Sunday, August 28, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "About God's Presence"

“About God’s Presence”
Great and Precious Promises - Summer 2011
Back 2 School Sunday
August 28, 2011
Hebrews 13:1-8

This is the last message in our short series on God’s “Great and Precious Promises” that we’ve doing this Summer.

God’s “divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

They are that good!

And they are not optional. They are essential.

Never try to jump out of an airplane without a .... parachute.

Never try to live life in this fallen world without God’s great and precious promises.

They are essential equipment for the Christian life.

They are that great and we have been making them precious to us.

So that we can sing:

Every promise in the Book is mine!
Every chapter, every verse, every line.
I am standing on His Word divine,
Every promise in the Book is mine!
The last two weeks, we enjoyed thinking together about God’s promises of answered prayer (ask, seek, knock) and of heaven (heaven is worth the troubles of earth–and we’ve seen some of our own realize those promises this week).

Very great promises and precious to us.

And today, we will think about great and precious promises “About God’s Presence.”

Here’s one.  (Not the one I’m going to preach to you.)

It was spoken to Joshua right before the Conquest of Canaan.

It should sound familiar to you.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Here’s another one.  Right before the Conquest of the World began.

Jesus gave these orders to His disicples:

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

These promises could be multiplied again and again. The Lord promises to be with His people. 

Now, of course, the Bible says that God is OMNI-present.  He is present everywhere.

He said in Jeremiah 23:23, “Am I only a God nearby," declares the LORD, "and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?" declares the LORD. "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" declares the LORD.”

David said in Psalm 139.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

Yes, God is everywhere.

But God promises to be specially present with His people.

And we could see that in lots of scriptures, but today, I picked Hebrews 13:1-8.

Did you ever get separated from your parents and get lost?

I remember when I was little, I was following my Mom who was wearing a certain dress. I remember it as grey woolen dress.  I don’t know if it really was.

But I was following her as she went shopping through the Mall.  Dooty, dooty, dooty, doo.

But being Captain Observant, that’s what my wife calls me sometimes, being Captain Observant, I had not realized that I was following some other lady wearing a grey woolen dress.

And when I did realize it, I realized I was lost.

And alone.

Did you ever do that?

Did you ever feel that way?

Do you kinda feel that way about life right now?

Does you feel alone?

On your own.

Adrift and by yourself?

Hear this word from God.  It’s in verse 5 and the writer to the Hebrews is quoting Deuteronomy 31:6.

Catch that.  This New Testament writer is quoting Old Testament Scripture and applying it to his readers and to us.

And it is God’s great and precious promise. V.6

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”


Isn’t that a great promise?

Isn’t that a precious promise?

Several of you wrote it down on the survey sheets that we passed out.

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

That’s what God says.

Never left, never forsaken.

Ok. You can go to lunch now. That’s all I have to say.

If we get this into our minds and into our hearts, it will change everything.

Never left, never forsaken.

Never deserted. Never alone.

Because of this promise, I know that I am never alone.

It may feel like it at times, but I never am.

How comforting. How encouraging. How confidence building!

Never alone.

One time, I deserted my daughter Robin.

I didn’t mean to!

She was really little back when we have 4, count-em 4 car seats, and none of them could unbuckle themselves, we went to the Philipsburg library.

Back when it was on Pine Street.  We parked on the street.

We unbuckled everybody (or so I thought) and got everyone across the road and went into the library.

Mommy and the boys went to the children’s section. I carried little Isaac in his carseat to the children’s section and then went up and down the adult stacks looking for something to read.

And then I circled back and counted my children. 1-2-3.

Where’s Robin?

“Where’s Robin?”

Oh no!

I ran back out across the street and opened the van door, and there was my little girl bawling her eyes out.

She had been left alone. Forsaken. Deserted.

And it hurt.

I apologized and I’m still apologizing for that.

I scooped her up in my arms and carried her into the library and just about never left her side the rest of the day.

God is a much better Daddy than I am.

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Sometimes it will feel like it.

This promise does not mean that we will have victory in every endeavor.

It means that God will be with us no matter what happens.

God’s presence.

Never left, never forsaken. Never alone.

Kids, going back to school this week, the Lord goes with you.

Never left, never forsaken.

There are some people that say that God has been taken out of the schools.

Don’t believe that for a second.

Nobody can do that.  Nobody ever will.

God is there.

Christian kids are never left, never forsaken.

Teachers, Administrators, Staff, Helpers going back to school, the Lord goes with you.

Never left, never forsaken.

Parents staying home.  Parents leaving their kids and then going to work.  Parents teaching their kids at home.

God is there.

Never left, never forsaken.

There was monk once called Brother Lawrence.  And he wrote a short little book called, “The Practice of the Presence of God.”

And the whole point of the book is to remind yourself daily and hourly and minutely that the Lord is here.

My best friend from my college days, Kipp Wilson, used to write on post-it notes “God is here” and post them around his office at the grad school where he worked.

