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Archive for June, 2018

weary

“Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13)

Sometimes it’s tough to keep going, especially when you don’t see results. That’s true in life and ministry. We feel like we’re banging our head against a wall and we want to quit. Besides that, it hurts!

Listen to Paul’s encouragement in Galatians 6:9: “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” We should keep doing what’s good and right even if we fell like giving up because we’re not seeing any results. If we maintain our faithfulness the results – God’s results, not ours necessarily – will come at some time.

William Carey, called “the Father of Modern Missions,” labored for seven years in India before baptizing his first convert. Mary Drewery, in her biography of Carey, said, “The actual number of conversions directly attributable to him is pathetically small; the number indirectly attributable to him must be legion.”

Adinoram Judson, America’s first missionary, labored for seven years in Burma before seeing his first convert.

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Nott spent twenty-two years laboring on the island of Tahiti as missionaries before Pomare II was baptized on May 16th, 1819.

Don’t lose heart and don’t grow weary as you continue to do good – as you plant, water, and tend. In God’s time you’ll reap.

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“Encourage one another daily.” (Hebrews 3:13)

“Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, “ (1 Thessalonians 4:1, 9-10).

The Christians in Thessalonica lived in such a way as to please God. They loved God and each other well. Paul commended them for it.

But notice something else he said: “Excel still more” on both counts. Paul is saying, “You’re living in such a way as to please God, but you can do even better,” and “You’re loving each other well, but you can do even better.”

They have room to improve, and so do we. None of us have arrived at a place where any further improvement is impossible. We can always do better in our walk with God. We can always please God more. We can always love God and others with more fervency and effectiveness than we do now. There’s always room “to excel still more.” Whatever we do for the Lord can always be improved upon. When we think we’ve arrived, we get stagnant, which doesn’t please the Lord at all.

It’s encouraging to know that we can improve (yes, it’s possible) and that God will give us the power of His Spirit to “excel still more.”

 

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Good Point!

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pruning

“Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13)

You don’t have to be an expert in horticulture to know that trees, bushes, and shrubs have to be pruned if they’re going to flourish, grow, and increase in fruitfulness. If you just let them grow, they’ll actually produce less fruit as time goes by.

Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2). 

God the Father prunes His children and He uses various means to do it. It could be the loss of a job, a financial reversal, a health situation that continues to get worse, a problem in your marriage, a child who becomes a prodigal, persecution, failure, or simply a whole list of things that go wrong in the space of a day. Pruning doesn’t feel good. It hurts. Sometimes it hurts a lot. We beg God to stop whatever is happening, but maybe we ought to think twice about that.

Take a closer look at what the Lord Jesus said: “Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it.” If you are in Christ (if you belong to Him, in other words), and are bearing fruit, the Father will prune you. He’ll cut some things off and cause some pain, but it’s because you’re being fruitful and not because you aren’t. That should be encouraging. Not only that, but He says the Father “prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” The purpose of God’s pruning is more fruit and more fruitfulness in the believer, not less. Pruning, even though painful, produces a greater level of fruitfulness. If God left us alone, we’d be less fruitful – but He doesn’t. That, too, should be encouraging.

Be encouraged! If you’re being pruned, you’re being fruitful and you’re going to become more fruitful in time. It’s God’s horticulture!

 

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Psalm 33-1 Sing To The Lord-brown

I had the privilege this morning of hearing Isaac Pauley preach on Psalm 33 as part of a series on what we value as a church. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: We desire that all aspects of our corporate worship services to be God-focused, not self-focused.

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Number 5

“The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like [f]well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd.” (Ecclesiastes 12:11)

Here are a collection of recent articles I think are especially good.

Mark Bäuerlein of First Things explains the importance of reading out loud with your children. I’ve always been a proponent of reading out loud, so it’s good to have some backup. By the way, it should continue after the kids learn to read and after they’ve left home, too.

What is discernment? Sinclair Ferguson answers that question at the Ligonier blog. The practice of discernment seems to be rare in many parts of the church today.

What, if anything, does God owe us? According to Tim ChalliesHe does not owe us a happy ending. This is a hard truth, but we need to learn it. God doesn’t owe us answers, either. Sometimes He gives us happy endings and answers, but not always. We should trust Him no matter what.

