Posts Tagged With: Arapahoe Road Baptist Church

Firing Up the Great Commission Engine Through Prayer

Starting this past Sunday, our deacons are taking turns—two by two—to pray for me and for our church during the preaching time.  They situate themselves in our fellowship hall, directly beneath the pulpit to pray.  Below is a sample prayer guide I give them to help them pray through what I’m preaching.

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Deacon Prayer Guide
Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dear Deacons,

Thank you so much for sacrificing your time to pray for us during the service. Our people need this, you need this, and I definitely know I need this. More and more, I recognize my dependence on Christ in preaching, pastoring, and leading this church to where He called me—and there’s no place on the planet I’d rather be.

This morning, I will preach out of the familiar book of Jonah. Jonah is a complex character—running from God’s call, then recognizing God’s saving power, preaching from mixed motives, then angry that God is a saving God.

The title of the sermon is “A God Who’s Not Confined.” We cannot run away from God’s presence, resist his power, nor rebel against His passion for all people—even the brutal, cruel Ninevites, sworn enemies of Israel.

Below is a prayer guide to go through during the preaching time.

  1. Pray that God would give me clarity of thought and speech for the clear Word to go forth (2 Timothy 3:16-4:5), and that the Spirit would give the church ears to hear (Revelation 2-3).
  2. Read Jonah 1.
    • Pray that when God calls us as individual believers or as a church to do something, we would run toward His will and presence, and not away from it.
    • Pray that God would work in an around us to keep us in His will, even if it’s rough (like the tempest on the sea).
    • Pray that even pagans and those who worship false gods would see the power of God in creation, and seek Him in salvation—like those men on that ship who ultimately confessed worship to the living God (1:16).
  3. Read Jonah 2.
    • Pray all would see God’s working in their lives to bring them to Himself in Christ.
    • Pray all would repent and confess that Christ is king and Lord over all aspects of life (“For you cast me into the deep… all your waves and your billows passed over me.”) 
    • Pray that no matter where people are, they are not too far from God’s saving presence and power (“Yet I shall again look upon your holy temple (v. 4b). . . “My prayer came to you, into your holy temple” (v. 7)).
  4. 4. Read Jonah 3.
    • Pray for those who have resisted God’s call to salvation and to ministry would repent and go as God calls again (3:3).
    • Pray your pastor and all would speak God’s message, no matter how silly or somber the world sees it, and we would be enthralled at the glory and power of the Word of God to change hearts even today.
    • Pray that hearts would be broken, and the hardest hearts would repent from the eternal disaster to come—from the kings and presidents on down.
  5. Read Jonah 4
    • Pray for the hearts of our people who say they are Christians, yet in their heart of hearts want justice accomplished rather than grace extended to enemies.
    • Pray that our people would see the passion that God has for His glory among all peoples.
    • Pray that we would never believe we deserve His grace while others do not (be it the common grace of a plant, or the special grace of salvation). Pray we would all see we are sinners, deserving nothing but the hottest hell, and yet Christ comes to redeem us from what we deserve. Pray we would not care about our own comfort more than the eternal discomfort of the nations—or our neighbors.
  6. Pray that, as ARBC is a missions hub, that all believers would welcome new guests and befriend them; that all would unashamedly brag on Jesus and His church; and that God would provide opportunities to witness for Christ.

This will be a work in progress, but hopefully you will get the idea. I encourage you to listen to the sermon once it’s posted online so you can hear what you missed and hear what you prayed for. May we continue to connect with our Lord Jesus in prayer. He is risen and He hears us, interceding for us even now. Be encouraged! God’s got great things in store.

Blessings,

Pastor Matt

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Knowing these men pray for me during the service gives my heart no end of joy.  So, please pray for our prayer life.  That with the Word is the fuel that fires the Great Commission Engine.

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Show Discernment Over the Touring Heaven Books

(From my upcoming newsletter to my Arapahoe Road Baptist Church family for May 2014)

May brings about a very special month in the life of our church: Senior Adult Sunday (May 4th), Mother’s Day (11th), Student-Led Sunday/Graduate Recognition (18th), Memorial Day Sunday (25th). Plus, we start a study on Discovering the Biblical Jesus on Equipped Wednesdays.

Yet, the very issue that captures the minds of many are the issues of heaven and Christ’s return. The movie Heaven is For Real (based on the popular book) hit theatres recently; along with the ‘Blood Moon’ on the morning of the 15th is taking our minds from this world to the next. Christians have much to think about.

Heaven is For Real outlines an account of a four-year-old boy who, will having surgery, says that he had an experience when he not only saw the doctors working on his body, but also knew where and what his mom and dad were doing. He also had a time when he sat on Jesus’ lap, when Jesus “had the angels sing to me because I was so scared. They made me feel better.” He met long-departed relatives and saw how really big God was.

We have no shortage of books on this matter: 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, Flight to Heaven by Capt. Dale Black, Appointments with Heaven by Reggie Anderson, and numerous other ‘touring heaven’ books. While we take comfort in many thinking about heaven, we must also comfort each other in thinking rightly about heaven.