“God is here.”
“God is here.”
“God is here.”

What can you do to remind yourself of this promise?

You don’t have to do anything for it to be true!

This promise is not contingent on you or me at all. It is. It just IS!

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

But what can you and I do to remind ourselves of that?

That’s why I’m preaching this message.  Most of the things I say each week are not new and strange doctrines. They are reminders.

God is here.

And God will go with us this week.  Back to School.

How confidence building!  That’s what the author says in the very next verse. V.6

“So we say with confidence (because he never leaves us, never forsakes us), ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Here’s another great and precious promise.


Never leaving, never forsaken and active on my behalf!

Do you see that?

It’s not just that he’s here.

We can say the ground is always here, but that doesn’t mean so much.

You might have a crazy uncle that’s always at the family reunions.

“He’s here. But he don’t amount to much!”

But that’s not how God is here.

He is here to help.

“The Lord is my helper.”

Now that, is an AMAZING statement!

That is a mind-blower.

Is your mind blown?

Are you brains cooking in there trying to get that?

God is not here asking for help.

God doesn’t ask us for help.

God is offering help.  God is a helper.

He serves us.

Now, don’t get me wrong. He stays God.  We remain his servants.

We submit to Him and not the other way around.

But He calls Himself our helper because He helps us.

He assists us.
He supports us.
He brings us help.

This is also a quote from the Old Testament. Psalm 118, verses 6 and 7.

And God calls himself a helper.

By the way, ladies, this is the word that God asks you to be for your husbands if you have one: a helper suitable.

Being a helper is not a position of inferiority! God is a helper!

And he’s a helper that never leaves us and never forsakes us.


I know that I can do hard things.

What? Stop the car.

Why did I say that?

This is a passage about God’s presence.

Why did I bring up doing hard things?

Because that’s the main point of Hebrews 13.

That’s why the writer hands out these great and precious promises.

To tell us that God will HELP US (He’s our helper) to do hard things.

Like: v.1.  Loving the Brothers.

“Keep on loving each other as brothers.”

That’s not always easy, is it?  We can all be difficult to love sometimes.

Keep on doing it.

V.2 Entertaining Strangers

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Now, by entertain, it means show hospitality, not put on a show.

You don’t have to find a stranger and then do little song and dance.

It means showing hospitality for strangers.

Yesterday, we got a call from the truck stop.  A young woman from Virginia had been abandoned  by her friends at the truck stop and they had taken her money, her ID, everything.

One of the ministers from the ministerium went up and cared for her needs.

I’ve gone up there and met some of strangest people.

And a couple of times, I wondered if I would come home.

I’ve also wondered if any of them were angels in disguise.

I think that the writer here is talking about Abraham’s nephew Lot in Genesis 19, but  that doesn’t mean that he isn’t still doing it today.

That’s not easy.

But God is here.

Next Sunday, we’re going to have a dynamic guest preacher from Miracle Mountain Ranch, Donnie Rosie.  Donnie is going to bring his wife Tanya and their little son George with him.

Somebody needs to feed the Rosie’s lunch.

Somebody needs to entertain the Rosie.  I know that they are strangers.

Who is up for it?

Talk to me afterwards.

God is here.

And He will help.

V.3 Visiting Prisoners. It’s getting harder, isn’t it?  “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

That’s really hard.  The Lord is your helper.

V.4 Honoring Marriage. “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed be kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

You can do that.  The Lord is your helper.

No pre-marital sex. No living together before marriage. No adultery in marriage. No pornography defiling the marriage bed. Marriage honored.

Is that hard to do?

Who is your helper?

V.5 Being Content With What I Have.  “Keep your lives free form the love of money and be content with what you have...”

BECAUSE God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Do you see the connection?

Is it hard to be content with what you have?

Yeah, but God is present.

He won’t leave you. He won’t forsake you.



Because the Lord is my helper, I know that I can do hard things.

I can take risks.

There is a movie coming up at the end of next month from the makers of Fireproof that church that makes movies.  It’s called “Courageous.”

I can be strong and courageous because the Lord my God will be with me wherever I go.

I can make disciples of all the nations because surely the Lord is with me even to the end of the age.

The first week of this serious, I pointed out that nearly (if not every) time a promise appears in Scripture there is a command nearby. And vice versa.

Because the commands of God are promise-driven by the great and precious promises of God.

We can do hard things because God is present.

What hard things is God calling you to do?

V.7 says, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

Maybe the hard thing for you is following church leaders.

Maybe it’s something completely different.

Maybe it has to do with going back to school this week.

Maybe it’s inviting someone to Family Bible Night, Kids for Christ, Uth Group, ABC Kids.

Maybe it’s telling someone about Jesus.

Does that scare you?

Who is your helper? V.6

“What can man do to me?”

Last promise and then we’re done.


Verse 8.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

He is not going to change.

Jesus is not moody and capricious.

Jesus is not a fair weather friend.

Jesus is immutable.

