Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Scattered Serving Church


Moving from a church with buildings, into a church that is portable made me re-think how the church I was helping plant would do ministry.  The church I was leaving was attractional in that it had large facilities and large events to draw the community in to what we were doing.  As a portable church, Stone's Throw would have to rethink how we would be a part of the community since we did not have a facility to draw people toward.  We also adopted a simple model of church that consisted of the church gathered in worship on Sundays and the church scattered in community and doing life together throughout the week in outreach and Community Groups.  The simplicity was part of our original vision so that Christians would not be busy with church events, but would rather involve themselves in the life and heartbeat of our neighbors and communities.

One of our philosophies is to find out what our community is already doing and to become a part of it.  In other words we have asked, "How can we help?"  As a result we have plugged into the small town events of the MOT area instead of organizing our own events for church people.  As a result families have joined local little league teams instead of feeling compelled to join the church league, Community Groups throw neighborhood parties rather than only run Bible Studies, the musicians play in local bars and clubs instead of only playing in churches, members are joining local boards, clubs, and associations instead of running church committees and clubs - in other words, we scatter.  When we scatter, we serve.


As the lead pastor at Stone's Throw, I have a continuing vision for what it looks like for Stone's Throw to get on board with the community.  I recently read an article in the New York Times that spoke directly to my heart and gave me an idea for where Stone's Throw could be headed.  You can read the full article here (and I highly recommend that you do).  It is the story of a church that is ministering the Gospel in Portland, Oregon.  Portland is known for being liberal, atheistic, and for having a general distaste for anything related to the Gospel.  Yet, the Gospel continues to grow the church there.  In this article you will read about a church in Portland that has decided to get on board with the needs of the community.  They have adopted a school in their community that simply needed help.  The members of the church volunteer at the school to do grounds work, repair work and take care of general needs around the school.  They take time to write to the students and to build relationships with the students and the teachers and administration at the school.  Their motive is to get on board with the community and to be salt and light in their world.  They have left their program books at home and have just lived their lives in the community with no ulterior motives except to be the love of Christ.  What struck a chord with me was not the amount of work that they do, but the longevity of their commitment - this is not a one and done, make-ourselves-feel-good deal.  It is a lifestyle.

I am hoping that Stone's Throw will continue to live this philosophy of getting on board with what's going on in our communities.  I firmly believe that the Gospel will pour out of our good deeds.  Do not suggest to me that I am preaching a deeds-only evangelism.  Those of you who know me, know that I believe firmly in the preaching of the Gospel.  I am simply saying that when Christians are around, so is the Holy Spirit.  When the Holy Spirit is around, so is Jesus.  When Jesus and the Holy Spirit are around, people change.  I believe that the words of the Gospel will be given an opportunity when Christians put themselves in positions to share the Gospel.  We put ourselves in position by loving people.


Have you ever noticed in the New Testament that anytime a person came to Jesus for help, the very first thing that Jesus asked was, "What can I do for you?"  I am praying specifically for Stone's Throw to become a church where we ask needy people, "What can I do for you?"  There are so many opportunities for churches to help meet very specific needs in our community.  Let's not stop with what we have accomplished so far.  The harvest is plentiful - we need hands on deck.

Deck hands are leaders and self starters.  The community needs Christians who not only see needs, but look for needs and then they lead people to meet those needs.  Deck hands don't wait for someone else to do the dirty work - they scrub and they clean to make sure the job gets done.  I want Stone's Throw to be a church that helps leaders lead.  We want to mobilize people to meet needs, to serve, and to love.  Ask yourself how you can be a part of this kind of Christ-like service and then let's get started.  There's work to be done.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sermon Follow Up: Psalm 16, Undefeated

This sermon follow up is from the sermon series, "Psalms:  The Greatest Hits, Vol. One".  Check out the links at the bottom of the blog post to watch or listen to the sermon and to find out more information about Stone's Throw Church. 


Psalm 16 was most probably written by David and yet this song is not about David.  It is about Jesus.  Isn't that a big leap?  The Apostles did not think so.  Peter quotes directly from this Psalm in his first public sermon which is recorded for us in Acts 2:25-31.  Paul backs up his buddy Peter in his sermon at Antioch in Acts 13 when he quotes directly from Psalm 16 and applies the words to the earthly ministry of Jesus and his resurrection. 
David probably wrote this song in response to some kind of hardship in his life – and there were many to choose from.  As a result, in this Psalm we learn what it means to trust God in all things.  John Calvin writes, “What follows concerning trust, signifies much the same thing as if the Holy Spirit assured us by the mouth of David, that God is ready to succor all of us, provided we rely upon him with a sure and steadfast faith; and that he takes under his protection none but those who commit themselves to him with their whole heart. At the same time, we must be reminded that David, supported by this trust, continued firm and unmoved amidst all the storms of adversity with which he was buffeted.”
The trust that one can imperfectly have in God is modeled perfectly by Jesus in his earthly ministry.  This song shows us in a very practical way the relationship that Jesus had with the Father.  He trusted in Him even unto death knowing that he would be raised by the power of God even after the brutality and finality of death by crucifixion.  In this Psalm we see a very real and human Jesus.  “This psalm’s purpose is to reveal the perfect relationship between the human Jesus and [God the Father], to describe His relationship with humanity, and to foretell His resurrection and His eternal future.
Once again, it would help us to understand the ebb and flow of the song so that we can farm as much theological and practical meaning from the lyrics as possible.  We can break the Psalm up into 4 sections for the purpose of our study.
Verses 1-2 relate Jesus’ relationship with God the Father.  He trusts the Father and the Father is absolutely behind His Son.  Jesus stresses throughout the Gospel accounts that He is walking in the Father’s will and that he has come to exclusively obey the will of the Father.  We also see on several occasions (Jesus’ baptism and the Mount of Transfiguration) that the Father is behind the ministry of Jesus.
The second section found in verses 3-4 tell of Jesus’ relationship to all mankind.  Simply put, Jesus loves God’s people.  One day they will be made his brothers and will inherit all that is Jesus’.  Additionally, Jesus will reject those who have rejected him.
The third section found in verses 5-8 reveals the source of Jesus’ ministry.  His relationship to the Father is of first importance to him.  He does not move unless the Father has ordained it.  Every minute of Jesus’ ministry had been planned from all eternity.  Jesus was able to accomplish his ministry because the Father is unshakeable in his strength.
Finally, in verses 9-11, we see a picture of the resurrection of Jesus from the grave.  Jesus is not afraid to die.  Jesus’ bold predictions and confidence in trial demonstrate his confidence and trust in God.  This is why the Psalmist writes that God will not abandon the Messiah to the grave.  We are treated to a glimpse of the resurrection and it’s power over death because of Jesus’s resurrection. 


