Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Families under pressure

Members of our church staff have been reading Building Faith at Home: Why faith at home must be the church's #1 priority by Mark Holmen. If you get a chance to read this book do so. It will open your eyes about the pressures today's families face. Here's a quote from the book:

"Families today have more things competing for their time than ever before. Whether or not we want to admit it, the Church is in competition with the world.

Jack Eggar, president and CEO of Awana Clubs International, once said, "There has never been a time in history when the children of the world have been more spiritually at risk than they are today. A plethora of competing worldviews and warped values flow freely throughout society - directly into the minds of children, where they stay a lifetime."

Just a few decades ago, the church played a much more significant role in the lives of families. It wasn't unusual to see businesses closed on Sundays, and public schools wouldn't give homework on Wednesdays because that evening was "church night." Families were committed to being at church whenever the doors were open."

Have we come a long way!

Faith, Facts or Feelings

For Christians, everything we believe about God is based on what Scripture helps us understand. Faith in God is fueled by biblical truths about God.

Psalm 46 consists of a confession of faith followed by a response of trust: Psalm 46: 1-2. God is our refuge and strength...therefore we will not fear...

Should the world collapse under the weight of great catastrophes, God is a very present help in time of trouble. Right now we are witnessing "earth-shaking" calamities in politics, economics, and natural disasters. The questions is: will we live by faith or fear?

Twice we see the refrain: The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge Psalm 46: 7, 11.

The conditions of our world, with its problems of hunger, war, disease, and poverty are heartbreaking, but God is not oblivious to global suffering. see Psalm 46: 9

Be still and know that I am God (is the fact that requires our faith). I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10

Lord, we are easily shaped by what we see and hear. Remind us today of your great and precious promises: you are our refuge and strength; you are a very present help in time of trouble, and so we will not fear. Deepen our knowledge of you through your word. In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sin's deception

Chuck Colson, writing about Gov. Sanford's painful collapse, makes the following insightful comment:

"We humans, you see, have an infinite capacity for self-rationalization. We reason that we can give in to those seemingly minor temptations—say an emotional attraction to a co-worker, or just one drink at the party—because we think we know the boundaries. We think our reason can keep us safe."

To read the entire article go here

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Christ is King

Psalm 45 was written for an actual royal wedding and overflows with unbridled devotion for this earthly king. In those days, royal poets were commissioned to compose lines praising the bride and groom.

Take some time and read this wonderful psalm. Notice how it relates to our king, Jesus Christ. Christ is our bridegroom and a day is coming when his bride, the church, will celebrate its union with him. See Revelation 19: 7

Until that day comes we remain poets and composers in the king's court. We exhaust all that we have to proclaim the glories of Christ. Wouldn't it be marvelous if we could approach our worship gatherings with this kind of motivation?

Charles Wesley, the great hymn writer did just that:
O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What does it mean to be born again?

Wonderful quote for your reflection by author and pastor, John Piper, from his new book, Finally Alive. An online version of the entire book is available here

There are three reasons I want you who are Christians to
know what happened to you when you were born again:
1. When you are truly born again and grow in the grace and
knowledge of what the Lord has done for you, your fellowship
with God will be sweet, and your assurance that he is your
Father will be deep. I want that for you.

2. If you know what really happened to you in your new birth, you
will treasure God and his Spirit and his Son and his word more
highly than you ever have. In this, Christ will be glorified.

3. In the process of believers discovering what really happened
to them, the seriousness and the supernatural nature of
conversion will rise and that, I pray, will serve a more general
awakening of authenticity in the Christian church so that
religious hypocrisy will diminish and the world will see real
love and sacrifice and courage in the service of Christ.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

When we ask why

Psalm 44 ends with three massive whys and three faulty assumptions about God. Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Ps. 44:23. Why do you hide your face? Ps. 44: 24; why do you forget our affliction and oppression? Ps. 44: 24

You see the three whys, but did you notice the three faulty assumptions about God?
The writer assumes God is sleeping because of the terrible conditions of his life and his people in Ps. 44:9-16.
God is hiding his face possibly out of fear or weakness (see Ps. 44:12-16)
Finally, God seems to forget the extent of their suffering (see Ps. 44:9)

Their sense of outrage stems from their assessment of themselves. In their eyes,they have been faithful. Ps. 44:17
They have never forgotten God; they have not been false to God's covenant; their heart and their way of life never veered from the Lord's paths. They are so confident in their own righteousness. Since God knows the secrets of their heart and they could never deceive God. Ps 44: 17-21.