Randy Alcorn has some concerns about Jesus Calling (a popular book by Sarah Young) and some thoughts on the sufficiency of Scripture. It’s well worth a read.

Five skeptics who want to shame your kids for being Christian – yes, they really exist, and Natasha Crain has written an excellent article on how to combat them. Good ammunition.

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“What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

Paul asked the Corinthian church that question in his first letter to them (1 Cor. 4:7). The apostle was writing, in this section of the letter, to correct the divisive spirit that had made its way into the church. Some were thinking of themselves as better than others and maybe even Paul himself.

Paul makes several points in verse 7. First, God gave the Corinthians everything they had. There wasn’t one thing they had that God didn’t give them – everything comes from His gracious hand. Second, they shouldn’t boast about what they have because it didn’t ultimately come from themselves.

These truths have meaning for us, too. Everything you and I have comes from God. What do we have that we did not receive? The question is rhetorical and the answer is a loud and clear “nothing!” In His common grace, God has given us air to breathe, water to drink, clothing and shelter, gifts, talents, and abilities, and everything else. It’s only by His mercy that we’re even alive. All of us should respond with gratitude and thankfulness to God. In His special grace, or saving grace, God opens our eyes and ears as well as removes our heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh, and gives us the very faith we place in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. That saving grace didn’t come from us – it came from Him – therefore, we shouldn’t boast about it.

Knowing that God has given us everything we have motivates our praise, encourages humility, informs our stewardship, and drives our gratitude.

 

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This morning I had the privilege of hearing Pastors Rick Elzinga and Joel Lundy preach a sermon called “What We Value: Generosity.” Here is a summary of their sermon in one sentence: We strive to be faithful stewards with the material resources God provides, being both generous and prudent, as well as serving Christians beyond our church membership.

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another superhero

How can we recognize pride in our lives? Dustin Benge gives us six signs:

~ You want to be well known or important (James 3:13-16).

~ You want to impress people (Luke 10:28-32).

~ You draw attention to yourself (Prov. 27:2).

~ You think you know it all (1 Cor. 8:1).

~ You desire recognition and praise (John 5:41-44).

~ You think you’re self-sufficient (Matt. 4:4).

Remember, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

 

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open-Bible

How do we know what’s right and wrong? How do we know that abortion is wrong? How do we know that all human beings have dignity, value, and worth? How do we know that there are two sexes – male and female – which are assigned to us by God at our conception? How do we know the true spiritual condition of mankind (lost, sinful, and fallen)? How do we know how we can be right with God?

There are a number of answers, and almost all of them are wrong. Human reason and logic can’t give us the answers. Neither can intuition, personal experience, or tradition. As Christians, we rely on revelation. God has revealed Himself to us and He has spoken to us in His Word. The reason we know anything, and can know anything, is because God has revealed it to us.

When we think about any issue or question, whether inside the church or not, our first question needs to be “What does the Scripture say?” In other words, we need to ask what God thinks about it. This ought to be our first instinct, not our last. God’s Word – what He has to say – is authoritative in every area of life. That instinct, however, is in short supply in today’s church. We seem to take our cues from just about any other source than God and His Word.

It ought not be so, as illustrated by the following two passages. The apostle Paul has been arguing in the early chapters of the book of Romans that everyone is sinful and, therefore, deserving of God’s wrath (1:18-3:20). He then proclaims that justification by faith alone is the answer to the question of how sinful man can be right with a holy God (3:21-31). In 4:1, he says, in effect, “What about Abraham? How was he justified?” In order to give his answer, he appeals to Scripture, when he says, “What does the Scripture say?” (4:3). A quotation from Genesis 15:6 follows: “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Paul cites Scripture to make his case and bring the discussion to an end – the matter is settled.

The second passage is Matthew 19:3-9. Some Pharisees challenged Jesus about whether or not a man could divorce his wife. Instead of quoting an influential rabbi or two, Jesus went straight to the Scripture to give the authoritative answer. He said, “Have you not read?” in verse 4. In other words, “What does the Scripture say?” The Lord Jesus asked this question many times during His ministry. He continually appealed to God’s Word as the final authority in all matters.

The church needs to remember and recover this crucial principle. We know what’s right and wrong, what’s true and false, because we read it in God’s Word – because God says so. There’s nothing wrong with believing and saying that. In fact, if we’re going to be faithful Christians, that’s exactly what we’ll do.

 

 

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