Good evening brother and sisters…
Have you noticed how the days are growing appreciably longer with the sun rising earlier and setting later? What that tells us is that Spring is on its way and, IMHO, it can arrive none too soon.
I was reading Psalm 73 this week and encountered this challenging and convicting verse: Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you (Psalm 73:25).
The “You” here is Yahweh…it is the Lord Jesus Christ. Without a doubt, most of us would affirm this verse in principle. But how many of us can, with absolute and unshakable sincerity, say this is genuinely true of us?
“But then,” we might ask, “are all other desires inappropriate or illegitimate?” What about Psalm 37:4? Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. So other desires, other longings cannot be considered illegitimate.
The psalmist is making use of hyperbole here to drive home his point, Namely, that our highest desire, our chief desire, our ultimate desire must be for our Lord Jesus Christ. All other desires must be subservient to that one insatiable longing. Our longing for Christ must be such that all other desires we might have are ultimately of little consequence as long as we have Christ. As long as we have Christ, we have everything.
Paul’s words in Philippians 3:8-14 make this very point in a profound and soul-stirring manner.
8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have [c]apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
What about you, brother…what about you, sister? Would you be willing to suffer the loss of all things in order to have Jesus? If all material things were stripped away, if every single relationship you have came to an end, if your health was taken from you, that is, if you lost everything, would Jesus be enough? Could you say with the prophet Habakkuk (3:17-18): 17Though fig tree the may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
This Lord’s Day, we will be blessed to have Pastor Jim Strietlemeier open God’s word for us. Please continue to pray for Jim and the ministry of Neighborhood Fellowship. Lord willing, I will be back in the pulpit next Lord’s Day. The Order of Worship is attached.
Our 11th annual Scottish Ball is tomorrow evening. The festivities kick off at 6:30 PM. I trust we will see many of our families there.
Also, please remember that on February 24, we will be conducting our annual congregational meeting. It is crucial that we have representation from each family in our congregation. Please make this a priority for your family. We will be reviewing the budget and answering any questions you might have. We will also provide you with a status report on where our Pastor Search Committee (a.k.a., the Session) is in their search for our next pastor. Here, too, we will endeavor to answer any questions you might have with regard to the process. Additionally, we will be presenting Bob Rotan to the congregation as a candidate for Deacon. You will be voting on whether you believe he should serve in that office. Should he be elected, immediately following the conclusion of the business of the congregational meeting, we will move to ordain and install Bob in that office. So, I trust you recognize the vital importance of broad participation by the congregation as we address these critical issues.
· February 15–Scottish Ball
· February 17–Adults Fellowship Group (westsiders)
· February 18–Adults Fellowship Group (townies)
· February 22–Family Game Night
· February 24–Neighborhood Fellowship
· February 24– Annual Congregational meeting
· February 25–Ladies group
Do not waste your time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. – CS Lewis
All the fruits of the Spirit which we are to lay weight upon as evidential of grace, are summed up in charity, or Christian love; because this is the sum of all grace. And the only way, therefore, in which any can know their good estate, is by discerning the exercises of this divine charity in their hearts; for without charity, let men have what gifts you please, they are nothing.—Jonathan Edwards
Human love is directed to the other person for his own sake, spiritual love loves him for Christ’s sake. Therefore, human love seeks direct contact with the other person; it loves him not as a free person but as one whom it binds to itself. It wants to gain, to capture by every means; it uses force. It desires to be irresistible, to rule.” ―Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. –Augustine
I wish, brothers and sisters, that we could all imitate “the pearl oyster”—A hurtful particle intrudes itself into its shell, and this vexes and grieves it. It cannot reject the evil, but what does it do but “cover” it with a precious substance extracted out of its own life, by which it turns the intruder into a pearl! Oh, that we could do so with the provocations we receive from our fellow Christians, so that pearls of patience, gentleness, and forgiveness might be bred within us by that which otherwise would have harmed us.—Charles Spurgeon
Leave it all in the Hands that were wounded for you. —Elisabeth Elliot
God is more interested in our holiness than in our comfort. —D.A. Carson
I’ve never known a man or woman who came to spiritual maturity except through discipline. Godliness comes through discipline. —Donald Whitney
Singing Lies in Church
Aiden W. Tozer once said, “Christians don’t tell lies–they just go to church and sing them!” This is one of those quotes that jolts us to the core once it is properly understood. Without context, however, many people misunderstand what he is saying because they immediately begin to think of hymns and worship songs with bad theology, and there are plenty of song lyrics we sing that should cause us to scratch our heads, such as: READ MORE…
Expelled from China
Last fall, missionary John Miller sat in the back row of an unregistered church in Sichuan province, worshipping as he had every Sunday morning for the past year and a half. Then eight police officers walked in. As the only foreigner in the room, Miller tried to sneak out of the building, but police noticed him and ran down the aisle to stop him. They asked for his passport and took down his information before allowing him to return to worship.
