Guilt Confusion

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30

In 2016 God opened a door for me to be a Biblical Counselor at a local counseling center. I had been doing pastoral counseling for church members for the previous nine years, but this was new ground for me.

I worked at the center for just one year, specifically with married couples, men, and adolescent boys. Reflecting on my time there brings me joy! God allowed me to sit in a room and hear countless stories from hurting people, addicts, struggling couples, and depressed teens. God brought restoration and healing to many of them and it happened right in front of me. It was both sobering and worshipful!

Clearly, one year as a Biblical Counselor does not make me an expert in the field. What I share, I share as an observer more than as an instructor. Hopefully these observations shared will be helpful. That's what I hope to do. I want to help those in our church or anyone who has been sinned against as they are on the difficult road to healing. I sat with brokenhearted people and I began to observe common struggles. I witnessed what I now call guilt confusion.

What is guilt confusion? Guilt confusion is the state of a person for whom the lines of personal responsibility have become blurred. Time and time again I sat with people who felt guilty for all the wrong things. Many victims felt guilt and shame for their own victimization as if was in some way their fault. It was backward and they knew it, which only added more guilt and shame to what they already felt. It was confusion. The Enemy of our souls and our sinful flesh have a way of adding terrible fuel to the raging fires of shame.

So, on the one hand, hurting people were feeling guilty for sins they did not commit; on the other hand, many of these hurting people started to become what they so badly hated. They were turning into people who were now hurting other people. Personal sin crept in as they were dealing with their own pain. But that sin was stealthy due either to apathy or resignation to the fact that hurt people hurt people. Victims were confused about what they were and were not responsible for- guilt for the wrong things, and no conviction for the right things.

Have you been sinned against? How has that affected you? Do you carry guilt for things that were not your fault? Have you excused your sin because of your false identity as a victim? Loaded questions, I know- but there is hope!

The Gospel of Jesus is practical and helpful. Even when we don't feel comforted by the Gospel, we can take heart because there is grace still. Even when we feel like the Holy Spirit is absent, He is present. Grace is not dependent on its apprehension. It simply is there, because Jesus is there.

Justice

In the life death and resurrection of Jesus, we have a few handles that can bring stability to those who are living in guilt confusion. First, the gospel of Jesus reveals to us that sin is punishable by death and hell. No sin will ever go unpunished. God sees every sin that has ever been committed against you and he is wrathful towards them! The cross and hell show us that God punishes sinners. God sees. There will be justice for the sins that have happened to you.

Restoration

Secondly, the resurrection of Jesus promises future restoration. Vengeance exercised does not bring restoration. We need hope. We need sure promises. When we become Christians, we have those promises now and forever more. We are promised in 1st Corinthians 15 that we will receive restored and resurrected bodies. Innocence lost will be restored. God will actually restore what has been stolen from victims. Restored bodies! Restored joy! Restoration!

If you have internal knots tied from the sins committed against you, in Christ, you can move forward. It does not have to be this way! You won't be in this pain forever. God has promised you restoration. And, for the believer who struggles to find comfort in the justice and restoration promised in the Gospel, there is even more grace still.

Beloved brother and sister in Christ, turn again to Jesus. Come to him! After all, He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew. 11:28-30

Why Christ Church Collective

Two primary reasons rise to the surface when I consider the reasons for the publication of Christ Church Collective. The first: human beings are created in the image of God. The second: God has saved sinners and put them together as the body of Christ.

Our Triune God is a creative artist. If we take, even a moment, to pause and consider imaginative power it took to created the landscapes of the earth and the swirling colors of the skies, that moment could be filled with wonder and worship. The heavens, we are told, were created by his understanding (Ps. 136:5). Genesis 1:1 declares “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Yahweh truly is the Great artist.

With the beauty and intricacies of all the God has created as the backdrop, consider the magnitude of Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Nothing else in all creation was given the title “Image of God”. Not the skies, with the beauty of the Northern Lights. Nor the King of the Jungle or the mighty Clydesdale horse. Only humans, male and female, have been marked with the dignified title “Image of God.”

Therefore, a part of what it means to be human is to be creative. Clearly, we cannot create something from nothing, like God can. But, we can take raw material, or a blank page and graphite, and create. Art takes several forms even if the form is abstract. Painting, drawing, photography, writing, singing, building, and the list goes on. Since Adam and Eve, humans have been taking hold of raw material to work and keep it.

The second primary reason for this publication is that God has saved more than individuals. He saves individuals and brings them together in local places as his family, the very Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4 tells us God has given gifts to everyone in his body. The purpose of these gifts is for the distinguished purpose of edifying the body.

The pastors and leaders of Christ Church, through the publication of this quarterly magazine, aim to provide you, the Imago Dei, with opportunities to use your gift for the edification of the saints. Sadly, out of accordance with church history, many Christians have no outlet to spread their work other than outside the Body of Christ. Gifts, therefore, go ungiven to the Body of Christ because there is no outlet for them to be used.

Christ Church Collective is a quarterly publication that exists to give image bearers a tangible way to use and share their gifts for the edification of the saints and the Glory of God.

