Friday, December 30, 2016

The Purpose Of January At Calvary

"Some years ago I attended public worship in a certain church. The pastor was absent on holiday, and a lay elder led the pastoral prayer. He prayed that the pastor might enjoy a good vacation (which was fine), and that two lady members of the congregation might be healed (which was also fine; we should pray for the sick). But that was all. The intercession can hardly have lasted thirty seconds. I came away saddened, sensing that this church worshiped a little village god of their own devising. There was no recognition of the needs of the world, and no attempt to embrace the world in prayer." (John Stott, Guard The Truth)

There are good habits and bad, but even good habits can become less than the best habits. A rut is a rut is a rut. Even a good rut is still a rut. It's easy for us to get into ruts. Even churches get into ruts. Every now and then we need to take time out to examine ourselves, as Paul wrote, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2 Cor. 13:5)

For months I've felt that we, Calvary, needed to take time to examine ourselves. I always like to hit the ground running the first of January, but that almost never works. People are just too busy from Thanksgiving through Christmas to prepare for a new year. So, we're not going to hit the ground running. We're going to hit the ground and stop.  There are five Sundays in January, and we're going to use them to seek the Lord. He has people for us to embrace and Paul made it clear that that group of people is a lot larger than just our own church.

A church glorifies God when its members function together as God designed. So, we're going to spend time together. Rather than meeting in home groups, we'll spend the last four Sunday nights in worship together. Each Sunday night will be different, but focused on seeking God together.

A church glorifies God when it listens to God. So, we're going to spend time listening in prayer and worship.  While I'll do the majority of the preaching, we'll hear from four different preachers this January, and we'll even spend one night hearing the testimonies of dozens of persecuted believers. There will also be two special gatherings before worship to hear from one another.

A church glorifies God when it embraces His vision. Since no individual or church has arrived, we know we always have to be willing to embrace change if we're going to carry out His vision in this world. There's no joy apart from the vision of God. There's just a rut. So, prepare yourself. It may be that God is preparing to set us on a new path.

See you Sunday.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

God Rescues His People

There are times when you need to be rescued. Daniel was right in the middle of one of those times. The king in the land had ordered all the people of the land to worship him as god or be put to death. Daniel already had a God, the one true God, and he refused to bow to any other. His faith was great, but he was still thrown into a pit with lions who would quickly devour him. The God Daniel served is a God who rescues. The next morning, when the king went to the lion's den to see if Daniel was dead, he was not. Not only did God rescue Daniel, but the pagan king gave God glory, pronouncing an edict that all in the land "must tremble in fear before the God of Daniel: For He is the living God, and He endures forever; His kingdom will never be destroyed, and His dominion has no end." (Daniel 6:26)

This Sunday in our 9:15 groups for children, studentsadults, and senior adults you'll see how God glorifies Himself through the rescue of those who trust Him, and how the rescue of Daniel points toward God's rescue of us all through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

If you're a young adult, you'll discover a similar truth how the Bible helps us to discover and follow Jesus who is the ultimate Word from God, who brings salvation and rescue to all who believe.

See you Sunday in 9:15 groups at 9:15am as we live for Christ.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

New Year Resolutions

When these events were over, Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem. "After I've been there," he said, "I must see Rome as well!"
Acts 19:21

Some people make them. Some don't. Few keep them, but I think it's a good thing to make New Year Resolutions. Paul resolved, after prayer and seeking the Holy Spirit's leading, to do something new in ministry. Now, just like our resolutions don't always work out like we think, his didn't either. But, if you never make a decision to change, you won't change. And, unless you're a airplane on the tarmac, you haven't arrived,  So, spend some time this week in prayer and thought. Ask God what resolutions you need to make for a better 2017. You only have a week, so you better get started.  Here are a my top four. The first two are universal - eat better and exercise more. By the way, I've already started those. The next two are pray more and read more. If I act on them it will be a pretty big adjustment to my schedule. But, I'm looking forward to them.

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Don't Lose Your Own Battle For Christmas

Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
1 Timothy 1:5

     The birth of Jesus is the incarnation, God with us in the flesh. The purpose of the incarnation and of Christmas is, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - and I am the worst of them." (1 Tim. 1:15)  When we believe in the Gospel, He purifies our hearts. We know we are still sinners, but we trust that He's forgiven us. We know we're sinners, but His grace gives us courage. When we wake up in the morning and engage in spiritual battle, we do it with confidence. When we fail and fall, we confess our sin and find grace and mercy for the battle.
     What happens, though, when we deliberately choose to sin?  When we ignore the Holy Spirit speaking to our conscience, we quench Him. We know we've sinned, and we know we've ignored Him. We know we are hypocrites at that point, even if no one else does. There's no confidence in that, no courage, and no strength for the battle. 
     We can know that the world is wrong, and still live wrong. We can fight for Christmas, and fail to fight for our own good conscience. At that point, we're not just personally weakened. We are spiritually weakened. We've rendered ourselves spiritually anemic and ineffective. Even if we win some external battle, we've lost.
     So, guard your conscience this Christmas. Confess and turn from sin as soon as convicted. Forgive others quickly. Don't join the world. Invade it with the message of Christmas, that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," and make Paul's confession your own, "and I am the worst of them."