Two days later, Miller heard the police knocking on his door but didn’t answer. Miller had no idea how police had found him—he was staying in an apartment rented by local church member John Wu (for security reasons, I’ve given pseudonyms to Wu and the missionaries in this story), and Miller had not registered the address. He moved to another apartment owned by church members. One week later, police contacted Wu and insisted he bring Miller to the station the next morning to register his address. READ MORE…
How Jesus Trains Husbands
Guy M. Richard
Most of us know that Ephesians 5:25 calls husbands to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” but I am not so sure that we know what this Christlike love is supposed to look like in practice. There are no details given in Ephesians 5, no list of ten ways that husbands can accomplish this challenging command. There are no pictures showing us exactly how to do it and no warning lights to alert us when we are missing the mark. There are no indicators to encourage us when we are in the general vicinity of Christlikeness.
My marriage would certainly benefit from these kinds of helps. It has taken me far too long to understand even a little of what Ephesians 5:25 is calling me to as a husband. And my experience as a pastor tells me that most men are struggling at least as much as I am to understand what it means to love their wives. That is why I would like to take up this difficult subject and to talk about it here. I want to spend some time exploring, first, what it means to love our wives in a Christlike way, and second, how we can evaluate whether we are succeeding. My hope is to encourage husbands to give themselves more energetically to the work of loving their wives in a Christlike way. READ MORE…
Against Yous, Yous Only Have I Sinned
The Lord has blessed me with a dear friend named John, a man with many qualities I love and admire. He also has a quirk that I find endlessly enjoyable–his use of the word “yous.” John is from small-town Ontario and where he comes from “yous” is an acceptable form of the second person plural, a shortened form of “you guys,” I suppose. English may well be the only language that has a personal pronoun that is identical for the singular and the plural and in some contexts the solution is to tack an “s” onto the end of the plural. It may be inelegant, but at the very least it’s practical. Yous may want to give it a try at some point.
A little while ago I found myself reflecting on the corporate nature of sanctification and understanding that I need to grow in holiness not just for my own sake but out of love and concern for those around me. “If I love the people in my church, I will grow in holiness for their sake. I am prone to thinking that holiness is an individual pursuit, but when I see sanctification as a community project, now it is more of a team pursuit. I am growing in holiness so that I can help others grow in holiness, I am putting sin to death so I can help others put sin to death. My church needs me and I need my church, and this is exactly how God has designed it.” READ MORE…
The Power of the Gospel and the Meltdown of Identity Politics
American politics increasingly resembles a soap opera and, at least for now, Virginia has taken center stage. The drama in the state continues to unfold as the Commonwealth’s top three Democrats face pressure to resign. The Governor’s personal yearbook page from medical school contained a racially insensitive photo of a man in blackface shoulder-to-shoulder with a person dressed in Ku Klux Klan regalia. Later, the Governor also admitted to performing in blackface at a party in the 1980s. The Attorney General admitted to wearing blackface at a college party as well. Add to that the now egregious accusations of sexual abuse and rape that swirl around the Lieutenant Governor. The headlines out of Virginia are a dismal drama exacerbated by a recent development in the Democratic Party and driving the cultural Left in America: identity politics. READ MORE…
JESUS COMFORTS US EVEN IN THE DUMB STUFF
The science building at our college was set on a hill with a giant wall on the side. Meaning that one section of the wall you could jump over and the drop would be no more than a foot—while further on down the wall the drop would be upwards of 30 feet. While in the middle of a riveting game of campus-wide freeze tag I propelled myself over the wall. I thought I was at a safe foot or two drop. I wasn’t. I knew I was in trouble when I actually had a thought as I was falling. It’s disconcerting when you think to yourself, “Hmm, I haven’t landed yet, this is going to hurt…hmpfff”.
My breath immediately abandoned me. All my bones felts as if they had shifted into the wrong places. I was convinced an ambulance would be in my short future. But then my breath returned (along with throbbing pain) as my friends towered over me asking if I was okay. I lied. There is an unspoken rule that it’s okay to get hurt, it’s okay to be an idiot, but it’s not okay to be hurt while being an idiot. So I pretended like I wasn’t dying.
A good part of the purpose of 2 Corinthians is Paul’s invitation to the Corinthians to partner with him in suffering. This letter is a call to share in the sufferings of Paul and thus the sufferings of Christ and to do this for the sake of their comfort. But the Corinthians were being a bit like me when I pretended like a 15 foot fall didn’t hurt a bit. READ MORE…
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
“In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight.” J. Gresham Machen
“When Christ calls a man – he bids him come and die.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer