A great many thanks to all who helped serve a neighbor in our community!
Here are some photos from our Habitat for Humanity build on Oct 21st:
(Use the dots below to scroll through the pictures)
A great many thanks to all who helped serve a neighbor in our community!
Here are some photos from our Habitat for Humanity build on Oct 21st:
(Use the dots below to scroll through the pictures)
It’s a Sunday morning, you are getting coffee after the worship service. You say ‘hi’ to someone, and they ask how things are going. You say, “fine, how are you?”. “Good,” they say. Then you stare at each other, utterly helpless to move the conversation along. Awkward church moments-and they happen all the time.
Recently I was alerted to a new book out (Brent McCracken, Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community),* and I was stunned by the foreword written by Russel Moore. Here is an excerpt:
That sense of awkwardness can hinder us, in many ways, but it can also be a gift. That uncomfortable feeling can remind us that there are times when we don’t know just what to say or do. It can give us a compassion for the occasional awkwardness of those around us. It can remind us that we are part of a humanity that, from our near-earliest history, found ourselves furtively hiding in the bushes from the presence of our God (Gen. 3:8–10).
We often, though, want to protect ourselves from awkwardness. We want to appear to know just what to say, just what to do, just how to act—in ways that can either distinguish us or help us to blend in with whatever herd we’ve chosen. Sometimes that self-protection means deflecting the very reality—presence and relatedness—that can draw us out of ourselves and toward wholeness. The intense moment, the “I love you” or the “I am concerned about you” or the “Here’s what you mean to me” moment, becomes deflected with a joke or a change of subject. Sometimes it is not comfortable to be loved… (12)
In a church, be it big or small, there will always be the temptation to run away. But what Christ has done is pulled us together in this wet-and-wild thing called the Church, which is so dear to Him that He calls it his body. The church is filled with people who are not like me, who don’t always get it right the first time, who don’t always know what to say or don’t always say the right things at the right times–but all who have been bought by Christ and have been sovereignly placed in my life for us to grow together and encourage one another. Even if it does get a little awkward.
*Brett McCracken, Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community (Crossway, 2017; Wheaton IL)
This October 31st, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the nailing of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses to the doors of Wittenberg Chapel that started the Protestant Reformation. For many of you, this has a lot of significance, for others maybe not so much or you are not very familiar with the origins of the Reformation and its importance today. So I wanted to take just a brief moment to give you some bullet points on the context, and maybe give you a few tidbits you may not be aware of! This October I will be preaching a sermon series on the Five Solas (Alones) of the Reformation, so hopefully, this peaks your interest.
ALSO: This October I will be preaching a sermon series on the Five Solas (Alones) of the Reformation, so hopefully, this peaks your interest!
– Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a Catholic monk who taught theology at the University of Wittenberg in Germany. It was in his own study of the book of Romans that he began to change his views about God’s grace, Christ, and faith. Instead of seeing salvation as something that he had to work toward, he found that the Bible clearly taught it was by God’s mercy in Christ that we are saved.
– He did not see himself as a revolutionary, but he wanted the church to be corrected and uphold good, Biblical practices. Hence the movement that resulted is referred to as the ‘reformation’ rather than the ‘revolution’ because Luther (Calvin and others) saw themselves trying to correct the church universal rather than starting a new one.
– The ’95 Theses’ were 95 sentences that were up for academic debate at the university. Pinning articles of debate on the chapel doors was not all that unusual. It was similar to maybe an academic blog of today. Luther wanted to debate the points, but it was quickly taken and printed by unknown printers who distributed the work.
– The ’95 Theses’ were not full-fledged Luther in the sense that he was very much still reflecting many Roman Catholic doctrines. The issue that caused Luther to write the 95 Theses was the sale of indulgences.**
– At the time, the Roman Catholic Church taught that Christians who had not done their best to live righteous lives had to ‘burn off’ their impurities in Purgatory after death. This process could take hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years, according to church tradition. But the extra merits from the good works of Jesus and the saints were stored in heaven, and the Pope could distribute these merits as ‘indulgences’ for a person’s sins or for a loved one who is stuck in Purgatory. Pope Leo X needed funds to pay for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica, and he began a campaign of selling indulgences to raise the funds. A man named Johann Tetzel had peddled indulgences throughout Germany with some pretty underhanded fear-mongering, which Luther took exception to.
– But remember, Luther still (at this point) had the belief the Roman Catholic Church could be reformed and returned to its original orthodoxy. In fact, he believed that if only the Pope knew the abuses that were taking place, he would denounce the sale of indulgences. Thesis #50, “Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.” If anything, at that point, Luther was defending the Pope!
– Yet, in response to the 95 Theses, Roman Catholic officials, and the Pope refused any debate with Luther but told him to recant or be condemned. It was Luther’s refusal to recant because Scripture compelled him was the beginning of the Reformation, of which we are inheritors of.
Why preach on the Five Solas of the Reformation?
** The Council of Trent (1563) abolished the selling of indulgences for money, however, the council also stated the practice of printing and giving of indulgences was ‘most salutary to Christians’.
