Thursday, February 3, 2011
I had to write this for one of my seminary classes and thought that I would share.
Romans chapter 4 begins by showing us that we cannot be justified by our works; Paul offers three lines of reason why this is so. He begins with Abraham; Abraham was justified before God because of his faith. Although Abraham did many great things for God, he could not be justified by those works because he would have had something to brag about. The Bible tells us that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness. In summary, Abraham’s faith cause him to work for God, He was not working to earn his justification before God. Second, Abraham reminds us that if we worked for our righteousness God would owe us something’ but God owes no man anything except for the judgment that we have earned through our sin. Finally, Paul points us to the words of David, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” David was a man who understood that sinful men deserve nothing but God’s wrath, but God through his grace imputes His righteousness on those who trust in Him instead of placing on us our sin and the punishment carried by our sin.
Paul continues in Romans 4:9-15 that man cannot be saved by their religiousness. God bestowed an amazing amount of love on us when He offered mercy through His grace to us instead of the judgment that we deserved. Paul again uses the father of the Jewish nation and a man of great faith to demonstrate to us the inadequacy of religious ceremony. Paul begins by establishing that righteousness was reckoned to Abraham before the ceremony of circumcision. To understand the word recon it is best to picture a bank statement with a huge negative balance, to recon would be to place money from a different account into the negative account erasing the debt; it is not earned it is simply moved from one account to the other. As sinful humans we had a huge negative balance of righteousness in our account because of our sin, the debt was so large that it could never be repaid but Christ, who owed nothing, died on the cross making it possible for His righteousness to be imputed on our account thus bringing us into good standing with God. As a result of Abraham’s faith in God, God’s righteousness was imputed to him and circumcision was given as an outward sign of Abraham’s inward faith (much like believer’s baptism today).
Paul concludes the chapter by showing us the true path to righteousness: faith in God. Abraham was given some seemingly impossible promises from God, but Abraham had faith that if God could make a promise that God could also keep those promises. Surely Abraham knew the weakness of his body and the age of his wife, yet he had faith in God. God gave us the account of Abraham, not as an account of one saved by works or religion, but as a shining example of one who has been saved by faith. Today we can look at our sinful bodies and we are tempted to try to work ourselves clean through religion or good works, but just as with Abraham, all that is required is an unwavering faith in God and a confidence in the promise of forgiveness offered through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Truly it is by grace we are saved through faith.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Welcome to Bridgeview today! I am so glad that you are here this morning. I hope that you have come with a heart that is prepared to worship God and expecting to experience God.
It is hard to believe but we only have two more Sundays left in 2010 and to be honest I am ready for them to come and go. I am not the Grinch or Ebenezer Scrooge, but I am excited about what God is going to do here at Bridgeview in 2011 and I am ready to get started.
Have you ever noticed how much of our lives we wish away? Our kids spend all year wishing it was Christmas, then wishing it was summer and parents spend all Christmas and all summer wishing for Christmas to end and for school to start back. How many days do we suppose that we waste in waiting for tomorrow?
I wonder sometimes if we are waiting for God to do something here at Bridgeview and He is waiting for us to get busy working so He can do something, and in the mean time we are missing out on experiencing His power and He is missing out on having a church that is actually following Him that He can actually bless.
We can’t afford to wait there are too many people depending on us. There are too many people who are curious about God, there are too many people who have been hurt by broken churches, there are too many people who will die and go to hell if we continue to sit idle.
If we are ever going to move forward, we have to make changes, and we can’t wait for the perfect staff, budget, program or building. We have to go and have faith that God will give us the staff, programs, budget and buildings that we need.
Please join me as we close this year in earnest prayer, not just for God’s purpose for our church, His blessings on the church, but for something much more important: the courage to take the first step as we strive to be a church like Jesus.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
I promised you last week that for the rest of 2010 I will be filling my space here with some suggestions and tips for possible New Year’s resolutions, so I will keep my word and begin this morning. I have to begin with a disclaimer: what works for me may not work for you, God designed us all a little different; so the most important thing to carry with you into 2011 is knowing that you can adjust and tweak my suggestions to fit you until you find a comfortable routine.
