Posts in "Devotional"
Rejoice!
I didn't talk a lot about it yesterday during our Easter service, but over the last several hours these words have been running through my mind, "The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord."

It was Easter Sunday night. The disciples had heard that Jesus was alive (from Mary Magdelene), but they hadn't seen Him for themselves. The resurrection of Jesus hadn't taken any affect on them yet. They were huddled in fear behind a locked door. Jesus appeared, gave them a greeting of peace, and then showed them His hands and side. It was seeing the resurrected Jesus with His nail pierced hands and and His spear pierced side that caused the disciples to rejoice.

How about you? Has the resurrection of Jesus had any affect on you yet? Does your feeling of joy center more on having a sunny weekend than on the truth that Jesus, the Son of God, was crucified for your sins and has risen from the grave, conquering sin and death. Maybe you just haven't seen Him for yourself yet, or lately. Maybe you have only heard of other people's experience of the resurrected Christ. Would you take time this week to read through the book of John again so that you might see Jesus for yourself and rejoice?
A Plan for Prayer
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Col 4:2 NIV)

The call of God on the life of a believer is clear. We all know that we should pray. We all know that we need to pray more. We all really want to be people who are devoted to prayer. But even knowing those things we often struggle to find time or to make time to actually pray. It seems to me that if any significant change is ever going to happen in our devotion to prayer we need a plan. More than likely you are not just going to wake up tomorrow morning, roll out of bed, and set the world on fire by the transformation of your prayer life if you have no plan. The truth is, if we don't make a plan, we will do things exactly the same as we did them yesterday and the day before and the day before that.

I thought I would encourage you today by sharing my plan with you. Plans don't have to be sophisticated. In fact, the simpler the better. My current plan has three parts:

1. Praying with the other pastors every Tuesday afternoon- When you share requests on your keeping in touch cards, those really do get prayed for every week by our pastors and elders. We also pray for each other and for other things concerning the church. This scheduled prayer time is an important part of my plan. Let me encourage you to find a couple of other people that you can schedule time to pray with on a regular basis.

2. Praying with folks from the Robinwood Congregation every 2nd and 4th Monday- We are convinced that God wants us to draw near to Him and ask for things like a child asks for things from his father. The scripture says, "you have not because you ask not". We are committed to drawing near to our Father and asking Him to move in powerful ways in our congregation. Would you be willing to carve out a few hours a month to pray with someone for the ministry context where God has place you?

3. Personal and Family Prayer- We try to spend time as a family talking to God each evening after some time in the scriptures. But when we are tired, it sure is good to have a plan for what we are going to talk about. Recently I have chosen a specific focus for personal and family prayers each day. It's not that we can't pray about other things that day, it just really helps me to have a plan. I'll list my categories for each day below. Maybe you'd like to chose different categories for your personal and family prayer time. Whatever you do, make a plan to pray!

Monday- Men. Praying for specific men in our church community to grow in Christ and develop into Godly leaders in their homes and in Christ's church.

Tuesday- Seizing the Time. Praying about things that God is doing in my world, through our church, in our community. Asking God what He is up to, asking Him to help us seize the time, to make the most of every opportunity, to do far beyond all we can ask or imagine in and through me, my family, and our church family.

Wednesday- World Missions. Praying for the missionaries that our family and our church family supports. Praying for unreached people groups and countries. Pray for opportunities for our church and for my family to be involved in bringing the gospel to the nations.

Thursday- Thankfulness. You might try having fun seeing how many things you can thank God for on Thankful Thursday!

Friday- Family. Praying mostly for immediate family, but also extended family.

Saturday- Salvations. Praying for people on our lives that don't yet know Jesus to come to know Him.

Sunday- Sermon. Obviously I am pretty motivated to pray on Sunday mornings. But Sunday mornings before church are a great time to pray for your church family and for how God might use you to build up the body of Christ at church that day.
Grace Based Parenting
Sara and I are always looking for resources to help us in raising our kids in a way that pleases God, helps them to follow Jesus, and keeps us from going crazy! Children are a blessing from the Lord, but there is a heavy responsibility and a lot of hard work involved.

