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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Of cell phones and selfishness


Several weeks ago I dropped my relatively new phone into water. The details don’t really matter, but in case you are curious, the water was clean. It had barely hit the water by the time I retrieved it. I immediately dried it off and then allowed it to dry out before turning it back on. I was relieved when I tried to use it later in the day and it still worked. But over the weekend an important function of the phone stopped working. So after speaking to three different techs on the phone, I was instructed to take the phone into a retail store, where they would run diagnostics. I had forgotten about the water incident, but learned that there are sensors inside the phone that change colors once the phone has gotten wet. “Mr. Cornett, do you realize this phone has water damage?” I didn’t, only later would I remember dropping the phone. I was surprised at the frustration I felt by being told, “I’m sorry but we can’t help you.” In fact, I was grumpy the rest of the evening, which of course, is ridiculous. It was my fault the phone was not working and not their responsibility to fix something they didn’t cause.

I tell you this story because it is a reminder of how skewed our perspective sometimes is. I was frustrated because this piece of equipment that I use wasn’t working well. It was a reminder to me that such devices are too important to me and in the moment I was forgetting the incredible blessings God has showered on my life.

In the Old Testament book of Hosea, God charges the people of Israel with forgetting that he was the one who provided for them the good provisions for their well being and that instead they had forsaken him and run off after other gods. That is one of the milder indictments in the book. For the next two, possible three weeks, i am going to explore the message of this book in my preaching at Bethany Place. Hosea portrays in shocking language God’s grief and anger at our sin and with the same shocking terms illustrates glory of God’s mercy which he extends to us when we come to him in repentance. It is important to study this text because against this backdrop we can see with new eyes the tremendous value that the grace of God extended to us really is.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” I have been deeply affected by my study of this book in the past few weeks. I believe that it is critical for our being able to value the gospel for the treasure that it is.

You can see the outline and prayer guide for this message below.

A Scandalous View of God’s Anger
Shock and Awe, A Study in Hosea

1.    See that God’s word transcends all political leadership

Hosea 1:1 (ESV) The word of the Lord that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.

2.    Feel God’s anger and grief over persistent sin

Hosea 1:2–9 (ESV) When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
And the Lord said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”
She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”
When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the Lord said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

3.    Experience God’s mercy against the backdrop of God’s anger

Hosea 1:10–2:1 (ESV)10  Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.”

Ways to pray through this text
Pray that we would learn to rely on God and his word no matter what swirls around us politically, educationally, or financially.

Pray that we would have an accurate view of God’s holiness and his just anger toward our rebellions so that we can fully appreciate the mercy he extends to us.

Against the backdrop of God’s just anger against our rebellion, pray that God would grant us the ability to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and that we might know this love that surpasses knowledge that we might be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God. (See Eph. 3:18-19)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What God Knows

I'm back after taking about 10 days off for vacation.

I’m always on the lookout for ways to equip people for worship. I collect quotes and songs in my bible study software that I want to be able to use later on for either corporate or private worship. What follows is a couple of paragraphs by Matt Chandler from his book The Explicit Gospel that I've adding to my worship file. I believe you will find it helpful to add to your arsenal of material to wake up your heart and mind to the greatness of God. 
How deep is the wisdom and the knowledge of God? God knows every word in every language in every sentence in every paragraph in every chapter of every book ever written. He knows every fact of history past and future, every bit of truth discovered and undiscovered, and every proof of science known and unknown. 
In our age, science and faith have become pitted against each other, like yin and yang, as if there is no overlap, as if we must choose one or the other. The Scriptures don’t present truth that way though. God owns it all and is so high above our brightest minds that they seem brain damaged in comparison.  
Matt Chandler (2012-04-09). The Explicit Gospel (pp. 25). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Parenting In an Obsessed Culture Audio and Video

We had another great morning at Bethany Place today. I'm so encouraged about how God is blessing the work. The audio and video from this morning's message are now available on Bethany Place site.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Parenting In an Obsessed Culture


I know i’m not the only one heartbroken over seeing children struggle with selfishness stirred up by advertisements or by the things their friends have that they don’t. There is always someone with more stuff. This is aggravated by the cruelty of some of their “friends” who make fun of those who don’t have the right kind of phone, shoes, clothes, hair, face, body, toys, car, computer, or muscles. These “idols” are wrapped up together for kids in our society in a giant mess perfectly aimed to crush them into a lifestyle that demands that they comply. 

We can get angry and scream. We can manipulate and beg. We can try to make them feel guilty or work to boost their lagging self-esteem. We can warn prospective boyfriends of the dangers of misbehaving with our daughters and threaten our sons with dire consequences for such behavior. We can put controls on their internet usage and should. We can monitor their friends. We can not give in to the pressure for our kids to have what other kids have. This is a real temptation for me as a parent. Paying attention to all of these things is the obvious job of a parent and is of concern to anyone who cares about children. But none of these measures alone will address the issues of the heart. They will only address behavior. What chance do we have to help our kids? One thing is for sure, we are going to need to learn how to apply the gospel to our own weakness in being influence by the idols of money, sex, and power. Then we must pray for the wisdom and the power to lovingly lead our children through this maze of temptation that threatens to not just destroy their lives but our whole society. 

