Monthly Archives: November 2012

Psalm 62 – Aaron Keyes and Stuart Townend

This song has been a refreshment to my soul in recent months. It’s hard to listen to without lifting hands to Heaven in praise. My soul finds rest in God alone!

“1 For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. 3 How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? 4 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. Selah

“5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. 6 He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 7 On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. 8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.  Selah

“9 Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. 10 Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them. 11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, 12 and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work.” (Psalm 62, ESV)

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On Thanksgiving

This past Sunday night’s sermon was on the giving of thanks as an evidence of a Christ-filled life as well as “a significant weapon in the arsenal of spiritual warfare.” Pastor Brooks challenged us from Ephesians 5:1-21 to “be imitators of God,” walking in love, truth, and wisdom.

Thankfulness is not only in direct contrast to impure living and conversation, but it is commanded by the Lord. “Jesus is the Object AND Means of Thanksgiving.”

Pastor challenged us to do three things as we enter this week of Thanksgiving (adapted from Jerry Bridges’ The Practice of Godliness):

  1. Develop a grateful heart by meditating in Christ’s character and work (see Psalm 111).
  2. Express your gratitude frequently (e.g., as you rise and as you rest).
  3. Journal your thanks specifically.

As I contemplate these things, I am encouraged to begin journaling again. Journaling has always been a blessing to me. I have journals for nearly every year of my life, beginning around the 1st grade. It’s good to look back and rehearse the blessings and challenges and see God through every step–especially the ones I thought I’d never make it through.

So tonight, I journal. God has been so gracious–I am overwhelmed by this fact! I am thankful, first and foremost, for my salvation. I am an unworthy wretch, and yet God looked down and, in lovingkindness, chose me to follow Him. He is my wisdom, my righteousness, my sanctification, and my redemption (I Cor. 1:30).

Secondly, I am thankful for my family–for a Christian heritage, and an extended family of likeminded believers. I am also overwhelmed with gratitude for my loving husband. God brought two sinners together and it is by His grace that we are best friends and united in Christ. I do not take that lightly, and I want never to take that for granted.

Also, I thank God for my past–for the education, the experiences, the opportunities, and, yes, even the trials. I am thankful for the opportunities to trust Him, though I have not always seen trials like this. I am thankful that He has not given up on me–and promises to never do so! What a great God we serve! I was reminded last weekend that when we are sinned against, it is an opportunity to grow in grace; it is an opportunity to remember the story of God’s grace on us and to return that grace to the offender; it is a chance to show and share the love of God Himself in our responses. And my responses have sometimes been all too human. So I am reminded to be thankful for those who “wrong” me, because it is not me they wrong, but Christ. And it is not me that should be put on display or defended, but rather Jesus. So I am thankful to be reminded of my salvation and God’s great grace to me.

I am thankful for so many things. I am thankful for God’s provision–of friends, of freedom, of protection, of basic necessities, like food and shelter. And God has done more than just provided the needs, but He has supplied “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20) with good things, great things–not just shelter above our heads, but a comfortable home that we can share with friends and family; not just nourishment, but delicious, belly-filling, soul-warming food. We have so much compared to the majority of the earth’s population. And yet we complain and compare ourselves among ourselves, like fools (II Cor. 10:12).

I am thankful for my health. I am reminded of this more and more every day, as I see cancer and other disease and afflictions strike young and old alike. I know that our frames are but dust, and that health is fleeting (Psalm 103:14). I know that God is sovereign, and that His definition of “good” is our conformity to His Son, and sometimes that means sickness or pain (Rom. 8:28ff). But for now, I have good health, and my family has good health, and I thank Him for that.

I am thankful for my work. I would say “job,” but it is more than that, as it is quickly becoming my passion and my ministry, all rolled up into one. I get to work with fellow believers, helping in the effort to share Christ and “advancing the Gospel in the world’s difficult places” at Frontline Missions. It is thrilling to see what God is doing! The Gospel is alive and well, and God works not just through us but so often inspite of us. He is building His church, and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). I love it! I actually enjoy waking up each morning, and I don’t even notice the clock passing or the sun setting, as I work on mailings, or filing correspondence, or proofing newsletters or answering the phone, or even vacuuming the office. God is teaching me so much and allowing me to enjoy this work–even the simple things, like having similar tastes with coworkers for dark chocolate, good coffee, and Christ-centered conversation.

My heart is full! And my God is great! And I am thankful…as I enjoy this journey He has me on!