So what role does our faith in Christ play in parenting? It means everything! Not only is our most important role to guide our kids to know and love Jesus, but there is no way we can do the work of parenting without God's supernatural intervention. In a word, we need grace.

Grace is something that God gives to us that we don't deserve. In the gospel, God poured out His amazing grace on us by sending His Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life and then give His life as a sacrifice for our sins. He rose from the dead. And then, amazingly, God reached out to us (sinful people) and drew us to faith in Christ! Our salvation comes to us not because of anything we have done, but because of what Christ has done for us. Amazing grace.

The concept of the book "Grace Based Parenting" is for us to parent our children in the same way God the Father parents us. God knows we are sinful people, and yet He still reached out to us and loved us in the gospel. In the same way, we know that our children are sinful people. After all, they are the products of sinful parents. Our role is to continue to reach out to our kids and love them even when they fail, which we know they will. We point them toward the amazing grace of God toward them in Christ. We forgive them and then guide them to walk in the truth.

Some people misunderstand grace. They see it as a license to live any way they want to because God will always forgive them. We call that abusing the grace of God. Not good. If we teach our kids that they can live any way they want to, we do them an eternal disservice.

However, others receive the grace of God and think that now they have to remain in God's good graces by never doing anything wrong. They set up a law for themselves (and their children) so that they will never step out of bounds. Obviously there are things we should and shouldn't do. But the law of love laid out for us in the gospel is one in which we are compelled to love God and love our neighbors because of what Christ has done for us. When we fail to follow that law of love, we have sinned. We are called to confess our sin to God, but we are never outside of His grace. Each day, each hour, each minute is chance to renew our relationship with God.

O may God help us to continue walking in His grace each day, and be parents who show that grace to our kids. Check out Tim Kimmel's book "Grace Based Parenting". I see it as a bit of a primer for helping us parents to live out the grace of God as we raise our kids.
His Mercies are New Every... Monday?
Yep. That's a phrase we use in our family when we think about getting a new start on Monday. It could be a new start to eating right after a weekend filled with junk food, a new start to exercising after a lazy weekend, a new start to family devotions after a busy weekend where they were inconsistent, etc. Just the like the New Year provides us an opportunity to make resolutions, the new week provides us an opportunity to start over.

Obviously there is nothing special about Monday. Our phrase is an embellishment of two verses in the book of Lamentations. In the midst of great affliction the prophet calls these words to mind and has hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam 3:22-23 ESV)

Whatever you are going through today, remember that God's great love and mercy never cease. He loves you today. Each morning is a chance to remember that He is merciful. He has withheld His wrath and instead poured out amazing grace through the work of Christ in the gospel. What a faithful God!

It is with these "mercies" clearly in view that we offer all of ourselves to God in service and worship (Romans 12:1). So how about it, will you get a fresh start in walking with God today? It is after all... Monday!

Join Pastor Nathan here each Monday morning for word of encouragement.
The Emperor's New Clothes
Last week I rediscovered this satirical children's fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. " The Emperor's New Clothes" is about a king who has an unhealthy fascination with new clothes, so much so that he has a different change of clothes for every hour of the day. One day a couple of charlatan weavers appear before the emperor claiming that they are able to manufacture clothes of exquisite beauty and uncommon character. These clothes that they create have a special quality that makes the clothes invisible to anyone who is either corrupt in his character or unfit for his office. The emperor commissions these men to make him a set of these clothes at once, paying them large sums of money to do the work.

As the clothes are being created several servants are sent to check on the clothes to see how the progress is coming. Though none of the officials could see anything on the loom, they feigned as if the clothes were very beautiful and told the king so. Finally the day comes for the emperor to try on his new clothes that are to be worn in a big procession around his capital city. Though the king sees nothing, he is quite embarrassed to think that he may be corrupt in character or unworthy of his office. Thus, he too claims that the clothes are simply marvelous, and all of his attendants agree. The king sets off on his procession around the city with much fanfare to display his new clothes to the citizens of his kingdom. No one can see the clothes, of course, but everyone is too scared to admit the fact.

