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Katy Stulce

Deep Impact 2014

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Deep Impact ~ January 31-February 2

This is the biggest student ministry event of the year–don’t miss it! At Deep Impact about eight students will stay at a host home along with two small group leaders. We will have a few main sessions at the church, a large group Amazing Race game on Saturday afternoon, and small group discussions in the home. This year’s theme is … (a surprise as always), but I will tell you we will be studying the Book of Ruth all weekend. This study obviously leads us to some incredible pictures of God’s redeeming/providential love. Deep Impact is an outreach event that is designed to challenge our students (7th-12th grades) to invite some of their un-churched friends. This also is a great opportunity for students to connect to the Student Ministry for the first time. Our prayer is that many will connect with Christ for the first time. For more details please attend the upcoming Parent Meeting (see below) or contact Kicker at 773-3333, ext. 254 or kicker@delightinGod.org.

Student Ministry’s ~ Annual Parent Meeting


All parents of 7th-12th graders are encouraged to attend a meeting on Wednesday, January 15, 8:00-9:00 p.m. in
Room 106. Spring and summer activities are quickly approaching and there are many details to discuss. You will have the opportunity to get information and ask questions about all the happenings of the Student Ministry, but in particular we will discuss: Deep Impact, Spring Break Mission Trip, Mission Arlington, and Camp Barnabas. For your convenience you may sign up for events, fill out forms and make payments or deposits and even get them notarized so you won’t have to hassle with it later. If you have any questions, please contact Kicker at 773-3333, ext. 254 or kicker@delightinGod.org.

A Special Heritage Family Christmas

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It all begins with an all-church brunch beginning at 9:00 a.m. in the west Education Building. A “Special Heritage Family Christmas” presentation by the Adult Choir and Orchestra will follow the brunch along with a message by Pastor Marty. This is a great opportunity to invite family and friends to our church body’s Christmas celebration. We are asking our people to bring Christmas breads or muffins on Saturday, December 14th to the Commons between 10 a.m. and noon; you may place them on the designated cart.

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

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How to Pray from the Bible

Here are 5 examples from Ephesians:

Please pray persecuted believers would know the hope God gives (Ephesians 1:8).

Pray the Holy Spirit would strengthen them (Ephesians 3:16).

Please pray persecuted believers would know how much God loves them (Ephesians 3:17)

Pray they would know how to share the gospel (Ephesians 6:19).

Please pray persecuted believers would fearlessly tell others about Jesus (Ephesians 6:20).

 

How to Pray for Practical Needs

Along with the example prayers in the Bible, there are some practical needs persecuted believers would love your prayers for:

Please pray persecuted believers would have access to a Bible.

Pray they have the courage to remain in their homeland.

Please pray for believers who have been rejected by family and friends.

Pray that God would surround them with a new Christian “family” who loves them and supports them emotionally and physically.

Pray for God to be an advocate for women who are socially vulnerable or have lost the custody of their children because of their faith.

Please pray that God would provide persecuted believers with jobs and safe places to live.

 

Learn more ways to pray for the persecuted church and read news alerts on current crises by visiting the Web site for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

www.persecution.com

www.opendoors.org

Food Drive

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Heritage once again has the privilege to assist local families through a food drive. This will help provide much needed groceries and household supplies for families in our local body as well as several families of Will Rogers and Windsor Hills Elementary School. To participate in this effort, pick up donation boxes in the Commons beginning next Sunday, November 10. Each box will have a list of items needed to fill that particular box. In order to help with distribution, please purchase items that will fit in the box provided. Families will receive more than one so there is no need to stuff the box to overflowing; it would be better to fill multiple boxes. Please return filled boxes to collection stations located in the Commons and Café on Sunday,

Nov. 17th or 24th. If you or anyone you know could benefit from this ministry, please contact Ron Miller at 773-3333 x 113.

Fall Festival

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You and your family are invited to come have fun with us at HBC’s Fall Festival on Wednesday, October 30, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

 

Free . . .

 

Food—Hotdogs, Popcorn, Candy

 

Games—Duck Pond, Football Throw, Fishing

 

Inflatables—Bungee Run, Obstacle Course, Moon Walk

 

We are located at 14317 North Council Road, OKC 73142 – 720-1449

 

A Reason to be Really Offended

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Our message is not you can do it.

It’s not you’re good enough, smart enough, and people like you.

What we preach is that you are a glorious creature gone tragically bad, that you have rebelled against the God who made you, but that he did the most difficult thing imaginable to win you back and lavish you with his eternal goodness.

It is wondrously good news. But unavoidable is the offense, that insulting supposition, that bad news that sets up the good. Did you catch it? You’ve gone tragically bad. You’re a foolhardy rebel against the most powerful person in the universe. There’s nothing you can do to save yourself, earn God’s favor, or get yourself out of the cosmic pit you’re in — the pit you dug and can’t climb out of.

