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Some Thoughts on . . . JOY! (Part 2 of 2)

In part 1 of this post on JOY I mentioned that I am presently serving as the part-time teaching pastor at Crossroads Fellowship Church in Augusta, Georgia.  These last six months since losing my seminary position have been so encouraging to me.   If interested, you can find my sermons on their website:  http://crossroadschurchinaugusta.com/

We’re thinking a bit on the topic of JOY.  The world needs to see JOYFUL followers of Jesus!  This doesn’t mean that we don’t weep or mourn or grieve.  But they see tangible peace and contentment in our lives regardless of the circumstances.screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-5-31-40-am

But there are JOY-KILLERS all around.  Some that come to my mind are:  constant complaining, the overbusyness of life, boredom, apathy toward those who are outside of Christ, mediocre church services, financial challenges, family tensions, etc.  [I’ll bet you can add to my list if you wanted to!]

Two passages come to mind as I think about my need to

What a JOY-KILLER looks like!

What a JOY-KILLER looks like!

stay JOYFUL in Him.  In I Peter 1 the Apostle writes, “8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  Our JOY is not based on sight (we don’t see Him . . . yet!).  Our love is based on faith in the Lord and what He has done for us.  And we are filled with an “inexpressible and glorious JOY”!  Why?  Because we are receiving the salvation of our souls!  For those who see no need for the “salvation of their souls” such JOY is inaccessible!

The second text that comes to mind is Hebrews 12 where we read: “12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  Here we learn about the Lord’s JOY!  He endured the cross “for the JOY set before Him”!  That is a divine mystery, my friends.  But at the very least we can say He thought it completely worthwhile to pay for your sins and mine — and He looked forward to the JOY of doing the Father’s will and saving our souls!

Remind me again?  What was it that was bringing you down?

 

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2017 in joy

 

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Psalms of the Salter: Some Thoughts on Really Living for the Lord (Psalm 108)

Psalm 108

A song. A psalm of David.screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-6-15-50-am

My heart, O God, is steadfast;
    I will sing and make music with all my soul.
Awake, harp and lyre!
    I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.

Save us and help us with your right hand,
    that those you love may be delivered.
God has spoken from his sanctuary:
    “In triumph I will parcel out Shechem
    and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth.
Gilead is mine, Manasseh is mine;
    Ephraim is my helmet,
    Judah is my scepter.
Moab is my washbasin,
    on Edom I toss my sandal;
    over Philistia I shout in triumph.”

10 Who will bring me to the fortified city?
    Who will lead me to Edom?
11 Is it not you, God, you who have rejected us
    and no longer go out with our armies?
12 Give us aid against the enemy,
    for human help is worthless.
13 With God we will gain the victory,
    and he will trample down our enemies.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2017 in worship

 

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Some Thoughts on . . . JOY! (Part 1 of 2)

I am so thankful for where the Lord has presently put me.  I am the part-time teaching pastor at Crossroads Fellowship Church in Augusta, Georgia.  These last eight months since losing my seminary position have been so encouraging to me.

I’ve gone through two sermon series: “Saved: Rescued From God, By God, and For God” and “Living for Jesus in an Un-Christian World (a study of Jude).”  I’m now working my way through a series I’ve entitled “What Jesus-Followers Believe about __ — and Why.”  Each week is a different term.  screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-5-31-40-amWe’ve covered BELIEF, TRUTH, and EVIL.  This coming Sunday our topic is JOY.

Someone has said that the mentally and emotionally healthy are those that have learned when to say Yes, when to say No, and when to say Whoopee!

But what is true JOY in the Bible?  I agree with the writer who said that the difference between HAPPINESS and JOY is that HAPPINESS depends on HAPPENINGS, the circumstances of life.  JOY is much deeper.  One may have JOY even in the midst of difficult challenges.

