Amazing Grace

As promised here are notes to accompany this morning’s sermon. If you’d like to watch the sermon go to our Facebook: (https://www.facebook.com/gracecommunitymarion/).

Here is the link to the four benefits of the mercies of God from Robert McGee’s book, Search for Significance. Meditate on these. God will use them to remind you of who you are in him. Performance Trap

I also highly recommend Paul David Tripps’ Devotional, New Morning Mercies.

The video I was going to share from the movie Amazing Grace is attached here. Enjoy. What a changed life!

Jesus, It is You

Fridays are not always fabulous. Sometimes they’re downright frightening. Marriages don’t magically get better on Fridays. Friendships don’t suddenly work out because the weekend is approaching. Pain shows up Friday mornings just like other mornings. So, on this Friday afternoon, I’m compelled to share with you how Jesus sat down in the Jeep beside me on the way to Montreat this morning. It was moments of glory, minutes of worship.

This is the song that was playing. It’s 8 minutes long. If you don’t have that much time right now, a few minutes of it will give you the idea. The ONE THING TRUE is Jesus. Enjoy.

When Silence Isn’t Golden

ntsI am not a politician. I am not a political junkie. I watch the news 2 to 3 times a week. This is not a political post. I simply cannot be silent.

In two weeks we (Grace Community Church) will host Night to Shine, a prom for people with special needs. Night to Shine will involve hundreds of volunteers, cost more than $10k, and require remarkable energy from every level of leadership at Grace. Why do we do it? Because people with special needs matter. Their lives are valuable to God and to us.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14, ESV)

In 2017, CBS traveled to Iceland to study the impact of prenatal testing on Down’s Syndrome. The title of their article revealed the horror they felt:

“What kind of society do you want to live in?”: Inside the country where Down syndrome is disappearing(see article here)

I felt the same horror when I heard of the New York Senate’s decision to allow abortion all the way up to full term–if the baby is no longer “viable” or the mother’s “well-being” is at risk. When the bill passed, the Senate erupted in applause. Why do I find their applause horrifying? The ambiguity of the phrase “well-being of the mother” provides an open door for unprecedented late-term abortions. Wellbeing refers to “all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the wellbeing of the patient.”

We are at a standstill over border protection. I value the lives of people who desperately want to get into this country. This is one reason I’ve traveled to Nicaragua, Ecuador, Honduras and Africa on mission trips. People matter to God. All colors, all tribes, all people groups. He loves none of them more than any other.

But we cannot have it both ways. We either value the voiceless life of the unborn, the sometimes muffled voice of the person with special needs, the unrecognizable voice of the immigrant who does not speak our language, and the weak voice of the aging Alzheimer’s patient who no longer knows her name–or we don’t value life at all. Throughout all of Scripture God clearly calls us to speak up and provide for 3 kinds of people:

At the end of every three years, bring all your tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29, NIV, emphasis mine)

I am not suggesting that we go soft on the border. I have no desire to wade into that political minefield. I am saying that we must NEVER go soft on life, on its value to those who have no voice, who cannot speak for themselves either because they are resting in their mom’s amniotic fluid, or their intellectual development prohibits them from speaking up, or they cannot speak our language, or they can no longer articulate…because disease has attacked their minds. They matter to God…and they must matter to us.

 

 

My Heart, His Dwelling Place

This one is spaced better. Sorry!

Enough for Today

For the LORD has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his dwelling place:
“This is my resting place forever;
here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless her provisions;
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
Her priests I will clothe with salvation,
and her saints will shout for joy.
There I will make a horn to sprout for David;
I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.
His enemies I will clothe with shame,
but on him his crown will shine.” (Psalm 132:13-18, ESV)
Psalm 132 is clearly about David’s desire to move the tabernacle to Jerusalem. When David became king, the tabernacle (and by extension the Ark of the Covenant) was in Shiloh. It took two years for David to make Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move the ark there.

However, the Psalmist is also clear that God had chosen Jerusalem…

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My Heart, His Dwelling Place

For the LORD has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his dwelling place:
“This is my resting place forever;
here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless her provisions;
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
Her priests I will clothe with salvation,
and her saints will shout for joy.
There I will make a horn to sprout for David;
I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.
His enemies I will clothe with shame,
but on him his crown will shine.” (Psalm 132:13-18, ESV)
Psalm 132 is clearly about David’s desire to move the tabernacle to Jerusalem. When David became king, the tabernacle (and by extension the Ark of the Covenant) was in Shiloh. It took two years for David to make Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move the ark there.

