
Country Bumpkin
Six Unavoidable Facts
Singing Songs to A Heavy Heart
CCEF Class Update - On Site
CCEF Class Update - Ready to Go
CCEF Paper #4 - Marriage Counseling
CCEF Class Update - Last Week
CCEF Class Update - One and Half Weeks to Go
Even More Excerpts from CCEF Paper #3 - Counseling in the Local Church
More Excerpts from CCEF Paper #3 - Counseling in the Local Church
Excerpts from CCEF Paper #3 - Counseling in the Local Church
CCEF Class Update (Again)
CCEF Class Update
CCEF Paper #2 - Counseling and Physiology - Listening to Prozac
CCEF Paper #2 - Counseling and Physiology - Blame It on the Brain
CCEF Paper #2 - Counseling and Physiology - Where Is the Mango Princess?
CCEF Paper #1 - Problems and Procedures - Features of Biblical Counseling
CCEF Paper #1 - Problems and Procedures - Personal Application
Running Scared (Again)
The Power of Procrastination
Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave
One Down: Depression: A Stubborn Darkness
The Power of Confession
Examples of CCEF's Biblical Counseling Approach
Let the Fun Begin!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Jesus says, "Come to Me."

Just yesterday, I was helping Robin and Drew to memorize their verses for Kids for Christ, and they were up to Matthew 11:28:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Today, RCO meditates on that passage. He ends with this:

"Jesus is the easiest person in the universe to get along with. He does not impose burdens; he lifts them away. We are the difficult ones, the tense ones, the prickly ones, the hard-to-please ones, the nothing-is-ever-good-enough ones. But Jesus -- he just melts in your mouth."

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Chicken Update

For all of our dedicated blogreaders who have been wondering about our chickens, there are two items that we've not kept you up to date on:

1) Eggs. We've got 'em. The first 2 were laid right before our 2 week vacation in September. Now, we get between 4 and 6 per day. They're brown-shelled, tasty, and good for you! Come on over, and I'll fry, boil, scramble, bake, or omelet you one!

What's really fun about them is that they don't all believe in the nest-boxes we've made for them--so we have to hunt around for them. We've found them in the woodpile, the logpile, anywhere that they can find a dark, enclosed place! It's like Easter egg hunting year-round.

2) Down to 13. One of our chickens had a run-in with a neighbor's dog. The dog won. The funeral and grieving period was short (Robin asked if we were going to eat it--we didn't.) The rest of the hens haven't seemed to noticed that one of their number is missing.

Viva la Chicken!



Chicken Related Posts:

2000 Miles
Chicken Run
Chicken Alcatraz
A Box of Chickens
Barn Raising, Part Two
Barn Raising, Part One

Matt's Messages - "Love Is Not Self-Seeking"

“Love Is Not Self-Seeking”
Learning to Love
November 9, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:5

We often call 1 Corinthians 13, the “Love Chapter” because between verses 4 and 8 we have one of the most insightful, beautiful, and instructive descriptions of love in action in all of the Bible.

This is what love is like. Let’s recite our memory work again:

“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...”

That’s what we are up to today.

Next week, we add: “it is not easily angered.”

We’re learning to love.

Last week, we talked about rudeness: intentionally or carelessly choosing to do the wrong thing in a social situation.

Did anyone notice their own rudeness this week and try (by faith) to counteract it with some decorum?

Did anyone grow in their ability and frequency of saying, “Please and Thank You?”

My prayer has been that this sermon series would revolutionize (often in small ways) our relationships with others.

A heaping dose of patience, kindness, contentment, praise of others, humility, and respect will go a long way towards revolutionizing our relationships!

We’re learning to love.

And today, we consider this phrase from verse 5, “it [love] is not self-seeking.”

“Love is not self-seeking.”

The King James version translates it, “love seeketh not her own.”

Love is not self-ish.

Love is not self-seeking.

