The Impossible Task of Loving One Another

For those who read this not from our small group, we are currently working through the book, Forgotten God by Francis Chan. The series looks the often neglected or abused subject of the Holy Spirit in the church today.

Last night we discussed one particular Scripture from chapter 4 related to the main chapter heading, “Why Do You Want Him?”

One particular area stood out for me in this chapter… that one of the main reasons God gives us His Spirit is to enable us to love one another, specifically other believers. Now, we also know that we are called and enabled to love those still in need of the Gospel. Nonetheless brotherly or sisterly love in the church is to be a hallmark of the Spirit-filled Christian. Furthermore, as selfish prone people this task is impossible to do apart from the Spirit's enablement.

Paul covers this subject well in 1 Corinthians 13, and really that is a post all in itself. In fact, our group covered some of Paul’s instruction regarding spiritual gifts a previous week, and Lord-willing we will be coming back to chapter 13 regarding loving one another with our spiritual gifts. This is a critically important and beautiful passage for every follower of Christ.

Last night, we narrowed our focus on Galatians 5:13-26 and God showed us something fresh. I’ve read this passage many times previously, but never fully caught the beautiful over-arching context for walking in the Spirit! In verses 13-15 Paul talks about using the freedom the Gospel brings to lovingly serve one another in the church. We know from the flow of the letter that Paul’s main note of correction revolves around legalism creeping into the church. Paul reminds us in verse 14 that we are to love our neighbor as we would ourselves. It seems from verse 15, however, that the Galatian church allowed their legalism to affect their attitude and actions toward one another in the church. The biting and devouring likely consisted of some believers looking down and casting judgment on other believers for their varying degrees of legalistic stances/lifestyles.

Now, notice with me the very next verse! Verse 16 is usually taught on it’s own and it’s own section, but it is inexplicably connected to momentum of the previous verses. Even down in verse 26 at the chapter close Paul returns to the theme from verses 13-15 when he charges believers to “…not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” 

Do you see the challenging beauty of this context? The verses (16-25) on walking by the Spirit and not the flesh are couched in context of loving one another in the church! Oh fellow brothers and sisters reading this, we are so prone to interpersonal friction in the church and it ought not to be. Often we can internally and even sometimes externally level judgment on other believers for whatever the reason. Often we can slip into gossip about each other. Often we subtly choose to not associate with some people in the church because of any number of pathetic excuses. Often we can allow clashing personalities to deter intentional love with others. Often we can allow past offenses to fester, affecting our attitudes and actions toward others.

We are no different than the struggle of the Galatian church, and the corrective admonition is the same… to walk by the Spirit, thereby making this impossible task possible. Thus, one of the main reasons we are given the indwelling presence of God Himself is to enable our selfish tendencies to walk in step with His love toward others.

For those in our specific small group reading this, those in other small groups, those a part of a our church or another local church, and all of us who claim to follow Christ toward all believers in general; I intently want us to ask ourselves some hard questions. How is your pocket of discipleship community doing loving one another? How are you personally contributing to loving one another in your small group, local church, and all believers in general? When the answers to these questions are hard, return to the encouraging discipline of walking in the enabling power of the Spirit as He grows you in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control toward fellow brothers and sisters.

 

Walking by the Spirit to Love Each Other,

Derek

Genesis 3:15 and Jesus

Out in Bethel I am nearing the end of our study of John in seminary, but God continues illuminating His wondrous Word! I’ll share with you one quick example that I think fits really well with Easter!

In John 13:18 we read, “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’” Later in verse 27 of the same chapter we read, “Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’”

In each of these verses we peer into the last couple days of Jesus’ physical earthly life, just prior to the cross. As Jesus and His disciples partake of the Passover meal together, Jesus begins some of His last teaching for the disciples. Judas Ischariot, however, will follow his predetermined course of betrayal. It is absolutely critical to see what is occurring behind the scenes in this passage! Notice that the power behind Judas is his submission to Satan’s work of opposition. Notice further back in verse 18 that Jesus quotes Psalm 41:9 in reference to Scripture being fulfilled of one’s betrayal of his Master. Just as David in that Old Testament passage felt the sting of a close trusted friend’s betrayal, so Jesus would feel the supreme sting on this level of betrayal. Although the language of lifting one’s heel references a Jewish way of describing one who dines with friends and then opposes the host in great contempt, it does also remind us of a similar occurrence of heel earlier in Scripture. Recall with me for a moment Genesis 3:15… “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Back in John 13:27 we clearly see Satan’s headstrong opposition behind Judas’ betrayal. Thus, we see Genesis 3:15 played out right before our eyes in John’s Gospel! The seed of the woman ultimately brought Jesus through the virgin birth, thereby avoiding the sin curse of Adam. The enmity relationship continued through all of Adam and Eve’s descendants as sin now became inherent with all humanity (Romans 3:10, 23, Chp. 5). But, Satan’s ultimate opposition came against the Messiah. His antagonism is seen through the attempt to thwart Jesus’ survival even as a young baby/toddler. His opposition continued through the course of Jesus’ life and public ministry, escalating to this climax of antagonism with Judas and ultimately the cross.
At the cross we see Satan’s supreme attack against God Almighty.