Finally a small boy in the crowd cries out, "Why the King has nothing on!" And the boy's father said simply, "The voice of innocence has spoken." The emperor, knowing what the boy said was true, decided to continue on with the procession. It was too late to turn back now!

This simple fairy tale teaches us an important lesson about fear and pride. In our own Christian lives we are often blind to our own shortcomings. And... our so called "friends" are often afraid to point them out to us. Even if we do get a hint that not all is well in our lives, our pride often keeps us from taking action to change.

As many of us talked about on Sunday at New Life Church, the call of the gospel is to "put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature" and to "cloth ourselves" with the character of Christ (Colossians 3:5&12). Would you be willing to look at yourself with soberness (Romans 12:3) confess your sin to God (1 John 1:8-9) and put on some new clothes (Colossians 3:12)? Would you be willing to help a friend do the same (Proverbs 27:6)?
What Jesus Demands from the World
"What does God really want from me?" That is the question that born-again believers ask after they have trusted in Jesus. "What am I supposed to do with my life now?" Jesus doesn't leave that a mystery. In fact, Jesus is very clear about He expects from the whole world.

In the Great Commission Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." A disciple of Jesus is someone who is seeking to obey everything that Jesus has commanded us.

Today I want to commend to you John Piper's book, What Jesus Demands from the World*. In the book, Piper takes 50 commands of Jesus and talks about what it looks like to obey those commands. The chapters are very short (usually 3-5 pages). In 5-10 minutes you can really think deeply about the words of Jesus and find answers to that question, "What does Jesus want from me now?"

Several of the Men at New Life Robinwood are meeting together in pairs to discuss and pray about what they are reading in this book. The women's Thursday Morning Bible Study has worked through this book and really enjoyed it. How about you? Would you be willing to meet with one other person or a small group to read through this book, discuss, and grow as a disciple of Jesus?

*I have several copies of this book in my office that can be purchased from the church for $10. Reply to this post or call the church office if you would like a copy.
The Gospel in the Old Testament
Last week the message on the value of the Bible referenced what Jesus might have said when he "opened their eyes" to see what was written in the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:27). The next morning I read this hymn by William Cowper in the Olney Hymnal about the Old Testament Gospel.

Israel in ancient days,
Not only had a view
Of Sinai in a blaze,
But learned the gospel too:
The types and figures were a glass
In which they saw the Savior’s face.

The paschal sacrifice,
And blood–besprinkled door, (Ex. 12:13)
Seen with enlightened eyes,
And once applied with pow’r;
Would teach the need of other blood,
To reconcile an angry God.

The Lamb, the Dove, set forth
His perfect innocence, (Lev 12:6)
Whose blood, of matchless worth,
Should be the soul’s defence:
For he who can for sin atone,
Must have no failings of his own.

The scape–goat on his head (Lev 16:21)
The peoples’ trespass bore,
And to the desert led,
Was to be seen no more:
In him, our Surety seemed to say,
“Behold, I bear your sins away.”

Dipped in his fellows’ blood,
The living bird went free, (Lev 14:51-53)
The type, well understood,
Expressed the sinner’s plea;
Described a guilty soul enlarged,
And by a Savior’s death discharged.

Jesus I love to trace
Throughout the sacred page;
The footsteps of thy grace,
The same in every age!
O grant that I may faithful be
To clearer light, vouchsafed to me.
Preaching the Gospel to Yourself
A few weeks ago I had more good stuff than I could cram into a sermon. Here are some of the quotes I would have used if the sermon had lasted 2 hours!

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in this psalm] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.’” Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1965), 20.

“If I have observed anything by experience, it is this: a man may take the measure of his growth and decay in grace according to his thoughts and meditations upon the person of Christ, and the glory of Christ’s Kingdom, and of His love.” - John Owen

“Sin is therefore fundamentally opposition to God, rebellion against God, which roots in hatred of God.” – Anthony Hoekema

“Reminding ourselves of the Gospel is the most important daily habit we can establish. If the Gospel is the most vital news in the world, and if salvation by grace is the defining truth of our existence, we should create ways to immerse ourselves in these truths every day. No days off allowed. . .Your audience is your own heart. And the message is simple: Christ died for you sins. It’s a matter of sitting down, grabbing your own attention, and telling yourself, “Hey, listen up! This is what matters most: You’re forgiven! You have hope! Your hope is based on the sacrifice of Jesus. So lets’ not view this day any other way. Let today be governed by this one defining truth.” (Living the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney pg. 132‐133).

