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Archive for the category “Follow-up from Sermons”

The Holy Spirit: Down-Payment of Daniel’s Vision (Chris Francis)

In this past Sunday’s sermon, we looked at chapter 7 of Daniel, a confusing chapter with a very simple point – The Son of Man (Jesus) is coming and will usher in his perfect kingdom, he will crush all other kingdoms, and his people will  reign with him forever.

That’s something to look forward to.

Then this past week, while reading the book of Ephesians, I came across a verse I had read before but stood out to me in a different way, in light of Daniel 7. Here’s the verse:

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:14-14).

Paul is saying that we who have trusted in Jesus have received the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of the future inheritance we will get when Jesus comes back and sets up his kingdom.

In other words, the Holy Spirit in us is a down-payment of our future inheritance.

And I thought of two ways that we mis-believe this truth.

  1. One way we mis-believe this truth is to deny the power of the Holy Spirit NOW. Many Christians are just waiting for Jesus to come back and, until then, think that we are just defeated struggling sinners who will continue to struggle until Jesus comes back. We don’t really believe that the Holy Spirit can rescue us from our addiction, we don’t really believe he will give us the power to forgive a pain-in-the-butt family member, we don’t really believe that he has the power to transform our spouse, we don’t really believe he will answer our prayers for miracles and healing and insight and peace and joy. But the bible is very clear – the same Holy Spirit that was at work in Jesus’ ministry is available to us today.
  1. The other way we mis-believe this verse is to over-state the downpayment and thus diminish the coming inheritance. The Holy Spirit dwelling in us is awesome. But it’s going to get better. That’s what the guarantee means. If you’re selling your car, and a buyer gives you a down-payment, it’s great. But it’s not as great as when that buyer comes back with his mechanic friend, checks out your car, and then gives you the full payment.

Some Christians believe that if we just had more faith then everything in our lives can be made right.  They claim that because of the Holy           Spirit, we should all be walking in complete health, wealth and relational happiness. This is commonly known as the Prosperity Gospel.               Believe in Jesus and you’ll have complete prosperity.

And that’s the point of Jesus coming back. That was the point of Daniel’s vision in chapter 7. One day, the people of God who have been               sealed with the Holy Spirit will receive complete prosperity. This will most definitely happen.

One day. 

Until then, however, as Jesus told us in John 16:33: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows….” It is to be expected. Toexpect         differently is to diminish the awesomeness of Jesus’ return. 

“But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” 

We have the Spirit of the Living God living in us, giving us a supernatural peace and joy in the midst of hardships……and we also have a                  future hope that cannot be taken away.

So asks yourself – are you more prone to deny the Spirit’s power NOW? Or are you more prone to diminish the inheritance that we will receive LATER?

The Search for Community (Chris Francis)

Since the beginning of True Life, we’ve talked about being an authentic and honest community. Below is an excerpt from a book I’m reading – “A Loving Life” by Paul Miller – about the search for community.

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The biggest problem people have in searching for the perfect community is just that. You don’t find community; you create it through love. Look how this transforms the way you enter a room of strangers. Our instinctive thought is, ‘Who do I know? Who am I comfortable with?’ There’s nothing wrong with those questions, but the Jesus questions that create communities are, ‘Who can I love? Who is left out?’ …..But if we pursue hesed love, then, wherever we go, we create community. Here are two different formulas for community formation:

Search for community where I am loved = become dissappointed with community

Show hesed (selfless, faithful) love = create community

The first formula leaves us critical and ultimately solitary. The second one enlarges our life, filling it with surprise……

We’ve unwittingly made the quest for community central. The quest for intimacy can be just a veiled request for feeling good. Intimacy and community come from love, not the other way around……John describes this pattern in Jesus’ death: “He would die for the nation….to gather into one the children of God” (John 11:51-52). A dying love creates the possibility of oneness.

Repent and Believe in God’s Grace (Nancy Miszczenski)

Have you ever been in a dry season….spiritually dry that is.  I’m in one now – which is kind of hard to admit I must say!  I have a ‘clog in my fountain’.  Let me explain…   Sunday morning (2 weeks ago) during worship, I saw a picture of a pond with green slimy stuff floating on the top.  Ewww.  I don’t like the thought of that at all.   I knew that there was a fountain in that pond…why wasn’t it flowing?  And then I realized it was clogged with ‘gunk’ – a not-so-elegant-but-I-know-you-know-what-I-mean word.  I wanted the fountain to flow again and be fresh living water (with none of the icky stuff on top).  Of course I did!  We all do.  But what I didn’t like even MORE was the whisper in my heart that this pond is me.  Stagnant.