“The psalmist, however, in the joyful confidence of faith looked the grim reaper in the face and said, “Yes, but God …”This is a majestic Psalm about Jesus’ trust in the Father and the victory he has won on our behalf. 
Additionally, this is a tender Psalm that also tells of his humanity.  Spurgeon writes, “Tempted in all points like as we are, the manhood of Jesus needed to be preserved from the power of evil; and though in itself pure, the Lord Jesus did not confide in that purity of nature, but as an example to his followers, looked to the Lord, his God, for preservation.”
Where do you turn in times of trouble?  We have been trained to call our counselors, our spouses, our kids, our parents or our teachers when we are up the creek.  We have been taught to read the latest self-help book rather than the Word of God.  Others of us turn to drugs, alcohol, food, spending money, buying crap, or self-medicating with some other addiction.  Our nature is to turn from trouble and steer into more trouble.  But Jesus shows us what it means to turn to the Father when we are in trouble and to trust in Him through dangerous or grievous situations.
On the first Good Friday 2000 years ago, Jesus was in serious trouble and he knew it.  The crowds had turned from him, his best friends were wary of him, a disciple had sold him out to the mob, the government was bearing down on him, and the religious zealots wanted him dead.  So what does Jesus do?  He turns to the Father in prayer and asks God to give him the strength to do what must be done – to complete his mission. 
God would protect Jesus from death.  In the same way, God is your protector.  God is absolutely devoted to you when you are in Christ.  Jesus showed us in his earthly ministry what it means to live under the protection of God.  Protection does not mean that we won’t face hardship.  Jesus faced much hardship and so will we.  Protection does mean that you will be able to accomplish all that God has called you to accomplish – no more and no less.  If our desire is to live by the will of God then we can have full confidence that all that He means to purpose through us will certainly come to pass. 
God delights in you.  Look closely at what the Psalmist says in verse 3.  God delights in saints, meaning those who have been made holy.  Look at yourself.  You and I both know that we are not holy – at least not perfectly holy.  God hates sin.  How then can He delight in us?  God delights in us because of what Jesus has done for us.  And remember, that what Jesus has done for us has always been God’s plan and that His plan was fashioned out of love for us.  Paul tells us in Romans 5 that Jesus died for those who hated God so that we might be made the friends of God.  This is all of grace.  Nothing else can explain why God would do this.  As a result of what Jesus has done, and your faith in Christ which unites you to Christ, God delights in you.
Other gods will destroy you.  We have been raised by our culture to believe that other gods offer refuge.  Sex.  Money.  Power.  Popularity.  Nice clothes.  Nicer cars.  Big bank accounts.  Popular ministries and churches.  Good looks.  Hot wife.  Sexy boyfriend.  These are all gods who destroy.  They are not necessarily bad things or bad people.  But our trust in them as gods is what destroys.  Why?  Because sex cannot offer real refuge.  Money will eventually run out or be left in our will to someone who is not us.  Clothes from the ‘80’s should never be worn in the new millennium and yet you were told that your Air Jordan’s would bring you much happiness in 1989.  You get the point.  Other gods bring sorrow to those who run after them.
Jesus is your inheritance.  The Psalmist writes, “Indeed I have a beautiful inheritance.”  In Romans we are called co-heirs with Jesus Christ.  How is that even possible?  We did not do what Jesus did.  We couldn’t do what Jesus did.  We are disobedient fools and Jesus was perfect in all ways.  And yet, we are told that because we are united to him by faith that we will receive what Jesus’ receives – resurrection and glory!  I can only imagine what Jesus must have felt when he was tied to the Roman whipping post.  He must have held on to the promise of the Father of a resurrected body not only for himself but for all of God’s people. 
Because of the resurrection inheritance, nothing can shake you from the grip of God.  When the Psalmist says that God is at his right hand he is not insinuating that Jesus is the co-pilot.  Instead, this is an expression to demonstrate the closeness of God to his Son Jesus.  In turn, it tells us of how close God is to us.  Because God is “at our right hand” we have nothing to fear in this life or the life to come. 
This song is not just about a present reality or even an earthly reality.  The final verses give us a future promise that last forever.  It is in these words that we see the Old Testament understanding of resurrection.  The Psalmist praises God because he knows that his body, though it may die, will ultimately be restored and resurrected.  This is what he means by “the path of life” the “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore.” 
Ultimately this section, “prophesies the Messiah’s physical resurrection from death as a result of His perfect earthly walk with God, and His subsequent seating at God’s right hand.”  We are united to Jesus in this resurrection.  His resurrection means our resurrection.
The Psalm presents us with the unique relationship that Jesus in his humanity had with God the Father.  This is the model for our walk with God the Father.  We fail miserably at times but God is gracious.  Will you trust God when times are rough?  Will you rest in His unshakeable grip?  Will you believe that God will make all things new as promised by Jesus and proved by His resurrection?

