At Calvary – Ep 16 – A Book Review – Coronavirus and Christ by John Piper

So, is it the end of the world or not? Is the Coronavirus serious or has panic set in and has overblown everything? These questions are the types of questions we hear on the radio, news reports, and podcasts everywhere. We have had weeks of specials where artists have tried to share hope. The book, Coronavirus and Christ by John Piper seeks to answer a completely different question. He is asking and answering, “Who is Jesus to you during this crisis.”

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Bridge Building – Remember what Life is About!

This week I invite you to think together with me about building bridges.  No, I don’t mean the type of bridges that we drive cars across.  I mean bridges between people.  Bridges are built by common interests.  Bridges are built by friendliness and a heart that is willing to listen.  Bridges are built by honesty and truthfulness.  This is true of your every day friendships.  It is also true of sharing the truth of Jesus with others.

Paul said this,

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20  To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

What was Paul doing? Paul was making it his ambition to build bridges between himself and those he met. It didn’t matter if they were folks that he had much in common with (Jews) or little in common with (Gentiles). His commitment was so intentional and so total that he says that he made himself a slave to ALL in order to build these bridges.

Why did he do it? He did it because a Christian’s life IS the gospel. He says that he does it so that he might win more to Christ. He does it because he does all things for the sake of the gospel. Paul’s life wasn’t about petty things. Sure, like all of us, Paul liked what he liked. However, his life was about sharing the life-giving message of the love of God found in Jesus Christ. Petty opinions were not what his life was about. No, his life was about getting the good news to those who needed it. This means that bridge building was not something that was optional for Paul – it was central to who he was.

Consider this: have we become so insulated as Christians in America that we have forgotten that there is a world that is lost all around us? Have we forgotten what life is about? It isn’t about the fun things. It isn’t about what we like, dislike, find fun, or makes us happy. Life is about the good news found in Jesus.  Have we also forgotten that those who need Jesus may not talk like us, think like us, or have the same priorities as us?  In that context (and I realize that what I am going to say now may seem contradictory) do we also forget that we are just like them?  Yes, we have differences, but people are still people.  All of us need the love of God found in Jesus. Because of that we have a huge job – build a bridge that reaches people who think so differently than we do.  Yet, it is a clearly doable job – they are people just like us.

Why then, do Christians not build bridges to their non-Christian friends or family members?  Perhaps I should just end here: do you build bridges to your non-Christian friend?  Why or why not? What has kept you from building bridges? Will you build a bridge with someone now? How will your relationships be about the gospel?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Ep 15 – What is going on in the world other than the virus?

So… it appears that the only thing happening in the world is the coronavirus pandemic. Believe it or not, there is a lot happening in the world, we just aren’t hearing it. So, Pastor John tries to cover some serious (and some not so serious) stories found in news sites like ABC, NBC, NPR, BBC and others.

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Embracing the Everyday Power of the Resurrection

Paul tells the Ephesians this –

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Ephesians 1:18-21 18

For what does Paul pray? He prays for three things.

1. That they would know the hope of His calling. In other words, that we would know with confidence that believing in Jesus does eternally save us.

2. That they would know the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. To paraphrase: That they would know of how worthy and beautiful God sees them as He receives them as His own.

AND

3. That they would know the surpassing power working in those who believe. What does this power do? This power gives us the ability to follow God in faithfulness and find victory over our imperfections and struggles.

Then Paul tells them one more thing. It is one thing to say that God is with us. It is another to understand what that really means. When Paul tells the church in Ephesus for what he was praying, he reveals what God with us means. It isn’t just a slogan or a platitude. It comes with power behind it. The power that comes with God’s presence is the power that, “raised Him [Jesus] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.”

You read that right. The power that raised our Lord Jesus from the dead is the power that tells us we are saved. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power that makes you and I beautiful to God. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power that works within us so that we can “will and work according to His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

If I wonder… will God save me?  The power that raised Jesus declares, “Yes!”

If I wonder… does God really cherish me? The power that raised Jesus declares, “Yes!”