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Worst Of Sinners Loving The Politically Correct This Christmas

Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
1 Timothy 1:5

     One of the enemies of Christ, the faith, and the church is the world's anti-God view. The Bible calls this un-believing, Satanically inspired and designed way of thinking simply, "the world." If you don't believe it is real, open your ears. "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays?"  Since the word "Christmas" might offend those who do not believe in Christ, schools and businesses force students and employees to use "Happy Holidays" in place of "Merry Christmas."
     Well, removing Christ from Christmas is no longer enough, so "holiday" which is an abbreviation of "holy-day" is now an unacceptable word. Since some celebrate no "holy-days" this time of year, it's better just to call that "Christmas Tree" a "Giving Tree" and that "Christmas Party" and "End Of Year Party."
      So, how do we fight this battle?  Should we confront all this anti-religious correctness? While it seems like no big deal to some, I believe we should resist any attempt to remove Christ from anything since He, and He alone is the hope of mankind. The question is how to fight this particular battle.
     The Bible tells us that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. They tear down more than words. They demolish the theology behind the words, the strongholds of our minds. Our primary weapons are prayer and the Word of God. The battle never ends, so make sure you begin the day with God and His Word.
     What next? You've chosen not to bow to this worldview that rejects Christ. How do you resist? I think it's important to ask another question first. Why are you resisting?  When you go out and intentionally say "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays" or nothing at all, why are you saying "Merry Christmas?"  What's the motivation of your heart?
     Is it love for the lost who inhabit this lost world, or is it to be a warrior for Christmas?  See, a huge part of the purpose of God's truth is to create in us "love that comes from a pure heart." So as you go out into the world, after first having spent quality time with God in His Word and prayer, focus first on "love that comes from a pure heart."
     "Merry Christmas" from an unloving heart is nothing more than a carnal club used to beat the enemy. It can, however, be an expression of faith in the Christ who came to save sinners. The battle is not just in the world, but also in our own hearts and minds. If we're going to do battle in these culture wars, it must be for God's purposes. He loves deluded, deceived, politically correct and unbelieving people and wants them to be saved. That's actually the purpose of the incarnation which we celebrate at Christmas, as the Apostle Paul wrote, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - and I am the worst of them." (1 Tim. 1:15)
     So, fight the politically correct, anti-Christ world. Refuse any demand to deny Christ, at Christmas or any other time, but do it because you love Jesus and those He came to save. And, don't just say "Merry Christmas," but proclaim the Gospel of Christ. Proclaim it because you love Him, you love the Gospel that saved you, and you love the sinner. Proclaim it because maybe you are also one of the "the worst of them" and His Gospel saved you.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Merry And Sad Christmas

Christmas can be the most wonderful time of the year. It can also be one of the saddest. Jesus' birth was in a stable, since there was no room for his parents in the inn. The angels sang praise to the Prince of peace while the King of the Jews plotted his murder. Rather than returning home to family and friends, he spent his earliest years in Egypt as a fugitive from the wrath of Herod. Even when he did return home, it was to a little backwater village about which people said "can anything good come out of Nazareth."1

The traditions, sights and sounds of Christmas help us to remember. Many of those memories are filled with joy, and many of them with sadness. If you have lost a loved one, the holidays intensify the loss. There are losses other than death. The loss of relationships. The loss of health. For anyone who cares about the body of Christ there is great sadness over those who once served His body faithfully, and loved Him fervently who seemed to have become satisfied with spiritual mediocrity. Christmas intensifies those losses. It is not wrong to mourn the loss of a loved one, of a relationship, or the falling away of a brother or sister.  It is wrong to forget that Christmas holds the remedy for our loss.

Christmas is merry because it reminds us that God came to be with us. He knew the sadness of a sin-broken, sin-filled world, and so "The Word became flesh and took up residence among us." He saves His people. He shows the Father to us. as "the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." 3  How sad that the babe would grow to be the Man of Sorrows on the cross, and yet how joyous that in that act He took "away the sins of the world." 4  The sadness of this life is a reality, but so is the comfort of Christ who "had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested."

Sadness is inevitable, but Christ is available. He is available to comfort those who grieve. He is available to deliver us beyond the merriness of Christmas to the place of joy unspeakable. "You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 6  The answer to the sadness of Christmas is not a perfect tree, but dependent faith in Jesus who hung on the tree and rose again. The answer to the sadness of the world is not a positive or merry attitude, but the power of God with us in Christ Jesus the Lord.

1   John 1:46
2, 3  John 1:14
4   John 1:29
5   Hebrews 2:17-18
6   1 Peter 1:8-9