Wednesday, December 30, 2015


“And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?’”

                                                                  (Luke 2:49 ESV)

          When Jesus was twelve years old, his parents took him to Jerusalem for the Passover.  And, as they traveled home with a company, they failed to notice that he was not with them.  He’d remained behind.

            When they discovered that he was missing, they went back to Jerusalem where they searched for him.  And, when they found him on the third day, he was in the temple.  He was sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.

             Mary then asked him: “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” Most of us, I believe, can relate to Mary’s feelings.  We’ve experienced the feelings of distress when one of our children couldn’t be found.

            However, Jesus’ answer to her is what I always find striking.  The ESV translates it as you read it above.  However, the NKJV translates it in this way: "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?"

            I’m not a Greek expert, but it seems that the most literal way to translate Jesus final question is a little more general.  I believe it could be said in this way: “Did you not know that it is necessary for me to be in the things of my Father?”

            Jesus understood that God was his Father.  And, for this reason, he was compelled to be about the things of his Father.  He was compelled to be in the house of God.  He was compelled to be present for the teaching of God’s Word.  And, as we see throughout his life, he found it necessary to engage in the ministry for which he’d been sent.  The things of God could not be avoided or neglected.

            Although Jesus is the only Son of God, although he is the Son of God in a sense that can never be true of us, it seems that we should possess the same heart and mindset.  After all, we are the children of God.  By faith, we have received his adoption as sons.

            The question I’m led to ask myself is this: Do I find it necessary to be about the things of God?  And this is a question that deserves to be contemplated by each of us.

            Do we find it necessary to be in God’s house, to worship and to hear the Word as it’s taught and preached?  Do we find it necessary to spend time in the Word and prayer on a regular basis?  Do we find it necessary to be about the Father’s business, to be about the calling he’s entrusted to us?  Do we find it necessary to take part in the fellowship of believers?   

            Even though it’s clear how this question ought to be answered, I think you see where I’m going.  It’s easy for us to make the things of God a lesser priority.  It’s easy for us to become overwhelmed by the distractions of society around us.  It’s easy for us to neglect the things of God in favor of things that are mere vanity.

            As we reflect upon the gift of God, as we reflect upon the fact that we’ve been made to be the children of God, let us sincerely search our heart.  Let’s confess to the Lord that he hasn’t been the priority in our life that he should be.  And let’s ask him to create within us a need to be about the things of God.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Necessity of the Virgin Birth

“…but he knew her not until she had given birth to a son.  And he called his name Jesus.”

Matthew 1:25

            One of the key truths that we find in the Christmas story is the virgin birth of Jesus.  We see this emphasized, first of all, when the angel came to Mary announcing God’s plan for her.  In Luke 1:27 we’re specifically told that the angel was sent to a virgin.  And, when Mary asks the angel how she would become pregnant, the issue in her mind was that she was a virgin.

            We see this emphasized again in Matthew’s account.  We find that, when he discovered Mary was pregnant, Joseph planned to divorce her.  But an angel spoke to him in a dream, telling him that the child conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit.  In other words, the angel assured him that Mary had been faithful to him.  She was still a virgin.  And, for this reason, he was not to fear taking her as his wife. 

            Finally, we’re told in the above verse that Joseph didn’t know Mary (he didn’t have sexual relations with her) until she had given birth to a son.  So, even though Joseph took Mary as his wife, she remained a virgin until the child was born.  Again, the emphasis is on the fact that Jesus had no human father.  Although Joseph was his father in the sense that he raised Jesus and cared for him, it was the Holy Spirit who fathered Jesus.

            Even though we’re very familiar with this truth, it’s one that’s denied by many in our society today.  There are many claims made when it comes to Jesus’ birth.  For example, some claim that Joseph was Jesus’ actual father, while others say that Jesus was fathered by a Roman soldier. 

            It might be easy for us to think that it doesn’t really matter.  We might be tempted think that, regardless of the identity of Jesus’ father, he did everything that was written of him in Scripture.  Regardless of his father, he worked miracles.  Regardless of his father, he revealed to us the Father.  Regardless of his father, he taught us to love.  And regardless of his father, he died on the cross.

            However, when it comes to the message of salvation, the virgin birth of Jesus is essential.  In fact, we can’t separate the two.  If Jesus had been fathered by a man, he would be powerless to save.

            It’s because of his supernatural conception that Jesus was free of sin.  If Jesus had been fathered by a man, he would’ve been born in sin like the rest of us.  And if Jesus was a sinner, he would be subject to the consequences of sin and powerless to save.  But, because his father was God, he was not born in sin.  And, throughout his life, he remained without sin.

