We Rejoice in the Hope of God

The opening verses of Romans 5 are some of the most beloved of Paul’s writing. Here, Paul is bringing to conclusion the first section of his letter, where he makes the stunning assertion that salvation is by faith and not by a system of law. We are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Romans 3.24. Because of this fact, Paul makes the following conclusions in the opening verses of chapter 5:

  • we have peace with God.
  • We have access to the grace in which we stand.
  • We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which will not put us to shame.You can entrust your soul with God. He will not let you down.
  • We enjoy the love of God, which has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

This is just amazing language. And to think that it applies to those who were once ungodly sinners and enemies of God, 5.6-10. His love is inexplicable and defies human logic. Over and over again, God’s word proclaims this marvelous fact.

As you pause from your normal routine this week, be sure to give thanks for the grace in which you now stand. Because Jesus came, you have received grace after grace, John 1.16. You are literally engulfed in it. His grace did not stop at the cross. You live in it everyday. His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, Lamentations 3.22b-23a. It was Isaiah who wrote, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be come like wool, Isaiah 1.18. Our sins have been forgiven and we stand before Him pure, righteous, and holy.

Where would we be without Jesus? He is the one who fuels our life with hope. If you haven’t received these promises, can we help you? It would be our greatest privilege and honor to share the good news of the gospel with you.

All Stress is not Bad

During December our sermons will attempt to take a sweeping view of our society and the church. How do things look? How are we handling the troubling things we see? What are some things that make us nervous about the future?

One thing that ranks high on the list is the number of stressed and burned out lives. Think about yourself for a moment. How would you describe the level of stress you’re feeling right now? Most likely the stressors you are coping with come from several different areas of your life. How are you responding to that stress?

While today’s sermon will focus mostly on the sinful type of worry and stress that overtakes and dominates one’s life to the point of debilitation, we need to remember that in and of themselves, stress and pressure are not necessarily bad. In fact, they are God-given things that can cause us each to lead a responsible life. Stress and pressure can actually strengthen us to accomplish the challenges God sets before us.

This is the type of pressure we can handle and must manage. In 2 Corinthians 11.28-29 Paul writes of the daily internal pressure of anxiety for all the churches. He was concerned for those who were weak. He cared when people were led into sin. The NCV translates 11.29 this way: I feel weak every time someone is weak. I feel upset every time someone is led into sin. Being concerned for the spiritual welfare of others is just one example of the stress we can feel.

Stress that motivates us to positive change is also observed in 2 Corinthians 13.5 when Paul challenges Christians to self examination and the quality of their faith. I’m sure you’ve already filled out the chart on p. 6-7 of this year’s Vision 2019 plan. How did you score? What are the areas of greatest concern? Where are you most spiritually vulnerable? Your desire to do right before God will probably make you uncomfortable when you think deeply on these things. Let that feeling of discomfort and stress motivate you to make the right changes.

This is stress and pressure from a positive perspective. We all need to feel it, respond appropriately, and participate with God who is at work in us, Philippians 2.13. This is how we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. It is the combination of our faith and actions.

What are the areas of life you need to work on? What is your plan of action? When will you act?

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 2 Peter 3.18.

Decrease Self. Increase Christ.

Put off your old self, …and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self.

– Ephesians 4.22-23 

How can we become more successful in conquering the flesh and our selfish wants and desires?

Cease to make excuses. The moment that some defense mechanism comes into play, recognize it, and ask yourself: Why am I letting this upset me?

Practice self-examination. For a moment, reflect on how self enters into everything you do. It influences our actions, work, conduct, dress, appearance,..everything! Do you need to increase your personal discipline and moments of self-examination? In writing about himself, Paul said, I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified, 1 Corinthians 9.27. We must realize how much misery is traced back to love of self. Recall your moments of unhappiness and irritability. Self is the main cause of unhappiness in this life!

Measure yourself against Christ’s standard. Philippians 2.5-7 teaches that Jesus “emptied” Himself. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. How did Jesus “make himself nothing?” Jesus told those who follow Him, I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me, John 5.30. He was totally concerned with serving His Father. Let that be the case for yourself.

