Jamaica 2014… T-Minus 2 days!

Jamaica_flag_grunge_wallpaper_by_The_proffesional
Last year, it was Haiti…this year we’ll be a mere 119 miles away in Jamaica.

This Sunday, we are taking 19 people (13 high school students, 5 leaders, 1 local expert) to Annotto Bay, Jamaica to support the Annotto Bay Gospel Chapel with some building projects and hopefully help with evangelism in the local area.

The team is very excited to go, some of us are traveling outside the country for the first time so this is an exciting event – one that we hope will open the eyes of many and also provide invaluable faith-boosting experience.   We have much to be thankful for already – God has provided all of our financial support, all of our supplies are purchased, we have been meeting together regularly for prayer and preparation. We have a great group going this year.

One of the things we did to prepare was go through the book, Let the Nations Be Glad, by John Piper.  In it, Piper writes, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church, worship is.  Missions exist because worship doesn’t.”  The gospel message is literally “good news” – but, not only the good news of salvation from sin in Jesus, but the good news that we have a King.  A loving and sovereign creator God and our purpose is a life of passionate, joyful, obedient worship of Him.   This is a life that transcends circumstances and brings fulfillment, peace, and hope.

We would love for you to pray for us.   Please pray for….

  • Safety in travel and no hiccups thru customs
  • Protection as we work
  • Group unity, patience, humility, servant hearts
  • Opportunities to share Jesus
  • For the local church to be built up
  • That according to God’s riches of glory, he will grant us to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith…
  • Pray also for Pastor Ryan and another Green Pond Bible Chapel group traveling to Israel at the same time.

I cannot guarantee daily summaries as wifi may not be available, but I will try my best.  Stay tuned!

 

 

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Going Outside the Camp

This morning I was in Exodus 29 – God specifying how his priests were to be consecrated/set apart/purified.  It’s amazing the theme of blood cleansing from sin – to see that throughout the Old and New Testaments – but that’s not really what jumped out.

God specifies that sin offerings are to be made outside the camp – Ex. 29:14

…you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering.
(Exodus 29:14 ESV)

Fast forward to Jesus.  Where is he crucified? Outside the city. Hebrews 13 gives us this description:

For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
(Hebrews 13:11-12 ESV)

The continual Old Testament animal sacrifices were a foreshadowing of the one-time perfect divine sacrifice of Jesus for our sins – he bore all of the sin and shame outside the camp.

So what does this mean for us?  Again, Hebrews helps:

Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.
(Hebrews 13:13 ESV)

We are called to be like Jesus, not as a sacrifice for sin, for there can only be one of those – but to leave the comfort and security of “the city” and bring him glory – to be radically committed to Jesus and his Kingdom – which is much different than our man-made kingdoms.  We get so trapped in our Americanized Christianity and the comforts of this world – yet, is that what we are really called to do?  Do we (I) turn this scripture around and make it more “Stay here where it’s comfortable and warm, let others go outside the camp where it’s cold uncertain and dangerous, they are the ones ‘called’ by God to do great things, I’m just a regular dude with a job, house, mortgage and trying to be cozy.”  Ouch. This passage always hurts, and I think that’s the point. But don’t let it just hurt – do something.  Go.  Outside.

I always think of a John Piper sermon I heard years ago when I read these passages, it was very impactful and I recommend it.  You can read it or listen here.

Here is a snippet that will whet your whistle:

So the point of Hebrews 13:14 is confirmed again and again: Christ did not die to make the cities of this age – or the suburbs – a paradise. He died so that we would be willing to stop trying to make our lives paradise on earth – both in the city and in the suburbs, and instead go with Jesus outside the camp of comfort and familiarity and security to where the needs are…

What is “more than a conqueror?”

As I was meeting with another fellow this morning for discipleship, prayer, fellowship and food (some of my very favorite things!) – something in a book we were going thru together really struck me.

We have been working thru “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper.

He has a very helpful section to understand Romans 8:37 – “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  I found his insight here very helpful:

What does “more than conquerors” mean? How can you be more than a con- queror when you risk for the cause of God and get hurt for it?