This week we will begin with one of the most useful tools that I have found in my spiritual journey: A Prayer Journal. Here is my problem: I want to pray, but it is hard to find time, I have tried to pray in bed at night before I went to sleep but most of the time I ended up asleep. When I tried to sit somewhere and pray, my mind ended up wandering and I spent very little time in prayer and really couldn’t remember most of what I prayed for. Then a good friend of mine introduced me to using a prayer journal. Now initially I fought the concept because if felt like a diary, but once I gave it a chance I realized how valuable it was to have a tangible record of my prayers.
So here are some tips on using a prayer journal.
- A prayer journal can be any type of notebook or pad of paper. Personally I try to choose books that will stand the test of time, because I hope these books will become family treasures that will last until Jesus comes back. I want my kids to know how I prayed for them, not just that I prayed for them, and perhaps these journals can guide them through some struggle that I have been through long after I have gone. You can buy a notebook for $1 or a leather journal for hundreds, but that is up to you. I get mine from the office supply section of Wal-Mart.
- Set aside some time, preferably in the morning, if possible to read your Bible and write your letter to God every day. Jesus set aside time for God in his life here on earth, He went to quiet places and prayed; the Psalms also encourage us to seek God in the morning. If you make your prayer time the first thing you do every day, you don’t have to worry about something coming up that will take that time. In my life I discovered that there is always something else to do at night: playing, cleaning, preparing for tomorrow, sleeping. So I just get up and get it done, and honestly, I makes the day better to start it with God.
- At the top of my page I write the date, the day of the week and what passages I read that morning. Sometimes if a particular verse sticks out to me I will write it out completely so I can see it again later. Don’t worry about how short or long your prayer is, sometimes a few words can be more powerful than a book full of words. So don’t think that there is a minimum number of words required or certain amount of space that you have to take up. Make the format work for you because this is your journal.
- Find a quiet place. Lock yourself in the bathroom, in your closet, in the garden, or go hide in the neighbors car, you have to try to get rid of as many distractions as you can so you can concentrate on God.
- Write a letter to God from your heart. God does not want us to repeat, “God is great…” or the Lord’s Prayer to Him every day. Be honest with God, tell Him how you feel, what you are grateful for, confess your sins, and make your requests. Just be open and real, God knows who we are and He does not need a show from us. Even though other people might read these prayers, treat your book like it is a top secret document that only you and God will ever see.
- Don’t get discouraged when you miss a day, a week or a month. God does not love you any more when you are faithful to your prayer time or less when you miss it. Our Christian walk is a series of failures as we try to be more like Christ every day, some of my prayer journals have huge gaps in them and those gaps are a testimony today that God loves me in spite of me and even though I struggle to be faithful to Him, He is always faithful to me. So when you miss, when the snooze button wins the battle in the morning don’t get discouraged and give up, just get back up and try again. Victory tastes better after you have tasted defeat.
- Don’t forget to go back and read your old prayers. I am repeatedly amazed at how God answers my prayers. I have had prayers answered as I have written them and some prayers that took some time, but I am so glad that I have a record of God’s hand in my life and when I start to doubt all I have to do is go back and read. What usually happens when I go back and read is I discover that I need to write a thank you note on my next page.
- Don’t read your spouse’s prayers; you probably don’t want to know what they are saying about you anyway. Wait until they are gone, then you won’t be too mad that they prayed for 20 years for God to make you a better kisser or for your feet to stop killing the houseplants. Keep your eyes on your own prayer journal.
For me a prayer journal is so many things: a tangible record of my prayers, a family treasure, a visual reminder to pray, a visual reminder of my faithfulness (or lack of faithfulness) to God, and a tool that has done wonders for my prayer life. If your goal for 2011 is to spend more time in prayer I hope you will consider starting a prayer journal. If you need help or encouragement please let me know or find someone else here at church who is also journaling their prayers. Because, more than likely, our struggles are much the same and together we can all get better.
