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!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

6 Simple Words That Will Instantly Transform Your Marriage….Guaranteed

Want a simple tip that will instantly improve your marriage?

6 words. That's all.

It really is that simple. 6 words to a happier marriage.

Are you ready? Get some paper and a pen. (You're going to want to write this down.)

Ok, here it comes.

Think the best of your spouse.

I made the words big so they stand out. I don't want you to miss them.

Think the best of your spouse.

It really is that simple to instantly transform your marriage.

How can it be? Let me explain.

When you think the best of your spouse you change the atmosphere of the relationship. Positive thoughts lead to positive actions. Positive thoughts lead to positive feelings. Positive thoughts lead to more gracious, patient, honoring, respectful, kind and tender words. And those things take the relationship to a whole notha level.

Here's the deal. I'll bet you could tell me 10 things that bug you about your spouse pretty quick. "He's annoying." "She nags me." "He never gets anything accomplished. He's lazy." "She just wastes all our money." Please someone turn off the negativity faucet. I can't handle anymore. It is just too easy to think about our spouse in a negative light. We see in all our spouse's faults in HD clarity. And when we focus and dwell on the negatives, we develop a negative feeling towards our spouse, which leads to conflict, unhappiness and a lack of love.

The good thing is this cycle can be stopped.

Think the best of your spouse.

Instead of being negative learn to give the benefit of the doubt. Learn to distrust your angry heart and instead replace it with grace. Look for the best in your spouse. Praise the little things. Believe, REALLY BELIEVE, that even when they error your spouse is not looking to make your life miserable. Forgive the mess-ups. Did I mention, look for the good and call it out? Be thankful and joyful and jovial and full of love.  It will transform your marriage…in…..a…..second.


Monday, November 03, 2014

Doing Drills Creates the Skills You Need to be Successful, in Life and Faith

"You have to do drills, in order to develop the skills, that you need to be successful."

These are the words I spoke to my daughter after her basketball practice last weekend. She was frustrated about all the drills she has to do during practice. In her mind, it would be much more fun to just play games.

I get where she is coming from. I played hockey from the time I was five until the year I graduated from Bethel University. In those 17 years I went to a lot of practices I didn't enjoy. I'm sure I complained to my parents many times about how much I disliked doing the drills and conditioning.

Thing is, the older I get the more I realize the importance of practice. Sure playing the game is more fun, but what takes time to understand is that the game is more fun when you have mastered the skills in practice. Shooting the game winning free throw only happens after you've shoot thousands of free throws in an empty gym. By doing drills you develop the skills to succeed in the game.

When it comes to the Christian life, the drills are called spiritual disciplines. Disciplines is a scary word, but it is more understandable when you think of it as a drill to develop a skill. The drill of silence and solitude develops the skill of faith and discernment and peace. The drill of Bible reading and gathering for preaching develops the skill of Biblical knowledge and wisdom. The drill of giving and service develops the skill of generosity and contentment. And when these spiritual skills are developed you and I are more likely to experience 'success' in our walk with God.

Practicing spiritual disciplines is no more glamorous than running sprints on the football field or hitting the baseball off the tee. But just like those drills prepare you for the athletic contest, the spiritual disciplines prepare you to live in a way that honors God, brings him glory and make your heart and soul swell up with joy.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Creating Space for Others to Develop Their Own Convictions

It is difficult, but important, to resist the urge to expect others to be where you are without allowing them to go through the same process you went through to get there.

Does that make sense?

This is a big growth area for me. I am a teacher, I have Bohemian interests, and when I get passionate about something, though the passion may not last, it comes on/across heavy and strong. What that means is I change interests often, tell others about them with conviction while I have it, and expect everyone else to get on board immediately. Of course this is a recipe for confusion and trouble, especially for the people closet to me.

What I too often forget is I didn't always feel the way I feel now. And therefore it would be wise of me to make space for other people to develop their own passions without trying to force mine upon them.

Would you agree that forcefulness is a terrible persuader of people? 

Forcefulness might bring about compliance but it never brings about buy-in. This is true at work, in the home and in the church. What really does foster buy-in is when people see and experience something for themselves, and they consequently come to develop their own conclusions. This is when hearts and minds and opinions are changed. And when people of like minds come together.

It has always amazed me how people come to believe what they do. In looking back on my own life journey it is nearly impossible to see what exactly caused me to feel and act the way I do. Of course there are formative people, places and events, but there are very few moments when I simply "decided" to change my mind. Often it was a slow transformation, influenced by people with care and concern, who stuck with me and walked me through the transition. I have to remember this is marriage, parenthood and shepherding. And when all else seems lost I have to trust and remember that the hand of God is powerful to change the mind of man.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Take Charge!

Take charge.

These are the words that came to mind today as I thought about some of the current growth areas in my life.

First, with my faith. I need to take charge and pursue Jesus and His Word. I can’t be a passive pew sitter, relying on one hour a week to nourish my soul, lift my spirits or inform my brain. I believe deeply that God will reward me for the time I spend in pursuit of him. The primary avenue this pursuit takes place is in the reading of the Bible. There is NO OTHER place to find what is true and to learn how I should think, act, feel and live. I have to take charge of my faith and make sure it is deepening daily.

Second, in my home. As a husband and father I am accountable to Jesus as the leader of my household. This means I have to be servant-hearted, humble, peace-loving, and wise. None of those traits are natural to humans. I have to work on it. I have to pursue it. I have to take charge of how I react to my wife and kids and ensure that I increasingly am acting like Jesus would. Also, I need to take charge as a father in the development of my kids. I have to pour into them, teach and train them, intentionally and wisely discipline and reward them.

Third, with my body. I will not be healthy, strong and fit unless I take charge of my body. I will not be supported in my efforts towards good health by most of the culture. I will be sold food that is junk. I will be encouraged to be lazy and sit on my butt. I will very easily drift into obesity and sloth and mindlessness. But I am not OK with that. I have to take charge of my body and make sure that I am caring for it, exercising it, filling it with what it needs to function best, and developing it. I will not drift into this. And neither will my kids. So I must also take charge in leading by example and helping my kids learn to care for their own bodies.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Element of Surprise in God's Steering of Our Lives

I spent some time reading old blog posts tonight from 2008 on another platform I used to blog on. I came across this quote which I loved and think should be shared again.

As I review God’s steering of my life, one thing that stands out is the element of surprise at all the crucial points. I was never expecting what came; I was always projecting something else.
-J.I. Packer

I can completely relate to this. I have had many plans for my life but things have always seemed to take a turn I wasn't prepared for. Then, once I have traveled down the new road, as I look back I can see how I am in exactly the place I should be, and I'm thankful that God changed the plans I made into His own plans. 

Reminds me of Proverbs 16:9 (ESV), 
"The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps."

I find so much peace in Scripture's reassurance that God is always besides me, bringing me to the place that is best for me, despite my greatest attempts to go somewhere else. I also find strength to make hard decisions and to take risks knowing that I can trust Jesus with the final outcome.


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