This explains the why questions. Since they have kept God's way, why is God seemingly unfaithful and uncaring of what happens to his people? This outline rings with the reality of what I hear people saying today. This view of God is very common. If we are good, then God should most definitely reward us.

There is a big problem with this view. We reduce God to a simplistic formula. We place God into a box of our own making. Suddenly the clay can now dictate to the potter(Isaiah 29:16). God is now a puppet on a string whom we control. Who would want to worship, sacrifice and die for a God like this? This is classic religion on our terms.

The biblical view of God is on a grander scale. God is king over the universe. Ps. 47:7
God is in control and does all things according his wisdom and purpose Ps. 135:6
The truth is, God never sleeps; God does not hide his face; God does not forget (compare Is. 40: 28-31)
When life seems out of control, don't blame, doubt, or superficially explain God. Trust God. Submit your life into his goodness and grace. Remember his steadfast love. Ps. 44:26

Precious Lord, life is often so hard. Intellectually, we know that you are good; but sometimes our experiences push us to question your integrity. Thank you that you are big enough to handle our questions, our doubts and our anger. Helps us now to wait upon you until you show us your plan. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Take the plunge: Life without T.V.

Some Benefits of Life Without Television
Read here for the rest of the article
Do you think you could do this?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Now That's What I Call Church! (Or Not)

This video clip is a riot. Unfortunately, if it weren't true it would be very funny. How much of this describes FPC? Enjoy!

Now That's What I Call Church! (Or Not)

Posted using ShareThis


They come for the show but refuse to grow. American Christianity is afflicted with shallowness. We are largely an image conscious, hurry-up culture, where looks are valued over substance. People comfortably ignore depth, true knowledge, and biblical groundedness for the path of least resistance.

Keith Drury has a convicting article about the current slide of American evangelicalism. Click here to read more.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thirsty For God

Most of us know the opening lines of Psalm 42 from learning the contemporary praise song, "As the Deer."

I don't enjoy singing that song because I can't say with any honesty that my soul is thirsty for God the way a deer pants for flowing streams. 41: 1-2

I want to know God, but I am not desperate, or laser like in my focus. I don't have that "one thing have I desired" attitude of Psalm 27:4.

Reading between the lines, Psalm 42 and 43 seem to be about a person who longs to return to Jerusalem to worship God in the Temple. The clue is v.4: "These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival."

He is down cast and in great inner turmoil because this one thing that means all the world to him: worshiping God with others in the temple is no longer happening. Which raises this question: if you could not gather with other believers at FPC would it bother you? Your answer may reveal your understanding of the Church.

Add to this the daily taunts of unbelievers peppering him with the question, "Where is your God?"

Cut off from temple worship and sorely taunted night and day by unbelievers, he sinks into depression. In v. 5, 11, 43: 5, he fights against the pull of apathy. "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God." This person's a fighter; faithful, ever confident that a day will come when the obstacles keeping him from the place of worship will be removed by God.

Seriously, we have no such obstacles standing in our way, except for the myriad of distractions, be they TV, parties, shopping, sports, etc., which actually deaden our sense of desire for God.

O that God would grant us all a deep thirst for his presence. May God become our exceeding joy! (43: 4) amen.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What is a Christian?

I know this is a very basic question, but it would amaze you the number of people who are not sure how to answer it. I hope this quote from J. I Packer's classic book, Knowing God helps.

What is a Christian? Christians can be described from many angles...
true Christians are people who acknowledge and live under the word of God. They submit without reserve to the word of God written in "the Book of Truth" believing the teaching, trusting the promises, following the commands. Their eyes are upon the God of the Bible as their Father and the Christ of the Bible as their Savior.