Perhaps no greater example of Jesus’ commitment to the interests of others over that of himself is seen while He was on the cross. While suspended in air—spikes driven through His hands and feet—he prayed Father, forgive them for they know not what they do, Luke 23.34. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.  He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, 1 Peter 2.21-24.

Jesus set the standard that we are to follow. How are you doing? Make the commitment to decrease self and increase Christ. Have you put the wishes of the Savior above your own? 

A Greater Appreciation for the Word of God

A true Christian runs to hear the word of God.

Of his own will he brought us froth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures, James 1.18. As God’s children each of us have experienced the tremendous power of the word of God in it’s conviction and saving power. Think back to the time when pure gospel preaching moved you to action. You were hungry. You couldn’t get enough teaching. Classes were exciting and worship was exhilarating. 

Wednesday evening after Bible class, Jim Grushon Sr. and I were talking. He mentioned the feeling he had the morning after his baptism. As he walked into work later that day and ran into the guy who shared the gospel with him, he asked, “How long does this feeling last?” 

His friend replied, “As long as you remain close to the Word.”

I like that. Every member at Kettering should understand the power of the word in producing salvation. Now, the imperative is for each of us to let it continue to do it’s powerful work. James 1.19a tells us how we do that. We need to be quick to hear. 

The idea is that we grasp every opportunity to increase our hearing of God’s word. True Christians run to hear the word of God. They long to read it. They want to learn it. How is your hunger? Do you long to grow? How is your appetite for the word?

This is the mark of the believer. If you observe a person who has no desire to be under the teaching of God, chances are that you’ll see a person who does not demonstrate what it means to be a true Christian.

As a member at Kettering, you have tremendous opportunities to dive into the word. Besides Sunday, you can participate in a Bible class at least three other days of the week. Devotionals and group studies are on the schedule. There will be a men’s retreat next weekend and the ladies hold monthly studies. These events are designed to challenge you and wet your appetite for deeper personal study. Can you say along with the Psalmist: Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart, Psalm 119.111.

Do Good to Everyone

Doing good is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5.22) and is the natural result of allowing God to shape our heart. In Galatians 6.8 Paul said that we will reap eternal life when we allow acts of service to characterize who we are. 

What are some good things you can do? For those inside and outside of the church? Here are ten simple suggestions (in no particular order):

  1. Romans 12.10 – help your familythe ones you need to serve the most are often the ones closest to you.
  2. 1 Peter 4.10-11 – volunteer to serve in your spiritual family – what spiritual gifts do you possess that you can use in service to others?
  3. Matthew 25.36 – donate items to the needy – you probably have clothes and other possessions you don’t need that someone else could use.
  4. 1 Thessalonians 5.11 – send someone an encouraging note – use the church directory to identify someone you think could use an uplifting message of support and hope.
  5. Acts 20.35 – deliver a meal – someone may be going through a difficult time and really appreciate this act of kindness.
  6. Hebrews 13.16 – watch someone’s kids – give a young mother a break.
  7. Philippians 2.3 – help others shine – build them up and applaud their efforts.
  8. James 1.19 – listen – make a world of difference in someone’s life by allowing them to just talk and express how they feel.
  9. Proverbs 11.24-25 – pay it forward – your act of kindness might just come at the right moment for someone else.
  10. Galatians 6.9 – every day of your life is an opportunity to do good – sometimes the best acts of kindness are spontaneous and do not have to make a powerful difference in someone else’s life.

We can all demonstrate the love of Christ. How are you doing? Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor, Romans 12.10.

The Loneliest Generation

Three weeks ago National Public Radio reported on a survey about loneliness which was conducted by one of America’s leading health insurance companies. Over 20,000 adults were contacted. Nearly 50% of respondents reported that “they feel alone” or “left out always or sometimes.” 54% said they “always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well.” 56% said they “sometimes or always felt like the people around them are not necessarily with them.” 40% felt like “they lack companionship,” and that their “relationships aren’t meaningful” and that they are “isolated from others.” The survey suggests that most Americans are considered lonely. 