In light of yesterday’s sermon about the pillar of cloud and fire, I wanted to follow-up with one point I made towards the end of the sermon:
How is your body the temple?
On the list of misquoted Bible verses, 1 Cor 6:19 must be one of the most frequent. Some of the problem stems from a general arc in today’s theology toward a ‘therapeutic’ approach to the Bible. This results in an emphasis on what can ‘faith’ do for me now: how can it solve the problems I have in this life? For the record, I don’t think it’s illegitimate to talk about how genuine faith can (many times) make this life better, it just can’t be the whole story (e.g. Jesus talks about true disciples must expect suffering, persecution, etc. which doesn’t fit with ‘our best life now’ theology).
In this vein, 1 Cor 6:19 is used by some to talk about a biblical basis for the pursuit of good health. “Eat right! Exercise!” we are told because “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” I have heard someone once state that a certain diet is ‘cleansing the temple’ just like Jesus drove out the money changers. While this kind of thinking may help someone shed a few pounds, it really detracts from the original meaning of the verse. On the one hand, our bodies are a gift from God, and it is part of Christian stewardship to care well for what we are given (this is a historic argument against self-harm). On the other hand, the context of 1 Cor 6:19 has more to do with the moral use of our bodies. Here are the preceding verses:
1Cor 6:16-19 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?
Rather than speaking of the latest organic food fad, Paul, here, is informing the Corinthians not to sleep with prostitutes (how about that for pastoral advice to a local church!) and points to the larger issue of sexual immorality. Sexual intimacy is not only a physical union but a spiritual one as well. This is the blessing of sexual intimacy when it is in its proper context of marriage, but becomes disastrous outside its proper context. Paul further argues that we also can’t treat this topic casually because, as believers, we are united to Christ by the Holy Spirit. TheHoly Spirit dwells in the hearts of believers just like He dwelled in the temple (which connects back to the pillar of cloud and fire of Exodus). And just like in the Old Testament the temple was to be kept pure and holy from anything that could defile it since there was God’s presence, so should we seek purity in how we use our bodies.
The beauty of this text (that I explored briefly in the sermon) is that this is how God dwells with His people: the Spirit dwells in us and among us as the body of Christ. The challenge of this text is that God’s presence is not only a great comfort, but it is also motivation to flee from temptation. And the power to flee from temptation (sexual or otherwise) resides in the Spirit’s work within us, changing our hearts and strengthening us to fight sin in our lives.
“What’s in a name?” Juliet tells Romeo in that famous Shakespeare play. If you know Romeo and Juliet at all, you’d know it mattered quite a bit to the story! If it weren’t for the names ‘Capulet’ and ‘Montague’ there would be two less deaths in the end. A lot is in a name.
This past Sunday we looked at the importance of God’s name that he reveals to Moses in the context of delivering Israel out of the clutches of Egypt. God’s name was a declaration of his character, as well as a promise of his loyalty to Moses and His people. As I labored to expand on this topic this week, I received this excerpt below of Alec Motyer’s book Psalms by the Day from Tracie Aldridge (thanks Tracie!). Motyer does a great job of highlighting the invitation of intimacy God is giving by providing His name:
The divine name ‘Yaweh’ will at first sound strange in your ears, being used to the established (but mistaken) English convention of representing the name as ‘the Lord’. We who are of an older generation will remember the days when calling someone by their Christian name was a privilege granted, not presumed upon. It meant something to us when a senior friend said, ‘Please call me by my Christian name’; the relationship had ripened into a new intimacy and privilege. So it was in Genesis 4:26 when people began to call their God by his personal name; so it was, even more, when the significance of that Name was revealed to Moses (Exodus 3:15).
(Alec Motyer, Psalms by the Day, Christian Focus 2016)
Quick: when did the American Revolution end? Most people assume it started in 1776 (though it actually started about a year before the Declaration of Independence). If you guessed 1783, you’d be right! At least historically speaking. But according to John Adams, one of the nation’s founders, he believed the war was won way before 1783:
“[The] radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution”
In that sense, the war was won before it was ever even fought.
We are about to start a new sermon series on the Book of Exodus. It is a book full of plagues, thunder, smoke, walls of water, earth quakes and works of power. It tells the story of God’s relentless pursuit of the rescue of His people, fulfilling the promises he made to Abraham four hundred years earlier. It roots God’s law and instructions on the worship of God in the context of this great rescue plan unfurled. Yet, as we walk through the story, we will begin to realize that the real battle taking place is on the battlefield of the heart. Like the John Adam’s quote above, God is chasing His covenant people with His grace to change their principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections concerning God and life. It is the same hunt God has begun in us and won’t stop until our hearts are His.
It was a mess of a church. Well, maybe church is stretching it a bit too far. It was more of a community of refugees. Count Zinzendorf parceled out his own land to let various Christians from around Europe to find refuge and create a small community. This little rag-tag bunch of just about 300 spoke dozens of languages and had various theological backgrounds. And the worst of it was, this new ‘shining example’ of Christian community called Herrnhut was known for its bickering and fighting. At his wit’s end, Count Zinzendorf, in May of 1727 and finally came to a conclusion he should have come to way before; he could not change people. He could not make this a pinnacle of the Reformation; he wasn’t smart enough, talented enough, etc. to make it work. So what do you do in a situation like that? Pray. And pray is what he did.
