Unchained!

Unstoppable_Church

And he [Paul] stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered” (Acts 28:30-31).

Thus concludes the Book of Acts.

Yesterday I preached the final sermon in our 18 month journey through the amazing history book of the early church.  Our passage was Acts 28:17-31.  We saw Five themes in the passage that actually serve as an excellent summary of the whole Book.

  1. The power of prayer.
  2. True fellowship.
  3. Human response to the Gospel and God’s sovereignty in it.
  4. The primacy of preaching.
  5. Jesus is the Savior and Fulfillment of the Old Testament.

It is very tempting, if we’re not careful, to get caught up in the dynamic characters of the early church.  Peter and John.  Phillip.  And then there’s Paul.  The last fifteen chapters of Acts chronicle Paul’s missionary adventures.  And no doubt Paul was an amazing man of God.  But that’s just it – he was only amazing because of God!  It’s tempting to make too much of Peter or Paul.  It’s our natural inclination to read Acts as if Paul is the hero or main character.

That’s why we focused our attention yesterday upon the grand truth that It’s all God’s Show, and God’s Show must Go On!  

The Holy Spirit would not allow Luke to end the Book of Acts talking about Paul’s amazing life or martyrdom.  No!  It’s not about Paul.  Rather, it’s about the Kingdom of God and His Christ!  Oh, how we need to embrace this truth in our own lives.  Our culture programs us to be so very self-centered.  So me-driven.  Oh how we need heavy doses of the Bible’s perspective.  God help us center our lives on You!

The last word of the Greek text of Acts is akolutos.  Translated in the NASB “unhindered.”  I like “unchained!”

What is unchained?  Paul?  No!  Paul’s literally in chains at the end of Acts.  It’s the gospel of the kingdom that’s unchained.  It’s the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that’s unhindered.  God’s Gospel cannot be stopped!  We called the whole sermon series in Acts “The Unstoppable Church.”  But that’s only true so long as the church stays true to the Gospel Message that Holy God saves and forgives sinners only by the righteous life, the substitutionary death and the powerful resurrection of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

May we be given grace to renounce our selves and turn from our sins and trust wholly in Jesus alone.  May God’s Gospel truly be unleashed among us.  May we truly be able to say with Martin Luther:

“Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever!”

The Book about the birth of the Church ends with its powerhouse Apostle in chains and the gospel unchained.

Think about it.

Contact UsShare on FacebookTweet This

Taking God At His Word

GodFree as an audiobook in April, you will want to pick this book up. The ebook or soft cover book are also available this month for a donation of any amount Here.

“There is no other book like the Bible. It reveals a different kind of wisdom, comes from a different source, and tells of a different love.”
–Kevin DeYoung

Have you ever wondered if the Bible is really able to help you with your most challenging problems? Have you struggled through difficulty or transition and desired wisdom and insight from the Lord?

Kevin DeYoung explores the sufficiency of the Bible. He encourages us to search its truth, assured that Scripture provides all that is needed to live our lives rightly and contently, and to equip us for every good work.

Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung is an excellent book about why we trust the Bible. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.  At CBC were always talking about the Bible. We can’t get enough of it and in this short book you get introduced to many of the reasons why. DeYoung’s writing is fresh, engaging and thought-provoking. This little book is a very readable introduction to Scripture’s teaching about Scripture.  John MacArthur said, “This is a brilliant, succinct, yet thorough study of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, based on what Scripture says about itself. Clarity and passion are the distinguishing marks of Kevin DeYoung’s writing, and this may be his finest, most important work yet.” I heartily agree. Reading this book gave me even more hunger to read the Bible. It is well worth your time.

Here are some great quotes to give you an appetite for this read,

“The Word of God is more than enough to accomplish the work of God in the people of God.”

“You do not need another special revelation from God outside the Bible. You can listen to the voice of God every day. Christ still speaks, because the Spirit has already spoken. If you want to hear from God, go to the book that records only what he has said. Immerse yourself in the word of God. You will not find anything more sure.”

“The Scriptures are our spectacles (to use Calvin’s phrase), the lenses through which we see God, the world, and ourselves rightly.”

“No one who truly delights in God’s word will be indifferent to the disregarding of it.”

“The most effective means for bolstering our confidence in the Bible is to spend time in the Bible.”

“You can think too highly of your interpretations of Scripture, but you cannot think too highly of Scripture’s interpretation of itself. You can exaggerate your authority in handling the Scriptures, but you cannot exaggerate the Scriptures’ authority to handle you. You can use the word of God to come to wrong conclusions, but you cannot find any wrong conclusions in the word of God.”