But what must happen in this conflict with famine and sword if you are to be called more than a conqueror? One biblical answer is that a conqueror defeats his enemy, but one who is more than a conqueror subjugates his enemy. A conqueror nullifies the purpose of his enemy; one who is more than a conqueror makes the enemy serve his own purposes. A conqueror strikes down his foe; one who is more than a conqueror makes his foe his slave.

Practically what does this mean? Let’s use Paul’s own words  in 2 Corinthians 4:17: “This slight momentary affliction is preparing [effecting, or working, or bringing about] for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” Here we could say that “affliction” is one of the attacking enemies. What has happened in Paul’s conflict with it? It has certainly not separated him from the love of Christ. But even more, it has been taken captive, so to speak. It has been enslaved and made to serve Paul’s everlasting joy. “Affliction,” the former enemy, is now working for Paul. It is preparing for Paul “an eternal weight of glory.” His enemy is now his slave. He has not only conquered his enemy. He has more than conquered him.

The danger in our Americanized Christianity is that we can make it all about us.  We aren’t overcomers because we are so strong – it is because Christ has already overcome that he then causes everything to work for his glory and our good.  And as Pastor Ed says, those two things are never in conflict.

How Important Is Joy?

Well…the Bible says it’s really important…

Isaiah 64:5b says this:

    You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
those who remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?

God meets those who joyfully do things that are pleasing to him.

Here’s an even more pointed passage when Israel refused to serve the Lord with gladness:

    Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.
(Deuteronomy 28:47-48 ESV)

YIKES!
The Bible commands us to serve the Lord with gladness!  Have you ever thought that?

OK, yes…this is a struggle, but don’t underestimate this command or how important the Bible says it is.   Why is it that we struggle even in church with this?  We have been saved from God’s wrath and an eternity in Hell apart from God, yet some days who can tell?  Us worship leaders get to see your faces, don’t forget.  🙂

Even still, the reality is that we all struggle with walking in joy.  Life is hard and pulls on us, weighing us down.  This doesn’t make the command in Scripture any less important.  In John Piper’s excellent book “When I Don’t Desire God” he goes through several ways to fight for joy.  I highly recommend reading this book if you are struggling to walk in joy and have your mind refreshed in the greatness of our God and the joy that he brings us like nothing else can.  Check out the book, pray thru it, soak it in, walk thru the Word with it…and here are a few things to whet your whistle to use in the fight for joy:

1. Realize that authentic joy in God is a gift.

2. Realize that joy must be fought for relentlessly.

3. Resolve to attack all known sin in your life.

4. Learn the secret of gutsy guilt – how to fight like a justified sinner. (Don’t confuse Justification and Sanctification!)

5. Realize that the battle is primarily a fight to see God for who he is.

6. Meditate on the Word of God day and night.

7. Pray earnestly and continually for open heart-eyes and an inclination for God.

8. Learn to preach to yourself rather than listen to yourself.

9. Spend time with God-saturated people who help you see God and fight the fight.

10. Be patient in the night of God’s seeming absence.

11. Get the rest and exercise proper diet that your body was designed by God to have.

12. Make a proper use of God’s revelation in nature.

13. Read great books about God and biographies of great saints.

14. Do the hard and loving thing for the sake of others (witness and mercy).

15. Get a global vision for the cause of Christ and pour yourself out for the unreached.

PS:  Desiring God has posted a free e-Book version of When I Don’t Desire God.  Check it out by clicking here!

For more on When I Don’t Desire God, check out previous post here.

Endurance

So, as I was thumbing through one of my other Bibles this morning in search of a different translation of a verse, I noticed a bulge of papers in the front cover.  I found a a chapter of a book that someone had copied for me a few years back.  That person was Camlon Rooke, now in the Navy, but formerly our Youth Pastor and one who had a tremendous effect on me and many others during his time with us.  In fact I was just out to dinner the other night with another local pastor who commented…”Man there was a time where disciples were just pouring out of your place….who was that?!”  That…was Pastor Cam.  I am really missing him right about now.