In 1727 Zinzendorf called on the community to begin praying continually. Not just every day, but every hour, of every day of every week, of every year, each member of the community had an allotted hour to pray on a prayer rotation. This small community of 300 prayed 24/7 for revival, for the church, for unity, for the spread of the Gospel. And how long did they keep this up? Maybe a couple of months? That would certainly be a testament! Or for a whole year? That would be something! But they lasted much longer. This community prayed from 1727 to well into the 1830’s. That’s right, over 100 years of 24/7 prayer. What were the effects? On the 65th anniversary, it was recounted that there had been over 300 missionaries sent throughout the world from that tiny little community that numbered as much at its beginning. Three of the most notable men impacted by missionaries from Herrnhut were none other than George Whitfield, John, and Charles Wesley.
I guess you take away from this story a few things. You could just be impressed, but in light of that kind of commitment, I think most of us would despair. But I think this story is valuable not so much for us to marvel at a church’s commitment to prayer; I think we ought to marvel at God’s grace in using broken human beings like the villagers of Herrnhut (or us), and His astounding faithfulness in using prayer to build His Kingdom. May you be encouraged this week to have a chat with the God of all glory, who works wonders and is establishing his Kingdom through His Church.
Part of our focus this coming year at Harbor Church is encouraging prayer throughout our church family. In order to do kick off this renewed focus, we are going to be holding a 24 Hour Day of Prayer from Friday, Feb 3rd through Saturday, Feb 4th. Our prayer focus during that time will be for the spiritual needs of the people around us. Here are a few ways you can be involved:
Listen: Pastor Michael is preaching three sermons in January on prayer
Complete: Fill out one or more yellow prayer cards and return by Jan 22nd (instructions on the card) – You can email your requests as well.
Sign up: Put your name or your family’s name down for a devoted hour or more to pray for those listed on the cards (yellow sign up sheet located in the lobby)
Attend: Come to the conclusion of our 24 hour day of prayer at Harbor from 5-6pm on Saturday, Feb 4th.
Pray: Pray for the Day of Prayer, that God would use it to make us a people marked by prayer
It was a weird one this week! Because Sunday services were canceled due to weather I felt like I both preached and didn’t preach seeing as how I recorded my sermon for you all Saturday evening (by the way, you may hear my children in the background: there is no quiet room in my house!). The recorded sermon is my first installment of a three-part mini-series on prayer leading up to our 24-Hour Day of prayer (Feb 3-4). In that sermon, I mentioned a phrase from Charles Spurgeon and I thought it might be encouraging to you all to quote further from his sermon on prayer and God’s sovereignty. Notice in the following quote the part about Jesus being an ‘eye witness’ to God’s decrees:
“Moreover, in other matters we never regulate our actions by the unknown decrees of God; as for instance, a man never questions whether he shall eat or drink, because it may or may not be decreed that he shall eat or drink; a man never enquires whether he shall work or not on the ground that it is decreed how much he shall do or how little; as it is inconsistent with common sense to make the secret decrees of God a guide to us in our general conduct, so we feel it would be in reference to prayer, and therefore still we pray. But we have a better answer than all this. Our Lord Jesus Christ comes forward, and he says to us this morning, “My dear children, the decrees of God need not trouble you, there is nothing in them inconsistent with your prayers being heard. ‘I say unto you, ask, and it shall be given you.’ ” Now, who is he that says this? Why it is he that has been with the Father from the beginning—”the same was in the beginning with God” and he knows what the purposes of the Father are and what the heart of God is, for he has told us in another place, “the Father himself loveth you.”
Now since he knows the decrees of the Father, and the heart of the Father, he can tell us with the absolute certainty of an eye-witness that there is nothing in the eternal purposes in conflict with this truth, that he that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth. He has read the decrees from the beginning to end: hath he not taken the book, and loosed the seven seals thereof, and declared the ordinances of heaven? He tells you there is nothing there inconsistent with your bended knee and streaming eye, and with the Father’s opening the windows of heaven to shower upon you the blessings which you seek. Moreover, he is himself God: the purposes of heaven are his own purposes, and he who ordained the purpose here gives the assurance that there is nothing in it to prevent the efficacy of prayer. “I say unto you.” O ye that believe in him, your doubts are scattered to the winds, ye know that he heareth your prayer.” (Taken From www.gracesermons.com/hisbygrace/whypray.html)
In a follow-up to yesterday’s sermon, I have written a little more detailed explanation about how Mary does and does not fit with the woman in Revelation 12, which you can read about by clicking below. I also wanted to follow up about praying for the persecuted church. The Voice of the Martyrs is a great organization I have found helpful in keeping up with our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world with information, prayer, and even financial support. One of the neatest resources they have is an interactive map of the world that highlights various places in the world and how to pray for them. Maybe it might be a good idea to get online this next week and look at it as a family, maybe let it guide your prayer time.