In Scripture, consider:

  • Only four visions take place regarding heaven: with Isaiah (Isaiah 6), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1), the Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 12), and the Apostle John (Revelation).
  • While the majority of these ‘touring heaven’ books occur during near death experiences, none of the biblical authors had this.
  • While each of these ‘touring heaven’ authors felt the need to write these ideas down, God compelled these authors to write—they were in no hurry. John was told to “write the things that are” (Rev. 1:8); Paul sat on his vision for 14 years.
  • Three of these writers saw the Lord and felt they were doomed (Isaiah 6:5; Ezekiel 1:28; Revelation 1:17-18).
  • When Paul was caught up into the dwelling of God (“the third heaven”), he said he “heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4)—much different from the ‘touring heaven’ authors who felt free to share everything they saw.
  • Don Piper noted that in heaven, he heard many songs, some of which he knew and others he didn’t. “But later I realized that I didn’t hear such songs as ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ or ‘The Nail-Scarred Hand.’ None of the hymns that filled the air were about Jesus’ sacrifice and death. I heard no sad songs and instinctively knew that there are no sad songs in heaven. Why would there be?” Yet, those same angels in heaven were singing about just that in Revelation 5:9-10. God used the old rugged cross to bring about the nail-scarred hand for our salvation and entry to heaven! Without that, no heaven—neither for 90 minutes or all eternity.

I could go on. But what’s my point in writing all this? First of all, the Bible is our authority on all things, not books on the bestseller list. We must look to the sufficiency of Scripture first and judge all things according to what God’s Word (i.e., the Scriptures) say.

Secondly, given all the news and press this generates, this should show us that people are longing to understand what’s next coming. Solomon wrote that God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Eccl. 3:12), and these movies, books, and TV shows demonstrate this. I submit that even unbelievers and skeptics won’t ignore it because (possibly) they don’t want this to be true, but sense this is not all there is.

Heaven is for real—I know this because God told me so. And it’s more glorious than any book can capture. Be discerning, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Trust the Word! Let Christ and the Bible be your guide!

I love and treasure you all,

Pastor Matt

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What If Our Church Was a Church Plant?

God has called Arapahoe Road Baptist Church to help all peoples (ourselves included) take that next step in their journey with Christ. We are called to cultivate, to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) in taking those steps in helping others come to Christ, connect with His Church, and contribute to His Kingdom. This must sink deep into our hearts, our minds, our souls, and our strength to be a vibrant, flourishing organism for Christ.

God birthed Arapahoe Road Baptist Church in 1960, almost 54 years ago. For a church in Colorado, this is considered a very established church (the equivalent of the 225 year old church from which I came in Lexington, Kentucky). How wonderful that God has provided such perseverance and fortitude. God has used ARBC mightily and has fantastic things in store!

I know a number of pastors who have planted churches in the last few years. Having been a pastor of established churches my entire 22 years of ministry, I watch how they live and move and have their being with fascination. I do not do so because I wish I was in their shoes—I have no desire to be anything else but your pastor. Yet, I look at fascination at their DNA.

Here’s what I’ve gleaned:

  1. The whole DNA of church plants is a decided mix of discipleship and outreach. The new ones that come to Christ are invested in so they will become the leaders and contributors that the church desperately need. And they spent a great amount of time, money, and resources on bringing others to Christ, then growing them in Christ into Kingdom-minded contributors. 
  2. Their ministry is not building-centric. As a result, church plants go to where the lost are, not simply expecting the lost to come to their building. 
  3. Along the lines of #2, their small groups meet outside the building of the church, not always inside. Part of this has to do with many not having a permanent facilities, but, again, it’s another door for unbelievers to walk through that’s more inviting and less intimidating than coming into a big church with scads of strangers. And the plus for us is that we grow to understand the unchurched better—the ones to whom we are to ‘go, and make disciples’ of.
  4. They don’t do things that only Christians want to do. A lot of times in our churches, we set up things for those far from God to come to, but usually they are things that only Christians want to do. They get to know their community and then look to provide something that others can’t. We know we have the gospel, but we also need to recognize the bridges that need building to the gospel.
  5. As they are out and about, they invite, invite, and invite some more. They carry around the love of Christ and His church in their hearts, and often carry around cards in their pockets about the church. We have a number of cards in the office that we can make available to you—but a caring smile and word of mouth do very well indeed.
  6. They identify big days, sharing with those already coming that the gospel will be shared from the pulpit. While we have Big Days (musicals, harvest festivals, special speakers, summer picnics, etc.), we will start setting aside the first Sunday of each month for testimonies from our people. You need to hear the Word from your pastors, yes. That’s primary and necessary. Yet, God is working in and through our people, even in the midst of the most harrowing of circumstances. How are they navigating through it? You need to hear their stories of how Christ is moving and working in them as a source of encouragement for all of you to persevere.

Friends, this isn’t what a church plant is all about, this is what the church must be about. Be praying that God would change our hearts individually to change the culture spiritually that the Word matters, the lost matters, and growing in Jesus matters. Keep an eye out for how we shall put feet to this.

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What Would You Like to Know About Pastor’s Kids? Here’s Seven

Thanks to Thom Rainer for putting this article out back in June.  I have four pastor’s kids at my house and who come with me to worship at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church.  Rainer felt the rage we all do when someone comes up to us and says, “You need to tell your kid to get up. Pastors’ children aren’t supposed to act that way.”  When Rainer conducted a Twitter poll of pastors and their spouses, some of the responses were heartbreaking. 