Book Review: Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel by Ray Ortlund

Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel By Ray Ortlund

Let’s start with a massive understatement. People today are confused about marriage. What is it? Who is it for? Who should regulate it? Who defines it? And on and on the questions go. It is natural to expect these questions from people who do not claim the Bible as their authority. But now, more than any other time in church history, the church herself is wandering in confusion marriage. That is why I am extremely thankful for this accessible and profound book by Ray Ortlund, Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel.

In the preface, Outland tells us “This is a book about the biblical view of marriage.” He answers a lot of questions for us in just a few introductory paragraphs. “Marriage is not a human invention; it is a divine revelation. It was given to us.” God invented marriage and, he argues rightly, has authority to define it. God has not given humanity the responsibility or freedom to redefine what he has defined. He gave us a defined marriage. 

We have a tendency to treat marriage as a topic the Bible addresses. But, in this book, Ortlund points out, marriage is the point of the whole of scripture. “It is not as though marriage is just one theme among others in the Bible. Instead, marriage is the wraparound concept for the entire Bible, within which the other themes find their places.” (Pg. 16) What a statement! Genesis starts with a marriage between Adam and Eve. Revelation culminates with a marriage of Jesus and his bride! That’s why he says “The Bible unfolds as a complex but coherent narrative of God gathering a bride for his Son-and he found her on the wrong side of town too. What a story!” 

To accomplish his stated goal for the book, Dr. Ortlund provides four chapters that cover marriage in 1) Genesis 2) The Law, Wisdom, and Prophets 3) In the New Testament 4) Our World Today. With wisdom and grace, the reader is shown the glory of the eternal romance between those bookend marriages. The Bible is coherent in it’s message and scope. Each of the four chapters reveal to us a view of marriage that is defined and clear. No ambiguity. “We therefore assert again that the biblical story is not crowded with multiple and equally legitimate models of marriage, so that its standard in unclear. Jesus himself settle the question.” (Pg. 82)

But what I loved most about this book is that I worshiped God from cover to cover. I was moved by God’s goodness over and over again. And as I I found my affections for Jordan being stirred I couldn’t help but think of the eternal romance. God putting Jordan and I together is as glorious as God putting Adam and Eve together. But my love for her and her love for me is meant to be a message to her/I and the people who know us. Our marriage is a metaphor of a marriage infinitely more glorious than ours. “The eternal romance-not, in the final analysis, the love of the couple getting married but the love of Jesus for us and our joyful deference to him- the eternal love story is why God created the universe and why God gave us marriage in Eden and why couples fall in love and get married in the world today.” (Pg. 100) 

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. This will be the book I use for premarital counseling and for marriage counseling. If you are married or single, get this book. I have read a countless number of books on marriage. This is my favorite.

I can’t think of a better way to end this review than with a small sample of the great things you will read: “If the Bible is telling us the truth about reality, then the universe we live in was created primarily with marital romance in mind. The heavens and the earth were created for the marriage of Adam and Eve. The new heavens and the new earth will be created for the marriage of Christ and his. bride. The whole of cosmic reality exists as the venue for the eternal honeymoon of the perfect husband with his perfect bride in marital bliss forever and ever. This is the breathtaking claim fo the Bible.” 

 

 

  

Institutional Humility

Matthew 6:1-4 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Wow! Apparently, humans have been behaving the same way for a long time. Jesus observed a group of people doing the right things for all the wrong reasons. Jesus did not ignore that! He spoke with clear and direct words. It was not only the Pharisees that needed calling out. I need it as well. When I pause and consider my actions, then remember Jesus words, conviction comes. I have to wrestle with the reasons for which I do the things that I do. Repentantly, I confess, I want my good deeds to be recognized by people. I does not have to be this way! Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I desire to walk in humility. The praise of people is a crummy reward compared with the reward of the Father. One more thing.

Clearly, as stated above, Jesus words impact individuals. But what about churches and other Christian institutions? Is it possible for our churches and organizations to do good deeds in order to be recognized by others? When a church does outreach and serve events, what impact to these verses have on the nuts and bolts of the event? I hate to break it to you but Jesus does not honor marketing passes. Churches are called to function with institutional and missional humility. Slapping the name of a local church on everything we do seems like a good idea. But I wonder? Would Jesus turn to us and say "Church beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them." It is quite possible, an institution can receive the praise of people and yet be unknown by God. We should never settle for that! Institutions should want a greater reward than public recognition.

I don't write this today to be correction but to bring encouragement. It has been an honor for me to observe your humility. I am thankful that our congregation desires the name of Jesus to be honored more than the name of our church! As we continue to grow lets keep our hearts in check. May our hearts burn for Jesus to advance His church more than they do for our church to advance. Our reward will be great! 

Preach in the Wilderness?

Matthew 3:1-6 "In those days John the baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, 

     "The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

     Prepare the way of the Lord;

      make his paths straight.""

Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan confessing their sins."

My reading plan had me in this passage today. John the Baptist. Familiar. But there is beauty in familiar things. Sunrises and sunsets, for instance, beauty. Sometimes the Spirit reminds us there is glory in the familiar. This morning was one of those times.  

