Reflections from Bethel

My heart and mind are full of thoughts since our move to Bethel last week. I look back on this past year and rejoice in everything God led us through. What a privilege to serve our sovereign God! The events leading up to our move as well as the actual move truly boast of God's orchestration.

Since hitting the ground in Bethel, I am eager to get plugged in reaching people for Jesus! However, life and ministry in this context doesn't always move quickly. Laura is transitioning into her new job, and her schedule works well for our family and ministry goals here.

While there are several ministry opportunities to get involved in this summer, we are carefully praying through what will best unify with the vision God has given us. 

The primary area of focus I wish to exalt for prayer is the Gospel's work across our state. There are so many villages that desperately need passion and unity over the Gospel. I'm not talking about a superficial, "yeah, I prayed that prayer as a kid gospel." What I am burdened for is the authentic Gospel that literally redefines life, period. What remote Alaska desperately needs is a move of God that grips His people here to the core with the gut-wrenching, radical, missional, culture-shaping, freeing, victorious, powerful, Jesus-exalting, self-abasing, unifying, authentic Gospel.

I feel a little like the apostle Paul in Corinth in Acts 18:10 where God assured him that He had many that the Gospel would reach in that region. What confidence Paul had in declaring the Gospel. Likewise, what confidence we should have in our God's work of salvific drawing in our own contexts! Jesus is building His church, and He will not let even one of the Father's chosen sheep escape redemption! (Matt. 16:13-19, Luke 15:1-7, John 10:1-21)

May we have the confidence and faith to pray for God's continual work across our own context in Alaska!

 

For the Spread of His Fame,

Derek

Scripture-Shaped Praying

Picking up on another Let the Nations Be Glad post, I wanted to include some of Piper's writings regarding prayer.

Interestingly I read as Piper explained how prayer can often be too elevated above its intended role. Now, if you're like me and thinking, you may say, huh? Let me further explain. He continued to explain that prayer is often elevated in our emphasis on it over the Word of God. His basic point was that the Scriptures clearly elevate the Word as the supreme active agent in missions, with prayer as a necessary supportive tool. His point was simply that we can often emphasize prayer in a misinforming way that misdirects our prayers. The end result is a prayer focus that centers on peripheral things, and misses what is really to be at the core of our passion for God.

Let me give you a few examples in Piper's own words:

Speaking of the Ephesians 6 life is war context, John Piper writes, "Until you believe that life is war, you cannot know what prayer is for. Prayer is for the accomplishment of a wartime mission. It is as though the field commander (Jesus) called in the troops, gave them a crucial mission ('Go and bear fruit'), handed each of them a personal transmitter coded to the frequency of the general's headquarters, and said, 'Comrades, the general has a mission for you. He aims to see it accomplished. And to that end he has authorized me to give each of you personal access to him through these transmitters. If you stay true to his mission and seek his victory first, he will always be as close as your transmitter, to give tactical advice and to send in air cover when you or your comrades need it.' But what have millions of Christians done? They have stopped believing that we are in a war. No urgency, no watching, no vigilance, no strategic planning. Just easy peacetime and prosperity. And what did they do with the walkie-talkie? They tried to rig it up as an intercom in their cushy houses and cabins and boats and cars--not to call in firepower for conflict with a mortal enemy, but to ask the maid to bring another pillow to the den." (John Piper, "Prayer," an online sermon at www.DesiringGod.org.)

Much of Piper's point centers on our misguided use of prayer. Do we approach prayer in a way that elevates our own selfish desires? Or, do we recognize the greater heart and mission of God (and therefore our mission), and then allow that to shape the way we pray?

Furthermore, the Scriptures are packed with references upholding Scripture as the active agent, the sword of the Spirit in the offensive effort to live for God's purposes on this sin-racked earth (Acts 19:20; Romans 1:16, 10:17; Ephesians 6:17-18; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23).
The Word of God and prayer go together; one exalted as the means to do God's work and the other upheld as a way of supporting the work of the Word. In John 17 and Acts 4:29 we read of the precedence of calling on God for boldness to speak His Word boldly. In 2 Thessalonians 3:1 we read of the prayer for God to amplify the working of the Word. In Colossians 4:3 Paul's prayer is for a door of open opportunity for the Word to work. In 1 Timothy 6:12 and 2 Timothy 4:7 we see life depicted as a fight or a war. Finally, in Ephesians 6 Paul speaks of this life-wartime context. He writes that we wrestle not against mere flesh and blood, but against cosmic powers of darkness. The offensive weapon Paul then lists in verse 17 for this war is the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Then in the very next verse (18) we read the participle translated "so," directly connecting verse 18 on prayer to verse 17 regarding the Word's offensive work. Thus, prayers are seen as a supportive catalyst to the offensive weapon of the Word.

Do we pray in this way? Do we even view life in this New Testament depicted way? We do truly have so much to be thankful for, and a life lived with Jesus is indeed joyful. However, while we are promised God's faithful presence and joy lived in Him, we also see the Scriptures depict a life lived in Him as a struggle against the cosmic powers of darkness. No, I'm not getting all Star Wars on us. Seriously, the powers of Satan, sin, and our own flesh are a very real thing. It is these struggles that we wage war against while walking through life. Do we view Scripture as paramount in this life-battle? Do we view prayer as necessary to commune with our Commander for strength and victory from His Word in the battle?

Here's my last thought… Are our prayers then shaped by this mentality? Think about it. How many times do I catch myself praying in a misguided way? How many times do I pray for someone to get better from some sickness or bad thing in their lives rather than pray for Jesus to do His work of refining in their lives. Regarding missions, how often do we pray just for safety and vague concerns for well-being? Oh, we can and should pray for healing and safety, but do we pray for spiritual growth as well? How often do we pray for God's Word to do it's intended offensive work in people's lives?

These truths are surely convicting. It is my prayer to simply offer them here for you to likewise consider.

For the Spread of His Fame,
Derek

Worship, Missions, and Life

Greetings! I just wanted to check in and share some stuff that I am really enjoying going through with the Koinonia group from our Let the Nations Be Glad study.

 

The study itself finds it's roots in a principle inseparably connected to the Scriptures as a whole. However, Psalm 67 rings clear on the study's central premise. 

 

"May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, Selah

that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon the earth. Selah

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.

God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear Him!"

- Psalm 67, ESV

 

The totality of the Scriptures are resoundingly clear that our fundamental existence on planet earth is for the spread of our God's fame/glory. From the Old Testament way of dwelling amidst God's presence through the promised land and the sacrificial system to the New Testament's focus on Jesus' redemption, the centerpiece is the exaltation of God's great fame. The centerpiece of the Scriptures, really then, is worship. We are created for worship. Sin corrupts this. The Old Testament shows our gracious God's dealing with His people to point them back to His holiness through their faith in His redemptive provision through His law and sacrificial system. The New Testament (that which the entire Old Testament pointed toward) shows our gracious God's sovereignty and mind-boggling work of redeeming His own to Himself through faith in His provision in the form of Jesus.