What do we learn about JOY from Jesus?  Jesus cares very much about JOY as we learn from John, chapters 15-17.  Here’s what the Lord says —

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-5-49-47-amWe learn that Jesus wants His JOY to be in His disciples — and He wants that JOY to be complete.  Incomplete joy ignores the command to love one another.  Complete joy loves Jesus and the people of Jesus (John 15)

We learn in John 16 something very crucial about prayer.  We learn that Jesus invites His followers to pray, to realize that His Father “will give you whatever you ask in my name,” and screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-6-16-00-amto start asking for things “in His name.”  This is not carte blanche for a Porsche or a winning lottery ticket.  We are to pray for things “in His name” (which will truly focus our prayer requests, don’t you think?).  If we pray this way, our JOY will be complete (John 16).

In John 17 we learn that Jesus is returning to the Father, that He has protected His own and only Judas, the one doomed to destruction, has been lost (to fulfill Scripture).  Jesus’ words delivered while He was still “in the world” were said “so that they [might] have the full measure of my joy within them” (v. 13) (John 17).

So, we learn from these three passages in John that Jesus was, indeed, a man of JOY!  And He wants His followers to have JOY.  But He wants our JOY to be complete and for us to have the full measure of His JOY.  This is not simply some mental or emotional condition that Jesus-followers experience.  This full JOY is directly related to how we treat one another (John 15),what our prayer list looks like and why we pray for the things we do, and how seriously we take His words (John 17),

Do you have this kind of JOY?  What is one way that you can express this JOY to the world? (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2017 in joy

 

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Psalms of the Salter: Some Thoughts on Really Living for the Lord (Psalm 107)

Psalm 107

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-7-01-22-am
    his love endures forever.

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
    those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands,
    from east and west, from north and south.

Some wandered in desert wastelands,
    finding no way to a city where they could settle.
They were hungry and thirsty,
    and their lives ebbed away.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
    to a city where they could settle.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
9 for he satisfies the thirsty
    and fills the hungry with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness,
    prisoners suffering in iron chains,
11 because they rebelled against God’s commands
    and despised the plans of the Most High.
12 So he subjected them to bitter labor;
    they stumbled, and there was no one to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,
    and broke away their chains.
15 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
16 for he breaks down gates of bronze
    and cuts through bars of iron.

17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways
    and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.
18 They loathed all food
    and drew near the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them;
    he rescued them from the grave.
21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings
    and tell of his works with songs of joy.

23 Some went out on the sea in ships;
    they were merchants on the mighty waters.
24 They saw the works of the Lord,
    his wonderful deeds in the deep.
25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
    that lifted high the waves.
26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
    in their peril their courage melted away.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
    they were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
    the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
    and he guided them to their desired haven.
31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
32 Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
    and praise him in the council of the elders.

33 He turned rivers into a desert,
    flowing springs into thirsty ground,
34 and fruitful land into a salt waste,
    because of the wickedness of those who lived there.
35 He turned the desert into pools of water
    and the parched ground into flowing springs;
36 there he brought the hungry to live,
    and they founded a city where they could settle.
37 They sowed fields and planted vineyards
    that yielded a fruitful harvest;
38 he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased,
    and he did not let their herds diminish.

39 Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled
    by oppression, calamity and sorrow;
40 he who pours contempt on nobles
    made them wander in a trackless waste.
41 But he lifted the needy out of their affliction
    and increased their families like flocks.
42 The upright see and rejoice,
    but all the wicked shut their mouths.

43 Let the one who is wise heed these things
    and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2017 in repetition

 

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Some Rantings and Ravings from Someone Who’s Been in Christian Ministry for a Long Time! (Part 2 of 2, I Promise!)

We’re ranting and raving here for a few minutes.  There are so many concerns screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-4-50-23-amthat I have, especially for the next generation.  I hope I don’t come across like the old curmudgeon to the right, but these are matters that are really critical.