It's a peculiar scene.  John the Baptist started preaching. Nothing that weird about that. But he came preaching in the wilderness. Now that is odd. The man God sent to bear witness about the Light started preaching to the wilderness. The wilderness! Not that great of a strategy John! He should have known better. If he wanted to reach the city of Jerusalem, he needed to go to the city center! Said/Say some. But as you know the wisdom of God is different than the wisdom of earth! It was the wilderness. 

Who was John preaching to on those first few days of his work? I wonder: "Did he have a target demographic or even a plan? How would anyone hear his preaching? Maybe there was a passerby or some other wilderness hermit?" Who knows? John only knew; God was calling him to prepare the way for the Way that was coming. It is apparent, from John's strategy, or lack thereof, if his life, preaching, and ministry were to be effective God would have to do the work. 

Notice how unattractive this whole episode would have been to the people. The words John is preaching are not inviting. "Repent" has been a repulsive word to every nation and generation. The food he consumed and the clothes he wore went against the food documentaries and pastor fashion websites of the day. To be fair, John was not trying to be repulsive, but his message and his person-hood were not naturally welcoming. He was not out to make friends and influence people. His goal was to be faithful in his calling and let God take care of the rest.

I can imagine the general sentiment of those first hearers "Wild Johnny boy's preaching won't amount to much."  Oh how wrong the experts can be..... As John preached the word, ate honey, and slept, the Word did it all! The Word that was preached in that wilderness, somehow or another, made it to the ears of every sort of person in Jerusalem, Judea, and the entire region. People started coming to John! What?! Yes! God brought people to hear the word and confess their sins. People came. People listened. The people repented and were baptized! Revival!

However, God's unpredictable work was not recognized by some. The spiritual gurus of the day complete with their lineage, religion, formula's and agendas showed up. The good ole Pharisees and Sadducees. John saw right through their external actions and into their evil hearts. Being a child of God is not about being in the natural bloodline of Abraham. It's not about what you can do or not do. It is not about you at all really! It was about being in the supernatural bloodline of Abraham. Being a child of God is a result of the Work of God! Pharisees and Sadducees were not cool with this. Nor are many in our day, preferring the kind of results that come as a direct result of our planning and our work.    

I find this whole episode so encouraging. We need God! I need God! Our church needs God! We need wisdom from above! You have a family member that does not know Jesus? You need God to open their eyes and ears! Do you desire as I do to see the baptismal waters stirred? We need God and his work! 

So settle into whatever wilderness God has called you to today. Eat your locust and honey. Trust Jesus today. Point anyone you can to him! God kids? Point them to the Light. Got neighbors? Point them to the Light! He is working in and through you! The experts ramble on. 

Marriage

On Valentine’s day, my newsfeed is always full of beautiful pictures of couples wanted to display their love to the world. I love it. I am a romantic and I always enjoy seeing other people share words of love for their spouse. However, this year on Valentine’s day I was also thinking about our first year of marriage and about how much of a dose of reality it was for my Shakespeare quoting, rose petal sprinkling heart.

I grew up in the 90’s and early 2000’s so obviously I thought the world was my oyster. I sorta thought that there might be a possibility that the concept for the movie Truman Show was actually based on my life and the whole world enjoyed the stage of the Jordan Show. Ok so bringing that baggage into marriage and when my husband wasn’t completing my cute little story, I was a shell shocked. “So, why exactly aren’t you completing me right now?” Because that’s how it’s supposed to go, right?  You get married, then your finally satisfied. Ok maybe it’s when you finish college, have children, get your dream job, dream home, dream car, fill in your heart idol of choice.

This is a very convenient bait and switch from the enemy. “Pursue this,” he says, “this will end your longings.” Then when it does not, he shines the glimmering mirage of yet another empty oasis to lure our thirsty soul.

However, when we put this weight of satisfaction on our marriage we miss the point. We miss the beauty of the gift God has given us. Sorry Jerry McGuire but another human being was never meant to complete you and your lady is gonna seriously suffer for the weight that you’re laying in that statement. Because guess what? Relationships struggle, and we argue, and its painful at times. And anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t in much of a relationship, or they're lying.

But its’t also so so so awesome too. My husband is amazing, like for real amazing. Incredibly patient with me, kind to me, generous with me, super cute, I mean the list goes on and on. But it’s awesome because we get to share a love together. A love that reflects Christ and his Church. So we get to engage in a self-less, other exalting relationship that frees us from our focus on our self. We get to consider the other more significant than ourself and enjoy the other as the gift that they are. Not expecting them to make us happy, although I spend so many days with a smile on my face because of the gift my husband is to me. Not expecting them to be our sense of peace, although God often gives me comfort through my husbands arms wrapped around me. Not expecting them to solve the world’s problems for us, although my husband did just run to walmart for a plunger after our son’s enormous #2 and possibly a hot wheels car clogged the toilets.

Our thirsts will never be quenched until they are drowned in the all satisfying love of Christ, the joy of knowing Him, and the peace of his justification. And on the days that I don’t feel these realities, I don’t blame my husband for his fault in my emotions. I preach the gospel to myself, reminding my heart to look to Christ, the author and finisher of my faith.  

 

by Jordan Sparks

The Cult Leader and The Theological Conservative

Is there a difference between "Scripture vs Scripture" and "Scripture Interpreting Scripture?" I think so.

