A Look Ahead at 2015

Pastor Jay wraps up the year this Glad & Simple Hearts Sunday with “A Look Ahead at 2015,” from James 4:13-17.

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James 4:13-17 (ESV)

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

There are things we can know about the future.

  • There are things we don’t know.
    • We don’t know if we’ll be alive.
    • We don’t know where we will be.
    • We don’t know what our profit will be.
    • We don’t know the size of the obstacles we will face.
    • We cannot know the good or evil we will receive.
    • We cannot know if Christ will come in 2015.
  • There are things we do know.
    • We will in fact be able to do all things through Christ.
    • We know that God will be in control.
    • We know His peace will always be at our disposal.
    • We know we don’t have to be afraid.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • If you could know just one thing about your future, what would it be?
  • Would you really want to know your future?
  • Christ already knows our future.  Does that make you feel good or a bit nervous?
  • What can you do this week to remind yourself a loving God is in control of your future?There are things we can know about the future.

Steadfast Love at Christmas

Pastor Jay continues this year’s Advent sermon series, Come and Behold Him! with “Steadfast Love at Christmas,” from Luke 1:67-79.

Luke 1:67-79 (ESV)

And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies     and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Christ/Christmas is proof of God’s steadfast love to his sinful covenant people.

  • He visits us in our affliction.
  • He redeems us.
  • He delivers us.

Parent Connection Questions:

The Business of Busyness

img-thingDietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian, left Germany for America in 1939 as World War II was brewing. Although there were some good reasons for his decision, after just a few days he knew he had made a mistake and that he must return to his homeland.

He wrote the following words after being entertained by some friends in America, “This inactivity, or rather activity in unimportant things, is quite intolerable when one thinks of the brethren and of how precious time is.” (from Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes)

Bonhoeffer was thinking about the church struggle in Germany and the resistance against Hitler, but his words still have an application for us today. It is a sad reality that “activity in unimportant things” often characterizes our lives as modern American Christians. Our neighbors and friends are living and dying and will spend ETERNITY separated from God in hell without the good news of the gospel. Billions of people in unreached people groups still have NO ACCESS to the gospel. Yet how many hours do we spend on frivolous pursuits, wasting our time and money on things that may not be evil, but have no eternal value?

This situation should be as intolerable to us as it was to Bonhoeffer that he might enjoy empty pleasantries and conversations in American while Germany burned. In his day, there was a world war about to begin. Millions of lives would eventually be lost in the conflict. But we know from the Bible that we are in the midst of an even bigger war. It’s a constant, cosmic struggle with not just lives, but billions of eternal souls on the line. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

If you call Jesus Christ “Lord,” then he is calling you to engage in this battle. To be idle, or rather actively engaged in the wrong things, is to be derelict in our duties.

The spiritual war is waged on many fronts–concentric circles that begin in the heart. First of all, look at your own spiritual diet. What influences are feeding your mind and soul? Are you feasting on the life-giving word of God, or constantly snacking on the cheap candy of our culture? I have been amazed at how easy it is for me to waste an hour or more on social media or YouTube. And while the allure of 24-hour cable news and endless reality television is strong, I am pretty sure that their mission is to sell advertising, not to help you grow spiritually. 10,000 years from now, you will not care who won The Voice or even the Big 12 championship title. Turn it off.

Moving outward, consider your own household. It’s easy to pop in a PG-13 movie and call it “family time,” but is that the extent of what your family does together? Parents, the act of training your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4) means a lot more than dropping them off at youth group. Church ministries are meant to support the work that you are already doing at home–your family is the primary vehicle for the spiritual instruction of your children. You might not feel like leading in family worship after a long day at work. Your children will probably complain. But your job is to make decisions based on the long view, not what makes everyone happiest right now. You will not regret taking the narrow path.

We must also think carefully about what our children’s schedules say about family priorities. Do sports and extra-curricular activities take second chair to church commitments, or is it vice-versa? Our decisions and leadership in this area will communicate a powerful example to our children that will stay with them long after they leave home.

Finally, moving outward in concentric circles, how are you engaging your community and the world with the gospel? Do you have meaningful relationships with non-believers where you are sharing the good news? Do you understand that engagement in the Great Commission is something that is commanded of every believer? Missions is not just one compartmentalized ministry of the church, but it should permeate everything we do. We should be jealous to see God get the glory that only he is due. Billions of lost people are worshiping other things and robbing God of this glory. This desire to see God glorified is the fuel, as John Piper puts it, of death-defying missions.

I write all of this boldly, but also confessing my own failures. My desire is not to create a new legalism or to lay a heavy burden on you, but to draw you to Christ. There you will find grace and forgiveness when you fail and the power to live transformed. If anything or anyone else is on the throne of your heart, yield it to Jesus.

Don’t be a soldier who gets entangled in civilian pursuits (2 Tim 2:4), but rather be captured by something even better. We have the riches of a glorious inheritance in Christ (Eph 1:18). This good news of great joy is for all people (Luke 2:10). We know the battle plan for victory, let’s disengage from lesser things and engage with all our might in the greatest plan of all time.

And Jesus came and said to them “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20 ESV)

Removing Joy From Christmas

Pastor Jon continues this year’s Advent sermon series, Come and Behold Him! with “Removing Joy From Christmas,” from Luke 1:78-79.

