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Archive for July, 2013

“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Prov. 16:32).

If you can control yourself, or rule your spirit as the proverb says, you’re better than a mighty warrior. In other words, it’s easier to control yourself than to capture a city militarily. My biggest problem isn’t global warming (or climate change or whatever it’s called these days) or guns or poverty or human trafficking or caffeine or genetically modified food or leftists or the inability of the Trail Blazers to win a playoff series. All of those things are outside of me. The real problem is inside.

My biggest problem is me. One of the benefits of religious education and training (at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition) is that our real enemy is properly identified – ourselves. Secular education and training will always look outside for enemies – never inside.

My biggest problem is me – my sin and my bent to do what I want and not what God wants. G.K. Chesterton had a provocative answer to the question, “What’s the problem with the world today?’ He said, “I am.” If that question was asked of me, I’d give the very same answer.

The answer to my biggest problem and yours isn’t inside – it’s outside of us. It’s Jesus Christ and His ability to change us from the inside out.

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“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.” (Prov. 16:1)

“The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” (Prov. 16:9)

We make our plans, but God is ultimately responsible for the results. There’s nothing wrong with planning (see James 4:13-18), but the sovereign Lord can override or change them whenever He sees fit.

You and I have all sorts of plans about our life, our jobs, our vacations, and just about everything else. But what we need to remember is that we don’t have the power or ability to bring those plans to fruition by ourselves – there are simply too many variables.

The way of the wise (presented in the book of Proverbs) is to plan to the best of our ability and trust God for the results because He always does what’s right and He’s absolutely good.

Two illustrations in my own life come to mind: When Karen and I got married, it was our plan to have children (four of them to be exact). We wanted the first one to come along a few years into our marriage and then the other three several years apart. We made our plans, but it hasn’t turned out that way. God has something different for us. We discovered that we can’t have children naturally and our attempts at adoption so far haven’t been successful. The second illustration is the church I have the privilege of pastoring. After a long process of prayer, reflection, and thinking, we’ve developed a new vision and identity. In that process, the name of the church has been changed to Cross Creek Bible Church. We’re making plans, and working, to repair the building (painting, a new sign, new windows, new gutters, landscaping, etc.) and make a new start. We plan on dedicating the new church September 8th (if you can be there, it’s at 10:00!). We’re making our plans and work hard, but we don’t know what the results will be. We don’t know what God has for us, but we trust Him – it’s in His hands.

The answer will be from the tongue of the Lord, and He will direct our steps as we live before His face (coram Deo).

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I had the privilege of preaching on 2 Peter 3:18 this morning. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: In order to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we must be committed to spiritual disciplines – practices that promote spiritual growth.

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Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, has given birth to a son, and the whole world seems to be watching and fascinated. There’s nothing inherently wrong with our interest, but a bit of perspective is in order.

Contrast the birth of this little boy, whose undoubtedly long name we don’t know yet, with the birth of another little boy, whose name we do know over two thousand years ago. 

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus continues by noting that the first group of people to become aware of His birth were shepherds out in the fields doing their job.

No press. No fanfare. No hospital room. No room, for that matter. An ordinary birth not announced worldwide on Twitter.

But what a difference it, and He, made!

But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive our adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

I’m happy for Will and Kate, but I’ll have a side of perspective with my fish and chips (generously covered with malt vinegar and salt).

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on Genesis 33 (Jacob meets Esau, his estranged brother, for the first time in 21 years). Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: The ups and downs of our walk with God can be minimized by avoiding extremes, getting into the Bible, praying, not neglecting fellowship with other believers, and serving.

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One word can make a huge difference. Take for example, one of the first printings of the King James Version. The seventh commandment was rendered as “You shall commit adultery.” Oops! One word – missing in this case – makes a gigantic difference.

Paul wrote this to a church that lived in a very wicked and sinful environment: “Or do you not know the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you wed sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

The most important word in those three sentences is “were.” Some of the Corinthian Christians used to be everything Paul described, but they aren’t anymore.  They were, at one time, fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers (and probably a lot more), but now they aren’t.

They went from “are” to “where” because God changed them. The Lord gave them new hearts and brought them from death to life, from darkness to light, from sin to righteousness. Can we really change? Yes, if God changes us. By His grace, He washes, sanctifies, and justifies us. Don’t lose hope – change is possible, but only when God does it!

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This morning, I had the privilege of preaching on Genesis 32:22-32 (Jacob wrestling with God). Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: God helps us by bringing us to the end of ourselves; giving us a desire for Him alone; and changing us.

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