I know I got a letter from one of my boys asking me why, as a pastor, I had to work so much around Jesus’ birthday.  They observe more than we realize. 

But church, you can help your pastors, as many in our church have helped me stay grounded and them feel loved. 

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Apologetics and the Mission of our Church

Apologetics is the study of defending the Christian faith.  This field is not merely for the academicians or the intellectual elite, but is for all believers everywhere. 

If Christians simply stay cloistered in the church world and only befriend other believers who think like they do, they will see no need to study other belief systems since they rarely encounter those systems.

Yet, if Christians find themselves engaged with other belief systems in school, at the workplace, in the marketplace of ideas, interacting with the evening news, watch television shows or movies—or really any type of encounters with anyone in our culture—you will see the need to delve into the root behind those systems and to understand your faith all the better.

Here at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, we have centered our vision and mission around five M’s, if you will:

  • Magnify Christ:  this is upward in direction as we seek to know Christ more deeply.
  • Mature:  this is  forward in direction as we see to grow in Christ.
  • Minister:  this is inward in direction as we seek to show others Christ in day-to-day gospel living.
  • Mobilize:  this is outward in direction as we seek to go in the name of Christ from Centennial to the corners of creation.
  • Multiply:  this is onward in direction as we seek to flow in the Kingdom work of Christ in places that do not have a gospel witness.

The key verse for many in apologetics is that of 1 Peter 3:15:  “But in your hearts regard Christ as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”  Notice how the mission fits in:

  • Magnify:  “In your hearts regard Christ as holy …”  Magnify Christ by seeing Him as He truly is!
  • Mature:  “… Always being prepared to make a defense …” – Christians will want to grow in their faith to be prepared to..
  • Minister:  “ … with gentleness and respect…”—We minister out of love, understanding that we ourselves, outside of Christ, would be lost and blind without Him taking the scales from our eyes. 
  • Mobilize: “… to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”  As you are mobilized (as you go), others may and will ask you what makes you tick. 
  • Multiplication:  In this, as the Spirit moves and flows through us, God will bring the growth (1 Corinthians 3:8). 

We trust the Word and the Spirit—but we (regardless of what others may say) have a reasonable, rational, defensible faith.  Religion and reason are not mutually exclusive—those who come to those conclusions are either biased (some church has hurt them in the past and that pain has dug down deep) or are lazy (those who jump to the conclusions or listen to others who don’t know better either, and they perpetuate the falsehood). 

But we engage in this to strengthen the believers and to be ready to share the gospel as we connect with others and their worldview. 

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Why Our Church Cancels for Weather-Related Reasons

20130224-081119.jpgI’ve been spending the last few minutes or so letting our congregation here at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church know that our services today will be cancelled.  I cherish our times together, so whenever we do cancel, my heart is saddened that I won’t be able to be with our people here for the Lord’s Day.   So how do we go about determining this course of action?

  1. I take time to contact my chairman and vice-chairman of the deacons, as well as other deacons and leaders in the church to get their thoughts on the matter–via phone, email, or text.  Today, before I could say a word, they said that it would be best to cancel.  I say this because I do not do this unilaterally.  I go back and forth, because I love our worship times together, but I also want our people to stay safe.  
  2. Our primary level of concern is for the leaders of our small groups and worship times.  Why?  Most of our members will use their judgment as to whether to come or not–but our leaders are incredibly devoted to the Kingdom work here.  They will do everything within their ability to be here–even go through blizzard conditions.  They don’t want to miss an opportunity to share the gospel or to strengthen the saints in the gospel.  So we take this very strongly into consideration.
  3. We take time to remind them that the weather is not its own entity–God makes the weather.  I was reminded of Job 38 where God has his storehouses of rain and snow.  Another one of our small group leaders sent out another powerful passage from Job 37:5-7:  “God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend.  For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.  He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it” (ESV).  What a blessing to know that this snow did not come by accident–our Sovereign Lord is over all.
  4. Don’t waste the snow day!  Take time to worship our Lord, even in your home.  This isn’t a day off–it’s a day on in reading the Word with your family, having a great conversation, praising God for His awesome power in the weather (see #3), and praying for those who are struggling in this weather.  Send out some texts or e-mails to encourage others in the faith.  God tells us that we must gather together for worship together (Hebrews 10:25)–this is a command, a non-negotiable if we are able.  But if this is not a possibility at the appointed time, gather with Him and your family and friends at home.  Again, don’t waste the snow day.

What are some things you would recommend doing as a follower of Christ on a snow day?

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God’s Intention for Marriage (Part I of the Biblical Portrait of Marriage)

(This was preached at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church in Centennial, CO on Sunday, February 3, 2013 as the first installment of a sermon series on “The Biblical Portrait of Marriage.”  You may listen to the sermon here.  Below are the notes I brought into the pulpit.)

I have a friend of mine who planted a church in Eastern Kentucky last year who is starting his own sermon series on marriage. He entitled it, “Weird Marriage.” Then I saw the promo video. The whole premise of the series is this: normal marriages in our country aren’t working. What are needed are weird marriages.