            It was this, it was his sinlessness, that enabled him to become the sacrifice for our sin.  As we read in Hebrews 7:26-27: For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.”

            It’s also because of the virgin birth that Jesus is the Son of God.  We see this in verse 35 of Luke 1, which says: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy-- the Son of God.”

            If Jesus had been fathered by a man, he would be a mere man.  Even if he had certain giftings, which you and I do not possess, he would be no greater than us.  It’s because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit that Jesus is holy.  It’s because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit that Jesus is the Son of God.

            So as you hear this Christmas story once again this week, and as you reflect upon it, may you realize the importance of the virgin birth.  If Jesus had not been conceived of the Holy Spirit, had he not been born of a virgin, he would be powerless to save.  But, because he was conceived by the Spirit, he is the Son of God, he is without sin, and he was able to offer himself up for the sin of the people. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Essence of Christianity

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(John 14:6 ESV)     

Many people, today, define Christianity in a purely moralistic sense. The Christian Faith, to them, is defined by loving our neighbor.  It's defined, to them, by the golden rule.  So they tend to think that Christianity is very much like the other major religions in the world today.  And for this reason, they tend to have a universalist view of salvation.   
     Even though Jesus did command us to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40), even though he told us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27-28), and even though he told us to to do to others as we'd have them do to us (Matthew 7:12), this doesn't define the Christian faith. Even though God has given us the Law and shared with us how he desires for us to live, this doesn't define what it means to be a Christian. It's much more than a system of rules.
Those who define Christianity in this way often fail to understand Jesus’ purpose in being born into the world. Although he is a good teacher, and even though he is a wonderful example for us to follow, this is not the primary reason he came.  God had already given his Law through Moses.  And God had continually reached out to his people through the prophets.  Even though they were sinners, the example of godliness was displayed by many of the great men of faith.  
Jesus came into the world for a much greater purpose.  As the angel told Joseph in announcing Jesus’ birth, he came to save his people from their sins.  And this was a task that could be accomplished by no one else.
The way he did this was by giving his life on our behalf.  Jesus himself stated this in Mark 10:45 where he says: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” By dying on the cross, he paid the necessary ransom to secure our salvation.  
This blessing is then received by us through faith in Christ.  It’s not something we earn by our goodness or by our love.  As Jesus stated to Nicodemus in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Those who define Christianity as love, those who define it by a system of morals, tend to deny what Jesus clearly tells us in verses such as the one above. They deny that Jesus is the only way of salvation. They deny that he is the only way to the Father.
If this were the basis of the Christian faith, there would be no purpose in having a separate religion.  If this were the basis of the Christian faith, there would’ve been no purpose in Jesus’ birth.  And if this were the basis of the Christian faith, there would’ve been no purpose in his suffering and death.   The principle of love, a message of morals, is found in every other faith on the face of the earth.  
So, as we celebrate Christmas, let’s remember the true message of Jesus’ birth.  Although God wants us to love, and although he wants us to live a moral life, Jesus didn’t come to instill these values.  He came that he might save us from our sin.  He was born into the world that we might come to the Father.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Salvation from What?

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

(Matthew 1:21 ESV)

            As we remember the account of the first Christmas, the truth contained in the above verse is familiar.  However, even though we know it well, it’s one that many of us fail to comprehend rightly.  What I mean is that we believe Jesus to be the Savior.  But we’re looking for him to save us from something other than sin.

            We fall into the same trap as the Jews in Jesus’ day.  They expected the Savior to be a political ruler.  They expected him to save them from their bondage to Rome.  So, when Jesus appeared on the scene, he was not what they expected.  And, as a result, they failed to receive the blessing he came to provide.

            I remember taking a course in college, which focused on Christianity in modern times.  The expectation was not that Jesus would save us from sin.  The expectation was that Jesus would overturn all of the evils of this present world.

            We often think the same way.  We look to Jesus, but not for salvation from sin.  We look to him to help us in times of financial struggle.  We look to him to help us with health issues.  We look to him to help our loved ones as they approach the time of their death. 

            Please don’t misunderstand me.  There’s nothing wrong with taking our present needs to Jesus.  In fact, he invites us to do so.  The problem comes when we look to him only for salvation from our present struggles, and not for the salvation he came to bring.

            This is what so many of us do.  We look to Jesus to help only with our worldly needs.  And, when he fails to do so, or when he fails to answer our prayers in the way we expect, we get angry with him.  We deny his love.  We deny his power.  In some cases, we turn completely away from him.

