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Friday, 26 May 2017 16:01

We All Know Sadness And Need Psalm 30

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We need Scripture pouring into our souls daily, especially the Psalms.  How often this week have you noticed that your soul was downcast?  Or how many friends have you talked to who are in despair over some heartache?  This morning in my prayer time I was reminded of the renewing words in Psalm 30.  I’d like to point out one perspective on how it works to restore our soul, here.

First, look at the words expressing the downcast state:

v.1 “foes rejoice over me”

v.2 cry to be “healed”

v.3 “the pit”

v.5 “weeping”

v.7 “dismayed”

v.9 “my death”

v.11 “my mourning”

v.11 “my sackcloth”

If you recall the many stories of David’s affliction recorded in 1 & 2 Samuel it is easy to imagine he being in such a downcast state.  Likely, most of us have never had our lives and families threatened so many times including by our own child.  But just ponder the things weighing on your mind in recent weeks that have made you feel that you are in a “pit” or have “foes” that cause “mourning” or have some need to be “healed.”  We need to pray the words of this psalm along with David and find the same renewal that he found.

Next, look at the words that express God restoring David’s joy:

v.1 “You have drawn me up”

v.2 “You have healed me”

v.3 “You have brought up my soul from sheol (the grave)”

v.3 “You restored me to life”

v.5 “His favor is for a lifetime”

v.5 “but joy comes with the morning”

v.7 “You made my mountain stand strong”

v.11 “You turned my mourning into dancing”

v.11 “You clothed me with gladness”

This is the restoring power of communion with God.  Meditating on His grace shown to us in Jesus and our adoption to Him now as His heirs gives us a firm grip on the knowledge that we are His forever.  He will defeat any enemy.  He satisfies in ways earthly satisfaction cannot compare.

If you are in some sadness at the moment, go spend some time praying the words of this psalm.  Or if a friend is in the sadness go spend some time with them and talk them through these healing words.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017 10:57

Helps to Grow as a Disciple this Summer

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This summer our Sunday teaching series will be through the book of Hebrews.  This is going to be a fantastic study to help all of us take more steps of growth toward maturity as disciples of Jesus.  Growth in discipleship doesn’t happen without intentional effort.  Some of the themes you will see in this epistle are “pay much closer attention” (2:1), “encourage one another day after day” (3:13), “be diligent” (4:11), “press on to maturity” (6:1), don’t be “sluggish” (6:12), “stimulate one another” (10:24).  Growing as Jesus’ disciple will require effort from us.  He demands that of us.  He deserves that from us.  And He rewards us for it.

So let’s pursue discipleship together as the body of Christ.  DON’T go on vacation from God and church this summer!  There are many ways you may choose but here are some basic steps of growth the leaders of Koinos encourage you to take this summer.

Grow in the word privately:

  1. Scripture reading commitment – commit to reading 4 or more times per week.
  2. Scripture memory (choose at least one Fighter Verse per month, in Hebrews)

—  2:18 on temptation
—  4:12-13 on the power of God's word
—  4:15-16 on temptation
—  11:6 on living by faith
—  12:1 (add v.2-3) laying aside sin and hindrances
—  13:5 on contentment
—  13:6 on fear
—  13:20-21 on our confidence in grace

Grow in the word with others:

  1. Meet one-on-one or in a small group to talk about your growth
  2. Take a Next Steps class

— First semester June 4-July 9 
— Second semester July 23-Aug 27

Grow in living the mission of the word:

  1. Host your GRACE friend in your home once each month.
  2. Serve at community outreach events (Strawberry Festival, block party, VBS, etc.)

Our church is beginning a new teaching series through the book of Hebrews for the summer.  Its teaching will call us to stronger pursuit of discipleship as Christ followers.  My hope is that you will take significant steps to grow as a disciple this summer – DO NOT TAKE A BREAK FROM GOD THIS SUMMER!

You are being provided a number of helps from the Koinos church leaders to aid your growth.  Use all of them possible!  But first a take simple, honest assessment of where you are in your progress as a disciple of Jesus.  Please assess yourself by simply answering “strong” or “weak” on the items below (these lists are not exhaustive, of course).  Make a plan to grow in the areas where you are weak and ask a friend to meet up weekly and work on it together.

Strong or Weak in the word of God:

   £            £   Regularly reading God’s word privately.

   £            £   Regularly worshipping as you read the word privately.

   £            £   Understanding and being helped by the word to your own life.

   £            £   Memorizing and meditating on the word.

   £            £   Reading and praying together as a family.

Strong or Weak in living out the mission of the word of God:

   £            £   Regularly meeting with a GRACE friend to lead them to Jesus.

   £            £   Regularly meeting with a friend to help each other grow.

   £            £   Serving with the church body to take the gospel to our community.

   £            £   Serving others on a team within the church body.