That’s a big word that means unchanging.

Jesus stays the same.

Here’s the application.

I know that I Don’t Have to be Afraid.

We don’t have to worry that Jesus will be here today and gone tomorrow.

Everything in life changes.

Things fall apart.

But Jesus stays the same.

We don’t have to worry that He’ll fade away.

It might seem at times that He is nowhere near.

He’s like Daddy leaving us alone strapped in our car seat in the van.

No. That’s not how it is.

God is here.

Jesus is here with us through the Holy Spirit.

And he’s not going anywhere.

One more thought.

All of these promises (from this whole series, including this one about God’s presence, all of these promises) are just for believers in / followers of Jesus Christ.

If you are not yet a follower of Christ by faith then you can’t take these promises for you.

Yes, God is here but that is not necessarily good news for you.

God is present in Hell, as well.  He is present there only to punish.

These promises are only good news for those who belong to Jesus.

Jesus knows what it means to be forsaken.

Because He was forsaken for us.

On the Cross, He cried, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”

What does that mean?

It means, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

And even though He knew the answer, he was living the question.

The answer was: for you and me.

Jesus was forsaken so that you and I never will be!

Receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior He never changes.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever!

And that unchanging Savior says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Sunday, August 21, 2011

See You In a Couple of Weeks

The next two weeks are very important writing weeks.

I'm going to be trying to finish the manuscript of the book version of "Resisting Gossip."  We're 3.5 chapters in, only 6.5 to go.

I'll let you know how it goes!

[Matt's Messages] "About Heaven"

“About Heaven”
Great and Precious Promises - Summer 2011
August 21, 2011
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10

We’re in the middle of a very short series on God’s Great and Precious Promises.

The Bible says that God’s “divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

They are that good!

God’s great and precious promises are basic necessities for living the Christian life.

They are not add-ons, not extra, not optional, not an upgrade.

When you go to McDonalds, they say, “Do you want fries with that?”  “Do you want to upsize to a bigger drink?”

That’s optional.

God’s great and precious promises are necessary for living the Christian life.

Every promise in the Book is mine!
Every chapter, every verse, every line.
I am standing on His Word divine,
Every promise in the Book is mine!

And each week, we’ve been thinking about a different set of promises and how great they are and making them precious to us.

Last week was great and precious promises about prayer.  Ask, Seek, Knock and expect good answers.

Next week will be great and precious promises about God’s presence.  Come back next week to hear about those.

Today, great and precious promises about heaven. “About Heaven.”

I had very hard time deciding what passage to preach on today.

Not because there weren’t very many promises about heaven, but because I couldn’t decide what promises to share!

There’s too many. And they’re too good to skip any of them.

A number of you asked for promises about the return of Christ and about heaven on your survey sheets.

But none of you asked for the same passage.

I studied John 14:1-3 for today.

Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

I almost preached that one.

I studied 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16.

Paul says, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep [meaning Christians who die], or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”

Those are great and precious promises, are they not?!

Paul says, “encourage each other with these words.”  Make them precious to you.

I almost preached that to you this morning.

And I studied Revelation 21 and 22 which, in amazing apocalyptic symbolism gives the most stunning, most breathtaking promises in all the Bible as to what heaven will be like.

It’s like drinking from the fire hydrant trying to take it all in.

I almost preached that to you this morning.

But I settled on 2 Corinthians 4:16 through 5:10.

And here’s why.  Because I think we need these promises today.

These are the ones we especially need to hear.

The apostle Paul was going through a terrible time in his ministry.

Extreme difficulty. His troubles were so extreme that he called it a kind of living death.

In the context of our passage for today, he said that he carries around in his body the death of Jesus.  That death is at work in him.

It’s an extremely terrible time for Paul.

Are you going through an extremely terrible time right now?

What sustains you?

What keeps you going?

For Paul, it is the great and precious promises of heaven that keep him going.

He says that he was hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.
He was perplexed but not in total despair.
He was persecuted, but he wasn’t alone.
He was struck down, but not destroyed.
He was hurting, but he didn’t stop.
He kept going in ministry for those people who needed to hear about Jesus.

And he did by reminding himself of heaven.

And that’s why I picked this passage for today.

Heaven is what sustained the Apostle Paul when he was going through his living death.  His death-ful living.

Heaven is what gave him hope and power for living through the midst of extreme suffering.

Great and Precious Promises about Heaven.

I want to point out three promises about heaven from this passage of God’s Word.


Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore we do not lose heart. [We don’t give up.]  Though outwardly we are wasting away [anybody feel like that today?], yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

The Bible says that we fix our eyes not on this world and what we can see now but on that world and what we cannot see right now.  What is unseen.

Why? Because this is all temporary.  But that is eternal.

Heaven is the eternal enjoyment of God’s glory. And heaven will be worth all of the troubles of earth.

Paul says, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Do your trials feel light and momentary?

I know they don’t.

I’m trying to write a book.  For the next two weeks, it will be almost everything that I do while I’m awake.