            We must understand that Jesus came into this world to save us from our sin.  This, you see, is our greatest need.  Because of our sin, we’re destined only for death and hell.  But, because of his coming into the world, because of his sacrifice, the forgiveness of sin and eternal life have been made available to all who trust in him.

            At the end of this age, all of the evils of this life will come to an end.  They will be no more because they are the consequence of sin.  Suffering and death are a part of the world in which we live because of the fall of man in the beginning, and because of our ongoing sin.

            However, when sin is no more, the consequences of sin will be a thing of the past.  When we are made to be like Christ, no longer will we endure the suffering of this age.  We will live forever in a place where there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

            So as we remember Jesus’ birth, and as we remember his salvation, let us remember from what he came to save us.  His coming doesn’t mean that our life will be perfect in the here and now.  Our current problems don’t reflect his failure to save us.  Jesus came into this world to save his people from their sins. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Sword of Christ

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Matthew 10:34

            As we enter the Christmas season, this verse is one that should be addressed.  It should be addressed because it flies in the face of everything we tend to think and believe about Jesus.   After all, isn’t he the Prince of Peace?

            Jesus is absolutely the Prince of Peace.  We know that, by his death and resurrection, he stands victorious over sin, death, and the devil.  We know that, being justified by faith, we have peace with God.  And we know that, in the end, those who’ve received the grace of God will live in a state of absolute peace.  We will live in a place where there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

            However, in the meantime, Jesus has come not to bring peace, but a sword.  He goes on to say that he’s come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  He says that a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

            Many of us have seen this truth play out first hand.  Often, there are some members of a family who have faith in Christ and others who don’t.  And this difference places them at odds with one another.

            An extreme example I witnessed was a Pakistani who studied at the same college I attended.  He had come to faith in Christ and was baptized.  And, because of this, he was disowned by his family.

            We don’t typically experience anything this extreme.  However, members of our family often fail to understand our faith in Christ.  They are often less than accepting of the way that we live our life.  And this makes our family life less than harmonious.

            Jesus doesn’t desire to disrupt our families.  But this is a natural result when some possess faith in Christ and others do not.  It’s a natural result when some reject the gospel and the salvation Christ has provided for them.

            For this reason, Jesus reminds us in verses 37-38 that we must love him above all else.  He tells us that if we love father or mother more than him, we’re not worthy of him.  If we love son or daughter more than him, we’re not worthy of him.  And if we love our own life more than him, we’re not worthy of him.

            As we face this sword, as we encounter this kind of division in our family, we must remain faithful to Christ.  Regardless of the impact that it has upon our family life, we must remain true to him.  Yes, we must love our family as well.  But our love for them must not cause us to compromise our faith.  It must not pull us away from the Lord. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

We are all sinners.  We have all violated the Law of God.  But, how do we respond when we're confronted by the Law?  Do we flee?  Or do we repent and follow Christ? To hear this message, click on this link:

Hang On!

“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
Matthew 24:13

            As believers, we know that Jesus has assured us of his return.  For example, in John 14, he tells his followers that he’s going to prepare a place for them.  And, knowing this, they could be assured that he would return for them.  He would return for them that they might be with him where he is.
            Yet, when we think of the return of Christ, when we think of the end of the end of this age, it seems rather scary.  It seems scary because of his description of the events surrounding the end.  One of the places we see this description is the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew.
            When asked by his disciples about the signs of his coming and the end of the age, he tells them that many will come in his name, claiming to be Christ, and lead many astray.  He tells them that they will hear of wars and rumors of wars.  He says that nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.  Yet, even as they see these signs being fulfilled, they should understand that the end is not yet.  In Mark’s account of these words, Jesus says that this is beginning of birth pains.
            Most of the ladies reading this know what he means.  As they come to the end of their pregnancy, they begin to experience labor pains.  Yet, even though they know the baby is coming, they have no idea how long it’ll be until the child is born.  They know that there is much more pain ahead.
The same is true for us.  When we see these signs, we know that the end is coming.  But we also know that we will experience much more hardship before it arrives.
            Jesus goes on to say that his followers will be delivered up to tribulation.  He says that they will be put to death.  He says that they’ll be hated by all nations.
            Jesus says that many will fall away.  And not only will they turn from Christ.  They will also betray one another and hate one another. 
            False prophets will arise and lead people astray.  Lawlessness will increase, and the love of many will grow cold. 
            Based on this description of the end, as well as others that we read in Scripture, it sounds absolutely terrifying.  It’s safe that, if at all possible, we’d prefer to escape these hardships.  However, as we get closer and closer to the end, we must be prepared for what is to come.
            Yet, even though the end does seem scary, it brings with it a great hope for believers.  This is what we see in the above verse.  Jesus tells us that the one who stands firm until the end will be saved.
            Even in the face of these hardships, we have the hope of his salvation.  We know that we’ll be delivered from this world of sin.  We know that we’ll be saved from this world of suffering and death.  And we know that we’ll enjoy eternity in the presence of our Lord.
            Let us, then, remain strong.  Let us remain faithful as the end approaches.  Let us endure as the signs of the end are fulfilled among us.  Let us not throw away this eternal hope to escape momentary trials.