The offense is that the magnitude of God’s solution — the slaughter of his own Son — shows the magnitude of our wickedness and frailty and utter inability. Yes, the gospel says you’re more loved than you ever could have dreamed, but as Jack Miller and Tim Keller have noted, at the same time it says you’re more sinful than you ever imagined. And that’s repugnant to the natural palate.

If you’ve never tasted the cross as offensive, you’ve missed something essential.

Why the Cross Offends

Talking about the cross as an “offense” comes from Galatians 5:11: “If I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.” Why it is that the cross would be seen as an offense? What’s offensive about the crucifixion?

The cross declares how dire is our condition apart from Jesus. It announces how deep the sin goes, how profound the rebellion is, how impossible is our plight apart from Help from the outside. There’s nothing we can do, no effort we can exert, no law we can follow.

The message of Christ crucified says you’re an absolute failure in relation to what’s most important. The horror of killing the Son of God points to the horror of our condition. The badness of Good Friday is a tribute to the badness in us.

The cross embodies some of the most offensive things possible you could say about someone in relation to God and eternity. This gruesome death Jesus died, you earned it. The hell Jesus endured, you deserved it, forever. The shame he underwent, the scorn, the disrespect, the hurt — all these are as suitable to us sinners as they’re unsuitable to the sinless one.

God’s Offensive Plan

And it’s not that it just turned out this way, but God planned it. He designed the offense. Seven hundred years before Jesus, the prophet Isaiah called it — he will be “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (Isaiah 8:14). And such he was, and continues to be. Both Peter and Paul pick up on the theme (Romans 9:32–33; 1 Peter 2:7–8).

Jesus himself, in John 6, challenges his disciples with the offense. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). You can’t do it. You’re not good enough or smart enough. And perhaps most offensive of all: You are lifeless. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53).

The offense is not mainly his mention of eating flesh and drinking blood, but the accusation of deep depravity and spiritual inability. As the crowds retreat at his forthrightness, Jesus asks his disciples, “Do you take offense at this?” (John 6:61). More unnerving than taking his plainly figurative language in a literal sense is hearing that you are powerless and lifeless where it matters most. This is as offensive as it gets.

Remember the Right Offense

Typically we get antsy about speaking the gospel to someone who doesn’t already believe. Some of our fear, of course, is unwarranted. But some of it is for good reason. In communicating the gospel, one of the essential things we must at least imply, if not make explicit, is the most offensive truth possible: you are powerless precisely where it matters most. You are dead to what truly is life.

Don’t take it too far. We don’t gloat in giving offense. We labor to remove every possible barrier. May the offense not be our personality or carelessness or quirkiness or arrogance. Like Paul, let’s “endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12). Let’s strain to “become all things to all people, that by all means [we] might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Let’s do everything in our power to “give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:32).

But this one offense — the offense of the cross — we cannot remove. We dare not.

 

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/a-reason-to-be-really-offended 

Whose Kingdom?

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This article is not just for pastors or those in full time ministry. It applies to all of our lives and it is worth your time. Read. Pray. Seek the Lord. Whose kingdom are you living for? 

 

It took God employing pastoral hardship for me to embrace the inescapable reality that everything I did in ministry was done in allegiance to, and in pursuit of, either the kingdom of self or the kingdom of God. This truth is best exegeted for us in Matthew 6:19-34. (Please grab your Bible and read the passage.) I’m convinced that this passage is an elaborate unpacking of the thoughts, desires, and actions of the kingdom of self. Notice the turn in the passage in verse 33, where Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God.” The word but tells us this verse is the transition point of the passage. Everything before it explains the operation of another kingdom, the kingdom of self. This makes the passage a very helpful lens on the struggle between these two kingdoms that somehow, some way, battles in the heart of everyone in ministry.

In this article I want to examine four treasure principles that emerge from this passage that I find helpful as I seek to examine the motivations of my own heart in ministry.

1. Everyone lives for some kind of treasure

We’ve been designed by God to be value-oriented, purpose-motivated beings. God gave us this capacity because he designed us for the worship of him. So what you do and say in ministry is always done in pursuit of some kind of treasure. Now you will recognize that there are few things that are intrinsically valuable. Most treasures have an assigned value. So the familiar saying says, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This side of eternity, here’s what happens to all of us: things begin to rise in importance beyond their true importance and set the agenda for our thoughts, desires, choices, words, and actions. What is the battle of treasure about? It’s daily working to keep what God says important in our personal lives and ministries.Pastor, what’s important to you in ministry?