·         Take some time to pray through Psalm 16 this week.

·         What are some areas in your life right now where you are not trusting God?  Be specific.
·         What comfort do you find in this Psalm? 

·       Why is the resurrection of Jesus proof of God’s love for you and that He will accomplish His will in your life?    

If you want to hear more about this you can download/watch/listen to the entire sermon here.
Check out our free iTunes podcast and subscribe today. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sermon Follow Up: Psalm 22, Man on a Cross

This sermon follow up is from the sermon series, "Psalms:  The Greatest Hits, Vol. One".  Check out the links at the bottom of the blog post to watch or listen to the sermon and to find out more information about Stone's Throw Church.  


Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd.  The writer of Hebrews called him the great Shepherd who defeated death.  Peter called Jesus the Chief Shepherd who oversees the church and its leaders.  Psalm 22, 23, and 24 are three parts of the greatest trilogy of songs ever written and they follow the theme of Jesus’ life:  Crucified and dead.  Risen.  Reigning as King. 
Psalm 22 is the song of a dying man who is crying for his Father.  As I read the Psalm, I am reminded of a scene from the movie, “Saving Private Ryan.”  In this scene, the squad of men who are searching for Private Ryan come across a German outpost.  During the course of the battle, one of the main characters, the medic, is mortally wounded.  He knows he is dying.  He knows that the bullet has punctured his liver and that he only has a few more moments of breath.  He knows because he has watched a thousand men die.  He knows the human body and when it is shutting down.  He knows this is the end.  He cries.  He calls for his mom and then he dies.  In this Psalm, the Messiah calls for his daddy and then he dies.    
Many of the Psalms were written about an historic event that had happened to the author.  But this is not the case with Psalm 22.  Psalm 22 seems to be purely prophetic about a man’s execution.  It is about a man whose hands and feet were pinned down, a man whose enemies felt they had beaten him.  This is a man who is humiliated and has lost everything. 
This Psalm is solely about Jesus and his cross.  Boice writes, “Most modern writers on the psalms try to find a setting for them either in the life of David, if they believe David was their author, or in the experience of some later writer or group of persons.  But it is impossible to do this with this psalm.  Some psalms are written out of illness.  But Psalm 22 is not a description of an illness.  It is a description of an execution, particularly a crucifixion.  Crucifixion was not practiced in the time of David or for many long centuries afterward.  So this is not an account of suffering endured by any ancient person but a prophetic picture of the suffering to be endured by Jesus when he died to pay the penalty for our sins.  In other words, it is prophetic and entirely messianic."
Spurgeon suggests that perhaps Jesus actually quoted the entire Psalm while on the cross.  Spurgeon’s suggestion is not entirely without possibility.  He writes, “It may have been actually repeated word by word by our Lord when hanging on the tree; it would be too bold to say that it was so, but even a casual reader may see that it might have been.  It begins with, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and ends, according to some, in the original with “It is finished.”
But additionally, this song is about a man who would ultimately win the war.  Even in the midst of death, this man on a cross is able to sing, “To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.” 
The inspired artist knew something about suffering and wants to share in his song the ultimate goodness of God even in the midst of great suffering.  Psalm 22 alternates consistently between a cry of anguish and a prayer offered to God.  As the Psalm progresses, the spiritual pain becomes less and less even though the physical pain continues.  The writer’s confidence in God the Father intensifies even as the physical pain continues to intensify. 
In this Psalm we find both the darkness and the glory of the Cross.  This Psalm does not end in unending grief.  It ends with the words, “He has done it.”  In other words, after all the grief, after all the horror, after all the pain, the writer submits that God has been there all along with His sovereign and gracious hand. 
This is what Jesus meant when he was on the Cross and he declared, “It is finished.”  Jesus had done it.  God had done it.  Redemption had been sealed.  Perfection had been accomplished.  The Law had been fulfilled.  There was no more work to be done in order to pay for the sin of the world. 
In this sermon, and throughout the week, we will visit the cross.  We are going to spend a significant amount of time with the man on a cross.  We will look at the way he died, why he died, and the meaning of his death. 
Jesus died horribly.  He was falsely accused by jealous religious fanatics.  His enemies wanted him dead and they were willing to go to any length to make sure he was put to death.  He died unjustly at the hands of both Jew and Gentile alike.  In other words, the whole world is responsible for putting Jesus to death.
He suffered the worst kind of death anyone can suffer physically, mentally, and publicly.  Crucifixion was slow, laborious, and prolonged.  Usually, a man would die by asphyxiation.  Jesus died because he had been beaten beyond recognition before ever getting to the cross.  Jesus would have been stripped naked, strapped to a used cross beam that contained human remains and excrement, nailed to the beams with rusty used spikes through his hands and feet, and hoisted onto a used executioner’s pole.
His cross would have been high enough and public enough for everyone to see.  Often crowds would gather to curse at the man on a cross.  They would urinate on him and spit on him.  Many would pick up rocks and trash and beat the criminals with them.  Some criminals would stay on a cross for days until wild animals finished them off or their muscles could no longer hold them in place. 
Jesus died alone.  The crowds that had once followed Jesus had either abandoned him or joined the mob in crucifying him.  The people he healed were nowhere to be found.  The disciples had fled for their lives.  His best buddies disowned him.  Only his mother, a few women, and John went to the place of the Skull with their Savior.  He was mentally, physically, and emotionally tested. 
When Jesus finally died he was gutted with a Roman spear.  The Bible gives us a physiological hint as to the cause of Jesus’ death.  The Gospels tell us that water and blood both poured out of the spear wound.  His heart had burst.  Doctors will tell you that Jesus’ heart had literally burst from the intense physical punishment he endured. 
Normally, his body would have been left on the Cross as an example and as food for wild animals.  Only after a few days would a criminal’s body be removed and thrown into Gehenna.  Gehenna was the same place that Jesus used as an example to explain hell.  It was a garbage dump that had once been used for infanticide and human child sacrifices.  In Jesus’ day, dead criminal’s crucified bodies were piled on top of the human waste and trash and ultimately burned.  The fires never went out in Gehenna.
Instead, Jesus’ body was taken off the Cross and given to those who remained to the end. 
Even with the pain that the Psalmist is feeling he refuses to end in darkness.  Psalm 22 does not end in despair.  Like many Psalms, Psalm 22 offers hope in the lyrics.  The final verses of Psalm 22 hint at the victory Jesus will ultimately have.  You see, Jesus was not just a man on a cross.  He was the man who defeated the cross.  He went to the cross so that he could bring us to himself.  His mission was to gather those that the Father had given him before time began. 
Ultimately, Jesus would win.  The Psalmist tells of the victory Jesus will have after his death.  Nations will speak about the man on a cross in every generation.  People will serve Jesus around the globe.  Jesus will be vindicated.  He will rule in every nation.  His name will go so far that even those not yet born will be told about his sacrifice and his love for them. 
Jesus went to the depths to bring us out of the depths and into a perfect relationship with God.  He was a man on a cross.  Now he is the King on His throne. 