Monday, November 09, 2015

The Patience of God

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance .”

(2 Peter 3:9 ESV)

            As believers, it’s easy for us to get frustrated as we watch our world go to pot.  We see all of the evil in our world.  We see the world’s rejection of Christ.  And this makes us wonder why the Lord hasn’t put an end to it.  We wonder why he hasn’t come back, ushering in the new heavens and the new earth.

            We fail to realize that this is a sign of God’s grace.  Even though it’s right for us to be concerned about the evil in our world, and even though it’s easy for us to get discouraged as we watch our world drift further away from Christ, we must understand that God’s desire is for the salvation of all men.

            This, then, is why he waits.  As we see in the above verse, the Lord isn’t slow to fulfill his promise.  What we perceive as sluggish is, in reality, an expression of his patience.

            The end will come.  At the right time, God will bring it about.  However, in the meantime, God is giving man the opportunity to repent.  His patience is allowing more opportunity for the gospel to go forth and for the Spirit of God to work in the heart of man.

            Because of this, we should not become discouraged as we await the fulfillment of his promise.  Even though we’d all love to be free from this world of sin, and even though we’d love to be experiencing eternity in a place free from the consequences of sin, we should revel at the Lord’s patience.  We should rejoice because the day of grace continues.

As the people of God, we must share the heart of God.  Even though we long for his promise to be fulfilled, and even though the end of evil is something to be desired, we shouldn’t yearn for fate of the wicked to come quickly upon them.  Knowing that God is giving man the opportunity to repent, knowing that he desires the salvation of all, we should seek the salvation of the lost.  We should make use of the time God is giving to the world by carrying out the call he’s given us.  We must make use of the day of grace by proclaiming the message of grace to all creation.

Yesterday's message at Prince of Peace: We're reminded by Jesus that things aren't always as they seem.  Those who seem holy can be putting on an act and seeking attention for themselves.  Or, those who seem to be contributing little may be, in reality, giving a great deal.  So we must take care that we're not caught in a cycle of comparing ourselves with other believers.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015


"So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.”
(Ezekiel 33:7-9 ESV)

            This past Sunday, at Prince of Peace, we talked about outreach.  We talked about the fact that each of us have been called by Christ to reach out to those around us.  And, because of this call, because of this need, we should be compelled to do so.
            In the above passage, we see how imperative it is for us to carry out this call of God.  Ezekiel was a prophet of God.  And God tells him that he’d made him a watchman for his people.
            When we think of a watchman, we typically think of a soldier in the tower on the city wall.  He’s there, scanning the horizon for any dangers that might be approaching.  And it’s his responsibility to sound the warning.
            If he fails in his responsibility, if he sees a danger coming and fails to sound the alarm, he then is guilty.  Had he sounded the warning, the people could’ve taken precautions.  They may even have had the chance to escape the approaching threat.  But, because of his failure, their fate is sealed.
            The same was true for Ezekiel, according to the Lord.  If God gave to him a message of warning for the people and he failed to deliver it, he was then responsible for their judgment.  They would die in their sin, but their blood would be required by his hand.  In other words, their blood would be on his head.  He would bear guilt for their judgment.
            We see in the next verse that, if he warned the people, if he delivered the message of warning the Lord had given, and the people failed to heed his warning, they would die in their sin.  But Ezekiel would be found innocent.  Because he delivered his warning, their blood would be on their own head.
            The same truth applies to each of us, as believers.  We’ve been called to reach out to the world with the hope of the gospel. We’ve been called to warn the world of God’s approaching judgment.  And we’re to do this that they might have the opportunity to trust in the Lord and receive his salvation.
            If we fail in this calling, if we fail to give the people warning, they’ll have no chance of escape.  Their fate is then sealed.  And their blood will be on our head. Because we’ve failed to give them the chance to escape judgment, we will find ourselves responsible for their condemnation.
            This is a great responsibility that we often fail to realize.  Even knowing the call that Jesus has given us, we fail to understand the consequences of our failure upon the lives of others.  We fail to understand how our failure to carry out our call takes from them the possibility of their salvation.