If the cross had ended at the cross (death), then Genesis 3:15 would have been null and void!
But, but, but!
We know the glorious truth of the resurrection!
The glorious truth of the resurrection fulfilled the protoevangelium declaration of Genesis 3:15!
Satan’s best attempt against Jesus became as a mere bruise on Jesus’ foot, as Jesus’ resurrection became a great crushing blow eternally against Satan!

What an incredibly beautiful truth we have in God’s revelation to us, for it is here in the Gospel of John that we see the glorious plan of God from the beginning! Truly, Jesus came in the fullness of time in and by His own authority for His supreme eternal purpose!
We as believers are a part of this incredibly sovereign and beautiful plan of redemption!

Amazed at the foot of the cross and the emtpy tomb,
Derek

The Resounding Beat of Our Hearts - Be Strong and Courageous!

I was recently reading the closing chapters of Deuteronomy. As God prepared the people for Moses' departure and Joshua's installation, we read, "'Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.' Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him the sight of all Israel, 'Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.'" (Deuteronomy 31:6-8)

What an incredible day this must have been, to hear these words shouted out to the doves of Israelites on the cusp of entering God's rest. They had endured years of wandering and suffering in response to the previous generation's failure to trust in God's deliverance from Canaan's residents (Numbers 13). As this current generation now stood ready to enter the promised land, they could recall all of Jehovah's provision and deliverance in the history of their ancestors. Their thoughts of trust and worship in response to God's previous deliverance prepared them for the great step of faith, battle, and victory that lied ahead. Now, they hear God's words delivered through their human leader, as Moses transitioned from being God's earthly shepherd for them, to be strong and courageous in the very presence and enabling help of God Almighty. Truly the beat of their hearts resounded this command and promise as they advanced forward!

Moses further commanded them, "'At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD you God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and their their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.'" (Deuteronomy 31:10-13)

This truth and the history that was about ready to be made was so important, God mandated that they regularly set aside a time to pass down God's command to be strong and courageous in the context of their promised land entry. Successive generations of Israelites were reminded of their history and their God's deliverance through the faithful adherence to pass this teaching along through this regular 7-year worship cycle. 

What parallels could we draw from this account in Deuteronomy 31? I don't know about you, but when I read of this account, I am encouraged, convicted, challenged, and drawn to worship!

Our innate ability to remember is a gift from God, given to us to recall the past in a way that will help guide our future. I fear in my own life, I miss the blessing of remembering God's past deliverances due to my forgetfulness and failure to regularly recall these periods in my life. May we, God's redeemed people today, do a better job of regularly and specifically recalling God's past work of deliverance and provision in our own lives! May we then be driven to regular worship and bolstered trust in our awesome God!

Furthermore, I fear I don't always do my job of passing down stories of God's past deliverance, protection, and provision to my kids. I know this is an area where I continually need improvement. How about you? May we as the body of Christ catch a God-given passion to pass down those worship-infused memorial periods of God's past deliverance. May it be our prayer that our younger generations would grow up fully seeing and realizing God's active work in the lives of their families!

Lastly, I am also encouraged, convicted, challenged, and drawn to worship at the reality of walking in step with our awesome God! Although most of us today are not Israelites, we are post-New Testament people of God. We are God's redeemed people who today make up the church. We are God's blood-bought possession commissioned to spread His fame and His message of redemption. We are therefore similarly commanded to herald the awesome work of our God's past deliverance and provision to a world in desperate need of redemption! When the people heard Moses beckon God's sure command to be strong and be courageous in His active work of bringing them into the promised land, think of the confidence this promise gave them. 