Luke 1:78-79 (ESV)

“…because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Christmas reminds us that peace is possible.

  • Be consumed by the minutiae.
  • Focus on the temporary.
  • Make the season about you.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What’s your favorite Christmas tradition?
  • How hard is it to wake up Christmas morning and not do presents right away?
  • How can we make sure Christ is the focus this Christmas?
  • What’s one thing you can do on Christmas to make sure Jesus is the most important part?

Where did the wives come from that Cain and Abel married?

Greg asks:
Where did the wives come from that Cain and Abel married?

Dear Greg,

This is an old objection that has been raised by atheists through the years. This has also been answered by many.  Here is a link to what I think is a reasonably good response: https://answersingenesis.org/bible-characters/cain/cains-wife-who-was-she/

The unbeliever may feel that he has the Christian on the horns of a dilemma and declare victory prematurely. In fact there are reasonable answers to the question that fit the biblical story.

Greg, if I were you, I’d turn the table and ask the skeptic how he proposes that life can evolve from non-life.  Inorganic material does not suddenly become organic. Even simple genetic coding doesn’t spring from nothing. The simplest cell is irreducibly complex. The explanations for these processes are much more tortuous and circular than any proposed by theology.

Unable to answer such objections, many biologists have now retreated to the theory that aliens or comets introduced life from elsewhere. All that does, of course, is remove the problem by one degree of separation.

To be sure, there are many things in scripture that are left “under-determined” but that doesn’t make something irrational. God made man. Man sinned. Man needed redemption. God, in the fullness of time, sent His son to be a redeemer and savior to His people. All who turn and believe in Him are saved. That is the gospel. That is clear.

I hope that helps,
Pastor Jay

Preaching or Teaching?

preacher-silhouetteI recently had coffee with an old friend who happened to be in town. As we sat in my living room, sipping our french-pressed Starbucks blend, the conversation soon turned to local church ministry.

We shared our experiences and thoughts about serving in ministry and on church staffs through the years. While neither of us have been senior pastors, we have both had opportunities to speak to the church on Sunday mornings. As the discussion went on, I noticed a difference in terminology between us. While I referred to this Sunday morning activity as “preaching,” he kept calling it “teaching”.

I don’t know if we really meant different things in our conversation, but afterwards, I began to wonder about it. What exactly is “preaching,” and is it different from “teaching”? If a pastor is to be faithful to the scriptures, which should he be doing on Sunday morning?

As we look to the Bible for an answer to this question, the first thing that should be acknowledged is that there is no difference, from a Biblical standpoint, between a pastor and an elder. The Bible uses the terms “overseer” (Acts 20:28, 1 Tim 3:1), “elder” (Titus 1:5, 1 Pet 5:1-2) and “shepherd” (Eph 4:11) interchangeably. The fact that some elders in our churches are paid and some are volunteers does not mean there is a fundamental difference in duties.

Without a doubt, one of the primary shepherding ministries of elders is to teach the flock. Titus 1:9 makes this clear, “[An overseer] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and able to rebuke those who contradict it.” The ability to teach is also mentioned as a qualification for the office of elder in 1 Timothy 3:2, and Paul instructs Titus to “teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).

So when the church gathers together as a group, the pastor is teaching the scriptures. He is equipping the saints “for the work of ministry” and “building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12). This teaching duty should not be neglected.

However, there is something more that should be happening. The pastor is also called to preach. Paul commands Timothy, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2). This task is more than just teaching. To preach is to proclaim the gospel “as a herald”, or “to announce openly and publicly” (Mounce). It is to call people to behold Christ, to turn from their sin and see his salvation.

This is important on Sunday mornings for the unbelievers in our midst, but it is not just unbelievers who need the gospel preached to them. Until Christ returns and we are glorified, Christians will still struggle with sin in our hearts. Without constant exhortation we run the risk of being “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13). We must remember that the gospel we received is the same gospel in which we stand, and by which we are being saved (1 Cor 15:1-2).

The Christian life is not just about getting more information about the Bible, it’s a life of constant submission to the will of God, of considering ourselves “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:11). Calling people to this continual dying is the task of preaching.

So, should a pastor be “preaching” or “teaching” on Sunday mornings? Yes! Both of these tasks are prescribed in the Bible, and to neglect either one is to miss a key ingredient in equipping the church for the work of ministry. But church, did you notice that last sentence? God’s design for the body is not to passively receive teaching and just get smarter, but to abound in fruitfulness and good works as we abide in Jesus. Let God’s word dwell in you richly, preach the gospel to yourself, and then do what he commands! That is the proper outcome of Biblical preaching and teaching.

Peace Possible

Pastor Jay continues this year’s Advent sermon series, Come and Behold Him! with “Peace Possible,” from Luke 1:79, 2:14; 29-30.

Luke 1:79, 2:14; 29-30 (ESV)

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation

Christmas reminds us that peace is possible.

  • Peace comes to those who find the way of peace in Christ.
  • Peace comes to those objects of God’s good pleasure.
  • Peace comes to those who in Christ now rest from striving.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • How easy is it to find a peaceful place in your house? Where would it be?
  • Do you ever feel like you need to just get some peace and quiet?
  • Jesus tells us he provides peace. How does he do that?
  • Take time this week to find some “peace time” with Jesus. Thank him for coming as a baby.