The big question you must ask when reading Psalm 22 is simple – Did Jesus die for me?  We can talk about his suffering and be moved by it.  We can talk about his love and be encouraged by it.  We can talk about his teaching, his healings, his sense of humor, and his wisdom and be wowed by it.  But did Jesus die for you?  That is a big question. 
You see, our sin requires payment.  In Romans 6:23 we are told that our payment is death.  But we are also told in Romans 5 that Jesus’ act on the cross paid our debt in full if we would believe in faith that Jesus is Savior and that the man on a cross took our place.  Jesus atoned for sins.  The question is whether or not you believe he was the atonement for your sins.  Did Jesus really pay it all for you? 
Hopefully studying Psalm 22 has encouraged you and brought the sacrifice of Jesus to light.  But that can’t be the place where we stop.  James Boice writes, “It is a wonderful thing to know that Jesus died for sinners.  It is amazing to study a prophetic picture of Christ’s suffering and death, as we have done. But that can happen, and yet the person who hears can still perish because he or she has not trusted in Jesus.”
Paul echoes this thought when he writes in Romans 10:8-11, “
The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

The word of God has been near to you.  But you still must make the decision as to what the man on the cross has to do with you and your sin.  So I’m calling the question.  Did Jesus die for you?  The great hymn written by Charles Wesley asks the same question,

And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain?
For me, who him to death pursued? 

Was Jesus forsaken in your place?  Was he pierced and persecuted in your place?  Did he finish God’s work where you could not finish?  Did he meet the requirements of God’s Law that you could not meet?  Did God make Jesus your sin?  Only you can answer the question.

·         Look up the word “atonement” and write down some thoughts in this book or a journal as you meditate on Psalm 22.  What does atonement have to do with you?

·         Read through Psalm 22 and identify the cries of anguish and the prayers that result from the cries.  What are your cries of anguish?  Can you pray the prayers of the Psalmist alongside of your anguish?

·         Read through one of the accounts of Jesus’ trial and death on the Cross in the Gospel accounts (Matthew 27, Mark 14-15, Luke 23, John 19). 

·         Think about one of the worst times you've had in your life.  Write a Psalm with alternating questions and prayers in response. 

If you want to hear more about this you can download/watch/listen to the entire sermon here.
Check out our free iTunes podcast and subscribe today. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sermon Follow Up: The Plan (From Psalm 2)

This sermon follow up is from the sermon series, "Psalms:  The Greatest Hits, Vol. One".  Check out the links at the bottom of the blog post to watch or listen to the sermon and to find out more information about Stone's Throw Church. 

I can clearly remember opening up a new album in the 1980’s in anticipation of seeing what the band looked like and what they were singing about in the lyric sheet.  A lot of the music I listened to when I was younger needed printed lyrics or I would never have known what the singer was saying.  I wanted to know what Robert Plant was singing about and to discuss with my friends the secret meaning of Led Zeppelin’s songs.  Unfortunately for me, Zeppelin never printed their lyrics in the record sleeve.  I can clearly remember reading the words to Metallica’s “Black” album and feeling a sense of familiarity with “Nothing Else Matters” shortly after my brother Mark died in a car accident, but also being haunted by the words of the song “Follow the God That Failed”.
I wasn't allowed to listen to so-called “secular” music when I was younger.  I, like many other kids from fundamentalist Christian homes, would argue that we were only in it for the music and not the lyrics.  Our parents didn't buy it.  Why?  Because lyrics and their meaning are powerful.  It’s never “just about the music.”  The Psalms contain the most powerful lyrics ever written.  The Psalms can be sung to any style of music and it will always be about the words.      
As we begin this series we will start with Psalm 2.  It is a royal Psalm that would have been read at the coronation of a new king.  The introductory verses and the last stanza would have been read by a priest overseeing the coronation.  The new king would read the middle stanza followed by a priest completing the reading. 
The Psalm begins with a series of questions about the hilarity of man’s attempt to overthrow what God has planned.  In ancient times, when a throne was vacant even for a moment, many of the under rulers, and those who aspired to power would begin to plot against the rightful successor to the throne.  The opening words of Psalm 2 were written as a warning to any and all that might be conspiring against the new king.  The message is clear – what God has set up no man can destroy. 
The priest would continue to read verses 4-6 as he declared that the King was God’s anointed ruler.  The King would then read verses 7-9 to establish his authority.
In the final verses the subjects are given a choice.  They can take refuge in the Lord or they can be crushed by God and His chosen king. 
Psalm 2’s meaning would develop with the history of Israel.  Just like the meaning of songs develop with experience today, so too would the Psalmist’s words take on their truest and deepest meaning in the years to come.  When God’s people were sent into exile in the 6th century B.C., they no longer had a king.  In fact, they were now persecuted, homeless, and enslaved to a foreign land.  The old Israel had passed away and it seemed that God’s promise to establish an everlasting throne through the line of King David had been forgotten. 
But many in Israel trusted in the promises of God.  These promises are reflected in many of the Psalms.  The second Psalm became a Psalm of future hope.  It became a Messianic Psalm as “the Jewish people had to live for centuries under foreign overlords—Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman.  Except for a brief period, they had no king of their own, no “messiah” crowned and ruling in Jerusalem over a sovereign state.  Increasingly hopes centered on the future.  One day God would send another king, descendant of the royal family of David, who would crush all his people’s enemies and rule in freedom and peace—the king to come.”
This Psalm is about Jesus.  This is why Charles Spurgeon the great 19th century preacher wrote about Psalm 2 saying, “We shall not greatly err in our summary of this sublime Psalm if we call it The Psalm of Messiah the Prince; for it sets forth as in a wondrous vision the tumult of the people against the Lord’s anointed, the determinate purpose of God to exalt his own Son, and the ultimate reign of that Son over all his enemies.”
In Mark’s Gospel we see that this Psalm was always about Jesus.  In Mark 1, Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist.  As Jesus is coming up from the water, God the Father speaks from heaven, quoting Psalm 2:7, “You are my son.”  Furthermore, in Luke 9, when Jesus is transfigured, God the Father once again quotes His own words spoken 1500 years previous when He says, “This is my son.” 
The biggest promises of Psalm 2 were fulfilled when Jesus came to deliver all of God’s people in every nation from their rebellion. 


