Arguments Against Anxiety

Anxiety can be devastating. Perhaps you are struggling with it even as you read this post. How are we to combat its crippling effects? What help do the Scriptures provide that we might successfully wage war against it?

John Piper recently spoke on anxiety at Bethlehem College and Seminary. Although his address is in the form of an “assignment” he might give students, I believe the message is one we all need to hear. He walks through Matthew 6:24–34 and identifies the arguments Jesus provides there for dealing with this issue. How powerful and relevant the Scriptures are! I highly recommend this video, and pray it is an encouragement to each of us as we endeavor to fight the fight of faith.

–Pastor Greg

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Published in: | on July 16th, 2014 | Comments Off

21 Words for Fathers

I was originally trying to post this for Father’s Day, but better late then never!  This is a fairly short clip from a Pastor named Douglas Wilson. Many of you will be familiar with him, but for those who aren’t, he’s one of my favorite guys to listen to. He is especially helpful to me in regard to the resources he provides on Biblical manhood. It’s a subject very close to both his heart and mine, and a reality that is in serious decline in the American church today. I found this list, “21 Words for Fathers,” of particular help, so I figured I’d pass it along.  It’s helpful regardless of whether or not you are a father, as all of us are impacted by this role in one way or another.

[21 Words for Fathers from Canon Wired on Vimeo.]

Geoff

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Published in: | on July 9th, 2014 | Comments Off

Checking Up On Our Bible Reading

A Bible studyJune! The year is half finished, and those well-intentioned goals for Bible reading crafted last January may seem like they were made an eternity ago. But I believe it is a great time to stop and ask how we are doing. Are we spending more time in God’s Word now than we were a year ago? Are we growing in our love and delight of its treasures? Has our vision of God and his glory increased as we read its pages? Do we sense we are becoming conformed more to the image of Christ because of time in the Scriptures?

In a perfect world, we all would answer with a resounding “Yes!” to each question. But I suspect for some of us that is not quite the case. So what’s the solution? One option is to give up and wait for next January to roll around so we can make a fresh batch of goals. But I would suggest a different approach. Regardless of where we are in our devotional lives at the moment, let’s join the Psalmist in praying the prayer of Psalm 119:18: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (ESV)

Steve Fuller, former pastor here at SGCC and Men’s Retreat speaker for us last fall, recently wrote a blog post on this verse. You can read it by clicking here. The article is filled with practical help for growing in our times in the Word, even if we find ourselves struggling. I pray it will be an encouragement.

Let’s press on in the reading of God’s Word. January will be here soon enough!

–Pastor Greg

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Published in: | on June 18th, 2014 | Comments Off

Walking Through Sin with Someone You Love

Dealing with sin is hard work, and messy. We know this both from the sin in our own lives, and from interacting with others.  Dealing with sin in our family – those closest to us – is even harder, and can be even messier. And yet, these are the people God has brought into our lives to walk through these processes with: to whom we minister, and by whom we are ministered to.

I’ve had several conversations lately about how to walk biblically when we are dealing with sin in someone close to us. I’m excited that folks are working through these issues and not just sloughing them off; it stands to reason that many others are working through similar situations, as well.

I am recommending an article Charity forwarded to me entitled “What if Your Child is Gay?” This article specifically addresses its title topic, but also deals generally with how to respond to the sin of a family member (or someone we have a relationship with) whether they repent of their sin or not. It looks at the pitfalls so many of us are tempted to tumble into while walking through these hard situations. It’s also not a bad thing to be prepared for the ever-increasing possibility that someone in your family will deal with same-sex related issues.

Click here for the article

–Geoff

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Published in: | on June 11th, 2014 | Comments Off

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck … maybe.

Mallard2Let me introduce you to four men — four modern American evangelicals. We see these men every day.

Each claims the name Christian, and holds to a particular rule or philosophy, though he may not have arrived at such a position consciously or be able to articulate it clearly.

The first man lives by the rule “Christianity is a means by which I can live a peaceful life — one that minimizes pain while maximizing pleasure.” On the surface, he claims to hold to the basic tenets of the faith. He will tell you that he believes in Jesus. He will tell you the Bible is the word of God. He may even read his Bible regularly, but his is a faith of convenience. Put him in another context, where another faith is the dominant religion, and he will align himself with it. He is a religious chameleon, taking the faith of the culture around him. He has not really examined the truthfulness of the claims of Christianity — he just has grown accustomed to it. His faith has never really been challenged because it’s so benignly personal. Christianity leads to a healthy, happy life, but how it does, he has not considered. Christianity allows him to avoid many of the negative consequences of living a godless life. Loving his wife avoids the ugliness of divorce; being honest on his taxes keeps him from going to jail; doing all things in moderation avoids obesity, heart disease, and liver failure. Him we may call the Christian Epicurean.