However, the Psalmist is also clear that God had chosen Jerusalem (Zion) before David brought the ark there. David was simply doing what God had already ordained. So how is this Psalm applied to you and me today?

This morning, in my time with the Lord, this is what I did. I do not think I’m off base with this. The reality is, if you belong to Jesus, it is because God chose you. He called you and redeemed you. This is not a treatise on predestination and election. Books have been written to tackle the profundity of the passages on both election and the free will of men and women. I believe both.

But read this passage like this:

For the LORD has chosen me;
he has desired me for his dwelling place:

Then God speaks…
“You are my resting place forever;
here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless you;
I will satisfy you with bread.
You I will clothe with salvation,
and you will shout for joy.
There I will make a horn to sprout for you;
I have prepared a lamp for you,
Your enemies I will clothe with shame,
but on you my crown will shine.”

In the New Testament, our hearts become Christ’s home. He no longer dwells in the temple, but we become the temple. What if we truly believed this! Lived out of it! Appropriated this into our lives!

Is your heart His resting place? Has it occurred to you that, if you are born again, He has desired to dwell in you. He longs to satisfy you. He longs to clothe your naked sinfulness with his salvation. Your enemies (the world, Satan and your sinful nature) he will clothe with shame.

We are, of all people, most blessed. Dwell on this today.

Your God is Too Small

Our God is too small…because our enemy is too small. I’m afraid we think too little of God because we think too little of the enemy of our soul. Before you think I’ve lost my way with this, listen to David’s words in Psalm 124:

If it had not been the LORD who was on our side—
let Israel now say—
if it had not been the LORD who was on our side
when people rose up against us,
then they would have swallowed us up alive,
when their anger was kindled against us;
then the flood would have swept us away,
the torrent would have gone over us;
then over us would have gone
the raging waters. (Psalm 124: 1-5, ESV)

What struck me as I read Psalm 124 was not David’s assessment of the Lord, it was his evaluation of the enemy. He talks more about the enemy than he does the Lord. Notice the words he uses to describe the intent of the enemy: swallowed us up alive, anger kindled against us, flood that swept us away, torrent gone over us, then over us would have gone the raging waters. We’ve had enough rain recently to see the effects of raging flood waters. Water is a force to be reckoned with. Satan is too. So is the world. And our sinful nature.

I’m afraid our God is too small because our enemy is too. Listen to Jesus’ words:

The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10, ESV)

Satan’s goal is not to trip you up–his goal is your total destruction. The world wants to twist how you think, affect your heart’s desires, and infect your relationships. Your sinful nature craves sin, delights in it, can never get enough. Don’t go light on the enemies of your soul. They’re real. They are raging waters and rushing torrents. They want to sweep you away. Again Jesus’ words…to Peter:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32, ESV)

And how did Peter respond?

Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:33-34, ESV)

Peter underestimated the enemy…and paid dearly for it. He denied the very Christ he loved so much. So what do we do? Focus on the enemy? Live in fear? No!

Notice how David ends the Psalm:

Blessed be the LORD,
who has not given us
as prey to their teeth!
We have escaped like a bird
from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
and we have escaped!
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 124:6-8, ESV)

David ends by blessing the Lord. The enemy is great. God is greater. The enemy entraps. God breaks the snare. The enemy is strong, God is stronger. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” David appeals to God’s greatest act–that of creating. You must too. If you belong to God, you are a new creation–the old has passed away, behold the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)

How might you echo David’s words: “My help is in the name of the Lord who made me, made me new, and now lives inside me.” The aged apostle John wrote, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4, ESV)

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, let _____________________ (your name) now say…”

 

Why Flash Mobs Remind me of Immanuel

I watch this video every year. It’s my favorite, and evidently it’s the favorite of a lot of others too. More than 52 million have watched it! But before you look at it, consider Jesus’ own appellation: Immanuel.

Isaiah predicted it. Matthew affirmed it. His name shall be called Immanuel. But did Jesus embrace it? What did Jesus think of Immanuel? Jesus’ fulfillment of his own name can be summarized in three statements:

I was with you

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:23, ESV) Before you and I were ever born, Jesus became one of us. He took on our flesh, and more importantly and drastically, took on our sin. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

I am with you

Listen to Jesus’ own words: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20, ESV) “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, ESV) He is with you in the delivery room, the operating room, the courtroom, the classroom, the living room and the solitude of your bedroom when tears quietly drop from your eyes. He is with you in the celebrations and the humiliations.