Happy Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for?!

“Pathway to Forgiveness” by Jim Newcomer (Matthew 18:21-35)

Pastor Jim Newcomer, and his wife Lorie

Last weekend, Bryan and I were able to get away and enjoy our church‘s Adult Retreat at the Wilds Christian Camp & Conference Center (where Bryan and I met). Jim Newcomer spoke on the topic of Forgiveness, and it was a refreshment to be reminded of the grace and love of Christ from His Word. My notes from the weekend are below, and if you’re interested in listening to the five lessons yourself, you can download them for free on SermonAudio.com.

Introductory Remarks

A lack of forgiveness leaves in its wake:

  1. Changed Relationships – heavy hearts (Proverbs 18:19)
  2. Destroyed Friendships (Proverbs 17:9)
  3. Ministry Casualties (Philippians 4:1-3; e.g. Paul and Barnabus over John Mark in Acts)
  4. Isolation (Proverbs 18:1; 22:24)
  5. Withered Fruit (Galatians 5:22-23)
  6. Untamed Tongues (Proverbs 12:18) – a bitter person is a scorekeeper and slanderer (can’t help talk about how they’ve been wronged)
  7. Unattractive Witness (Philippians 4)

Bitterness is a refusal to act/rely on the grace of God. This is serious stuff—serious enough for us to do something about it.

Bold Promise: If you complete the journey, you will find fresh resolve to be the forgiving disciple Christ desires.

So let’s make the first stop in our journey towards being a forgiving disciple of the King:

I. Admit Your Hesitancy

A. The Risks of Forgiveness

1. Note a couple of things about Peter which is revealed in his question to Christ:

a. He was being Generous (Rabbis said to forgive 3x in Amos 1-2; he offered to forgive 7x – more than double, Matthew 18:21).
b. He was being Hesitant (v.1-4 humble yourself like a child and stop arguing; Matt. 6:14)

2. Before we take up our hobby of “shaking our heads at Peter”…isn’t it common for us to be hesitant to forgive? Why?

3. Four Fears/Risks Surrounding Forgiveness

a. The Fear of Insincerity – how do I know they’re sincere? I “know” them; I’ve heard this 15x; predictable behavior, etc. You don’t have to answer for their heart; but you do have to answer for your obedience.
b. The Fear of Vulnerability – if I get soft, I’ll get hurt/taken advantage of (II Corinthians
12:7-10’s “thorn in the flesh”; people will take advantage of mercy, but is that all bad? Puts us in good company: Matthew 5:7-11)
c. The Fear of Change – comfortable not liking that person, feel safe with your margin between the person and self. If forgive, margin must go away completely. Patience. Don’t retaliate. Pursue reconciliation.
d. The Fear of Exposure – was your reaction sin? Were you participating in their sin too? Are you afraid of asking forgiveness for avoidance, words or lack thereof? (Proverbs
18:17)

B. The Requirement of Christ – Christ’s Key Point—“It’s not a matter of Points [keeping score] but a matter of Posture!” Like two adjoining hotel doors: you can only open your door and lean on the other till the other person opens their side. A posture of forgiveness doesn’t mean you have forgiven; just willing to do so. Luke 17:1-4: Forgiveness is tethered to the gospel of the cross.

1. It is a posture that is Commanded. (Proverbs 24:29; Ephesians 4:32; Psalm 86:5; Colossians 3:13)
2. It is a posture that is Constant – even before the offense occurs, it is a character. Amy Carmichael said, “”If I say, yes I forgive, but I cannot forget as though the God who twice a day washed all the sands on all the shores of all the world could not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of Calvary love. If the living God who made the tide and washes the shores daily cannot wash away from my mind the caustic remarks, the ugliness, the wrongs in someone else, then I haven’t even entered into Calvary love.” (Luke 6:36; Proverbs 19:11; 16:32; Romans 12:21)
3. It is a posture that is Cultivated – learned; not natural and strong at first. Only grown in the soil of trials—can’t learn without being sinned against (James 1: Romans 5)
4. It is a posture that is Christlike—II Timothy 4:16ff; Luke 23:34 – Is it possible to grow in Christlikeness if you do not possess the posture of forgiveness and grace? No. (e.g., Paul Tripp on Marriage in “What Were You Expecting?” 1. Two Sinners, 2. Fallen World, 3. Don’t
Take it Personally.)