Let’s pray together and then consider what that means for our lives and relationships.

[prayer]

Let me begin by asking a question:

What is your life all about?

What is the theme of your life?

If you were to write your own autobiography, what would be the theme of the book?

What is your life all about?

Let me ask it another way:

Who is your life all about?

Who are you trying to please with your life?
Who are you serving?
Who are you giving to?
Who are you working for?
Who are you centered on?
Who are you most concerned about?

Who is your life all about?

The natural answer to that question is the natural tendency of our hearts.

And that is for my life to be all about my self.

It’s my life, after all, right?

To try to please my self.
To try to serve my self.
To try to work for my self.
To improve my self.
To get good for my self.

For my life to be all about me.

That’s, brothers and sisters and friends, is the essence of self-seeking.

Without the intervention of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, the title of my autobiography would be some variation on the theme: “Matt Mitchell, My Favorite Person in All of My Life.”

Two weeks ago we talked about pride.

And we said that pride is believing that we are greater than we are.

Pride says, “Me, Me, Me, Me, Me.”

Well, self-seeking are those actions that we undertake to see that good things to come primarily (or solely) to our selves.

Self-seeking says, “My, My, My, My, My.”

Self-seeking is seeking to bring good primarily (or solely) to my self.

Focusing on bringing good primarily (or even solely) to my self.

And it’s completely natural...and devastating to healthy relationships.

It is the opposite of love.

The Bible says, “Love is NOT self-seeking.”

Gordon Fee in his commentary on this passage says, “In some ways this is the fullest expression of what Christian love is all about. It does not seek its own” [The First Epistle to the Corinthians, pg. 638].

“The fullest expression of what Christian love is all about.”

Love is not about my self.

Love is not selfish.

Now, that’s about as obvious as you can get.

Is love selfish? No, of course not!

And yet, we give ourselves over to self-seeking so readily and so blindly.

We chase after it. It’s our default mode.

Often, it really comes to down to hoarding:

What are things that we hoard for our SELVES?

Money is the obvious first one.

Self-seeking would be hoarding our money and our possessions.

Do we do that in our relationships? It probably wouldn’t be hard to think of an example.

We all know that kids do that with toys.

“I had it first!” Well, who cares who had it first?

The questions is are we loving each other with that toy?

Or that bank account. Or that house. Or that 401k (which isn’t worth as much as it was two months ago).

Self-seeking looks like hoarding our money and possessions.

But that’s the just one example of self-seeking.

We can hoard a whole lot of other things.

For example: time, thought and attention.

Have you said this week: “No, that’s MY time!” ?

I’ve been struggling with that one.

I’ve been trying hard to get my doctoral class papers done. They are due by Saturday the 15th, and I’m trying to get them in the mail by Thursday.

Thank you for praying for me. I’ve got 3 done and only 1 to go.

At the same time, I’m trying to cut, split, and stack wood to get ready for the delivery and installation of the wood furnace that I ordered. I’ve gotten about 2/3 of a load of logs cut, split, and stacked.

We’ve had 3 of the 6 of us get sick in the last week. Peter had a fever last Sunday. Robin and Drew have one this Sunday.

And we’re coming into the holidays when it’s time to do nominating committee, budget committee, advent planning, Christmas shopping, etc.

I’m sure that some of you have a much fuller plate than I do, but I feel like my plate is pretty full right now.

And I want some time for my self!

I’d like to get away with my wife for a weekend. I’d like to take stack of books and just read until I sleep and sleep until I read–that’s my definition of a good time!

And I’m willing to get cranky about it!

Now, is it a bad desire for me to have some down-time? Some “me-time?”

No. It’s not a bad desire.

But I’ve just had a vacation! I was just at a retreat a month ago.

When that desire to please myself, to spend time on myself, to seek time for myself starts to dominate–to drive me towards crankiness, to get me complaining (and I know how to complain!), when that desire becomes a demand, I’ve fallen into self-seeking.