I’m ready for this to be over.

But I know that in a few weeks it will be.

My troubles (which are really blessings) will be over in a just a few weeks.

They are, when I have perspective, light and momentary.

Of course, you trials may not be over in a few weeks. They may stretch on and on and on.

But in this perspective, they are light and momentary.

Heaven is eternal.  And it is the constant enjoyment of God’s glory.

And it far outweighs all of the trials and tribulations and troubles of this life.

“Far outweighs!”

Because I’m a pastor, I go to a lot of funerals. And people often say something like, “She’s in a better place now.”

But they don’t really believe it.  They just say it.  I have a friend named Jack who has lived through some nasty cancer. And once, when I saw Jack, he said that cancer treatments were going well, and that he’s on “the right side of the flowers.”  And I know what’s he’s saying.  But it’s not true.  If he truly belongs to Jesus, right now, he’s on the wrong side of the flowers!

The other side of the flowers is the side that “far outweighs” it all.

Heaven is worth it.  Heaven is worth the troubles of earth.

Are you hurting right now? It really hurts. I know it really hurts.

But compared to eternity, compared to Heaven, compared to Forever, your pain is light and momentary and if you respond in faith it is achieving for you an enjoyment of an eternal glory that far outweighs it all.

Heaven Is the Eternal Enjoyment of God’s Glory.   And it’s worth it.

Heather Joy and I were engaged for 14 months (I don’t recommend that long of an engagement!), and for the last 7 of those months, we were separated by 2,000 miles.

That was a very difficult time of waiting. It seemed to last forever.  It seemed like we’d never be together again. [Remember those days?] But it was necessary for my schooling, her health, and getting all the details of our wedding together.  It was a hard time.

But I knew that on June 18, 1994, I would be united with my wife.  And we would be (Lord-willing) together again for a lifetime. And those 7 months are just a passing memory now.  “Light and momentary affliction” compared to the glory that we enjoy in marriage today.

Now, my separation from Heather doesn’t compare, I’m sure with what you are going through.

But whatever you are going through doesn’t compare with Heaven.

Think about what will NOT be in heaven just to think about whether it is worth it or not!

We can often tell how good something is by what’s not there.

You know what is not there?

No more death.

Death will have died. No more funerals.  No more funeral homes.  No more graveyards.  No more sad goodbyes.  Death is gone. Can you imagine?

And therefore there will be no mourning.  No grieving.  No bawling our eyes out that we have lost stillborn children or spouses or parents or grandparents.

And the Bible says there will be no more crying.

The Bible says that God Himself [!] will wipe every tear from our eyes!

As they song says, “No more crying there, we are going to see the King!”

No more crying because there is no more pain. No more suffering at all?  No more wheelchairs!  No more cortizone shots.  No more back surgery.  No more suffering.

And even greater --  No more sin.

You know a couple of months ago, I had a brainstorm.

I was burdened about my book on resisting gossip, and frustrated because I was sure that it wouldn’t do very much to stop gossip.

I mean, what can stop the power of gossip?

Writing a little book on it seems like yelling at the ocean to stop rolling in on the waves.

Yeah, right.

And then, I had a little vision into heaven.  And I realized that there would be no more gossip in heaven.

No more sinful gossip.

Because there will be no bad stories to tell!  Only good ones.

Heaven is going to be so awesome, we can’t hardly imagine.

Heaven will be worth the troubles of earth.  More than worth.

Therefore, Paul says (v.18), “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

It is impossible to be too heavenly minded.

Now, it’s also possible to be no earthly good!

But it’s impossible to be too rightly heavenly minded.

We need to fix our eyes on what is unseen.

Fix your eyes on heaven.

That means get ready for eternity.
It means get right with God.
It means get busy sharing Jesus with those who need Him most.

Being fixed on heaven will give us priorities for living on earth.

Believing the great and precious promises of heaven being WORTH IT ALL will motivate us to live the right way now.

Fix your eyes on heaven.


How’s that for a promise? It doesn’t get much greater!  Or more precious.

2 Corinthians 5: “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed [He’s talking about our bodies], we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling [our new bodies], because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked [a bare soul].

For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

I like to go camping.

My favorite place on God’s green earth is Cook Forest State Park on the Clarion River.

My dad camped there when he was kid.

My grandad camped there when he was a kid.

I’ve thought about changing my name to Cook so that it would be my forest.

[Not really. But you get the idea.]

I love to go hiking down Hemlock Trail.  And canoeing down the river.

And eating a meal cooked outside and having a campfire and sleeping in a tent.

But I also know that one of the best parts of parts of camping is ... coming home!

Isn’t it?  It’s okay to live in a tent for a while.  But eventually you want to get home to your own bed, right?  A real roof over your head.

Here in 2 Corinthians, Paul is calling this body, our earthly bodies, a tent. We’re camping right now. Everybody in this room is camping right now.  And camping is, by definition, temporary.