Along with this comes additional data suggesting that the younger a person is, the more he/she is considered to be lonely. Generation Z, born between the mid-1990’s and the early 2000’s, ranks the highest, followed by millennials and baby boomers. The Greatest Generation, people age 72 and above, were the least likely to be lonely. (Statistics for Generation X, born between the mid-1960’s and early 80’s, were not mentioned.) The study, by San Diego State University, “suggests that more screen time and social media may have caused a rise in depression and suicide among American adolescents. Those who spend less time looking at screens and more time having face-to-face social interactions are less likely to be depressive or suicidal.

Perhaps, like at no time in recent memory in the USA, there is a great opportunity for God’s church. What does salvation through Jesus provide? Not only pardon from sin and eternal hope, but true companionship and genuine relationships with real people coping with real problems just like us. When we share Jesus we want people to know they are going to get to connect with some of the finest people on earth who want to share their life with others. Not perfect people mind you, but those who are eager to do life together along with other believers.

When we have a scare with our health, we’re not alone. When one chapter of life ends and another begins, there are those along beside who have been there and done that. If we lose our job, suffer through financial difficulty, struggle with our kids, or cope with growing older, there is someone in our spiritual family who can help. God has placed the church in your life for a purpose. He designed it to be a place of refuge, comfort, and hope. Paul said, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patience with everyone, 1 Thessalonians 5.11, 14. You don’t have to go through life alone. When you have God’s family in your life, loneliness won’t be a problem. How strong is your connection to the church? 

For more, see https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/05/01/606588504/americans-are-a-lonely-lot-and-young-people-bear-the-heaviest-burden 

When You Face Temptation

Recently, I preached a series of lessons from Ephesians 6.10-17. This is where Paul is wrapping up the letter to the Ephesians. He began by writing about the marvelous salvation we have been given. God lavished His grace on us (1.8). God made us alive together with Christ (2.5). Our new life is a product of God’s work, not our own (2.8-10). All of this is according to His incredible plan which has been revealed to us through His apostles (3.9-10). He has endowed us with great power (3.20).

Since all these things are true, we have been called to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called (4.1). We are expected to live inside our new identity (5.8-10) and to be filled with the Spirit (5.18-21). We need to know our spiritual walk will not be easy. In fact, we should expect resistance from:

  • Our flesh, Galatians 5.17.
  • The world, John 15.18-19.
  • Satan, Ephesians 6.11-12.

So what do we do? How can we win on a day-to-day basis? How can we stand firm as Paul directs in Ephesians 6.13? Here are five helpful suggestions I recently ran across in my sermon prep:

  1. Remember that Satan has already been defeated. Through His work on the cross, Jesus has dealt a mortal blow to Satan. Jesus came to destroy Satan’s work, 1 John 3.8.
  2. Remember that the power that defeated Satan is dwelling in you. He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world, 1 John 4.4b. Look again at what Paul writes in Ephesians 3.20. Are you accessing this power?
  3. Realize that you can successfully resist Satan. 1 Peter 5.8 begins with two admonition: Be sober-minded and be watchful. The adversary is real. His intention is real. Therefore, when he comes, resist him, firm in your faith (5.9). You can resist by not giving him an opportunity (Ephesians 4.27). What does that passage imply? If Satan has gained opportunity over you, it is because you failed to resist. So, don’t be outwitted by Satan and don’t be ignorant of his designs, 2 Corinthians 2.11.
  4. Flee the temptation. Flee youthful temptations and pursue righteousness…calling on the Lord with a pure heart, 2 Timothy 2.22.
  5. Bring every thought into captivity, 2 Corinthians 10.5. We need to allow our mind to be controlled by the will of God. It has been said that there are no shortcuts to effective, victorious Christian living. If you’re going to win, you must have a mind that has been given over to the word of God so that your thinking and feelings are controlled by spiritual truth.

You can win against temptation. What is your battle plan going forward?

When Words Aren’t Necessary

We’re doing a study on Christian fellowship this quarter. Today, I spent time in Romans 12.15-16 and mainly focused on the second part of 12.15: Weep with those who weep.

Following through on this can be extremely difficult and unpleasant. I don’t know of anyone who is ever excited to run out and cry with someone as they roll through a situation that’s full of grief, betrayal, or extreme pain and sorrow. But, I do know from personal experience what it means for the person who is going through difficulty.

