Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Toes of Christ

Dear Saints, what a pleasure it is to be in the family of God. We are gathered here with our sisters and brothers and God has given each one as an important part of the body of Christ. Some are eyes, some hands, some feet, some mouths. These seem vital, other body parts may seem less so.
What if you are a little toe? You might think, can they do without me? Well, maybe. But you can do without an eye, too, can’t you? sort of? 
I once broke my little toe right before a football game and believe me, it seemed vital then. I could not get my shoe on because it was so swollen and I missed the first three quarters of the game trying to get the swelling to go down enough to get my shoe on. I made it in to fourth quarter but my use was greatly diminished.
We ought to give great honor to the toes, or the spleens as well as to the hands and the mouths. We are all one body, striving together for the unity of the faith in the bond of peace. We are gathered here as the body of Christ, each one an important part of His body and you may not understand how vital your role is in keeping the body healthy. But look around, rejoice in the eyes, the ears, the fingers and the toes of Christ.

Wise Sisters

Today we hearing from the Scriptures again about sisters and making some specific applications to our sisters at Providence Church. Some of you have a tender conscience and will assume I am aiming my words directly at you. But if you think this, you will be mistaken. If what I say today really does apply to you, then by all means, hear the Spirit and seek to walk in the Spirit. But some of what I say today has to do with wisdom, judgment calls, and are not the sorts of things we can apply cart blanche to everybody. That was the point in thinking about the differences of Mary and Martha. I may be able to guess if you are more like Mary or Martha but there is at least a little bit of both of them in every one of you sisters, as well as you brothers.
         In the specific Providence Church lady activities I will discuss today in the sermon, I want you to think about them, pray about them and talk to your husband about them before you make any big changes. These are wisdom issues and need to be applied differently in every home
         For now, sisters and brothers, if you have known sins against a sister, if you are harboring anger, jealousy or envy, if you spend your time comparing yourself to others, either to keep yourself ahead or to wear yourself down, then now is the time to let that go, confess and repent so that you can get the log out of your own eye to see clear enough to apply wisdom in the other areas of your life.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Marys and Marthas

Here we are again at the Lord’s Table. I hope the joy and wonder of this moment of our service never escapes you. You can easily take the Lord’s goodness for granted but you should not do so. Work hard to cultivate joy and thanksgiving at this place.
         As you look around, think about all the different sorts of people that the Lord has gathered here. No doubt, some of them are worker bees like Martha. You may be one. Others are content to sit and contemplate the goodness of the Lord, like Mary. That might be you. If you are a Martha, don’t make the mistake of thinking Mary is lazy and spacey. If you are a Mary, don’t make the mistake of thinking Martha is just full of anxiety and missing out on Jesus. Appreciate each other. Seek to exalt one another. Give of your own talents to your sisters and brothers, to some extent making them more like you and you becoming more like them. If you do this, perhaps you will both see each other better and what is the better part, by far, see Jesus more clearly and be in the presence of Jesus more devotedly.

We Know How to Behave

God is kind to us. We should see that in this series on the Family. We have looked at so many different family relationships and maybe learned something about how to behave as fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters or sisters.
         The reality, though, is that most of us already know how to behave. We are to behave as Christians. Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought. Think of your brothers and sisters of more value than yourself. We know these things. But God gives us a wealth of information in the Scriptures so that we can see these truths from a hundred different angles. That is His kindness and as a result, we are left utterly without excuse if we fail to heed Him.
He desires that we do see these truths, that we hear Him, that we humble ourselves in obedience, that we receive the tremendous blessings of that obedience and that we reject every way that seeks to put self ahead of everybody else.
         And He knows that the only way that we can do this is to confess our own failings, turn away from them in repentance and embrace the enabling grace of His Holy Spirit, so that we can be a good brother, sister, mother or father.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Providential Timing

About 30 years ago, I was playing football as a running back in Twin Falls, Idaho. My senior year we had a really good team and played in the Idaho State Football Championship on our home field. Unfortunately, the other team, Couer d'Alene, was much better and we took a drubbing in front of the home crowd. The final score was 55-13.

One of the backup quarterbacks on their team was John Friesz, who went on to legedary status at Universtiy of Idaho and played in the NFL for ten years or so. From Wikepedia, "Friesz grew up in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and attended Coeur d'Alene High School, graduating in 1985. He was a year behind Scott Wellman, a two-time all-state quarterback who led the Vikings to the A-1 state finals in 1982 and 1983, winning the first. Friesz spent those seasons as a back-up and became the starter in his senior season in the fall of 1984." Okay, so these guys were so good that a future NFL quarterback did not start on their team as a sophomore. Scott Wellman did.

Ya, that Scott Wellman. He smoked us. Between him and number 44, Mike Cox, they really gave it to us. I remember 44 in that championship game. He ran for a touchdown, threw for a touchdown, kicked a field goal and kicked off a lot, considering how many touchdowns they scored. In addition to that, he was their main force at middle linebacker but also lined up as a down lineman and met me, regularly, at or behind the line of scrimmage. The backs of both of my hands were black and blue for weeks from being smashed by 44 and landing on the frozen and by that late in the year, the week before Thanksgiving, mostly grassless field.  Cox also went on to be a force at linebacker at University of Idaho and is to this day one of the All-time tackles leaders at U of I. It was a long day.