II. Remember Your Story (Matthew 18:23-27; Proverbs 17:22)

“Bitterness is the acid that consumes its own container;” it’s like the U.S.Tang in WWII—it sinks itself.

Fact: When you are bitter/angry/unforgiving towards others (seek/desire their undoing)…you are the one that ultimately suffers. We are studying forgiveness—something that very well will set you free from self-destruction.

Objection: “You don’t know how far I have to go to forgive <<insert name of offending party>>.”  Reply: “True…but I know how you’ll get there!” At this “Stop” you will need to do 2 Things:

A. Get the point out of the parable.

1. Hopeless Accountability (18:23-25) – Gentile king had regional governors (aka “servants” in this passage). Four Realities of this debt:

a. Personal Debt
b. Incalculable Debt (10,000 talents owed: 1 talent = 6,000 denarii; 1 denarius = 1 day’s work; In one person’s lifetime, the most that could be expected to earn was 3-5 talents)
c. Unpayable Debt
d. Growing Debt

2. Desperate Agreement (18:26)

a. There was NO:

i. Denial
ii. Excusing
iii. Blaming Others (aphiami in Greek)

b. There was Only:

i. Admission of Debt
ii. Expectation of Justice
iii. Pleading for Mercy

3. Complete Acquittal (18:27) – to unworthy servant an unpayable debt

B. Put Yourself into the Parable – This parable of the Kingdom (time between Christ’s first and second advents) is about a reality today. This parable was given to Peter…and to everyone…who keeps track of points instead of having a posture of forgiveness. See Ecclesiastes 12:13-14;
Habakkuk 1:13; Romans 3:23; Exodus 34:7. Let 3 Questions serve as a reminder to you:

1. Was your Accountability Hopeless?
2. Was your Agreement Desperate?

a. Never to be Met again (Psalm 103:12; Psalm 51; Matthew 5:3-4 “poor in spirit”; Job 42:6)
b. Never to be Seen again (Isaiah 38:7)
c. Never to be Found again(Micah 7:19)
d. Never to be Read Against You again (Isaiah 43:5 – wiped out of the book)

3. Was your Acquittal Complete?

a. The difference between me and this parable is that my debt was fully paid for, not just wiped away (Isaiah 53:6; II Corinthians 5:21)
b. Only things Christ is building is His Church, heaven (II Thessalonians 1:7-9), and his wrath.

God and I Time: Isaiah 53 – Meditate on your story in the Gospel

III. Guard Your Heart (Matthew 18:21-35; Proverbs 4:23)

Dr. Jay Adams in his From Forgiven to Forgiving writes, “Forgiveness is the oil that keeps the machinery of the Christian home and church running smoothly. In a world where even those who have been declared perfect in Christ sin, there is much to forgive. Christians who must work together closely find themselves denting each other’s fenders, now and then taking out a taillight or two, and at times even having head-on collisions. Under such conditions, forgiveness is what keeps things from breaking down completely.”

Principle: Lack of forgiveness on the outside reveals a significant heart problem on the inside.

Real Question: Is it me now? 4 Characteristics of the “Non-forgiver.”

A. Mirrored Reaction of World (Matthew 18:28) – We may not “strangle” (physical assault, debt violence) but we might typically respond with:

  1. Verbal Assault (to, about)
  2. Social Assault (isolation, teams, public testimony)
  3. Motive Assault (read heart, question everything) – Any assault is always sin (Proverbs 12:16; 14:17, 29; 27:4; Eccl. 7:9; Ephesians 4). The Gospel that transferred you is transforming you.

B. Skewed Perspective of Offenses (Matthew 18:24, 28)

1. “Big is Little” (300+ lifetimes; Proverbs 17:15; Isaiah 5:20)
2. “Little is Big” (3+ months; Ephesians 4: gossip – news but timing has motive; slander – just enough truth to destroy testimony; malice – intent to injure)

C. Short Memory of Mercy (Matthew 18:29-30a) – Spurgeon said, “Just now he was a lowly suppliant, but now he is a hectoring tyrant!” What is going on here…so soon?

1. There is a Failure to Understand the Doctrine. Obviously, he has yet to grasp:

a. The Guilt that was Removed (Forgiveness)
b. The Debt that was Absorbed (Atonement)
c. The Relationship that was Restored (Reconciliation)
d. The Declaration that was Issued (Justification)
e. The Motivation that was Revealed (Grace)

2. There is a Failure to Revisit the Scene. Never get over the unpayable debt that was forgiven you, an unworthy servant. “And Can It Be?” Treasure Mercy; Honor/Remember the Forgiving King.