   £            £   Giving regular tithes and offerings to support your church’s ministry.

I strongly recommend this new book for leaders, parents, and young adults What Are You Waiting For? There are huge questions about sex most, if not all, our children and young adults are pondering and few people are talking about.  Here’s a clip explaining the author’s purpose in chapter 1, “My intention is to be relevant and to bring some practical clarity to the sadly common temptations our culture presses at you.”  She openly discusses the issues of porn, masturbation, purity, impurity, and the big mystery – “How far is too far?”  But there’s one central message in the book that is a must have!

The author is Cedarville University graduate, Dannah Gresh, frequent speaker and contributor at True Woman and Revive Our Hearts ministries.  She’s well trusted, faithful to the Bible, but most of all clear on the message of the gospel and God’s grace dealing with topics where there is so much shame and failure.  She openly discusses her own personal struggles.  She also runs Pure Freedom  ministry which helps moms guide preteen daughters into biblical sexuality and marriage and counsels those who have been broken by failure.  Confusion and brokenness are very common.  That’s why I’m recommending this book (for those under 17 only if they are dealing with brokenness in these areas).

I’ll list some of the chapters here for you to see and then give you the one, central, must have message the book gives.

Chapter 1 – Let’s get real:  Parents, leaders, everybody, there’s a ton of confusion and likely failure going in in the lives of those you love.  Get real, pay attention, and point the way with grace.

Chapter 2 – Clearly confused:  Dannah tells her own story of how easily a godly young lady with biblical training can so quickly become overcome by confusion.

Chapter 6 – Friends with benefits:  High school and college campuses are full of people using sex recreationally thinking there is no downside.  Then very broken people emerge looking for direction.

Chapter 7 – Relational love:  God’s design in sex and marriage was created to maximize the human, relational needs inside every person.  Understanding this brings sanity to the confusion.

Chapter 8 – The lesbian question:  There is a path that ladies go down toward homosexuality thinking it is the only choice they have for a fulfilled life.  It won’t lead there.  And there’s a grace-filled path back home.

Chapter 9 – Sex is not a solo sport:  Masturbation is very common among boys, girls, and adults.  There is a biblical, grace-centered way to pursue purity and godliness.  Very helpful chapter!

Chapter 10 – Our porn problem:  Porn is extremely pervasive even among young children including many girls and young ladies.  Dannah gives good guidance for parents and leaders including warnings and ways to recover.  She also addresses the question, “Should I dump my boyfriend if he struggles with porn?”

Chapter 12 – The line:  Few Christian teens enter single adulthood with a clear understanding of what the Bible says is “going too far.”  Dannah gives good insights on this.

The most important thing Dannah gives in her book is God’s purpose for sex.  There’s much more in the sixteen chapters that expresses very well what the sex-drive is all about.  It is all about God’s call on the conscience of every person to find their deepest longing for closeness and relationship in Him.  (And I’m not going to spoil it for you here.)  All that I highlighted above make the book a must read.  But this one thing, “The one thing no one ever tells you about sex,” makes me say every young lady and every mother should read the book and talk about it. 

(My recommendation is for those ages 17+ unless they are recovering from failure in these areas.)

All who are newer to the Bible and the teachings of Jesus should attend this class – The Basics.  And let me introduce to you the teacher, Alfonso Olivares (he’s the one on the left in the photo above).  Alfonso is one of the faithful men at Koinos, who invests his life loving his wife, Lisa, and making disciples.

The Basics Class begins Sunday, June 4, 9-10:00 am, at 722 Grant Street in Troy.  Other Next Steps Classes offered will be:  Helping People Change – biblical counseling, and The Marriage Class – strengthening your marriage.  See all the details on classes here.

Taking The Basics Class will help you get a grasp of how to pray, how to study the Bible, how to follow Jesus in daily life, and much more.  Plus it will help you get to know a more mature believer in a way that you can see how he lives his life and imitate his example.

This is what ever believer should be doing.  God has called all of us not to believe and stay put but to follow Jesus.  That requires that we do something.  It requires that we learn and grow.  The Bible says “we are to grow up in every way” into the full maturity of spiritual adulthood like Jesus (Ephesians 4:15).

Friday, 19 May 2017 10:20

Which Laws Apply? From RC Sproul

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Why another post about interpreting the Old Testament law.  Because so many Christians struggle to understand it when they read the Bible.  I have come to see, as a pastor, that this is one of the biggest barriers keeping believers from reading and studying the Bible more.  They just don’t understand what to do with it and they give up because they don’t get anything out of it to feed their soul.

This is why RC Sproul wrote the following article, Which Laws Apply?  In it he relays a story that I hope will capture your attention and make you want to read the whole piece (Read it all here.) and study the Bible more.  Here’s his eye-opening story.