  • By the age of 20, 75% of all people will have engaged in sex before marriage. By 30, that number increases to 90%–meaning activities that God designed for marriage are happening before and outside marriage.
  • As we saw last week, 40% of all women will have had abortions—making it the 2nd largest surgical procedure.
  • 1/3 of all men and ¼ of all women have had an adulterous relationship (that is, sexual relations with someone who is not their spouse).
  • Add into it that 80% of all websites are pornographic and nature and the snare of that cyber world is almost frightening.
  • Men are especially prone. There are approximately 150-200 ‘skin’ magazines like Playboy, Penthouse, Maxim, etc.—whereas only 3-5 skin magazines exist for women.
  • And while we may have heard for most of our lives that 50% of our marriages are breaking up, we do know that those who put Christ at the center of their marriages and not themselves fair way better than the other.

The relationship/marriage system that the culture brings is broken. Yet, the culture seems adamant in holding on to their way, while looking at God’s design as outlined in the Bible as oppressive, repressive, and obsolete. The idea of a lifelong, monogamous relationship based upon Scripture makes many roll their eyes.

But we must also recognize that many have seen people who call themselves Christians not emulate a very Christian marriage. In fact, they may wonder if God’s design is the best design. It’s easy to get off track. As I was going through the various airports (Denver, Miami, and Port of Spain), you see the magazines. Plus, 80% of the websites on the internet are pornographic. Sports Illustrated has a swimsuit issue that sells more magazines than all of the other weeks put together. And now, the 50 Shades Trilogy which is now basically a pornographic novel for women—and many who are Christians are reading this: “It’s just a story after all.”

But these areas are destructive because it’s taking an image bearer of God (someone’s son or daughter—usually daughter) and instead of being seen as God’s creation, they are seen as an airbrushed object.

The purpose of this series is to recapture in our minds and hearts God’s grand design for marriage and his designed use for the vessel he gave us. For us as Christians, we must remember that our bodies are not our own, but as Paul told us in 1 Corinthians, “We are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. You are not your own, you were bought with a price. Honor God with your bodies.”

1. God created all things by His Word—and His Word must re-create us.

In Genesis 1:1 (the very first verse of the Bible, mind you), speaks volumes in ten economical words: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God created everything contained in time and space. John 1:3 says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” At first, it was a dark and empty waste, but God through His Word brought it into form. Notice the pattern found throughout Genesis 1:

  • And God said . . . (a phrase used ten times)
  • And ‘it’ was so.
  • And God saw that it was good (six times—one for each day).
  • “And there was evening and there was morning…”
  • Number/day (“the first day,” “the second day,” etc.)

How powerful is the Word of God! In Revelation 4:11, we see:

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”

The Word of God reflects the will of God. It creates and it exists based on His Word. And, again, how much did God create? “For you created all things” (Rev. 4:11). So, if God made everything, then everything created must be good! We must absorb this foundational proposition found in Scripture. God made all things and he made them good. “He saw that it was good.” Approximately 4,000 years later, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to young Pastor Timothy, reminding him of the goodness of creation—and helping him recognize how well-meaning but misguided people began to redefine what “good” was outside of God’s design:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer (The Apostle Paul, 1 Timothy 4:1-5).

Notice how he describes these people twist the good things God made because of their devotion to “deceitful spirits and teaching of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” (v. 1). Twisting God’s Word is demonic! In commenting on the word ‘seared,’ Warren Wiersbe defines it as ‘cauterized.’

Just as a person’s flesh can be ‘branded so that it becomes hard and without feeling, so a person’s conscience can be deadened. Whenever we affirm with our lips something that we deny with our lives (whether people know it or not), we deaden our consciences just a little more.”

How does this apply to our topic tonight? Simply put, the consciences of those inside and outside the church have been seared. Inside the church, we avoid the topic of “naked and not ashamed” because the world has hijacked this design in such an ugly way that we believe it’s ugly. We need to rescue this beautiful design from the world’s clutches because everything that God made, even the ‘naked and not ashamed’ aspect of creation, is good and glorious to Him.

A question remains: Why did God make everything? Simply put, to point to Him and bring glory to His Son. Those who say that they would believe if God would show Himself are speaking out of ignorance. God has shown Himself.

2. God created us male and female in His image.

When it comes to humanity, let’s look at Genesis 1:26-31:

26 Then God said, “Let us make man[a] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

The relationship that man and woman have comes from an overflow of the relationship of the Godhead (“Let us make man in our image”). This is a shadow of the reference to the doctrine of the Trinity—one God in the Three Persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Robert Smith spoke recently at Southern Seminary conveyed a beautiful thought regarding the Trinity from the lips of Jonathan Edwards, whom Smith calls the greatest theologian born on American soil: “God has forever known himself in a sweet and holy society as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”[1] The Trinity is one in essence, though three in persons. By the Trinity making man Imago Dei, we see that male and female, though two, are in the covenant of marriage joined together as one, as the sweetest and holiest society found on planet earth by two created beings.

Charles Spurgeon said it right:

Matrimony came from Paradise, and leads to it. I never was half so happy, before I was a married man, as I am now. When you are married, your bliss begins. Let the husband love his wife as he loves himself, and a little better, for she is his better half. He should feel, “If there’s only one good wife in the whole world, I’ve got her.”[2]

We shall develop this as we delve into Genesis 2 and how woman was made from man, exemplifying the closeness and intimacy of the man and woman. But for our purposes, we recognize that the Genesis 2:23-25 passage is built on the foundation laid in Genesis 1:26-27.

