Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Prayer of Confession: The First Commandment

O LORD our God,
who ransomed a people for Yourself
from every tribe and tongue,
You alone are God.

Yet, with the grumbling of our mouths,
the complaints we entertain in our minds,
and the discontent we harbor in our hearts,
We have not worshipped you alone;
instead, we have sinned against you
by elevating our own wisdom beside yours.

Too often times we’ve thought
situations should have been different,
places should have been switched,
roles should have been reversed.
We have presumed that we, not you, know what is best.

We have sinned against you
by complaining about and questioning
your wise and perfect ordering of all things. 
Forgive us, Father,
through Jesus Christ,
whose blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
We ask that You would give us grace and faith to see,
whatever our circumstances,
that You alone are God and You order all things well.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Spurgeon on Contentment

-->While preparing for a sermon on Philippians 4:10–23, I came across these words from Charles Spurgeon. In a sermon on Philippians 4:11, Spurgeon said: 
“These words show us that contentment
is not a natural propensity of man. ‘Ill weeds grow apace.’ Covetousness, discontent, and murmuring are as natural to man as thorns are to the soil. We need not sow thistles and brambles; they come up naturally enough, because they
are indigenous to earth: and so, we need not teach men to complain; they complain fast enough without any education. But the precious things of the earth must be cultivated. If we would have wheat, we must plough and sow; if we want flowers, there must be the garden, and all the gardener’s care. Now, contentment is one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated; it will not grow in us by nature; it is the new nature alone that can produce it, and even then we must be specially careful and watchful that we maintain and cultivate the grace which God has sown in us.”

I think his words capture part of what Paul is saying in Philippians 4:10–23 quite well. Contentment, as with any part of our sanctification (our becoming more holy and Christlike), is cooperative. Certainly it is God's grace that must first act and give us the desire to be holy, and yes it is God's Spirit that must aid us in our pursuit of holiness, but we are called to work at fighting any and all behavior that is not Christlike and to seek to cultivate those Christian virtues which are.

Philippians: August 10 Sermon Handout

This Sunday at New Life Fellowship we'll make an eighth and final examination of Paul's letter to the Philippians. You can download a sermon outline here (note that the outline is formatted for legal paper). There will also be handouts available at the church.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Philippians: August 3 Sermon Handout

This week at New Life Fellowship we'll be looking at the series of commands or instructions that the Paul writes to the Philippian church. Paul's main hope is that the Philippians will stand firm in the Lord Jesus-- that they will not run or retreat as the going gets tough. He provides eight other instructions that are intended to help the Philippians (and all who follow Jesus) know how to stand firm in the Lord. 

If you're a part of the New Life Fellowship community, or you're thinking of checking us out (the service begins around 10:30 AM), you can download an outline for Sunday's message by clicking here.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Philippians: July 27 Sermon Handout

This upcoming Sunday I'll be preaching at New Life Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Red Deer. The sermon, on Philippians 3:12–21, will be the sixth of an eight week series examining Paul's letter to the Philippians. You can download an outline to accompany Sunday's sermon by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Baptisms in Iran

In its most recent issue, Christianity Today published a photo with the caption "Persian Plunge". The angels in heaven rejoiced as 228 former Muslims professed their faith in Jesus and were baptized (Luke 15). On Sunday I shared this photo with New Life Fellowship in hopes of broadening our vision of the work of the Holy Spirit in drawing sinners from every tribe and nation to repentance and faith in Christ, to produce gratitude to God for his faithfulness, and to encourage prayer for the persecuted church.

Image Source

When Paul is writing to the church at Philippi he urges the Philippians to be humble, selfless, and to consider the interests of the other brothers and sisters (Philippians 2:1–4). Later in chapter two he points to Jesus (Philippians 2:5–11), Timothy (Philippians 2:19–24), and Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25–30) as examples worthy of emulation who have a genuine concern for the welfare of the saints. One such way the church can have this attitude of genuine concern is to remember in our prayers Christian brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their obedience to Christ. Those who feel led to pray for the church in Iran may be aided by consulting Operation World's prayer guide for Iran.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

July 13 Sermon Handout

Tomorrow morning at New Life Fellowship Christian Reformed Church I'll be preaching through Philippians 2:19–30. I'd encourage you to read it ahead of time. I've produced an accompanying handout which you can download here (note: it's formatted for 5 x 11 paper) and will be made available in hard copy tomorrow morning.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Humiliation and Exalation of Jesus from Philippians 2

The sermon yesterday was an exposition of Philippians 2:1–13. In this passage, Paul commands the Philippians to put off selfish ambition and conceitedness-- two things that would destroy the unity Paul sought for the Philippians in Philippians 1:27–30-- and to instead share the same attitude, the same love, and humbly consider others as more important than one's own interests.