Christians will tell you if you ask them, that the Word of God has both convinced them of sin and assured them of forgiveness. Their consciences, like Luther's, are held captive to the Word of God, and they aspire like the psalmist, to have their whole lives brought into line with it.

Christians know that in addition to the word of God spoken directly to them in the Scriptures, God's word has also gone forth to create, and control, and order things around them; but since the Scriptures tell them that all things work together for their good, the thought of God's ordering their circumstances brings them only joy.

Christians are independent folks, for they use the Word of God as a touchstone by which to test the various views that are put to them,, and they will not touch anything which they are not sure that Scripture sanctions.
Why does this description fit so few of us who profess to be Christians in these days?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fear of the Lord?

I used to think that the fear of the Lord was a negative thing. I thought Fearing God meant being afraid of this being who exhibited white hot rage and unrelenting vengeance against my sins and failures.

Thankfully, I am learning from my reading and meditation on Scripture that this fear is the outgrowth of hearing, learning, and responding to God's Word. The fear of the Lord goes hand in hand with keeping His commands, walking with him, serving him, loving him and drawing near to him. And so, to fear God, is to love God and to serve God.

When we fear God sin becomes bitter and God becomes sweet. This is how God made us: apart from a personal knowledge of this awesome God, everything else becomes vapid!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What our youth are saying

Lately, my 14 year old son has been religiously playing his guitar. I heard him singing and playing this very haunting song by a talented young artist, John Mayer, "Waiting on the World to change."

The lyrics debunk the myth that today's youth are just selfish, lazy, thoughtless, consumers. The truth is, they are actually yearning for a chance to help change the world. It makes we wonder if we in the church are doing enough to encourage our youth to be players in helping to change the world. Are we giving them a place, a platform, to express their art, writings, music, and creative gifts?

Here are a few lines to the song:
me and all my friends
we're all misunderstood
they say we stand for nothing and
there's no way we ever could
now we see everything that's going wrong
with the world and those who lead it
we just feel like we don't have the means
to rise above and beat it

so we keep waiting
waiting on the world to change
we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

Go here to read the lyrics and watch the video presentation

What God wants

According to Psalm 41, God blesses all who consider or show kindness to those who are poor. Anyone who considers the poor, God will do the following:
The Lord protects him and keeps him alive
He is called blessed in the land
God will not give him up to the will of his enemies.
The Lord sustains him on his sickbed
In his illness you restore him to full health. 41: 2-3

According to recent World Vision statistics, of the more than 6.4 billion people in the world, 1 in 7 does not get enough to eat

1 in 2 lives on less than $2 per day

To learn more visit here and then do one thing!

Father, as Americans living in relative ease, we thank you for all our blessings. We thank you for the generosity of American Christians who give their time, talents, and resources to make this world a more just place for those who are weak and poor. Continue to enlarge the influence of these compassionate churches and Christians who try to let their light shine in a dark world. Amen

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Church is the hope of the world

Russ Blowers is a minister who is active in his local Indianapolis Rotary club. At club meetings each week a member gives a brief statement about his job.
When it was his turn, Russ said: "I'm with a global enterprise. We have branches in every country in the world. We have our representatives in nearly every parliament and board room on earth. We're into motivation and behavior alteration.
We run hospitals, feeding stations, crisis pregnancy centers, universities, publishing houses, and nursing homes. We care for our clients from birth to death.
We are into life insurance and fire insurance. We perform spiritual heart transplants. Our original Organizer owns all the real estate on earth plus an assortment of galaxies and constellations. He knows everything and lives everywhere. Our product is free for the asking. (There's not enough money to buy it.)
Our CEO was born in a hick town, worked as a carpenter, didn't own a home, was misunderstood by his family, hated by enemies, walked on water, was condemned to death without a trial, and arose from the dead--I talk with him everyday."

The church is the most amazing organization in the world! And you and I are part of it, not because we did anything, but the Holy Spirit called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, made us holy and kept us in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith.
Remember Hebrews 10:25:
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Believe in Heaven

The doctrine of heaven is embarrassing for some people. They are reluctant to mention the word for fear of being labeled escapists from the world. Others are afraid of being told they subscribe to a “pie in the sky” wish. Some people are reluctant to entertain a robust belief in heaven because they are busy with life on earth. They can’t imagine that heaven could ever rival America for its wealth, pleasures, and freedoms. Many think of heaven as a place for those who get old and die.