The second man lives by the rule “I will embrace Christianity in so far as it gives me what I want; when it doesn’t, I will do as I please.” Like the Epicurean, he aligns himself with the Christian name. On a practical level, in most cases, Christianity is the best, most pleasant way to live — until, that is, it becomes difficult or too demanding. He is an ethical Christian businessman, until a desired promotion demands that he fudge on an important report. He is a generous believer, insisting that while God is holy, and he would like his children to be, he is not such an ogre that he would actually demand obedience. He’s a 21st century Ananias, who has sold the property, skimmed his share off the top, and convinced himself that God doesn’t operate the way he used to in the Bible days. Him we may call the Christian Atheist. He claims there is a God, but when push comes to shove, he lives as if there is not. He is similar to the Christian Epicurean, but the difference is in the degree. The Christian Epicurean may become the Christian Atheist; the Christian Atheist may have been a Christian Epicurean. The Christian Epicurean still holds that the commands of God are desirable. The Christian Atheist believes they are desirable until they are inconvenient.

The third man lives by the rule “I believe in Jesus, I know the gospel is right and true, but I can’t expect much joy in this life.” This man lives a life of drudgery. Faith is bare obedience to the precepts of God, stripped of the thrill of enjoying the presence of God. He must obey because it is right, not because it is good. If he has some temporal joy in life, he is anxiously waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop. He has taken the truth about the vanity of this life to such an extreme that he misses the eternity present in it. Feeling the life-giving sun on his face, he can only think of skin cancer. Seeing only the brokenness of the world, he misses the beauty. Enjoying a delicious meal, he feels guilt at the supposed excess, which robs him of the opportunity to thank God for the simple gift of taste. He is as pleasant as a toothache. Him we may call the Christian Eeyore.

The fourth man lives by the rule “My greatest joy in life is God’s greatest glory.” John Piper has written much about this man, and has given him the title “the Christian Hedonist.” This man actually believes the psalm that says “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” This man believes the gospel message: that although he was a sinner, Jesus died for his sin, and that by faith and repentance in Jesus, he has been born anew, has been made a new creation, has been forgiven of all of his sin, has been made holy in God’s sight, and has been assured a fixed eternity in the presence of God. He has also come to know the truth as Jesus declared it: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Of course, the term “Christian Epicurean” is an oxymoron, as is “Christian Atheist” or “Christian Eeyore.” You cannot add the adjective “Christian” to something that stands in contradiction to it. (For a defense of the term “Christian Hedonist,” I would refer you to Piper’s book, Desiring God.) What’s more, the adjective “Christian” doesn’t just add to what follows — it changes it completely and identifies it wholly. If I say “I am a Christian American” (which I believe is the proper word order), I am making a statement of identity and ultimate allegiance, by which I can truthfully — and, I believe, biblically — say that I have more in common with a Christian Russian, a Christian Ukrainian, a Christian Israeli, or a Christian Palestinian, than I do with a non-Christian American.

We live in a world where people are afraid to draw solid lines. Everything has become fuzzy and gray. In an ironic mix of charity and arrogance, people quickly, uncritically defend anyone’s claim to be a Christian, but dismissively label “narrow” and “mean-spirited” those bold enough to assert that certain truth claims and evidence, or fruit, should be expected of any who call themselves Christian.

It seems pretty clear in the New Testament that Jesus and the Apostles were not afraid to draw lines dark and thick:

“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (Mark 8:34)

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” (2 Peter 2:1)

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. “(Jude 3-4, 11-13)

“Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (1 Timothy 1:13-14)

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:12-17)

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life — is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:15-19)

So, what is the point of all this? Is it to point fingers at those who claim to be something they are not? No. My desire is twofold.

First, that in looking at these four men, we would examine our own hearts. Am I a Christian because I truly believe the gospel and love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength? Or, have I made up a religion of my own by creating a god in my image and simply painting it over with a Christian coating? If it suddenly became difficult to bear the name “Christian” (and I mean really difficult, in that it may cost me everything), would I still hold fast? Would I, like Peter, say, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)

Second, let us not be afraid to defend the truth — to lovingly, graciously, but firmly clarify what Scripture teaches about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The Enemy’s most effective deceptions are the ones most subtle. He is clever. He will dress up a deception so that it looks as much as the real thing without being the real thing, and thus lead many astray. To allow another human to go along in the belief that he is saved, when in fact he is fooled by a lie, is neither kind nor loving. Let’s love enough to stand up for the truth.