Humanity continues to rage against God.  The Church often looks past themselves and to the rebellion of the culture around them and gleefully looks for the day when the laughing God of heaven will destroy all the great sinners.  We can’t wait for God to rage against the machine of debauchery, rock n’ roll, druggies, whores, opposing political parties, our next door neighbor’s barking dog, and liberal theologians.  We miss the point, the conviction of Scripture, and the words of the Holy Spirit. 
Will God punish the wicked?  Of course.  Should a Christian long for justice?  Yes.  But just like the under rulers who wanted to sit on the king’s throne in ancient Israel, we also want to sit where Jesus sits.  We want to be the Savior.  We want to be the Messiah.  We want to rule where Jesus rightfully and graciously rules.  We conspire against God.  Our flesh is crafty.  Self-righteousness is harder to root out than immorality. 
In this Psalm God gives Himself a choice in responding to our rebellion.  He can either destroy all of humanity or He can offer them salvation. 
This song tells of our rebellion.  We plot against God, we set ourselves up as God and we want nothing to do with God.  But God graciously wants something to do with us.  He warns us to “be wise” and “be warned.”  Why?  The Apostle John tells us in his Gospel and in his pastoral letters.  God wants something to do with us because He is love and because He loves us (John 3:16, I John 3:12).  Paul tells us in Romans 5 that this love is not because of anything we have done, will do, or can do, but rather because God is gracious. 
Instead of conspiring against God we are called into relationship with Him – to “Kiss the Son.”  When God calls us to serve with fear, He means He desires that we worship Him.  That is the only place where we can really rejoice – in worship of Jesus.
Everyone worships something.  Worship is making much about something.  The Christian makes much about Jesus.  Worship is not just the act of singing.  A song is one way, but not the only way to worship.  A song declares truths about everyday life.  Psalm 2 expresses this truth:  God is calling a wicked and rebellious people to be in relationship with Him.  Those who do will be blessed. 
John Calvin writes, “The concluding sentence of the psalm qualifies what was formerly said concerning the severity of Christ; for his iron rod and the fiery wrath of God would strike terror into all men without distinction, unless this comfort had been added.  Having, therefore discoursed concerning the terrible judgment which hangs over the unbelieving, he now encourages God’s faithful and devout servants to entertain good hope, by setting forth the sweetness of his grace….he opens to them a sanctuary of hope, whither they may flee, in order not to be overwhelmed by the terror of God’s wrath…”
Our hearts are idol factories by nature.  We deserve the worst that God has to offer and yet He graciously gives us the best that He has to offer.  Do you feel that you are under judgment and that you have rebelled against God?  The very One you are running from is calling you back home to take refuge. 

·         Read and pray through Psalm 2.  Ask God to reveal areas in your life that you have tried to sit on His throne.  Thank Him for the refuge He has given us in Jesus.
·         Read Psalm 2, Mark 1, and Luke 9.  In what ways do you see Jesus in the Psalm?
·         How would you define worship? 
·         Why do you think Psalm 2 is important to understanding the earthly ministry and now heavenly ministry of Jesus Christ?
·         What encouragement do you have about the evil in the world and the message of Psalm 2?
·         Spurgeon writes, “Indeed, the Son must first kiss us by his mercy, before we can kiss him by our piety.”  What does he mean by this? 

