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Friday, May 30, 2014

A Few Thoughts on Baptism

Why baptism? The Bible records that when persons came to put their faith in Jesus, they typically were baptized soon thereafter, often immediately. Also, Jesus specifically instructed us to baptize people in his mission to us recorded in Matthew 28:19-20
Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) 19 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,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
We understand that this primarily takes place through a local church. What that means is that normally baptism involves also welcoming a person into membership in our church family. We don't just baptize people without understanding that the work of discipling and teaching will be ongoing in the local church context. There are no free agents in God's family. Who needs to be baptized? Everyone who has trusted Jesus alone for salvation as Ephesians 2:8-9 explains:
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
When should we be baptized? As soon as possible after trusting Jesus. Is baptism required to get into heaven? No. But is it required to make any serious progress in following Jesus? Yes. It doesn't make sense to say to Jesus, "I want to follow you with my whole life . . . well except for this first thing that you're asking me to do."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Uncommon Sense about Sex Message Outline

Uncommon Sense about Sex
Proverbs 7:1-27, Uncommon Wisdom Part 4
The pull to experiment sexually is constant, persistent, and persuasive. Without a clear understanding of God’s intent and a positive strategy to follow it, we will suffer the consequences of ignoring God’s good plan.
How do we counter the tsunami of lies about sexual experimentation swirling around us not just for young people but for all?
1.    Engage with intention and conviction (in communicating Biblical teaching about sexuality)

Proverbs 7:1-5
2.    Engage honestly about the appeal (of sexual temptation)

Proverbs 7:6-21
3.    Engage honestly about the costs (of ignoring God's plan)

Proverbs 7:22-27

Friday, May 23, 2014

Daily Tasks?

Some things we do every day out of habit. I’ve heard it said that unless we deliberately think about it, we typically put the same shoe on first, start shaving the same way, and start brushing our teeth on the same side. Other things we consciously choose to do because at our core we believe they will make us happy. Perhaps when you get up you make the coffee first thing. Others flip on the news or grab the newspaper. Some check their Facebook status. Maybe some stop at Starbucks on the way to work.

Let's say you do the Starbucks thing. Stay with me here. You know whether you've gone or not. You remember going. Perhaps your cup is nearby. Your wallet is a few bucks lighter. Maybe you go because you can’t resist the smell of Starbucks in the morning or you love the environment. You know it costs time and money. But you love it, so you go. It's not a burden.

Let me get to the point. A few days ago I was thinking about this verse:
Psalm 145:2 Every day I will bless you, and praise your name for ever and ever.
It’s important to not assume the obvious, so I asked myself, “What does it mean to ‘bless the Lord’”? Just because I say I am “blessing the Lord” does that guarantee that I am?” Will it guarantee that I will “bless the Lord” if I create a repeating task that looks like this:

No. And I don’t. 

I could legalistically mark my to do list that I have “blessed the Lord” each day. But that wouldn’t guarantee that my soul would be marked every day by a fresh expression of praise to Jesus for suffering for my sin or perhaps verbalizing praise to God for his imagination in creating everything that exists. When I do this consistently and I’m not trying to hurry, then often my stubborn heart starts to awaken and almost imperceptibly, fresh affection for God rises in my soul.

“Every day I will bless you.” I believe that needs to be practical reality and not just a spiritual sounding thing to say.

Imagine increasing numbers of us pursuing this daily. I imagine it would create a new craving in us to be together to worship corporately. We would not be able to tear ourselves away. And we would care less about how the body worships together and more that there is an opportunity to worship together. Let’s not take for granted that one day such freedoms, either through force or due to our own disability, could disappear.

Sunday at Bethany Place I'm continuing the study of Proverbs focusing on words. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs has a lot to say about this subject, perhaps more than about any other single thing. Maybe that’s because we all need help. You can see the outline for the message here

Uncommon Sense about Words Message Outline

Uncommon Sense about Words
Selected texts from Proverbs
Uncommon Sense: Part 3

How can we develop the ability to not just keep our mouths shut when needed, but to want to help and heal with our words?

Because words cut to the heart, they have great power to either heal or hurt.

Timing and accuracy

Proverbs 15:23 Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!

Proverbs 10:31–32 The mouth of the godly person gives wise advice, but the tongue that deceives will be cut off. 32 The lips of the godly speak helpful words, but the mouth of the wicked speaks perverse words.

Proverbs 15:1–2 A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. 2 The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.

Proverbs 25: 11 Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket.

Listen and think

Proverbs 17:27–28 A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. 28 Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.

Proverbs 18:2 Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.

Proverbs 18:6–8 Fools’ words get them into constant quarrels; they are asking for a beating. 7 The mouths of fools are their ruin; they trap themselves with their lips.