Likewise today, we've been given a similar promise. God assured us that He is continuing the work of Jesus through His redeemed followers. (John 14:12-14) Jesus assured us that He will build His church against any and all advances of hell itself! (Matthew 16:13-19) God displayed His sure plan of advancing His church amidst persecution through the early church's intense opposition! (Acts 7:54-8:4) God assured the apostle Paul that the Gospel would prevail even in dark places like Corinth! (Acts 18:6-11) God showed us what His Word can do over the magic occult of Ephesus through ordinary people! (Acts 19) God showed us similarly how He delights in using the missional living of ordinary followers like in Epaphras in Colossae! (Colossians 1:7) While we're never promised an easy life, God reminds His followers that He (like in Deuteronomy 31) will never leave or forsake us! (Hebrews 13:5)

Oh, what confidence we should have in light of our Lord's commands and promises! Let us ponder our God's wondrous work in our own testimonies with His deliverance and grace! Let us allow the words of Deuteronomy 31:6-8 be the resounding beat of our hearts as we advance forward for Jesus! Let us be strong and courageous, for we have God Almighty on our side! He is building His church through ordinary people like us. Let us bolster our confidence, trust, and worship as such! May God raise up our younger generations in this same bold, faith-held, and worship-infused passion to advance forward with our God!

 

May Jesus Fame Truly Spread,

Derek

 

 

Our Deliverer, Our Solace

I was reading in Exodus today about Israel's deliverance from Egypt. Although the parting of the Red Sea and the host of other miraculous deliverances of Israel are familiar to us, I think we often take them for granted. Can you relate? Consider the Red Sea deliverance in Exodus 14 for a moment. Can you imagine what it must have been like! Imagine as we all are just delivered from an oppressive people, only after years of slavery and miraculous acts of judgment from our captors. Imagine we are all finally allowed to leave into the wilderness. Imagine the relatively swift departure from this land, an oppressive land but the one you've come to know your entire life. Imagine as we all depart not for a day-long interstate trip with air-conditioning and a hotel with a pool later that night. Instead, we all depart on a dusty road and set off for hundreds of miles of sheer wilderness. Of course, we are all steadied and at ease because God Himself is leading and delivering us… at least we want to believe this. Imagine then after all this we approach the mighty Red Sea with the Egyptians deciding to now chase us, attempting to bring us back into slavery. Now, given that context, what would our response be? Consider Israel's response to their predicament: "When the Israelites saw the king and his army coming after them, they were very frightened and cried to the Lord for help. They said to Moses, 'What have you done to us? Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in the desert? There were plenty of graves for us in Egypt. We told you in Egypt, 'Let us alone; we will stay and serve the Egyptians.' Now we will die in the desert.'" (Exodus 14:10-12)

What would our response be? I think I am often so quick to criticize Israel for their lack of belief and grumbling before God. However, I often find myself succumbing to the same attitude. Even after countless testaments to God's work of deliverance in my own life, it's so easy to immediately doubt and question God amidst a trial. I think it's often easier to even succumb to our own desires for the "satisfaction" that sin and our own way offers, than to trust in God's plan. Can you relate?

Of course, we read Moses' response (which ultimately is God's response to the people) in verse 13, "But Moses answered, 'Don't be afraid! Stand still and you will see the LORD save you today. You will never see these Egyptians again after today. You only need to remain calm; the LORD will fight for you.'" 

The rest of the story is quite familiar to us. Imagine then as we all watch in the dark that night as God commands Moses to spread his staff out over this massive body of water. Imagine then as the east wind blows in and the waters part. There lying right in front of us is dry ground! Now, with the massive amount of people maybe you're camped with your family near the back of the group. Imagine as the massive encampment of Israelites begin to erupt in wonder at God's parting of the waters. Well, all night long we all cross the seabed on dry ground, and watch as God thwarts Egypt's attempt to overtake us.

What would be our response to such deliverance? Exodus 15 is testament to their response… namely, worship. Moses leads the people in resounding praise at God's clear act of deliverance. Yet, as the Biblical story unfolds, Israel continually wrestled with trusting in God's leading.

Question, why do we so often doubt God's leading in our lives? I ask myself even as I write this, why I so often doubt God's leading and ability to deliver and give me strength to persevere? So, can you relate to Israel's struggle? Can you relate to my struggle? I'm sure we all can at various points in our lives.

May we, the redeemed in Jesus, recall (along with Israel) God's wondrous acts of deliverance and leading in our own lives. May we bolster our confidence in Him! And, may we along with Israel in Exodus 15, respond to our God's leading and persevering strength with resounding worship!

 

For the Spread of His Fame,

Derek

 

 

 

Let the Nations Be Glad!

