Praying Before Meals

cheeseburger-521240_1280Do you pray before meals? If so, why? The following article provides much food for thought–sorry for the pun! It is written by Donald Whitney, author of Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life (an outstanding book we have used in our Bible Institute at SGCC).

Here’s the article: “No, I Won’t Bless the Food.”

–Pastor Greg

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Published in: | on June 18th, 2015 | Comments Off

I Want to See Jesus

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 3.45.28 PMI’ve recently begun re-reading R.C. Sproul’s book Knowing Scripture. Actually, a friend and I are going through it together. I’m only through the first chapter, but already I have been greatly challenged and encouraged.

In chapter one, Sproul lays out reasons why we don’t study our Bibles, and reasons why we should. One of his arguments for why we don’t study is that the church has been infected by the culture in that we find it very difficult to do things that we don’t feel like doing. He calls this infection, “The Sensuous Christian.” Here are a few nuggets to whet your appetite…

“Many of us have become sensuous Christians, living by our feelings rather than through our understanding of the Word of God. Sensuous Christians cannot be moved to service, prayer or study unless they ‘feel like it.’ Their Christian life is only as effective as the intensity of present feelings.” (p. 31)

“Sensuous Christians don’t need to study the Word of God because they already know the will of God by their feelings. They don’t want to know God; they want to experience him.” (p. 31)

“The highest law of sensuous Christians is that bad feelings must be avoided at all cost.” (p. 32)

“The Christian life is not to be a life of bare conjecture or cold rationalism but one of vibrant passion. Strong feelings of joy, love and exaltation are called for again and again. But those passionate feelings are a response to what we understand with our minds to be true.” (p. 32)

“Reflect for a moment. What happens in your own life when you act according to what you feel like doing rather than what you know and understand God says you should do? Here we encounter the ruthless reality of the difference between happiness and pleasure…happiness and pleasure are not the same thing. Both of them feel good, but only one endures. Sin can bring pleasure, but never happiness. ” (p. 33)

“It is precisely at the point of discerning the difference between pleasure and happiness that knowledge of Scripture is so vital. There is a remarkable relationship between God’s will and human happiness. The fundamental deception of Satan is the lie that obedience can never bring happiness.” (p. 33)

“The secret to happiness is found in obedience to God. How can we be happy if we are not obedient? How can we be obedient if we do not know what it is we are to obey? Thus the top and the tail of it is that happiness cannot be fully discovered as long as we remain ignorant of God’s Word.” (p. 34-35)

“To be sure, knowledge of God’s Word does not guarantee that we will do what it says, but at least we will know what we are supposed to be doing in our quest for human fulfillment. The issue of faith is not so much whether we believe in God, but whether we believe the God we believe in.” (p. 35)

Reading through chapter one, a familiar verse of Scripture that I learned as a young adult came to mind. It’s a verse that I frequently find myself drawn back to again and again, John 14:21…“Whoever has my commands and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” This verse is found in the passage where Jesus is speaking to his disciples about the Holy Spirit who is to come, and who will be another Helper like himself.

In this potent verse, I’m struck by several things that Jesus said. First, Jesus defines what it means to really love him, namely, to know and obey his commandments. Second, Jesus gives a promise to those who do so…himself! Can we ask for anything more that to have Jesus, to know him, to have him manifest himself to us? How often do we hear Christians—perhaps ourselves as well—earnestly say “Oh, if only I could see Jesus. Then I would love him. Then I would obey him.” Here Jesus says in effect, “Do you love me? Do you want to see me? Then obey me.”

This then leads us back to what Sproul seeks to prove in his book; if we want to know and obey Jesus, we must know him accurately, for who he truly is. How do we gain this knowledge? Through Knowing Scripture.

–Pastor Dave

 

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Published in: | on June 3rd, 2015 | Comments Off

Thinking Through Tech

Technology is an ever-changing target.  It seems that as soon as the latest iPhone or Samsung is officially placed on sale, rumors of the next one are already in the press. We easily acknowledge that this technology has immense potential for both great evil and great good, and have probably experienced a bit of both. But how do we as adults teach ourselves and the younger generations about the pitfalls of the technology that most of them have in their pockets?  Here are two very helpful articles from Tim Challies and Doug Wilson on that very topic.  I highly encourage everyone to take a look.