And then when my family, my church, my family of churches need me to give them some of my time, what do I do?

If I love people, I embrace those needs as opportunities!

Self-seeking is the opposite of love.

And it’s not just time; it’s thought.

Often our thoughts constantly revolve around ourselves.

Our own interest is what we give our thoughts to.

In parenting, I probably overuse this phrase, but it’s a good one: “Who were you thinking about?”

That’s a great question to ask your teenager when they need some attitude adjusting.

Who were you thinking about when you...whatever...?

Often, we’re only thinking about ourselves. Self-Seeking. Pride on the move.

And it’s not just kids that struggle with this.

Who were you thinking about when you made that decision at work?

Who were you thinking about when you made that choice out on the road?

Who were you thinking about when you did that thing on your property that affected your neighbors, too?

My wife has taught me a lot about this. There have been many times in our marriage when I haven’t been trying to hurt her or damage our relationship, but I did through carelessness. I didn’t consider her, her interests, her cares, her perspective.

I didn’t think about anyone but me. And it damaged our relationship.

She’s been very patient with me and helped me to learn to consider others. To think about others.

To give attention to others. And not hoard it all to myself.

The list could go on and on, but let’s do two more.

Control.

To be self-seeking often looks like hoarding control.

It’s got to be done MY way. Self-seeking.

The English Standard Version translates this verse as “[love] does not insist on its own way...”

“It’s not my way or the highway.”

Does that slip into your relationships? It does mine.

Does it slip into your work relationships? My way or the highway.

Does it slip into your marriage? Which way the toothpaste is rolled? Whether the seat is up or down? Or something stronger like, “You will always call me at such and such a time...”

Self-seeking. It’s got to be done my way.

Does that kind of thinking slip into the church? Unfortunately, it does.

I know that I’ve been guilty of it, and often I’m unaware of that. I need people to gently but firmly help me to see when I’m being self-seeking here as your pastor.

Because I don’t know everything and there isn’t always just one right way to do things–my way.

That’s not love. Forgive me for where I’ve done that and help me to stray far from it.

Self-seeking ruins relationships.

One last one. Self Seeking by hoarding the Gospel.

I love the Gospel, don’t you? I want the gospel to be the theme of my life.

But often, I love it for me, but I’m not willing to share it with others–especially if it might cost me something.

I love to sing of my Redeemer!

But will I talk about Him with an unsaved friend, a new acquaintance, or a stranger?

It’s self-seeking to enjoy the benefits of the Gospel, but not be willing to give it away.

Does that make sense?

Self-seeking is seeking to bring good [money, possessions, time, thoughts, attention, control, the gospel–whatever good things–to bring these good things] primarily (or solely) to my self.

Was Jesus ever self-seeking?

No, never. Imagine living 30 years without ever being selfish.

Did He always do whatever everyone else wanted Him to do?

No, He didn’t. Selfless love does not mean laying down and being a doormat for others.

And He got away and found time for Himself alone with His Father.

Selfless love doesn’t mean that we don’t ever be alone or never say “No.” On the contrary–true love often says “No” to others. But it does it in love.

Jesus was never self-seeking.

In fact, He was so full of self-less love that He died for me and for you.

He took on the punishment that our sinful self-seeking had earned.

Amazing love! How can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me?

The punishment for self-seeking is death.

And Jesus took it for me.

For all of the times that I have been so turned inward. Self-seeking is pre-occupation with what’s in it for me, for what’s inside of me.

Jesus died for that.

He was selfless to the cross.

Listen to Philippians chapter 2:3-11.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider [think about] others better than yourselves [ahead of yourself]. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others [Look-seek their interests]. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

That’s Jesus’ example for us of self-less love.

And His payment for our self-seeking sinful self-love.

That free us up today to be different.

To live like this:

#1. TO SEEK TO GIVE GLORY TO GOD.

