Sanctification

Sanctification

Does God Still Reign?

At the beginning of 2015, I preached a sermon (which you can find here) titled “God Reigns in 2015.” I argued that despite all the uncertainty in the world, God still reigns. In the sermon I used the following examples of uncertainty in our world: Robin Williams death by suicide, the Ebola crisis in West Africa, and Malaysian Flight 370 vanishing during a routine flight. Not to diminish any of these uncertainties, but Covid-19, stock market crash, and political and…

How Do I Know God’s Will for 2021?

How Do I Know God’s Will for 2021? As we enter 2021, what does God want from you and me? How can I know God’s will? If you are a Christian, you desire to follow God and do His will. Sometimes, however, you are unsure what God wants you to do. Does God want me to move to Florida? Does God want me to buy a minivan? Does God want me to date him or her? As Christians, there are…

Are You a Preaching Critic?

Preaching is hard. It is hard for several reasons. First, preaching involves dealing with an ancient text far removed from our world and culture. Second, a preacher’s audience is at different levels of mental and spiritual maturity. Crafting a message that meets various maturity levels is a skill that is learned over time. Third, a sermon must have a good blend of content and presentation. A well-crafted sermon delivered in a mono-tone voice or a poor crafted sermon delivered in…

Five Reasons for Obeying God

We bark the command to our children: “You need to obey mom and dad,” based on Ephesians 6:1. While this command is often given, in the heat of the moment we seldom give the reason, motivation, or benefit for obeying mom and dad. But your kids need to see the reasons and benefits of obedience. And so do we! You need reason, motivation, and benefit for obedience to God. Why should you obey God? Seventeenth century pastor, Richard Baxter (1615-1691), recognizes…

What Is More Divisive Than American Politics?

No doubt, in the United States we live in a polarized and divisive political climate. But there is something more divisive than American politics. What is it? The flesh and the Spirit. Paul writes these shocking words in Galatians 5:17: “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” Notice closely: the flesh and Spirit…

Two Insufficient Ways to Deal with Difficulty

Over the years I have recognized that people deal with difficulty in generally one of two ways. One person deals with difficulty by looking out. When difficulty and conflict are present, the tendency is to want to look away and escape. Escaping can take many forms, like binge watching TV, gorging on food, or spending above your means. Another person deals with difficulty by looking in. When difficulty and conflict are present, the tendency is to want to look in and fix.…

One Sentence That Could Change Your Life

Now that I have your attention from the title, let me give you the sentence: relationships are not meant for your happiness; they are meant for your redemption. This statement comes from Paul Tripp and Tim Lane in their brilliant and biblical book, Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. The fact of the matter is that your life is filled with relationships. You have family, friends, work associates, church members, neighbors, doctors, lawyers, accountants, contractors, postal workers, school associates, homeowner’s associations,…

Consider One Another

The New American Standard Bible, the version used to preach God’s word at Grace Community Bible Church, puts Hebrews 10:24 like this: “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” Unfortunately, this way of translating Hebrews 10:24 does not entirely capture the original Greek wording. In the original Greek, the main verb is the word “consider,” not the word “stimulate,” which happens to be a noun. Since the main verb is “consider,” the immediate object of…

Providential Interruptions

In our culture, we plan to the max: our calendars are full, our checklists are long, and our goals are polished. Yet sometimes we are interrupted from our plans, checklists, and goals. The whole world has been interrupted by the virus we call COVID-19. Even as the pandemic rages, we experience small interruptions like our children’s mishaps, cancelled appointments, and technology that does not function when we need it to. So, how should we respond to interruptions in our lives?…

How Long, O Lord?