The shape of the "Scripture vs Scripture" model. Step one is to make the Bible say or not say whatever you want it to say or not say by using the Bible. You just have to put one verse against another verse to discover which verse can be thrown out. It does not matter if you're a theological liberal or conservative, this model works. If that is the kind of "Work" you want the Bible to do for you. Cult leaders can use this method as well as the "Biblical Authority" guy. The real problem lies not with the Bible, but in the heart of the person who only loves some of the Bible.

The better way is the "Scripture interprets Scripture" model. The starting point with this model is the bedrock truth of the sufficiency of all the scriptures. This model never puts scripture against scripture because the Bible is never against the Bible. The goal of the person following this model is to lay down their position and take up the Biblical position. If we are going to interpret the Bible with the Bible then it is going to require us to objectively say "Yes" and "Yes" to the very things others are saying "Yes" and "No" too.

Seek the later. When we come to the Bible, lets not put it against itself or attempt to shape it. Rather, love all of the Bible and be shaped and changed by it.

Sermon Outline: Eph Pt. 26 "Work"

Eph Pt 26
Eph 6: 5-9 "Work"

Intro: Preaching Through Books
Preach passages that may otherwise never be preached. 
Easier To Follow. 
Context. We get the context. 
Can't ignore hard passages. I get stretched. 
Today is one of those passages. 
Vs 5: Bondservants/Slaves. 6 Comments on Slavery
Slaves and Masters Worshiped Together as Members of the Same Local Body of Christ. 
Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, three is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus"
Equality in personhood and value in Christ. 
God speaks to Slaves as equals! 
The slave will not be overlooked by God. 
It was not primarily racial. Different form of Slavery than Colonial American Slavery.  John Stott "Slavery seems to have been universal in the ancient world. A high percentage of the population were slaves. ‘It has been computed that in the Roman Empire there were 60,000,000 slaves. They constituted the work force, and included not only domestic servants and manual laborers but educated people as well, like doctors, teachers and administrators. Slaves could be inherited or purchased, or acquired in settlement of a bad debt, and prisoners of war commonly became slaves. Nobody queried or challenged the arrangement. ‘The institution of slavery was a fact of Mediterranean economic life so completely accepted as a part of the labour structure of the time that one cannot correctly speak of the slave “problem” in antiquity
The Bible Condemns Taking Slaves By Force. Colonial Slavery
1 Tim 1:8-11 "    [8] Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, [9] understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, [10] the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, [11] in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
All Christians Share Identity as Slaves to Christ. Romans 1:1 "Paul, a servant (Bondservant) of Christ Jesus"
Being a bondservant of Jesus is true freedom. We are not our own. 
1 Cor 6:19-20 "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price"
We are slaves of Christ and we are Sons of God. 
God gave eternal value and eternal rewards on the work of the Slave.  
The slave was not to work for his master but for his Master behind his master. 
The slave may go under appreciated by an earthy master, but is never overlooked by the God of the Universe.  
Turned the whole system upside down. The slave is to work for Christ. 
Vs 8,9: (Or is Free) This was not just for slaves. This was for Everyone. 
Free. Do the same. No partiality. 
We will view this as Employees and Bosses. 
This is about work. 
Vs 5-7: Two Ways to Work. Work Confusion. 
1. Work for the Attention of Others. Work as a People Pleaser. Work for Your own Glory.
Work is motivated by the eyes who are watching you. Eye-service. Ill work hard to impress my boss. (Papa Johns). Pastors want to appear busy for the same reason. 
Work is your outlet to impress other people. If people are pleased, then you are pleased. Your pleasure comes only to the degree that others are impressed and pleased with you. 
Work for your glory. Why do you do what you do? Are you always searching for humanity to validate your glory? Do you live and work to be know and feel the pleasure of the praise of the masses?      
Work becomes the way to scratch my inch of of my search for significance. 
2. Know superior Glory. The Gospel. Work for the Glory of Jesus. 
vs 5 (As you would Christ) vs 6 (As bondservants of Christ) vs 7 (Render service to God not man)
Jesus is our boss behind our boss. 
We are freed from the suicidal tyranny of living as a people pleaser. 
Free to work for the Glory of another? Our identity does not have to be tied to our work. 
Free to find meaning in our normal routine lives. 
So many feel as if there work is unimportant. 
"I just want to make a difference." 
"What I do just does not matter"
"I can't find meaning in this work"
More times than not, the real complaint is "These tasks don't bring me the glory I want." When you understand the gospel and you see that Jesus is the boss behind your boss, it changes everything.   
Vs 8: Known is Heaven>Known on earth.  
The world may not know or care, God does! 
The first century slave working for the Glory of God lived a more fulfilling and free life than the modern day CEO of a fortune 500 company living and working for the praise of people. 
No matter how ordinary the work. No matter how small the task. If your work never gets you known on this earth. As we live for the Glory of Jesus as slaves to him. 
"Whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or free."
God in heaven knows the names of those who are invisible and nameless on earth. Being known in heaven is infinity more important than being known on earth.  
Ordinary Pastor: Last Page
Vs 9: Bosses "Do the Same"
God gave slaves the dignity of telling their masters "The same thing"
Work for God not for man. 
"Masters" "Bosses", you have a boss, and he is not impressed with your position!
Bosses. Few questions. Do your employees exist for you and to make your flourish? Do you lead expecting them to serve you? Or do you see yourself as their servant, living to see them flourish? Do they exist for your kingdom or do you exist to serve them? 
All of us. If we don't get our glory drowned out by the Glory of Jesus we will live a long life trying to gain glory for ourselves through work. By God's grace lets see the Glory of Jesus and live and work for his glory and honor.  