The later part of Deuteronomy 6 speaks to how the gospel addresses the idols of an affluent culture. This Sunday at Bethany Place I will conclude the message series on Applying the Gospel to the Family Circus by preaching from that text. You can see the outline and prayer guide below. 

Parenting In an Obsessed Culture
Applying the gospel to the idols of money, sex and power
Deuteronomy 6:10-25

Recognize the real presence of idols
Deuteronomy 6:10–15 (ESV)10 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

Help children evaluate trends against God’s commands 
Deuteronomy 6:16–19 (ESV)16 “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. 17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. 18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers 19 by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has promised.

Make clear that only the gospel can empower us to obey
Deuteronomy 6:20–25 (ESV)20 “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. 23 And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. 24 And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. 25 And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us.’

Suggestions for praying through this text
  • Pray that God would reveal to us ways that we and children we care about are influenced by our culture’s obsession with acquiring stuff, popularity, and sexual appeal.
  • That God would open our eyes to how our relative affluence affects our ability to pursue these obsessions.
  • That we will have the courage and wisdom to consistently apply the standards of the word of God to cultural influences in our lives without running off into extremes of either immersion or isolation.
  • Pray that God would powerfully reveal to each of us that the beauty of the gospel is the only medicine that can cure our infatuation with these idols.
  • Pray that we will know and remember the gospel well so that we will know how to apply it with wisdom in the moment of temptation and to help children we love do the same.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Built to Last Audio and Video

Thanks to our awesome tech guys this morning's message is up already. You can listen to the audio here or watch the video here.

We had a great morning at Bethany Place with a baptism, graduate recognition, two expressing a desire for membership, one by profession of faith and one by transfer. Also mom and dad were here for the service. After church we had a lunch with the graduates and their families. Later we topped the night off with a Sunday School cookout where I was chased by children with water ballons and water guns! I was only allowed a minuscule water gun to retaliate.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A pump

I think there are many of us who want to pray, know that we need to pray, but even after many years of trying there are times we don't know what to pray. We can't seem to string together words to express what is in our soul. Psalm 71 is a terrific scriptural pump, to draw out of your soul what you may be seeking to express. If you prayed nothing else today but this it would be a good prayer day.

Psalm 71:1–24 (ESV)
Forsake Me Not When My Strength Is Spent71 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me, and save me!
Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.
I have been as a portent to many,
but you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise,
and with your glory all the day.
Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
forsake me not when my strength is spent.
10  For my enemies speak concerning me;
those who watch for my life consult together
11  and say, “God has forsaken him;
pursue and seize him,
for there is none to deliver him.”
12  O God, be not far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
13  May my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
with scorn and disgrace may they be covered
who seek my hurt.
14  But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
15  My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
16  With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
17  O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18  So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.
19  Your righteousness, O God,
reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
O God, who is like you?
20  You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again.
21  You will increase my greatness
and comfort me again.
22  I will also praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to you with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
23  My lips will shout for joy,
when I sing praises to you;
my soul also, which you have redeemed.
24  And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long,
for they have been put to shame and disappointed
who sought to do me hurt.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Supply and Demand


A few years ago my daughter Hannah traveled to Kenya for a two-week mission trip. She and two other friends from our church at the time served in an orphanage in the interior of the country. While there, their primary diet consisted of something called ugali, which contains cornmeal and water (she says it also occasionally had rocks in it.) On their return trip, their group entered a restaurant in Nairobi. When Hannah saw the menu, she became “hysterical” (her word) and cried. The reason: they served hamburgers.

She experienced a bit of the law of supply and demand. I don’t understand economics well, but the supply of food Hannah was used to eating was scarce. This caused her desire or demand for food that she liked to go way up, which increased the value in her mind of that hamburger. I can relate, having had a similar experience on returning from my first overseas trip when I was around her age.

I thought of that this week as I studied these verses, which are part of my text for Sunday’s message at Bethany Place called Built to Last: Evaluating Parental Goals:

Deuteronomy 6:6–9 (ESV) And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

It’s possible that we think we don’t need to remember Bible texts because we believe that we will always have them available. I think the law of supply and demand may have caused us to subtly devalue the word of God. Here’s what I mean: Where I live, there’s a church on every corner. These churches meet weekly and everyone knows that whether or not they participate, the church will be there next week. In my office, I counted 20 physical Bibles, we have more at home, and my Logos Bible Software contains dozen’s of Bible translations. Many Bible translations can be accessed freely on numerous web sites. I have two Bible apps on my smart phone. One of them, You Version, will read the ESV translation to me, all for free. Finally, I have two copies of the Bible downloaded onto my Kindle. My supply of the word of God is hugely over abundant. This is a good thing. I would not want it to be otherwise, but there is a danger that the law of supply and demand kicks in. If we don’t richly value God’s word, it is not likely to grip our minds in such a way that we naturally are provoked to diligently teach and discuss God’s word with children in our span of care.