D. Quiet Desire for Suffering (Matthew 18:30)

1. Unreasonable Expectations
2. Undeniable Agenda – no plan to forgive at all; place self over instead of beside “fellow servant,” on level ground (Proverbs 18:23)

IV. Fear Your Lord – If you’ve come this far on your journey…and still lean towards being a non-forgiver…You better be sure to get the whole picture! Be sure you clearly see 3 Realities you must deal with:

A. You Will Face God’s People – ready to love you to whatever degree necessary (Matthew 18:31)

1. The fact is…non-forgivers (you) will Stand Out in a forgiven/forgiving community (Hebrews 13:17; I Corinthians 1:10-11)
2. The fact is… non-forgivers (you) will Show Up in believers’ prayers (concerned for a. Inconsistency of brothers, b. Burden on offender, and c. Testimony of King Himself).

B. You Will Face God’s Rebuke (Matthew 18:32-33) You can’t miss the…

1. Accountability (II Corinthians 5:9) – “the world should be impressed with my sufferings” No! They should be impressed with your God! You are only a fellow servant and you’re becoming your own “god.”
2. Accusation – you wicked servant! (II Corinthians 5:11); ponaros – evil/devil
3. Expectation – to forgive others (your story paves the way; your brother/fellow servant belongs to Me; your mercy reflects Mine).

C. You Will Face God’s Discipline/Correction (Colossians 3:13; Matthew 18:34 “jailors” = torturers; NOT executioners; NOT purgatory; NOT loss of regeneration; NOT loss of salvation; Romans 8:28-30; Hebrews 12:5-11 “sons”; I Corinthians 11:32; John 13)

1. Wiersbe – “The world’s worst prison is the prison of an unforgiving heart. If we refuse to forgive others, then we are imprisoning ourselves and causing our own torment. Some of the most miserable people I have met in my ministry have been people who would not forgive others. They lived only to imagine ways to punish these people who had wronged them. But they were really only punishing themselves” (67).

2. MacArthur, Freedom and Power of Forgiveness – “Early in my pastoral ministry I noticed an interesting fact: nearly all the personal problems that drive people to seek pastoral counsel are related in some way to the issue of forgiveness. The typical counselee’s most troublesome problems would be significantly diminished (and in some cases solved completely) by a right understanding of what Scripture says about forgiveness” (7).

3. Today’s Torturers include: guilt, illness, consequences, loss of ministry, loss of freedom, church discipline, etc.

V. Enact Your Forgiveness

A. Wisdom Needed for Forgiveness

1. Prayerfully Consider the Options (I Peter 4:8; Proverbs 10:12; 17:9; 19:11; I Corinthians 13:5 “love”)

a. Lovingly Cover (you will later say, “What offense?”)
b. Lovingly Confront

2. Prayerfully Make the Decision:

a. Confrontation is needed if the Relationship is Broken (Matthew 18:15; 5:23)
b. Confrontation is needed if it is a Serious Offense against Someone Else (e.g., infidelity, etc. should not be kept from spouse, etc.)
c. Confrontation is needed if God’s Glory and/or Church are Marred (I Corinthians 10:31; Ezekiel 36:21; I Timothy 5:14)

B. Promises Made during Forgiveness

1. “I will Not Hold this in my heart.” (Luke 17)
2. “I will Not Spread this around to others.” (Proverbs 18:18; 6:16-19 “spreads strife” = “the Lord hates”)
3. “I will Not Bring this Up against you.” (Proverbs 17:9; forgetting is passive – not fixate; not remembering is active – meditate on something else, like “10,000 talents”)

C. Goals Pursued in Forgiveness

1. Put God’s Glory on Display

a. His Love towards Sinners
b. His Grace in You

2. Promote the Other Person’s Christlikeness (disciple)
3. Prove your Love for God through Obedience (John 14:15 – the harder it is to obey, the greater the opportunity to display God’s love)

D. Relationship Created after Forgiveness

  1. Beyond Restoration
  2. The Humility required on both sides Deepens the relationship (Philippians 2:3-4)
  3. You are both now Traveling Companions on this journey (Amos 3:3)
  4. If forgiveness is complete and restoration accomplished, you should both now be better Biblical Counselors (II Corinthians 1)

Concluding Questions:

  1. What about unsaved? Go as far as you can. The main offense is still against God. You can do your part: lean on the door, extend an arm, offer the gift (Romans 12:18; Galatians 6:10).
  2. What about unrepentant? How do you forgive someone who doesn’t think they’ve done wrong? How do you forgive someone who doesn’t want it? Confront. Matthew 18:15-18.
  3. What about you? Replace hostility and separation with peace and friendship.