I'm super amped (really, really excited) to launch a new study this Sunday in the Koinonia group! My attention is drawn to a book by John Piper, entitled, Let the Nations Be Glad. Piper's subtitle is "The Supremacy of God in Missions," but don't let the title and subtitle automatically shuffle this book into strictly a missions category. The Biblical truths in this book reveal God's desire and plan as central to the entire Biblical storyline and as central as the very reason we exist on planet earth. Therefore, the message of Let the Nations Be Glad extols our God's majesty and His supreme desire and plan to redeem His own from the nations to authentically redeemed worship of His Name. To be missional is the very reason we draw each breath and therefore encapsulates every aspect of our daily lives.

 

Consider this quote that packs the punch of God's plan for the ages and our involvement in it:

"The New Testament does not present a come-see religion, but a go-tell religion… (Matt. 18:18-20)… The implications of this are huge for the way we live and the way we think about money and lifestyle. One of the main implications is that we are 'sojourners and exiles' (1 Peter 2:11) on the earth. We do not use this world as though it were our primary home. 'Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ' (Phil. 3:20). This leads to a wartime lifestyle. That means we don't amass a wealth to show the world how rich our God can make us. We work hard and seek a wartime austerity for the cause of spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth. We maximize giving to the war effort, not comforts at home. We raise our children with a view to helping them embrace the suffering that it will cost to finish the mission." (Let the Nations Be Glad, John Piper, p. 29)

 

Piper later writes, "Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. It's the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into white-hot enjoyment of God's glory." (Let the Nations Be Glad, John Piper, p. 35)

 

The entire storyline of God's Revealed Word calls His followers to this God-glorifying among the nations purpose… from Exodus where God rescued His people to display His glory to the nations, to the countless Psalms where God's glory among the nations is extolled, to Isaiah where God created His people for His glory among the nations, to the Gospels in the New Testament where Jesus submitted to the Father's will to bring His glory to the nations, to Paul's epistles where the very plan of redemption serves to give God glory throughout the nations, to John's Revelation where we see the culmination of God's redeemed gathered from all nations for His glory.

As we peer into Scripture's story, we see our great, majestic, Redeemer God full of truth and grace sovereignly reigning over the nations. We see this, our great God unfolding HIs plan for the nations. We see this, our great God redeeming a people from every tribe and tongue to Himself through Jesus. We see this, our great God actively setting things back to His original plan before sin. As we see this is fundamentally God's activity and plan in His Word, we begin to clearly deduce that our existence is fundamentally connected to it as well. 

 

Do you see it? This is so fundamental to our very existence! Think about it for a moment. Why to you exist on this earth? If it is true that we indeed exist for the sole purpose of worshiping our great God and spreading His fame and plan of redemption, how are living up to it? Are we passionate about or worship of God? Are we passionate about missions. I'm not talking about the missions that subdivides a certain aspect of the church to "missions." While we as the church are to have a missions program, we more deeply drastically need to see our calling to be missional as fundamental to our very existence! This goes far deeper and carries drastically wider implications than just for full-time ministry workers and missionaries. Whatever our calling in life, we are inseparably called to redeemed worship of our great God and the spreading of this through living missionally in this world.

 

If you're like me and tracking with all this up to this point, you'd respond with a resounding, "gulp" or "wow!" This is quite the calling! It is something that continues to deeply uproot previous missiological assumptions and those ever present seasons of apathy in my own life. How are we doing living up to our fundamental purpose on this earth?

How are you engaging the nations as part of this calling?

 

This is the study that I am extremely amped to launch this Sunday in the Koinonia Sunday school. If you're interested in getting a copy of Piper's book for yourself, check it out!

 

Note, I will probably occasionally blog and/or share related resources about it as we go through the study in the coming weeks. Look for more content on the blog and the church app!

 

For the Spread of His Fame,

Derek

 

 

 

Letter to Corinth... Jesus is Your Identity!

Well, in the Koinonia young adult group we just wrapped up our 6 month study in 1 Corinthians. Wow, what a great book! If you haven't lately checked out Paul's letters to the church at Corinth, maybe you should. We found this first canonical letter to the Corinthians to be extremely relevant for us the church today! In a world racked with moral depravity, God redeemed a people to Himself. Think about the most morally deprave city in our modern world, and equate that to Biblical Corinth. Is it possible for God to redeem a people to Himself out of a place like Amsterdam, Las Vegas, or some city in Thailand where moral depravity is extremely prevalent? Yes, absolutely! Just like God did in Corinth, God is quite capable of redeeming a people to Himself out of deprave contexts. Furthermore, living out the Gospel's implications as a follower of Jesus amidst an outright morally deprave culture presents itself with some intense challenges. Such was the case for the early Christians in Corinth. Much of Paul's letter to them in 1 Corinthians revolves around pointing them to their identity in Jesus amidst a sin-enslaved and obsessed world.