You can see the outline for the message below.

In Christ,


Gene

Built to Last: Evaluating Parenting Goals
Applying the Gospel to the Family Circus, Part 5
1.    Develop a legacy of fearing God

Deuteronomy 6:1–3 (ESV)
“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

2.    Cultivate passion for God and his word

Deuteronomy 6:4–6 (ESV)
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.

3.    Pursue intentionality teaching

Deuteronomy 6:7–9 (ESV)
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.


Monday, June 4, 2012

An Inadequate Gospel Prayer

In the spirit of Nehemiah chapter 9, where the author prays through the mighty acts of God up to that point in history, I offer a prayer from our perspective at this time in history. It is somewhat long and woefully inadequate, but I sense this is the kind of praying I need to be doing to appropriately respond to the gospel in worship. I offer it here for your use if you find it helpful.
Father, in your great mercy and in ways we cannot understand, in eternity past you planned for our salvation, “Jesus was slain before the foundation of the world.” We, having marred your creation and our relationship with you, were without hope and without God in the world. You established a covenant with your people Israel, a system of sacrifices that consistently reminded the people of your holiness and reminded the people of their sins year after year. All of this was a preparation, a pointing toward your great salvation. In the fullness of time, Jesus you came, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law. You came the same way we all enter the world, completely vulnerable, totally dependent on a young inexperienced girl without even the support of a family system around her at your birth. The contrast between what you stepped away from in heaven and what you entered on earth is aptly described by the phrase, “you emptied yourself.” You grew up largely invisible to us, we know so little of that time. But then you went public, slowly, quietly, you began to reveal yourself to the world. Your humility, your power, your wisdom is beyond our understanding. You limited yourself to a human body, yet had supernatural power to know and to act according to your plan. You delivered a perfect performance, you hit all the right notes with just the right intonation. You spoke the truth in ways men had never heard. You drew connections from incidents from the past that were brilliant and infuriating to some. You loved, you healed, you taught: you spoke to the elements and they obeyed so that those with you said, “Who is this!” They understandably began to develop visions of grandeur, they imagined themselves getting in on the ground floor of something amazing in their view, in their understanding of the world. But just as their ideas were getting warmed up, you began to speak of another vision altogether. You began to gently warn them that you would suffer and be killed and on the third day rise again. But that vision was so different from what they had begun to imagine they could not absorb it, or would not. I’m sure we would have done the same. Oh, there is so much to see, so much of the mighty works of God displayed in your life that should be noted or spoken to. You set your face like flint to reach the goal that had been set before you. You did this with difficulty beyond our imagining. It would seem that as the cross grew closer that your steps grew heavier. Yet, you never stopped being who you are. You loved your disciples to the end, patiently instructing them, preparing them for what they could not fathom. They were slow to make the connections, as we would have been, only in hindsight would they grasp what you were telling them. You prayed for them, and for us, all these centuries later. That is amazing in and of itself. Then you prayed for yourself, well I don’t know if that’s the right way to say it. But you prayed with such agony in the garden that it boggles our imagination. How unsettling it must have been for the disciples to see you express what appeared almost to be neediness, certainly weakness, if they saw it at all. You collapsed on the ground before the Father, pleading for another way and yet presenting yourself consistently as if to say, here i am, i am ready to do all that you ask. At the end of that time, apparently three hours in length, you were then set, your face determined. I cannot speak of all that is recorded for us in the gospels that you then encountered. Every step was an act of obedience, every moment a new sacrifice on behalf of the sins of the world. Every interaction, every incident an accomplishing of the greatest act in all of history. We don’t get that. We speak of heroic deeds in history. We marvel at the exploits of athletes or the brilliance of the best minds. You, in your suffering accomplished the greatest act in all of history. Please forgive us for thinking that we have somehow exhausted the depths of all that happened there, of thinking that we, because we can recount the outline of the story with reasonable accuracy, have seen all there is to see as if we were tourists who had checked that particular vacation spot off of our list. We worship you for your mighty acts there at the cross, for how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation. There was so much other detail there. May we learn to worship you thinking through, praying through these details over and over. There is so much more to hear, there is so much that we have not grasped. In the end, you cried from the cross with grief we cannot comprehend, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Soon thereafter you died, accomplishing more than we can fathom or understand. Three days later you rose from the dead. Oh how shallow my prayer seems now as I run out of steam here, though I feel myself to be in decent company, because that seems to have been Steven’s experience as well as he recounted your story (Acts 7). O how foolish and how slow we have been to believe. May our recounting of your mighty acts increase and may this recounting of the gospel message, as we repeat it, and recount it in new and fresh ways bring renewal and revival to our souls, our families, our churches and our land. Praise the Lord.