So what does this entail? What does it mean that we are image bearers of God? First, we are called to engage in procreation. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” God commanded the male and female to use their bodies in the marriage covenant to procreate so they may populate the world with image bearers. How? Through a sexual uniting of the bodies God made in His image. This uniting serves a number of purposes.

First, this sexual union between a man and woman in a covenant relationship is an act of worship—a way for us to know God in Christ more fully. In his book Desiring God, John Piper insightfully shares:

His goal in creating human beings with personhood and passion was to make sure that there would be sexual language and sexual images that would point to the promises and the pleasures of God’s relationship to his people and our relationship to him. In other words, the ultimate reason (not the only one) why we are sexual is to make God more deeply knowable. The language and imagery of sexuality are the most graphic and most powerful that the Bible uses to describe the relationship between God and his people—both positively (when we are faithful) and negatively (when we are not).[3]

By God providing our spouses as an avenue for procreation, protection, and pleasure, He gives us also an avenue of understanding the intimacy found in a way among the Trinity who created us in His image, but also a depth of understanding of the intimacy that may be found in Christ. It was not by artistic license that the apostle Paul noted in Ephesians 5:28-33:

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

So, an earthly marriage is a portrait of the heavenly marriage of Christ and His bride, the church. As image bearers of God by virtue of creation, and as followers of Christ by virtue of the New Creation, our relationship in our marriages (for good or for ill) put on display the type of relationship Christ has with His bride.

If we use our bodies for sex without the triumvirate of procreation, protection, and pleasure as happens outside the covenant of marriage, it matters not how much one “plays house,” the sexual union in these types of relationships (from one-night stands to living together, or ‘shacking up,’ as my father used to say) runs counter to whatever objective you may have. One-night stands are designed for pleasure without responsibility. Living together may lead to procreation, but not in the fruitful kind of way. Multiplying, yes—fruitful, no! Protection? Living together usually happens because of one of two things: (1) There is a low view of marriage that deems the civil construct of this unnecessary; or (2) they are taking their relationship out for a test drive to see if it will work—and if not, no covenant has been made, so the next thing to do is dissolve the arrangement.

We could go on in regards to abortion, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and other forms of sexual activity outside of the covenant of marriage—which we will soon. Right now, planet Earth houses seven billion people—that’s billion with a ‘b.’ Each person came on earth as the result of a male image bearer of God and a female image bearer of God coming together in sexual union—from a myriad of different circumstances. But regardless of how you came into the world and by what circumstances, nothing changes that you

We are to engage in domination and cultivation. Genesis 1:28 also“… and subdue it, and have dominion . . . .” God has called His image bearers to take care of the earth He gave them. “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food” (Genesis 1:29).

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

This is where the church has, by the authority of Scripture, the wherewithal to address environmental issues. This does not give humanity license to abuse God’s good creation. He has called us to be good stewards for the benefit (but, again, not the abuse) of the image bearers he created. Some believe that since the Scriptures say God will ultimately usher in a new heaven and new earth, where the old one will pass away (Revelation 21:1), why bother worrying about the condition of this earth? Why waste time in such a futile area, when we know from God’s Word that He will burn it up (2 Peter 3:7)?

Others go completely to the other extreme, almost in reaction to the ways previous generations abused and raped the land. Global warming, the polar ice caps, preservation of vast areas of land (with the related refusal to allow other actions such as oil drilling or landscaping for the sale of real estate, etc.), animal protection, etc., are some areas of emphasis. Whereas the former group thought it was a waste of time to preserve the earth, the latter group felt there was no time to waste—for in time, the earth would be destroyed due to continued negligence.

Michael Horton provides a helpful balance:

Believers with the same commitments to Scripture and its teachings will differ on their interpretation of the data and the best agenda. Nevertheless, I still hear some conservative Christians say that God’s sovereignty means that the world can’t be destroyed; humans can’t ruin it. Therefore, never mind global warming. That’s not just bad politics, in my view, but bad theology. God always works through means. He is sovereign, but I still think I should take a bath. He’s not going to take one for me. God has called us to be prophets, priests, and kings in his Son, the Prophet, Priest, and King. If you think it’s all going to burn anyway, who cares? But if you’re looking forward to “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting” in a renewed creation, we should anticipate that new age now by our daily actions.[4]

Communication. (Genesis 2:23-24). As God communicated in time and space to create everything, and even man (Genesis 1:26-27), so as image bearers of God we may communicate. The type of communication in which His image bearers engage provides a sophisticated type of communication that’s not simply utilitarian, but emotional, purposeful, and even philosophical. As God used words, so we, too, use words.

God used words to communicate to His creation, but more specifically to His prophets. Conveying God’s words through our words was such a high premium that a false prophet who misled God’s people with false prophecies (by either denying, adding to, or taking away from God’s Word) would be executed (Deuteronomy 13:5, Revelation 22:7-19). In Paul’s last words to young pastor Timothy, he charged him in the sight of God to “preach the Word, in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). Jesus even tells believers we will be held accountable for every idle word we say, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (see Matthew 12:33-37). Why is this so important? By virtue of God’s intention for creation, we are to use the mouth (fueled by the heart) to speak that which is appropriate for one made by God.