2. The thing that’s your treasure will control your heart

Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The heart, being the summary term for the inner man, could be characterized as the causal core of your personhood. What Jesus is saying here is profound. He’s suggesting that there’s a war about treasure that’s being fought at the center of what makes you think what you think, desire what you desire, and do what you do. Whether you are conscious of it or not, your words and actions in ministry are always your attempt to get out of it what’s valuable to you.Pastor, what are the deep heart desires that shape your everyday words and actions?

3. What controls your heart will control your behavior.

Remember that by God’s design, we’re worshipers. Worship isn’t first an activity; worship is first our identity. That means everything you and I do and say is the product of worship. So the treasures (things that have risen to levels of importance in my heart) that rule the thoughts and desires of my heart will then control the things that I do. The war between these two kingdoms in ministry is not first a war of behavior; it’s a war for the heart. If I lose this deeper war, I’ll never gain ground in the arena of my words and actions.Pastor, what do your words and actions reveal about what’s truly important to you?

4. Your functional treasures are always attached to the kingdom of self or the kingdom of God.

Christ really does give us only two options. Either I’ve attached my identity, meaning, purpose, and inner sense of well-being to the earth-bound treasures of the kingdom of self or to the heavenly treasures of the kingdom of God. This is an incredibly helpful diagnostic for pastoral ministry. Consider these questions:

  • The absence of what causes us to want to give up and quit?
  • The pursuit of what leads us to feeling over-burdened and overwhelmed?
  • The fear of what makes us tentative and timid rather than courageous and hopeful?
  • The craving for what makes us burn the candle at both ends until we have little left?
  • The “need” for what robs ministry of its beauty and joy?
  • The desire for what sets up tensions between ministry and family?

Could it be that many of the stresses of ministry are the result of us seeking to get things out of ministry that it will never deliver? Could it be that we’re asking ministry to do for us what only the Messiah can do? Could it be that in our ministries we’re seeking horizontally what we’ve already been given in Christ? Could it be that this kingdom conflict is propelled and empowered by functional, personal gospel amnesia? When I forget what I‘ve been given in Christ, I will tend to seek those things out of the situations, locations, and relationships of my ministry. Pastor, in what ways are you tempted to seek from your ministry what you’ve already been given in Christ?

You see, the biggest protection against the kingdom of self is not a set of self-reformative defensive strategies. It’s a heart that’s so blown away by the right-here, right-now glories of the grace of Jesus Christ that you’re not easily seduced by the lesser temporary glories of that claustrophobic kingdom of one, the kingdom of self.

 

http://www.paultripp.com/articles/posts/whose-kingdom

Your Pastor Needs YOU!

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October is Pastor Appreciation month and this article gives some practical ways to support and encourage our seven pastors here at HBC. Do your part of keeping the Body of Christ healthy and working together for His glory. It is also important to remember that appreciation, affirmation and prayer support of our spiritual leaders is appropriate throughout the entire year, not just this month.

“Will you pray for me as a minister of the gospel? I am not asking you to pray for the things people commonly pray for. Pray for me in light of the pressures of our times. Pray that I will not just come to a wearied end—an exhausted, tired, old preacher, interested only in hunting a place to roost. Pray that I will be willing to let my Christian experience and Christian standards cost me something right down to the last gasp.” — A.W. Tozer, “Pastoral Ministry: Please Pray for Me”

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Six ideas on how you can stand behind and alongside of your church’s pastor and leaders

Pastors are under attack today in every denomination and in every country. They are attacked from within their own churches by disgruntled attendees, within their own spirits by our enemy the devil, and from without by those who don’t even attend or aren’t members of the churches pastors have the privilege and responsibility to lead.

It’s no wonder so many pastors are often discouraged, exhausted, frustrated, and in their minds (if not in actuality) have tendered their resignations. Pastors move from church to church or from church to another line of work at an alarming rate. Some of this could be greatly reduced if they received more affirmation and encouragement from those they lead, especially those who are younger.

I am well beyond the teens and 20s (74 at the end of 2013) but in my 45 years of ministry I have worked with lots of young people both with the Navigators and at Mars Hill Church. Many young adults hang back and stay on the fringes of church, afraid or reluctant to commit themselves. But as you deliberately support and encourage your pastor, you will identify yourself as someone who’s on board and positive, and potentially someone whom your pastor can begin to invest in.

Today’s pastors need to focus on developing the next generation of leaders in their respective churches because young adults are the future of the church. It is, therefore, incumbent on young adults to especially be aware of how they can help, support and encourage their pastor(s). Here are some of my ideas on how you can stand behind and alongside of the pastor God has allowed to lead the church you call home.