Perhaps for the purpose of motivation, or perhaps for instructional purposes, Paul points to the ministry of Jesus as the example they should follow. In six sweeping verses, Paul moves from a picture of Jesus at the beginning of time to a picture of Jesus at the end of time; however, it's the middle verses that highlight the selfless, sacrificial service that Christ performed on behalf of those he would redeem. The following diagram-- my personal adaptation of the diagram formed in the ESV Study Bible-- illustrates the movement of Jesus from the glories of heaven to the agonies of earth to his final exaltation by the Father. 


Please excuse the mild pixelation and formatting issues that arose when I posted online. The diagram did not translated as smoothly as I had hoped.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Praying for your Pastor

"...for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance..." (Philippians 1:19, ESV)

In Philippians 1:19, Paul writes that he expects his that his circumstances-- dire though they may seem given his imprisonment-- will result in his deliverance or salvation (the Greek could be translated to as either deliverance or salvation). One of the striking things about this verse is that Paul acknowledges the prayers of the Philippians on his behalf. The people are praying for their pastor and friend! 

What an example worthy of imitation in our churches! If you want to pray for your pastor and would like some suggestions in how you might do so, I'd encourage you to check out the article "How to Pray for Your Pastor: Praying for Your Pastor's Personal Life, Family Life, and Ministry" at Leadership Resources. Consider printing off this article and reading one or two suggestions during your personal or family devotions and incorporating them into your prayers.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Foxe's Book of Martyrs

Foxe's Book of Martyrs has long held the reputation of being a classic in the history of the Church. The book was written to encourage Christians who were facing persecution by pointing to faithful brothers and sisters who had gone before and given their lives for the Gospel. Foxe's reports the martyrdom of the apostles and Christians of all rank from the early church. Subsequent editions, such as the one I used, have since added more recent accounts of Christian martyrs.

This past Sunday I used material from Foxe's to illustrate the bold witness that comes when the church allows Paul's words-- to live is Christ and to die is gain-- to seep into its bones.  Here are some excerpts that were used in preparation for Sunday: 

The updated edition
of Foxe's that I used.
The apostle Paul was beheaded in Rome:
"At first, Nero was blamed for setting fire to Rome [in May 64 AD], so to direct the blame away from himself he blamed the Christians. As a result, fierce persecution broke out against them. During it, Paul was arrested and put back into prison in Rome. While in prison this second time he wrote his second letter to Timothy. It was his last. 
"Not long after, he was judged guilty of crimes against the Emperor and condemned to death. He was taken to the execution block and beheaded. It was A.D. 66, just four years before Jerusalem fell" (p. 8).
The account of Ignatius of Antioch:
" the year A.D. 110, Ignatius, was was the overseer of the Church in Antioch, the capital of Syria, where the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26), was sent to Rome because he professed and taught Christ. It's said that when he passed through Asia, even though guarded by soldiers, he preached the Word of God in every city they traveled through and encouraged and strengthened the churches. While in Smyrna, he wrote the Church of Rome and appealed to them not to try to deliver him from the martyrdom, because they would deprive him of that which he most longed for. He wrote:
'Now I begin to be a disciple. I care for nothing of visible or invisible things so that I may but win Christ. Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bone and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus.' 
"Even when he was sentenced to be fed to lions and could hear their roaring, he was filled with such desire to see Christ (see Acts 5:41) that he said, 'I am the wheat of Christ: I am going to be ground with the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found pure bread'" (p. 14).   
Polycarp's martyrdom: 
"Polycarp, who was a student of the Apostle John and the overseer of the church in Smyrna, heard that soldiers were looking for him and tried to escape but was discovered by a child. After feeding the guards who captured him, he asked for an hour to pray, which they gave him. He prayed with such fervency, that his guards said they were sorry that they were the ones who captured him. Nevertheless, he was taken before the governor and condemned to be burned in the market place.
"After his sentence was given, the governor said to him, 'Reproach Christ and I will release you.' 
"Polycarp answered, 'Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never once wronged me. How then shall I blaspheme my King who has saved me?'" (p. 16).
And Julian, who would otherwise have been forgotten in history but for his testimony to Christ in his death: 
"St. Chrysostom, the patriarch of Constantinople in A.D. 398, wrote that Julian, a Cilician, was arrested for being a Christian, put into a leather bag with several snakes and scorpions, and then thrown into the sea" (p. 22).