Missions therefore exists because worship does not. Missions must exist therefore, to beckon fallen humanity back to worship. This, of course, is a provision and work that only God can accomplish. We post-New-Testament humanity have the incredible privilege (along with people like the Ephesians in Eph. 1:10) of heralding the truly, infinitely good news of Jesus and the redemption His work offers.

From texts like Ephesians 1:5-6, Romans 3:25, and 1 Peter 3:18, we see that Jesus' purpose was consumed with His zeal for the spread of the Father's glory. In John 11:1-6 we see a clear example of God's love and the exaltation of His glory. After hearing of Lazarus' imminent death, the text says that because of Jesus' love for His friends, He remained for the purpose of glorifying God. Do you see the connection to God's loving plan and the exalting of His glory?

Oh, this all carries such profound implications for us today! Do we recognize that our God is truly worthy of worship? Do we truly realize that our God is on mission to spread His worship throughout the nations? Do we truly realize that our fundamental existence on planet earth is inseparably connected to this purpose? Are we truly enamored in worship of our great God? It is then precisely that enamored worship that should be the flame in our missiological outlook, passion, involvement, and prayer!

 

For the Spread of His Fame,

Derek

 

 

 

Passionate Worship

I have to admit this story gave me a smile.  A kindergarten student was so committed to her parents’ alma mater that she would not color a picture of the mascot from the rival school, even though it was a required assignment in school.  The teacher was not happy, but her parents were pleased that she stuck up for her convictions.  Eventually, the little girl colored the picture (Because Mom said she had to), handed it in and threw it away when she received it back from her teacher.  The story spread like wildfire at the alma mater to the point where the little girl was the guest of honor at a recent Big 12 Conference game.  It is a great, lighthearted story that has at least 2 powerful reminders for Christians.

The first one is – how passionate is our worship of Jesus?  Would we do the same thing for Christ?  How quickly we show our passion at athletic events for our favorite players and teams – would we do the same for the Kingdom!

The second brief reminder is similar – how much does passion for Christ please the Father.  The little girl received great ‘rewards’ for her passion to a university.  How much more will the Lord honor those who have suffered and died for Christ!  In fact , we will ge the greatest reward imaginable – we will receive Him! 

Revelation 21:3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

I hope that these story stir up our passion for the Lord and our desire to honor him in all we are, even at the cost of everything we hold dear in this life. 

KS

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

 

 

 

Wow!

And they will say, “Come, behold the works of God who multiplies his wonders upon the children of men!” – Psalm 66:5

I hope you were able to watch the Northern Lights from the last solar storm. In Soldotna, they were visible @ 1:30 in the morning – I set my alarm to get up and see them. It is always a spectacular sight and my heart was moved with gratitude.

However, something else moved my heart even more. In order to get a better look at the skies, I drove my younger two children out from town (about 2 miles). There, we could see auroras that were calendar-picture quality. When I pointed them out to my son and daughter, they each said the same word independent of each other – ‘Wow!’

That word gave me such joy – to see my children beholding the majesty and power of God – to together worship Him with that simple exclamation of praise. My prayer for them, for me and for you is that we all maintain that wonder in our hearts at the power, goodness and love of our saving God. I hope God shows you something that will make you say ‘Wow!’ like a child.

KS

Do you think we’ll be saying ‘Wow’ in heaven often? What will you say when you finally see your risen Savior face to face?

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

 

 

 

The Captain

The collision between a cruise ship and a sand bar near Italy has been big news all around the world. The conduct of the captain has some calling for criminal charges. I liked this quote from CNN, quoting a US Coast Guard veteran, lawyer and Coast Guard Academy Instructor – "If you're going to be master of a ship, your responsibility is first to your passengers, second to your crew, then you look after yourself," said Allen, a Coast Guard veteran. "It's shameless and dishonorable [for the captain] to take himself out of the mix like that."

Jesus made a different choice – to insert Himself ‘into the mix’, so to speak. He chose to identify with a rebellious crew of shipwrecked sinners. As Hebrews 2:9-10 puts it (better than I ever could), "But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder (or captain) of their salvation perfect through suffering."

The captain in Italy chose to save himself and was dishonored and worse. Jesus – My Lord, my Savior, my Captain - chose not to save himself, but us. Because of that, God honors Him – and we should to. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Luke 9:24

KS

Movie ratings

I hope all of you that came out to the Bible Chapel’s showing of the movie Courageous had a great night.  My family did – we thought it was an awesome movie!  While I enjoyed the cinemaphotography, the ending where men were challenged to serve their families was absolutely the best part of the movie.

The very beginning threw me for a surprise, though – a PG-13 rating.  Now I am not going to say that the movie did not have moments of violence and talked about drugs – after all, when you discuss sin, some unpleasant details usually follow, even in Scripture.  No, what threw me was the realization that my 12- and 10-year old children would not be allowed to see this movie in a theater without an adult, yet other movies that are far less redeeming lack that filter.

We need to have filters on out entertainment.  The question, Christian, is what filter do you use?  Do you use the world’s filter of G, PG, etc.?  Or do you do the hard work of digging into the media, analyzing the content against the Bible, and use that – along with your knowledge of your family – to make entertainment decisions?  The latter requires much more work, but brings about much bigger blessings – kinda the theme of Courageous, no?

KS

P.S. – A resource my family uses to help with these decisions is http://www.pluggedin.com/ by Focus on the Family – give it a try!

Pico de Orizaba

Pico de Orizaba has been on our radar for quite some time. Peter Neumann, Mark Christison, Rob & Mary Aumer, and I have been dreaming, scheming, and working on this climb for months. We knew it wasn't an overly hard climb in regard to technicality... it's pretty much a walk up and at least from my perspective, a comfortable mountain... except for a little reality called altitude. Peter, Mark, and I were coming from close to sea level and within two days would ascend to 14,000 feet. This is a big jump. Some of us were on the drug Diamox, a high altitude helper, yet it's one thing to climb a peak in the Colorado Rockies at this elevation, it's entirely an another thing to live at that altitude for days on end - and climb higher. We had a stellar altitude schedule put together by Peter, and we began what is commonly done in the big mountains, climb high - sleep low. We did acclimation climbs the first two days getting to 16,230 feet on our last one. Then we took a rest day and prepared for our summit bid which would start at 12 midnight in the pitch black dark. Our summit day would be somewhere around 14 to 16 hours of steady climbing through the dark morning scrambling up and over rocky debris going higher and higher into oxygen deprived air. This would give us a summit time of around 9 to 10am in the daylight and plenty of time to descend. Our summit peak - 18,400 feet or close to 6,000 meters. Pico is the 3rd highest mountain on the North American Continent only 1,900 feet shy of Denali (Mt. McKinley). 