 

The Astonishing Last Words of Peter

2 Peter 3:18 "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."

 

           The dying man or women chooses their last words with great intentionality. Imagine having only one more day to live. Would you chose your words wisely? Last words carry great weight. The apostle Peter has some last words for us. To be fair, the apostle died after he penned the second letter ascribed to his name. We know the last words contained in 2 Peter are not the last words he ever wrote or spoke. However, to state the obvious, we do have the last Biblical words of Peter. They are astonishing!

           Consider Peter. Jesus called him out of fishing for fish to fish for men. Ole' Pete was one of the 12. We know a lot about this guy right? Peter had his highs and lows. He was consistently inconsistent. He walked on water with Jesus and he denied knowing Jesus. A high and a low. Not long after the whole denying Jesus thing, he preached a sermon about the cross of Christ complete with fire! Three thousand people responded in repentance, faith and baptism. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and guess what? He was still a mess. The Apostle's consistent inconsistency reared it's ugly head again and the reward he got was a Pauline rebuke. Reason? Peter forgot the basics. He forgot the very gospel he so passionately preached. 

           I love Peter's last words. What did Peter need? What did the recipients of his letter need? What do you and I need? 2 Peter 3:18 "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." We need to "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." We need to remember Him! We need to remember that this life is not about gaining glory for ourselves through glorifying ourselves. Our life is to be lived "To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity." 

           The Apostle Peter, wise in his older age, understands what he needs and what others need. It's like Peter says "Here it is! Here is the main point! Here is what I needed when I was younger and what I need right now! Hear this church! You need to grow in the grace and knowledge or our Lord Jesus Christ." The Holy Spirit was making Peter strong. Christian strength is found in those parting words. As tradition tells us, Peter died in strength. He died having grown in Christ. He died living for Christ glory.   

            We would be wise to listen to Peter's parting words. Today and forever, may we grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ and live for His glory. 

Swain's Song

You may never have read of Joseph Swain. His life was a short blip on the radar of eternity- only 35 years. But God used Joseph's short life to comfort a distressing soul today- namely my own.

You see, Joseph became a Baptist pastor in 1791 Birmingham, England, after working as an engraver for the majority of his life. His engravings were stunning, but upon hearing the gospel and being baptized by Rev. Dr. Rippon, he devoted his life to pastoral ministry and began to employ a new art; an art that would serve his congregation and many others well: he began writing hymns that point us to Jesus and remind us of the sufficiency of His work the gospel.

It was one such hymn that called my soul to look to Jesus again today, called "Come Ye Souls by Sin Afflicted".

Our lives may be short, but no life is wasted spent in the service of Jesus and His Church. God used the short life of Joseph Swain to pierce my heart with the life-giving, sin-liberating, self-effacing, God-glorifying message of Christ and Him crucified 220 years later. 


Here is Indelible Grace's version of it with music by Kevin Twit. 
I encourage you to sing along and be refreshed by this iteration of the gospel. 
-Andy

 

1. Come ye souls by, sin afflicted, 
Bowed with fruitless, sorrow down; 
By the broken, law convicted, 
Through the cross, behold the crown; 
Look to Jesus; Look to Jesus; Look to Jesus; 
Mercy flows through Him alone.

2. Take His easy, yoke and wear it; 
Love will make your, obedience sweet; 
Christ will give you, strength to bear it, 
While His grace, shall guide your feet
Safe to glory, Safe to glory, Safe to glory, 
Where His ransomed captives meet.

3. Blessèd are the, eyes that see Him, 
Blest the ears that, hear His voice; 
Blessèd are the, souls that trust Him, 
And in Him, alone rejoice; 
His commandments, His commandments, His commandments
Then become their happy choice.

4. Sweet as home to, pilgrims weary, 
Light to newly, opened eyes, 
Like full springs in, deserts dreary, 
Is the rest, the cross supplies; 
All who taste it, All who taste it, All who taste it
Shall to rest immortal rise.