3. God created us to leave and cleave—becoming one flesh.

While I intend to spend more time on this next week than this week, it’s important for us to understand a vital cog in God’s design for marriage. But keep in mind this practical truth along with a gospel truth. God has called us to worship him as our primary relationship. No relationship in the universe is more important than our relationship with Jesus Christ. Nothing trumps that. But in the economy of God, and by His perfect design, the most important earthly relationship on the planet is that between you and your spouse. Up until that point, the most important relationship is of that with your parents. But once you leave and cleave to your spouse, you are now one flesh.

You say, “How is that? I still have my name. I have my own clothes. I have my own SSN. Do I lose myself?” No, you complete yourself. Or should we say, God completes you. But we must realize that everything in this world is working to break up your marriage. The apostle John talks about the unholy trinity of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-16). All of these items converge as tools in the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged. This is why I tell married couples and couples in premarital counseling, “It’s you against the world.”

But Ephesians 5 tells us that marriage is a portrait of Christ and the church. Just as marriage is the most important relationship on the planet, no relationship trumps Christ. At times, we put our spouses in place of Christ. We expect them to follow our standards, meet our needs, fulfill us fully—and when they don’t, we believe something is wrong with them and with our marriages. Not so! Our spouses are not meant to serve as our Savior—only Christ can do that. But they are to serve as those who help “Christ be formed in” us.

Have you surrendered to Christ this morning? Or is there an idol or a standard which you are worshiping to give you your identity and that which you think will be your Savior?


[1]Robert Smith, Preached at the E.Y. Mullins Lectures at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY, 24 April 2012

[2]Charles H. Spurgeon quoted in Larry J. Michael, Spurgeon on Leadership: Key Insights for Christian Leaders from the Prince of Preachers (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2010), 131. Quoted (again) in Justin Buzzard, Date Your Wife: A Husband’s Guide (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 13.

[3]John Piper, “Sex and the Supremacy of Christ: Part One” in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, eds., John Piper and Justin Taylor (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 26.

[4]Michael Horton, Environmental Stewardship vs. Environmentalism. Accessed 14 January 2013; available at http://theresurgence.com/2010/04/07/environmental-stewardship-vs-environmentalism [on-line]; Internet.

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Quiet Trust Amid Troubling Circumstances (Psalm 4)

Introduction

When one lays their head down on their pillow at night, the true issues circling in their souls come to the forefront. The children are in bed, the work is done, the media is off—outward distractions are at a minimum.

Yet our hearts and minds are likely still active. The issues and troubles of our lives are still pressing. What presses on the Christian most is when, even when they look to do the right thing and to honor Christ with all they have, they still suffer persecution! The persecution can come from the outside, or they can come from the inside—and it’s the ‘inside persecution’ that hurts the most.

The Apostle Paul at the end of 2 Timothy, showed some of this hurt. He said:

Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me.

While Crescens and Titus were faithful, notice that Paul mentions Demas first. He was with Paul, but grew “in love with this present world.”

In 1 Timothy 1:16-18, Paul says that Hymenaeus and Philetus, “who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened”—made him an enemy of the things of the Lord. And this broke his heart. But he maintained perspective. He never stopped, he never wavered, he never gave up on the gospel. Paul was the epitome of quiet trust amid troubling circumstances. We shall see how Christ was the ultimate.

We will see how this can happen from looking at Psalm 4. Are your circumstances troubling you? Is the devil tempting and discouraging you? Is the standard by which you live letting you down—and you’re thinking, there has to be something more?

Psalm 4 gives us some perspective.

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

2 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
3 But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.

4 Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.

6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
7 You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

1. God’s past deliverance gives David a present confidence (4:1).

Our appeal to God must be confident in the God who delivers from enemies, but recognizes our personal sin of one who petitions.

2. God’s past warnings give David a present clarity in regards to his enemies (4:2-3).

No matter what our enemies may do, God cares for His own and hears when they call. This clarity provides the Christian with eternal perspective during the earthly persecutions.  If we approach even the throne of Almighty God through Christ with confidence, then who are our enemies in comparison?  We can talk with them with confidence as well!

3. God’s past promises give the believer a present calling (4:4-5).

God has called all believers to holiness—an anger toward sin, and an aim to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1). Sin is a lack of trust in God’s promises. Trust is wanting lack of sin and more of Christ.

4. God’s presence gives the believer a present cheer (4:6-8).

Both joy and peace belong to the believer when the light of God’s face shines on us. Regardless of what Satan does, what our flesh feels, or where our mind takes us, God brings joy and peace—and even rest! God’s got it!

So how does this tie in with the vision of our church?

Magnify (upward toward Christ)

Will you magnify the Lord this week for his deliverance, his warnings, his promises, and his presence—even in the midst of temptations and persecutions?  Where do you find your confidence? (Read Psalm 73:24-25.)

Mature (forward in Christ)

Are you reading and memorizing Scripture to know of God’s deliverance, warnings, promises, and presence?  No matter how much you want to do for Christ, if you don’t spend time getting to know Christ in His Word, what you will do will be for you and what you think and not for Christ and what He wills.

Minister

Who do you know right now that needs to know of the promises and presence of God? Who needs to be reminded of the joy and peace that comes from the Lord—and not in personal reputation or circumstances?

