Archive | February, 2011
Growing in the Word podcast: 2-27-11

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-27-11

Service from Immanuel Baptist Church from February 27th, 2011.

When You’re Waiting on God

When You’re Waiting on God

I enjoy travelling because I like seeing new places, trying new food, and meeting new people.  However, the part of travelling I don’t like is the waiting.  At the airport, you wait on the shuttle in the parking lot.  Then you wait at the counter to check your bag.  Then you wait at security.  Then you wait to board the plane.  Then you wait on the jet way.  Then you wait on the plane for the person in front of you to put up their 9 carry-ons.  Then you wait on the tarmac while the captain says you’re number 17 for takeoff.  When the plane lands you wait to unload and then you wait on your bags.  Lots and lots of waiting.

Most of us hate to wait.  And one of the most difficult things we will ever do is wait on God.  Some of us are waiting for God to provide a spouse.  Some of us are waiting on God to save our spouse and bring him/her into a right relationship with him.  Some of us are waiting for the purpose of why something bad happened.  Some of us are waiting for God to perhaps give healing to some disease.  Some of us are waiting for God to show us what career path to take or give us wisdom about a big decision.  Some of us are waiting for prodigal children to come home. Some of us have lost a loved one and waiting for God to reveal His purpose in why that happened.  When you think about it, many of us are waiting on God.

One of the most common ways we fail to wait on God is by getting impatient.  We can be like Abraham and Sarah in Gen. 16 and try to take things into our own hands.  God had promised the couple they would have descendants, but ten years after the promise and at an advanced age they were still childless.  So Sarah, thinking God needed “some help” to fulfill the promise, gives her husband her slave Hagar to marry and have children.  Their actions were sinful and caused a great deal of pain to their families and future generations.

So, how do we avoid making mistakes while waiting on God?  Here are some lessons we can learn from Abraham and Sarah:

We have to be willing to abide by God’s timeline, which is often different than ours. We have a tendency to get very myopic in waiting on God.  We want what we want when we want it, which is immediately!  Remember that God’s promise to Abraham was culminated in the birth of Jesus nearly 2,000 years later!  God is about shaping and transforming lives, which means the process is very important to Him.  Our culture today doesn’t like the process- we want immediate results.  I sometimes dread long car trips with my kids because of the incessant, “Are we there yet? He’s touching me!” statements that come from the back seat.  I often want to tell my children to just chill out and enjoy the ride.  I wonder if there aren’t many times when God would like to say the same to us.

We must evaluate selfish motives while waiting on God. Being barren was a social stigma in Sarah’s day.  Perhaps she got tired of waiting for God to fulfill His promise because of the personal toll it was taking on her.  Also, Sarah may have had some sense of entitlement concerning God giving her children.  After all, it was ten years earlier that she left her home, friends, and comfortable surroundings to leave for a foreign land to live in a tent.  She could have said to God, “God, after all I have given up these past ten years, the least you could do is give me a child!”  We must always be wary of ever thinking God owes us anything.  In fact, if we got what we deserved from God, none of us would like it!  If God chose today to give you nothing else again, you would still have a lifetime of giving Him thanks for all He has already given.

Failing to wait on God often produces Ishmaels. Because Abraham and Sarah stopped trusting God and waiting on Him to fulfill His promise, they jumped the gun and brought Hagar into the picture.  As a result, Ishmael was born and the family was fractured.  It’s interesting to note that Muslims are descendant from Ishmael and their hatred of the Jews stems back to the shunning of Hagar and Ishmael by Abraham and Sarah.  Imagine if Ishmael had never been born. Imagine if Abraham and Sarah continued to patiently wait for God’s provision.  It’s possible that Jews and Muslims wouldn’t hate each other.  It’s possible the social-political climate in the Middle East would be much different.  The mistakes we make while failing to wait on God can be disastrous.  Many of us have Ishmael’s in our life today that stand as testimonies to the times we failed to wait on God.  We may have the “Ishmael” of a bad financial situation because we got ahead of God’s will in our financial dealings.  We may have the “Ishmael” of a bad relationship because we failed to wait on God in the past.  Failing to wait can have damaging repercussions.

We must remember that if we find ourselves waiting on God that means He is working within us. Abraham and Sarah were arguably at their lowest place in Gen. 16.  But they pulled through!  The pinnacle of Abraham’s faith is yet to come when he obeys God’s command to sacrifice Isaac.  The good news is that if we have made a mistake while waiting on God we can still receive his forgiveness and grace.  We must remember that if we find ourselves waiting on God it isn’t because He is too busy- it’s because He is working in our lives.  God puts us in a place of waiting because he is transforming us.  That is cause for rejoicing and makes the wait very much worth it all.