Recently, I have been asking myself the question, as I’m sure you have too: “How long, O Lord,” will this social distancing/shelter-in-place order last? At this point, we do not know. And not knowing is driving us crazy! Of course, if you have read the last paragraph with attentiveness, and if you’re familiar with the Bible, particularly the Psalms, you know that I made an allusion to an often repeated line: “How long, O Lord” (Psalm 13:1; 79:5; 89:46). Take,…

Bearing Burdens

Bill Withers, writer of the famous song ‘Lean on Me,’ died Monday March 30th at the age of 81.  I had just referenced a specific lyric of this song (we all need somebody to lean on) the day before in a sermon on bearing one another’s burdens from Galatians 6:2-5. In this passage, Christians are called to bear the burdens of others because they have a biblical view about self. To bear the burdens of others, a Christian must look…

Comfort and Christ

I inherited, for better or worse, cold blood and poor circulation. What I mean is that I often feel cold rather than warm. Consequently, I love warm weather . . . and space heaters! The other day while I was praying in my study, I literally laid right in front of my space heater, so my cold hands would warmup. Immediately, upon beginning my prayer, this thought crossed my mind: I am as pathetic as Jonah! If you remember the…

Don’t Reduce Sin to Acts

We often reduce sin to what we do or don’t do; for example, lie, steal, or cheat. Let me be clear: sin is what we do or don’t do. But sin is much deeper. Sin is who we are. We commit acts of sin because we are sinners. The famous fifth-century pastor in North Africa, Augustine, understood this well. In his Confessions, he recounts of how he stole some pears when he was sixteen. Listen to what he says: “I…

Do You Have a Right to Be Angry?

  What a penetrating question! Is it right for you to be angry?     Of course, if you’re familiar with the Bible, you might recall that God asked the prophet Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry” (Jonah 4:4)? Because of the context of this question, God was not expecting a response – the question was a rebuke! And the question also serves as a rebuke for us. Why? Because of the nature of anger. Anger is…

Human Growth and Christian Growth

I was listening to a show on Minnesota Public Radio discussing character development in Young Adult fiction. They said that for a Young Adult book to sell, the character(s) have to experience genuine harm and difficulty, yet show growth in the midst of the trial. In real life, human beings grow and change. Human nature changes: it’s our nature. To be human is to change. We change our viewpoints and values, concerns and character, and interests and ideas. Unlike God…

Five Reasons God May Delay in Answering Your Prayer

God always answers prayer. Period. Yet, he does not always answer in the way we would like. Sometimes he answers with a “yes” or “yes and even better.” Sometimes, however, he answers with a “no,” or “not yet.” Why does God answer with a “not yet?” Why does he delay in answering prayer? Puritan Richard Sibbes helped me to see four reasons God may delay in answering prayer. I’ve added a fifth. To try your faith. Like the Canaanite woman…

What Is Forgiveness?

Because we live in a fallen world, sinning against others and being sinned against, we are in constant need of forgiveness. Yet, we often misunderstand what forgiveness truly is. We think that forgiveness is a feeling, so we don’t forgive because we don’t “feel” very forgiving. We think that forgiveness involves excusing someone’s sin, so we say things like, “What you did wasn’t that bad; I’ve done it before, too”. We think that forgiveness means forgetting, so we don’t forgive…

Am I Growing in My Christian Faith?

A common question people ponder is how they know if they are growing in their Christian faith? Sometimes this question arises in those that are struggling with whether or not they are true believers. In Colossians 1:9-14, Paul gives a model for spiritual growth. He tells us what spiritual growth looks like, thereby showing us how we know if we are growing in our Christian faith. Paul prays for a filling of the knowledge of God “so that you will…

How Do You Handle Your Past?

Everyone has regrets. You regret sinful choices and stupid choices. Choices as small as hitting the snooze, and choices as large as the person you married, the career you chose, and the house you purchased. How are you to handle and think about those past decisions? You are to forget the past and remember the past. Paul tells us in Phil 3:13 that we are to “forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead.” The word “forgetting,”…

How Can I Grow In Faith?

We tend to read the Bible primarily individualistically.  Here is an example of what I mean. Paul writes in Rom 10:17: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”  By default, we are apt to read this passage and think: faith comes when I read the word of God.  Or, more generally: faith comes through the Bible. The problem with thinking this is that Paul says something much more specific: faith comes by hearing preaching.  How do I know?  The…
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