Mobilize

As you take Christ into your circle of friends and in the community, remind yourself of the how “the LORD has set apart the godly for himself” (4:3) and no one can ultimately touch us. Be strong in the Lord!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Categories: Psalms, sermons | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

What is the Gospel?

This past week, I came across a very transparent article written by a believer named Cornell. He shared about how his day usually goes, especially on the bus ride home. After a work day, he likes to sit alone in his world and read or simply pray and meditate. One day, this did not happen.

A man sat next to him and began to talk to him. After the initial annoyance, he began to see what a great conversationalist this man was. They talked about the literacy problem in Kenya and the western world, music trends, and other common ground topics that made him relax for about an hour. But he wasn’t fully relaxed:

I should have been fully relaxed and at ease by now. But I wasn’t. There was something that I was still holding back. Something that I felt would spoil this infant acquaintanceship. Numerous perfect opportunities for bringing it up came and went, but I ignored them all. I deliberately pushed it to the back of my mind and conveniently omitted it from the conversation. The truth of the matter is, I was ashamed of the Gospel. What’s even sadder is that this was not the first time it was happening. This is not to say that I am ashamed of the Gospel every time I choose to discuss politics over sharing it. But the circumstances surrounding today’s encounter were especially unique.

  1. I was on my way to church, to join others for the Wednesday evening prayers and Bible Study. The Gospel was bound to be on my mind.
  2. The e-mail I happened to be checking turned out to be today’s For the Love of God commentary by D. A. Carson, which I’ve been using as a guide through the Bible in the past couple of months. Today’s commentary was on Genesis 9 and this was one of the phrases that I picked from it, “… the problems of rebellion and sin are deep-seated; they constitute part of our nature.” Talk about a perfect cue for evangelism.
  3. I was wearing the T-shirt in the photo above (right). It’s written LIVE BY THE C.O.D.E. C.arrying O.ut D.iscipleship E.verywhere. Talk about a shouting hint.
  4. We stayed in that traffic for slightly over 2 hours.

So, it wasn’t for the lack of time or opportunity. I just didn’t feel like sharing the Gospel with the guy. I have found that there’s always a convenient excuse at the back of my mind every time I fail to share the Gospel with a friendly stranger on the bus. I can think of four excuses that made me shy away from sharing today:

He came up with four reasons why he didn’t share. (1) He didn’t want to be a killjoy, (2) he shared much about his love of certain styles of music, but also didn’t share that this was before he came to Christ—and was afraid he would compromise too much of the witness, (3) too many people listening. And lastly (4), even though he was a theology student and had preached, he didn’t know how in the day-to-day of a bus conversation with an unbeliever.

For the majority of us, we can relate to this. Talk about the Broncos, bring it on! Politic issues of the day, no problem! Gush about your wife and kids—I could give lessons on that. Share the gospel? We feel fine when it comes to common ground or about things we are passionate about. The gospel? Why should we be passionate about that? And if it’s so incredible, why do we find ourselves tight-lipped about it. It could be:

  • We’ve never surrendered to the gospel of Christ
  • We don’t know how to articulate it.
  • We are ashamed of it because we love what men think about us more than what God thinks about us.

But know this: the gospel of Jesus Christ is all that stands in the way of hell and eternal judgment for us. Receive it, it’s enough to save your soul and keep hell at bay. Reject it, and no amount of good works will be enough keep the penalty of our sin at bay.

1. Are we ashamed of the gospel—or eager for it?

Paul says that he is not ashamed of the gospel. Some are appalled that this notion—that the apostle Paul could ever have trouble in this area. How could Paul, after his conversion experience that was so spectacular, ever be ashamed of the gospel and of His Savior? As one commentator put it, it’s only when you have the capability of being ashamed that you could, by comparison, say that you are not ashamed. And before we put him up on too high a pedestal, some of you may recall from Romans 7:14-21, where he brings a bit of transparency to his Christian walk:

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

Paul recognized that though the Spirit of Christ rested in Him because Christ regenerated and redeemed his soul, he was still in his body, his flesh. His flesh wanted to carry him in its desires one way, and the Spirit was carrying him in another way with His desires. So one of the issues Paul could well have dealt with was being ashamed of the gospel.

Jesus warned all of us about this. He told his disciples in Mark 8:34-38:

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life[ will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38).

Jesus warned the disciples, knowing that they all would struggle in this manner—and that all of us as believers would struggle with this. But he makes the implications clear. We are His body, and we make Him known on the earth. And if we, as His body, are ashamed of him in the midst of this sinful generation that needs Him—He will be ashamed of us.

Even Pastor Timothy struggled with fear and shame in regards to the gospel and his calling.

“Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God. . . . But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:8, 12).

Why was Paul not ashamed—why was Paul to “eager to preach the gospel? In Romans 1:14, it says that he is “under obligation both to the Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and the foolish. . . . [and] to you who are in Rome.” An ‘obligation’ or (as some versions translate it, a ‘debt’)? What does Paul mean? It means that he is entrusted with the gospel as a steward—something that God gave for him to share.