What got me thinking about these issues is the conference I just attended.  I’m actually writing this before the conference, but, Lord willing, it will (did) take place and I will do (did) an okay job of speaking on the topic “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality.”  The conference took place at Emmaus Bible College February 6-7 and was called the “Christian Ministry Seminars.”

My last message in my four-part series expressed some of these concerns that I am summarizing here and in the earlier post of the same title (Feb. 18th).  Permit me to share just a few more of my “issues”:

(1)  I’m concerned that young believers get into the battle and do good work on an intellectual basis.  This means reading books that challenge the Christian faith (what I call “Boiling Books”, i.e. books that boil your blood before you get through the preface).  If we only read the books we agree with, we will not learn the questions and issues an unbelieving world has with the gospel.  “Doing good work” on anscreen-shot-2017-01-31-at-5-37-06-am intellectual basis involves good study skills, critical thinking, and solid research.  Believers of the next generation need to work hard in what are called the “primary” sources, rather than get all their information from secondary sources.  Primary sources are the original documents of a writer or thinker, not what others have said or written about him or his position (secondary sources).  So, if one is going to challenge the abandonment of the gospel by someone like the late Chuck Templeton (at one time Billy Graham’s best friend and an evangelist), one needs to read Templeton!  His Farewell to God as well as his An Anecdotal Memoir would be the first place to start (before one reads Lee Strobel’s interview of Templeton in The Case for Christ).  Does that make sense?  Sometimes Evangelicals are guilty of reading only what others have said about a person’s beliefs — and not that person himself.

Suggestion:  Start small.  Begin a blog and take on some topic with which you want to engage.  Be positive toward the writer and gracious toward what they have written.  But point out the weaknesses in their argument or position as you formulate your response from a biblical perspective.

(2)  I’m also concerned with how many of us view life in general.  My generation frowned on such activities as going to the movies, roller skating (it was dancing on wheels, unless you fell a lot like me), and visiting museums (a waste of time — one ought to be reading his or her Bible).  Today’s generation, it seems to me, doesn’t give those issues a second thought (which is good), but doesn’t hesitate to go to (or download) just about any movie screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-5-40-12-am(some are downright diabolical), learn and sing the lyrics of just about any contemporary song (have you analyzed the words in songs by Lady Gaga or Beyonce?), or attend any play just because the critics said it was good.  If you’ve never been tempted to walk out of a movie theater, turn off your TV in disgust, or ask for your money back at a play, check your Christian pulse.  You might be dead.

Suggestion:  There’s a better way than the legalism of my generation and the libertarianism screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-8-52-13-amof today’s young people.  I believe Mike Witmer has articulated that better way in his book Becoming Worldly Saints.  Christians are to enjoy God’s good creation (I Tim. 6) and not become or be known as anti-world.  We should live in biblical freedom!

(3)  I’m also concerned with how many of us look at the local church.  It seems that for many today the local church is a big bother.  We go through the motions; we serve when we have to; we give when we must. Instead of seeing the church as the one thing that Jesus is presenting building, we tolerate it as our Sunday activity and as a gathering place with other Christians.  I’m not surprised that one of Philip Yancey’s books is entitled Church: Why Bother?  We must move from thinking of the local church as a place we must be to a place we get to be.

The church in Acts focused on four priorities, according to Acts 2:42 —  “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  Here’s my final list of questions:

1.  Are you truly “devoted to” the local church? How do you or I show that?

2.  How concerned are we about biblical doctrine/truth?  Do we see theology screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-5-41-09-pmonly as the domain of elbow-patched, sweater-wearing academics who debate how many angels can sit on the head of a pin?  Or are we committed to knowing, enjoying, and defending the truths of God’s Word?

3.  Do we really understand “fellowship”?  Perhaps we all need a primer on something as basic as FRIENDSHIP!

4.  We must constantly ask, are we truly worshiping the Lord?  Or are we just keeping the machinery going?

5.  I have so much to learn — and to practice — when it comes to the issue of prayer!  I commend you to my post back on January 9th when Dr. Roy King talked about the three prayers we all ought to pray everyday!