Last week, I was called to help out with a family in our community whose son drowned in the Little Miami River. When I arrived, the mother, two sisters, and a brother were gathered around their car in the parking lot. The emergency trucks and their flashing lights could be seen across the field next to the river bank. The young man’s youngest sister was unconsolable. Everyone else was just staring at the emergency personnel who were going back and forth. They were in stunned disbelief. Also gathered were three teens who jumped in the river to try to save the victim. They almost drowned in the swift muddy water trying to pull him out. One in particular, still barefoot with sand all over his legs and feet, kept holding out his hands as he replayed the events in his mind. What do you say in such a situation? Nothing. You just give a hug where you can and let them know you care.

I am reminded of the story of Job, whose deep and grave trouble came upon him suddenly and with no expectation. Not only did he lose all his material possessions and offspring (Job 1), he lost his health (Job 2.1-10). Upon hearing this, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar came to comfort him. We read:

“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”

(Job 2:11–13, ESV)

What is said here is very moving. Just read the words slowly and let them sink in:

  • Job’s condition was so bad, they did not recognize him.
  • His suffering was very great.
  • When they saw him, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads…
  • They sat with Job on the ground, …and no one spoke a word to him.

Sometimes, all you can do is be there. The grief is so overwhelming, astonishing, and stupefying, that no words are adequate. In these situations, there is a reverential awe with which we approach the sufferer and a tender caution with which we address them. It is almost as if any words spoken would be out of place.

The only thing that matters, is your presence.

Last Saturday, I had another opportunity to visit with the family who lost their son. When I walked in, the mom said, “I don’t remember your name, but I do remember your face.” And you know, I realized at that moment she wouldn’t have remembered any words I would have said the previous Tuesday night. But she did know that I was there. And, as we talked on Saturday, you could tell it meant quite a lot.

Never forget that your presence in such situations speaks to them in a language which they cannot but understand and feel. And that, is far more powerful than any carefully crafted words of persuasion could ever be.

“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor,” (1 Corinthians 10:24, ESV).


God: The God of Deliverance

In Exodus 3.13-14 we are introduced to God’s personal name. Moses is in a discussion with God at the burning bush, who has just commissioned him to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt, 3.10. Moses begins immediately to question his abilities. I believe this would be the natural reaction out of most humble people. Think about yourself and how you would respond. Moses’ first question is probably very similar to what mine would be: basically, “who am I to do this?” God’s reply in 3.12 is not something just to be passed over quickly because in it we learn about one of the great characteristics of God: I will be with you,… God is the ever-present one who is with His people. This is part of His identity. It’s who He is.

Next, Moses asks how he should answer if the people asked who sent him: What is his name? What shall I say to them? God answers: I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”  I AM is the personal name of God. It is commonly expressed with the consonants YHWH in the Hebrew language and is meant to describe the eternality, self-existence, and changelessness that belong to God alone. 

In Exodus 3.17, we learn a little more about God. The verse begins with a promise: I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land …flowing with milk and honey. God is the ever-saving one who lives to redeem His people. Tying this back to 3.7-9, this is the exact message the people of Israel needed to hear from their God: i.e., He has heard their cries and will rescue them.

In Exodus 4, Moses returns to Egypt and along with Aaron explained to the people all that God had told them. Verse 31 marks a very crucial point in the Exodus story: And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped. Then comes chapter 5. After moments of faith adversity always comes. Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and demand he let the Hebrews leave Egypt. They are summarily dismissed and directed to get back to your burdens, 5.4. To this, Pharaoh made their burdens harder by withholding straw for brick making (5.10); not lessening their work quotas even though the people had to scatter to find straw (5.12-14); and issuing beatings/violence if tasks were not completed on time (5.16). The foreman met with Moses and Aaron and blamed them for the impossible workload that had been placed on the people. To this, Moses cries out to God: O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all, 5.22-23.