Tag: Look to Jesus; Look to Jesus; Look to Jesus; 
Mercy flows through Him alone.


http://hymnbook.igracemusic.com/hymns/come-ye-souls-by-sin-afflicted
http://www.hymnary.org/person/Swain_Joseph

The Enemy And The Still Small Voice

  Countless times, with Bibles open, I have heard the response "That is not the god I know." I have to admit, I also have said those words. How is it that so many people believe "the god they know" carries more authority than the God of the Bible?
      I believe this error comes down to one major problem. Over the last few decades, we have seen a re-invention of what it means to hear from God. Many Christians have only one category when it comes to hearing the voice of God, "the still small voice." I do not want to diminish the reality of the leading and the speaking of the Holy Spirit, but I do want to point out the obvious. God has spoken! The Bible is the very words of God. We must not miss the obvious. 
      Friends, have you considered that lately? Do you often wonder why you don't hear the voice of God? Can I remind you of something? The voice of God is as close as that dusty Bible. If you want to hear God speak, read the Bible. There is not a single season of life in which you are left without a word from God. He has spoken. But what happens when we miss this truth?
      The Enemy is very crafty. His tactics are the exact same today as they were in the garden of Eden. He still wants people to question God's word. So he whispers. Satan is masterful at convincing people that his whispers are actually the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. That is why so many people in our world today value what "god says to me" over what the Bible says. Friends, if you don't know the written word, you will not be able to distinguish the still small voice of the Enemy with the still small voice of the Spirit.
      Let me plead with you. Read and study your Bible. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand and see Jesus in the Word. God has spoken! Let's follow Jesus example and stand against the lies of the Enemy by saying, "It is written."

Christian. You Should Love The Church

 

Eph 5:25 "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her"

 

           If you could get a window into my life a decade or so ago you would have heard me say something like this "I love Jesus, but not the church." I don't think I am alone. You been there?  Many of you have gone through similar stages that I went through. You had a bad church experience. We think "It is not supposed to be this way!" So we complain and sleep in on Sundays. Conclusion? "I'll just pray, read my bible, and just do my own thing with Jesus. 

           Until? God open's your eyes and heart to a verse like Eph 5:25. Wow! Jesus loves and gave himself up for his bride the church! This, then, is the question that I (You) are faced with. Am I at liberty to say I love Jesus while slandering and neglecting his bride? Answer. No! So I love the local church. 

           Consider this from a similar angle. My wife is Jordan. I love my wife. Yes she has flaws. Jordan would be the first to admit that. But, she is fantastic! So I ask you. How do you think I would respond if you came up to me and declared "Jared? I like you, but your wife! I don't like Jordan at all." I might just pull out my Kershaw Ken Onion knife and cut you! Wait... Okay not that. But, I would not appreciate your words, as authentic as they may be. 

          There is a better way. Love what Jesus loves. Get connected with the body of Christ. Love Jesus and love his bride. After all, you claim to be a part of it:)    

Waters Far Better

My family and I live in an area that has seven large lakes. One of them is in the town we live in. It even has a small camper’s beach for swimming. Yes, the beach is mostly covered in geese poop, but it’s sand and sun, and we love it, so we go there quite frequently in the summer. It’s also not the clearest lake. It clean, but it’s a lake so you can’t see what you’re stepping on and theirs lots of plant like substances floating around. While I’m swimming in the murky waters, I often start thinking about what’s around me and under foot. Then I start getting very jumpy. The second I feel a floating bout of weeds graze my hand, I sheik and usually jump on my husband’s back convinced that one of those crazy fresh water sharks have found their way to good ol’ Crab Orchard lake. 

 

Stay with me now, my analogy will eventually make sense, but first some background. Growing up I had lots of ideas of what my future would be like. What I will now describe as very specific delusions of grandeur. Yes, I would mask them behind a Christian-ese facade to make them more palpable, but let's get down to it. They were idols in my heart. Things that I wanted God to give me for no other reason than to glorify me. Then real life happened and there aren’t that many similarities between my life and those delusions. We have had seasons of very painful circumstances, loss, and heartache. This can be difficult to navigate in a world that tells you to “follow your dreams,” and “you can be anything.” However, for the Christian woman our heart beats with another cry. “It’s Jesus I follow, and I am His whatever my life may bring.” 

 

There is a quote by John Piper that has spoken volumes to me. 

 

@JohnPiper

Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.

 

Far too frequently these previous ideas have crept back into my mind reminding me of a life much different than my own. It’s on those days I can choose to fear the “what if’s” of life, panicking any time seaweed floats by me. Or I can, by God’s grace, enjoy the depth of God’s love for me that I get to swim in daily. I can fully embrace what God has given me, making the most of every opportunity, realizing I was sovereignly placed for a specific time in the place He has me. 

 

It’s on those ‘dark days of the soul’ that I must be reminded that my heart is unfit for following. 

 

Jeremiah 17:9 English Standard Version (ESV)

 

9 The heart is deceitful above all things,

    and desperately sick;

    who can understand it?

 

Apart from the Spirit, my heart will fall in line with Israel in the book of Hosea; going after lovers to give me bread, water, wool, and flax thinking those things are what I really want. I need God to come again and hedge a wall protecting me from myself. Reminding me that it’s Him, my heart’s first Love, who gives me grain, wine, silver, and gold. God continues to save me from myself; whispering to me His ways are best for me and He has better for me and that “better” for me isn’t silver and gold, but it’s Him! He offers me the best, Himself. 


What freedom there is for the Christian woman who knows God has made her, cares for her, and is sovereign over her. God knows the best for her heart. Why would He give her the soil in which an idol would flourish? He is too good of a Father for that. Instead, much better He gives. He gives us life with Himself, and a promise that He will never leave. Inviting us into waters fully satisfying, far better than we could have dreamed. Today, would you enjoy the all fulfilling waters of a life spent to the glory of God, or will we be so entangled in the idols of our heart that we miss the opportunity to swim.

