Sunday Worship Service 5 pm

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hell Can't Blackmail Heaven into Misery

God is for your everlasting joy. Real joy and really everlasting. Nothing can impede it, not even the simultaneous reality of hell. Pastor John writes in Future Grace,
When God's patience has run its long-suffering course, and this age is over, and judgment comes on the enemies of God's people, the saints will not disapprove of God's justice. They will not cry out against him. On the contrary, the apostle John calls on them to "rejoice" and to shout "hallelujah!" This means that the final destruction of the unrepentant will not be experienced as a misery for God's people. The unwillingness of others to repent will not hold the affections of the saints hostage. Hell will not be able to blackmail heaven into misery. God's judgment will be approved and the saints will experience the vindication of truth as a great grace. (263)

by Jonathan Parnell | February 27, 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

When Is Indecision Loveless and Sinful? (A Lesson from Bonhoeffer)

Have you ever been paralyzed with indecision? I have. It is not a good trait of leadership.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer breathed the air of crisis most of his adult life. This would eventually make the issue of decisiveness a matter of life and death. And even before that moment it was an issue of love.
Everywhere Bonhoeffer looked in the Europe of 1934 he saw Christian indecisiveness. The “deutsche Christen,” the global ecumenical movement — everyone but Hitler. Nazism’s strangle hold on the church in Germany was almost complete, and no one seemed willing to act.
Bonhoeffer and his friends soon would. A “Confessing Church” would emerge free from the coercions of the Third Reich. A “Barmen Declaration” would be published. But for now Bonhoeffer pleaded for action.
On April 7, 1934 he wrote a letter to Henry Louis Henriod, the Swiss theologian who headed the ecumenical  World Alliance. He pled for support for the pastors and Christians in Germany who knew (to their peril) their church was no longer a church. Here we learn a lesson about the perils of indecision. Bonhoeffer wrote:
A decision must be made at some point, and it’s no good waiting indefinitely for a sign from heaven that will solve the difficulty without further trouble. Even the ecumenical movement has to make up its mind and is therefore subject to error, like everything human.
But to procrastinate and prevaricate simply because you’re afraid of erring, when others — I mean our brethren in Germany — must make infinitely more difficult decisions every day, seems to me almost to run counter to love.
To delay or fail to make decisions may be more sinful than to make wrong decisions out of faith and love. (Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer, [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010], 218)
Every pastor, every parent, every leader of any ministry should think and pray earnestly over that last sentence.

by John Piper | February 27, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

Psalm 111: Delighting in the Works of God

Psalm 111:2 reminds us of a fundamental principle: Delight leads to study. A Lover can recall every feature of his Beloved’s face. A mother knows every dimple, hair, and birthmark on her baby’s body. When we recognize something as full of splendor and majesty, careful attention is no chore. When we are fascinated, when we marvel at some wonder, when our hearts rise with delight in some reality, the natural and unavoidable response is to move further up and further in, to seek after the object of our affection, to devote concerted effort to observing, understanding, and evaluating what we love and then to feel, apply, and express what we’ve seen.
“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.”

So What Are These Works?

I believe that this psalm wants to draw our attention back to God’s work on behalf of his people in Exodus through Joshua. The reference to God’s grace and mercy (verse 4) reminds us of the revelation of God’s name in Exodus 34. His redemption (verse 9) takes us to the exodus, his precepts (verse 7) to Sinai, the provision of food (verse 5) to the wilderness wandering, his inheritance (verse 6) to the Promised Land.
So the question is: Do you study those wondrous works? He has caused them to be remembered (verse 4). He has written them in a book so that we can study them from delight. Do you remember the story?

Do You Remember . . .

  • How God remembered his promise to Abraham when Pharaoh had forgotten about the saving deeds of Joseph?
  • How he turned the sacred river into a torrent of blood?
  • How the Lord of hosts assaulted Egypt’s gods with a battalion of bugs, boils, and fiery hail?
  • How his Death-Angel struck down sons that slept under blood-less doors?
  • How he baked Pharaoh’s heart into a hardened clay pot and then shattered it beneath a wall of water?
  • How at his signal earth and sea swallowed the horse and the rider whole?
  • How he sent redemption to his people and led them out as a mixed multitude?