But there is an eternal dwelling–a heavenly dwelling–a new body that is on order, a great and precious on the way.

And one day, in the New Heavens and New Earth that is coming, those who belong to Jesus will have those new bodies.

Paul said it this way in Philippians chapter 3, “[O]ur citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (vv.20-21).

Isn’t that awesome?

Heaven is new life in a new body forever.

What in the world will that be like?

We can hardly imagine.

He says in verse 4, “The mortal will be swallowed up by LIFE.”

New bodies that never fail and never die.

In a world that is made for them.

But right now, we groan.  V.4

“For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.”

Are you groaning right now?

The Bible says that the whole world is groaning right now like a pregnant lady who is just about to pop.

But God has given us His Spirit as a deposit (v.5) to guarantee what is to come.

Those new bodies, that new world, is on order right now, but we have the Spirit as a down-payment to know that the rest is on the way.

The mortal will be swallowed up by life.


The Holy Spirit is earnest money on this promise.

Heaven will be new life in a new body in a new world forever.

And you can take that to the bank.

But Heaven is even better than that.


This is what really makes Heaven, Heaven!

Paul goes on to say in 2 Corinthians 5, verses 6 through 8.

“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Listen to verse 8 of that again.

“Away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

This what makes Heaven, Heaven.

Heaven is not primarily about seeing our loved ones who have already died.

Though we will. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see my mother-in-law again. And my grandparents. And my little daughter.

Heaven is not primarily about escaping the punishment of Hell.

Though we will if we belong to Jesus.  Hell, by the way, is the opposite of all of these promises.  It is banishment from the glory of God so that all of the fun of this world outweighs it. It’s not worth it. Hell is a resurrected body that suffers forever in endless torment.  Hell is separation from God forever and ever. Not being with the Lord.

Heaven is not even primarily about enjoying our new bodies or the new Earth.

Though we will, and the Bible makes a big deal out of it.

Heaven is primarily about being with the Lord Jesus forever.

“At home with the Lord.”

Jesus is what makes Heaven Heaven.

V.6 again. “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Paul says that we’d much rather have the return of Christ and our resurrection-style bodies.  We’d rather not be body-less.

But if Christ has not yet returned, then we would prefer, please, to die, and be “away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

This is what happens right now when a believer dies.

He or she leaves their body and goes to be with the Lord in the “intermediate heaven” for lack of a better term or “Paradise.”

Jesus told the believing thief on the Cross that day, they would be together in Paradise.  At home with the Lord.

There is no purgatory.
There is no limbo.
There is no “soul-sleep.”

There is just “home with the Lord.”

“Away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Never to be parted for all eternity. Someday to have a new body.

But never to be parted.  Always to be with Him forever.

This was Paul’s greatest desire.  And it should be ours.

In Philippians chapter 1 he says, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

Do you and I have that perspective?

“I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”

Jesus Christ is what makes Heaven Heaven.

Being with Jesus Christ is what makes Heaven Heaven.

Do you want to be with Jesus forever?

If that doesn’t sound good, then you either aren’t saved or haven’t grown much.

If that is how you feel, then be like Paul and live to please the Lord right now.

V.9. "So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Everything we do counts.

And we will have to give an account.

To our Savior and our Judge.

To Jesus who we will spend eternity with.

He said in John 14, “In my Father's house are many rooms (there is a space for you there!); if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

At home with the Lord.

He prepared that place for us by dying on the cross and rising again to new life.

And that place is ours if we come through Him.

In John 14 when Jesus said that, Thomas didn’t get it.  He said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

And what did Jesus say back to him?

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

If you want to get to the Father’s house (Heaven!)

which will be worth all of the troubles of earth...

If you want to get to Heaven

which will mean new life in new bodies in a new world forever

If you want to get to Heaven

will be living at home (HOME!) with the Lord.

Then you have to come through Jesus.

He is the way, the truth, and the life. No comes to the Father except through Him.

And everyone who comes to the Father through Him

has these great and precious promises to live by.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


In his book, One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God, Sam Storms writes:
Think of the implications of what is being said!  When we get to heaven there will be nothing that is abrasive, irritating, agitating, or hurtful.  Nothing harmful, hateful, upsetting or unkind.  Nothing sad, bad, or mad. Nothing harsh, impatient, ungrateful or unworthy.  Nothing weak, or sick, or broken or foolish.  Nothing deformed, degenerate, depraved or disgusting.  Nothing polluted, pathetic, poor or putrid.  Nothing dark, dismal, dismaying or degrading.  Nothing blameworthy, blemished, blasphemous or blighted.  Nothing faulty, faithless, frail or fading.  Nothing grotesque or grievous, hideous or insidious.  Nothing illicit or illegal, lascivious or lustful.  Nothing marred or mutilated, misaligned or misinformed.  Nothing nasty or naughty, offensive or odious.  Nothing rancid or rude, soiled or spoiled.  Nothing tawdry or tainted, tasteless or tempting.  Nothing vile or vicious, wasteful or wanton.
 (Storms, pg. 178)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "About Answered Prayer"

“About Answered Prayer”
Great and Precious Promises - Summer 2011
August 14, 2011
Matthew 7:7-11

Two weeks ago, we started a very short sermon series on God’s Great and Precious Promises.

