Monday, December 15, 2014

Notes and Quotes from my Sermon "Set Free by a Baby" - from Isaiah 61 and Luke 4:16-21

Yesterday I preached a sermon called "Set Free by a Baby" at Main Street Moravian Church in Northfield, MN. It was a meaningful time of looking the promises of the coming Messiah in Isaiah 61 and then examining the implications of Jesus declaration of fulfillment in Luke 4:16-21.

Here's a few notes, quotes and anecdotes from the sermon.....

Have you ever had high expectations for something only to find out the thing you were expecting wasn’t even close to the real thing at all?

Read Isaiah 61. It’s easy to understand why the Jews were so excited about the coming Messiah. This man who was promised by God to come, was going to come and change Israel’s entire existence.

In this prophecy Isaiah declares that when the day of the Lord comes, when the time of His favor returns, it will bring with it complete restoration for the people of Israel.

The restoration declared in Isaiah is the kind of restoration God does in the lives of people who love him! He takes people who are damaged by sin, who have rust on their relationships, who aren’t functioning as they are designed to, people with hurts and hang-ups and habits, people who like Humpty Dumpty, can’t put the broken pieces of their lives back together on their own, and because of His great love He steps in and He restores them to be beautiful, valuable and functional.

Read Luke 4:16-20. I hope you caught what happened there because it is very significant. In saying that the Scripture he just read was fulfilled, Jesus is declaring himself the Messiah.

There are 2 parts to the work of Messiah. There is a NOW and a THEN. The first part, the NOW, is Jesus announcement that He is the Messiah they were expecting, and the Lord’s favor has returned. The THEN will come later when the day of the Lord's vengeance comes.

This is what I want to focus on with you - that NOW is the day of salvation. What does that mean? According to Jesus it means that NOW is the time 4 things are going to happen. Jesus says that he has come to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recover the sight of the blind, and to set free those who are oppressed.

Church the fact is, to be a fully devoted biblical Christian means that we must take serious both the physical and spiritual implications of Jesus words. It is a both/and issue, never an either/or. We must be concerned with the entire person, both body and soul.

When it comes to matters of the soul, even the richest people in the world, are just as poor before God as the lowliest man on earth. (cf. Rom 3:23, Isaiah 64:6, Eph 2:1-2)

So here’s what we need to grab hold of. Jesus has proclaimed us free from our captivity and victorious over our oppression. (cf. John 8:38)

We need Jesus to restore sight to our eyes which have been blinded by Satan. (2 Cor 4:4) And that must be our prayer for our family, friends and community who do not know Jesus. Their eyes are blind and they need their sight restored. And only Jesus does that!

Jesus does not bring the Favorable Year of the Lord in a forceful way. Rather, Jesus the Messiah is born in a humble manager, in a stable, in the quiet of the night. And the call of Jesus to freedom does not come from heralds in King’s palaces on earth, but from heralds in the King’s palace in the sky.

It moves me this Christmas to think that the first cries of “Freedom!” came through the small cries of an infant.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Precious Lord, take my hand Lead me on

Precious Lord, take my hand Lead me on, let me stand I am tired, I am weak, I am worn
Through the storm, through the night Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

When my way grows drear Precious Lord linger near
When my life is almost gone Hear my cry, hear my call Hold my hand lest I fall
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

When the darkness appears And the night draws near And the day is past and gone
At the river I stand Guide my feet, hold my hand
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

Precious Lord, take my hand Lead me on, let me stand I'm tired, I'm weak, I'm lone
Through the storm, through the night Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.

Prayer written by Thomas Dorsey, one of the grandfathers of Black Gospel Music, written after the death of his wife and child during childbirth.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Life Group: A Place to Celebrate and Be Celebrated

Last night at my life group we celebrated one of the member’s birthday. Her husband brought a cake, I brought ice cream, and the host family had hot coffee ready to go. Once all the kids gathered in the kitchen we sang “Happy Birthday” and, blushing, she blew out the lone candle on her cake. It was a really neat moment to come together and surprise her with a birthday celebration.  

What happened after the cake and coffee was really cool. It just sort of naturally happened that the kids went downstairs, the wives went to the living room couches, and the men stood around in the kitchen. It was neat to look around and see how God was leading all of these groups of people into relationship with one another. I have no idea what the girls talked about (besides obviously talking about their husbands), but do I know that as men we stood there drinking coffee, laughing, and mixing the conversation up with stories about our lives, our beards, and all what God has been leading and teaching us. Finally all the men wandered over to the living room where we spent the next 45 minutes sharing prayer requests, observations from Scripture and lots of laughs.

