Life Together | Pancake Delight

Summer time creates opportunities for me that are not typically available. A few weeks ago my schedule worked out in such a way that I was able to take my six year old to breakfast. Just me and him. No phones, no distractions, no agenda. Just dad and son time. Time to be guys together. As I delivered the news to him that morning, and he raced off to get dressed, his enthusiasm was obvious. As we climbed into the car, I don’t think he stopped grinning. As we slid into the booth he asked if he could order his favorite: pancakes. When I said he could, he placed his order with the waitress with much gusto. As we sat there talking while waiting on our food, him swinging his legs back and forth and me sipping coffee, it hit me how much I enjoy that kid. In fact, the word that came to mind was DELIGHT. I delight in him. In Psalm 16:18 we hear these astonishing words from the Lord: “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.” Amazing. The Lord DELIGHTS in those who are his. I’ll be honest that while I am very aware from God’s word that God loves me, the word delight strikes something different in me. It’s as if delight is an aspect of his love that helps me remember that he actually enjoys me. He genuinely likes knowing me and spending time with me. Just like I enjoy being with Jem, the Lord enjoys being with each of us as his children.

Now, to be clear, the word delight as seen in God’s word is multi-faceted. It is connected to God rescuing us out of difficult situations (Psalm 18:19) and protecting us in the face of temptation (Psalm 41:11) and even disciplining us when necessary (Proverbs 3:12). Experiencing God’s delight happens in a variety of ways as we encounter a variety of situations, and this is also true of my relationship with Jem. Sometimes he needs rescuing, at other times protecting, and at other times disciplining. In all of these things my delight in him is unchanged, though the expression of my delight looks different in each of these instances. And so it is with our relationship with Lord: we experience him in different ways at different times, but in all of the twists and turns of our journey with him, one truth we can always rest in is that he delights in us as his children.

Ben

***Application Consideration: Who is someone you can spend one-on-one time with this week? Your spouse? One of your children? One of your parents? Someone in your shepherding group? Someone you’ve been wanting to get to know better? An unchurched friend? Spend some time asking the Lord to direct you to someone you can bless this week by spending one-on-one time with them.

Digging Deeper | Living the Dream: Guilt

Living the Dream: Guilt | Listen to Sermon Audio

Digging Deeper

When Guilt Overwhelms
 
For some of us guilt is a consistently nagging struggle. In other words, we feel perpetually guilty to the extent that we find it difficult to experience any consistent joy in the Christian life. While “godly guilt” is always attached to specific sin, one sign of guilt that is not from the Lord is that we tend to feel guilty about everything all the time; guilt becomes like a fog that hangs over our life and clouds everything. For those who experience this, here are four biblical truths to memorize and cling to:
 

  1. Christ’s sacrifice for us is complete (Hebrews 10:11-18). Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice for sin on the cross is so powerful that all those who have placed their faith in him can rest assured that the Lord “will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more.” The power of sin and guilt no longer define us, but rather our identity is grounded in Christ’s death and resurrection for us. 

  2. We are a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-21). Because Christ became sin for us, we have now become “the righteousness of God.” The great exchange: our unrighteousness for his righteousness. When the Lord looks at those whose faith in Christ, he see us through the lens of the righteousness of Christ! We are a new creation, separated from the person we were before Christ, cut off from the sin and guilt that covered us. 

  3. Godly guilt produces repentance, not condemnation (2 Cor. 7:10-11, 1 John 1:5-9). Guilt that produces self-hatred and further isolation from the Lord is not guilt from the Lord. Guilt that is from the Lord is always tied to a specific sin. As we allow sorrow and guilt for that sin to lead us to confession and repentance, we experience fellowship with the Lord and peace in him. 

  4. Accusation-based guilt is from the enemy (1 Peter 5:8-9, Revelation 12:10). An overwhelming sense of guilt that perpetually brings despair is from Satan. One of his trademarks is accusation, and he desires to devour us with it. Peter reminds us that this experience is common among all who follow Christ, and so it is a good reminder of how we need biblical community around us to keep us grounded in truth and alert to the lies of the enemy.

Digging Deeper | Living the Dream: Cultivating Faithfulness

Living the Dream: Cultivating Faithfulness | Listen to Sermon Audio

Digging Deeper

A key aspect of cultivating faithfulness in the Christian life is to remember that faithfulness flows out of faith. In others words, faithfulness is produced by the Lord at work within us, rather than our own efforts. Or, to put it yet another way, faithfulness is cultivated through dependence rather than independence.