–Pastor Dave

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Published in: | on June 4th, 2014 | Comments Off

The Gospel is not . . . (Part Two)

Pastor Steve recently posted an article in which he highlighted some timely warnings from D.A. Carson against confusing the effects of the gospel with the gospel itself. (Click here to read that post, entitled “The Gospel is Not . . .”).

Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote on a similar theme a few weeks ago. He deals explicitly with the issue of moralism, and contrasts it with the gospel message. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Mohler’s article:

Just as parents rightly teach their children to obey moral instruction, the church also bears responsibility to teach its own the moral commands of God and to bear witness to the larger society of what God has declared to be right and good for His human creatures.

But these impulses, right and necessary as they are, are not the Gospel. Indeed, one of the most insidious false gospels is a moralism that promises the favor of God and the satisfaction of God’s righteousness to sinners if they will only behave and commit themselves to moral improvement.

The moralist impulse in the church reduces the Bible to a codebook for human behavior and substitutes moral instruction for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Far too many evangelical pulpits are given over to moralistic messages rather than the preaching of the Gospel.

The corrective to moralism comes directly from the Apostle Paul when he insists that “a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus.” Salvation comes to those who are “justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” [Gal. 2:16]

We sin against Christ and we misrepresent the Gospel when we suggest to sinners that what God demands of them is moral improvement in accordance with the Law. Moralism makes sense to sinners, for it is but an expansion of what we have been taught from our earliest days. But moralism is not the Gospel, and it will not save. The only gospel that saves is the Gospel of Christ. As Paul reminded the Galatians, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” [Gal. 4:4-5]

We are justified by faith alone, saved by grace alone, and redeemed from our sin by Christ alone. Moralism produces sinners who are (potentially) better behaved. The Gospel of Christ transforms sinners into the adopted sons and daughters of God.

(Click here to read Dr. Mohler’s entire article).

We must always be careful to stay true to the gospel. There are so many subtle (and insidious!) ways to lose sight of it, and to exchange it for something else. Perhaps now would be a good time for us to prayerfully meditate on a passage like Ephesians 2:1-10 or Colossians 2:13-14 or Titus 3:4-7 and again preach the gospel to ourselves.

–Pastor Greg

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Published in: | on May 21st, 2014 | Comments Off

Feed Your Heart. Feed It! (Scottish Accent)

This blog post title is informed by the Scotts Lawn Care commercials with the Scottish guy named Scott, I believe. I thought of it when I recently read an article entitled A Bible Reading Plan for Readers. The article’s main theme is that we should go after scripture and devour it in big clumps.  It has always seemed strange to me that we would read scripture so differently than how it was communicated originally. The Bible is a collection of books, and these books are to be read, at least every once in a while, as whole pieces, and not simply excerpted as single-page devotionals.

I was reminded of this article (and ones like it) on the Gospel Coalition website by a friend some days ago. It’s an interesting perspective and a short but worthwhile read.

–Geoff

Click here to view article.

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Published in: | on May 14th, 2014 | Comments Off

Bible-Saturated People

sponge In the summer of 1990 I was in Manila, Philippines. The plan was to be in Manila for five weeks as part of a campaign with Campus Crusade for Christ to saturate the city with the Gospel of Jesus. Many of the different ministries of CCC, including ours, the high school ministry, had planned various outreaches throughout the city. The high school ministry was to speak in every public high school in Manila. Everything was pre-arranged. Scout teams had spent months preparing. Money had been raised. Extensive evangelism training had taken place.

I arrived in Manila early, while most were still in the U.S. or en route. Then, the unexpected happened: the CCC leadership received an anonymous death threat. (I can’t recall if the group claimed to be Marxist or Muslim. Both are possible in the Philippines.) So, quickly our plans changed. About a third of our group stayed in Manila, while the rest were diverted to Hong Kong, Macau, Hawaii (ya, bummer right?) and Singapore. My group went to Singapore. The summer of 1990 ended up being very different than planned. Yet, at the end of the summer, as we reflected upon the work that had been accomplished, we realized that all the goals had still been reached. In addition, unexpected evangelism and discipleship had occurred in the other locations. How did that happen? Our convictions were set before the crisis hit. We trusted in the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, the power of His Word, and our staff and students were trained and equipped for ministry. So, when the crisis hit, we just moved locations, and the ministry continued.