Several years ago, I was speaking in Rye, N.Y., at a conference on the holiness of God. After one of the sessions, the sponsors of the conference invited me to someone’s house afterward for prayer and refreshments. When I arrived at the house, there were about twenty-five people in the parlor praying to their dead relatives. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I said, “Wait a minute. What is this? We’re not allowed to do this. Don’t you know that God prohibits this, and that it’s an abomination in His sight and it pollutes the whole land and provokes His judgment?” And what was their immediate response? “That’s the Old Testament.” I said, “Yes, but what has changed to make a practice that God regarded as a capital offense during one economy of redemptive history now something He delights in?” And they didn’t have a whole lot to say because from the New Testament it is evident that God is as against idolatry now as He was then.

All believers need to grow to see that all of the Bible was given to them by God to feed their soul by His grace.  Read and study it all.  Ask God for understanding.  And ask your fellow church member for more understanding or your spouse, LIFE Group leader or one of your elders.  You will see God continually opening your eyes more and more to love all the Bible.  And you will grow to treasure God more than ever!

“For I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.  I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.” Psalm 119:47-48

This Sunday I plan to preach my final sermon on the book of Leviticus.  I hope it will be a fitting summary to end the series, The Grace of God Through the Lens of Leviticus, by emphasizing how good God’s law is for our wellbeing and study.  Why else would the psalmist write, “Oh how I love your law!  It is my meditation all the day (Psalm 119:97)?

But honestly it can become a bit difficult when you read laws that restrict what fabrics to wear together in your clothing, how to cut your hair and beard, worshipping on Saturday instead of Sunday.  Obviously we should obey some laws like, “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not lie.”  And we really need to figure out if it's ok to eat barbequed pork, catfish, and shrimp.  So which laws do we obey and which not?  Pay close attention to #3 & #4 in the list below.

Dr. George Guthrie, Bible professor at Union University, Jackson, Tennessee, offers 5 Practical Guidelines for Reading the Old Testament Laws over at his blog.  The five guidelines are listed below but I would encourage you to go read the entire article here.

1. Ask, "Where does this law fit in the developing Story?"

2. Ask, "How does this law relate to God's covenant?"

3. Ask, "Is this a direct command that is reiterated in the New Testament?"

4. Ask, "Has the New Testament demonstrated that this law is no longer applicable?"

5. Read the laws as God's Word for you, even though most of them are no longer law (commands) for you.

We can know with certainty which laws apply today and which ones don’t.  The Bible tells us.  In the New Testament the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles include instructions that uphold some laws and set aside others.  In general, here’s what we find.  The moral law is upheld for Christians to observe while the civil and temple laws are set aside.  One a bit more complicated is tithing which is clearly not set aside by Jesus but affirmed in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42.  More study is required, however, to get the full biblical teaching on generous giving which extends beyond the practice of tithing.

May we study all of the Bible and grow to love it like this…

“You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.  Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!  Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.  Psalm 119:4-6

As our friends think through the claims of Christianity there is a very common question they are likely going to ask you.  Literally, this question has come up like 4 times recently in my conversations with friends who are new to the Bible.  As a faithful friend, we should strive to help them think this through and see the Bible and God as they truly are.  Here’s a bit of help on this question.

The Dead Sea Scrolls hold a massive answer to this.  In brief, here’s the idea.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had some kind of evidence to show people that the Bible has remained unchanged all these thousands of years?  The automatic assumption is that no evidence exists and we are left to think the Bible has indeed been changed and is no longer reliable.

Over thousands of years the Bible was copied and translated many times.  Indeed errors did creep into the text, but minor and typographical errors.  As the Bible was being copied over all those years, there was one lone copy sitting unnoticed in a cave, untouched all those thousands of years.  When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the 1940’s the world was suddenly introduced to unmistakable evidence.  When comparing those scrolls to our modern translations, it is clear to see.  The message of the Bible is totally intact.

I personally was unaware of this information for a long part of my life and found it hard to help my friends who struggle with this issue.  Since learning about this I’ve been able to assist many in looking at the matter clearly.  I hope you will do the same!  Or if this question is bothering you, please read on!

Go to this link to read a great, and brief article on the Dead Sea Scrolls.  It’s great to know these things.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017 09:47

Worship Testimony And Milk Cows - What?

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Personal testimonies in corporate worship are so awesome.  One of our faithful brothers, David, did one this past Sunday about God's work in his life in the area of joyful giving.  His story deserves that we point it out to everyone so they can be sure to listen.  Very grace centered, very encouraging, and very real; David's story points us to Jesus.  And it was quite funny too!

So I've been preaching through Leviticus and have focused on what it says about giving to those in need.  David's story tells about how God has radically changed him from a hard-working man who thinks his hard-earned money is all for him into a gospel-centered man who now knows everything he is, is a gift of God's grace.  He's a dairy farmer so the ways he ends up giving to God and others looks really different from the way it might look for the rest of city-slickers!  We all have alot to learn from this brother, and from grace!