Last week I received an email from someone in our church explaining to me that the team who counts the Sunday offering may have found some play money in the offering plates.  She wanted to explain its significance.  This person’s child has autism and for many years she has struggled with coming to church because his behavior could be distracting.  At the beginning of this year, as we launched our theme “A Disciple’s Journey,” she made the commitment to come to church every Sunday regardless of what her son did or what others thought.  The Sunday before last, as they awoke and got ready for church, her son was excited and eager to attend.  She was elated because he wasn’t kicking and screaming about going.  In the worship service, as the boy saw the offering plates approaching, he pulled out a wallet (which he usually doesn’t carry) and took out his pretend money that he loves to play with and put it in the plate.  He wasn’t told to do so, he just did.  The Mother’s eyes filled with tears as she realized God was working in his life and hers.

Here is a mother who has been waiting on God for many years to reveal His purpose.  The other Sunday she got a glimpse of what God is doing and the waiting was worth it.  That is true for all of us as well.

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-20-11

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-20-11

Service from Immanuel Baptist Church from February 20th, 2011.

I’m Already Dead

I’m Already Dead

I recently read about a man who visited a leper colony in Calcutta, India. He met a beautiful young English woman in the colony who was holding a diseased and disfigured crying baby to her chest. She was gently cradling the child and singing lullabies. After observing this maternal act of selfless love, the young man asked the lady, “Aren’t you afraid you will catch that child’s diseases?” To which she replied, “Why would I be afraid? You see, sir, I’ve already died. I’ve been crucified with Christ, so my life is now His.”

She was quoting Gal. 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” The Scripture makes it very clear that when a person comes to Christ by faith, they essentially died on the cross with Jesus. They are no longer their own, but have died to the former life of following sin and receive new life in Christ. Perhaps the place in the New Testament where this is most poignantly described is Romans 6. Take a minute some time today and read that chapter. Here is an excerpt from Rom. 6:5-8- “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”

Our faith in Christ unites us not only to new life through the resurrection of Jesus, but also to His death on the cross. The old self in bondage to sin dies as a result of Christ’s death on the cross and my faith in Him. Paul is not saying in these words that we will stop sinning on this earth. We will always struggle with sin because of our sin nature and the fact that we live in a fallen world. However, in Christ, the penalty of sin (that aspect of sin that condemns us to God’s judgment) and the power of sin (that aspect of sin that makes us in bondage to it) is broken. Yes, we still struggle with sin, but we are no longer enslaved to it. We are now slaves of Christ (Rom. 6:16-22). As a result, who we were before Christ is now dead. We are made new in Him: 2 Cor. 5:17-18- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” As Christians, we have indeed died, but are alive in a completely new way. The second half of Gal. 2:20 reads, “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Karl Marx once said, “A communist is a dead man on reprieve.” Oddly enough, and in a very different sense, that is true for Christians.

In his commentary on Romans, Kent Hughes makes the interesting connection between objects entering a black hole and believers who have died and been changed forever by Christ. Hughes writes, “A black hole is a collapsed star of such density and gravity that nothing can escape from it, not even light, which is why it appears as a dark spot in the heavens. Objects rushing toward it approach the speed of light as well as approach infinite mass; as a result, the normal laws of physics tend to lose meaning at the center. No one knows what happens when an object reaches the center, but some have speculated that for reasons beyond most people’s ability to grasp, an object might shoot through the “hole” and pass into another time period or existence. I have no idea whether such speculations are true. But it occurs to me that passing through a black hole is an apt illustration of a Christian’s having died to sin and having been raised to new life in Christ– if for no other reason than that he or she cannot come back. Anything that has gone through a black hole has passed through it forever. Similarly, anyone who has been united to Christ has died to sin, is on the way to God, and can never return to his or her former sphere of existence.”

James Calvert was a young pioneer missionary to the cannibals of the Fiji Islands. En route, the ship captain tried to discourage Calvert from going to minister to the cannibals. Eventually, the captain pleaded with Calvert in desperation, “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.” To which Calvert replied, “We died before we came.”

Have you truly died? Does your life exhibit still exhibit bondage to sin or transformed life in Christ?

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-13-11

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-13-11

Service from Immanuel Baptist Church from February 13nd, 2011.

Post was previously broken, is now fixed.  If you downloaded the empty podcast, please remove it from your computer and re-download this one.  Thank you for your support and understanding!

Hey Hollywood, Clean Movies Sell More Tickets: How Families Can Make Good Entertainment Choices

Hey Hollywood, Clean Movies Sell More Tickets: How Families Can Make Good Entertainment Choices

Recently my son asked if I would take him to a new movie about a comic book hero. It sounded like a fun father-son thing to do until I checked out the movie on the website Plugged In. The movie contains 40 uses of “sh–” and repeated crude references to body parts. Why is that even necessary? It isn’t “art” and it doesn’t sell tickets. Perhaps I would have taken my son had the makers of the film left these elements out.