Alarm clocks went off at 11pm and close to 12am midnight all our gear was on and we headed out into the thick darkness of night with a beast of a mountain looming over us in the starlight. All of us were excited and felt confident as we proceeded up the mountain, Rob searching for the correct path through the minefield of rock. As we climbed higher we started to separate in speed and took periodic breaks to bring us all back together. It was evident that Peter was not up to his usual self and yet he pursued on giving it his best. At one point, we convened to discuss our progress and our worry that Peter may not have the gas to make the summit, let alone get back down safely. There is a well-known saying from the American climber Ed Viesturs who has summited Mt. Everest 7 times... "Summiting is optional, getting back down is not." We all agree. I have to hand it to my friend, Peter was in full awareness of his condition, yet he was not willing to give up the summit that easily. So we proceeded to the "The Labyrinth," a jumble of huge volcanic boulders encased in ice, beginning at 15,500 feet and ascending to 16,200 feet. At this point, one must put crampons on their feet and climb with their ice axe for safety. It was here that Peter knew he was in no shape for the summit. I'm very glad he did not persist, for this rock, ice, and angle were a deadly combination if one fell. 

We all stared at Peter, at each other, and our freezing feet as we reluctantly talked about what to do. We were not guided clients. Clients who hire a climbing guide pay for a summit opportunity. Clients who climb with a guide service have people who ferry those who can't make the summit off the mountain. We were on our own. We were responsible for all logistics for the trip and.... we are responsible for each other. None of us had been in a situation quite like this before. None of us wanted to summit without Peter. None of us wanted to forfeit the summit ourselves. Yet, at 15,500 feet in the cold darkness a decision needed to be made.

I've been known to speak before I think... this was not one of those times. As the words eased out of my mouth that I would go down the mountain with Peter in the pitch black dark to make certain he was safe, every bit of preparation in the gym and planning came into vision. Cardio with a 65 pound pack, weight training for months. The time away from my two girls and wife that I love, the money spent on hotels, hostels, food, gear, and the ridiculously high 55,500 mile award ticket to make a 22 hour travel day to the mountain. I was in great shape, acclimated for the climb, and ready to stand on that summit. 

...It all flashed before my eyes. 

.... and the exhausted and sick look of my friend was IN my eyes. 

I have no regrets for going down the mountain with Peter. I would do it again. I have an obligation to my friends to watch after them when they need help - and they have the same obligation to me. One day I may need to collect. 

Peter and I had many talks in the preceding hours and days. He came on the climb tired from work and busyness of life, and became sick. Not necessarily AMS, but probably from a chubby kid sneezing and coughing all over him on his flight down to Mexico. When you combine the effects of altitude to the mix, where doing everything is 4x as hard plus sleepless nights - you have a recipe for disaster. It wasn't Peter's fault, it could have happened to any of us. 

Peter & I didn't make it to the top. But our friendship has strengthened even more and as a group of climbers we have grown deeper through conflict. 

"A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need." Proverbs 17:17 

Peter & I have unfinished business with Pico de Orizaba. We'll be back, Lord willing.

TB

Strategic Living

Well, Christmas is over and 2012 has begun.  Many people are sad that their decorations have been boxed up until next December.  I am not – my feelings toward Christmas are much more ambivalent.  I enjoy the songs, the Story and the giving spirit that seems to flourish at the end of the year, not to mention the food!  The focus of stuff – material possessions – does not me feeling jolly on December 25th.

I don’t know about you, but I suspect that your house is like mine – you have too much stuff.  I have more clothes than I can use in a month, yet I keep getting more.  Same with movies, books, etc.  There is a part of me that just wants to pitch it all and not have to deal with it – especially on a day when I have to tend to dirty and/or broken stuff that clogs my ‘to-do’ list like leaves in a rain gutter.

Just getting rid of things, though, is not the answer.  My stuff can distract me from the battle that is raging all around – the battle for souls.  A better question that Randy Alcorn asks is this – Does my stuff work towards Christ’s Kingdom or not?  As a soldier of Christ, is this item a strategic necessity or a liability?  Sometimes that book I want will help me grow in Christ; other times that movie ticket will leave me further from His purposes.  This dinner out or vacation might be just the R&R a soldier needs; that 4th dinner out this week might be draining away money better spent (or given away!) somewhere else.

I hope and pray that your checkbook in 2012 will reflect strategic living choices.  Please pray for me that my checkbook will reflect the same.

KS

(For a great resource on this topic, click here.)

This Christmas, God is Not Dead!

Merry Christmas to all!

Whether you read this before Christmas day, on Sunday, or after Christmas, I want to encourage you to come out for our Sunday morning worship service on Christmas day! (Note: There will be no Sunday school or evening service.) Our Christmas morning together will be a time filled with Christmas worship, special music, and a Christmas message from Isaiah 9. I trust you look forward to passionately praising our Jesus this Christmas day! As mentioned, there will be more special music than normal, and the worship team will be comprised of our young adult team. Finally, I am especially amped (super excited) to break open God's Word on this special day! If you have anyone God places on your heart, please invite them... the name of Jesus, our Salvation, will be lifted high!

Now, you may be wondering what's up with the "God is Not Dead" title above. We'll be breaking this down further from our text in Isaiah 9:1-7 on Sunday. Basically, the concept is that Christmas is all about redemption! Amidst times when all hope seems lost, God has an active plan of redemption. This Christmas, will you see the profoundness of the simple Christmas story?

In keeping with this theme, the lyrics and backstory of the Christmas carol "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" fits so well. Watch the video below for a depiction of the hope of redemption found in the story behind this well-known Christmas song.

 

 

Also, one of my favorite modern Christmas-themed songs is "While You Were Sleeping" by Casting Crowns. I included a video/song below for your additional reflection!

 

 

 

May you all truly have a joyous Christmas week, and may we all joyfully anticipate our time of worship and reflection this Christmas Sunday!

Resting in His Redemption this Christmas,

Derek

 

 

 

 

Doctrine Study Questions

 Download Pastor John's Call to Ministry and Doctrinal Statement Here

Download a Copy of the Doctrine Questions (Below) Here

Bibliology – The Doctrine of Divine Revelation

Define and distinguish inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility.

What were some of the criterion used for accepting a book as inspired Scripture? 

How would you respond to someone who denied the inerrancy of the Bible based textual variants (the fact that no two manuscripts agree entirely)?  

Distinguish between special and general revelation.

How would you defend a literal account of creation as recorded in Genesis 1-3?

Define and discuss the doctrine of illumination

 

Theology – The Doctrine of God

Defend Trinitarianism

What is the difference between God’s moral attributes and His non-moral attributes?  Give an example of each.

How would you respond to someone who says, “If God is love, then why do bad things happen to good people?

 

Christology – The Doctrine of Christ

Defend the deity and humanity of Christ.

What is the significance of the incarnation?

To what does the Kenosis refer?

What is a Christological theophany and give a Scripture reference.

What does the resurrection of Christ signify for the believer?

 

Pneumatology – the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

Scripturally defend the deity of the Holy Spirit.

What is the role of the Holy Spirit in conversion?

What does it mean to be baptized by the Holy Spirit?

What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

How would you respond to someone who argued that the charismatic/miraculous gifts are still active today?  What Scriptures would you use?

 

Anthropology & Hamartiology – The Doctrines of Humanity and Sin

What does it mean when the Bible says that man is created in God’s image?

Contrast the dichotomist and trichotomist views of man.  Which way do you lean and why?

Biblically, how do men and women differ?

Where did sin originate?  What are the universal and individual consequences of sin?

How would you defend that people are sinful not only in their actions, but also in their nature? 

 

Soteriology – The Doctrine of Salvation

What is the gospel?