If I wonder… can I have victory in the midst of the struggles of my life? The power that raised Jesus declares, “Yes!”

The resurrection is an amazing exercise of God’s power. However, perhaps we hadn’t realized how much that power was promised to us every day. Which of the above do you need every day? Do you need to know that you are secure in God’s promises? Do you need to know your worth to God? Do you need to know that God will overcome the limitations and struggles in your life?

Maybe you aren’t like me, but I need those things every day. Understanding that these are the promises and assurances of God gives me great confidence. It overwhelms my comprehension of God’s attention toward me. It makes me say with King David,

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.

Psalm 139:17-18

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Ep 14 – Family Time. How do I shake things up a bit?

Right now, everyone is spending time at home a lot more than normal. This means that families are together in amounts and in ways that they are not used to. How do we use this family time? How do we keep from wishing that we didn’t have to?!
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A Little Rebellion Is Worth It

How do you usually approach improving yourself? Do you do it piecemeal? Do you use motivational phrases? We know that God urges us to be like Jesus. Yet, have we considered how He speaks of getting there?

The reason I ask these question is that I was reacquainted with an interesting encouragement from Paul’s letter to the Romans. It put some light on why Jesus urges us to deal so harshly with ourselves when we sin. Jesus said, “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.” (Matthew 18:8) That does sound harsh, doesn’t it? I find it hard to imagine anyone not finding such a statement harsh. Yet, Matthew records Jesus saying this not once, but twice in His ministry. (see Matthew 5:30) A general rule of thumb in interpreting Scripture: if God says something more than once, then we better pay close attention because we obviously will struggle with that!

So, I was reminded of this passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans. It sheds light on why Jesus was so serious about sin. Paul says,

1  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2  May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

Romans 6:1-2 ​

I know we usually think of this passage as one of those encouraging passages on our eventually victory over sin in the resurrection. As Jesus was resurrected to glory, so we shall be resurrected to glory. However, that truth (which is wonderfully true!) is just the background for what Paul is urging us to embrace. Paul is urging us to embrace rebellion as our normal way of life. Rebellion, you ask? Yes, rebellion. Paul is urging us to rebel in a new way. He is urging us to rebel against the false king – Sin. He says,

6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.

Romans 6:6-7

Paul’s declaration is that those who believe in Jesus have died to sin. We have died to king sin. Paul is using “kingdom” imagery. The dead do not have to obey the government  anymore. The government that Paul is talking about in this passage is personal sin. We have died in Christ to king sin. Sin no longer has legitimate dominion over us. Do we see it that way? In our struggle to be more like Jesus, have we given thought to what power sin legitimately has in us anymore? Sin is an illegitimate master. We are free!

What is the proper response of a free person when someone wants to take over their life again? They rebel. They say no. They fight back. So Paul urges us,

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Romans 6:12-13

“Do not let sin reign.” Such mild words, yet they are so rebellious! When sin calls, I have an imperative to truly fight back with a clear intention: the death of sin in me. Rebellion, clear and simple. As I right this, I am reminded of America’s Declaration of Independence. Those revolutionaries did not just declare their independence. They then fought a war to achieve it. Patrick Henry declaration, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” was the turning point of Virginia’s discussion regarding the American revolution. This is Paul’s urging in Romans 6. Our freedom from sin is worth rebellion. Sin must not reign anymore! It has got me thinking… am I fighting the continued attempts of sin to be king over me? Do I fight on purpose, or do I just go along with the commands of sin? I intend to renew my fight against sin. I am sure sin will also fight back, those who rebel must be ready for that. Yet, freedom is worth the fight for I want the freedom to love people faithfully; and I want to be able to approach God in the holiness of Christ. Freedom is worth a little rebellion!

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Ep 13 – How Do I Pray with Confidence for the Lost?

As everyone thinks anew about spiritual matters and how God meets us in our struggles, many of us are finding God-conversations more normal. So, how do we pray for our lost friends and family members and how can we share with them  our hope?

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