1. Pray for your pastor.

Undoubtedly, the most important thing you can do to help your pastor be fruitful and effective in his role is to pray for him. You can use passages such as Ephesians 1:15-23Ephesians 3:14-20 and Colossians 1:9-12 to pray for your pastor(s) and other leaders.

  • Pray for him daily.
  • Pray the Lord will give him wisdom in his various responsibilities in the church he serves.
  • Pray for his role as both husband and father (if he is married and has children).
  • Pray the Lord will protect him in the area of sexual purity.
  • Pray he will experience courage and anointing in his preaching/teaching.
  • Pray he would be able to strike a good balance between his ministry, family and personal life.
2. Encourage your pastor.

Lots of people will criticize and find fault. They will both email him and talk to him (and about him) in discouraging ways. You can be one of those who look for ways, and reasons, to encourage him — to camp on the positive, not the negative.

Tell him what you appreciate about his ministry, and be specific. What has he recently done or said that you have profited from? After he preaches/teaches, go out of your way to tell him how it has blessed you. A pastor’s teaching/preaching help many, but few tell him specifically how he has been a help and blessing.

Every once in a while, write a personal note telling him you are praying for him and appreciate something he has said or done. Once again, be specific. For example, “When you said in a recent sermon that Jesus totally understands me and deeply loves me, that ministered to me because I am going through a difficult time right now and feeling lonely, and that is exactly what I needed to hear.”

3. Submit to your pastor’s leadership.

The Bible is clear on the topic of being willing to submit to the authority in the church you have chosen to be a part of. (I am not suggesting, nor does the Bible suggest, that you submit to ungodly or abusive leaders.) Here are two such passages talking about submitting, respecting and following your leaders.

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13).

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).

By being a regular attender/member at your church, you are placing yourself in a position to be taught, shepherded, led, and discipled by your church’s pastor(s) and other leaders. It is an awesome step to accept God’s call to be a pastor and to take seriously the roles and responsibilities that such a call entails. You should be able to trust, believe in, and submit to those the Lord has placed in authority over you. If you can’t do this, you need to address this issue, and in extreme cases, leave if you can no longer respect and trust the leadership over you; more on this in point six.

4. Get to know your pastor.

A pastor, at times, has a lonely job. Many people instead of giving wind up taking from the pastor — taking his time, his energy, his resources, his wisdom and his counsel. It is refreshing and encouraging to know that people in the church family really care about him, pray for him, and really want to get to know him, not so they can take, but so that they can give.

Why not call the church office to schedule some time with your pastor and offer to take him to lunch at his favorite restaurant? Ask him to tell you his story, how God saved him, called him into ministry and is currently leading him. I can guarantee you that he will appreciate this and be a better leader as a result of your initiative.

5. Ask how you can serve your pastor/your church.

Are you currently serving at your church? If you are serving, are you able to step it up a notch? Give more time or volunteer somewhere else where needed?

I have never been in a church that had all the servants and leaders it needed and wanted. One of the best ways to grow personally, and at the same time help your church grow, is to find a place where your gifts, capacity and interests can make a unique contribution to what Jesus wants to do through you and through your church. If you are not serving in some capacity, please do so, leaving the ranks of the consumers and joining the ranks of the contributors.

6. Talk honestly to, not about your pastor.

If there is something that you honestly have a problem with — some decision he made, something he wrote or said that you disagree with — please talk to himnotabout him.

This is one of the big sins in the body of Christ. We talk about people, but not to people.

Most pastors want to hear from people who have issues or questions with something at the church. Most would relish the opportunity to genuinely hear what is bothering you and to have the chance to both genuinely listen and share concerning your issue so the two of you can have mutual understanding and respect for each other.

Talking about others rather than talking to others is gossip pure and simple, and it never makes things better, only worse. The book of Proverbs is loaded with words of warning about gossip. Here are a few for starters: Proverbs 11:1317:918:8,20:19.

There are a lot of other things that could be said, but I will stop with these six. Let me say it again, “Your pastor needs YOU!”

Most pastors want to be relevant to the younger generation and know that they can positively influence them for the kingdom. He needs your support, prayers, honest feedback and involvement to do this well. As you do this, you will experience more joy and personal growth in your walk with Jesus, your pastor will be more motivated and become a better leader, and Jesus will be honored.

 

Copyright 2013 Dave Kraft. All rights reserved.

We must move in grace

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It is not an idle life that we live as believers in Christ. Matt Chandler writes on five components all our grace-driven efforts should have.

There are essentially five components to a right understanding of grace-driven effort, and what they all revolve around is not our religious performance but Christ’s saving performance on our behalf. These components are focused Christ’s cross, not our bootstraps.