What must a person do to be saved?  How is the Lordship of Christ tied to this discussion?  Is repentance essential to conversion?

Define and defend the doctrine of the Atonement.

Define and defend the doctrine of regeneration.

Define and defend the doctrine of justification.

Define and defend the doctrine of sanctification.

Define and defend the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.  What passages are essential in this discussion?

What is Arminianism?  What is Calvinism?  Respond to each view.

 

Ecclesiology – The Doctrine of the Church

What are God’s requirements for church leaders?  Can a man be an elder who has been divorced in the past?

What is the difference between elders and deacons?  Defend and define the role of a deaconess.

What is the proper process for church discipline?  What circumstances or situations warrant beginning this process?

What’s the difference between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church?

What components constitute a New Testament Church as opposed to simply a gathering of Christians?

What is the role of women in the church?

What are the ordinances prescribed in the New Testament Church?  What is the proper way for administering these ordinances?  

What do you believe is the primary purpose of the local church?

 

Angelology & Eschatology – The Doctrines of Angels and Last Things

What are angels?  Why were they created?  Who is Satan?

Do you believe Christians can be processed?  Oppressed?  

Discuss the binding of Satan?  How would you respond biblically to the charismatic teaching on the issue?

Discuss the various millennial positions (Amillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Premillennialism).  

Define and defend the rapture of the church.  What are the various views? 

Give a general timeline of end time events. 

 

Practical Theology

Can a Christian be possessed or oppressed in any way by a demon?

What does it mean to “give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:27)?

If a Christian asked you what the Bible teaches about divorce and remarriage, what would you tell him/her?

If someone asked you why your church kicks people out, how would you respond?

If someone asked you why your church doesn’t have women preaching or teaching adult classes where men are in attendance, what would you tell them and what passages would you use?

If a Christian asked you if they have to forgive someone who doesn’t ask for forgiveness, how would you answer?

How would you defend the existence of God to an atheist/agnostic? 

 

 

Urgent Need for This Hope

Bretheren - what a great opportunity for This Hope's home church to be a blessing!  Sunday Morning (11/20/11), we'll be taking a love offering to help our boys stay on the road.  Let's give them an extra blessing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season!  Pastor John

Greetings from THIS HOPE.  We wanted to let you know about an urgent financial need.  We just learned that we have to replace the entire engine in our bus at a cost of $40,000.  In the past, we have been able to absorb unforeseen expenses like this, but we are not able to cover this cost at the present time.  We are praying in faith that the Lord will provide the needed funds for us to purchase a new engine, and even put us in a more solid financial position to begin the new year. 

We're sharing this need with you for two reasons.  First, we ask that you would join with us in bringing this before the Lord in prayer.  Above everything else, we want the Lord's will to be clearly demonstrated, and His glory to be magnified in this situation.  While this expense has the very real potential to bring our traveling concert ministry to it's conclusion, we also don't want to miss out on how He might provide beyond all that we could ask or imagine.  

With that in mind, we are also asking that you would prayerfully consider how you might be able to help us.  We don't want anyone to take away from their existing financial commitments to the local church or any other Christian ministry.  We're asking that you seek the Lord's face, and consider how He might direct you to help us continue moving forward.  If the Lord guides you to participate in this need, you can make out a check payable to THIS HOPE, and send it to the address listed below.  We also have a secure online webpage where donations can be given via debit or credit card:   http://www.thishope.org/support.php 


THIS HOPE is incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Your gifts are tax-deductible.

There will be a 6-8 week turn-around time for the engine replacement which will start whenever we are able to place an order for the new engine at an initial cost of $20,000.  We will be traveling in a 15-passenger van until the bus is fixed, so please pray that the Lord will keep us physically strong and healthy during this grueling season.  We currently have 21 concerts scheduled over 22 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas day.  Due to the change in our transportation, we've had to modify our travel plans, and adjust concerts in order to effectively minister throughout this time.

Thanks for your faithful support over the years.  We look forward to see how God will direct in the days to come.

Mailing Address:

This Hope
1061 Deer Hollow Dr
Woodstock, GA  30189


www.thishope.org

Theology of Suffering

Below is a link to Sunday's message podcast file as well as the full message text and Theology of Suffering Chart download.

Podcast Message Here

Full Message Text Here

Theology of Suffering Chart Here

I pray that God continues using His Word in our lives this week! I'm sure you can relate to those moments where God really speaks to you on Sunday, but as the week ensues those particular truths begin to fade in our minds and practical everyday lives. May we truly reflect on our God's goodness, on His greatness, on His sovereignty, on His power, on His love, and on His perfect plan through the course of history. May we set our minds on His good work in our lives as a part of humanity's history. May we maintain awareness to the fact that He is redeeming a people to Himself throughout each corner of this globe. May we relish in the awesome truth that we as followers of Jesus are a part of God's full plan of redemption.

Finally, may we along with the apostle Paul develop a theology of suffering that causes our hearts to rest in our sovereign God's work of ongoing redemption of His grace-endowed people in a marred world! As we read Paul's address to the Corinthian church and then examine our own lives, may life's hardships not nullify our belief system in our eyes or the eyes of others. As our week and the days ahead ensue, may we steady our minds and hearts with the truth that our God is our sovereign refuge! May we trust in Him!

When suffering and hardship comes knocking at our door, may we submit to God's work and relish in the comfort He gives us. May we submit then to ministry opportunities He gives us as a result of our own hardship and Divine comfort. Finally, may we along with the apostle Paul be able to honestly say, "Blessed (or all praise) be to God!"

"All praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort!"      - 2 Corinthians 1:3

In His Grace,

Derek

 

Below is the video played at the outset of Sunday's service. May we pray for our fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus who suffer persecution for their identification with Jesus. No turning back, we follow Jesus!

 

Also, below is the video posted on Facebook and Twitter on Saturday night. May the message of this song (rooted in Psalm 62), "My Hope is in You Lord," truly frame our worship perspective! 

 

If interested in more in-depth look at this topic, below are two links to two books particularly helpful related to suffering and the sovereignty of God.

Halloween?

Halloween: What’s a Christian to Do?

by John Rysdyk

            The contemporary Christian often finds Halloween an uncomfortable topic.  Some want to blackball it all together because of the evil often associated with it, while others are reluctant to give up what is still a cherished childhood memory.  How should a Christian respond to this holiday known as Halloween?

            If we are to come to a conviction on the issue, some history of this particular day is needful.  It may surprise you that the celebration we know today as Halloween is actually a combination of pagan, Christian, and civil traditions.  Yet, the truth is, I could say that of almost every holiday.

            The beginnings of Halloween go back more than two thousand years.  A people called the Celts lived in what are now Ireland, Great Britain, and France.  Among the Celtic people was an elite intellectual class known as the Druids, who served as religious priests, judges, lawmakers, and scientists.  They celebrated a number of elaborate pagan religious festivals.  Chief among these was the Fire Festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-een) observed at harvest time to mark the Celtic New Year.

            The Celts believed that on this night the barrier between the natural world and the supernatural was removed, and the spirits of the dead were able to move freely among human beings.  On this night it was believed that Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans who could only escape by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves.