Book Recommendations:

  • Jay Adams, From Forgiven to Forgiving
  • John MacArthur, The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness
  • Chris Brauns, Unpacking Forgiveness

A Word on Politics and the 2012 Elections

The following is a glimpse into what’s been going through my head recently:

On Election Day and Freedom: As you all know, today is a very important day in America’s history. Election Day! A day of decisions, a day of responsibility, a day of freedom. Freedom–one little word–one very vital concept.  So many around the world have no say in their nation’s leaders. But we do! And it’s not something to be taken lightly. We recently celebrated the 100th birthday of a sister in Christ at our church. One hundred years ago, women didn’t have the right to vote! Can you imagine all the things she’s lived through?! It makes me very thankful to be alive in the age and nation that I am.

On the Electoral College: Tonight, we have some friends coming over for a soup night. We’ll turn on the television and watch the results unfold. They’ll keep track for you, or you can download this interactive map from Elizabeth Perry’s Flickr account (permission given on her site to print for personal use) and keep track yourself. You could even have everyone color in their predictions and see who’s closest at the end of the night, if you wanted. But then, you do need a prize for the winner.

There’s another interactive map on CNN that helps you see what happens depending on which way the swing states go.

Not quite sure how the electoral college works? I found this description of the electoral college and this description of the electoral map at “Congress for Kids” that seems to be fairly helpful (though not updated since 2008). Each page has a link for a “Show What You Know” quiz at the bottom. And here’s one more video from History that gives some more info.

On Changing the Day of the Election: Did you hear that they wanted to change Election Day because of Hurricane Sandy? Well, as Mike Opelca of The Blaze quotes The WSJ’s Naftali Bendavid, “It would take an act of Congress!” Congress is not currently in session. And history sides with keeping the National Election on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. If war and terrorists threats won’t shake Congress to change the election date, I have my doubts that a storm will.

On Voting Third Party: Everyone is given the right to vote for whomever they wish, regardless of whether or not the candidate is in one of the major two parties. I personally believe you should vote for whichever candidate aligns best with your core values. There are several sites that can help reveal that, and it’s okay if it ends up being someone other than a candidate from the Republican or Democratic Party. One site that I particularly like is VoteSmart.org. Vote for each of the major issues, and rank how important it is to you, and it will give you a percentage of how aligned you are with each of those on the ballot. If everyone voted their conscience instead of party lines, we might see some very different outcomes.

On Politics and Social Media: I hope you did vote. I truly do. But I’m not so sure everyone wants to know every time one of their acquaintances did so. And now there are ads for various politicians, links to find your precinct, and so on, built right into your social media site. Kevin Cirilli of Politico said today, “People are tweeting nearly 3,000 tweets per minute that they have voted, with the most Tweets coming from Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan, Twitter said this afternoon. And as of 2 p.m. EST, Twitter averaged 13,000 Election Day-related tweets per minute….” And it looks like they’re running behind the scenes polls if you mentioned who you were voting for too!

On Complaining: One thing that bothered me today was that I saw several posts or tweets either 1) complaining that they had to wait in a long line to vote, or 2) rejoicing that no one was at the polls in their precinct. While I understand that long lines in cold weather is uncomfortable and inconvenient, people DIED to give you the right to vote. Please don’t blatantly disrespect their legacy with your complaints. And if you fall into the second category, please understand that if the polls are empty, people are also indirectly dishonoring our veterans by showing a spirit of complacency and/or apathy. Also, if you don’t vote, please don’t complain about the outcome. I found the following cartoon appropriately relevant:

On Christians and Politics: Chris Anderson recently posted a one-page PDF to his Church Works Media site, entitled “Gospel Meditations for Voters.” I encourage you to read it…before your polls close. (ahem!) And, yes, God is still in complete control, regardless of whether or not your candidate won (or even made it past the primaries).  So, pray for His will and wisdom as you go out and participate in being a part of the answer to that prayer.

In Conclusion: Some are calling this election the most important one in over 80 years! There are so many moving parts and important fiscal and international policies in play this time around. Do you really want to not take part in a momentous occasion?