Anyway, these last few days for whatever reason, things haven’t been “clicking.” My wife says that I have been “on edge”…yet not sure why.  I keep searching the Word, praying, confessing, repenting…but there didn’t seem to be any momentum there.  Until I read that old copy of a chapter in the front of an old Bible.  The book it was copied from was The Roots of Endurance, by John Piper. In it he says many wonderful encouraging things.

He starts by confronting the misconception that life is supposed to be a pain-free and trouble-free existence. You may have already knew that, but it’s a good reminder. “Frustration is normal, disappointment is normal, sickness is normal. Conflict, persecution, danger, stress – they are all normal.”

Piper asks a key question “How can we keep on loving and serving people when life has so much pain and disappointment? What are the roots of endurance?”

As Hebrews 10:36 says “We have need of endurance.” YES I DO. 🙂 How ’bout you?

So, what do we do? We need to remember that endurance and perseverance are a GIFT from God and we need to beg him for more – to not live for ourselves, but for Him. (2 Cor 5:15)

PRAY for endurance. Like quite possibly my favorite hymn “Come Thou Fount”

O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be

Let thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to thee.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love

Here’s my heart, Lord take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

Piper calls us – “Pray this.  Seal my will to your with an unbreakable application of your eternal covenant! Keep me! Preserve me!”

This then, is a command of God that he enables us to do.  (Heb 13:20-21)  “He promises to do for us what he commands from us…it is not a “just do it” ethic, it is not a moral improvement program, it is not a “Judeo-Christian ethic”…it is a deeply cross-embracing life that knows the Christ of the Bible as the Son of God.”

Amen.  Thank you God. Thank you Jesus.  (and thanks, Pastor Cam…I miss you brother.)

The power to live a Godly life: Love for Christ

Still totally digging Bryan Chappell’s “Christ Centered Worship” — in it he has a chapter on “Christ Centered Sermons” which I’ll probably go back to about 103 times.

Some good nuggets this AM, but here is one thought that really stuck out —

…people are not tempted by what they have no desire to do. The only reason that sin has any power in our life is because we love it. If the sin had no attraction for us, it would have no power over us.  When love for Christ dominates our affections, sin loses its allure and consequently loses its power. Love for Christ is the power of obedience. Preaching that floods the heart with affection for the Savior simultaneously loosen the hold of false idols on our hearts, chokes the appeal of sin, nourishes the desire for holiness, and stimulates zeal for kingdom purposes.

When love for Chirst is preeminent, doing his will is our greatest compulsion and joy.

Thus the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10)

As Piper says then – “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in him”  – AMEN!

John 6:44 and Calvinism and Free Will

John 6:44 says: “No one comes to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…”

John Piper had a great sermon on this that I will link to on my blog for future reference…or encouragement.

Excerpt From His Commentary:

This is in absolutely, totally, and undoubtedly not in any conflict whatsoever with your coming freely
by freely i simply mean coming b/c you want to come (freedom = doing what you want to do and not regretting it in years later)
nobody comes to Jesus who doesn’t want to come to Jesus
nobody comes to Jesus who hasn’t chosen to come to Jesus
nobody comes to Jesus who doesn’t come by an act of their own will
I’m just saying when you perform that act of will, experience this, when you do come — there’s a reason: GOD

Those whom the Father draws will come to me.
And when we come, we come to him freely…with zero coercion
We come freely with zero constraint
We do what we want to do, or it isn’t faith
Faith sees Him as life, treasure, all…and says YES
There is no constraint here
There is the freest moment of your life

My notes:

(I think this would shock most anti-Calvinists and Piper-haters. This is also extremely comforting to me, because I was starting to feel like I was a Calvinist nut-job and maybe John Piper was too…I praise God that I heard this sermon this morning.  I still may be a nut job (ask my wife) but I feel much more assured and at peace and reinforces where I feel the Lord has me standing)

God is GOD. He is sovereign over ALL.

He knows EVERYTHING.

That’s His JOB. (not yours)

He is drawing you to Him thru His Son and the reconciliation he offers.

You respond to this drawing, you make a choice, of your free will.

…but don’t think for a minute that he didn’t know before the foundation of the world was laid what your choice would be.

…and don’t think for a minute that he didn’t ordain that choice

he’s God.  Remember?

Another great post to remember for the future is here