Jordan Sparks 

Sermon Outline "The Wills of God" Eph Pt. 9

Ephesians Part 9 "The Will's of God"
Eph 1:1,5,9,11
Intro: God's 2 Wills
-All Things to the Counsel of His Will
-Human Double Will. Ice cream and salad
-God's Two Wills. Moral and Sovereign
-Confusion abounds when we only know of 1 Will of God. 
-Suffering: Past answers, Current Comfort, Prep for the Future
-Murder, Rape,Thievery, Child abuse, Sexual assault, Poverty, Divorce, Hurricanes, Earthquakes, -Tornados, Disease, Despair, Hopelessness. It goes on and on. 

1. God's Moral Will (Revealed)
-Gen 2:15-17
-Exodus 20: The 10 Commandments
-Whole OT Narrative portray's Israel breaking God's moral will. 
-Luke 7:30 "But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him."
-Luke 13:34 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!"  

Worldview of the Person Who Only Knows of God's Moral Will
1. Human will is the deciding factor in everything. God has so many desires for you and the world if only people would co-operate. From Salvation to blessings in life, it's up to you. God desires these things but end the end your salvation and blessing is up to you. 
2. Satan is truly free. He is the cause of all bad things in the world. God does not these bad things to happen but the Ruler of this world gets his way. 
3. God's favor upon you is as solid as your ability to keep His moral law. 
4. Nations are believed to be saved by God's moral law. Therefore Politics play a heavy role in your worldview. 

2. Eph 1:11 God's Sovereign Will (Concealed)
-Natural/Weather: Ps. 135:6-7, Ps. 148:5-8, Amos 3:6, Is 45:4-7
-Animals: Ps. 104:21, Matt. 6:26, 10:29
-Humans: Gen. 45:7-8, Matthew 11:25, Rom 9:19-21. 
-Satan: Job 1:6-12, Satan gets permission, 1 Sam. 16:14-23,18:10,19:9, 2 Cor. 12:7-8
-Suffering: 1 Pet. 2:21, 3:17, 4:19, Phil 1:29, Exodus 4:11. 
-All things. Is 46:8-11

Worldview of the Person Who Only Know's of God's Sovereign Will
1. Human's choice is an illusion. 
2. Satan is rarely mentioned or talked about. God basically does good and evil and we are all just pons in His master plan. 
3. God's favor upon you gives you a pass to be a jerk or to be lazy in your pursuit of God. 
4. Prayers are only prayers of submission. Passionate pleas of prayer for deliverance, healing, or direction are shunned.  

 
The Cross of Christ is the Key
-Acts 2:22-23, Acts 4:27-28
-The conviction and crucification or Christ was done by lawless men. 
This was the worst sin in the history of the world. He was innocent and righteous and God in the flesh. 
-If God is big enough to be in charge of the worst sin ever committed and make it the most beautiful message in history then we can trust Him in our suffering knowing that He is in charge. 

5 Comforts the Come From Holding Both Wills Together

1. We know by God's moral will that God hates and punishes evil. His wrath is building for all those who break His moral law. His sovereign so he has the ability to punish lawbreakers. 
2. We can trust God's sovereign will even when his moral will is broken. God is ultimately in charge even of nations.  Prov 21:1 "The king's heart is a steam of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it where ever he will."
3. God will grow me up. Spiritual Growth comes through adversity. David said "It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes." Ps. 119:71. And remember Paul's thorn brought humility. 
4. We will experience God through suffering. Ransom in my lap Through our prayers and petitions we Get to sit in our Father's lap through pain. 
5. Even though we break God's moral will daily, by His sovereign will the Word says "No one will snatch them from my Father's hand" Jn 10.

Conclusion
Romans 8:28
Eph 1:11

We Need Justification AND Adoption

Holding justification and adoption together is supremely important. What happens if we fail to hold both doctrines together?

Justification without adoption can lead to a static and impersonal understanding of God. Yes, you will be firm in your understanding of forgiveness, but you will know nothing of sonship. When other people talk about a relationship with God, it sounds weird to you.

Adoption without justification is both impossible and frightening. I have met many Christians who understand that they are a son or daughter of God, yet they know nothing of justification. The danger with this mistake is that it leads to being a person who is always afraid of their heavenly Father. Security is only a solid as today's performance or failure.

Fortunately for us, in Christ we have both!

Ephesians Week 3 Sermon Outline

Ephesians Week 3
Eph 1:1-3
"A People of Praise"

Intro: The Majesty of Ephesians
"This letter is pure music... What we read here is truth that sings, doctrine set to music." 
"Ephesians is today the most contemporary book in the bible, since it promises community in a world of disunity, reconciliation in place of alienation and peace instead of war."
"The Whole letter is thus a magnificent combination of Christian Doctrine and Christian duty, Christian faith and Christian life, what God has done through Christ and what we must be and do in consequence."
Here we have a shorter Romans with a compounded punch. 

Vs 1-2 Greetings
From Paul. He planted the church. Spent two years with them. 
To The Saints-The Church in Ephesus. 
Important to understand. This was to Christians. The contents of the letter are important for believers. 
Ephesus was a major cultural metropolitan center. 
Grace and Peace to you. We need grace and peace this morning. We need grace and peace for our church. 