So much for my rantings and ravings.  Any you wish to comment on?

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2017 in christian life

 

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Psalms of the Salter: Some Thoughts on Really Living for the Lord (Psalm 106)

Psalm 106

Praise the Lord.screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-7-28-50-am

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

2 Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord
    or fully declare his praise?
Blessed are those who act justly,
    who always do what is right.

Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people,
    come to my aid when you save them,
that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
    that I may share in the joy of your nation
    and join your inheritance in giving praise.

We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
    we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
When our ancestors were in Egypt,
    they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses,
    and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
    to make his mighty power known.
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;
    he led them through the depths as through a desert.
10 He saved them from the hand of the foe;
    from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
11 The waters covered their adversaries;
    not one of them survived.
12 Then they believed his promises
    and sang his praise.

13 But they soon forgot what he had done
    and did not wait for his plan to unfold.
14 In the desert they gave in to their craving;
    in the wilderness they put God to the test.
15 So he gave them what they asked for,
    but sent a wasting disease among them.

16 In the camp they grew envious of Moses
    and of Aaron, who was consecrated to the Lord.
17 The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan;
    it buried the company of Abiram.
18 Fire blazed among their followers;
    a flame consumed the wicked.
19 At Horeb they made a calf
    and worshiped an idol cast from metal.
20 They exchanged their glorious God
    for an image of a bull, which eats grass.
21 They forgot the God who saved them,
    who had done great things in Egypt,
22 miracles in the land of Ham
    and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 So he said he would destroy them—
    had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him
    to keep his wrath from destroying them.

24 Then they despised the pleasant land;
    they did not believe his promise.
25 They grumbled in their tents
    and did not obey the Lord.
26 So he swore to them with uplifted hand
    that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27 make their descendants fall among the nations
    and scatter them throughout the lands.

28 They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor
    and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods;
29 they aroused the Lord’s anger by their wicked deeds,
    and a plague broke out among them.
30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened,
    and the plague was checked.
31 This was credited to him as righteousness
    for endless generations to come.
32 By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord,
    and trouble came to Moses because of them;
33 for they rebelled against the Spirit of God,
    and rash words came from Moses’ lips.

34 They did not destroy the peoples
    as the Lord had commanded them,
35 but they mingled with the nations
    and adopted their customs.
36 They worshiped their idols,
    which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons
    and their daughters to false gods.
38 They shed innocent blood,
    the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
    and the land was desecrated by their blood.
39 They defiled themselves by what they did;
    by their deeds they prostituted themselves.

40 Therefore the Lord was angry with his people
    and abhorred his inheritance.
41 He gave them into the hands of the nations,
    and their foes ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them
    and subjected them to their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
    but they were bent on rebellion
    and they wasted away in their sin.
44 Yet he took note of their distress
    when he heard their cry;
45 for their sake he remembered his covenant
    and out of his great love he relented.
46 He caused all who held them captive
    to show them mercy.

47 Save us, Lord our God,
    and gather us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
    and glory in your praise.

48 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.

Let all the people say, “Amen!”

Praise the Lord.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2017 in God's anger, sin

 

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Some Rantings and Ravings from Someone Who’s Been in Christian Ministry for a Long Time!

screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-4-50-23-amOkay.  Okay.  Maybe I’ve not yet entered the rank of an old curmudgeon who’s always complaining, but I do have some concerns which I want to share.

I’m writing this before my Emmaus Bible College’s conference “Christian Ministry Seminars” which will be (was) held on Feb. 6-7.  I will speak (spoke) on the topic “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality” and I hope it will go (went) well.  Whew!  I’m confused with these verb tenses!