I needed a plumber to have this filter unclogged.  I know His name and I called His number.  (My mom used to say God’s phone # is Jeremiah 33:3 – Call to me and I will answer and reveal to you wondrous secrets that you haven’t known.) But I kept getting a busy signal – and I was the one who was too busy.  I knew this but felt stuck…and therefore dry.  So I kept calling, knowing that my call would be answered.  And it was – this past Sunday.

Bob Riconda visited True Life Church last Sunday and brought an excellent word to us…most especially to me!  (although I’m quite sure there are several of you who feel the same way)  He began with this scripture:  Col. 2:6 – So live in Christ Jesus the Lord in the same way as you received him.”   Just the way you received Him.  Go back to the basics.  I felt like the V8 commercial – you know, the one where the weight lifter gets smacked in the head.  The basics.

Bob said:  It started with a person, it continues with a person.  Jesus.  None other but Him.  Basic truth – but truly the bottom-line truth.  Don’t get distracted by ‘the other stuff’, he continued.  But I have to get this done, and be part of that, and he’s counting on me and – and even though the stuff seems good, I’m too busy ‘doing’ and therefore I can’t have quality time to be with Jesus.  Get to know the person.  Jesus.  Again.

I was challenged to  identify unbelief, mis-beliefs or false beliefs.  Stop trusting SELF.  (Ouch)  Do I fully believe that God is who he says He is?

Checking myself, while listening to this sermon I identified with the question “What am I not believing about God?  Since I’ve been rooted and built up in him (Colossians 2:7), I don’t have anything to prove.  I’m already accepted.  No more tryouts, I’m already on the team!  (loved that analogy!)  Do I really believe God is in control? That He is good? That He looks out for my best interests?  That His grace is sufficient for me and that He knows what’s best for me.    A moment of repentance for unbelief, misbeliefs and possibly false beliefs left me with a lighter spirit and a bubble of joy.  Then I remembered that I truly do believe that He is good and He is truly powerful enough to free me.  (from me!!)  My filter was becoming unclogged.  And today?  Well, my fountain is overflowing with thankfulness for His grace that has freed me and will continue to free me.  It’s as basic as that.

Loving and Celebrating A Defective Nation (Jon Bloom)

There has always been a “culture war” of one kind or another being waged in America. It is actually part of the design of the American Experiment and the exercise of democracy. And so there is certainly a place for Christians to participate in this exercise and advocate for our constitutional rights.

But if Christians are mainly known as conservative cultural warriors and the defenders of our constitutional rights, the true gospel freedom that we are really here to promote will be obscured. Jesus said that the world would know that we are his disciples by the way we love one another (John 13:35) and by the way we love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Love is the greatest mark of the Christian (1 Corinthians 13:13).

The Greatest Freedom Ever Instituted

And the greatest love that we can show to our neighbors is to help them hear the gospel of the greatest freedom that has ever been instituted. Like Jesus, our primary focus must not be on the culture war, but on the kingdom mission. We must be mainly about planting gospel-proclaiming local churches, lovingly engaging our neighbors and family members, sending gospel-proclaiming missionaries to the unreached, and, like the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25–37, compassionately meeting every need the Lord brings across our path. Regardless of the media’s portrayal of Christians, let us show the people we actually live with the real gospel by embodying it in relationships.

And let us not lose sight of the fact that the American Experiment, for all its failings, remains a wonderful thing. It has secured, promoted, and defended unprecedented historical freedoms for an unprecedented and diverse amount of people. July 4th is a moment to remember and celebrate the remarkable common grace of God that we — and hundreds of millions of others — have received through the United States.

Our national celebrations have always been tempered with the reality that the U.S., throughout its history, has at times legalized terribly destructive immoral things, such as the enslavement of African peoples, the genocide and social alienation of native North American peoples, and the systematic killing of 50+ million unborn children, just to name a few. It is right to be grieved over legalized sin.

But let the current events increase our resolve to seek America’s greatest good. Being citizens of a better country frees us from trying to make this one the kingdom of heaven. Our time here is short and “here we have no lasting city” (Hebrews 13:14). Jesus’s kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). So let us give ourselves to bringing as many Americans to the better, lasting country as possible.

 

The above was an excerpt taken from Desiringgod.org. 

 

Fanning the Flames of AWE (Chris Francis)

This past Sunday we talked about the importance of Awe — how there is a difference between believing in the truths about Jesus and having an awe over those glorious truths. Belief alone — in the sens of an intellectual agreement — does not lead to worship or life change or freedom. Awe does.