            In response to this pagan ritual and tradition, the church decided to offer and alternative and they invited people to celebrate Halloween.  Chrysostom tells us that as early as the fourth century, the Eastern Church celebrated a May festival that honored believers who had died.  This festival became known as “All Saints Day” or “All Hallows Day.” The night before the celebration was commonly referred to as “All Hallows Eve” or “Halloween.” On that night, the church gathered for a sacred time of worship, prayer, and testimony.  In 835 AD the church moved this day of celebration to November 1st, in order to replace the observance of Samhain.  They believed that this was a unique opportunity to declare how the Lord God can truly change one’s life.  So while the neighbors were fearfully dodging the evil spirits sent by Samhain, Christians were rejoicing in their rich heritage, a heritage that proclaimed that Christ had conquered both evil and death.  Let’s remember that our celebrations of victory in Christ are always set against the dark background of the overwhelming evil that made the cross necessary.

            Now, although pagan and church history adds light to our understanding, there are still some traditions in the U.S. that seem unique to this holiday, especially that of “trick-or-treating.”  This custom is thoroughly American in origin.  In the traditions of North America, Halloween had become an occasion for pranks and mischief.  Vandals would wander through the night, soaping windows, overturning outhouses, and pulling gates from their hinges.  These pranks were playfully said to be the work of witches and ghosts, but by the 1920’s the joke wasn’t funny anymore.  To counteract Halloween vandalism, community clubs like the Boy Scouts began to organize alternatives that were safe and fun.  Children were encouraged to go door-to-door and receive treats from homeowners and merchants, in hopes that the mere presence of so many people out in the streets would keep the troublemakers away. By the 1930s, the practice was popular nationwide and young voices crying, “Trick or treat!” were echoing through neighborhood streets.  In this way, a combination of pagan, Christian, and civic elements formed the Halloween celebration we know today.

            So in light of all this information, it is time to come back to our initial question: How should a Christian respond to this holiday known as Halloween? It is my personal opinion that the ancient Christians thought out their strategy quite well.  “All Hallow’s Eve” can be a ripe time of communicating Christ’s power over death and evil.  In fact, I think it’s quite interesting that the Reformation began on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany.  It was his proclamation to the Catholic Church that salvation was by faith in Christ alone and that the Scriptures, not popes and councils, are the standard for Christian faith and behavior.

            In my opinion, October 31, is a day Christians can and should celebrate.  Maybe as one church in Fairfax Virginia does, we should also have an “All Saints Party” for children with costumes of Bible Characters and heroes of the faith.  I’ve heard of other churches having Reformation parties.  Children need to learn their Christian heritage and Halloween may be great day to do that!

            Why allow Halloween to be a pagan holiday in commemoration for the powers of darkness? Why not instead fill the church with light and celebrate the victory of Jesus over darkness? Let’s make it a day that we celebrate our salvation through faith in Christ alone and honor the godly saints who lived before us and gave us faithful examples to follow.

 

 

Forgiveness

FORGIVENESS

by John Rysdyk

 

         The scene is a classic.  Dirty Harry, the cop, has finally come face to face with the vile criminal whose crimes are unspeakably evil.  With a gun aimed point blank at the pervert, he dares the man to make one false move by saying, “Go ahead.  Make my day.”  Vengeance is glorified as a macho virtue.

         Who has not enjoyed thoughts of vengeance?  We so often tilt the scales in favor of what we deem to be justice, feeling somehow that it is our privilege, even our duty, to see that the guilty party suffers for the wrong they’ve done.  To some degree, that is correct.  God is a God of justice.  In Exodus 23:7 He said, “I will not acquit the guilty.”  In Nahum 1:3 we are promised that “the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.”  And the New Testament reinforces the concept that “whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7) because “God’s wrath is revealed…against all ungodliness.”  So if the proverb is true that it is an abomination to “justify a sinner” (Proverbs 17:15), how does forgiveness fit in?

         Romans 4:5, 7- 8 clearly states that God does justify sinners.  His forgiveness is not contrary to His justice for one simple reason: Christ atoned for our sins.  God’s holy demand for justice was satisfied through the shedding of Christ’s blood, his death on the cross (Romans 3:24-26) on our behalf.  Because of Christ’s “payment,” God forgives our sin debt.  This is the supreme example of forgiveness.  In fact, we are commanded to forgive “just as God in Christ also has forgiven” us (Ephesians 4:32).

         Why is it necessary for us to understand forgiveness?  As anyone with counseling experience will confirm, most people who come for counseling fall into one of two categories.  Either they are suffering from guilt and need to learn about God’s forgiveness, or they are blaming others for something not right in their own lives and they need to learn how to forgive.

 

The Importance of Forgiveness

         Forgiveness is important for a number of reasons.  First, it is at the very heart of the gospel message.  God forgave us!  --Such a simple statement, yet so profound.  Were we deserving of His forgiveness?  No.  Did we earn our way into His favor?  No.  Yet He chose to forgive, having provided us with the redemption of Christ.  Without God’s forgiveness we are all hopelessly lost.  As foreign as forgiveness is to sinful human nature, it is characteristic of divine grace.

         The second reason forgiveness is important is that it is taught in Scripture.  Ephesians 4:32 strongly commands that believers be forgiving because they are to reflect the character of God.  To refuse forgiveness, therefore, is an act of direct disobedience, a vile sin.  Christ himself emphasized the importance of forgiveness when He referred to it in the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:12), then reinforced it immediately after the “amen” (verses 14-15).  His closing argument here is powerful and pointed, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  This is a severe discipline for being unforgiving.

         Christ later described both a supreme act of forgiveness and an appalling example of unforgiveness in His parable recorded in Matthew 18:23-34.  A servant was brought before a king who was found to owe the king “10,000 talents,” a number commonly used to refer to an infinite number.  Given the immensity of the debt, the servant’s situation was obviously hopeless.  Yet the king showed mercy and completely forgave the debt, even though a debt that large had most likely been accumulated through embezzlement, theft, or some other criminal means.  The mercy shown to this servant should have made him more merciful, but instead he displayed a grotesque lack of gratitude when he refused to show mercy on one who owed him a much smaller amount of money.  What arrogance to assume he had the right to extract vengeance in the same situation where the very king had shown him mercy!

         Likewise, the contrast between our debt to God and the relatively miniscule debts others may owe us is immeasurable, yet we often strut around like the wicked servant, demanding payment.  We are, in effect, saying, “It was fine for God to forgive me, but I reserve the right to refuse forgiving someone if I so choose.”  We are then in the dangerous position of placing ourselves above the King.  There is a sad and sobering conclusion to this parable.  When the master is made aware of the servant’s hypocrisy and callous lack of forgiveness, he angrily orders him to be severely punished--tortured for his evil deeds.  Then comes Christ’s application: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (verse 35).  Christians ought to be the most forgiving people on earth because they have been forgiven as no one else has.  Therefore, those who refuse to forgive are worthy of the most severe kind of discipline from the hand of a loving Father.[i]       

The third reason forgiveness is important is that it is necessary for our own personal healing and well being.  Refusal to forgive ruins relationships with God and with others.  It embitters a person and can even result in physical and emotional health problems.  David Augsburger described the prison of bitterness in this manner:

         “Bitterness slowly sets, like a permanent plaster cast, perhaps protecting the wearer from further pain, but ultimately holding him rigid in frozen animation.  His feelings and responses have turned to concrete, and, like concrete, they’re all mixed up and firmly set.  Bitterness is paralysis…bitterness cuts the nerve to our emotion.” [ii]

 

Being bitter can make people feel justified in blaming others, even God, for offenses.  Early in history Adam blamed both Eve and God for his own transgression (Genesis 3:12).  That surely seemed easier than accepting blame for the way things were.  Bitterness springs from self-centeredness.  A true understanding of biblical forgiveness can free someone from bitterness and restore broken relationships.