We looked together at 2 Peter 1 which says that God’s “divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

And we talked about these great and precious promises as not being like a fire extinguisher on the wall with a “in case of need break the glass” kind of thing.

Or like a medicine that you only take once and a while.

But instead, these great and precious promises are like meat and potatoes.  Food and drink. Shelter and air for the Christians.

Basic necessities of the Christian life.

Great and precious promises!

Thank for you turning in these yellow survey sheets.

There are very many good thoughts and questions in here.

I will not have time in this series to answer them all, but I will keep them on file and return to them, especially the questions you’ve asked, as the Lord leads.

One of you turned in one with all promises from the book of John.

    John 1:12
    John 15:19
    John 14:3
    John 16:13

Do you know what those verses say?

Someone here does, and they are great and PRECIOUS to them.


Someone else turned in Psalm 33:18-22.

“But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.”


Every promise in the Book is mine!
Every chapter, every verse, every line.
I am standing on His Word divine,
Every promise in the Book is mine!

Here’s what we are going to do for today and the next three weeks of this series.

We’re going to look a three kinds of promises that God makes in the Bible.

We could do many more than these. We could go a year with different kinds of promises that God makes.

But I’ve chosen three from what you’ve asked for and what I think we might need to hear right now in our church’s life.

This week: Answered Prayer.
Next: Heaven
Back to School Sunday: God’s Presence

Answered Prayer, Heaven, God’s Presence.

“Great and Precious Promises About Answered Prayer”

The Bible is full of these.

We could go to lots of different places for God’s promises on answered prayer.

1 John 5:14&15
    This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him.

James 5
    Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

And John 14, 15, 16, the chapters one of you wrote all about on your survey.

John 14:13-14
    And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
John 15:7
    If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

John 16:23-24
    I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

That’s just a few of the amazing promises that God makes in His word about answered prayer.

Today, I’d like for us to go deep into Matthew 7:7-11.

It’s part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. If you have a red-letter Bible all of these words are red, the words of Jesus Christ.

Listen to what Jesus promises.  Matthew 7:7-11

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Those are great and precious promises.


Notice that these promises come alongside of commands.

That’s not unusual.

In fact, I’d say that most if not all of the time when there is a promise in Scripture there a command somewhere nearby.

And the promises fuel the commands.

Another way of saying that is that the commands of the Bible are promise-driven.

There are promises to help us to keep all of God’s commands.

And the command here is the commands to ask, seek, knock.

And it means just what is sounds like.

Ask God for things!

Prayer is communicating with God, and a massive part of that communication is our asking God for things.

Ask, seek, knock.
Ask, seek, knock.
Ask, seek, knock.

God WANTS US to ask Him for things.

In fact, he wants us to KEEP asking Him for things.

In Matthew 7:7, all of the verbs are active present verbs. They have a continuous sense to them.

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

“Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened.”

Ask, seek, knock.

And here’s the promise that goes with that command.

Jesus says, “God will answer.”


“For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

God will answer.

In the parallel passage to this one in Luke 11, Jesus adds a story to make this point.
I remember when I was a teenager, that my pastor, Malcolm Brook, asked me to do a little skit with him about this story up on the stage.

Yep, you can see where I get it!

This is what Jesus said, “‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' [That’s a huge problem in the middle East because of their emphasis on hospitality. This man is in trouble if he can’t locate some food for his guest. So, Pastor Malcolm knocked and knocked trying to wake me up. I was the sleeping guy who answered...]  'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' [I’m tired! Don’t bother me. But Pastor Malcolm kept knocking. And Jesus said,] I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”

Now, who are we in that story?

We’re the needy neighbor, right?

We are the ones asking in prayer.

Who is the one who is like God in this story?

It’s the bothered neighbor, isn’t it?

Because the bothered neighbor has what the needy neighbor is asking for.

And, Jesus says, that in the end, that bothered neighbor is going to get up in the middle night and supply the need.

Why?  Because they are friends?  No, Jesus says it’s not because they are friends.

But because because of the needy neighbor’s “boldness” he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

He kept asking, kept seeking, kept knocking.

Now, catch this.

Is Jesus saying that God is bothered by our prayers?  That God sometimes answers like a grumpy sleepy old man?

No.  Jesus is arguing from the lesser to the greater.

God is not like this man. God never sleeps.  God is never bothered.

God doesn’t complain when He gives good gifts to His children.

He’s only like this man in one way–He will give the needy neighbor what He needs when He comes knocking.

He answers prayer.

God will answer.

So, go ahead and try to bother Him.

He wants to be bothered.  You can’t bother God.
Ask, Seek, Knock because God will answer.