I’m so grateful for this group of men and women am I walking with. Every time we’re together they encourage and inspire me to keep my eyes on Jesus.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Notes, Quotes and Anecdotes from My Sermon on Mark 13:32-37

Yesterday I preached a sermon called "Stay Awake, Stay Alert" at Main Street Moravian Church in Northfield, MN. We had a great time looking at Jesus words in Mark 13:32-37. What made it even more special was having my 10 year old daughter Isabelle playing piano and leading the church in a couple of Christmas carols.

Here's a few notes, quotes and anecdotes from the sermon.....

At its most simplistic, Advent is a time for Christians to re-focus their hearts and minds on Jesus. Here’s the irony though. If your experience is anything like mine the four weeks of Advent are some of the busiest and most difficult times for people to keep Christ at the center of their lives.

When Jesus talks about God bringing the world to a close he does not do so with gentle ideas. And yet interwoven into his prophecies of destruction and persecution, are hopeful promises that God’s elect (those whom he has foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified - c.f. - Romans 8:28-30) will be protected and collected and brought safely to himself.

I have always felt it was a bit ridiculous and pompous to try and predict the end of the world.

The principle in Jesus’ teaching [Mark 13:32-37] is this ---> As followers of Jesus we are to pay attention, daily, to what is happening around us and to look for things God is doing.

And yet, despite the vast amount of prophecy pointing to Jesus the majority of the religious leaders were never able to put all the pieces together. They were spiritually asleep when Jesus came, and they missed it.

The Bible teaches us in these two passages, and in multiple places elsewhere, that people do not see Jesus because their minds have been hardened and blinded. (c.f. 2 Corinthians 3:14-16; 4:3-6)

Because of the remaining sin in my life, I am not able to see Jesus clearly for who he is. Because sin still lives in me, I must ask God each day to shine his light into my heart and allow me to see what is really happening. (c.f. - Eph 1:17-18)

And as we enter into Advent I fear that a large number of people who attend church on Sunday are living their lives the rest of the week asleep and unalert to what Jesus is doing in the world.

Our spiritual enemy, Satan uses spiritual tryptophan to lull our spirits to sleep. Things like comfort, convenience, and consumerism can all quickly and quietly become the tryptophan of Satan. (c.f. 1 John 2:15-17; 2 Timothy 4:10)

It scares me how easily I can go weeks at a time without praying, reading my Bible, or spending time in the presence of Jesus. I can get so swept away with “life” that I pay no attention to the one who gave His life to redeem mine.

C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters "Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,"

What they have is an engagement problem (c.f. Mark 14 Garden of Gethsemane). The disciples are not engaging with what Jesus is doing. They are on their own schedule with their own concerns, and they can’t move past themselves to where Jesus is.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

27 Things I'm Thankful For This Thanksgiving

Today is the day we focus on thankfulness. Here's 27 things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving Day, November 27.

1. That I am foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified by God, through Jesus Christ.
2. That I am not who I used to be, and that I am in the process of becoming someone even greater.
3. For my amazing wife who loves me despite my imperfections, who never quits on me, and who calls forth the greater man inside me.
4. For my three children, who are filled with passion, conviction, love, energy and I pray, God's Spirit.
5. For the steps I have taken towards greater physical health, including the loss of weight and the completion of two 5K races this year (Jesse James and Turkey Trot - both in Northfield.)
6. That I have a job I enjoy, co-workers I like being around and a company culture that allows me to pursue my interests to help the company grow.
7. For a boss that loves Jesus and talks about him openly.
8. For a small group of friends who are journeying life together and encouraging one another towards godliness and commitment to His Word.
9. For memories made in 2014 like coaching Andrew's baseball, going to Jacob's baseball tournaments, watching Izzy play volleyball, a Wisconsin Dells trip, time at my parent's cabin, and many more experiences.
10. That I am healthy.
11. For all the ways God has met our needs this year in big and little ways, known and unknown, in just the right time, in ways we could have never expected.
12. For family-in-law who love our children and bestow on them all sorts of blessings.
13. For a church that believes in the truth and authority of the Bible and encourages people to read it, submit to it and apply it to their lives.
14. For the opportunities I had to preach and teach in Blaine, Monticello, Waseca, Northfield and Menomonie. 
15. That I have a warm house, plenty of clothes, cars that work, and more physical goods that I need.
16. That I am learning about and experiencing what happens when you eat natural food and how good it makes your body function and feel.
17. For my wife who works so hard at mothering, teaching, coaching, serving, being a friend, being a wife, and giving her life away to others in so many ways.
18. For good coffee!
19. That I had multiple special experiences this year with Jacob including MN Boy's Hockey Tournament, 5th grade ELC trip and Mitchell, SD hunting trip.
20. For friends who have blessed me in so many ways giving away their time, resources, knowledge and goods in order to make my life better.
21. For the garden I grew in my yard.
22. For personal experiences I had learning about maple syrup and honey, helping build a mobile chicken coop, riding in a combine, pheasant hunting, cutting off a raccoon tail, and helping track and field dress a buck.
23. That I have kind neighbors who are fun to hang out and who enrich my life.
24. That my sister and brother-in-law were able to move back to Minnesota and that I'll have a much closer seat watching my little nephew grow up.
25. For brothers who love my family and my kids, and who give generously where there is need to make sure their nephews and niece have everything they need.
26. For the clear ways God broke into my life and worked all things together for my good.
27. For my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave His life for me, paying the penalty I should have paid but never could, in order that I might attain the life he had and which I was made for.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Notes and Quotes from my sermon "5 Things I'm Thankful For" - Romans 8:28-20