Instead of looking inward, where inward is our point of reference, looking UPWARD where the Lord becomes our point of reference.

God-Seeking! God’s glory-seeking. That’s where real love comes from.

True Worship.

Jesus lived for the pleasure of His Father.

He lived for the glory of His Heavenly Father.

And that enabled Him to love others.

Let’s do that, too. Let’s seek to give glory to God.

Let’s make that the theme of our lives. What our lives are all about.

Let’s make our autobiographies about seeking the glory of God!

And that will enable us to love others.

#2. TO SEEK TO GIVE GOOD TO OTHERS.

Instead of inward focus, turn to outward focus.

Instead of pre-occupation with self, turn to being occupied with others.

And that, in all of our relationships.

It’s the opposite of hoarding.

It’s being generous. It’s giving.

It’s giving our money and possessions.

Like giving to the Gideons, or stuffing a Shoebox full of good gifts.

It’s giving of our time, thought, and attention.

To our families, to our co-workers, to strangers. Even to enemies. Christian love is like no other love on Earth. We even love our enemies!

And it’s giving that time, thought and attention–without complaining, without arguing, without getting cranky. It’s donating it. Sharing it. Being generous with it.

It’s giving up our control over ways and means and how we’re going to accomplish our goals.

This is huge in relationships. Change the pattern here, and you change the relationship. And not in a “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch my back kind of way.”

And, lastly, it’s giving others the Gospel, not holding it in but handing it out.

Is there someone you’ve been withholding the Gospel from? Maybe because you aren’t sure they really want it? But you know that they need it.

It’s giving others the Gospel.

That’s self-less love. ...

And guess what?

The strangest thing happens when we learn to do it!

We get blessing.

Have you ever noticed that? Who often benefits the most when you truly love someone selflessly?

The giver!

It’s a paradox, but in God’s world, focusing and seeking for yourself earns your almost nothing–and nothing lasting.

But seeking the glory of God and the good of others leads to receiving good yourself.

With faith-based selfless love comes blessing.

It did for Jesus, didn’t it?

He emptied Himself and died for us.

And what did He get in the end?

The name above all names.

When we give up our self-seeking, ultimately we receive only good in the end.

Isn’t that awesome?

There is great reward bound up in self-less love.

Let’s go after it to the glory of God!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

McCain Wins!

No, not in the national election, but in our Civics 101 Class in our homeschool yesterday.

We took the opportunity that Election Day affords and taught our kids about voting.

First, we visited the polling place for our precinct and watched people register their votes.

Then, we came home and created a paper ballot of our own. There were 3 items up for vote:

1. Presidential Election: Barack Obama vs. John McCain.

2. What to have for breakfast on Wednesday: Cheerios vs. Yogurt Scones.

3. Which of us would serve as Trash Collector for Tuesday November 4th.

That last item was the most interesting. Each of the four kids decided that they wanted to run and each nominated themselves. The job involves bringing all of the trash cans in the house to me to dump into black bags to get ready for the Garbage Truck. The job this week also had a big paycheck--a double sized piece of Texas Sheet Cake! (Methinks that motivated all four to run!)

After preparing the 6 ballots (one family member, one vote!), we gave them time to make speeches about why we should all vote for them. There was also a town-hall style question and answer time, "What do you think makes a good trash-collector?"

Priceless answer: "God does!"

Then we went to the voting. I collected the secret ballots (the right to privacy was a point we stressed yesterday) and counted up the tallies:

John McCain 6, Barack Obama 0 (I guess we weren't representative of the national averages!)

Yogurt Scones 4, Cheerios 1 (And boy, did they taste good this morning--democracy in action!)

Robin 2, Peter 2, Drew 1, Isaac 1

Aha. A run-off election was necessary.

New ballots. New speeches. New votes.

Robin 3, Peter 3! Tragically, one family split down the middle (I have it on good authority that one of the candidates voted for the other!)!