If using a prayer journal has peaked your curiosity and you want me to pray for you, please shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Welcome to worship today! I am so glad that you are here today. If you are a visitor this morning I want to take a moment to tell you how special you are to us. There are so many churches in our area, some of them are really good, some are not, but you chose to worship here today and I am honored that you made that choice. Bridgeview is like no other church that I have ever seen, we are a group of real people with real problems who make real mistakes who have chosen to come together and worship a real God who loves us in spite of us, and I hope that you will be comfortable here and join us.
Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas is flying towards us at what seems like warp speed. We look back and it seems like 2010 just began and now we are preparing to close it out. I spent some time this week trying to remember what my New Year’s resolutions were for this year and I honestly can’t remember one of them. Maybe forgetfulness is a blessing in this case. I am tossing around the idea of writing my goals down for 2011 and posting them in my office; but it would be hard to eat an ice cream sandwich in peace when I know that I have resolved in writing to lose weight.
Now is the time to begin thinking about our goals and resolutions for 2011 and over the next few weeks I am going to offer a few suggestions and ideas for you to consider as we look toward 2011 and where we hope to be this time next year. We are going to look at prayer and Bible reading specifically and I hope I can give you some tool that will make your goals more attainable.
If you miss a week, most of the time you can find this section of the bulletin on my blog: www.closertoday.blogspot.com or you can let me know and I will get you a copy. Enjoy being in God’s house today, I love you and God bless you.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Saturday, November 6, 2010
It is amazing how easy it is for your child to break your heart. I realized this cruel fact the other day at the barber shop. On every other normal hair- cut Saturday this is what happens: I get in one chair and start getting my hair cut while Riley gets in another chair and gets his hair cut and just to ensure that there is no catastrophic incident Bridget stands with Riley.
This system worked perfectly fine until just a few weeks ago when Bridget decided to send me and Riley alone to get our hair cuts. Now I am a big boy and I can handle standing there with him while he gets his hair cut (he is actually very good because he wants a sucker), but something happened on this Saturday that I almost could not handle. Riley sat in the chair and I took my position by the counter talking to the lady cutting his hair, he looked at me, and said, “What are you doing?” I told him I was standing there like Momma does and he politely told me that he did not need me to stand there and I could go read a magazine or something. I’m sure that I looked like a scolded dog walking to the waiting area with my eyes swelling and my heart breaking. My little boy is growing up.
What Riley did not know was that I never took my eyes off of him, at the first sign of trouble I would have been there. I couldn’t read a magazine (I had read that issue of Women’s Day anyway) because all of my attention was on him as he bravely did what we have been training him to do. I guess we never know if our parenting is working until we let go.
As I thought about this sad hair-cut day I realized that once again God was using my son to show me something about Him. God loves us more than we could ever love someone and His complete attention is constantly on us, not because He wants to punish us when we fail, but He wants to witness it when we succeed. God enjoys seeing His children do what is right, He wants us to do good, that is why He takes the time to mold us and correct us.
So the next time you feel like you are all alone, when you start to worry because you can’t feel God right there with you, just look around He is watching and He is never too far away.
This is a week late on here, but this is what I wrote for our bulletin at church October 31st(the Sunday before the election). I just wanted to post it for future reference.
The founders of our country said in the Declaration of Independence that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Like these men, I believe that freedom is a gift from God, but it is a gift that comes with responsibility.
As Americans we are familiar with our freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion, but we also have the freedom to choose. We are able to choose what kind of society we will live in, we can choose how much we will pay in taxes, we can choose the moral standards of our society and we can choose how we will relate with the other countries of the world.
This is what our founding fathers planned for our society; the problem with this plan would be in the execution. We cannot gather millions of people together to make all of these decisions together, what a mess that would be. So instead of gathering all Americans together every two years to discuss and plan how we will use our freedom, each state is allowed representatives who do meet together to plan how their constituents will exercise their freedom.
So as Election Day closes on us, it is important for each person to carefully examine the candidates and ask the question, “Which one of these people will use my freedom in a way that I would use it?” You see, voting is more than selecting a representative, it is commissioning a messenger, it is entrusting someone with your freedom to choose and allowing them to choose on your behalf.
To not participate in the process is to allow someone else, right or wrong, to choose how your freedom will be used. I hope that you will make plans to participate in the process by praying, educating yourself on the candidates and voting.