And His answer will be good.


“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?”

What’s the answer to that one?

None of them.

If your kid asks for a Happy Meal, will you give him a cup of Draino?

No, we love our children, and we want to give them good things. V.11

“If you, then, though you are evil [sinners], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

God is not just a bothered sleepy neighbor.

He is a Heavenly Daddy who loves to give good gifts.

These are great and precious promises.

Is this how you think about God?

How we think about God in our heart of hearts, what we believe about Him determines our behavior.

If we believe that He is stingy, then we will not ask.

If we believe that He is non-existent, then we will not seek.

If we believe that He is mean, then we will not knock.

Do you believe these great promises?  Are they precious to you?

Here’s how you know.

Do you pray?
Do you ask?
Do you seek?
Do you knock?

God will answer.  And His answer will be good.

It will not always seem good.

Sometimes we get things that look surprisingly like stones and snakes.

And that leads the cynical person to think that God doesn’t exist or doesn’t care.

But if we believe these promises are great and precious and true and backed with the full faith and credit of the God of the universe, then we will take them to the bank.

The answers are not always what we want or when we want them but they are always good.

Of course, the answer is not always, “Yes.” Sometimes it is “No.”

But when He says no, it is still the best answer you could ever ask for!

Sometimes we are dumb children who ask for SNAKES and STONES instead of FISH and BREAD.  So He says, “No.” 

And I wouldn’t want Him to do anything else!

And sometimes we ask for good things, and He still says, “No.” Because He knows what is best.

Even the Jesus got a “No,” from God the Father to one of His prayer requests.

When Heather and I began praying for some land to build a house on, we got specific in our prayers. We had a list of 5 things we were looking for. [I’ve told you this before.]

1.  Land within 3 miles of the church campus.
    Our house is just over a mile away!
2.  Land in the West Branch School District.
    Which of course was solved by the answer to #1.
3.  At least 3 acres of land so that the kids had space to run around on.
    We got to buy 5 and 1/3 acres.
4.  We wanted a wooded lot.
    We now have lots of trees to enjoy.
5.  We wanted land that was North of Route 80.
    And we now live a few hundred yards SOUTH of Route 80.

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

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

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

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

Have you ever said something like that your children?

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

God always answers your prayers. 

But the answer is not always exactly what you want.

But it’s always good.
So ask.

In James 4, James sets out two different mistake we make about prayer.

Paul Miller, in his excellent book, A Praying Life, says that they are like cliffs on both sides of a road.

Have you ever driven a road with a cliff on both sides?

I HATE driving alongside of a cliff.

My wife loves it.

There is a this place called, “Going to the Sun Road” in Glacier National Park.

Heather thought when we were going up and down it, that she was in heaven.

I was pretty sure that I had gone to the other place!

Well, this year, on our vacation, we drove the Skyline drive on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. Ever done that?

It’s gorgeous up there.

But at times, there is a cliff on this side and a cliff on that side at the same time!

You are on the skyline!

Well, listen to James 4:2&3.

“You do not have, because you do not ask.”

That’s a big cliff.  The cliff of not asking.

Jesus would say that you don’t believe His promises.


But here’s the cliff on the other side.

“When you ask, do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Paul Miller calls that “selfish asking.”

Demanding that God does my will.

That’s the cliff on the other side.

Dangerous and steep. Don’t go there.

Prayer is not magic.  It’s not twisting God’s arm.  It’s not talking Him into things by your powerful words.

Which cliff do you lean towards?  Careen towards?

I tend towards both, but I’m especially concerned when I have been prayerless.

When I’m not asking, seeking, knocking.

Because Jesus says to.

It’s a command.

How would you like it if the Bank called you and said, we’re giving away free money.

Come in and get some.

Would you?

Well, this is better than the bank and it’s bigger than money.

Ask, seek, knock.

My Dad is King of the universe!

He will answer, and it will be good.

Of course, He does have to be your Dad.

Notice it says, “Your father in heaven” gives these good gifts.

He has to be your father for you to know these promises as yours.

And He becomes our father through faith in Jesus Christ and what He did on the Cross for us, paying for our sins, purchasing our forgiveness, and effecting our adoption as sons and daughters of the living God.

Have you become a son or daughter of God through trusting in Jesus Christ?

Then ask, seek, knock.

See how great this promises is and make it precious to you.

God answers prayers.

Let me read you a long passage from A Praying Life by Paul Miller.

I found this very encouraging.

He says, “As I look back on my life, Jesus’ statement ‘If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it’ makes perfect sense. Let me explain by giving you a quick tour of my prayer cards . . .  On my son John’s prayer card, I have five requests. Four of the five have clear answers to prayer. I have a separate prayer care for his work. [Do you do something like this?  I’m trying to develop a system but I haven’t had much success yet.] Several months after I began praying, God dramatically answered my requests for John., Emily’s prayer card has six requests on it. God has answered five of them. On another card I have seven prayer requests for her. God has answered all  of them. I’m puzzling over how to pray for Courney because God has answered four of my prayer requests for her, and i”m not sure what to pray for now.