For my fourth and final message I want to vigorously challenge the students at Emmaus on several areas of the Christian life.  Let me divide my concerns into three categories:

(1) The Christian life in general:  I’m deeply concerned with Christians of my generation screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-6-33-00-amwho lived like they could simply glide to glory.  Some did not take personal Bible study very seriously.  Few (it seems to me) have a strategic prayer list that they go through on a regular basis.  Very few have unsaved friends.  Only a handful volunteer for work in the local church.  Many don’t know what spiritual gift or gifts they have — so how can they be deployed in serving other believers?  I’m equally concerned with this generation of young people who have far more and far more addictive distractions than my generation did.  Social media tends to make people anti-social (just look at a family of four in a restaurant fixated on their devices rather than conversing with each other).  TV programs on demand tempt us now at all hours of the day to watch whatever we want on whatever device we presently hold.  “Binge watching” can consume hours upon hours of mindless “entertainment.”  Someone has said, “If and when American civilization collapses, future researchers will sneer, ‘They entertained themselves to death.'”

Where are believers re-discovering the “spiritual disciplines”?  Where is real mentoring going on?  Even church leaders, it seems, appear to be content only that the one hour of the week (Sunday morning) “goes well” and is well-attended.  But what about discipleship?

Are Christian leaders feeding the flock — and protecting them from unbiblical ideas which bring ruin to the soul?  Which leaders are standing up and saying, “I’ve read the newest best-selling Christian book — and it’s dangerous and ruinous to your spiritual health.  And here’s why . . .”?

(2)  Ministering in our culture:  We are not like Jesus.  Let’s face it.  He had unsaved friends.  He was a friend of publicans and sinners.  We usually aren’t.  We excuse our friendlessness in a variety of ways.  But the bottom line is — we don’t take the time and screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-8-11-49-aminvest the energy to develop meaningful relationships with lost people.  And we wonder why we see so few come to know the Lord.  We surround ourselves with Christian music, Christian books, Christian wallpaper, and Christian cookies and we seem oblivious to those around us who don’t have a clue about the gospel.  This is a day of good news — and we’re doing a great job of keeping it to ourselves!

Some look at the Christian life as if there is no room for FUN!  It is all duty, drudgery, and discipline. screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-8-06-41-amSomeone has said that the mentally and emotionally healthy are those that have learned when to say Yes, when to say No, and when to say Whoopee!  Where are our “whoopees”?  Where does the world see Christians having a blast, enjoying God’s good world, interacting with screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-8-52-13-amGod’s creation with a thankful heart (see I Timothy 6 here.  Michael Witmer’s Becoming Worldly Saints is also quite helpful in this area).  Jesus did not say, “I have come to give death” but “I have come give LIFE and that more abundantly!”  Some of us act as if Jesus gave us a misery pill and told us to go out and medicate the world!

(3)  Christian careers:  Some of us come from a background which criticized “denominational” churches.  We’ve inherited a suspicion (sometimes legitimate) of professional ministers (= clergy) and rightfully challenge the idea of the omni-competent pastor.  All believers have spiritual gifts and should be encouraged by the local church’s leadership to exercise those gifts for the screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-8-48-46-ambuilding up of the body (Eph. 5).  HOWEVER — we need qualified, trained servants of God in our local churches to help equip believers in their ministries.  We need men who can faithfully and carefully teach the Word of God, women who can lead effectively in the areas in which God has called them, and young people who are developing the skills to serve our lost and dying world.  We need Bible colleges and seminaries which provide excellent training for an impatient generation that will vote with its feet when the local church has poor preaching and unwise leadership.

Some Christian parents hardly blink when they decide to send Johnny or Susie away to college and graduate school for six or seven years to become an engineer or a lawyer or a physical therapist.  But what about our church leaders?  Three or four years in a solid Bible college plus three years in a reputable seminary appears to many to be out of the question!  “Where’s the money in that?”, they might not ask out loud, but think to themselves.

I guess it all depends on what kind of currency we’re attracted to.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2017 in christian life

 

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