Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Gospel At Work: James 2:1-13

This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to preach the 4th message of a nine week series we are doing, preaching through the book of James. Our series is entitled "The Gospel At Work." I preached from James 2:1-13. Below are the key sermon notes. You can listen to the sermon online here.

What is partiality?
“to be biased”
“to accept/judge according to face” and refers to favoritism on the basis of status
“It means that you base your treatment of someone – or your attitude toward someone – on something that should not be the basis of how you treat him.” - Piper

I. Consider…“our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory”

1)No partiality in living His life

Hebrews 1:3 = He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God

Romans 2:11 = For God shows no partiality.

Jesus lived in a cultural context that was known for division, prejudice, and partiality and yet His life was radically counter-cultural in how He embraced all people regardless of their background and/or social status. During his life and ministry Jesus honored, accepted, and loved those who were despised and looked down upon. Consider how Jesus treated children, lepers, tax collectors, women, and Samaritans. Jesus didn't allow class divisions, racism, and "the way things are" to effect how He interacted with people.

2)No partiality in giving His life

Revelation 5:9 = And they (the four living creatures and the 24 elders falling down before the Lamb in worship) sang a new song saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”

There are 16,789 people groups! Jesus died for all of them!

Justification by faith alone puts all of us on a level ground of utter dependence.

Ephesians 2:8-9 = For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ leaves no room for pride or arrogance. It’s all His grace!

II. The Gospel frees us from partiality!

Ephesians 2:13-14 = But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

Galatians 3:26 = For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith…v. 28 = There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all ONE in Christ Jesus.

The Gospel demands a drastic new paradigm in how we approach relationships.

“Before we fell in love with Jesus, we were seated at the head of our own tables. For some, prior to Jesus, they may have lived naturally segregated lives, where the maxim ‘birds of a feather flock together’ was true of them. But now, having entered the marriage covenant with Christ, they are seated at the multi-ethnic, multi-socioecnomic dinner tables of the church, where Christ is the new head. Now they are told to do life with one another, to serve one another, and encourage one another. The covenant of salvation demands a radical re-patterning of relationships.” - Bryan Loritts

Why would a church show partiality to the rich?
It makes us look good!

Think Biblically:
God created the poor in His image
God sent His son to die for the poor
The poor who trust in Christ for their salvation are “heirs of the Kingdom”
In dishonoring the poor man…you are dishonoring God!

Level Ground of Utter Dependence: The Gospel makes the wealthy poor, because they can no longer depend on their wealth. The Gospel makes the poor rich because they become fellow heirs of the Kingdom (this should radically effect how we view one another!).

In the “World” this is what is happening…
Oppression, exploitation, social polarization, and an unjust legal/court system (this was the context of James)

Consider James 1:21-27
The Hope of Salvation (James 1:21)COMPELS us to practice "Pure Religion" = outward practice or service to God (James 1:27)
Pure Religion is marked by two things:
(1) “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” – Justice/Compassion for the vulnerable
(2) “keep oneself unstained from the world” - Holiness (to be distinct from the world)
By showing partiality to the rich, something that was happening in the world…they were violating the very 2 things, James said were the marks of true religion, or rather the marks of a truly transformed heart: compassion for those who are vulnerable and holiness from the ways of the world!

1)The Law can’t save you…you have to uphold ALL of it!

-Favortism and discrimination are violations of the kingdom law of love

2)The Gospel frees us to live under the law of liberty

Law of liberty – True freedom is freedom to obey God and do what pleases Him. That law of Christ provides freedom from sin through the Gospel.

Grace doesn’t produce lawlessness, it produces love!

3)In light of the Gospel, we are compelled to SPEAK and ACT as recipients, partakers, and givers of His Mercy!

Grace = when God gives us something that we don’t deserve
Mercy = when God withholds from us that which we do deserve

"Christian love means treating others the way God has treated me." Warren Wiersbe

The Gospel transforms us from "judges with evil thoughts" to loving givers of mercy!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wedding Day Highlight Montage "WDHM"

This is a wedding video "highlight montage" put together by our videographer. His work is amazing! Thought we would share it with everyone! If you want to know "our story" read here.