1. The three weapons of grace

A man who understands Jesus’ gospel and cross will instead fight sin with the weapons that grace gives us. There are three such weapons:

The first weapon is the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13 tells us, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

We have been brought near by the blood and sacrifice of Jesus alone, not by our behavior. The marker of those who understand the gospel of Jesus Christ is that, when they stumble and fall, when they screw up, they run to God and not from him, because they clearly understand that their acceptance before God is not predicated upon their behavior but on the righteous life of Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death.

The second weapon of grace is the Word of God. In 2 Timothy 3:16–17, Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

When we begin to know the Scriptures well, we can identify what is true and what is a lie. Here is one truth about truth to think about: the Holy Spirit and the accusations of the Devil can do the same thing. Both can make us aware of our shortcomings and the impossibility of earning favor with God.

The difference between what the Holy Spirit does and what the Devil does is the Spirit’s deliverance of the gospel. The Devil brings up gospel truths to accuse and condemn, whereas the Spirit brings up these truths to convict and to comfort.

Christian, if you are looking at your sins and shortcomings and constantly feeling condemned—not convicted, but condemned—you need to use the Word of God to rebuke the Devil’s accusations. You need to use the Word of God to remind yourself over and over again that the gospel is true.

The third weapon of grace is the promise of the new covenant. Hebrews 9:15 says, “He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”

2. The roots, not the branches

Second, grace-driven effort attacks the roots of our sin, not just the branches. Grace is a heart changer, because the heart is where behavior comes from. Wherever our heart is, that is where our actions will follow. We can manage our behavior until the cows come home and never have a God-loving heart, which is how the Pharisees lived. . . . Grace-driven effort not only uses the weapons of grace, but it also attacks the roots, not just the branches, whereas moralism tries just to subdue behavior.

3. Fear of God

Grace-driven effort fights for a reason that goes beyond a clear conscience and an emotional peace. One of the things I run into over and over again in my counseling role is people who are broken over sin in their life, but as I begin to dig around in there, most of the time, they’re not broken up because they have sinned against a holy God—they are broken up because their sin is costing them something. They see their sin as making life difficult for themselves, but they are not appalled at all at how they have slandered the God of the universe. We must understand that when we sin, we sin against God (Ps. 51:4).

4. Dead to sin

Grace-driven effort doesn’t just forsake sin but is absolutely dead to it (Rom. 6:11). The believer pursuing holiness by grace-driven effort is not going to serve sin, because he is alive to God. What ends up happening to so many of us is that we spend so much time trying to put sin to death that we don’t spend enough time striving to know God deeply, trying to gaze upon the wonder of Jesus Christ and have that transform our affections to the point where our love and hope are steadfastly on Christ. The goal is this: Christ would become more beautiful and desirable than the allure of sin.

5. Gospel violence

Here’s the fifth and last component of grace-driven effort: distinguishing the gospel from moralism. Grace-driven effort is violent. It is aggressive. The person who understands the gospel understands that, as a new creation, his spiritual nature is in opposition to sin now, and he seeks not just to weaken sin in his life, but to outright destroy it.

 

 

This post is excerpted and adapted from The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler.

Look Away from Yourself

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Wait—stop reading. Look up from this post and fasten your eyes on something else and then come back to your reading.

Do you see that in one very important sense, that’s all that God has required of you? The shifting of your eyes from this post to another object doesn’t require great skill, deep understanding, or monumental strength. It simply requires a desire to do so. That’s what faith is: a looking away from yourself to Someone else. While that is a true definition of faith, it needs to be expanded.

Gazing at the Cross

To help you understand what true faith is, think again about the Israelites in the wilderness. If they had scoffed at the bronze serpent or just glanced at it in curiosity, it wouldn’t have been an agent of healing for them, would’ve it? It didn’t contain any magical powers in and of itself. In the same way, I’m pretty sure there were people standing about at the foot of the cross, watching the Lord die, who did not automatically inherit eternal life. No, the bronze serpent and the crucified Son are agents of healing only when our gaze gives evidence to the simple belief that good will come to us from God.

Faith, then, is a trusting in the love and mercy of God.

It is hoping for an unseen mercy—it is a conviction that God desires to bless us (Hebrews 11:1).

God’s Precious Gift

There is something in the heart of all givers, and in God’s heart in particular, that recoils at the prospect of a precious gift being refused. Just as my mother would be offended if I declined her offer of an inheritance, so God is offended if we refuse to believe that he is merciful and loving enough to give us good gifts, in spite of ourselves.

The writer of Hebrews captures this thought in 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

All That’s Required of Us

In order to find ourselves in the enviable position of “pleasing God,” we must have a faith that believes that the invisible God is really and truly here, and that he’ll reward our seeking of him—that was all that was required of the Israelite children, and that’s all that’s required of us.