            When we understand this, it should create within us a sense of urgency.  I wouldn’t want my inaction to cause the death of anyone in this world.  And, in the same way, I don’t want my inaction to bring about the eternal death of those I’ve been unwilling to reach.

Monday, November 02, 2015


Yesterday, at Prince of Peace, we looked at a paradox we find in the church.  We find that, although we're very concerned about church growth, we're unwilling to share the gospel with those around us.  Despite the call of God, we feel no compulsion to carry it out.  Jeremiah, on the other hand, was Compelled. Even though this wasn't a role he chose for himself, and even though he went through periods where he didn't want to carry it out, he couldn't help himself.  And this should be true of us as well.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Set Apart

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

(1 Peter 2:9 ESV)

            One of the struggles faced by Christians in America is the desire to fit in with those around us.  As we look at the teaching of God’s Word, and as we strive to live out our faith in this world, we can’t help seeing that we’re different.  And, because we don’t like to feel different, because we don’t like to stand out, we do all that we can to fit in.

            This means that, instead of carrying out the call Christ has placed on our life, we keep our mouth shut.  It often means compromising in areas of right and wrong, and following the world down a sinful path.  It often means struggling with guilt as we desire to live for the Lord but are unwilling to lay aside this desire for worldly approval.

            However, what we see in Scripture is that, as Christians, we’re supposed to stand out.  So the reason we feel different is because we are different.  We are different because God has made us distinct from other people.

            In the above verse, Peter says that those who believe are a chosen race.  They are a people chosen by God.  He says that they are a royal priesthood.  They are a people who offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God, who live a life devoted to the service of the Lord.  They are a holy nation.  They are a people who’ve been set apart by God to do his will.  They are a people for his own possession.  They are a people set apart by God to be his own.

They’re set apart by God for a very important purpose.  They’ve been set apart by God that they might declare the excellencies of the one who saved them.  They’ve been set apart to share with others the wonders of the God who delivered them from darkness.  He’s set them apart from the world that they might reach out to the world.

            Most of us are familiar with the call Jesus has placed upon his followers.  He’s called us to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.  He’s called us to make disciples of all nations.  And we’re able to do this only as we accept the distinction God has placed upon us.

            Because this is true, our striving to fit in with the world hinders our ability to reach the world for Christ.  When we try to fit in with darkness, we’re unable to testify of the light.  The fact that we’re distinct is a testimony to those around us that we’ve been saved from sin and death. 

            So, as believers in Jesus, let us not seek to fit in with the world.  Let us, instead, live as the people we were made to be.  Let us live as a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation.  And may we testify of the goodness of God that others might also be delivered from darkness into the light of the Lord.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Give Thanks in Everything

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

(1Thessalonians 5:18 ESV)

            As October comes to a close and November begins, thoughts of Thanksgiving enter the mind.  This is a holiday that we all enjoy and that that most of us find very meaningful.  We enjoy the time with family and friends.  Without question, we enjoy the food.  And we recognize the importance of offering thanks to God, who has given us all that we have.

            It’s often frustrating to look at our society and to see the sense of entitlement that fills the hearts of many.  They feel that they’re deserving of the blessings they’ve received and those they desire.  So, instead of giving thanks, they’re continually looking for more.  Instead of expressing gratefulness for the provision of God, they grumble and complain about the things they lack.

            This is an attitude with which we all struggle to some degree.  We find it hard to give thanks in all circumstances, as directed by Paul.  We find it hard to give thanks in all circumstances, even if it is the will of God.  We find this difficult because not all of our circumstances are pleasant.

            When confronted with situations that are challenging, when confronted with hardship, our first reaction is to ask God why he would allow such a thing in our life.  In the moment, we don’t see a reason to be grateful.  In fact, we often find in it cause to accuse God.

            We accuse God of being unloving.  We accuse him of injustice.  We accuse him because we don’t think ourselves worthy of such experiences.

            We fail to remember that we’re not deserving of any of the blessings God has bestowed upon us or those that he has to offer.  Because of our sin, the only thing of which we’re deserving is death and condemnation.  Yet, in spite of this, God has done everything necessary to provide for us the forgiveness of sins and eternity in a place where the evils of this life are no more.