Chapter 6 opens with God’s reassurances to Moses and to the Hebrew people. First God directs His attention to Moses. He tells him that the time will come when Pharaoh will drive the people out with a strong hand, 6.1. Now notice 6.2-5. See the covenant language. Here He uses His personal name again: I AM the Lord. Then he points to his relationship with the patriarchs and the promises he made. He has seen the groaning of His people and has remembered His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15.13-16. Notice how God was personally moved and involved with the problem: I have heard and I have remembered are statements that indicate God is going into action and enforce the covenant made long before. What the patriarchs trusted would one day happen was now underway, and God encouraged Moses here to believe that fact.

Now, notice 6.6-8. These are the words that God wants Moses to use to reassure the people. God uses His personal name again: I am the Lord. He promises freedom  and deliverance. He will demonstrate His great power through the plagues, 6.6. He promises to make them His own possession: “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God,” 6.7a. He is encouraging them to move in trust that He will fulfill the promises He’s making. This is all in fulfillment to the assurances He had previously given to the Patriarchs (Genesis 15.13-20; 35.12; 48.4). And when the Hebrews went to Canaan they would own it, not just live in it: I will give it to you for a possession, 6.8b. The verse concludes with the same statement that began in 6.2: I am the Lord. It’s covenant language. In the ancient Near East it was customary for the giver of a covenant to always identify himself. When God says, I am the Lord, it is as if He is saying, I am Yahweh, your covenant God. But wait, there’s more.

Now, let’s go back to God’s statement in 6.3. “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them.” God says previously that He didn’t reveal himself as the I AM to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but only as “God Almighty.” By revealing Himself as the El Shaddai to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they saw Him as “the mighty one,” “the all-powerful one,” and “the One who is eternal.” But now in Exodus, God is going to reveal Himself as the deliverer of His people. When God says I am the Lord in 6.2, 8, He is identifying Himself relationally. He was connected to His people, knowing them personally. Thus the people could say, “He is not just any god, He is my God.”

This is different than what the Patriarchs had previously seen. God is not only the ever-eternal one. He is not only the ever-present one. He is also the one who lives to draw near His people for the purpose of redeeming them. God is the god of deliverance! He is the one who establishes a relationship with His people. This is what makes Him special and unique from every human contrived deity. Our God, the God, lives to love and serve those who choose Him. It’s such a wondrous thing!

Now, reread Exodus 3.7-9 and make the application to your life. Think of God as your deliverer: He sees your affliction. He knows all about your taskmaster. He knows all about your sufferings. He hears the cries of those caught in sin. He knows how Satan oppresses. It is His intention to deliver you out of the hand of Satan and bring you into a place that is good and that flows with His eternal blessings.

Cali | 22 May 2017

Good morning. Well, as of this morning, I can successfully say that the work and objectives for my 2017 trip to Colombia have been successfully accomplished.

On this year’s trip, I was able to visit with all six men we support. I was up close and personally involved in their work, interacting with many or all of the churches they preach for, and got to spend time in their home. It was a great experience of hospitality, encouragement, and partnership. Relationships were definitely strengthened, and everyone of our guys passes along greetings to you, the Kettering family, for your prayers and financial support. For some of them, the majority of their monthly income comes from us. They’re all doing a great work, making many sacrifices, and some of them are taking great risks to preach where they do.

The other objective of my trip was to be here yesterday in Cali to support this local church as they ordain shepherds to serve over them. It was just an incredible day. 15-20 preachers came in from around the country to witness the events. It was standing room only in the meeting place. Both Carlos Julio and Orlando are humble men, whose efforts as spiritual leaders were already evident. If anything, yesterday’s actions confirm what they were already doing – being servant leaders. Thanks to Wes Grushon who posted the YouTube link to the service last night. Most of it is in Spanish, but there are parts in there where Jason & I spoke. (Jason addressed the congregation in Spanish for about 2 minutes. It was great. And, I admire his courage. I’m not quite that brave yet.) The link is here:

After services yesterday, we all came back over to Orlando’s home where we 40-50 of us ate together. We played games. We celebrated. It was just a wonderful time. Many great memories were made.

Today I fly back to Cali, where I will spend time with Daniel Vela’s family. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be on the big plane headed home. Becky is flying in from Tampa and we will be on the same flight with each other to Dayton. Looking forward to seeing you all at church tomorrow night