If you want to hear more about this you can download/watch/listen to the entire sermon here.
Check out our free iTunes podcast and subscribe today. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013


"If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit."  - Galatians 5:25

I recently took up cycling in order to get into shape and so that I might have an enjoyable means of burning calories.  I quickly fell in love with the sport.  It wasn’t long before I took my first group ride.  I love riding alone, but I absolutely and completely enjoy riding with friends.  It is a thrill to be in a group of guys, riding down the road at 25 miles per hour.  You hear the wind whizzing by your head and the steady breathing of athletes pulling together to make something happen.  The leader has to pull the rest of the group along stretches of the road.  In order to be in the group you have to draft the rider’s wheel in front of you in a tight formation.  This involves just being inches from the rider’s back wheel.  The pack uses hand signals to warn for obstacles on the road such as branches, cracks in the road, or train tracks.  The leader keeps his or her head up and guides everyone else.  It is quite exhilarating (to put it in my daughter’s words). 
The pack has to keep in step with one another.  If you are leading, you set the tone.  You can push hard or you can back off a bit for recovery.  The second rider in the pack must pace himself to the leader and the rider behind him must do the same.  You have to come to a point where you are locked in to the same rhythm and speed.  This is what Paul means when he says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit.”  He literally instructs the Galatians to keep in step with the Spirit.  In cycling terms it would be, “Keep your RPM’s the same as the Spirit.”  Lock and load. 
In other words, if you have been justified by faith and are free under the Gospel, then you will desire to keep in step with where the Holy Spirit leads you and desires to change you.  We are to always be asking God what He wants from us and how we can become more like Christ. 
When a person becomes a Christian the battle is not over.  In fact, that battle has just begun.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at Paul’s words in Romans 7.  He tells us that whenever he desires to do what is right, that evil is right there waiting to crush him and pull him down.  When you come to know Jesus as Savior there is a war where there was once calm.  The Holy Spirit is engaged in warfare against our sinful desires. 
What is the flesh?  Paul uses the word “sarx” in the Greek to refer to our sinful desires.  This is what he means by the “flesh.”  Our sinful desires work against the Holy Spirit as He sanctifies us and changes us to be more like Jesus.  Do you notice what Paul says about the works of the flesh in verse 17?  They keep us from doing the things that we want to do.  That means there has been a total transformation in desire.  The things we want to do under the Gospel are different than those things that we wanted to do without the Spirit.  Our desires have changed because our allegiance has changed. 
Paul gives us two lists and it would be a benefit for us to take a look at them.  The works of the flesh are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.  This is not meant to be an exhaustive list.  If Paul were writing today he might include, pornography, sexting, gossip, bullying, racism, bigotry, 3000-calorie cheeseburgers, slothfulness in the church, slothfulness in the community, arrogance….the list goes on and on.  Paul’s point is to use a few examples to show us that there is a battle going on.  This list is a great starting place for us to hold up the mirror of the Law and examine our lives.  The mirror helps us to see where the Holy Spirit might be doing battle. 
Paul does not leave us with a picture of the flesh but instead encourages us with what a life in step with the Spirit looks like.  When the cycling pack is really moving and in step with one another it is an amazing thing to be a part of.  You don’t have to pedal as hard (so long as you aren’t the leader!), you can hear the rhythm of the bike cranks, you move fast, you turn as one and there is an overall aspect of fun as you pack on the miles.  There is also great conversation during recovery stretches.  There is laughter, joking, and teasing.  This is when the pack is locked into one another and looking out for one another.
The Holy Spirit is not just looking out for us but is doing battle for us and in us.  And when the Holy Spirit does battle He produces fruit.  Paul gives us the list:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Paul uses the analogy of fruit so that he can relay a truth to us about Christian freedom. 
First, fruit takes a long time to grow.  You usually don’t have the time to watch fruit grow and see the changes.  But over time, a seed becomes a tree, and a tree grows and bears fruit.  The fruit of the Spirit in a Christian will take time.
Second, if a person is a Christian, than the certainty of the person bearing Christian fruit is 100 percent.  This is highly encouraging to me because I struggle with all of these aspects.  I do not love as much as I am called to love.  I do not show self-control, I get angry, and I could list the many ways in which I still hope for fruit.  However, I am encouraged because the Holy Spirit is still doing a work in me, just as He is in you.  Be encouraged, the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work will grow. 
Third, the fruit of the Spirit is an all or nothing deal.  Paul doesn’t use the word “fruits” but rather the singular “fruit.”  Why?  Because a Christian will grow in all of these aspects of the one fruit.  You cannot love without self -control.  You cannot have joy without peace.    Each aspect of the fruit is tied to the other.  All of these aspects are part of one greater fruit which is of the Spirit. 
Paul does not leave us hanging with a bunch of imperatives or commands.  Otherwise we would die trying to please God.  He shares with us exactly how the fruit will grow in our lives. 
The fruit of the Spirit is first a result of us belonging to Jesus.  In verse 24 Paul says that we “belong to Christ Jesus.”  All that is His has been credited to us.  This is our motivation for living a life of gratitude.  Growing fruit is a worshipful response to God.
Second, we must remember that our sinful nature was crucified with Christ.  Paul says to the Galatians that the old sinful desires were nailed to the Cross.  This is reiterated in Romans 6:1 when Paul says, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  We died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?”  This is an ongoing process of crucifixion.  John Piper likens this battle to killing our sin.  I remember hearing him preach a sermon where he said, “You must be killing your sin or it will be killing you.” This is what Paul means when he says that our sinful flesh is constantly crucified. 
This killing of sin doesn’t happen at a symptomatic level.  In other words, you don’t just “try harder” if you have an addiction to porn, drugs, or food.  When you kill sin, you look for the root of the problem.  The Holy Spirit will lead us there.  Our addiction is linked to our sinful flesh at the base of our identity.  We must look to kill the sin at the root cause and find our identity in Jesus.  Thoreau has been quoted as saying, “For every 1000 people who strike at the leaves of evil, there is only one striking at the root.”  The Holy Spirit takes us to the root of our sin, not just the symptoms, and kills it. 
Finally, the Fruit of the Spirit is developed in an active process of claiming the promises of the Gospel, that we have been crucified with Christ, and an ongoing death of our old self.  Our old self must be identified and eventually replaced with our new identity in Jesus Christ. 