The good news is you can give to our church online via the website.  The bad news is it doesn't accept cows!

Click here to listen.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017 09:32

Tithing and Jesus

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In light of my recent sermon series through Leviticus and two Sundays on tithing and generous living, I thought it would be helpful to point to a faithful, brother pastor who has shared some good thoughts on the topic.  Ray Ortland is the pastor at Immanuel Church in Nashville, TN and contributor to The Gospel Coalition.

Some believers have questions about the biblical view of financial giving to the cause of Christ.  Is tithing only for the Old Testament?  Are Christians expected to tithe?  Are there different ways to give because of grace?

In a concise and gracious way our brother gives some clear direction.  Jesus and the New Testament do not point us away from tithing. But they point us to something more.  Read his full post here.

Tuesday, 02 May 2017 10:09

“13 Reasons Why” There Is Hope

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Christians, leaders, we are needed to give hope.  The high school hopelessness portrayed the show 13 Reasons Why and the many students finding some sort of consolation by watching it compels us to listen to their stories of pain and help them.  It is not enough to just say, “that is a bad show so don’t watch it.”  Real people have real hurts and need Christians to be real and enter into the hurt with them.

One thing is clear about the show.  Hannah did not know that she could look to God and find His gracious love to sustain her through her problems so that she didn’t need to end her life.  No doubt millions more teenagers (and adults for that matter) do not know this either.  This is the very place where the beauty of God’s promises in the Bible shine and need to be seen by hurting people.

Just consider Psalm 25; full of a man’s all-consuming problems: “put to shame,” a “net” enemies have spread out to get him, “lonely and afflicted,” “troubles enlarged,” “distresses,” “affliction,” with “violent hatred they hate” him.  He sounds a lot like Hannah Baker doesn’t he?

But one thing is different.  He knows that he can look to God for grace that gets him through it all.  If you underline and count them, he names 7-10 specific problems.  But he also names a number of ways he looks to God and finds great help.  If you underline and number them, guess how many there are… THIRTEEN!  God had this written thousands of years before Hannah Baker’s 13 reasons for despair specifically because He knew there were going to be millions of Hannah Baker’s who would need it.  Go read Psalm 25 and count them.  And talk to the teens in your life and show it to them.

There are 13 reasons for hope!  Here’s one of them.  Verse 14 is about the “friendship of the Lord.”  Just imagine if Hannah would have had just one good friend to stand by her and love her no matter what.  She didn’t and so she ended her life.  Imagine if she had known that the God of the universe wanted to be her friend who sticks even closer than that one, true friend.  Had she known this, likely she would still be alive and her “13 reasons why” would sound radically different today.

Imagine if there had been someone in Hannah’s life who loved her enough to sit down and listen to her horror stories.  Imagine if they would have taken the time to point out the 13 reasons in Psalm 25 and the many other things the Bible says about God’s love.  I hope these thoughts will prompt you to enter into the pain in the lives of the teens (and others) in your live. 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  2 Corinthians 12:9

I am thankful to my wife for bringing to my attention the huge plea for help coming from teenagers set to script in the Netflix show, “13 Reasons Why.”  A teen girl commits suicide and leaves messages seeking revenge on the 13 kids who pushed her to it.  Parents and leaders, we need to pay close attention here.  This is not a review so you can go read more from other writers below.  This, rather, is a plea to enter the darkness that your teen, or their friends, very likely are in right now.

The fact that a show is so wildly popular that is “saturated in sin, stark and unrelenting—incessant swearing, physical violence, sexual assault, drug use, alcohol abuse, stalking, voyeurism, pornography, bullying, sexual experimentation, rape, verbal abuse of the vilest variety, and a graphic depiction of suicide,” as described by Trevin Wax, should tell us our children are crying out from a pit of darkness.  But will their parents and leaders hear their plea for help.

Parent, your teen is watching this show, unless you have an extremely rare one.  Otherwise, likely all their friends are watching it.  Please talk with your teen about their world in a gospel-filled way.  Don’t just force them to turn off the show.  This is NOT about boycotting bad shows.  Rather it is about bringing light into the confusing darkness of raw high school life.  Rather it is about noticing that our kids may be contemplating suicide, themselves, or at least caught in despair and guilt because of how their life is nothing like what they’ve hoped it might be.  They need you to point them to Jesus.

“A lot of you cared, just not enough,” from 13 Reasons Why.

Go read the reviews written by:

My wife, Jenifer Newman here.

Editor at LifeWay, Trevin Wax, here.

President of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, Russell Moore, here.

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We take the Bible seriously, teaching what it says without adding the world’s opinions to it. God’s word is all we need.

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