I still can't believe it! God is so faithful and so gracious!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Prayerful Perspective In Swaziland

As some of you know, I am on the board of a ministry in southern Africa called Africa Revolution. Each year "AR" hosts teams of college age/young adult interns for a year long program of discipleship and service (called Vision Year). This past year a young brother in the Lord from Zimbabwe, named Clever, finished the year and really stood out as a servant leader. He is now going to stay on for an additional year as a team leader for the new team of interns coming to Swaziland in February.

A couple of weeks ago, while driving the AR van, he was "car jacked," beaten, and nearly killed by a group of men in a township in South Africa. Thankfully, God kept Clever and another young man from death (as this was the intention of the thieves). You can read more about the incident here.

Allan recently emailed Clever and asked him how he was doing. I wanted to share some of Clever's response. It is a beautiful display of the power of the Gospel and how it can alter our perspective in the midst of pain and tragedy. Here is part of Clever's response...

“As far as I am concerned, I am doing great. I am now getting back in the gear of prayer since I arrived in Swaziland. It’s peaceful here and no one is after me. When I was still in South Africa, I was still traumatized thinking about the event every day. I lacked trust, toward every South African male. I kept thinking that they are all thugs. I am sorry for this, God will forgive me. My mind is just thinking about the bus as you know that it was my favorite. I was treating it like my son. The way it was taken from my hands! It ripped my heart; it was something which I was treasuring so much. I had just committed everything in God’s hand he knows why this happened and he is the one who has a better and a good reason for this. My question to God was what have I done so much to deserve this? We are serving you with this bus but you take it away? What does this mean? I felt the Lord saying this message to me, ‘you are a victim of my purpose.”
Again I asked God what this means. “We served Mamelodi and the whole community spreading your Word, investing into this community and the very same community today is stealing from us.”

I felt that God wants us to love this community more. The same thing happened to Jesus. He came to serve and save his own people and the very same people rejected him, accused him and even killed him.

What a mighty God we serve. He wants to use us in this town regardless of being abused or robbed. Thus are my feelings for now. And I am praying for those thugs that they may see God in their lives.”

Please continue to pray for Clever. I am excited to see what God is going to do in and through him in the year ahead. Also, AR is trying to raise money to replace the van that was stolen. It is crucial to the ongoing ministry in Swaziland! The need is $8,000. You can learn more here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Impact of Dr. King

(One of my favorite speeches of his. It gives me chills every time.)

As many of you know, Martin Luther King Jr is one of my heroes! His life, and what he gave his life for, has inspired me ever since I remember first learning about him and hearing his speeches in junior high. Whenever Martin Luther King Day rolls around each year, I go searching the internet for new articles, blogs, and videos about him.

This year, through someone I follow on Twitter (American Indian News), I learned something new about the impact he had on all Americans.
Levi Rickert stated on the "Native News Network" site that Dr. King's "leadership and dream transcended racial boundaries." He went on to add,
"The effects of his work impacted the lives of all Americans. For instance, the passage of the momentous Civil Rights Act of 1964 benefited American Indians and Latinos, as well as African Americans. We can now go places we could not go prior to 1964. We can now stay in motels we could not stay in prior to 1964. Prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, American Indians were not allowed in many establishments simply because we were Indians. Many establishments prominently displayed signs that read: 'No Indians or Dogs Allowed' in various parts of this country. One Ottawa elder recalls, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became a federal law, business proprietors, who owned restaurants, motels and shops, in the upper portion of Michigan's Lower Peninsula held a meeting to discuss, 'What they were going to do now that they had to serve Indians.'"

Dr. King was a man who, compelled by the love of Christ, gave his life for others (1 John 3:16-18). His message is still relevant today as our nations is still plagued by racism and systemic injustice. His life should inspire us to contend for and sacrificially serve others. May we all have a holy discontent for the way things are, and dream and work for true Gospel driven unity and shalom.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Change The World For Christ: Remembering John Stott

Shortly after moving to Richmond at the end of August I saw a quote that resonated with what I believe God had/has been showing/challenging me with. It is a famous quote from John Stott. He used to say, "We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God." That spoke very powerfully to me. Not only does the quote impact me, but the more I read about John Stott, the more I wanted to learn about the man he was. He was a local pastor, with a passion for London (his local context) and the world. He was a bridge builder and a cultural learner. He had a big vision...to change the world for Christ!