            We also fail to realize that, even in our bad experiences, God is working for our blessing.  In Romans 8:28 Paul says: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” It doesn’t say that everything that happens to us is good.  But, in all things, God is able to work for our good.

            Sometimes, in hindsight, we may come to understand how God was using a hardship for our blessing.  In other cases, we may never fully understand.  But, as believers, we have this confidence and hope.

            In Romans 5, Paul tells us that we can rejoice in our sufferings.  We can do so knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.  God works through our sufferings to strengthen us.  He works through our sufferings to transform us.  He uses suffering to build within us a confident expectation that everything he’s promised will come to pass.

            So as we approach Thanksgiving, and as we celebrate this meaningful holiday, let us give thanks in all circumstances.  Let us give thanks knowing the great blessing that God has in store for us.  Let us give thanks knowing that, no matter how things may seem, he’s working for our good.  And let us give thanks knowing that God will use even our struggles to draw us closer to himself.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sunday, at Prince of Peace, we talked about Biblical Marriage. We saw, from a Biblical perspective, that marriage was created by God to be the union of a man and a woman. To listen to this message, click on the link.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Good Grief

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”

(2Corinthians 7:10 ESV)

            One of the statements I’ve heard repeated by church attenders over the years is that they don’t want to be made to feel guilty.  What they’re saying is that they get uncomfortable when God’s Word steps on their toes, and they don’t like this feeling.  They want to leave church each week feeling good about themselves.

            However, one of the things we learn in Scripture is that the Law of God convicts.  Paul tells us in Romans 3:20 that through the law comes the knowledge of sin.  In other words, as we encounter God’s law, it reveals to us the ways in which we’ve fallen short.

            Unless a pastor or a church avoids God’s Law, unless they avoid addressing issues that might make people uncomfortable, it’s only natural that we’ll at times feel guilty.  We’ll encounter a passage of Scripture that addresses a struggle we’re experiencing.  We’ll encounter a passage that addresses a pet sin from which we don’t want to turn. 

            This is true for all of us.  As a pastor, God’s Word strikes my heart first and foremost as I prepare my messages and Bible studies.  It convicts me before I even bring the message to the church.  And it should be this way, I believe.  It should be this way because, if God hasn’t spoken to me through a passage of Scripture, it’s impossible for me to share it with my congregation.

            It’s also a good thing that we, at times, feel guilty.  It’s good because, unless we understand our sin and realize our guilt, we’ll never see our need for a Savior.  We’ll never place our faith in him, and we’ll never receive his salvation.

            The question, then, becomes this: What do we do with our guilt when we experience it?  What do we do when we’re confronted with our sin and we’re made to feel guilty?  Does our sorrow produce in us the effect intended by God?

As we see in the above passage, everything depends on the type of sorrow we’re experiencing.  Paul is speaking, in this passage, about the first letter he’d written to the Corinthians.  In this letter, he’d corrected them in several areas.  He’d spoken to them very directly as he addressed the sin in their church.  And he’d done this in hope that they might change course.

He acknowledges that, in his letter, he’d caused them to grieve.  But even though he'd caused them to grieve, it had accomplished its intended purpose.  This caused him to rejoice. 
He rejoiced not because he’d grieved them, but because they were grieved into repenting.  He rejoiced because the feelings they experienced led them to turn to the Lord and away from their sinful practices.

            Here’s where he brings out the different types of grief we can experience and the effect they have on us.  He says that godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation.  What he means by this is that, if we receive correction in a godly way, it leads us to turn from our sin and to receive the forgiveness and salvation God has provided for us.

            Worldly grief, on the other hand, produces death.  It leaves us feeling hopeless, and fills us with despair.  So, instead of turning from our sin, we give up.  We resign ourselves to our fate.  In many cases, it leads us to turn away from the Lord.  And, because of this, we miss out on the salvation he’s provided.

            We must understand that God doesn’t point out our sin because he enjoys making us squirm.  He points out our sin because he desires our salvation.  He brings our sin to our attention that we might understand our guilt and our need of a Savior.  He helps us to recognize our wrongdoing that we might receive the salvation provided by Jesus and offered to all who look to him in faith.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Selfless Service

“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation…”

(Philippians 2:14-15 ESV)

            Paul talks to us in this chapter about possessing the mind of Christ.  He calls us to look not only to our own interests, but to those of others.  He calls us to count others as more significant than ourselves.  And he uses Jesus and his sacrifice, he uses the fact that Jesus laid down his life for our benefit, as our example.