 

That was the purpose of the sermon on Sunday as we looked at 3 Stories of Awe.

 

But I wanted to write a follow-up about how we can Fan the Flames of Awe in our hearts.

 

Of course only the Holy Spirit can only spark that flame, but we are also called to fan those flames. So below are some thoughts:

 

The first are what have been traditionally called….

 

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES.

 

  • Reading the Bible to see God At Work — The bible is not primarily a moral guide. It is not primarily a book of wise counsel. The bible is primarily the grand story of humanity in desperate need of a Savior and Redeemer, and how God has been acting as that Savior and Redeemer in a huge huge way since the beginning of time. When we read the bible in order to see God at work, rather than to just get a moral nugget, then our hearts are stirred with awe and it leads us to worship him. And out of worship will flow morality…..but morality without worship is simply religiosity.
  • God-Centered Prayer — There is a self-centered way to pray, where I am focused on my need for security, my need for comfort, my need for justice….and there is  a God-centered way to pray, where I am focused on the Bigness of God and all that he has already secured for me in Christ. God-centered praying does not deny reality or pretend like our needs and desires do not exist, but it does emphasize God’s faithfulness and grace and sovereignty way more.
  • Fasting — Fasting from food, fasting from tv, fasting from facebook. Fasting is a way of saying “Shhhh….” to the physical and psychological longings that we feel. And it amplifies the spiritual longings that we should feel — the longings to know Jesus more and to see him do what we are unable to do in our own strength.
  • Being in Church Community — If we are not connected to the ups and downs of a church community, we will miss out on a big way that God reveals himself to us. We talked about this at the end of the sermon, so I won’t go into detail here.
  • Singing Songs — Singing songs is a spiritual discipline that sometimes flows out of awe, but often we do it in order to regain our awe. Like many of you, I don’t always like to sing in the beginning of a church service. But I need to. I need to lay aside my anxieties, my worries, and sing, and it may feel like discipline, but a discipline that leads to a renewing of my awe.

 

Then there are other things that we can do to stir our hearts that may work for one person but don’t necessarily do it for others. I’ll list a few of mind as well as some other peoples’.

 

Taking a Walk in a Cemetery

Sounds strange, I know. But when I’m in a cemetery, and looking at all the tombstones, I’m reminded of how short my life is, regardless of how much I succeed or fail. It reminds me of how God has given breath to all those lives, and how the purpose of giving breath to those lives has been to praise and honor him with their lives.

 

It reminds me of how nobody is going to talk about me for too long after I’m gone, and how I may go at any minute (because a good many of those tombstones have birth and death dates less than years apart) and so my primary pursuit should be to honor the one who is sovereign over all those lives and deaths.

Enjoying our Big & Beautiful Creation

Swimming in the ocean (especially at sun-down when most other people are gone) or standing at the top of the mountain helps to remind me of the grandeur of God’s great sovereignty over this world, and how futile it is to try to control things.

Remembering My Story

Thinking back over my life and about how God has orchestrated it, forgiven me and transformed me, blessed me when I least deserved it reminds of how much my life is in His hands.

Reading Biographies

Reading about the lives of men & women who have been rescued from sin & shame and then used for God’s glory on this broken Earth fuels my awe.

Studying Science

For some people, studying the human body or astronomy or biology points to God’s infinite Creative power.

 

There are many other things that might stir our affections for Jesus Christ, but the point is that we should intentionally work those things into our schedules. Because our Awe of Jesus is so important that we must protect and guard it.

One Problem With My Sermons (Chris Francis)

There are many tensions in the bible, where it seems like we are told different things that don’t necessarily contradict each other, but do push against each other. For example, we’re told that God is sovereign but humans have free will; we’re told that God hates sin but lovingly runs after sinners; we’re told that God accepts us as we are but refuses to let us stay there.

Often times Christians like to emphasize one side of the coin and ignore the other side. That leads to an extreme that doesn’t accurately reflect who God is.

I personally get ticked when people only want to talk about one side of any Scriptural coin, but I have realized that I am often guilty of that in my preaching. In any one sermon, I can only preach about one side of a tension. I don’t always have time to qualify it (sometimes I dont even think to qualify it). Some bible passages are heavy grace. Other passages are heavy “pick up your cross and follow Jesus.” And to only hear one side of the coin can cause someone to think, “but wait a second…isn’t there something else in the bible that sounds different….”