Proverbs 18:13 Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.

Serve and protect

Proverbs 26:17–26  Interfering in someone else’s argument is as foolish as yanking a dog’s ears. 18 Just as damaging as a madman shooting a deadly weapon 19 is someone who lies to a friend and then says, “I was only joking.” 20 Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops. 21 A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood. 22 Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart. 23 Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot. 24 People may cover their hatred with pleasant words, but they’re deceiving you. 25 They pretend to be kind, but don’t believe them. Their hearts are full of many evils. 26 While their hatred may be concealed by trickery, their wrongdoing will be exposed in public.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Phoning it In

Probably no one likes, “going through the motions.” The phrase means doing something for which we should feel some passion but don’t. This can happen to us at work, in our friendships, in our family, and certainly in our relationship with God. A similar phrase is to say of someone, “it seems like they are just phoning it in.” That means that she or he may be doing their job, but with little heart or creativity. No one can always be passionate, but I have often wondered if there wasn’t something we could do to guard against this happening in our relationship with God. The following verse got me thinking about this early this morning:
Proverbs 28:5 Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.
There's a phrase in there that caught me up short. I lingered on the text to ask this: what does it mean to seek the Lord? I mean really? It’s possible for us to say we are seeking God when in reality we aren’t. On the other hand, If you show up for your appointed time of meeting with God, by showing up you are praying you will have a powerful experience with God. In that sense, you are seeking him even if you don’t sense any passion. But in the moment of prayer itself, there are times when I am passionately seeking God and then others when I'm not. Emotionally and spiritually there are times when I'm just phoning it in.

It is God’s grace to us when we open scripture, pray, or worship and we experience a powerful desire for God. I'm convinced that can’t be programmed. But here a few ways that may move us toward a greater experience of God:
  • Show up on time for the meeting and allow adequate time for it. We can’t encounter God in a hurry. We have to make time to be with him.
  • Begin by praying something like this: "I am here Lord because I want to seek you and I need you. But right now my heart has not caught up with my head. I know I don't depend on my feelings and yet Lord I do long to feel passion and hunger for you.
  • Reflect deeply on scripture. Usually our best praying will come as a result of our hearts being tuned by a passage of scripture.
I had not previously thought of understanding justice as a result of seeking God. But I need to understand what is just and right and fair as Proverbs 1:3 promises that lingering over Proverbs will teach me. One of the ways I need, all of us need, to understand more of what is just and right and fair is in the area of how we handle money. There are lots of ways to use money. Often choices are not between right and wrong. Often there is no rule to follow. Wisdom is required. The stated purpose of Proverbs is to provide that. I'll talk more about this on Sunday at Bethany Place.

Uncommon Sense about Cents Message Outline

Uncommon Sense about Cents
Proverbs 28:27, 8:10–11, 15:27 13:11, 3:9–10
Uncommon Sense Part 2

1. Care for the poor wisely

Proverbs 28:27 (NLT)
Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.

Proverbs 21:13 (NLT)
Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need.

2. Pursue wisdom more than riches

Proverbs 8:10–11 (NLT)
10 Choose my instruction rather than silver, and knowledge rather than pure gold. 11 For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it.

3. Expose our greed

Proverbs 15:27 (NLT)
Greed brings grief to the whole family, but those who hate bribes will live

4. Work diligently

Proverbs 13:11 (NLT)
Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time.

5. Give generously

Proverbs 3:9–10  (NLT)
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. 10 Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Uncommon Sense

New Series: Uncommon Sense
Proverbs may be the single most important book for you to pick up . . . again. Many judge it to be a bit shallow and have passed over it. We are massively short sighted to do that. Proverbs is powerful evidence that God cares about every part of our lives. Furthermore, it is the tool God has left for adults to start a thousand difficult conversations with young people they care about. But Proverbs is far more than instruction to the young as Proverbs 1:5–6 says 

    5 Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. 
      Let those with understanding receive guidance 
    6 by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, 
      the words of the wise and their riddles.

Here’s the schedule:
Uncommon Sense 
5/11/14 About Sense
5/18/14 About Cents
5/25/14 About How we Talk
6/1/14 About Sexual Temptation
6/8/14 About How we Work
6/15/14 About Pride and Humility

Strength Training Verse 
Proverbs 1:7 (NLT)
    7 Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, 

      but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Here's a good topical search engine for Proverbs

Friday, May 2, 2014

Collide with Purpose (Message outline)

Collide with Purpose
Ephesians 2:8-10
Collide: Part 3

1. Compare your role to God’s role

Ephesians 2:8 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith.

2. Imagine your life motivated by God’s grace

Ephesians 2:8–9 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

3. Structure your life according to God’s purpose

Ephesians 2:10 (ESV) 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.