Do You Remember . . .

  • When his people grumbled with hunger, and he fed them with magic bread from heaven?
  • When they groaned with thirst, and he squeezed water from a rock?
  • How he rode a thunderstorm to Sinai and ignited the top of a mountain? How he spoke in thunderclaps out of a cloud of smoke? How he called Moses into a tornado of fire so that he could give him Torah, precepts and commands etched on stone by the finger of God himself?
  • How he revealed his name as the Lord, sovereign in grace and mercy, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiver of sins and punisher of guilt?
  • How he built a Glory-tent out of goat’s hair, acacia wood, and colored linen, decked it with starry jewels, and filled it with fragrant incense and a golden tree? How outside he constructed a bronze altar of death and put away sin on the charred carcass of an unblemished bull, all so that he could dwell among his people without consuming them?
  • How he swallowed faithless priests who offered strange fire?
  • When the rabble wistfully longed to eat slave food in an Egyptian death camp, and he unleashed fiery dragons to strike them down?
  • When the people rebelled out of fear of giants, he turned the wilderness into a garden of death, a graveyard for an entire generation?

Do You Remember . . .

  • That he remembered his promise to Abraham, the promise of blessing, offspring, and a land for his people?
  • That he demonstrated his power by sending his angelic general to fight on their behalf?
  • That he leveled a city with a marching band, but not before he saved a prostitute who by grace had come to fear and believe?
  • That he cleansed the land of Canaanite idolatry so that his people could have a holy inheritance among the nations?
  • That he caused his people to literally walk on the throats of his enemies?
  • That he led them into a land that flowed with milk and honey and gave them rest?
But wait, we’re not just supposed to remember these wondrous deeds. This psalm is not merely about the past. We're also directed to the future with five “forevers.”
  • His righteousness endures forever (verse 3)
  • He remembers his covenant forever (verse 5)
  • His precepts are established forever (verse 8)
  • He commands his covenant forever (verse 9)
  • His praise endures forever (verse 10)
These “forevers” remind us that there were greater works yet to come, works that we also do well to remember and study with delight.

So Do You Remember . . .

  • How he disarmed the principalities and powers through a carpenter on a tree?
  • How he conquers the kingdom of darkness with fishermen, tax collectors, and prostitutes?
  • How he still protects his people from the Death-Angel with Lamb’s blood on the door?
  • How he still provides daily bread and magic bread from heaven?
  • How, when his people thirst, he squeezes living water from the Rock who is Christ?
  • How he commands his covenant on fleshly hearts and dwells within them as his lasting abode?
  • How he is building a Glory-Tent out of people, a human temple built with living stones from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation?
  • How we are that people, wandering in a graveyard of death, building our homes on billions of bodies and bones buried under the earth?
  • How we follow the Greater Joshua into the inheritance of the nations, conquering with a two-edged sword (and a worship band or two)?
  • How we await the day when we will turn this graveyard into a holy Garden-City, when he will send Death to Hell, and when everything sad will come untrue?
Do you remember?
“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.”

What's the Deal with Anxiety?

by Jonathan Parnell 

"Think for a moment how many different sinful actions and attitudes come from anxiety. Anxiety about finances can give rise to coveting and greed and hoarding and stealing. Anxiety about succeeding at some task can make you irritable and abrupt and surly. Anxiety about relationships can make you withdrawn and indifferent and uncaring about other people. Anxiety about how someone will respond to you can make you cover over the truth and lie about things. So if anxiety could be conquered, a mortal blow would be struck to many other sins." (John Piper)
. . . One of the most important texts has been one I underlined when I was 15 — the whole section of Matthew 6:25–34. Four times in this passage Jesus says that his disciples should not be anxious.
  • Verse 25: "For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life."
  • Verse 27: "And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span?"
  • Verse 31: "Do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?'"
  • Verse 34: "Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow."
Anxiety is clearly the theme of this text. It makes the root of anxiety explicit in verse 30: "But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will he not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?" In other words, Jesus says that the root of anxiety is inadequate faith in our Father's future grace. As unbelief gets the upper hand in our hearts, one of the effects is anxiety. The root cause of anxiety is a failure to trust all that God has promised to be for us in Jesus.