            Because we’re selfish, because we tend to look primarily to our own interests, it’s hard for us to do this.  It’s hard for us to lay aside our interests for those of others.  It’s hard for us to humble ourselves and to count others as more important than ourselves.

            The above verses make this even more challenging.  They’re more challenging because they address not only our actions, but our attitude.  We’re called to do all things without grumbling or questioning.

If you’re like me, you find this to be very convicting.  It’s convicting because, even when we know the right thing to do, we tend to grumble and complain.  Even if we do the right thing, it’s often done with moans and objections under our breath.

How often does our spouse ask for help and, even though we respond to their request, we grumble and complain as we do so.  How often does a friend ask for help and yet, even though we don’t deny their request, we look for any and every excuse to say no.  We question whether we’re truly obligated to serve them.

This attitude is a reflection of our heart.  It reveals our sinful and selfish tendencies.  It reveals the lack of love and humility found within us.  And it leaves us guilty, it makes us liable, before God.

Even though this may seem minor in our eyes, it’s a sin that we must confess.  We must ask God to change the attitude of our heart that it might better reflect that of Christ.  And, with his help, we must resist this desire to complain when we’re presented with opportunities to serve.

And not only are we called to display an attitude that’s contrary to our natural tendencies.  We’re called to display an attitude that’s in stark contrast to that of the world around us.   We’re called to shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.

The world around us exhibits the same traits that we find within.  It promotes a self-serving attitude and a glorification of the self.  It displays a perverse and a warped approach to life.

Because we’re reflecting the mind of Christ, our selflessness will then shine forth as a testimony to the world around us.  It will be clear to the world that there’s something different about us.  It will point them to Christ who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.  And it may very well give us the opportunity to share the hope that we have within.

May we, then, live as the children of God we were created to be.  May we display a love that leaves us blameless.  And may we seek Christ for the strength we need to do just that. 

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The Love Passage

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8 ESV)

            The above passage is very well known, and is frequently read at wedding ceremonies.  The reason for this is clear. It describes for us the love to which God has called us.
            That being said, the context of this passage speaks to the church.  We’re told that we should desire the spiritual gifts that God gives to us. However, if we have the greatest gifts imaginable, but not love, they amount to nothing.
            As we consider the description of love given to us in these verses, there are two things for us to consider.  There are two ways that we can make use of this teaching.  And both of these uses will enable us to grow in our walk of faith and to bless others.
A mentor of mine once said that this passage can easily be used as a confessional.  It can be used in this way because, as we read its words, it becomes clear that we’ve fallen short of it in every way possible.  Even though we believe ourselves to be loving, these words force us to face the fact that our love in no way measures up to God’s standard.  And this is a thought that really struck me.
            We can look at this passage and confess that we are not patient and that we are not kind.  We can look at it and confess that we are often envious and boastful, that we are frequently arrogant and rude.  You get the idea.  And as we confess our shortcomings, we can then ask God to forgive us for the many ways we’ve fallen short.
            We can also look at this passage and aspire to love in the way it’s described.  Recognizing our inability to do so, we can ask God to create within us the love for others we read about in these words.  Seeing our selfishness, we can make a conscious effort to resist those impulses, to lay aside the emotions that often hinder our love, and to sacrificially give ourselves to those around us. 
We can seek to love others in a way that is not selfish in any way.  We can seek to love in a way that seeks not our own welfare, but that of others.  And we can do this in our marriage, in the church, and among those who have not yet placed their faith in Jesus. We can seek to use the gifts given to us by God not for our own benefit, but for the blessing of others.

We’ll never master this love on this side of eternity.  But, as we seek God’s forgiveness, and as we seek to love others with the compassion he places in our heart, we will grow in this love day by day.  We’ll grow in our ability to lay aside our self-love and to serve one another.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

True Love

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” 
(Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV)