We shall have a complete definition of faith if we say that it is a firm and sure knowledge of God’s favor towards us, based on the truth of a free promise in Christ. . . . We are drawn to seek God when we are told that our safety is treasured up in him, and we are confirmed in this when he declares that he takes a deep interest in our welfare. . . . It would be useless to know that God is true, if he did not lovingly draw us to himself. We could not lay hold of his mercy if he did not offer it.

 

This post is an adapted excerpt from Elyse’s book, Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life

What You Need is Love

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Life in this fallen world is hard. Preparation is hard. Change is hard. It’s easy to get discouraged. It‘s easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s easy to remain or revert to being self-absorbed. It’s easy to feel alone. It’s easy to think that no one understands what you are going through.

It’s tempting to think like Moses that God must have gotten the wrong address, that this trial couldn’t have been intended for your doorstep. It’s easy to give in to wondering if the hardships of the Christian life are worth the trouble. It’s easy to look over the fence and yield to debilitating envy. It‘s easy to let go of good and godly personal spiritual habits. It’s easy, at the end of a long day, to try to numb or distract yourself by whatever temporary pleasure lies within reach.

It’s easy to deceive yourself about the need to change, to grow in godliness. It’s easy to lose your way and give up. But it’s important for you to remember that life and ministry in the fallen world are hard, not only for you, but also for everyone in your care.

That’s why God has designed us to live with others in a community of love. When I read 1 Peter 1, I’m always struck by how God has placed a call to love at the end of a discussion of hardship. As Peter summarizes what God is doing here and now, he uses three words: “suffer, grief, and trial.” None of us wants these things! But Peter reminds us that they’re tools of refinement in the hands of a loving Redeemer intent on completing in us what he’s begun. Then Peter begins to lay out how to live productively in the middle of these hardships.

Listen to his final directive: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22). Peter is saying something very powerful here. God hasn’t simply called us to endure the refining fires of sanctification. He’s ordained us to incarnate his love through the community he’s placed around us. This community of love gives us hope and strength. But it also encourages us with the reminder that the One who tests and trains is the One who loves.

This community of love is meant to comfort the person who’s discouraged, to strengthen the person who’s weak, to encourage the person who has no hope, to come alongside the person who’s alone, to guide the person who’s lost his way, to give wisdom to the person lost in foolishness, to warn the person who’s beginning to wander, to correct the person turning the wrong way, to give eyes to the person blind to God’s presence, and to physically represent God’s presence and love. No one, including pastors, is wired to live outside this community.

So as you’re living and ministering in this broken world, what does God call you to do? There’s one sure and reliable answer to the question: he calls you to seize every opportunity to be an instrument of his love.

An an ambassador of Christ, you’ve been called to participate in a community of love that is the church:

  • That teenager attracted to the world needs God’s love.
  • That single person facing the death of personal dreams needs God’s love
  • That immigrant brother or sister who feels so out of place and so misunderstood needs God’s love.
  • That mom overwhelmed with her parenting responsibilities needs God’s love.
  • That man tempted to walk out of his troubled marriage needs God’s love.
  • That little boy who lost his father to divorce needs God’s love.
  • That woman living through the ravages of cancer needs God’s love.
  • That couple facing debts they can’t pay needs God’s love.
  • The woman who now faces life without the man who’s been her companion for decades needs God’s love.
  • That pastor carrying a heavy weight of spiritual responsibility needs God’s love.
  • That university student facing spiritual warfare needs God’s love.

We could multiply example after example. There is no location, situation, or relationship this side of heaven where this love is extraneous. This love isn’t about liking people. It isn’t about romantic affection. It’s something more than cultural niceness. It’s deeper than being respectful or mannerly.

This love finds its motivation, hope, and direction at the cross of Jesus Christ. It’s active, persevering, tender, understanding, forgiving, compassionate, and self-sacrificing love. The people in your care need this cross-shaped love, and so do you. You can love others because the One you represent never fails to love you perfectly this way in both your best and worst moments.

 

by Paul Tripp

www.paultripp.com/articles/posts/what-you-need-is-love

Why Do We Say, ‘God Told Me’?

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When someone begins a sentence with “God told me . . .” I have to admit a silent alarm goes off somewhere inside me—unless the phrase is followed by a verse of Scripture. I know that many see this as the way the Christian life is supposed to work—that if we are really in fellowship with God we will be able to sense him speaking to us through an inner voice. But I’m not so sure. And it’s not because I think God is incapable of or uninterested in speaking to his people today. In fact I resist this language precisely because God is speaking to his people today. He speaks to us through the Scriptures.