In fact, recently in a sermon I was talking about how God was trying to interrupt my Me-time, and I didn’t want him to. And I came home that afternoon and Jess said something like, “I get your point, but you made it sound like Me-time is always selfish. And I don’t think it is. And I don’t think you meant to say that it is, but it sounded it like it.”

And she was right.

And as a teacher, I hate it when I might cause confusion.

But as a pastor, it reminds me of the importance of being plugged into community (and at True Life, that comes primarily through life groups). Because in community, we can wrestle through questions, we can honestly ask each other, “Yeah but how does that apply to my situation? What about when Jesus said ___.”

Heck, I would even argue that Jesus intentionally confused people at times, like in Mark 4 when he told the parable of the 4 soils. And He did it  so that those who really want to understand would press in and ask questions and do the work of trying to understand.

I know my sermons often raise questions. Truth is, they raise questions for me too. I need people I can discuss things with, ask questions with, wrestle through Scripture with.

So the point is — understanding how any one passage of the bible fits into the overall story of God is a team effort. Get in – or stay in,  or get back to — a life group!

 

The Rescue (Ralph Davis)

For Good Friday…..

Good friday

Fourteen year old John Smith, who had been rescued from an icy lake, was not responding to CPR. He had been underwater for almost fifteen minutes, few ever survive that. He was rushed to a hospital, all the while the paramedics kept up the CPR compressions. Dr. Kent Sutterer and his team continued to perform CPR on John with no success. They knew it was useless to continue, they felt the boy had, in truth, been dead for 45 minutes.

But his mother suddenly rushed into the hospital room and began to pray out loud. The mother shouted, “Holy God, please send your Holy Spirit to save my son. I want my son, please save him.” That’s all she said.

What happened next absolutely amazed everyone there. The lifeless boy’s heart restarted and his pulse returned. The doctors couldn’t believe it. But they thought, surely his brain, without oxygen for all that time, would have been irreversibly damaged. However, in a few days John could talk and he could walk. “A miracle!” That’s what all the doctors proclaimed. His return to life and health defied medical science and understanding. The same could be said of these people from the Bible–

The only son of a woman from Nain.

The dead daughter of Jarius, an official of a synagogue.

The wealthy man named Lazarus.

And now, in 2015, you can include John Smith of Lake St. Louis, Missouri.

All have one thing in common—they were dead, but by the power of God, through Jesus Christ, they were returned to life. Undoubtedly, many more have called on God to save a loved one and the Lord answered.

So, wait a minute…why didn’t God save His own son when he was in agony on the cross? Just imagine, a host of angels appearing in blinding white light at Golgotha, raising Jesus off the cross, bathing Him with life, restoring his body to perfection as the Romans, Gentiles, and Jews all watched in astonishment. There would have been no doubt, absolutely no doubt who Jesus was.

But…Our sins would not have been paid for.

Paul wonderfully says in Romans 3:21, “But now, a righteousness apart from the law has been made known.” Friends, there would have been no righteousness for us if Jesus did not stay on that cross. There could be no resuscitation for Jesus; it had to be a resurrection!

I am so happy for faithful Joyce Smith that the Lord, and the power of the Holy Spirit, proved themselves available to save her son.

Although I am pained and grieved every time I think of poor Jesus on that cross; I am forever grateful that no one tried to rescue him.

Because He was rescuing us!

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.” John 12:27 (NIV)

God Loves Good Wine (Jon Bloom)

The following was taken from Desiringgod.org because it ties in so well with our current sermon series, “Contending For Joy.” 
God Loves Good Wine

God likes using wines and vines in his miracles and parables.

I thought of that a number of years ago when I read the following in an article:

Great wines come from low-yielding vineyards planted in marginal climates on the poorest soils. Though hard on the vines, these tough conditions are good for the wine, because the vines that are stressed must work harder to produce fruit, which leads to fewer but more concentrated and flavorful grapes.

By contrast, the vines used for bulk wines have it easy. They are planted in the fertile soils in ideal climates of regions such as California’s Central Valley. Such regions are great for producing tons of grapes to fill up the bulk fermentation tanks, but not at all great for producing the complex, intense flavors needed to make great wine, because the vines are not stressed and the yields are way too high.

I think this paradox in nature — stressed vines produce good wines — is also a parable for how God produces rich, complex, intense faith in his children. Because when it comes to faith, God loves good wine.

All you have to do is read Hebrews 11 to see that the great wine of faith often “comes from. . . vineyards planted in marginal climates on the poorest soils.” AndJames 1:2 tells us plainly that “tough conditions (“various trials”) are good for the wine” of faith. Because faith-vines “must work harder to produce fruit” leading to “more concentrated and flavorful” wines.