 

The Meaning of Forgiveness

For many years I’ve encouraged Christians to forgive others without really explaining to them what that actually means.  In my estimation, a simple reference to Colossians 3:13, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you,” was all that was necessary.  Yet, as I’ve continued to counsel, it has become quite apparent that people have attributed various nuances of meaning to this Christian grace.  So what is forgiveness, anyway?

Maybe to begin with, it would be helpful to explain what forgiveness is not.  First of all, it is not a feeling.  There is nothing in the Bible about “feelings of forgiveness” or “having forgiving feelings” toward one another. [iii]  Regardless of how I feel, God expects me to forgive.  For many in our feeling-oriented society, it is difficult to reconcile how forgiveness can be sincere if a person doesn’t feel like granting it.  To them, such a prospect seems hypocritical.  However, the truth is that many of us do things each day that are contrary to our feelings in order to be responsible.  For instance, I get up every morning--against my best instincts to stay in bed--so that I can go to work, but I don’t view that as hypocritical.  It is simply what God expects of me since I am to be the provider of the home.  In much the same way, there may be times, humanly speaking, that I would rather withhold forgiveness, for instance, should someone commit an injustice against my wife or children, but if that person should repent, God requires me to forgive, no matter how I feel.  It is my responsibility.  The only way it becomes hypocritical is if I say, “I forgive,” but in reality I do not.

Secondly, forgiveness is not forgetting, no matter what the old adage may allege.  Like it or not, it is very difficult to purge your memory of a transgression committed against you, either directly or indirectly.  In fact, the more grievous the offense, the harder it is to let it go.  Yet, because there are Scriptures that declare that when God forgives, He also promises not to remember our sins any longer (Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12; 10:17), there have been many who have wrongly asserted that God has a perfect “forgetter.”  “But to forget something, though, is to have no memory of it. Obviously, God, who is omniscient, has not lost His memory of our transgressions.  Rather, He refuses to call them to mind.  He promises not to bring them up.”  [iv]  Warren Wiersbe tells the story of the late Dr. William Sangster, one of England’s most effective Methodist preachers.

“He was addressing Christmas cards, and a house guest was shocked to see an envelope addressed to a man who had brutally attacked Sangster eighteen months before.

‘Surely you are not sending a greeting to him,’ the man said.

‘Why not?’ asked Sangster.

‘But you remember,’ the guest began.  ‘Eighteen months ago…’

Sangster recalled the thing the man had done to him, but he also recalled that at the time, he had resolved to put it out of his mind.  ‘It was a thing I would remember to forget,’ he said; and he did.”  [v]

 

In essence, Dr. Sangster was expressing that he was not going to allow this offense to affect his relationship with this man by holding it against him.  He willfully made a choice to bury the past and not to go back and dig it up at any point.  In so doing, he forgave as God forgave him.

         This is a perfect place to turn our thoughts to what forgiveness is.  There are primarily two words used in the New Testament to describe this virtue.  The first is the Greek word, aphiemi.  It means, “to let go, release or remit.”  It often refers to debts or sins that have been paid for in full and as a result, cancelled.  The other word frequently used to describe the act of forgiveness is charizomai.  It means, “to bestow a favor unconditionally,” which implies that forgiveness cannot be earned.  Therefore, forgiveness is an undeserved action that releases an individual of his or her debt for sin.  It is cancelled, never to be mentioned by God again.   From a divine perspective, it is a promise from God that our sin has been dispensed of, once for all, and He will no longer hold it against us.  W. E. Vine wrote, “Human forgiveness is to be strictly analogous to divine forgiveness.”[vi]  Paul put it this way in Ephesians 4:32: We are to forgive one another just as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us.  Therefore, following in God’s footsteps, when we forgive, we are to let go of the offense and promise to remember it no longer.  Ken Sande, in his book, The Peacemaker, characterizes this as a fourfold promise:

 

By making each of these promises, we open the door to reconciliation, peace, and unity. 

 

The Parameters of Forgiveness

Once a clear understanding of forgiveness is discerned, one might ask, “Is it ever appropriate to withhold forgiveness from someone?”  In other words, is forgiveness conditional?  There is some debate over this matter.  Jay Adams wrote,

         “It should go without saying that since our forgiveness is modeled after God’s, it must be conditional.  Forgiveness by God rests on clear, unmistakable conditions.  The apostles did not merely announce that God had forgiven men, …they were sent forth to preach ‘repentance and the forgiveness of sins’ (Luke 24:47; Acts 17:30).” [viii]

 

W. E. Vine adds, “If certain conditions are fulfilled, there is no limitation to Christ’s law of forgiveness (Matthew 18:21,22).  The conditions are repentance and confession (Matthew 18:15-17; Luke 17:3).”  [ix]  By contrast, David Augsburger wrote, “Christ’s way was the way of giving forgiveness even before asked, and even when it was not or never would be asked for by another.” [x]  As evidence for this astounding statement, he cites Christ’s prayer, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  Augsburger continues, “To think that we needn’t forgive until we are asked is a myth to be punctured!”  [xi]  Em Griffin wrote, “My conclusion is that it’s possible to forgive an unrepentant offender.  Not easy, but possible.  If it weren’t, we’d be condemned to tote around a gunnysack of bitterness.”  [xii]  He offers no biblical grounds for his statement; only life experience. 

Ken Sande, taking a more neutral position, maintains that “ideally, repentance should precede forgiveness” and he cited Luke 17:3. [xiii]  John MacArthur wrote, “It is obvious from Scripture that sometimes forgiveness must be conditional (Luke 17:3; Matthew 18:15-17).”  [xiv]   Yet he goes on to say that there are also times when “forgiveness is to be granted unconditionally.”  [xv]  To defend this statement he uses Mark 11:25-26, asserting that this passage describes “an immediate forgiveness granted to the offender with no formal meeting or transaction required.” [xvi]

In an attempt to sort out this dilemma, let’s begin by considering Augsburger’s use of Luke 23:34 since it is the verse commonly cited by those who propose an unconditional forgiveness position.  If Jesus did unconditionally forgive those who crucified Him, then why did Peter, on the day of Pentecost, implicate those Jews for this very sin and encourage them to repent so that they could receive forgiveness?  It seems quite evident that Jesus’ saying from the cross was not a declaration of forgiveness, but a prayer; a prayer that the Father would answer through the bold preaching of Peter and the apostles.  The same is true of Stephen’s prayer in Acts 7:60, “Lord do not hold this sin against them.”  On this basis alone, Augsburger’s proposition loses validity.  However, even though Augsburger’s use of Luke 23:24 is faulty, I am not convinced his position is totally wrong. 