Letter to Teens Unboxing Their First Smartphone

Push Function Quit

–Geoff

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Published in: | on May 29th, 2015 | Comments Off

Dealing With Gossip

For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and they you may find me not as you wish–that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.” 2 Corinthians 12:20 (ESV)

gossipOur culture downplays the seriousness of gossip, and often seems to ignore its destructive power. But the Scriptures candidly address all aspects of our speech–including gossip. I recently read a helpful post that offered suggestions for dealing with this issue. I pray it is of benefit.

How To Shut Down Gossip (link)

–Pastor Greg

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Published in: | on May 20th, 2015 | Comments Off

To this end we always pray for you…

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 11.49.58 AMThis last Sunday, we looked at 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. The Apostle Paul, after having planted the church in Thessalonica, is quickly taken away. Eventually making his way to Athens, he receives word from his faithful co-laborer, Timothy, that the church is doing well, and he quickly dispatches a letter of encouragement to them. Shortly after that, he writes a second letter in which he again encourages them, especially in light of their affliction for the name of Christ, and addresses their concerns about the Lord’s return.

At the end of 2 Thessalonians chapter one, Paul speaks to the nature of his prayer for the Thessalonian church. As he regularly prays for them, Paul prays that “God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

In this prayer of Paul, we see two things. First, we see the purpose: “that Jesus may be glorified in you and you in him.” Second, we see the means by which the purpose will be met: that God, according to his grace, would continue to work in their lives, namely by making them worthy and by fulfilling every resolve for good and every work of faith. In other words, Paul recognizes that God has called the Thessalonians to himself, he has saved them, and he is sanctifying them, making them more and more like their Savior Jesus, so that they might be worthy of his calling. Not only that, Paul prays that God would fulfill every resolve they have for good and every work of faith. As James says in his letter that faith without works is dead, Paul does not separate faith from work. Those who are saved will be zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14).

Paul knew firsthand the circumstances in which the Thessalonian church was living. They had received the word in much affliction. It was not easy to be a follower of Jesus in Thessalonica. But Paul does not pray that they might be delivered from affliction. The focus of his prayer is not their temporal circumstances. His love for them and his prayer for them goes much deeper.

In his book A Call to Spiritual Reformation, D. A. Carson comments on Paul’s prayer and challenges the often temporal focus of our own prayers:

And so the text asks us: When was the last time you prayed this sort of prayer for your family? for your church? for your children? Do we not spend far more energy praying that our children will pass exams, or get a good job, or be happy, or not stray too far, than we do praying that they may live lives worthy of what it means to be a Christian?

This Thursday, May 7, is the National Day of Prayer. As we pray for our nation and for God’s church in America, will we pray like Paul prayed for the Thessalonian church?

–Pastor Dave

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Published in: | on May 6th, 2015 | Comments Off

What Israel Lacked in Numbers 11

I can recite Philippians 4:13 in Italian.  Ironically, for some reason I find it a tad easier to recite in Italian than in English.  Other than the word “prego”, I don’t really know much more Italian.  I memorized this verse while in Italy in 1999 on a short-term mission trip with Saints Equipped to Evangelize.  Back then I used the verse in the typical way,  as an empowering motto.  The verse says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil.4:13 ESV)  I recently read an article by a gent I went to school with which highlighted not only the specific fallacy of how I had for so long viewed this particular verse, but the underlying danger of taking any verse or passage out of context and running with it.  It gets to the heart of what Israel lacked so often in the wilderness and beyond, and the same goes for ourselves. It’s a short and, I hope, helpful article. Enjoy.

I Can Do All Things

~Geoff

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Published in: | on May 6th, 2015 | Comments Off

How To Use A Bible Commentary

photo[1]We have a solid selection of commentaries in our church library. I am encouraged to see the number of people in the congregation who make use of them, as these books can be a great help in deepening our understanding of God’s Word. But there can be pitfalls in referencing commentaries, too. The post below gives sound advice for avoiding some of the most common ones.