A July 27th, 2011 article in the New York Times touched on the global impact he had. Professor Mark Noll stated, "Mr. Stott became a patron, mentor, friend and encourager of thousands of pastors, students and laypeople from the newer Christian parts of the world. He became a bridge between the West and the rising Christian world.” He was dedicated to helping the poor in developing countries, what he termed the Majority World. Using royalties from his books, he set up trusts to help gifted students from the developing world earn doctorates abroad and then return to their native countries to teach in theological seminaries. His ministry, John Stott Ministries, is still going strong. It is dedicated to "equipping pastors so that the Majority World church matures through the Word of God."

I discovered the following (roughly 20 minute) sermon preached in his honor by Tim Keller at his United States memorial service (he also had one in England and Canada). I was both challenged and inspired by what he shared.

In light of John Stott's life of faith (Hebrews 13:7), we ought to be...

1)Convicted by his Kingdom vision
-He had zeal for the Kingdom!
-"His entire life was dedicated to banish apathy"
-He wanted to do something world, historical for Jesus. He wanted to change the world for Christ!

2)Cautioned by his cultural learning curve
-He went into the developing world (Asia, Africa, & South America) and listened.
-He got out and allowed Christians in other parts of the world to teach him about the Bible and culture.
-His travels gave him a growing concern for poverty and injustice.

3)Chastened by his leadership controversies
-He was a diplomat and a bridge builder, and yet he could not avoid controversy and conflict.
-If you want do do something for Christ, there will be conflict and controversy.

(4)Instructed by his great innovations
a)Expository preaching - he had electrifying clarity
b)He invented the modern city center church where he was committed to evangelism and ministry to the poor/social justice.
c)He used organizations to strengthen local churches and leaders.
d)He forced Evangelicals to think about social ethics and social justice.

(5)Created Evangelicalism
-Orthodox in doctrine, but intellectually, culturally, and socially engaged.
-Commitment to the authority of Scripture, to scholarship, and to engagement.

I am thankful for the example of John Stott's life. He has given me new mentor (through his books) and a life worth emulating. He was a man who followed Christ and spent himself on behalf of others (Isaiah 58).

Have any of you read any books by John Stott that you would recommend? Any good biographies on him?

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Fruit of the Spirit: Love

On Saturday morning we (Living Hope Neighborhood Church) began a 9 week series on the "Fruit of the Spirit." I kicked it off, with the first message on love. Below are my sermon notes (condensed version). I wish I had audio, but we aren't recording our Saturday messages just yet (coming soon).

The Fruit of the Spirit: Love
Galatians 5:22-23 = But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

1)Christ’s Love For Us

The essence of God’s love is sacrifice. It is a sacrificial love

Galatians 2:20 = …who loved me and gave Himself for me.

1 John 3:16 = By this we know the love of God, because He laid down His life for us

Romans 5:8 = But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Ephesians 2:4 = But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us…

Gospel Pause:
Have you truly received His love by putting your faith and trust in Him as your Lord and Savior? He’s not waiting for you to get your life together in this new year. He’s not waiting for you to clean yourself up. He loves you and He died for you in spite of your filth, in spite of your mess. He loves you. He gave Himself for you. He wants a relationship with you. Do you truly know His love this morning?

For those of us in this room who do know Him, when you repented of your sins and believed on Him, He came in. The Bible tells us that those of us who by grace believed in Him for our salvation, we now have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. God, in the person of the Holy Spirit lives inside of us.

Romans 5:5 = …God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

2)The Holy Spirit In Us

He dwells or resides within us (He is resident).

John 14:16-17 = …You know Him, for He (the Holy Spirit) dwells with you and will be in you.

2 Timothy 1:14 = By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us…

Think about that…the God of the Universe lives inside of you. The God of the Universe dwells within You. And He will never leave!

So if you are a believer and follower of Christ, the question is not whether the Holy Spirit is resident, but rather is He president? He is dwelling inside of you, but the question is, is He directing you? Is He in control of your life?