“God’s Word is final. God’s Word is understandable. God’s Word is necessary. God’s Word is enough.”

Contact UsShare on FacebookTweet This

A Pure Prom?

Jenna Plausky,

Prom Night.

Those two words strike terror into many a Christian parent’s heart.  We all remember what prom nights meant for us (at least for those of us going to prom in the 80s and 90s).  Prom meant:

  • Ridiculously expensive meals.
  • Ridiculously expensive tuxedos and dresses.
  • Gobs of make-up and revealing dresses on young women everywhere.
  • Gawking young men.
  • Dancing too close and too long, and to sexually explicit lyrics.
  • Boys groping girls was common place during my school dances, and that didn’t change at prom.
  • All night parties, and even some overnight “dates” that were guaranteed to involve sex.

So, now you may better understand why I am anti-prom!  My wife and I determined by God’s grace to raise our daughters in more godly ways.  It’s why we chose homeschooling.  Academics had little to do with it.  Purity, God-centeredness and gospel-drivenness compelled our educational choice.  And Prom.  Well, it wasn’t part of the plan.

But Saturday night, I watched my oldest daughter dance for hours with some of her friends at a Prom.  One of the young women in our church organized a Prom for homeschooling families.  I must say I was skeptical.  But in the end, I saw young women dressed beautifully and modestly.  Few of them had gaudy amounts of make-up.  The young men wore trousers and button-up shirts and ties.  Girls danced with their friends who were girls, and some of the boys joined in the fun.  There was no slow-dancing allowed.  Adult chaperons / parents were abundant.  Teens went home with their parents that night.

While I am not naive enough to believe that there was no lust going on in the hearts of those teens, I do know that the conditions to act on that lust or to feed that lust were simply not present.  Not permitted.

“Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its lusts” (Rom 13:14).

Now, some Christians would call me square.  Too conservative.  Too cautious.  Over-bearing.  Well, you don’t know the half of it!  I’m so weird that I don’t even believe in slow-dancing with my teen daughter.  I do not plan to have a “Dad-Daughter” dance at her wedding.  First because she now has been given to the headship of another man.  He gets the dance for the rest of his life now.  But second because I do not slow dance with any woman other than my wife!  I am not romantic with my teen daughter.  Daddy-daughter dances with elementary-aged kids are one thing, but expecting Dads to act romantic toward their daughters who are young women is, in my thinking, weird.

I’m not called to be romantic with anyone other than my wife.  And the very best way I can teach my daughters what real romance looks like is to give it to their mother lavishly!  They need to see romance only in the context of the covenant of marriage.  That’s where God designed it to be.

“I want you to swear, O daughters of Jerusalem, do not arouse or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Songs 8:4).  

You don’t have to agree with my every whim or perspective here.  But it is worth considering how best we can model and instruct our children in true love and romance.  We must create circumstances, as much as it is in our power to do so, that allow our children to thrive in purity and to starve out that lust beast within.  And above all, we must point them to the Savior who took the punishment from God we earn with our every lustful thought.  It wasn’t just for our physical acts of sex outside marriage that Jesus died.  He died for our sin-sick hearts and minds that far too often rage with lust (Matt 5:27-30).

In the end, it’s not a dance with me or any other man that I want my daughters to most long for.  My prayer, my great desire, is that they would yearn for the eternal love of the Perfect Bridegroom.  His name is Jesus.  And He is more beautiful even than a home school Prom done well.

 

 

Contact UsShare on FacebookTweet This

Good Friends are Hard to Come By

images-3

“Good friends are hard to come by.”  

We’ve all heard it.  All said it.  And it’s true.  I can personally count on one hand the men I would consider to be true friends, in every sense of the word, to me.

Good friends might be hard to come by, but they’re worth the hard search and work to find and make.  Good friends are critical to a life well-lived.  God’s Book of Wisdom does not overlook the importance of friendship.  God gives us instruction by example.  Like David and Jonathan.  Ruth and Naomi.  Paul and Barnabas.

But God also gives us some important instruction on friendship by way of Proverbs.  Chapter 27 shines here.

“Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (vv. 5-6).

We often quote the phrase, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” without considering its immediate context.  Too often in the church we use this phrase as warrant to go around rebuking everyone anytime we want.  But the key word is “friend.”  That word assumes a closeness.  A bond.  A mutual commitment to one another.  And the preceding verse makes it plain that true love does not fake friendship by refusing to confront sin or correct error.  True friends are faithful to do hard things to ensure they are growing one another in godliness.  True friends must rebuke one another, but always and only to expose real sin that is preventing further growth in Christ-likeness.