You will be with me

Listen again to Jesus’ words: “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.” (John 12:26, ESV) “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:3, ESV) “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24, ESV)

Flash mobs are a welcomed but surprise visit. Passersby don’t expect them, but are glad when they show up (if they can sing!). That was Jesus. Unexpected by most. Welcomed by some. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God..”(John 1:12, ESV)

Regifting Christmas

We’re all guilty. Someone gives us a gift and we immediately think of someone who could use it more than we could. So we give it as if we purchased it for them ourselves.

This morning Alan-Michael “regifted” salvation. He opened it, explained it and said, “here goes.” But it was no small gift…actually it is a gift that we receive once and then again and again. So here goes. Let’s take off the wrapping paper…again.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11, ESV)

Adoption: You and I get to know Christ. When you receive Christ as your Savior, you are adopted into God’s family. You become an heir to the family wealth–all the riches of Christ are yours.

Justification: You are found in Christ. In Colossians 3 Paul writes that our lives are hidden with God in Christ. To be justified is to be declared righteous–just as if you had never sinned. Or as someone else has said, just as if you had always obeyed. Your sins are cast into the depths of the sea NEVER to be remembered against you again! We are free from the PENALTY of sin.

Sanctification: We share his sufferings. Just as Jesus died for us, we die to ourselves. Daily. We die to our sinful habits. Every day is a death to self and our selfish desires. What a privilege! We are free from the POWER of sin.

Glorification: That I may attain to the resurrection of the dead. One day we will be with Jesus. One day we will see Him face to face. We will be glorified. One day we will be free from the PRESENCE of sin.

That’s a gift worth unwrapping again and again!

Religion vs. the Gospel

It is so easy, and tempting, to be religious and void of the grace of God that leads to a joyful life. In these comparisons, Tim Keller helps us to see the allure of religion and the freedom of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Take time to examine yourself on each of these. It’s a lot to take in–and for many a paradigm shift. When we wander, we wander back into works-oriented salvation–not to grace.

RELIGION: I obey-therefore I’m accepted.
THE GOSPEL: I’m accepted-therefore I obey.

RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity. 
THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.

RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God.
THE GOSPEL: I obey God to to delight and resemble Him.

RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.      
THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.

RELIGION: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs. 
THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism.

RELIGION: My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment. 
THE GOSPEL: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.

RELIGION: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure and inadequate. I’m not confident. I feel like a failure.
 THE GOSPEL: My self-view is not based on a view of myself as a moral achiever. In Christ I am simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.

RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work. Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to ‘the other.’ 
THE GOSPEL: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace. So I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace I am what I am. I’ve no inner need to win arguments.

RELIGION: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I may say I believe about God. 
THE GOSPEL: I have many good things in my life-family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things are ultimate things to me. None of them are things I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

Seeing Beyond the Walls of the Cave

King David’s early years as king were anything but ideal. Anointed by Samuel, David donned no royal robe, sat on no ornate throne. Rather, he returned to the fields as a shepherd boy. Then came his most famous moment, when with a single sling and stone he killed Goliath the giant. Saul, the sitting king, became insanely jealous. David ran for his life. Into a cave.

Psalm 57 is written while David is looking at the dark walls of a cave. There is no palace, no servants, no acoutrements fit for a king. He’s running for his life, not running the kingdom. Out of that cave David writes:

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! (Psalm 57:1-3, ESV)
In fear, David cries out to God for mercy. In faith, David sees beyond the walls of the cave. “Be merciful to me…God who fulfills his purpose for me.” Somehow David knows that caves come before crowns, pain often precedes one’s purpose.
My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth! (Psalm 57:4-5, ESV)
David was real about his situation. Beyond the walls of the cave Saul waited for David, trapped inside. But David saw beyond Saul: he saw a God who was above his cave, even above the heavens. David continues.
They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds. (Psalm 57:6-10, ESV)
Though the cave was dark, somehow David’s heart was not. His soul was bowed down, but his heart was steadfast. His “I will” penetrated the darkness of the cave with a vision of the glory of God! David sang in the cave. And in doing so, he saw beyond it. If you ever sing “among the nations” you will have to sing “in the cave” first. And what will be the theme of your song? The steadfast love and faithfulness of God.
David ultimately wrote 73 of the 150 Psalms…his first ones were written in the cave. Yesterday, driving home from Asheville, Carol Davis played this song on 106.9. I can’t (and don’t want to) get its words and sentiment out of my mind. If you must, sing it today in the cave. One day you will wear a crown.