Vs 3: Intro: "We Enter Through a Magnificent Gateway" 
3-14 is one sentence in the original greek. 
A sentence that is eternally high and eternally deep. 
The Colorado Sunset. 
Rivers of delight
It's like Mary Poppins bag. More and more stuff comes out! It just keeps coming!  
We learn of the Love of God the Father, what it means to be In Christ, and how the Holy Spirit gives us assurance.
The goal of the sentence is evoke deep outbursts of joy and adoration. 
It's goal is to drowned out the glory of self in the flood of the Glory of God. 
The goal is that this would be like smelling salt to the heart! 
vs 3 Paul shows us the way. 

Vs 3a: Praise be to God! Vs 3 easy to miss
Proper response to the content that is provided? Praise
vs 6 "To the praise of his glorious grace" 
vs 12 "To the praise of his glory"
vs 14 "To the praise of his glory" 
Paul models for us "Praise". Paul leads the way
Praise be to God! 
Why? 

Vs 3b: Who has blessed us in Christ. (Spiritual Blessings Intro)
God has blessed us in Christ. 
In Christ 27 times in the letter. 
In Christ, God has done something for us! 
Blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places! Stott
What!!!!!! 
God has not held back on us! 
This should evoke praise! 

1 Pet 2:9-10
Vs 9a:What are we? 
Chosen Race, Royal Priesthood, Holy Nation
What for? 

Vs 9b-10: For a Purpose
That! You may proclaim! 
His excellencies! 
He called you out of darkness and into marvelous light
He gave you and identity
He had mercy on you! 
God saved you from yourself and to the praise of his glorious grace! 

We are a people of praise! 
We say with Paul "Blessed be God!" 
We say with Peter "God is excellent!" 

Christ Church

It's an incredible thing when God asks you do something unforeseen. It's also a difficult thing. From that footing of faith and fear, I make this announcement. Over the past 2 and a half years I have been serving at Christian Covenant Fellowship in Carterville. My family and I believed that was where the Lord would have us for a lifetime. However, over the past 6 months the Lord has graciously caused an earthquake of a calling under our feet to shake us from our comfort and drive us to dependence on Him. He has called us to plant a Church. Christ Church of Carbondale, IL. We are planting through the Southern Baptist Convention with Christopher First Baptist Church as our sending church. 


Why are We doing this?


Firstly, because we believe this is what Jesus wants us to do. And secondly, because we want to see lost people reached. We want the gospel to go forth, people to repent of their sin and believe in Jesus. We want to make disciples, that will in turn make disciples themselves.


"But isn't there enough churches already?" Glad you asked.

 

  • In 1900, there were 28 churches for every 10,000 Americans

  • In 1950, there were 17 churches for every 10,000 Americans

  • In 2000, there were 12 churches for every 10,000 Americans

  • In 2004, there were 11 churches for every 10,000 Americans

Tom Clegg and Warren Bird, Lost in America: How You and Your Church Can Impact the World Next Door (Loveland, CO; Group Publishers, 2001), 30, as cited in Planting Missional Churches


According to missiologist Ed Stetzer, there are 120 million undiscipled people in the United States making it the largest mission field in the Western hemisphere and the fifth largest on earth. So the truth is, Carbondale needs the gospel. Bible believing Jesus loving churches aren't able to keep up with the population rate, and there are unreached people in our midst. 

 

  • Carbondale is the most religiously, ethnically, and racially diverse city in Southern Illinois with literally hundreds of nations and people groups represented.

  • The Population of Carbondale 25,902

  • There is only one Southern Baptist Church for every 4,317 people

  • Just under half of the population of Carbondale are between the ages of 18-24

Carbondale, IL is a global community- one in which people from countries all over the world come to live and further their education. Because of the presence of SIU, “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth” have come here. In Carbondale, we have the opportunity of global impact for the Glory of God.  

 

January the 24th will be our first official Sunday gathering. We will be meeting at the Baptist Collegiate Ministries Building at 10 am. For the past couple months, Jordan and I have been praying for God to woo other hearts to this mission. He has promised to provide our needs, and right now Christ Church needs people who believe the bible and are willing to be missionaries in this endeavor. We pray that by His grace, He would do amazing work in Carbondale.

 

Our core team has currently been meeting on Monday nights, preparing together, worshiping, and fellowshipping. Praise be to Jesus that he has brought some amazing people already to be a part of Christ Church! I would like to introduce you to our pastors.

 

Andy Claud

Andy Claud will serve on staff as a pastor, and his primary responsibilities will be musical worship, teaching, and personal discipleship.

(Andy, his wife, Kathy, and their son, Asaph. They are also expecting a baby girl, Elisabeth, in March)

 

Russ Kreuter will be another of our pastors, and his primary responsibilities will include preaching, teaching a small group, personal discipleship.

(Russ and Jenny Kreuter and their three children Ella, Silas, and Luciana)

Jared Sparks

I will be serving on staff as a pastor. My primary responsibilities will be preaching and personal discipleship.

(Myself, and my wife Jordan Sparks and our son Ransom)