“God did not give us His Gospel just so we could embrace it and be converted. Actually, He offers it to us every day as a gift that keeps on giving to us everything we need for life and godliness... We extract these benefits by being absorbed in the Gospel, speaking it to ourselves when necessary, and by daring to reckon it true in all we do.” (The Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent pg 5).

“My hope lives not because I am not a sinner, but because I am a sinner for whom Christ died; my trust is not that I am holy, but that being unholy, He is my righteousness. My faith rests not upon what I am, or shall be, or feel, or know, but in what Christ is, in what He has done, and in what He is now doing for me.” (Morning and Evening‐Sept 25 by C.H. Spurgeon)

There is simply no other way to compete with foreboding of my conscience, the condemnings of my heart, and the lies of the world and the Devil than to overwhelm such things with daily rehearsings of the Gospel.” (The Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent, p. 14)

“You are loved and accepted by God through the merit of Jesus, and you are blessed by God through the merit of Jesus. Nothing you ever do will cause Him to love you any more or any less. (Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges, p 73)

“Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee‐it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee‐it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument‐it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to they faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.” (Morning and Evening‐ June 28 by C.H. Spurgeon.)

“Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him and say, ‘Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You took on you what was mine; yet set on me what was yours. You became what you were not, that I might become what I was not’.” (Martin Luther)

Remember the Gospel! – “There is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot be accepted at all. This is not true of us only when we believe. It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live... it is always on His ‘blood and righteousness’ alone that we can rest.” (B.B. Warfield)
Hiding God's Word in Your Heart
Is scripture memory a part of your devotional practice? Have you ever memorized 145 verses in one day? That's just what happened at the Awana Club's Ketch-Up Clinic this past Saturday. 21 children and 9 volunteers gathered for 3 hours to "ketch up" in their Awana hand books. They memorized verses, played games, and ate hot dogs with ketchup.

Want to learn more about this exciting ministry? Get your kids involved? Be a volunteer? Come visit us on Wednesday nights during the month of April. You can begin to hide God's word in your heart, get to know lots of new friends, and have a ton of fun!
Preliminary Thoughts on the Sabbath

Earlier this afternoon, I began working on this week’s sermon from Exodus 20:8—“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”—by rereading a small part of Eugene Peterson’s wonderful book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. There’s too much here to quote in a single sermon (although I’m sure some of it will show up on Sunday); but it’s also too good to just leave it on the shelf. I hope you enjoy:

The most striking thing about keeping the Sabbath is that it begins by not doing anything (109). [We’re so used to “religion” being a matter of action that to have God command inaction, to have him say, “Stop! Quit! Silence!” is arresting to say the least.]

Sabbath is a deliberate act of interference, an interruption of our work each week, a decree of no-works so that we are able to notice, to attend, to listen, to assimilate this comprehensive and majestic work of God, to orient our work in the work of God (110).

Sabbath and work are not in opposition; Sabbath and work are integrated parts of an organic whole. Either apart from the other is crippled (115).

[W]ithout Sabbath . . . the workplace is soon emptied of any sense of the presence of God and the work becomes an end in itself. It is this “end in itself” that makes an un-sabbathed workplace a breeding ground for idols. We make idols of our workplaces when we reduce all relationships to functions that we can manage. We make idols in our workplaces when we reduce work to the dimensions of our egos and control (116).

If there is no Sabbath—no regular and commanded not-working, not-talking—we soon become totally absorbed in what we are doing and saying, and God’s work is either forgotten or marginalized. When we work we are most god-like, which means that it is in our work that it is easiest to develop god-pretensions. Un-sabbathed, our work becomes the entire context in which we define our lives. We lose God-consciousness, God-awareness, sightings of resurrection. We lose the capacity to sing “This is my Father’s world” and end up chirping little self-centered ditties about what we are doing and feeling (117).