In fact, in contemplating the arguments on both sides, it appears the two groups come to comparable points of view in the end.  Although each author seeks to specify in detail the uniqueness of his conviction, I believe that when everything is boiled down, the difference is largely just a matter of semantics.  Each author would probably agree with Ken Sande’s statement that the ideal scenario would be for repentance to precede forgiveness.  Yet it is also quite clear that each would agree that there are minor offenses that can and should be overlooked in an attitude of love, for “love covers over a multitude of sins

(1 Peter 4:8).”  This is where the semantic game is played.  Although Jay Adams plainly acknowledges this principle of love, he quickly adds that it is not forgiveness.  He therefore makes a distinction between covering another’s transgression and forgiveness.  Unfortunately, as John MacArthur points out, “The Bible itself makes no such distinction.”  [xvii]  In fact, Psalm 32:1 and Psalm 85:2 clearly equate these two concepts through the use of Hebrew parallelism:

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven,

Whose sins are covered.”

 

“You forgave the iniquity of your people

And covered all their sins.”

 

Since this is true, one must conclude that unconditional and unilateral (one-sided) forgiveness is acceptable and even preferable when it comes to minor offenses.  Obviously, from a practical perspective, if married couples or friends saw it as their responsibility to confront and seek repentance for every offense, the relationships would soon be too much to endure.

         The question, then, is, “When should confrontation and repentance be required?  As a general rule, you should not overlook an offense if:

  1. You observe a serious offense that is hurting someone else.  Scripture permits, even encourages us to overlook sins committed against us personally, but we are forbidden to ignore wrongs done to others (Exodus 23:6; Deuteronomy 16:20; Isaiah 59:15-16; Jeremiah 22:3).
  2. You observe that the offense is harmful to the offender.  To confront someone who is hurting himself or herself is an expression of true Christian love when done in the proper spirit (Galatians 6:1-2).
  3. You observe that the offense dishonors God and may potentially damage the body of Christ.  Some sins have a very far-reaching effect, harming the reputations of both God and His church (Hebrews 3:13; 1 Corinthians 5:1-6).
  4. You observe that the offense has damaged the relationship with another person.  Reconciliation is the goal in such cases (Luke 17:3; Matthew 5:224; 2 Thessalonians 3:15).

It seems that the only time an offense can be overlooked is when you are the only one offended and you are willing to make the promises of forgiveness without a confrontation and without repentance from the other party.  But in such a case, the decision to forgive must be as complete as if the other party had formally repented.

 

The Process of Forgiveness

The next question that must be answered is, “How do I forgive?”  Forgiveness begins in the heart.  Before we can outwardly forgive someone, we must first settle matters with our heavenly Father.  Mark 11:25-26 addresses the attitude a believer must have when approaching God in prayer.  “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”  In commenting on these verses, Jay Adams observes that

“Jesus is concerned about the attitude of the believer as he stands before God in prayer.  If he is inwardly unwilling to forgive his brother or sister, he cannot expect forgiveness from the Father.  Thus, preceding the promise (or granting) of forgiveness to another, one must prepare to lift that guilt so that the promise he makes, even if against his feelings, will be sincerely meant and kept.”[xviii]

 

If we are finding it difficult to forgive, there are some important concepts to keep in mind.  First, the offender is a human soul, the highest unit of value in all of creation (Mark 8:36-37).  Secondly, he or she is a human soul for whom Christ died (1 John 4:20).  God valued that person enough to give the life of His own Son in exchange for that soul.  Furthermore, this soul was meant to be a child of God.  No man is too low to be an object of God’s love.  No man is to be excluded from God’s forgiveness, except by his own unrepentance.  No man can be considered worthless when Christ died for him.  No man is unlovable; if God loves him, then God can love him through me. [xix]  Ralf Luther put it this way, “To love one’s enemy does not mean to love the mire in which the pearl lies, but to love the pearl that lies in the mire.”  [xx]

It is not possible to muster up love and forgiveness for your enemy by sheer willpower.  It is a gift from God, which enables you to see the value of every man’s life and soul.  Therefore, you need to pray that God will enable you to see past the offense.  Ask God to clothe you with “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, [forbearance, and forgiveness]… in love”  (Colossians 3:12-14).

It is essential to remember that we must renounce personal sin so that our relationship with God is not hindered (Psalm 66:18).  This will include assessing any contribution we ourselves may have made to the problem as well as attitudes of bitterness or hatred.

Your prayer must also include praise.  First of all, you must praise God for forgiving you.  When we remember all God has done in forgiving us, it is easier to forgive others.  We can also praise God for the situation itself, knowing that God will ultimately work all things out for our temporal and eternal benefit (Romans 8:28).  After all, we are commanded to give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18). 

Once the heart is prepared to forgive, the validity of that forgiveness will become evident when we confront the offender. Having forgiven him or her in our heart and mind, it is necessary to offer forgiveness in word and deed as well, if at all possible.  When we approach an offender, we are cautioned to exercise gentleness and humility (Galatians 6:1-4).  Confrontation is seldom pleasant, yet it can be the beginning of much needed healing.  Ideally, it should result in the repentance of the guilty party.  According to 1 John 1:9, God forgives us when we confess our sins.  Likewise, we must forgive a brother or sister who repents of his or her sin.  Now, it may not always be the case that the guilty party repents.  We have no control over the actions of others—only our response to them.  The focus of forgiveness in scripture is not so much the terms of forgiveness but rather the attitude of the forgiver (Matthew 6:12, 14-15; 18:35; James 2:13). 

Once forgiveness is offered verbally, it can be reinforced by action.  “Loving actions can do much more than change your feelings; they can also communicate in unmistakable terms the reality of your forgiveness and your commitment to reconciliation.” [xxi]  And there is an added benefit.  When you sincerely pray for someone, forgive them, and display acts of love toward them, inevitably you will find yourself experiencing a genuine Christ-like love for them.

One of the greatest contemporary examples of forgiving even when it was difficult is the story told by Corrie ten Boom.

“It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S. S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck.  He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there—the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face. 

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing.  “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,” he said.  “To think that, as you say, he has washed my sins away!”

His hand was thrust out to shake mine.  And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendall the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them.  Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more?  Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand.  I could not.  I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity.  And so again I breathed a silent prayer.  Jesus, I cannot forgive him.  Give me Your forgiveness. 