I would add one word of counsel in addition to the points the author makes: when reading a commentary, look for the arguments given and not simply the conclusions. Anyone can say that a particular verse means a certain thing. But what is more valuable is seeing the reasons given to support that understanding, and determining if those reasons are compelling.

Here’s the post: Don’t Be A Commentary Junkie

May this be a help as you pursue the inspired, inerrant, sufficient Scriptures!

–Pastor Greg

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Published in: | on April 22nd, 2015 | Comments Off

Play Ball!

IMG_1103This week marked the beginning of the 2015 Major League Baseball season. I realize that not everyone is a fan of America’s pastime (a fact that I will not try to hold against them), but it’s a big deal in our home. There is something intrinsically exciting about a new season. There is hope, new beginnings, a fresh start.

In our home we root for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Growing up in LA in the 1970s, I always knew who the players were going to be year in and year out. The outfield changed some, but I knew that Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey would be in the infield. However, those days are largely gone. Today most players change ball clubs several times during the course of their careers. But even though the faces may change, I still find myself a fan of the boys in blue.

The wave of what begins this week will carry us through the summer and into the early fall. There will be many ups and downs over the course of 162 games. There will be moments where our team will look like the ‘27 Yankees, and there will be times where they look like the ’62 Mets. But I will root for them just the same. They are my team. And unless the cable companies can work out a deal, I will have to be content with listening to the voices of Vinny, Charlie, and Rick on the radio. But I will listen.

Dodger games have been a part of our family from the very beginning. I took Kristen to a day game when we were first dating. In the early and awkward stages of getting to know one another, we sat through a 17 inning game that started in sunshine and ended long after dark. By the end we were sunburned and cold in the Los Angeles night air, but we had shared an experience that will last a lifetime.

While on our honeymoon in Monterey, California, while planning a day trip to San Francisco, I happened to check to see if the Giants had a home game. They did, and not only that, they were playing the Dodgers! Yes, we went to a Dodgers-Giants game at the old Candlestick Park on our honeymoon, and even got to see Fernando Valenzuela pitch! I knew I had married a good woman.

Our kids have all become faithful Dodger fans as well. Our oldest daughter, Anna, married Mike this past summer, who is also a diehard Dodger fan. I look forward to the day when I can take my grandkids to a game, and keep the tradition going.

But I am quick to admit that baseball is temporal. In the age to come, I don’t think we will care that much who won the World Series in 2015. Any entertainment–and let’s be honest, sports are entertainment–can be an ungodly distraction. If any thing draws away from devotion to Christ, it has become a sin, an idol. If I find that I read the box score more than my Bible, or if I know the ERA of the Dodgers’ starting rotation, but cannot defend from Scripture the deity of Christ, things are out of whack.

But, on the other hand, if I receive a thing–whether it be baseball or ballet, a good book or a good steak, movies or Mozart–with thanksgiving, as a gift from God to be enjoyed but not worshipped, it is a good thing. There is a God-honoring, God-glorifying reality in recognizing beauty, excellence, hard work, achievement, team work, time with friends and family, or the simple pleasure of a sunny day and a hot dog. Temporal things can touch eternity, if received with thanksgiving. Worship shows up in our lives, not only on Sunday mornings, but daily when we recognize God as the source of all life and the giver of every good thing.

So, with thanksgiving in my heart to the God of the universe, the Creator and Sustainer of all life, the Lover of my soul, my Savior and my God, I say, “Play ball!”

–Pastor Dave

 

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Published in: | on April 7th, 2015 | Comments Off

Reflecting on the Cross with R.C. Sproul

Jesus Became a Curse for Us

The Curse Motif of the Atonement

One aspect of the atonement has receded in our day almost into obscurity. In our present-day efforts to communicate the work of Christ more gently and kindly, we flee from any mention of God inflicting a curse upon his Son. We shrink in horror from the words of the prophet Isaiah (chapter 53) that describe the ministry of the suffering servant of Israel and tell us that it pleased the Lord to bruise him. Can you take that in? Somehow the Father took pleasure in bruising the Son when he set before him that awful cup of divine wrath. How could the Father be pleased by bruising his Son were it not for his eternal purpose through that bruising to restore us as his children?