            One of the things I’ve noticed, as a pastor, is that the true definition of love has been lost. It’s been replaced with something far inferior to the love described in Scripture. It’s a far cry from the love we’re called to possess for our spouse and to give them.
            We understand love to be the emotion that we feel for our spouse. We understand it to be the butterflies in the tummy and the nervousness we feel in their presence.  And this is why so many couples split up, citing the fact that they’ve fallen out of love.
            We all know that, after we’re together for a time, the butterflies and the nervousness go away.  We realize that, once we’re comfortable with one another, our annoying and sinful habits become visible.   And what we once thought cute or endearing now grates on our last nerve.
We also realize that our feelings sometimes waver.  We might feel more love for our spouse at one time and less at another.  We may feel more loved by our spouse at one time and less at another.  And sometimes, we become so angry or frustrated that we feel no love at all.
            We must realize that, because of our sinful nature, our feelings can deceive us.  We cannot trust our feelings to determine if love is present in our relationship.  We must instead seek to give love to our spouse as God has commanded.
            I think it’s safe to say that we all want to feel love in our marriage.  However, the love to which we’re called is so much more.  We can see this in the love husbands are called to give to their wives in the above passage.
            The standard of our love is none other than Christ himself.  Men, we’re called to love our wife as Christ loved church.  We’re called to love her like Jesus, who gave up his life for our sanctification.  We’re called upon to sacrifice ourselves for our wife’s blessing.
            Like Christ, we must seek first and foremost to present our spouse to the Lord without spot or blemish.  What this means is that we must seek our spouse’s eternal blessing above all else.  We must love them in such a way that we encourage them in their faith, and that we encourage them to grow in their faith.
            One of the mistakes we often make is to withhold our love.  We give love only if we feel it’s something of which they’re deserving.  But we must realize that our spouse will never be deserving of our love.  Because they’re sinful, they’ll continually fall short.  And just as Christ gives to us his love as an act of grace, we must do the same with our spouse.
            This definition of love is repeated throughout Scripture.  For example, we’re called in John 13 to love one another as Christ has loved us.  Again, this is a sacrificial love.  And we know this because Christ loved us by giving his life for us.
            It’s for this reason that this word is translated in the King James Version as “charity.” It’s not primarily an emotion, but a gift of grace.  It’s providing for the needs of another even when they have nothing to give in return.
            Recognizing this truth, it’s not possible for us to fall out of love with our spouse.  We may stop loving them.  And, if this is true, we must repent. We must ask God for his mercy. And we must ask him to implant his love in our heart.  We must ask him for the strength and the ability to love our spouse as he’s commanded.


Monday, September 28, 2015

As believers, we continue to struggle with sin.  And this struggle often makes us feel like failures in the life of faith.  So how do we deal with sin?  How can we resist the temptations that plague us?  To hear this message, click on the following link:

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Made to Stand Out

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.”
(Matthew 5:14-15 ESV)

            I’ve never had a desire to stand out.  I’ve never desired to be the focus of attention.  I prefer, instead, to blend in.  I desire to go unnoticed.  And this desire has reflected itself in many ways. 
            It’s reflected in the way that I dress.  I’ve never cared for bright colors.  I’ve never cared for flashy clothing or accessories.  I don’t like wearing things that will make me stand out or draw attention to myself.
            Even though I’m a pastor, I tend to be more quiet and soft-spoken.  I don’t like to speak loudly, drawing attention to myself.  And I certainly don’t like to shout.  I tend to speak few words and, when I do speak, to say them in a normal tone of voice.
            Even though my position requires me to be up front in the church, this isn’t the position I normally choose.  If attending a worship service that I’m not leading, or when attending a conference, I tend to sit somewhere in the middle.  I prefer to simply blend in with the crowd. 
            And even though I do what I can to fulfill my calling, I have no desire to be a well-known figure.  I have no desire for fame.  I prefer to live the quiet life. 
            I’m not alone in this preference to go unnoticed.  Many people feel the same way.  And, so often, this mindset finds its way into our life of faith.
            We know that Jesus has called us to be his witnesses.  We know that he’s called us to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.  And, quite frankly, we’re hesitant to do this.  We’re hesitant because we don’t want to be the focus of everyone’s attention.  We prefer, instead, to keep our mouth shut and blend in with the world around us.
            In the past, this is something that’s hindered my witness.  It’s kept me from reaching out to those around me.  My desire to blend in caused me to shove any concern for the lost to the back of my mind as a desire for conformity took hold.
            However, as we see in the above passage, we’re called to stand out.  We are the light of the world.  And a light is not something that is hidden.
            As the people of God, we’re distinct from the world around us.  But we’re distinct not to draw attention to ourselves. We shine forth to draw the world’s attention to Christ.
We’re called to be distinct as a testimony to those in our midst.  We’re called to let our light shine that God might be glorified.  We’re called to be his witnesses that others might receive the salvation Jesus provided for all men.
            This doesn’t mean we have to be a loud mouth.  It doesn’t mean that we must be obnoxious.  But we must not hide our light in order to fit in.  Doing so means abandoning a lost world to sin and eternal condemnation.