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at Main Street Moravian Church in Northfield (I will be back this Sunday also). I preached out of Romans 8:28-30 and shared 5 things I am thankful for, based on 5 words found in the text.  The words are foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified. The church was much fuller than usual, and I was happy to have my family and a couple friends in the congregation.  Here are a few things from the sermon that I wanted to share.

- That being said, as a preacher of God’s Word, I do not want to be afraid of the opinions of people, and I can not sugar coat what I feel the Bible overwhelmingly teaches to be true.

- It would be foolish of me to be so afraid of what people think that I would risk the displeasure of God by trying to soften or sweeten His Words.

- However, I believe there’s a way to share these words w/o being a jerk for Jesus.

- Here’s something to remember ---> Our attitude reflects our feelings of gratitude.

- To be a Christian means that not only was my existence known by God, but a mark was put on my life from forever ago that I would be chosen to be loved as a child in his family.

- [The Bible] talks about: 2) God “knowing” in a way that is synonymous with his choosing and possessing a people for himself.

- let me ask you this, “Why do you feel the need to get God off the hook for something that he himself doesn’t feel the need to justify or explain to human beings? Why, as a human being, do you accuse God of not meeting your code of what is moral or just?”

- Predestination, in this case, is the divine determination of God that those who love him will become like his Son Jesus, and what v. 28 says is that God will use whatever means and measures he chooses to bring forth that likeness.

- God has predestined it, meaning God has divinely determined, that by faith, those who love Him will become like their big brother Jesus in every way. For those who are adopted by the plan and purpose of God into His own family, THIS IS going to happen.

- But who I am now is not who I will always be!

- The effectual call of God always does what God intends it to do - it gives a person with a dead sinful heart, new life.

- Pastor John Piper says it like this, “Justification is the act where God forgives sin, acquits guilt, averts his wrath, and declares you innocent and righteous.”

- Without justification there is no hope, no healing, no redemption, no glory and no future with God.

- The Biblical concept of glorification means that those who, by faith, are in Christ Jesus, will one day share in his glory and will experience the eradication of all sin. It means that our physical bodies will be redeemed, renewed and made perfect.

- In the mind of God glorification of the saints, your joining with Christ, sharing in Christ’s glory, beholding the glory of God, having your mind and body renewed, in the mind of God these things are not just happening, they are done, they are FINISHED!

Having a Hard day? Read Spurgeon's Description of the Christian's Future Hope!

Shared this quote from Charles Spurgeon in my sermon yesterday. I absolutely love Spurgeon's description of the hope Christian's have for glorification through faith in Christ.

"The night is dark, but the morning comes. Over the hills of darkness the day breaks forth. It may be that the road is rough, but its end is almost in view, you have been climbing up the steep sides of the mountain, and from the top of it you can view your glorious inheritance. True the grave is still before you, but your Lord has snatched the sting from death, and the victory from the grave. Do not, O burdened spirit, limit yourself to the confining miseries of the present hour, but let your eye gaze with fondness on the enjoyment of the past, and view with equal love the infinite blessings of eternity past, when you did not exist, but when God chose you for himself, and wrote your name in his book of life; and then let your glance flash forward to eternity future, to see the mercies which will be yours even here on earth, and the glories which are stored up for you beyond the skies."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Does Connecting Foreknowledge and Free Will Get God Off the Hook?

 Came across this in a Pastor John MacArthur sermon during my research for my sermon on Sunday. The questions raised in the third paragraph are worth considering for my free-will friends.

Where does salvation begin?  What’s the primitive point at which it all launches?  Verse 29:  “For those whom He foreknew – For those whom He foreknew.”  Now, for some people, this is a meltdown point for accepting the sovereignty of God in salvation.  They say, “Oh, that’s the key.  He foreknew.”  He, because He knows everything that’s going to happen, looked ahead and He saw what people were going to do of their own free will, and since He knew what they were going to do, He chose them to be His own.