Then a power-sharing idea was formed. The two leading candidates agreed to share the work and the extra chocolate cake.

Now, that's bi-partisan cooperation!

And then, lastly, this morning we talked about the results of the election and prayed for our new President Elect, Barack Obama--may God bless him with wisdom, courage, and honor (and a change of heart about vulnerable pre-born people).

[By the way, the best place for Christian reflection on yesterday's election is Justin Taylor's Between Two Worlds. I really appreciate the posts today.]

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

2 Down 1 to Go!

I got my third paper done today, too!

Now, only 1 more paper to get written.

Thanks for praying!

1 Down 2 to Go

I got one of my papers done this morning, and I'm working on the next.

My goal is get this second one done by Supper today bringing the total to 3 out of 4.

Thanks for praying.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Down to the Wire

My CCEF post-course assignments are due on November 15th (I want to mail them no later than the 13th), so that means I have just over a week to get it all together.

I still have 1 paper that is 1/3 done, 1 that is 2/3 done, and one that is unbegun.

I've set aside most of the day tomorrow to try to finish the two that are already started.

I'm glad that I'm taking these classes, but I'll be even more glad when these assignments are turned in!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Matt's Messages - "Love Is Not Rude"

“Love Is Not Rude”
Learning to Love
November 2, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:5

Say it with me, would you?

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

That’s love. 1 Corinthians 13 is a portrait of love. A snapshot of love.

Actually, it’s more like a video clip of love. Because it moves. Love moves. It doesn’t just sit there. It does something.

Love IS patient.
Love IS kind.
Love does not envy.
Love does not boast.
Love IS NOT proud.

How are we doing at learning to love?

Has this sermon series been helpful to you in your relationships?

Does anybody have a story to tell of how your relationships have improved over the last month? How they have been more loving? More biblically loving? More Christ-like and more godly?

Last week, we ended with a call to humble ourselves and learn to say, “I’m sorry.”

Love is not proud. And it means learning to say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.”

Anybody issue an apology this week?

I made a point to get a hold of the person I talked about last week.

Someone I had basically lied to. I had said that I would kind of do something or encouraged them to think that I would, and then I really hadn’t done anything to keep that promise. And I had been only half-heartedly seeking to apologize to them–out of my pride.

I caught that person on the phone this week, and asked for his forgiveness.

And he said, “Of course I forgive you, I understand, and I have even greater respect for you now than I did before.” That surprised me.

But he was valuing my humbling myself.

He knew that humility takes some courage. Pride is cowardly. And love is not proud.

Does anybody else have a story of how they’ve been growing at loving in a 1 Corinthians kind of way? Or a story about how someone in your life or your family has been growing?

Today, we step into verse 5 of 1 Corinthians 13. The first five love qualities were in verse 4. Two of them were stated positively: love is patient, love is kind. The last three have been stated negatively: love does not envy, love does not boast, love is not proud.

Now, in verse 5, Paul continues to describe love negatively–by saying what love is NOT.

In this case, “Love Is Not Rude.”

“It is not rude.”

“Love is not rude.”

The King James translates this, “[it] doth not behave itself unseemly.”

Love is not inappropriate.

It doesn’t misbehave.

It is not rude or crude.

It doesn’t behave “with ill-mannered impropriety” [Athony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NIGTC (pg.1049)].

It doesn’t behave shamefully or disgracefully.

Love does not intentionally or carelessly choose to do the wrong thing in a social situation.

That’s what rudeness is.

Rudeness is intentionally or carelessly choosing to do the wrong thing in a social situation.

And love is not rude.

Loving people don’t mistreat other people.

We live in a rude society.

Our culture values independence, free-thinking, and saying your mind over propriety, considerateness, and courtesy.

Our culture values vulgarity, extreme behavior, and taking advantage of others–looking out for “number one.” Over tact, public decency, and social good manners.

We live in a rude society where people intentionally or carelessly mistreat other people.