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened.  From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

So I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on Him.  When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”  [xxii]

 

 

The Blessings of Forgiveness

The past is done.  It cannot be changed.  The meaning, however, can be altered. Forgiveness robs Satan of an opportunity to embitter saints, ruin the reputation of Christ, decay relationships and destroy lives.  When a person chooses to be forgiving, many burdens are lifted.  If the guilty party repents, he or she is relieved from the burden of guilt.  But those who choose to forgive even someone who is unrepentant will find a freedom that will bring them peace: peace in their own hearts and minds, peace with others, and peace with God.   As Charles Spurgeon so eloquently put it, “God does forgive sin for the sake of glorifying Christ.  Christ took the shame so that He might magnify His Father, and now His Father delights to magnify Him by blotting out men’s sin.”  We are commanded to forgive as God forgives, and what was His motivation?  It can be summed up in three words: for Christ’s sake.  If there is no other reason strong enough to give you the will to forgive, this phrase alone should be effective.  “For Christ’s sake our love suffers long and never fails.  Do it for His sake.”  [xxiii]

 

 

NOTES

 


[i] John MacArthur, The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness (Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishers, 1998), 111.

[ii] David Augsburger, The Freedom of Forgiveness (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 30-31.

 

[iii] Jay Adams, From Forgiven to Forgiving  (Amityville, NY: Calvary Press, 1994), 11.

[iv] MacArthur, Ibid., 189.

[v] Warren Wiersbe, On Being a Servant of God  (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993), 136-137.

[vi] W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words  (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1981), 122.

[vii] Ken Sande, The Peacemaker  (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1991), 164.

[viii] Adams, Ibid., 34.

[ix] Vine, Ibid.

[x] Augsburger, Ibid., 32.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Em Griffin,  Making Friends (& Making Them Count) (Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1987), 198.

[xiii] Sande, Ibid.

[xiv] MacArthur, Ibid., 119.

[xv] Ibid., 121.

[xvi] Ibid.

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] Adams, Ibid., 30.

[xix] Augsburger, Ibid., 25.

[xx] Ibid., 25-26.

[xxi] Sande, Ibid., 173.

[xxii] Corrie ten Boom, from her book, The Hiding Place (Bantam, 19974), p. 238, as quoted in The Peacemaker by Ken Sande, Ibid., 170.

[xxiii] C. H. Spurgeon, from his classic sermon Forgiveness Made Easy, as quoted by John MacArthur, Ibid., 227-228.

Wild at Heart – NOT

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.  Titus 2:1

Here at the Bible Chapel, we take these words of Paul seriously.  We want to make sure that what we teach the congregation is sound – that we teach what the Lord reveals to all of mankind through His Word.  We don’t want to teach our people our thoughts, our opinions, what sounds good – instead, we want to teach the truth!

Unfortunately, Wild at Heart is a book that does not ‘accord with sound doctrine’.  Frankly, much of it is a mixture of “psychobabble, blockbuster movie plots and open theism.”  Pastor Jim found these reviews of this book to share with SBC.

We want you to know this because a new book by the same author is coming out. Initial reviews show that this new book – Beautiful Outlaws – is just more of the same.  There are groups in the area currently studying both books.  While I don’t question the motives of the author or those who support/study these books, a quick glance will show that these tomes are not in ‘accord with sound doctrine.’  Please be kind but cautious here. 

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. Acts 20:28

AUCTION DETAILS!

SBC has been blessed with a houseful of brand new furniture.  It is great stuff – new beds, couches appliances (stainless steel), artwork, dishes, etc.  We are going to sell all of it – every last stick of furniture – and use the proceeds to bless our supported missionaries! 

Below, you can find a list of auction items.  Pictures of the majority of items can be found here – https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150407383415552.404548.220830940551&type=3&l=97ef8db1cb

Here are the rules:

1)      Silent Auction – bids will be accepted after the SBC business meeting the night of 10/16.  Items will be in the SBC Gym.

2)      Bids will be done in person only

3)      Bids will be accepted through 9:00 PM Sunday night.  Bids will also be accepted beginning at 10:00 AM Monday morning.  All bidding ends at 6:00 PM on Monday. 10/17 – no exceptions.

4)      Winners will be notified by phone on Monday night 10/17.  The winners must contact the church back by 10:00 AM Tuesday 10/19.  If we do not hear from you, the next highest bidder will be contacted.

5)      All items MUST be paid for AND moved from SBC by 5:00, Tuesday, 10/18.  If you can’t get it out by then, please do not bid

Feel free to tell your friends about this – this is not a secret.  We already have friends from other churches who want to come out and bid.  Please pray for a successful auction!

House Donation Itemized Inventory for Soldotna Bible Chapel

October 2011

  • Round glass top table approx. 40 in. diameter with black wood frame, and four wood chairs
  • Two Small side tables - same black wood
  • Small entry desk of same black wood
  • Large upholstered burgundy color chair with matching ottoman
  • Matching glass dishes, glass salad bowl, 7 small salad bowls - Boxed
  • Set of 4 green design dishes – plates, salad bowls, plastic glasses, 6 cups and a pitcher – boxed
  • Fish dishes and green misc. 6 plates, 2 green plates, 8 fish bowls, 7 fish cups, 4 tan bowls, misc, matching bowls, electric knife – boxed
  • Nice wood bench with slate plate back trim
  • Three End tables with slate plate covers
  • Two coffee tables with slate plate covers
  • Feather dream catcher
  • Large upholstered and leather sectional couch with decorator pillows
  • Two brown metal decorator candle sconces – wall mounted
  • King size bed frame with pillow-top mattress and decorator pillows 
  • Nice wood desk stand/cabinet
  • Narrow tall table
  • Nice upholstered beige rolling chair
  • Night stand with matching wood
  • Queen size bed frame with pillow-top mattress and decorator pillows
  • 2 Blue ceramic lamps
  • Night stand table
  • Large rectangle wood table with six tall matching chairs
  • Upholstered fish design couch and chair with ottoman
  • Small oval mirror
  • Various wildlife pictures in frames
  • Large shelf wood living room cabinet/table
  • Metal boat lamp
  • Wood end table
  • Three large area rugs
  • Never used Frigidaire side by side stainless steel refrigerator
  • Never used Whirlpool, 5 burner, gas, stainless steel range
  • Never used Frigidaire dishwasher
  • Never used stainless steel microwave,
  • Three regular size bed frames with mattresses
  • Two blonde wood night stand tables
  • Two large chests of drawers blonde wood
  • Paisley shaped glass and wood table
  • Dark wood bed with frame, mattress, head-board and foot board
  • Very large dark wood chest of drawers with mirror
  • Large dark wood chest of drawers
  • Dark wood night stand
  • Futon with metal frame and canvas cover
  • Metal coffee table with Plexiglas top
  • Two metal stools
  • Four floor lamps, brightly colored one, brown one, Alaskan, transom,
  • Large mirror with wood frame
  • Boxed table – never opened
  • Various fake plants in basket containers
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Outside rectangle metal deck table with 4 chairs
  • Lots of pottery pots and decorations
  • 5 horsepower Briggs and Stanton boat motor
  • Never used – electric battery trolling motor
  • Outside deck gas grill, chair, and table
  • Two nylon fishing chairs
  • Boxes of Misc.:
  • Lots of new bath towels
  • Sheets, placemats, storage containers
  • Nice various throw rugs
  • Paint, primer, etc never used
  • Dish network receiver and remote
  • Several panels of drapes and rods
  • Extra sheets, shams,
  • Twin down comforter and matching shams
  • Men’s clothes size large
  • Women’s clothes size 12 and 14
  • Much misc. household items of everything