I was surprised to recently read that family-friendly movies earn two to six times more at the box office than other films. That is a staggering number! Apparently, movie producers in Hollywood seem to be getting the message to some degree as the number of family friendly films is on the rise. Sadly, the television industry is lagging woefully behind. Read an interesting article on this here:

Family Friendly Films Earn More at Box Office

If directors, producers, and writers of movies/TV shows realized that parents like me, along with many others, research the content of a movie online before we go to the theater they might change their ways. The internet can be many evil things, but here is one way to use it to our advantage. Some would say, “Hollywood doesn’t care what we think.” They will if we stop buying tickets! The bottom line for the entertainment industry is money. And apparently clean movies sell. If Hollywood understood this perhaps they would be less inclined to view the inclusion of profanity and sexuality in their productions as “art.”

A very helpful online tool for families is the website Plugged In (a part of the ministry of Focus on the Family). You can access the website here.

Plugged In

Plugged In also has an App for smart phones which is handy. At a minimum, the website tells you the number and kind of profanities in the movie. It alerts the reader to the sexual and graphic violence content as well. In addition, it describes other negative content along with what is positive in the movie. And many times the reviewer will tell you if, in general, it was a good or bad movie (although you will not always agree with them on this!). Plugged In also reviews music and video games.

Parents, we need to be careful what we allow our children to watch (and we need to be careful about that ourselves!). I am often amazed at the movies to which parents are bringing young children. I recall the time my wife and I went to see the remake of King Kong. As we were leaving the show, a family was walking out with what looked to be a 4 year-old. In my opinion, the movie was way too intense for someone of that age. The little girl stopped and looked up at the movie poster for the Curious George movie that was also showing at that time. I leaned over to my wife and said, “That family took their daughter to a movie about the wrong monkey.” Parents, let’s be careful about movies, TV, music, and video games. There is some good stuff out there, but we need to make good judgments about what is age appropriate for them. Sadly, there is also a lot of stuff out there that is inappropriate for any age. Let’s try and send a message to the entertainment industry that content which is graphically violent, sexualized, and profane isn’t good for the moral fiber of our nation or their bank accounts.

Lessons from the Flood(s)

Lessons from the Flood(s)

Last week at church was one to remember. Somehow the hatch that accesses the roof came open in the blizzard. A large amount of snow blew in and collapsed the ceiling, which in turn broke the head on the sprinkler and flooded our worship center. The next day, a pipe burst in the nursery which flooded several rooms in the children’s wing and a few offices (including mine). Needless to say, the flood events made life very hectic. Lots of conversations with insurance agents, cleaning companies, carpet guys, roof guys, plumbers, etc. We had to rip the carpet out of the worship center. It was disheartening to see such a new building damaged so badly.

Things have been going really well at church, and many people feared these events would set us back. However, God has blessed us in so many ways through this crisis and has reminded us of some very important lessons.

First, God has used this to bring people together. In the days after the floods, I lost count of the people who came to the church to help. We posted on Facebook that help was needed and in minutes people started showing up- despite the snow and ice outside. We had church members cleaning, moving stuff, etc. who had never met each other. Each time we gathered at the church to work, the fellowship was incredibly great. The floods also allowed us to worship together at Raley Chapel on the campus of OBU. That is a rare treat we enjoy so much.

Second, God used the crisis to reveal the fruit of His redemption in the lives of people. Our church had many selfless, generous offers of help. The offers came from believers within and outside of our church. The number of messages I received of encouragement and people asking how they could help was staggering. The floods gave an opportunity to see the transformation God has made in the lives of people.

Third, the floods were a reminder that the church is not a building. The church is people. Our building was knocked out of commission by the floods, but not our church! We still worshipped together the Sunday after the floods. In the midst of it all, we served together and encouraged each other. The church is clearly not a building!

Fourth, the floods reminded us of God’s great provision. He has taken care of everything in terms of the finances with the damage and the huge amount of logistics involved. There are many people our church needs to thank in all of this, but most of all we need to thank the Lord.

I pray that when you experience “floods” in your own life, you can see the opportunities for growth and trust in God. When others around you are experiencing “floods,” be a source of help and encouragement in their lives. Floods can be damaging, distracting, even maddening. But they can also be great opportunities to remember the wonderful God we serve!

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-6-11

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-6-11

Morning Service from Immanuel Baptist Church on February 6th, 2011.  Further study through Hebrews 11.