When we read the Scriptures we are not just reading a record of what God has said in the past. God actively speaks to us in the here and now through the words of this amazing book. The writer of Hebrews makes this point clear when he quotes Old Testament passages and presents them not as something God said to his people sometime in the past, but as something God is currently saying to his people (Hebrews 1:6,7,8, 2:12, 3:7, 4:7). He writes that “the word of God is living and active” (4:12). It is exposing our shallow beliefs and hidden motives. This word is personal.  You and I hear the voice of God speaking to us—unmistakably, authoritatively, and personally—when we read, hear, study, and meditate on the Scriptures.

Something More, Something Different

But many of us want something more, something different. We read the Scriptures and witness God speaking to individuals in amazing ways throughout the history of redemption. Job heard God speaking from the whirlwind. Moses heard him calling from the fiery bush. Samuel heard him calling in the dark. David heard him speak through the prophet Nathan. Isaiah felt the burning coal and heard assurance that his guilt was taken away and sin atoned for. Saul and those traveling with him on the road to Damascus heard Jesus asking why Saul was persecuting him. Prophets and teachers at Antioch heard the Holy Spirit tell them to set apart Barnabas and to send out Saul. John felt the glorified Jesus touch him and heard his assurance that he didn’t have to be afraid.

Many of us read these accounts and assume that the Bible is presenting the normal experience of all who follow God. But is it? Graeme Goldsworthy speaks to this question in his book Gospel and Wisdom. He writes, “Every case of special guidance given to individuals in the Bible has to do with that person’s place in the outworking of God’s saving purposes.” He adds, “There are no instances in the Bible in which God gives special and specific guidance to the ordinary believing Israelite or Christian in the details of their personal existence.”

Are there instances in the Scriptures in which people describe a sense of God speaking to them through an inner voice? We read accounts of God speaking in an audible voice, through a supernatural dream or vision, a human hand writing on a wall, a blinding light, or a thunderous voice from heaven. This is quite different from the way most people who say that God has told them something describe hearing his voice—as a thought that came into their mind that they “know” was God speaking. One prominent teacher who trains people on how to hear the voice of God writes, “God’s voice in your heart often sounds like a flow of spontaneous thoughts.” But where in the Bible are we instructed to seek after or expect to hear God speak to us in this way?

Some who suggest that a conversational relationship with God is not only possible but even normative point to John 10 in which Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd, saying, “My sheep hear my voice.” However, in this passage Jesus is not prescribing a method of ongoing divine communication. He is speaking to the Jews of his day using a metaphor they understand—a shepherd and his sheep. His point is that the elect among the Jews will recognize him as the shepherd the prophets wrote about and will respond to his call to repent and believe, as will the elect among the Gentiles so that they will become one flock, one church, with him at the head.

Longing for God’s Guidance

So why do we speak about hearing God in this way? We grew up being told that we must have a “personal relationship with God,” and what is more personal than hearing him speak to us about our individual issues and needs? Sometimes if we dig deep we realize we speak this way because we want to impresses others with our close connection to God and make sure they know we’ve consulted with him on the matter at hand. Another reason may be that to say, “God told me . . .” can prove useful to us. If you’ve asked me to teach children’s Sunday school this fall, it sounds far more spiritual and makes it far more difficult for you to challenge me if I say that God told me I need to sit in adult Sunday school with my husband than if I simply say that I don’t want to or have decided not to teach.

But I think there is something more at work here than simply our desire to sound spiritual or to make it difficult for someone to challenge our preferences or decisions. We genuinely long for God to guide us. We genuinely long for a personal word from God, a supernatural experience with God. Yet we fail to grasp that as we read and study and hear the Word of God taught and preached, it is a personal word from God. Because the Scriptures are “living and active,” God’s speaking to us through them is a personal, supernatural experience.

God has spoken and is, in fact, still speaking to us through the Scriptures. We don’t need any more special revelation. What we need is illumination, and this is exactly what Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit will give to us as his word abides in us. The Holy Spirit of God works through the Word of God to counsel and comfort and convict (John 16:7-15). Through the Scriptures we hear God teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training us in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Word of God transforms us by renewing our minds so that we think more like him and less like the world. Instead of needing God to dictate to us what to do, we become increasingly able to “discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

I appreciate the way John Piper described his experience in hearing God speak through the Scriptures in his message “How Important is the Bible?” given at Lausanne 2010:

God talks to me no other way, but don’t get this wrong, he talks to me very personally. I open my Bible in the morning to meet my friend, my Savior, my Creator, my Sustainer. I meet him and he talks to me. . . . I’m not denying providence, not denying circumstances, not denying people, I’m just saying that the only authoritative communion I have with God with any certainty comes through the words of this book.