In other words, true friendship is hard.  It hurts sometimes.  But it’s worth it if we want to be wise like our Lord.

“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend” (v. 9).

Oh, thank goodness!  Real friendship is not all rebuke and wounding.  Friends also share sweet counsel.  Advice and words that make the heart glad.  In other words, friends are committed to pursue wisdom together.  They look to one another to build up and “wise up.”  It’s hard to imagine having a good friend that you dread talking with on a regular basis because he or she never has a good word for you!

“Do not forsake your friend or your father’s friend” (v. 10).

Friendship means loyalty.  This is why I personally believe one of the critical keys to a life-long marriage of joy is true friendship.  I know no better human friend than my wife.  What a blessing!  Real friends do not leave when things gets thorny or uncomfortable.  They stick with you even after you rebuke them faithfully.  They also remain committed to you even if you are struggling with a sin that needs rebuke.  They’re in it for the long-haul and they’re in it for your good growth in holiness until death ends the friendship.  God even expects friendship loyalty to cross generational lines!

“He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be reckoned a curse on him” (v. 14).

Ah, true friends are thoughtful and considerate of one another.  Is your friend not a morning person?  Then don’t start texting her at 6 am.  Friends put the good of the other before their own wishes.  Friends do practical things to bless one another.  I mean, after all, what “blessing” could possibly come from my yelling a prayer at my friend at the crack of dawn?  Friends serve one another in practical, down-to-earth ways that meet real needs.

“Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (v. 17).

Here is the essence of friendship.  When iron strikes iron, sparks fly!  But the end result is more usefulness.  A dull blade makes precious little impact.  Sharpening requires removing some material.  Sins must go.  Attitudes that do not reflect Christ and His Word must be ground away.  Life dulls us in so many ways.  We need true friends to pull out the spiritual whetstone and lay it to our hearts.  The very best way I know of to do this is to read, discuss, think on, and memorize the Word of God together.  

But if we continue to desire comfort and “concealed love” in the church, if we continue to run when relationships get hard, then we will never reap the harvest of friendship – true godliness.

“He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit” (v. 18).

God help us seek good friends in the church.  God help us be a good friend to at least a few brothers and sisters in the church.  Lord Jesus, thank You for calling Your disciples Your friends (John 15:12-17).  It is only because of Your loving sacrifice for us that we can have any hope of ever being a true friend to someone.  Make us like You.  May our church’s friendships bring You great glory as we reflect the love, loyalty, and sharpening that comes by Your sanctifying grace.  Amen.       

Contact UsShare on FacebookTweet This

Over-Indulgence

GTY_watching_tv_eating_pizza_thg_13719_80509847_16x9_608-2Over-indulgence and America go together like, well, America and apple pie-eating contests!

We do not seem to be able to find proper balance, do we?  I suspect the “all or nothing” mentality is at least partly responsible for what we are currently seeing in the political race for the White House.  We like fast cars, big trucks, and loud-mouthed braggarts.  If an 8 ounce steak is good, a 16 ounce is always better.  One scoop or two?  Is that a real question anymore?

We Americans over-indulge in so many ways and our economy loves it and feeds it.

  • Four hours of video games a day?  Over-indulgence.
  • Seventy hours at the office each week?  Over-indulgence.
  • Fifteen minutes of porn on your lunch break?  Over-indulgence.
  • A few beers every single night to “calm down?”  Over-indulgence.
  • Thousands of dollars on hobbies and vacations?  Over-indulgence.
  • Two hours or more on Facebook each day?  Over-indulgence.
  • Vegging out in front of the TV for the last three hours of every day?  Over-indulgence.

And the list goes on seemingly indefinitely!  We are so out of whack.  In dire need of simplicity.  We’ve forgotten that sometimes less is more, but at other times more is not enough.  The Lord’s wisdom comes crashing into our over-indulged, over-worked, over-stressed world:

Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe them with rags (Proverbs 23:20-21).  

Turns out, all this over-indulgence leaves us empty in the end.  But Jesus gives us the corrective:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (Matt 5:6).

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things [basic life necessities] will be added to you (Matt 6:33).

Oh Lord, help us over-indulge in You and You only.  Give us a hunger for You that outstrips our appetites for all other people, places, and things.  Forgive us for filling our lives with cotton candy.  Forgive us for being drunk and gluttonous on so many temporal things.  Restore to us the balance we desperately need.  Tip our scales in favor of righteousness, time in Your Word, prayer, service, discipleship and worship.  Amen.  

 

Contact UsShare on FacebookTweet This
T r u t h