Is that what foreknowledge is saying?  He saw what was going to happen – now let me tell you, He does know the future.  He knows the end from the beginning.  He knows everything that’s going to happen before it’s going to happen – that is true.  He does have prescience, if you want to call it that.  He does have knowledge of what hasn’t happened, full knowledge of it.  But is that what this is talking about?  Did God just look ahead at these fully independent people and say, “Well, they’re going to believe and they’re not going to believe, so since I know who is going to believe, those are the ones I’m going to elect.”

Well, there’s several responses I have.  First of all, that would make the word “elect” nonsense because He didn’t choose anything.  So forget the doctrine of election because He didn’t choose anything.  It would be the doctrine of a reaction.  I don’t know if you want to try to preach the doctrine of divine reaction.  Or perhaps you’d like to preach the doctrine of human sovereignty.  Then you have to ask the question:  By what power did they overcome their fallenness?  By what power did these people that He looked at in the future, who had free will, overcome their depravity, their fallenness, their deadness, their blindness, their darkness?  And then you’d have to ask this:  If God looked ahead and saw that people would not choose the gospel and would not choose to believe and would therefore go to hell, why did He go ahead and create them?  Because, you see, the only reason people come up with this idea that God simply reacted to what He knew would happen is to get Him off the hook for what happens.  They’re trying to save God from a bad reputation, like being responsible for people who go to hell.  So they want to say we can’t do that to God, so He’s just reacting to what people do.  But then if nobody’s been created, why did He go ahead and create the people He knew would do that?  Or you could even ask a tougher question:  Why did He create people who had the potential to do that unless He had a purpose for that happening?  You don’t get God off the hook in the end any way you try.  What’s happening is within His purpose.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sanctifying Your Thinking

A great word from Pastor John Piper about the on going need to bring our thinking into conformity with Christ.

Until your mind is conformed to the mind of Christ, the teaching of this text will probably produce conflict, not comfort. This text is meant to comfort you and strengthen you and give you confidence that the best and worst things in your life will work for your good, because you love Christ and are chosen and predestined for glory. But it will only have this effect when God grants you a measure of the mind and spirit of Christ.

I don't say this to scold you or condemn you if you struggle. Just the opposite. I say it to encourage you that just like behavioral conformity to Jesus is a life-long battle with wrong deeds, and emotional conformity to Jesus is a life-long battle with wrong feelings, so intellectual conformity to Jesus is a life-long battle with wrong thinking. So I am never surprised when some folks stumble over the harder teachings of Scripture. Conformity to Christ does not come all at once, neither, behavioral, nor emotional, nor intellectual.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

If You Are Married, You Have to Read This....

The following excerpt comes from a very important article....

Gottman wanted to know more about how the masters created that culture of love and intimacy, and how the disasters squashed it. In a follow-up study in 1990, he designed a lab on the University of Washington campus to look like a beautiful bed and breakfast retreat.

He invited 130 newlywed couples to spend the day at this retreat and watched them as they did what couples normally do on vacation: cook, clean, listen to music, eat, chat, and hang out. And Gottman made a critical discovery in this study — one that gets at the heart of why some relationships thrive while others languish.

Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.

People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t — those who turned away — would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper. Sometimes they would respond with overt hostility, saying something like, “Stop interrupting me, I’m reading.”

These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being. Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had “turn-toward bids” 33 percent of the time. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.

Monday, November 10, 2014

My First Deer! (Well….Kinda)

I have never been deer hunting but for the last couple years I've been interested in it. I know a lot of guys who are hunters and I've been asking questions and hoping for a chance to someday get out in the woods. On Sunday I got my first opportunity.

The call came from a friend at 9PM on Sunday night. "Hey, I shot a deer today. Are you up for a little adventure? Do you want to come out in the woods with me and help me track it and bring it home?"

Um….let me think….ah…..heck yes!

I threw on some old clothes and drove over to his house. He fitted me up with an orange vest, some rubber gloves and a head lamp. It was awesome. Before we left he taught me about the difference between slugs and bullets, hollow tips and full metal jackets, smooth and rifled barrels, lands and groves, and how muzzle-loading is done. More awesomeness.

Then we drove out to the woods. I thought it would be a little more freaky out there in the dark then it was. Maybe I was scared because I was so focused on our mission. My friend let me walk in front of him following the blood trail. It was super cool! I loved going slow and looking for the spots of blood indicating what was going on with the deer.

We found the deer pretty quickly and then I watched my friend gut it. I had always wondered about that process. He did a great job and I didn't smell anything. It was fascinating to watch him make the cuts and then see the guts all fall right out of the deer. After he was done we threw the deer on his game cart and I helped pull it out of the woods back to the truck.

When we got home he hosed the deer off and then we hung it in his garage. It was a fantastic adventure that I won't forget. I just wish I could be there tomorrow to see the look on his two year old daughter's face when she see's it hanging in there!

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