 

1 Corinthians… an awesome letter highly applicable in our modern church context!

 

Check out the basic chapter content of 1 Corinthians in this summary handout!

 

Grace,

Derek

 

 

 

God Shaped Sexuality

* Note: Just as the woman in the Song of Solomon warns to not awaken love before it's time, you may want to use discretion in allowing your kids to read this post. While we believe it is an essential aspect needing to be addressed, we also want to be sensitive toward the younger age groups who may stumble across this post.

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Recently my attention has been directed toward God’s design of mankind as sexual beings. As we progressed through a study in the Koinonia group on 1 Corinthians, we approached chapters 6 and 7. It is here that the apostle Paul deals with confusion and compromise regarding sexual issues within the Corinthian church body. This topic led us to a brief study of the Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon).

The topic of sexuality is far too often overlooked in our churches, yet we live in a world bombarded with sexual onslaughts. It doesn’t take long for one to see our world’s obsession with this aspect of humanity. The pornography industry for one example continues to infiltrate and affect scores of people throughout our world. In fact, society’s obsession with sexuality has led many Christians to either moral compromise and apathy or a stance of separation that paints sexuality as being almost gross.

Amidst a world chalked full of sexual images and headstrong sexual depravity, God provides us His purpose for His intentional sexual design. We as creatures fashioned in our God’s very likeness, picture aspects of our Maker. God’s intentional design involves the union of the female and male attributes of His Image in a wonderfully united and God-glorifying way. As husbands apply the truths of Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3, we depict Jesus’ love for the church in the understandingly, grace-infused interaction with our wives. Likewise, as wives apply the truths of Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3, they depict the church’s adoration of Jesus in their lovingly, submissive and honoring interaction with their husbands. These complementing and God-glorifying aspects of marriage and God’s redeemed image pictured in the marriage also relate to the bedroom. In other words, the sexual aspect of our marriages should take on the same forms seen in Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3, 1 Corinthians 7, etc. Our attitude toward our spouses must be shaped by the Gospel and God’s own gracious treatment of us. Our interaction then in moments of intimacy must also reflect God’s own gracious treatment of us. We are called in marriage to lovingly serve each other out of a hearts of adoration for each other, ultimately stemming from a heart of worship for our God.

I heard a secular love song the other day that quite surprised me. It was actually a call to rekindle the love between a husband and wife. As the blood-bought redeemed adopted children of the Maker of the universe, our marriages should reflect His intentional design and give Him glory. Why does the world look at Christian marriage and think it's boring? Why are so many marriages stuck in a rut? Why are sexual issues some of the most divisive problems within marriages? Oh, may we apply God's design in our marriages. May we relish in God's intentional enjoyment that comes with marital intimacy. May we delight in the "wife of our youth." Wives, may you delight in the "husband of your youth." May we continually allow the Gospel and our love for our Redeemer God help shape our marriages! Those of you reading this who are married, seek to apply God's grace in your marriage! May we seek to make marriage look like a blast! May we seek to make marriage look like a deep-cherished commitment. Even in those rough spells that come in the course of every marriage, may our application of the Gospel in our marriages make marriage look godly. May we simply apply consistently God's intentional design for marriage.

As we allow God’s intentional design for our sexuality to be redeemed in our own lives and marriages, we will stand out in our sex-saturated world. May we allow Scripture to shape the way we understand, live with, sacrifice for, and serve our spouse. Men, may we realize our calling to adore and honor our wives in ways that sometimes call us to give up our own supposed rights or needs. Women, may you realize your calling to honor and submit to your husbands in ways that call you to shower him with grace. Those of you who are single, may you realize your current calling to live as God has so chosen for you right now. May you truly heed the warning of the woman in the Song of Songs to not rush and awaken love before it’s time. During your time of waiting, may you honor the opposite sex in sexually redeemed ways.

Sexuality must be redeemed in our world today! This is certainly one aspect of culture that stands in desperate need of redemption! We see it in our own area on Alaska’s road system, across Alaska’s villages, and I’m sure you see it in your own area as well. May we strive to courageously deny ourselves and serve our God and the husband or wife he graces us with out of redeemed hearts of worship.

Grace,
Derek