Crises rarely come when we expect them. We cannot put them on our calendar. Thus, we need to be prepared. Growing up in southern California in the seventies, I remember practicing “duck and cover” drills in school. When the bell rang, we would all duck under our desks and cover our heads, rehearsing what we would do if “the big one” hit or the Soviets bombed us.

All of us will go through times of crisis: death, cancer, job loss, prodigal children, marital strife, etc. God is the only one strong enough, wise enough, faithful enough to bring us through the storms of life. The better we know him, his attributes, his promises, his absolute sovereignty over every detail of life and his intimate care for his children, the better prepared we are for the days of darkness that may lie ahead. We come to know God in his holy, inspired word, the Bible, and as we obey him. So, when is the best time to prepare: before the crisis, or after it hits? Clearly, the best time to prepare is before the crisis.

This past weekend, about fifty or so of us from the church and school attended Impact, a conference put on by the ministry Children Desiring God. Our children’s ministry and school chapel program have been using CDG’s curriculum for several years now.

During one of the main sessions, the speaker, David Michael, was talking about the importance of being Bible-saturated people. As he spoke, next to him on the stage was a bucket of water in the shape of a large black Bible. At one point, he reached into the bucket and pulled out a sponge, the big yellow kind you see used for washing cars. The sponge was filled with water. As he lifted the heavy sponge, water poured out from the bottom. He squeezed the sponge and more water oozed out. He dipped the sponge back in the water, then, drawing it out, poked at it with a long stick. Again water ran out. As he repeatedly drew the sponge in and out of the water he said, “Bible-saturated people drip Bible. Everything we observe, are taught, consider, decide, and conclude is shaped and influenced by the Word of God. If we are saturated by the Word, we have an ever-present and infinitely wise Counselor, Comforter, and Interpreter to guide us and others through us.”

So, how are you doing at becoming a Bible-saturated person? Jesus at the close of his Sermon on the Mount said this: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”(Matthew 7:24-27)

–Pastor Dave

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Published in: | on May 7th, 2014 | Comments Off

Have You Visited Our Library Lately?

photo[1] Our church library has a wonderful collection of books. The collection contains many volumes that address specific topics like family, relationships, determining God’s will for your life, finances, and many other areas. You will find an outstanding assortment of authors, including Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, J.I. Packer and John Piper. As you would expect, there are commentaries on every book of the Bible, reference books like concordances, Bible encyclopedias and atlases, and a solid selection of translations and Study Bibles. We also have books covering a wide variety of subject areas including Missions, Apologetics, Church History, and Theology.

For those interested in delving deeper into a passage, there are resources in Hebrew and Greek, many of which are very usable by those of us who have never studied these Biblical languages. We also are planning to add a Children’s Bookshelf that will prove to be a great resource for our families. When we moved our worship services back to the Sanctuary building, our church library moved with us. It is located inside the Sanctuary on the north side of the building, between the cry room and restrooms.

If you have never used the library before, you will find it very simple to borrow books. Simply note the books you’d like in the notebook displayed on the table. You may keep a book for as long as you need, but please keep in mind that others in the church family may also wish to use it. When you are finished, simply return the book(s) to the red box you will find on the bottom shelf of the center bookcase, and then note the date next to your original entry in the notebook. That’s it! We add titles regularly. If there is a particular book you would like to see added to the collection, please let me know and we will see if we can include it. A good cross-section of our church family is already using this helpful resource. If you haven’t had a chance yet, I would encourage you to take a look at the church library this Sunday.

–Pastor Greg

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Published in: | on May 2nd, 2014 | Comments Off

The Heavens Declare The Glory Of God!

David exclaimed this truth 3000 years ago as he penned the opening of Psalm 19. He undoubtedly spent many nights alone as a young shepherd gazing at the stars and contemplating the greatness of the God who spoke into existence all that filled his eyes.

For many of us these kinds of experiences are difficult to come by today. Demanding schedules seem to crowd out the time for such solitude and reflection, and the lights of our cities would veil the stars should we finally make the time to gaze at them anyway. But despite these significant disadvantages, we have the opportunity to be struck by the majesty of God’s heavens in ways that David himself could never imagine.

For years now I have followed a NASA website dubbed “APOD” (Astronomy Picture of the Day). As the site explains, “Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.” Although the commentary will not give God the glory for what is pictured, and though the explanations are not always consistent with Scripture, it is nonetheless breathtaking to see the handiwork of our amazing God in this way.

You may enjoy checking out the site, and may likewise find it an occasion for worship:

http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/

To the praise of his glory!

–Pastor Greg

 

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Published in: | on April 23rd, 2014 | Comments Off