Now, as a faith-vine striving to grow in a hard place, you might be tempted to wish you were a bulk wine vine basking in the spiritual equivalent of California’s Central Valley. Oh for that rich soil, bright sunshine, warm ocean air. Sigh. But here you are, stuck on some coldish, semi-arid hillside where the struggle is frequent and sometimes severe.

Yes, it’s hard. But it’s not a mistake. It’s not a punishment. It’s not mean. It’s simply that tough conditions produce the best faith. Your Vinedresser (John 15:1) has planted you in a unique vineyard with uniquely stressful conditions because he intends for you to produce a uniquely fine, flavorful faith-wine. And he will tend to your every real need (Philippians 4:19).

If you need some perspective today, review Hebrews 11 and the great faith-vine heroes of history. Remember what their vineyards were like and the rich faith-wines that resulted. And then remember Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and the joy set before every vine that endures in faith.

When God makes wine, he makes really good wine (John 2:7–10). And when it comes to your faith, he knows that really good wine is made in the vineyard.

Humility Before God & Humility With Others Can’t Be Separated (Chris Francis)

This past week in our series on Philippians we looked at verses 1-16 in chapter 2 we talked about finding Joy through humility.

I just had a follow-up thought about the relationship between having humility before God and having humility before other people.

It can often appear like we have one while lacking the other, but really I believe they go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other.

For example, it can appear as if we see God as very big, as if we trust him with our lives. But if we refuse to submit to the needs of others, to put others’ hurts above ourselves, to put others fears above ourselves, to put others’ desire to be understood above our own desire to be understood, then what we show is that we see ourselves as 2nd biggest. God is bigger than me, but I’m bigger than everyone else.

However to truly understand who God is and who we are in light of that, there is no room to look down on others. It is, in essence, not possible to have a humble view of God and yet be condescending toward others in the same moment.

Paul called himself the worst of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). And he actually said “I am the worst….” It was present-tense. If he saw himself as the worst of all sinners, then he saw himself as no more deserving than anyone else of the grace of God on his life. And that’s where humility before others comes in. To understand the depths of our sin before a holy God, and be touched by his extravagant grace, leads to us knowing, in the depths of our soul, that others are just as deserving of blessing and grace as we are. It leads to us actually having the desire to put others’ needs before our own, because our Joy in God just overflows onto others (vs. doing it because it’s “the right thing.”)

But on the flip side — it can appear as if we are humble with other people while also having a small view of God. We can serve others, put their needs before our own, but do it to earn God’s favor or make up for past sins or put him in our debt. I would argue, though, that if we do not have a humble view of God, then the “humility” that it appears we have with other people really is not humility after all.

Because if we do things in order to earn God’s favor or put him in our debt, then we are not driven by joy and gratitude but rather a strange form of duty-bound religion. And thus people become religious projects. And I think this is why those who appear very humble often allow themselves to be taken advantage of over and over again — because they are making some form of atonement unto God, trying to earn what they can never earn.

So again — I argue that humility before God leads to humility before others…….and the joy of our humility before others shows how humble we are before God.

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

– Philippians 2:1-5

 

Yep, It’s Gonna’ Be Awkward…And That’s Okay (Chris Francis)

One of our 7 Big Prayers for 2015 is as follows: “That God would give us love for those whose sins offend us….and also the boldness to have awkward conversations to help each other grow.”
I’ve been praying this one a lot lately – particularly the 2nd part of it — because I’ve been hearing about the need for quite a bit of these awkward conversations to be initiated by people within True Life. I’ve been hearing about people needing to ask for forgiveness, express forgiveness, or point out something in a friend’s life that they could easily consider “not my problem.” And so I’ve been praying for boldness and courage for those people and God’s grace over those conversations…..and God has been delivering! Some of those awkward conversations have happened, and God has showed up in big ways.  Relationships are on their way to being restored, blind spots have been confessed and repented of, and most importantly, Christ has been exalted because people trusted him by stepping into the unknown. 
 
And so I want to encourage some of you who still need to have that awkward conversation by saying this: The fact that it’s going to be awkward means it feels a bit out of your control…..and that means you are dependent on God to make good out of it….and that is a great thing because God loves to come through for us when we feel in over our heads. 
 
So pray, jot down some thoughts, and then set up a time to talk to that family member / friend / spouse / boss / neighbor that you know God wants you to talk to.
Yep, it’s gonna’ be awkward. But that’s okay. Because God’s power “is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

 

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