One author makes this list of common rude actions:

Acting disgracefully
Acting contrary to the established standards of proper conduct and decency.
Inappropriate dress
Inconsiderate talk
Disregard for other people’s time or moral conscience
Taking advantage of people
Tactlessness
Ignoring the contributions and ideas of others
Running roughshod over other’s plans and interests
Inappropriate behavior with the opposite sex
Basic discourtesy
General disregard for proper social conduct
[Leading with Love, Alexander Strauch, pg. 59]

Know anybody like that? That’s rudeness.

And love is not rude.

I see a lot of rudeness on the Internet.

I think that people forget that there are other people that they are writing to and about when they get to typing on their keyboards.

I also think that high-schoolers have a high level of rudeness, as well.

There is something about those high-school years that tends to encourage rudeness.

I could be a pretty rude highschooler myself.

Now, I wasn’t known for my rudeness. But I remember those occasions when I was rude, very vividly.

There was another guy in my grade, named Jeff, who seemed to have it out for me.

He knocked the books I was carrying down in the hallway.

He made fun of me in front of other people.

He called me a Nerd and a Geek (which I was, but he didn’t have to say it).

He was rude to me.

Unfortunately, I chose to be rude to him in return.

I remember one time telling him, “Get a life, Jeff! And if you can’t find one, I have an extra one hanging up in my closet.” Of course, that retort doesn’t make any sense and sounds even geekier now than when I first said it. But it sure wasn’t loving.

And Jeff played football. And I remember saying to him. “Duh, football! That’s where 11 guys line up on one side of a line and 11 guys line up on the other side and then they run into each other. Sounds smart!”

You can see why Paul put pride right next to rude in 1 Corinthians 13.

And, then one time I was feeling my Wheeties, and I found him on the stairwell, and I knocked his books down, on the stairs.

I was rude.

Was I a Christian? Yeah, I was. And this was a major inconsistency in my life.

Was I loving this young man like a Christ-follower should? No, I wasn’t...to my shame.

What haunts me most about how I was rude to Jeff is that he didn’t live very long.

Jeff died in the military, in a accident with a jeep, just a few years after we all graduated from high school.

And I can’t take back anything I said or did. He’ll never be at one of my high school reunions.

I was rude, and I live with God’s forgiveness, but not Jeff’s. And I live with a real regret.

Love is not rude.

Now, you and I may not struggle with blatant rudeness.

We may not be tempted to be obscene or crude in a social situation.

But rudeness still creeps into and corrupts our relationships.

Can spouses be rude to each other in a marriage?

How about this one?

Cutting each other off in mid-sentence.

Not waiting until your spouse is done talking before you give your answer.

Oh, sure, you know what they’re going to say. But you don’t get points in marriage for being a mind-reader. You do for being a good listener.

Does rudeness creep into parent-child relationships?

It sure does. I think, other than “be patient.” We use the word “rude” more often than any other word in this description of love as we do our training with our children.

Rudeness is a temptation for Christians.

Have you ever cut someone off in traffic? Or hurried up to take that parking space that someone else was gunning for?

How about on the job? Hanging up on someone? Demanding, not asking for something. Telling a joke that’s just a little off color?

I used to struggle with that one. I didn’t tell really raunchy jokes, but I like to walk the line and just push the boundary a little.

We think that we’re being clever, but we’re really being rude.

Love is not rude.

Can rudeness creep into our church relationships?

It sure can. It did at Corinth. Remember, 1 Corinthians wasn’t written for weddings. It was written for a church that was struggling to love each other.

Christian folks were taking advantage of each other at Corinth. Misbehaving. And people were getting hurt.

Proverbs 26:19 should be memorized by everyone:

“Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I was only joking!’”

It’s no good to be rude and then pretend that it was just joking.

There is too much at stake.

Love is not rude.

Can you imagine Jesus Christ being rude?

It’s unthinkable.