If you want to hear more about this you can download/watch/listen to the entire sermon here.
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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sermon Follow Up: Free From The Rules

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."  --Galatians 5:1

At this point in Galatians, Paul has established a firm theological ground on freedom in the Christ.  He has shared with the Galatians the reality of who Jesus is and who they are by faith in Christ.  We call this the indicative of the Gospel.  Most of Paul’s letters are structured with the indicative (information) first and the imperative (implications of the information) as a result of the indicative. 
In other words, Paul is going to tell us that since we have been set free in Jesus Christ, we can now live a life that reflects and enjoys that freedom.  People who have come to faith in Christ are completely changed in their hearts, minds, and souls.  Their lives look different.  Plain and simple.
He begins in verse 1 of chapter 5 in this way, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  At first glance, when someone reads the letter to the Galatians they might think that freedom in Christ means that they can live their life any way that they want to.  After all, Jesus has wiped the slate clean and salvation has nothing to do with their works or behavior.  Their ticket to heaven has been punched and verified!  But a life changed by the Spirit, who is now free from fear, free from condemnation, free from religion, is a life that lives in gratitude and desire to obey a gracious God. 
We are free from the rules as a way of salvation, but are also now free to obey out of our gratitude.  And this is not a yoke of slavery.  Obedience is the mark of a free man. 
What is the motivation behind living in obedience?  In verse 5, Paul tells us that we are to eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  In the Biblical context, hope means much more than it does today.  Today, we use the word “hope” in a way that indicates uncertainty.  We have no real assurance that what we hope for will actually come to pass.  But in the time that Paul wrote, hope meant real assurance.  In other words, Paul is saying that Christians live in expectation of the righteousness that is already theirs and will be theirs.  The hope Paul speaks of has no hint of uncertainty.  Christians are to live in light of certain glorification and very real justification.
We know what is ours.  We know what is ahead.  We will be with Jesus, like Jesus, and in perfect relationship with God.  John writes in his letter, “Dear children, we do not know what we will become, but we know that when he appears, we will be made like him.”  In the Bible, being with Jesus and like Jesus is certain. 
In turn, we live our lives in light of this hope.  God sees us eternally.  He does not see us as the version of us that we hope to be one day.  God does not love us less or more depending upon our behavior, but instead sees us as His eternal children.  Our lives must reflect this knowledge.  That is why we can live in obedience and without fear and anxiety. 
Our options are to live free or die trying.  Paul makes this clear in the next verses when he says that circumcision (moral obedience/religion) and uncircumcision (paganism/irreligion) have no value at all.  That means that without Jesus our good works have no value.  Tim Keller puts it this way, “Neither moral exertion nor moral failure counts. Period.” 
How can Paul say this?  Whether you are religious or irreligious has no weight on whether or not you can be saved.  It has no bearing on how much God loves you or his capability of saving you.  I often remind my children that I do not love them more when they do good things and my love is not diminished when they do stupid things.  I can only follow this imperfectly, although I want to believe that I am a perfect father.  But our Father in heaven is perfect and His love is not based on what we bring to the table or what we leave behind.  His love is entirely based upon the work of Jesus. 
We have to hold to this truth and stand firm.  When good things happen to us, we ought not to believe that it is because of our good works, but rather because of God’s good and perfect love.  When bad things happen, we ought not to think that God has now loved us less.  Rather we must continue to believe that all things are working together for God’s glory. 
In verses 7-8 Paul interjects his thoughts with a question, “You were doing so well.  What happened?”  He warns them that religion, morality, or pagan licentiousness is not from God.  They had added just a tiny bit of bad doctrine and now they were in danger of not finishing the race. 
Paul finishes up his introduction to the practical section of the letter by reminding the Galatians once more that they were called into freedom from bondage.  We have been called into freedom and are now free to obey the Law – not as a means of justification, but as a means of gratitude.  Christians live lives of gratitude under the Gospel when they obey God. 
The final verses show us what this looks like.  We are not to use our freedom as an excuse for sinful lives.  Instead, we have now been given the ability to choose what is right and to live in freedom and obedience to God. 

If you want to hear more about this you can download/watch/listen to the entire sermon here.
Check out our free iTunes podcast and subscribe today.  