We need daily walk in dependence upon Him (He is president).

Ephesians 5:18 = And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Be continually CONTROLLED by the Holy Spirit

A drunk person is controlled by the alcohol he has consumed. Therefore, he thinks and acts in ways that are not normal or natural for him. The man who is spirit-filled is controlled, and he too acts in ways that are unnatural for him. He can now act in supernatural ways that contrast with his old life.

Galatians 5:16 = But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Walking is a succession of dependent acts. With each step you are dependent on your foot and leg to hold your weight. Each step is a step of faith, a step of dependence. To daily walk by the Spirit, is to daily depend on Him.

If you have the Holy Spirit living inside of You, and if He is in control of your life, then your life will produce fruit. Your character will be transformed. Your life will be marked by these 9 traits of Christlikeness.

3)Christ’s Love Through Us

Galatians 5:22 = But the fruit of the Spirit is love…

John 13:34 = …just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another

“Only God can generate within us the kind of self-sacrificing love which is the proof that we are His children.” - Ryrie

“If we are to love as God loves, that love – that Agape – can only come from its true source.”

Practical Examples of Love:
Love my wife (Eph 5:25) – who loved her and gave Himself up for her

Love our neighbors (Galatians 5:14; Matthew 22:37)

Love our enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6)

1 John 4:11-12 = Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.

Our love (for one another) puts Christ on display to a watching world!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

January Praise and Prayer

As we head into the new year, we have much to both praise God for in the last month, and to pray for in the month and year ahead.

Praises (We praise God...)
1)For a great time at home (Chicago & Paw Paw) visiting with friends and family! We only wish we would have had more time to connect with more people. We are sorry if we missed you.
2)For a great wedding open house at Lawton EMC! We are humbled by the love and support we were shown.
3)For Josie being approved by the state of California to practice physical therapy here!
4)For the funding needed to purchase property here in Richmond for transitional/discipleship housing for men and/or women!
5)For partnerships being established with the Boys & Girls Club and Richmond High School!
6)For our faithful and generous supporters who make is possible for us to be doing ministry here!

Prayer Requests (Please pray with us...)
1)That we would grow in our intimacy with Christ and our love for Him.
2)For wisdom as we learn each other and what it means to love and serve each other well as husband and wife.
3)That God would direct us (the church) to the right housing to be used for transitional/discipleship housing.
4)For me this Sunday morning as I present the ministry of Safe Families to our congregation. Pray that our church would serve our neighborhood and city well with this needed ministry.
5)For us as we begin two new series: the Fruits of the Spirit (on Saturday mornings) and the book of James (on Sunday mornings). I will be preaching this Saturday on Love (Galatians 5:22).
6)We own a condo in Branson, Missouri (where Josie lived before we got married). Please pray with us that we would find a renter soon!

*Let me know how we can be praying for you! Email me at pastordave@lhnchurch.org. Also, don't forget about our podcast on I-tunes under "Living Hope Neighborhood Church"!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Sunshine In The Big Sky

This past summer a film student from Loyola Maramount University, Abbey Nelson, came to Chicago/Sunshine for a month to film a documentary about our annual trip to Bozeman, MT each summer. Abbey grew up in Montana. Her parents, Joe and Carolyn Nelson, have served as a "host family" the last 3 summers. This past summer was our 10th trip to Montana, so this documentary's aim was to tell the story of what makes this trip and the relationship between Sunshine and Springhill Presbyterian Church so special.

Sunshine in the Big Sky from Abbey Nelson on Vimeo.

Although, I am now serving at a different ministry, I hope to make the trip to Bozeman (along with my wife) once again this summer to have a great reunion with my Sunshine and Springhill family!

In 2012...

These were initially shared on Floyd McClung's blog (he is a missionary who currently serves in Cape Town, South Africa). I have shared them on my blog the last two years, and I think they are great questions to pray through and think about as we head into another year.

In 2012...

1. What’s one way, you could utilize time, to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. Who are three people you can disciple more intentionally?

6. What is the most helpful way you can build community with a few other followers of Jesus this year?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. Who is the person you most want to encourage this year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing can you plan to do this year that will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

Thoughts? Other Questions?