Of course, there were things that Jesus did that almost seem rude. He wasn’t always meek and mild and gentle, was He?

So, not everything that is forceful or that cuts across social conventions is rude.

Because Jesus was forceful and Jesus cut across some social conventions!

But He was never rude.

Jesus was never rude.

But catch this!

God saw Him as rude one day. The Father looked upon Jesus, His Son and condemned rudeness in His flesh.

All of my rudeness was placed on Jesus’ shoulders. And He bore the punishment that I deserved.

Every disgraceful act.
Every inconsiderate speech.
Every disregarding of other people’s time, moral conscience, contribution, idea.
Every time I ran roughshod over my kid’s plans and interests.
Every discourtesy.

Placed upon Jesus.

How I treated my classmate, Jeff. Placed upon Jesus.

In a minute, we’re going to go to the Lord’s Table and celebrate the Great Exchange.

My rudeness on Him. His righteousness on me. What a thought.

That’s the gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ.

The unthinkable happened. Jesus was treated as the one who was rude.

And I was given His rude-free righteousness!

He died and rose again for me.

And that gives me the power to say NO to rudeness.

That gives me the power to love.

And love is not rude.

What is the opposite of rudeness? How should we live?

When I asked that question to my wife, she said, “Kindness.”

Love is Kind. It is not rude.

That’s right.

Let me add another word to the mix: respectfulness.

Here’s another: tactful.

Polite.
Courteous. [In America today, we don’t even know what that word means!]
Sensitive.
Decent.
Proper.
Decorous. Do you know that word? Decorous?

It means to do something with decorum.

Love is decorous.

It intentionally chooses the right thing in a social situation.

It actually chooses good manners.

Now, I don’t know much about manners like which fork to use and which what pinky to raise when you sip your tea!

But I do know that when I see a young person who says, “Yes, sir. Or Yes, Ma’am.” I see something that is good and right and (when done with the right heart behind it)–loving.

Love is decorous.

Let’s conduct our relationships with decorum.

Like last week, we could come up with 17 points of application from “Love is Not Rude.” And each one of us probably needs a different one.

Maybe you’re thinking of one right now of how this applies to you and your situation.

I’d like to narrow this done to 1 major application:

Let’s learn to say “Please and Thank You.”

Not to be nicey-nice.

But to be loving.

Please and Thank You.

About a year ago, I complained to my wife that our kids didn’t say “Please” and “Thank You” enough.

And she said, “That’s because you don’t.”

“You don’t say it enough to me or to them.”

“You may say it to others, but you don’t say it enough around the house.”

Ouch.

How about you? Do you say, “Please” when you ask for something?

Do you say it at work?

Do you say it, not just to those over you, but to those under you?

Do you say it to your wife?

Do you say it to your husband?

Do you say it to your kids?

Do you say it to your neighbor?

How about “thank you?”

Love is not rude. And sometimes, the way to get to the opposite is to simply say, “Please and Thank You.”

That’s decorum. And it’s very attractive.

A few years ago I was at a Burger King with another pastor and his family, and pastor’s oldest son ordered his hamburger like this, “May I please have a Whopper with Cheese?” That’s how he asked the lady behind the counter.

“May I please have a Whopper with Cheese?”

Not, “Give me a Whopper with Cheese.”

Not, as I might say, “I’d like a Whopper with Cheese.” Actually, I’d probably say, “I’d like 2 Whoppers with extra Cheese!”

But that young man stood out. He was confident. He was happy. He knew what he wanted. But he asked it in a courteous manner.

And it stood out.

One of my professors says that he can spot a marriage that is headed for disaster within the first few minutes of listening to them talk to one another.

If their speech is full of contempt and rudeness, he can spot trouble right away.

Marriages full of contempt and rudeness are unhealthy and often fail.

“Please” “Thank you.”

Not to be nicey-nice and cover up trouble.

But to be loving.

Because “Love is Not Rude.”