And if we want to go back a little further, Jonathan Edwards warned:

I . . . know by experience that impressions being made with great power, and upon the minds of true saints, yea, eminent saints; and presently after, yea, in the midst of, extraordinary exercises of grace and sweet communion with God, and attended with texts of Scripture strongly impressed on the mind, are no sure signs of their being revelations from heaven: for I have known such impressions [to] fail, and prove vain.

What Difference Does It Really Make?

Does it really make a difference when we expect God to speak to us through the Scriptures rather than waiting to hear a divine voice in our heads? I think it does.

When we know that God speaks personally and powerfully through his Word, we don’t have to feel that our relationship to Christ is sub-par, or that we are experiencing a less-than Christian life if we don’t sense God giving us extra-biblical words of instruction or promise. When we know God speaks through his Word we are not obligated to accept—indeed, we can be appropriately skeptical toward—claims by any book, teacher, preacher, or even friend when they write or say, “God told me . .  .” We don’t have to wait until we hear God give us the go-ahead before we say “yes” or “no” to a request or make a decision. We can consult the Scriptures and rest in the wisdom and insight the Holy Spirit is developing in us and feel free to make a decision.

As we delight ourselves in the law of the Lord day and night, we can expect his Word to be living and active in our inmost parts. As that Word transforms us by the renewal of our minds, we will find that our thoughts and feelings, dreams and desires, are being shaped more by his Word than by our flesh. We will find that we are more drawn to obey his commands than to follow the culture. We will ask him for wisdom and receive it out of his generosity.

 

Nancy Guthrie and her husband, David, and son, Matt, make their home in Nashville, Tennessee. She and David are the co-hosts of the GriefShare video series used in more than 8,500 churches around the country and host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. Nancy is the author of numerous books, including Holding on to Hope and Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrowand is currently working on the five-book Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series.

Kissing the Wave

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Fighting for perspective in times of suffering…

 

“How long, O Lord?” is a familiar cry to those who experience suffering and despair. In my own experience this question can be asked in both steadfast faith-filled hope and in faithless unbelief. I’ve asked it in both ways in the same hour or minute.

Trials teach hard lessons, as Charles Spurgeon said: “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”

And sometimes you get seasick when you’re learning to “kiss the wave.”

Kissing the Wave?

But what can Spurgeon mean, to learn to kiss the wave?

One thing he cannot mean is to call evil good. God’s word forbids us to do such a thing: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). After he revealed his true identity to his brothers who had sold him into slavery, Joseph said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20). Despite all of his hardship, Joseph was encouraged because he knew God was sovereign over his past, and he saw some of the good work God had already done through his trials.

Hindsight is 20/20, though, right? Where do we find comfort when we’re in the thick of trials in which we can’t see any good (at least not yet)? I think the answer to this question is also in Joseph’s story.

Joseph’s Story

There’s a common thread that runs through each account of Joseph’s ordeals from his being sold into Egypt as a slave to being wrongly incarcerated.

  • “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him” (Acts 7:9).
  • The Lᴏʀᴅ was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master” (Genesis 39:2).
  • “His master saw that the Lᴏʀᴅ was with him and that the Lᴏʀᴅ caused all that he did to succeed in his hands” (Genesis 39:3).
  • “But the Lᴏʀᴅ was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (Genesis 39:21).
  • “The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lᴏʀᴅ was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed” (Genesis 39:23).

There’s no doubt about it — the Lᴏʀᴅ was with Joseph. He was with Joseph in the pit. He was with Joseph in the house where he worked as a slave. He was with Joseph in jail. He was with Joseph in the court of Pharaoh. He was with Joseph in the most dramatic confrontation of his entire life. The waves kept throwing Joseph against the Rock of Ages.

God’s Nearness

I don’t think Spurgeon’s comment came from a sarcastic “Pucker up, Waves!” perspective, but one of humble sobriety and childlike faith in God who works all things for our good. Whenever we encourage one another in our home with “kiss the wave,” the words are often spoken into a tearful conversation as a lump rises in our throats and our hearts feels like they are being squeezed in a vice.

The nearness of God is our good. And the trials we endure in this fallen world, perhaps more than most other things, have a tendency to awaken us to this truth. We remember Jesus, who is called Immanuel (“God with us”), and the cross he bore for our sake. Can the waves of trials then drown us if we have a Substitute who endured the greatest trial in our place?

We can “learn to kiss the wave” because Christ is near to us and supreme over all things. He died and rose again to vanquish evil forever. Christ is to us wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). You can’t get much nearer than that.

When there’s nothing in heaven or on earth or under the earth that can separate you from Christ’s love, waves of trials can only throw you onto the Rock of Ages. Resting on that Rock is where I’d like to be and stay forever, and may the Lord bless the means he uses to remind me of that.

 

This article was originally posted on www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/kissing-the-wave