Those are all just reminisces brought back to me in a providential way today. This morning I took my 10 year old son, Calvin, our youngest, to soccer practice. After practice, we had a talk about hustle, paying attention and taking initiative. It is his first year playing and he is one of the younger players on the middle school team. I reminded him that he may not be one of the better players this year but that he can still have a huge positive effect on the team through hustle, directed desire and being a team player.

I told him about an award that I won my senior year of football. It was the Paul Austin award and was given to the athlete with 'the greatest hustle and most desire to win.' I have probably only spoken of this award a few times in the last 30 years. Obviously, the import of the award has stuck with me and so has that same tenacity, the desire to work hard, the need to be a team player, hustle and teaching the importance of hustle. I would much rather see a kid hustle at every level than watch a hugely talented kid lazily outperform him. I'll take the hustle kid every time.

When I arrived home from soccer practice today, I had an email in my inbox from one of my old high school friends and fellow football players with an interesting request. He is assisting the football team and the current coach of Twin Falls High is interested in bringing former winners of the Paul Austin award to serve as honorary captains of the team and give a pep talk to the players before a game.

Very odd, providential, a God thing, as my friend Bruce would say. So, I guess I'll talk to the coach and maybe make a trip out to Bruin Stadium and, if they'll let me, give the kids a rousing pep talk. At the least, I've had a good memory and reminded myself of things to reiterate to my own kids and the various kids that I have the privilege to coach and mentor.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Wonderful Disbelief

Why do we look around at church during communion? Because we are pleased to be in the presence of God with our family. We have brothers and sisters in Christ who are also favored to sit in the presence of the Lord. We are rejoicing in their bounty as well as ours. In fact, if we think of this rightly, we are shaking our heads in happy disbelief. We look at our brothers and sisters and we can hardly believe we are here to rejoice with them because we cannot believe that we are here.
         We might believe that God’s blessing could rest on them but we know ourselves and are surprised that God’s blessing is resting on us. As we look from side to side, it is almost like we are shaking our heads with a smile, like the humble 10K, Olympian, Mo Farah, who simply cannot believe he just pulled off what he had hoped for, victory, the gold medal, the acclaim of his countrymen, the favor of Prince William and Lady Kate.
         We are like that here, blessed, but also greatly rejoicing that our countrymen, our brothers and sisters, are all here to witness this goodness and receive the blessing of God.

Overroasted Bitterness

Bitterness is a root that grows wide. It will grow deep as well, if it can but it does not need a lot of soil. Any little reason will let bitterness take root. You can grow bitter because you were truly treated poorly by your parents, or your brother was a better athlete, or your sister has a better voice, or a fellow employee got the promotion, or someone younger than you tried to teach you something, or a sister in the church who looked at you with a funny look on her face that you took to be a haughty glance at you. It turns out she was squinting at the clock wondering if she had remembered to set the automatic timer for the Sunday roast.
         She did, in fact, remember to set the timer, and the roast cooked for several hours and grew juicy and tender and was consumed by all with great joy for a Sunday feast.
And you nursed that little squint for five years and your heart grew hard and sinewy at her blessings and you were consumed with envy culminating in misery and sorrow and Sundays were never a feast.
Maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration but it can and does happen. Envy and bitterness do not need much room to grow. So, don’t let them. Think of others more highly than you think of yourself. Rejoice in the bounty of your brothers and sisters in your own family and in the family of God.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Let the Little Children Come Unto Me

Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me.”  He said this not only when little ones came to Jesus of their own accord but even when the little ones, the infants in arms, were brought to Jesus. It is striking that in the Scriptures some of the sharpest rebukes from Jesus to His disciples were about this very thing, keeping the children from the Lord.
         I thank God that He has revealed this to us and we emphatically do not keep the little ones from Jesus. We bring them to Him and He blesses them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
         Dear saints, we are all little children in God’s sight, babes in arms. It is imperative that we approach our Father with that kind of humility, trusting Him as a little nursing daughter fully trusts her doting mother.
         We have a new saint among us, a sister, Louisa Marie, saved by grace, blessed by Jesus and received as our fellow heir of the kingdom. Let us rejoice in God’s goodness to us as His children and also rejoice in our growing family.

The Grace of Holiness

We will once again speak about daughters and the Holy Daughter of Zion. The Lord requires holiness and purity. Today, we will also baptize a young daughter, placing the name of Christ upon her.
         As we do this and as we speak about the need for our daughters to be holy and pure, we do not want to get the wrong idea. No daughter is totally pure, not even the smallest one among us, little Louisa, who will soon be named Christian.
         Even Louisa is tainted by sin. If that were not true, she would not be in need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. But Louisa is fallen from grace with her father, Adam. She sinned in him and fell with him in his first transgression. And the only One that can fix the fact that she is by nature an object of God’s wrath is the righteous Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
         So, when I speak of purity, I do not mean that our daughters, even our baby daughters are pure and sinless. They are not. I do mean that there are certain sins that should not even be named among God’s people. They should be put aside and we should enable ourselves of the grace of God to walk in holiness.
And where there is remaining sin and the struggles with particular sins, we seek the grace of God to bring us to repentance and to empower us to live holy lives. But it is all by grace through faith, not of our selves, lest any man, woman, son or daughter should boast.