There are two passages from the New Testament that do a really good job of showing how faithfulness is God-based, not us-based; the first is Galatians 5:16-26 and the second is 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24.

To explore each of these passages, try following the steps below:

  1. In each of these passages multiple aspects of faithfulness are listed, some of them as things we are commanded to do, some as things we are NOT to do, and some as character traits that are intended to define us as followers of Christ. For each passage, make a list of all these aspects of faithfulness.

  2. Each of these passages also communicate HOW the above aspects of faithfulness are to be generated in our lives, focusing on who God is and what he does. List each phrase that points to God as the source of our faithfulness.

  3. Offer a prayer to the Lord based on your lists. Are there certain aspects of faithfulness you desire to see more of in your life? Are there sinful activities in these lists that you have pursued that you need to confess? Are there temptations you need to be on guard against? Are there truths about who the Lord is and/or what he has done or will do that you can praise and thank him for? Communicate each of these categories to the Lord as you pray.

One last thing: try working through these passages with your children. Could be a fun time of family Bible study!

Digging Deeper | Living the Dream: Forgotten?

Living the Dream: Forgotten? | Listen to Sermon Audio

Digging Deeper

What can God NOT do?

One of the fun things to explore when it comes to understanding God as one who is sovereign (i.e. one who reigns and rules over the entire universe and works all things according to his will) is to consider what things God can NOT do. At first glance it may seem contradictory that God would not be able to do certain things if he is in fact sovereign over all things. But there are at least three things that the Bible says God cannot do:

  • God cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13)

    This passage contrasts our faithlessness with God’s faithfulness. It teaches that God will never fail to be faithful to his people. In other words, an unchanging characteristic of his nature is that he will never “deny himself” by failing to come through for his people, even when we are faithless toward him at times.

  • God cannot lie (Titus 1:2)

    This passage explains that God never goes back on something he has said or says something untrue. He does not lie or lead astray or misrepresent. His words are true (Psalm 119:160). This is a truth we can apply to the Bible, recognizing that the words in the Bible are God’s words, and they can be trusted.

  • God cannot tempt toward sin (James 1:13)

    This passage articulates the difference between testing and temptation. God indeed tests our faith at times with various trials, but he is never responsible for tempting us to sin. The reason for this, James explains, is because God himself cannot be tempted to sin. He cannot, therefore, tempt us in a way that he himself cannot be tempted.

Each of these truths about God point us back to his character. Anytime we focus on God’s sovereignty and power, it is important to remember that his power is carried out through the goodness and perfection of his consistent character. Because his character is consistent and unchanging, he alone is worthy of our deepest trust.

Life Together | Faithfulness in Times of Plenty

Last month we made an unexpected announcement: due to very generous financial giving, we were able to pay off the remainder of our building debt! This has eliminated several more years of making a mortgage payment, allowed us to tithe to local and international ministries, and has created for us an increased budget to explore what it looks like for us to continue to be “worshipers in community engaged in ministry” as we move forward. We applaud this, celebrate this, and are in awe of the capacity of the Lord to blow our minds whenever and however he chooses. These are all appropriate responses. And, yet, there is one more response that we also need to remember, one that we see as God’s people are about to enter into the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 6:10-12 (emphases my own):

“And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you – with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant – and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

What is the response we see here in light of coming into fullness and plenty? Caution. The people of God, who had been rescued from slavery and formed as a people, due solely to God’s grace and power, were about to take possession of a land where everything was already set up for them. They had to construct no cities, build no houses, dig no cisterns, and plant no vineyards. In light of this, the word of the Lord to them is: “In the middle of your plenty, don’t forget me! As you enjoy this jaw-dropping gift I am giving you, remember that I am your greatest treasure. Don’t get so caught up in the incredible gift that you forget the incredible Giver of the gift.” As we enter into a season of plenty together as a church family, may we remember these ancient words of God to his people, and apply them to our own situation. As we, like ancient Israel, move into new territory prepared beforehand for us by the Lord, let us take care lest we forget the Lord.

Ben

monthly resources

In light of our apologetics SS class this summer, here’s a recent release on explaining/defending Christianity that’s worth reading: