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

Our Posture for 2015

Wow, another year is in the books! As 2014 closes and we enter 2015, what should be our posture?
If we step back and ponder this last year in our families and across our world, our minds recall many joyous occasions as well as some hard times.
As we enter 2015, I’d like to share three Scriptures.
  1. In Matthew 6:9-10 Jesus prays what has become known as “the Lord’s prayer”… which actually served as a model prayer for His disciples. Although much history has passed since Jesus’ words in Matthew 6, His words still ring with profound application for us today. We as Jesus followers today are to be longing for Jesus’ coming full redemption in His coming Kingdom. In this regard, we Gentiles pray along with those original Jewish disciples for God’s Kingdom to come and His will be done in our lives and in this sin-wrecked world.
  2. In Matthew 24 Jesus answers His disciples' inquiries about the timing of the end of earthly time and the culmination of God’s coming Kingdom. In verse 14 Jesus says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” The word Jesus used for nations literally is “ethnos,” referring to all ethnic/people groups. We know from Jesus that His Gospel message will resound throughout the people groups of the world leading to the end of this age and the coming of God’s Kingdom.
  3. Lastly, I think of Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (ESV) The author just exalted the wisdom of the one who listens and accepts instruction in verse 20. Now in the next verse he directs the reader’s attention to the time-tested surety of God’s will. Indeed the plans of mankind are numerous, but they don’t have the final rule. Often, as many of us will surely see in some form in 2015, God’s purposes for us don’t always align with our expectations. In 2015 may we acquiesce our will for God’s guidance, even when unexpected or uncomfortable.
Boiling it all down…
As we enter 2015, it’s no secret that our world is increasingly writhing in the birth pains like those depicted in Matthew 24 as all of creation groans for God’s coming redemption as in Romans 8. As we continue to see the wake of sin across our world, may we resonate with Matthew 6:9-10, crying for His coming Kingdom to come and His will be done. Yet, as we long for His full redemption, may we balance this in our minds with Matthew 24:14. We the church have been purchased with the price of Divinity’s blood for the purpose of heralding the central message of all time. So as we long for the coming culmination of all things, may our hearts ache for the scores of souls who still don’t know and embrace God’s redemption. So while we should long for God’s coming Kingdom, we should simultaneously be driven to lay our lives down for the sake of the mission set before us as seen in Matthew 28:18-10. In 2015 may we freshly narrow our focus to the clarion call of God’s blood-bought saints to spend our lives making disciples who make disciples who will join us when God does establish His future Kingdom!
Finally, as we persevere forward in 2015 for God’s purposes, may we recall the wisdom of Proverbs 19:21 and be flexible to the things God allows in our lives along the journey ahead.
As I write this, the following song plays in my headphones and I find it fitting...
“Someday” by Disciple:
"We will rise above...
Someday we will rise above the pain of this world.
Someday the grave and death will lose their sting.
They’ll be no more tears and no more stain and our all our scars will fade away.
Only love will remain, someday… until then we will hold on.”
May Jesus’ Fame truly Spread in 2015!
Derek

The Last Days?

Today, the feast of trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) continues for Jews all over the world as their new year. Aside from a time of celebration, Biblically the festival calls for contemplation and repentance in preparation for the Day of Atonement (as mentioned in the previous post). These Jewish festivals established by God Himself call Israel to recall God’s acts of faithfulness and remain steadfast in their commitment for God. As also mentioned in the former post, many of these feasts have fulfillment in Christ’s redemptive work. Furthermore, there are some who speculate that God’s future acts may revolve around the symbolism and timing found in these festivals. Jesus’ crucifixion occurred around Passover and His resurrection during the accompanying feast of unleavened bread. There are also those who speculate that Jesus’ Divine conception or actual birth occurred on the Feast of Tabernacles symbolizing Divinity tabernacling again with humanity. 

For similar reasons, there are some who speculate that Jesus’ rapture may occur around the Feast of Trumpets in light of the 1 Thessalonians 1:16 trumpet of God. While Jesus did say in Matthew 24:36 that no man knows the day or hour of Christ’s return, He did answer the disciples’ question with signs for the timing near His return. So, will Jesus someday rapture His church around the Feast of Trumpets? We have no way to know for sure. We simply know that His return is soon and we must therefore be ready at all times (Acts 1:11, Revelation 22:7)!

Regarding the times of the seasons and the imminent return of Christ, it is indeed interesting what is going on in our own world today.

Amidst all of the turmoil, unrest, and persecution, we also hear opinions about the timing of Jewish festivals and even some talking about signs in the skies like the tetrad blood moon events this year and next year.

Through all of this attention on the end times, what is to be the Christian’s response and focus?

First as foundational and foremost, we must always come back to the Scriptures for they are our bedrock source of truth. The following is simply an attempt to steer our minds that Word-centered direction…

The events of our day are increasingly troubling as we hear of atrocities committed against religious “minorities” on the other side of the world. It’s very easy for us to read of promised persecution in Scripture and somehow diminish it’s seriousness. It’s difficult for those of us, who live shielded from the realities of violent opposition in our “safe” American cocoon, to see the chaos unfolding on the other side of the globe as part of what Jesus promised would come (John 15:18-22; 16:1-4; 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 10-15). It’s hard for us to realize that Hebrews 11:35-38 describes violent persecution that occurred with God’s people that is quite similar to what actually is happening in our own day. 

What then is to be our Biblical response to this ongoing persecution on the other side of the globe?

My mind is drawn to Matthew 24 where the disciples ask Jesus about the sign of His coming, and Jesus responds with the birth pain signs we read through the chapter. At the end of his answer, however, Jesus’ challenge for them is to stay awake and be ready (Matthew 24:41-44).

We may hear David’s anguishing heart for God’s deliverance from his enemies during his life as a fugitive from Saul and be motivated to pray for similar deliverance for those under persecution. Yet, we often don’t see physical deliverance from persecution. At the other end of the Scriptures, we read in Revelation 6:9-10 where the martyrs cry to God for vengeance saying, “How long, O Lord?”

So what can we as Christians living in these last days do?

Answer: We are to be about the very same things Jesus commanded us to live for… waging the war on His mission of preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 28:18-20) and picturing this Gospel through our Christlike actions (Ephesians 2:10, 3:10). This is seen largely in Ephesians 4 where Paul challenges the Ephesian church with it’s calling, which was for those spiritually gifted with teaching roles within the church to equip the rest of the church to do the work of God’s ministry all with the goal of seeing all of Christ’s followers mature into being like Jesus. Thus, our lives are to be about worshipping God, actively submitting to His equipping of us through the church, and then being the church on mission together as we proclaim and exemplify the Gospel to a hurting, sin-wrecked world. 

In Philippians, Paul’s words to the concerned church in Philippi drip with his perspective of suffering for Christ. Writing literally from prison, Paul encourages the believers to be encouraged that Paul views the Gospel immensely worthy of suffering, for he was suffering for Christ’s sake (Philippians 1:29-30). Earlier in chapter 1 Paul shared his eternal perspective that must have been greatly frustrating for his opponents. If the opposition allowed Paul to live, that was for Christ as he still proclaimed the Gospel. If the opposition put him in prison, he still sang praise to God and shared Jesus with those in prison. If the opposition decided to kill him, Paul said that was great gain for He would then be with Christ in heaven (Philippians 1:21)!  

Literally, for us as the church today, if we live, it is for Christ and if we die, it is eternal gain for we too will be with Christ. This is a difficult perspective to sometimes maintain, as our world subtly chips away at it with the gods of comfort, apathy, acceptance, tolerance, and ultimately tragic deception. May our supreme cry of our lives, the very heartbeat of our hearts, resonate loudly with Paul’s in Philippians 3:7-11… that we actively engage in Christ’s purposes all for His glory, which will bring persecution worthy of the redemption purchased at Calvary!

We read from Ephesians 6 that this indeed is a spiritual battle that we must actively engage through the Spirit’s power every day. Never do you find in Scripture the idea that we are to run from opposition that comes from faithfulness to Christ’s mission. We do, however, have promises that opposition will indeed come, especially in the last days.

Regardless of the next opinion of when Christ may return, we must keep our responsibility constant before us. As we continue to see the birth pain signs from Matthew 24 become a reality in our own day and the days ahead, we have two choices with our lives. We can plod forward in complete apathy, numb from the brevity of our calling in life. Or… We can engage in the mission as Jesus’ church and advance through the darkness of this sin-wrecked world in the power of the Spirit, proclaiming the message of Jesus’ redemption, and bringing glory to the Father. 

Engage in our study of Scripture. Engage in our communion with God through prayer. Engage in our pursuit of holiness. Engage in our Gospel-centered, self-sacrificing marriages and parenting. Engage in our raising up successive generations as committed disciples of Jesus. Engage in our Biblically redeemed calling to be men and women according to God’s design. Engage in our submission to living each day in the Spirit and thereby producing the fruit of the Spirit as characteristic of our lives. Engage in our passion to share the Gospel with those God places in our path. Engage in our responsibility of using our own spiritual gifting to intentionally make disciples. Engage in our calling to be committed to the local church. Engage in our calling to intentionally allow ourselves to enter into authentic relationships of discipleship community. Engage in our passion to picture the Gospel through our outreach with the downtrodden and poor.

You get the idea… engage in living as Christ did, all flowing from your worship of Him! We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)!

Finally, as we see Biblical signs (like intensified suffering) become realities in our own day, may we allow them to have the impact Jesus challenged in Matthew 24 of keeping us awake and ready, fully engaged on His mission for us as His church! If you want to put words to the confidence we have going forward amidst intense opposition and trial, read Paul in Romans 8:18-39 or 2 Corinthians 4:8-18!

 

- Derek

Rosh Hashanah - Feast of Trumpets

This season of the year is very important for Jews around the world. Tonight (Wednesday) at sundown marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, or Feast of Trumpets. This time from tonight until sundown Friday traditionally according to Scripture was ordained by God in Leviticus 23 as the Jewish New Year and a time of repentance leading up to the Day of Atonement (10 days following when the high priest would offer the annual sacrifice before God in the Holy of Holies). Originally, God only required a one day observance (the first day of the new year). Time and added traditions have turned the festival into a two-day observance. The trumpets would blast throughout the land this day vividly reminding each Jew that the day of sacrifice soon approached and they stood in need of contemplation and repentance.

Additionally, this Jewish year marks the seventh year for the sabbath land requirement. Rosh Hashanah this year will mark this seventh year, where abiding Jews will cease their normal agricultural activity for 1 year. According to Exodus 23:10 and Deuteronomy 15:1-4 this seventh year provided needed food for the poor. 

Day of Atonement (or Yom Kippur) occurs this year on the evening of October 3 for one day. The significance of this great day of Old Testament sacrifice of course has been fulfilled in Christ at the empty cross. 

Following this day, the Jews’ Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles/Booths occurs from the evening of October 8 through October 15 again according to Leviticus 23. Tabernacles recalls God’s tabernacling among His people and His guidance/provision/protection of Israel in the wilderness journey to the promised land. The significance of this is enhanced when we learn of God’s presence departing the temple in Ezekiel’s day and then returning as Emmanuel, God with us, as Jesus comes to earth.

Tragically, many Jews today fail to see the fulfillment of these feasts in Jesus the Christ (Messiah)! Those of us who follow Jesus, may we study the Word diligently and be equipped to point others to the harmony of the Scriptures from the Old Testament to the New Testament to today and for the future! 

Furthermore, there are Messianic Jews today who still choose to celebrate these Leviticus 23 feasts in light of Christ’s fulfillment. Whether you have ever participated in one of these Christ-centered celebration of these feasts or not, a study into their significance amplifies the richness of God’s Word and His glorious purpose for mankind! Maybe a familiarizing of their Scriptural significance would be fruitful for you?

Each time we hear of these feasts celebrated by Jews today, may we recall God’s faithful acts among His people in the past as well as His graceful and masterful act through Christ at the empty cross!

More thoughts on these Biblical feasts, end time events, and our responsibility in light of it all to come in the next post...

 

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

Staffing Update

Bible Chapel Transition from thegapstander on Vimeo.

We wanted to take a moment and share our excitement about God's leading for us to come back to the Chapel! While following God's leadership doesn't always bring us down roads we expected, we can always have complete confidence in His sovereign plan! We are really excited to see what God has in store for the Bible Chapel, the Kenai Peninsula, and the villages in the years ahead!

If you wish to read our full newsletter, explaining our transition, you can access it here. 

Truly May Jesus' Fame Spread,

Derek

The Coming Deliverance of the Shepherd-King

Every year at Christmas I like to focus on a different text or theme of the season. Last year I focused on Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming Jesus Who would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. When it seemed like God’s promises and plan was forgotten or even dead, the Israelites saw God break the silence through a humble Baby’s birth. Truly we serve a God that is not dead, but actively working His plan of redemption! Last year, the old Christmas carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” particularly grabbed my attention on this similar theme.

This year, Micah’s book of prophetic warning and yet message of restorative hope riveted my attention. It is in this book that we see the little insignificant town of Bethlehem prophesied to be the birthplace of Messiah.

Micah ministers among Israel and Judah at a time of extreme corruption, compromise, pride, and persistence in rebellion to God’s design for His people to reflect His nature. In a world where the leadership–including the spiritual leadership–demised into continual injustice, Micah sternly warns of impending judgment. God’s warning to His people of the coming judgment is also balanced in the text with God’s loving heart of compassion and faithfulness to His covenant and overall redemptive plan. Although the current Assyrian threat in Micah’s day (contemporary with Isaiah’s ministry as well) would escalate, God’s plan would still prevail. Although the Babylonian empire would ultimately fulfill the prophetic warnings found in Micah and Isaiah, God’s plan would still prevail. Even as Micah focuses on an even greater eschatological focus, including both judgment and deliverance, God’s plan would still prevail.

It is in this judgment and restoration themed context that we read the beginning of Micah’s fifth chapter regarding Bethlehem. Micah 5:1 begins contrasting the current Judean king’s inability to shepherd and protect the people with this coming Bethlehem child who will be the ultimate Shepherd-King ruling in complete sufficiency. Thus, in Judah’s struggles under Assyrian and Babylonian judgment, their ultimate hope lied in the glorious promise of the long-expected Rescuer of God. It is indeed from this simple town of Bethlehem that the unexpected shepherd boy David became Israel’s king. Likewise, it is in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant that the Messiah would come in his lineage. Furthermore, Micah declares that the Redeemer’s birthplace would be from the same humble origin as David. Thus, the fulfillment of the promises given to through the shepherd-boy-king (David) would be the coming of this long-awaited ultimate, all-sufficient Shepherd-King.

Amidst this bleak outlook of Israel’s sin and the coming judgment, there is hope! For God has not forgotten His covenant. Israel will rise again through God’s glorious work of redemption. Further, Israel’s influence in birthing the Messiah will bring many more into the Kingdom than ever expected… all nations!

It is gloriously clear that the coming of Jesus is in fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy. Jesus is our Shepherd-King! Paul writes in Romans 11 how we Gentiles are graciously grafted into God’s overall sovereign redemptive plan. Thus, this Christmas may we stand in awe at the work and reign of our manger-born, Shepherd-King! He is our Shepherd! He is our King! He is our Peace!

Worshipping our Shepherd-King,
Derek

God's Word Our Rock

I'm loving studying the letters to the Thessalonians for next week's seminary class! I wanted to share one particular note from 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3 and a helpful comment from John Piper. Piper mentioned how we seldom address our emotions from the standpoint of Biblical doctrine. Yet, that is exactly what Paul and Timothy do with the Thessalonians. When opposition came (as they warned them it would in their initial proclamation of the Gospel--something we seem to dumb down in our own explanations of the Gospel today), they would be tempted to fear and renounce their faith. Paul and Timothy earnestly combat this through prayer and the exhortation of God's Word, that they might be established in their faith. Upon further worries and confusion about the future, Paul again comforts them with the "spade of Biblical doctrine" (phrase from Piper).

This is so practical for us today! How often do we treat our emotions from the standpoint of sound Biblical teaching? 

Let me share a personal example of how this worked in my own life recently. This past week, I was able to take the boys and travel along with Laura on her work travel job in a neighboring village. Upon leaving Quinhagak after a great overnight stay there connecting with fellow believers, a strong system carrying extreme gusty winds began creeping over the YK-Delta. Now my aviation background kept be pretty skeptical that the local air service would fly down for us that night. Thus, when they showed up for us that evening, I was pretty surprised. Let's just say the winds produced probably the upper edge of legal flying conditions. As we stood with our jackets flapping to the rhythm of the winds, the pilot began loading our gear onto the twin engine Navajo. He promptly began sharing with me that the amount of people and gear we had totaled an amount of weight he was uncomfortable with in the current strong crosswind conditions. As he explained this to me, another air service landed with a Cessna Caravan. There were many empty seats on the Caravan and the seat belts afforded a safer position to strap Jathan in, rather than holding him as a lap infant through potential severe turbulence.

Now, my lack of flying over the past few years combined with now having two kids is producing within me a heightened awareness to the dangers of flying out in Alaska's bush. (While we may personalize utilize aviation at some point in our ministry, for now God is leading us in different ways. We currently rely on the local air carriers.)

As I kissed Laura and Jathan while they were boarding the other aircraft, I tried to reassure Elias that everything would be okay. Thus, we were all headed north 71 air miles back to Bethel aboard different flights. As each of our planes quickly lifted off the gravel runway, we soon felt the power of the winds carry and push us northward. In fact at 3,000 feet altitude we experienced a 87 mph tail wind, and we safely landed in Bethel in a mere 15 minutes! All in all the flight proved not too bumpy.