At one of our prayer seminars, a man who was struggling with typical garden-variety Christian cynicism challenged me whether this wasn’t just the law of averages. That is, lots of things will happen naturally over the course of time. Maybe I was just giving God credit for what would have happened anyway.  Excellent question. I was thankful for his courage to share what many of us think.

I didn’t want to debate theory with him, so I opened up my life and started describin all the ways God had answered prayer. I said, “How do you explain all my answered prayers for my children?  It is not just averages.”  During the break he came up to me and renewed the challenge. When I started to show him one of the prayer cards for one of my children so that he could see a concrete example, he asked if he could pick out one of my prayer cards at random. He suspected that I might control the evidence by picking out a “good” prayer card. I said, “Sure.” So without looking he opened my stack of prayer cards and put his finger on a one-year-old prayer request. He could not have picked a more dramatically answered prayer. I told him the story of what God had done in response to that prayer. Included in that answer to prayer was an unsolicited gift of $50,000 to help us launch a full-time prayer ministry. He walked away sobered. Maybe God is alive.

Just yesterday, I had fine clear answers to prayer. That count is high for a typical day, but is not unusual. Three of them involved people for whom I had been praying for some aspect of Christ’s character in their lives. One was a prayer for healing for our bookkeeper, who has been struggling with severe chronic fatigue for sixteen months.  No massive healing, just a better diagnosis. The last one was this chapter. I’d been struggling to write it for several months, and it finally came together yesterday.”  (A Praying Life, 136-137).

That’s a prayer request I’m familiar with!!!!

Do you feel it?  These are great and precious promises.  The way God works in the world.

Paul Miller is not just a lucky guy that this happens to.

Paul is just like you and me, except he prays and he expects God to answer.

I’m sure if I opened up a microphone, most of us here could tell our stories of how God answered prayer.  Because He is good.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Monday, August 08, 2011

5 Things I Learned During Writing Week (from the Fussbudget Savant)

1. Writing books is harder than writing sermons (at least for me).

Last week was a doozey. Writer's block, uncertainty about how to proceed, sleepless nights, crawling productivity, and so on. I wasn't fun to live with.

I do remember feeling much the same things when I tried to learn Greek (my best friend reminded me this week that I used to launch things at him when he was just trying to help me learn my declensions) and when I was just beginning to learn my craft as a preacher. I am Don Music.

In fact, my new descriptor for myself is Fussbudget Savant.

2. Writing a book is different from writing a sermon (at least for me).

I am glad that I preached through this material before trying to write it into a book. I'm sure that it helped me to develop my thoughts and give me a first chance to put the ideas down.

But I'm finding out that the two genres are not the same, at least how I practice them.

It's not so much about writer's voice. I am still "me" in both genres.

But it's different in other ways including:

- I tend to write sermons by piling on sentences.  A book is more oriented towards the paragraph.

- I tend to write sermons with a cadence that doesn't work with the book.

- I can't rely on pacing, inflection, body-language. It must be in the text for someone to get it.

- I can't rely on people knowing me or what I believe as a starting point. It must be in the text for someone to know that I think it.

3. I need to "be myself."

It turns out that I'm not Ed Welch. Or John Piper. Or Sam Crabtree. Or D.A. Carson. Or Joshua Harris. Or Paul Miller.

Or anyone else whose book I really admire and find to be an inspiration.

I might be writing in a similar genre, but I need to do it my way--even if it won't be popular with others because I'm myself.

I knew this, but I was still trying to write like someone else.

(My wise wifey gave me (read: forced me to see) this nugget of wisdom this week. Thanks, Sweetie!)

4. I still have a lot of sin left in me to kill.

See #1 above. A lot of my problems last week stemmed from the fear of man and from pride. If didn't have those sins still knocking about in my heart, it would have still been a lot of work, but not a pain in the neck for all concerned.

God's still working on me.

5. God is good, my wife loves me, my kids are patient with me, and our church is awesome. 

I knew this one already, but it was good to learn it again!

I'm thankful for a productive week and for the church's gracious provision of writing weeks. It was good to go to church on Wednesday night and Sunday and not have to teach or preach.

I'm thankful for my kids' patience with my preoccupation. I went for several walks with my 11 year old daughter and she patiently listened to me process my book outloud. The boys don't seem to mind sharing me and the basement (lair which doubles as both their play-place and my writing office).

I'm thankful for my wifey's wisdom and she still wants to hang around me.

And I'm thankful to the Lord for the ability to study and write on this level.  He is good and it is good to belong to Him.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Writing Week - August 2-6, 2011

Writing week is over.

Results: One table of contents (and therefore, a master-outline of the book), one introduction (1000 words), and two and a half chapters written. Chapter one is 3000 words. Chapter two is 2300, and I'm 1900 words into chapter three.

Thank you for praying! This is harder than I thought it would be!