But there is either a heaven or there is not. If there is no heaven then Christianity is false because the doctrine of heaven is a major part of what Christians believe. If there is no heaven then Jesus is false because so much of what he taught centered on heaven. If there is no heaven we have no hope.

On a day like today where we mourn the loss of Jimmy Payne, it is important that we understand what happens to those who die in the Lord. Pray for Octavia, Ursula and let us comfort one another with God’s promise of heaven.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Knowing God in a deeper way

Is it the cry and longing of your heart to know God as the foundation for your life? If that’s the case then read Psalm 40 from beginning to end. In summary here’s what the psalmist says about Almighty God:

1.God hears us when we pray: As he waited patiently for the Lord, God heard his cry 40:1
2.God delivers his people: the Lord drew him up out of a pit of destruction 40:2
3.God is trustworthy and blesses those who trust in the Lord 40: 3
4.God does not delight in religious sacrifices; God delights in obedience. The writer says, I delight to do your will, O my God. Your law is within my heart 40:6-7
5.God sees and knows the unfolding events of life: God’s steadfast love and faithfulness preserves his people 40:6,11-10

What strikes me once again is the relationship between living, struggling, rising, falling – the warp and woof of life, if you will – and experiencing God.
Knowledge of God comes through his word and through the University of Life. I would think that if our knowledge of God is based purely on concepts and intellectual ideas, God is just a name on a page; a sterile, detached being. But allow God to walk with us, and talk with us through every day and in every way, and God becomes personal, relational, and knowable.

Lord, we need your help. You are not a Sunday God who suddenly comes alive on Sunday in hymns, texts, and sermons. You are great and greatly to be praised each day of the week. Enroll us in the University of Life; be our teacher and guide; may we know you in deeper, more delightful ways as we feast on your word and live each day cognizant of your presence. Amen

Friday, June 5, 2009

Measuring life one day at a time

I agree with the words of Hebrews 12:11, "For the moment all discipline is painful and never pleasant. But later it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness for all who are trained by it."

The chastening experiences of Psalm 39 seem painful for the writer. Even though the nature of his suffering is never fully revealed, the writer tries to guard his tongue to avoid the sin of rash and impulsive speech against God or people in general. 39:1

While worshiping God, he prays: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few hand breaths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath. Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather." 39:4-6

Suffering is a head-clearing experience. During and after tough times we tend to see things as they really are:

1. Life is short

2. Money does not provide ultimate security

3. When we die, we take nothing with us.

With eyes wide open, he says, "And not now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you." 39:7

The ultimate gift of suffering often results in unalloyed trust and dependence on God. May this be always true for each of us!

Precious Lord, our times are in your hands. We are here today and tomorrow we are gone. Help us to number our days so that we can live our lives with wisdom. Teach us how to use the troubles of our lives to see life more clearly and trust you more deeply. Amen

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Our Dream For God's Church

I have a dream of a church which is an expectant church—whose members can never settle down in material affluence or comfort, because they remember that they are strangers and pilgrims on earth, which is all the more faithful and active because it is waiting and looking for its Lord to return, which keeps the flame of the Christian hope burning brightly in a dark, despairing world, which on the day of Christ will not shrink from him in shame, but rise up joyfully to greet him. I have a dream of an expectant church.

I have a dream of a church which is a serving church—which has seen Christ as the Servant and has heard his call to be a servant too, which is delivered from self-interest, turned inside out, and giving itself selflessly to the service of others, whose members obey Christ's command to live in the world, to permeate secular society, to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, whose people share the good news of Jesus simply, naturally and enthusiastically with their friends, which is alert to the changing needs of society, sensitive and flexible enough to keep adapting its program to serve more usefully, which has a global vision and is constantly challenging its young people to give their lives in service, and constantly sending its people out to serve. I have a dream of a serving church.
What's your dream for First Presbyterian Church?

From The Living Church by John Stott (2007)