Now why do I share this story? Although I am a pilot myself, I found myself rather concerned for the safety of my family. Since we've arrived in Bethel, I've noticed a certain rise in concern regarding flying with our kids out here, even on calm weather days. As I sat next to Elias aboard our flight from Quinhagak watching Laura and Jathan's flight take off, my concerns met this text in 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3. God instantly brought this recently studied text to my mind. Do we treat our fears and concerns with the sound teaching of God's Word? As I thought how Paul and Timothy addressed the Thessalonian believers, my heart was instantly convicted, challenged, and encouraged all at the same time. Did I believe that God is sovereign over all things? Did I believe that He is as Colossians 1 teaches the Creator and Sustainer of all things? Did I believe that He can calm the storm as He did in the Gospels? Did I believe that He is our refuge like David writes in psalm-inspired worship? Did I believe that He is our Shepherd? Did I believe that He has a plan for our lives? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes! While the exact situation between the Thessalonians' fears facing persecution and my own fears over the safety of my family flying were different, the principle in addressing both issues was the same. Once we realize that we are to handle our emotions with the sound teaching of God's Word, then we must choose to trust in the truth of His Word. As we make these conscious choices, we can confidently ask our God to give us peace and security in His sovereignty. I am grateful for God's convicting, challenging, encouraging, and peace-giving work He did in my heart through this text and this experience the past few days!

May we all learn to consistently treat our fears, worries, etc. with the sound teaching of God's infallible Word!

Humbled under God's Word,
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

 

 

Sovereignty's Beauty Amidst Suffering

I recently watched a video message by Steve Saint from a past Desiring God conference on suffering in missions amidst God's sovereign plan. I've heard his testimony before, but to hear it again in more detail, this time in specific context of God's intentional plan for suffering--in His sovereignty and missional plan for the world--was freshly moving. The story of how Steve's dad, Nate, and four others lost their lives for the sake of the Gospel's advance among a unreached people group has always gripped me. In this more recent message by Steve (2006), I listened as he shared deeper details about the savage-like methods of the killings that fateful day. It is truly a testament to the Gospel's work to hear grown-up Steve Saint now talk about his close relationship with these (now Jesus followers) who killed his dad! 

I think the other thing that struck me was Steve's testimony about his daughter's more recent death. After an apparent time of complacency in ministry to those in suffering, Steve told how he prayed to better identify with our suffering world. Upon their daughter's graduation, Steve and his wife had to give up their daughter to missions. As she returned home visiting from her mission travels, Steve and his wife were elated to have their whole family back together. In a moment of family bliss, Steve recounted how sweet it was to have her home with the family again. Later that night after complaining of a headache, Steve and his wife held their daughter and prayed for her relief and thanked Him for her visit. As they prayed, a massive brain hemorrhage occurred and their daughter entered eternity. Steve recounts the reaction of Mincaye (the Equadorian Waodani man who once was a killer but now a Jesus follower). Mincaye became part of the Saint family, an incredible testament to God's forgiving grace. As the Saint's daughter was rushed to the emergency room and medical staff hurried about, Mincaye tried desperately to figure out who was hurting his precious adopted granddaughter. Steve recounted how Mincaye's face formed the image of one who was once again willing to kill, this time to protect his family. As the tragedy culminated in the emergency room, Steve tells how Mincaye realized who was behind this. Mincaye rushed to Steve and said, "God is behind this Steve, God is taking our precious one to be with Him!" Immediately, Mincaye started shouting that the Saint's precious daughter went home to be with Jesus, and he urgently beckoned the medical staff to surrender to walking God's trail so they could likewise one day be with Jesus!

Now, what in the world can give some sort of semblance of logic to such tragedies in life? How do we process Mincaye's reasoning for the Saint's daughter's death? Ultimately Mincaye nailed it! In his own way he realized that sovereign God orchestrated His perfect plan for her life, just as He had enacted His perfect plan in Nate Saint's life. Somehow in that moment, the truths of Scripture on suffering (we often think of Romans 8:28, but the Scriptures are full of examples) became vividly clear to Mincaye.

There is much much more that we could comment on the theme of suffering from Scripture. But, for this post I simply want to share this testimony of Steve Saint regarding his own suffering experience. How do we view suffering? Those moments in our lives that are difficult exist for a greater purpose. How are we responding? How are we growing closer to God through them?

Steve closed his message with the following poem:

The Thorn
"I stood a mendicant of God before his royal throne
And begged Him for one priceless gift that I could call my own.
He placed it in my outstretched hand, but as I would depart I cried, "But, Lord, it is a thorn! And it has pierced my heart!
"This is a strange, a hurtful gift, that Thou hast given me."
He said, "My child, I give good gifts and gave my best to thee."
I took it home, and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore
As long years passed, I learned at last To love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace.
He takes the thorn to lay aside the veil that hides his face."
-Martha Snell Nicholson

Oh may we more clearly see God's heart as we "walk His trail" through all circumstances!

 

For the Spread of His Fame,

Derek

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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.

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