Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

He is Able — a new review

Here’s a new review of He is Able by pastor, blogger and voracious reader, Ernie Bowman:

He is Able by John Kitchen is a book about your inability and God’s ability. You can’t, but he can. You probably already “know” this, but do you believe it and do you demonstrate that belief by your actions and thought patterns? In short chapters that make for perfect reading length, John Kitchen walks us through the process of learning to rest in the power and sovereignty of God. If you have ever felt spiritually helpless, frustrated, alone, or incompetent, this readable and relatable book is perfect for you. It makes a great choice for someone who is not a reader because Kitchen breaks things down in short chapters with a conversational tone. Highly recommended!

You can follow Ernie with great profit here.

Christmas Story 2019

Each year I write a new story to share with our congregation on Christmas Eve. Here is this year’s story: Advent Armies

Good AT and Good FOR

We all want to figure out what God wants from us. What is His will for your life? What does He require of you? What ought you to be and do?

It struck me not long ago that in pursuit of answers to these kinds of questions we each must consider not only what God has made me good at, but also what has God made me good for.

The answer to the former is found in discerning what God has done in imparting to you spiritual gifts, natural talents, and shaping experiences. Figuring out what you are good at is a matter of competency and skill. You might be good at car repair, football, sewing, computers, baking, nuclear physics, etc.

The answer to the latter is found in discovering and discerning what God has done in shaping your heart. Discovering what you are good for is a matter of calling and character. It is harder to quantify this isn’t it? In fact it might be easier to describe what you are no good for – things for which you just don’t have the heart and for which you just can’t sustain the passion.

What you are good at, we might say, is a matter of the hands. What you are good for is a matter of the heart.

Both are vital. But it seems to me that a person might be good at certain things, but also only good for doing that in a certain arena or for a certain cause or purpose. You can use gifts, talents and the like for many things. After all a great writer could compose cheap and bawdy literature that debases the human soul or she could write with style and substance that imparts life and hope to her readers.

Does it make sense to say that what you are good for has to define and direct what you are good at?

A person who has discovered what God has made them good at is a person who has direction and a future to pursue. But a person who has also discovered what he is good for finds the field of possibilities drastically narrowed—not because he doesn’t possess the skill for some matters, but because God has spoiled his heart for anything other than what He has made him for.

So are you asking more questions about what you are good at or what you are good for? Some people would settle to know what they are good at. They would love to be the best in the world (or even in their school or family or on their block) at something. But that can be an ego-driven matter. We need to know what God has made us good at, but we can’t stop there.  We must know what God has made us good for. For then we can not only do our best, we can do it for the glory of God and with all the passion and purpose for which He gave us the abilities in the first place. When we discover what we are good for we begin to move from just doing, to doing as doxology.

The longer I live I find myself asking more of the second level questions than the first level. I’m wondering if that’s the case for you too.

Studies in Jude

Here are the files for my recent series of messages through the book of Jude.

Gospel Perspective — Audio: Jude 1-4 Outline: Jude 1-4

Gospel Opposition — Audio: Jude 5-16 Outline: Jude 5-16

Gospel Obligations — Audio: Jude 17-23 Outline: Jude 17-23

Gospel Outcome — Audio: Jude 24-25 Outline: Jude 24-25

Why Go to Church?

By “go to church” I mean in this instance regularly worshiping together with a gathered body of believers in Jesus Christ. I could make at least as long a list of why one ought to “belong to a church,” but right now I’m thinking simply about joining with other believers in gathered worship. In our day this has become highly optional in the minds of many who identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ. I suggest that Jesus has a problem with that. Why? The following is not an exhaustive list, but will get us started.

When you gather regularly with other believers to worship God …

1. You honor God.

“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Hebrews 13:15)

2. You please God.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people … This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.” (1 Timothy 2:1, 3)

3. You obey God.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some …” (Hebrews 10:25)

4. You follow the pattern of the first Christians.

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

5. You help others grow in their relationship to and service for Christ.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works …” (Hebrews 10:24)

6. You aid the entire church in expressing its submission to God’s Word by sitting together under the opened and expounded word of God.

“Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13) 

7. You demonstrate the miraculous unifying power of God’s Spirit.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call– one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6)

8. You encourage your fellow believers.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

9. You speak the truth to your fellow believers.

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25)

10. You give visible, physical expression to your union with other believers.

“… for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25)

11. Your singing is a confirming witness to your fellow believers.

“… be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18b-20)

12. You demonstrate your submission to other believers and their needs.

“… submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

13. You help your brothers and sisters fight off the deadening effects of sin and its lies.

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13)

14. You help beautify Jesus’ Bride.

“… that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish … This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:26-27, 32)

15. You make others happier and revive them spiritually.

“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving … When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive.”(Psalm 69:30, 32)

16. You actively act out and demonstrate God’s wisdom to an unseen world.

“… so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 3:10)

Can’t some of these things take place outside gathered worship? Sure, but gathered worship is the single most demonstrative gathering point of the church. Parts of the body gather at other times, in other places, for other more specific purposes—and they should. We should multiply such opportunities for the purposes of God’s Kingdom. But none of those are an argument against the necessity of the gathered community of believers in the worship, prayer and submission to one another and God under His Word.

Do any of these find fulfillment in contexts other than Jesus’ people gathered together in corporate worship? Sure, but not fully. Any notion that you can worship God just as well in the park (on the golf course, in the woods, etc.) as in the gathered assembly of God’s people is, well, silly. Of course, worship God everywhere and at all times! But if you read your Bible as you do you’ll find God guiding you to regularly gather with others in His name to worship Him together.

Gathering in worship with God’s people is an expression of our delight in God: “Delight yourself in the LORD” (Psalm 34:4a). It is also an expression of our delight in His good gift of other believers: “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (Psalm 16:3). That’s the apostolic pattern: giving oneself first to God and then to His people (2 Cor. 8:5). Joining in regular, gathered worship with God’s people is a discipline in both.

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