Monday, May 13, 2013


"for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith."  - Galatians 3:26

It was a big deal in Pune, India that hot spring day.  The temperature was hovering around 112 degrees.  A day earlier my wife and I were in New York boarding a plane to travel half- way around the world.  Now we were sitting on a bench in a tiny little building in a dark corner of the world.  This place is probably very insignificant for those who pass by it every day.  But for us it was life-changing.  It was in that little building, on that hot May day, in Pune, India, that we met our daughter Siddhi. 
Every night, before I put my little Indian daughter to bed I ask her three questions:  What’s your name?  Where are you from?  Who are you?  These are three very important questions with three very important answers.  My daughter is the only child with brown skin and black hair in our family.  She is the only daughter who is small for her age.  She is the only daughter who has been adopted.  She is the only daughter that doesn’t look anything like the other sons and daughters or mommy and daddy for that matter.  Her answers to these questions must be truth to her.  I cannot make her believe them, I can only ask the questions. 
To the first question she answers, “My name is Mira Siddhi.”  To the second question she answers, “I am from Pune, India.”  And to the third question she answers, “I am Daddy’s daughter.”  It doesn’t matter if she goes to bed sad or happy, mad or joyful, I always ask these three questions and she always answers.  It doesn't matter that she is different, adopted, happy, sad, angry, joyful, tired or hungry, or from mommy’s belly or from Pune, India – she is Daddy’s daughter. 
This is precisely what Paul wants the Gentile Christians in Galatia to know.  It doesn't matter if you are male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free – you are a son of the Living God by faith in Jesus Christ alone.  We have different names.  We have different backgrounds.  We look different.  We have different cultures and traditions.  We have different theology.  But under the one Gospel, we are one people, under one Father God, because of one Messiah.  In the Christian faith we call this “sonship.”
At the very center of the Christian faith lies sonship.  Paul sums it up in verse 26 when he says, “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”  Our position is a son of God.  The qualification is faith.  Let me go back to Siddhi for a moment.  I can tell her that she is my daughter, but at some point she has to believe it.  At the heart of Christian faith is to believe that we are the sons of God by faith in Jesus Christ.  This is true freedom.  We are not sons by good works.  We are not sons because of what we bring to the table.  We are sons because of God’s grace. 
Why does Paul use the word “son” and not “children?”  Because in ancient times, only sons had legal rights to that which was the father’s.  Adoption in ancient times meant that the male person adopted would receive all rights to his father’s estate.  He received the full rights of biological sons.  Paul wanted the Galatians to know that whether they were male or female, they received all that Jesus has to offer and all that Jesus has secured.  In Romans 8, Paul says that we are co-heirs with Christ.  We can only receive an inheritance from God if we have come to faith in Christ. 
But what does it mean that we are treated as sons through faith in Christ?  First, by faith you receive the righteousness of Christ.  Paul alludes to this when he says in verse 27 that we have been baptized into Christ and have put on Christ.  He is speaking of the righteousness of Christ.  This reminds us that we are justified.  We have been dressed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. 
Tim Keller makes four great points about what it means to be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  First, our identity is in Jesus Christ.  Clothes say a lot about us.  They tell others what we like, where we are from, how much money we have or do not have.  Clothes can be a very personal choice.  On a broader scale, clothing can have a lot to do with your culture.  Mainstream clothing in the Middle East desert is much different than the mainstream in Los Angeles.  Being clothed in Christ means our identity is in Jesus.
Second, being clothed in Christ speaks to the closeness of our relationship to Christ.  Hopefully, your clothes are on you and go with you wherever you go.  When your clothes aren’t on you, you might end up in jail.  In the same way, Jesus is with us in all things.  He is always present with us and the closest person to us. 
Third, we imitate Jesus.  To be in Christ by faith means we look to Jesus as our example.  He is not only an example to us, but he is certainly the prime example for us. 
Fourth, being clothed in Christ means we have been found acceptable by God.  God has been putting clothes on us since we sinned in the Garden of Eden.  Now when God looks at us clothed in the righteousness of Christ, He sees us as His sons and daughters.
In verse 27, Paul is telling us that our lives have a lot to do with Jesus.  He cannot be compartmentalized.  He cannot be confined to a church service or outreach program once a month.  He is everything to us and gives us all things.  This is what it means to be “in Christ.”
Faith also binds the church together as one church.  There are times when I meet someone in public or even hear them speak on TV and I immediately know that they confess Jesus as their Savior.  We are united in the faith.  In verses 28-29 Paul eliminates all cultural and social divides.  We do not need to be of a particular culture, race, class, or gender to be united in the church. 
In my experience I have found that the church includes people of all different backgrounds and cultures.  Even within one culture there are sub-cultures.  The point that Paul is making is that membership in the church (which is faith in Christ) does not require a cultural, class, or even a gender change.  We are all free and found equal in the sight of God. 
We are all united by the Gospel.  We are united by the bad news that we are all sinful.  This keeps us from being self-righteous.  The bad news helps us to see that our culture, upbringing, and traditions aren't our identity or a source for contention.  Additionally, we are united by the good news of the Gospel.  We are all sinners who have been saved by grace. 
My prayer for Stone’s Throw is that we would be a church united under the Gospel, lit up by the Gospel, and bring much joy to people’s lives with the Gospel, regardless of their story. 
We are either slaves or we are free.  For Paul, those who are in Christ are free sons of God.  How did this happen?  Paul says that at just the right time, God sent Jesus.  Jesus was born under the Law.  This means that Jesus kept the Law and subjected himself to the Law.  Why?  So that he could redeem us from the curse of the Law. The redeemer had to keep the law in order to be made a righteous atonement for sins.  Jesus accomplished this in his life, death, and resurrection. 
The result of Jesus’ humiliation, being born under the Law and keeping it, is that we have been saved from our sins.  Additionally, we have been saved into the rights and privileges of the Son of God.  Many Christians focus so much on salvation from sin that they forget they have been saved to something incredible!  Not only are our sins taken away, but we are given something of eternal value. 
Sometimes when my children disobey me, I will take away their bedtime snack.  They love bedtime snack.  They look forward to it from the moment dinner is over until bedtime.  It is a tradition.  But it is also a privilege.  There are nights where I have had to take their bedtime snack away from them.  In moments of weakness, I will sometimes give their bedtime snack back to them.  This is not dissimilar to God taking our sins away.  But the privileges that He gives us would be like me not only giving my child their snack back, but taking them to the store to pick out their favorite snack and allow them to enjoy that snack for as long as they want.  Later, we might go back to choose another one, just to change it up a little.  What I mean is that God not only takes our sin away but He gives us all things! 
Additionally, Paul tells us that the Spirit is at work in us so that we might cry out to God, “Daddy!”  Jesus has changed our legal status before God (justification), but the Holy Spirit helps us to experience the grace of God.  The tense of the words and the sense that Paul is trying to convey here is that the Spirit is actively at work in our lives.  The Holy Spirit builds us up in the faith and in confidence.  We have a sense that God knows us as His child and we know Him as our Father. 
Being a son of God should change everything for each of us.  Our Father owns the world and all that is in it.  We are hanging out in our Father’s place in which everything belongs to Him.  There is nothing that can separate us from our Father.  There is no fear, no anguish, no grief, or any person that can tear us from the Father’s hand.   

If you want to hear more about this you can download/watch/listen to the entire sermon here.
Check out our free iTunes podcast and subscribe today.