2. The gospel serves as the power of God for salvation.

Notice that this is the “power of God” for salvation. It is not the “power of man” for salvation. Let me share with you that you are not saved by what you do. There were some in the Roman church (yes, in the church) who believed that they were saved by their own works. But notice in Romans where it says in Romans 2:3-5:

3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing upwrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

So many rely on the power of man to save them. In this context, the Jews looked down upon the Gentiles and all their practices and all their wickedness (see Romans 1:24-32), and felt a moral superiority as a Jew, since they were God’s covenant people descended from Abraham as a physical nation. They had God’s law and knew His boundaries. The difference?

The Gentiles broke God’s law out of ignorance, the Jews condemn the Gentiles for doing what they themselves were doing as well. Their spiritual walk was one of sheer morality. But their morality was for everyone else—they failed to look in the mirror. What mirror? The mirror on the bathroom wall? No, the mirror of God’s Word! The gospel is the ultimate mirror. It exposes the power on which we rely.

Then Paul says, “To everyone who believes, first to the Jew then to the Gentile.” Again we come across the ‘belief.’ It’s not simply believing He exists (first chair), or believing that he is true (second chair). It’s the third chair—surrender! It’s only by God’s power we are saved. The apostle John said, “You must be born again” and “you must be born from above.”

Unamuno y Jugo, a Spanish philosopher and writer, says:

“Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe only in the God idea, not God Himself.”

I believe in many cases the world sees churches who only believe in a Christ-idea, but not Christ Himself! And when the crunch of life comes, we it exposes what is or is not there. Look at Romans 5:1-5:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

When we have surrendered to Christ and the penalty of our sin has been removed (justification), God grants a peace that passes all understanding. We have access to grace! We have joy in the hope of the glory of God! Suffering comes? We rejoice! It brings endurance, which develops character, which produces hope. How?

“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The Holy Spirit is sent by God to show us the Father, to convict us of our sin, to guide us into all truth, to regenerate us unto salvation by grace through faith, and will continue to counsel us in the days ahead. This is how we know of God’s power—it’s called change.

3. The gospel reveals the righteousness of God.

For the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, just as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

So we are not saved by the power of man, nor are we saved by the righteousness of man. And notice what it says. For the righteousness of God is revealed. It is a righteousness, first, that belongs to God. Whatever righteousness or approval we may find from God originates from God and not from man. Also, notice that he does not say, “The righteousness from God is earned.” Remember the passage from Romans 5:6-8?

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Here’s the mistake many make when it comes to understanding the faith:

  1. “I have to be good enough in order for God to love me.” Yet, it says that Jesus Christ died for the “weak” and “ungodly” and “sinners.”
  2. “I have to do good things, but rely on Jesus to fill in the rest.” But Paul tells us that no one is good, not even one (Romans 3:9-10) for we must be rescued from the dominion of sin.

You see, we think we have to do something to help God along, to show we are of value. I read about an instant cake mix that was a big flop. The instructions said all you had to do was add water and bake. The company couldn’t understand why it didn’t sell — until their research discovered that the buying public felt uneasy about a mix that required only water. Apparently people thought it was too easy. So the company altered the formula and changed the directions to call for adding an egg to the mix in addition to the water. The idea worked and sales jumped dramatically.

People want to do something to help God along, but the more we try to do, the worse shape we are in. But the beauty of the gospel is that God has revealed his righteousness to us by His grace:

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Look at these phrases:

  • Righteousness of God through faith in Jesus
  • We are justified by His grace as a gift.
  • Redemption is found in Jesus Christ.
  • The cross of Christ show’s God’s righteousness.
  • He is just (he must demand a penalty for our sin) and the justifier (he took the penalty for our sin).

Charles Spurgeon once preached:

Those who are once justified are justified irreversibly. As soon as a sinner takes Christ’s place, and Christ takes the sinner’s place, there is no fear of a second change. If Christ has once paid the debt, the debt is paid, and it will never be asked for again; if you are pardoned, you are pardoned once forever. God does not give a free pardon . . . and then afterward retract it and punish man . . . He says, ‘I have punished Christ; you may go free.’ And after that we may ‘rejoice in hope of the glory of God,’ that ‘being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ . . . . In the moment they believe, their sins being imputed to Christ, they cease to be theirs, and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to them and accounted theirs, so that they are accepted.[1]

(This was preached at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Centennial, CO on Sunday, January 13, 2012. You may listen to the sermon here or download the mp3.)


[1]Charles Spurgeon. Quoted by Wil Pounds: http://www.abideinchrist.com/messages/rom1v16.html.

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The Gospel Gripped Fellowship: 12 Books, 12 Months, Maturing Hearts for the Gospel

Beginning in January 2013 (that’s tomorrow, believe it or not), I will be kicking off a group known as The Gospel Gripped Fellowship.  While I have a Facebook page for this group, do not feel you have to join this FB page to participate.  Here is the description:

A group of believers getting together to read a book a month that deals with theology, spiritual growth, evangelism, and other biblical matters.  This is an outgrowth of Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Centennial, CO (http://www.arbc.net). 

We have a number of young men who sense and have responded to a call to ministry.  This will help keep them sharp as we seek to train them to work out their calling in a local church setting.

But God has called all of us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). 

The first book we will read is by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, “Why We Love the Church.”  So many have been disparaging the local/institutional church that it’s time we see that these kingdom outposts are designed by God to “display the manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:10). 

Are you in?  I’ll be posting remarks on this blog as well as on the Facebook page.  Join us in the journey!

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