The curse motif that seems utterly foreign to us in this time in history. When we speak today of the idea of “curse”, what do we think of? We think, perhaps, of a voodoo witch doctor who places pins in a doll made to replicate his enemy. We think of an occultist who is involved in witchcraft, putting spells and hexes upon people. The very word curse in our culture suggests some kind of superstition, but in biblical categories there is nothing superstitious about it.

The Hebrew Benediction

If you really want to understand what it meant to a Jew to be cursed, I think the simplest way is to look at a benediction clergy often use to conclude a church service:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
(Num. 6:24–26)

The structure of this famous Old Testament benediction follows a common Hebrew poetic form known as “parallelism”. There are various types of parallelism in Hebrew literature. There’s antithetical parallelism, in which ideas are set in contrast to each other. There is synthetic parallelism, which contains a building crescendo of ideas. But one of the most common forms of parallelism is synonymous parallelism, and, as the words suggest, this type of parallelism restates something with different words. There is no clearer example of synonymous parallelism anywhere in Scripture than in the benediction in Numbers 6, where exactly the same thing is said in three different ways. If you don’t understand one line of it, then look to the next one, and maybe it will reveal to you the meaning.

We see in the benediction three stanzas with two elements in each one: “bless” and “keep”; “face shine” and “be gracious”; and “lift up the light of his countenance” and “give you peace.” For the Jew, to be blessed by God was to be bathed in the refulgent glory that emanates from his face. “The Lord bless you” means “the Lord make his face to shine upon you.” Is this not what Moses begged for on the mountain when he asked to see God? Yet God told him that no man can see him and live. So God carved out a niche in the rock and placed Moses in the cleft of it, and God allowed Moses to see a glimpse of his backward parts but not of his face. After Moses had gotten that brief glance of the back side of God, his face shone for an extended period of time. But what the Jew longed for was to see God’s face, just once.

The Jews’ ultimate hope was the same hope that is given to us in the New Testament, the final eschatological hope of the beatific vision: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Don’t you want to see him? The hardest thing about being a Christian is serving a God you have never seen, which is why the Jew asked for that.

The Supreme Malediction

But my purpose here is not to explain the blessing of God but its polar opposite, its antithesis, which again can be seen in vivid contrast to the benediction. The supreme malediction would read something like this:

May the Lord curse you and abandon you. May the Lord keep you in darkness and give you only judgment without grace. May the Lord turn his back upon you and remove his peace from you forever.”

When on the cross, not only was the Father’s justice satisfied by the atoning work of the Son, but in bearing our sins the Lamb of God removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. He did it by being cursed. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Gal. 3:13). He who is the incarnation of the glory of God became the very incarnation of the divine curse.

Excerpt taken from “The Curse Motif of the Cross” by R.C. Sproul in Proclaiming a Cross Centered Theology, Copyright ©2009. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187.

Here is a link to the article on the ligonier website.

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/supreme-malediction-jesus-became-curse/

Here is a link to a video where Dr. Sproul talks about the same subject.

Curse Motif

 

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Published in: | on April 3rd, 2015 | Comments Off

A Fresh Look at Sunday

bible-53753_640

It can be easy to take Sunday mornings for granted. For some of us, going to church is a routine developed years ago; for others, it is a fairly new part of our lives.

But I suspect for all of us there are times when we are tempted to “go on autopilot” – to attend out of habit and not reflect on what is happening when we gather as the people of God.

The following article encouraged me to consider afresh some of the amazing things that take place when the saints come together. I pray it will stir you as well.

The Wonder of Sunday Morning

I am looking forward to our time together this weekend!

–Pastor Greg

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Published in: | on March 25th, 2015 | Comments Off