Walk it Out - Hope in God

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In our series of Walk It Out Wednesdays we usually just do a summary of the Sunday messages and link you to the audio file and end with application questions. (listen HERE)

This time, we are going to do something a little different. Lynn's message was timely and profound and we would love for you to have a transcript of the sermon as well as the audio. We think that what was shared is vital for our growth in God and personal sanctification so we wanted to give you the full message so you can read it and meditate on it.

Psalm 131

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3 O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.

Prop statement: A humbled, resting heart puts all its hope in God

Anti prop statement: A proud, exalted, complaining, grasping, discontented heart loses all hope

INTRO:

This Psalm is being sung by worshippers as they go ‘up’ to the temple to worship. It represents the only proper attitude to have in going up to worship our holy, all-powerful, sovereign God; humility, meekness, dependency,

This is the heart cry from every believer ascending to worship God….O God My heart is not proud!

There is only one reason to feel you are without hope. Pride. You think too highly of yourself

Keil & Delitzsch translate God as JAHVE. “JAHVE, My heart is not haughty…”

JAHVE is in the word order that makes it emphatic. It is a cry before the Lord. It is why most translators make it “O God”

The Psalm begins with an emphatic cry to God; JAHVE. This is vital to see. It’s an emphatic, emotional, pleading cry to God. “O God…my heart is not proud…”. As if to say if I were to take my heart and eyes off you I would instantly become proud and self-aware. If I don’t actively recognize myself and my life always before you there is no hope for my wicked heart and wayward eyes.

Spurgeon said, “It is one of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.”

This is because it is all about dethroning self and enthroning God. This is sanctification in a nutshell.

Until Ps. 130 all the Psalms have been directed horizontally towards fellow travelers. Now we shift to very personal Psalms directed specifically to God.

Here in 131, David is having a very personal interaction with God. He is humbling himself before God. ' not a discourse before men. In a way, David is expressing how wonderful submission is to this great and awesome God as opposed to being burdened down with all the weight of great matters or things beyond him. The proud person looks, compares, competes, and is never content. “What can I do to outperform, or outdo others”.  Why do I care so much that people see my contributions or that I get credit for my ideas or observations? Why is it so important to appear to be somebody important?

In essence, David is saying; “I don't think too much of myself”

As we speak this out loud, it is speaking to us. God (with a sigh…) my heart is not proud. Can we say this without evaluating our own hearts and wanting them to be in agreement with the spirit of this Psalm? My heart is not proud and where it is I want to be quick to humble it before you.

This Psalm covers 3 things: The Heart of The King, The Soul of a Child, and The Hope That Endures

THE HEART OF THE KING

  • This Psalm is more amazing when you consider who wrote it — the King
  • It is interesting to note this Psalm was written by the greatest King in the history of Israel.
  • He was a gifted leader
  • arguably one of the greatest military generals in human history,
  • an excellent musician,
  • a man of profound character
  • He knew and understood hardship, failure, challenges, and opposition
  • Had to run for his life for 10 years; enduring harsh conditions
  • Often times within a hair's breadth of losing his life
  • Often lost close relationships and experienced betrayals
  • Has to endure people cursing him to his face
  • Forced to wait long periods of time before God moved
  • His wife and kids stole from him at one point
  • Lived in his enemies homeland because his own was more dangerous
  • His best friend is killed
  • People are killed because of his involvement in their lives
  • More than once must grieve the loss of a child
  • Unjustly loses his job
  • His own son tries to kill him
  • Experiences significant consequences of his own sin
  • Yet here instead of pride or cynicism or bitterness he expresses such a profound humility that he desires not to “occupy himself with things too great” for him and is calm and restful as a child.  Amazing!  

To understand this Psalm, you must know and understand David.

  • I think David represents the prototype OT Christian.
  • This man’s heart for God and the way he lived his life were the OT version of what a born again Christian would look and act like, including his sin and how he dealt with it.
  • We can see this most clearly in the proclamation by Paul in Acts 13:22 citing the Lord’s opinion of David as a “man after my own heart who will do all my will”.
  • Yet with all his position and power he was incredibly humble
  • Part of David’s life story is his unwillingness to grasp at position or authority. This was true in his relationship with Saul.
  • David acted differently that both Saul before him and Uzziah after him who sought to elevate themselves to priesthood and suffered God’s judgment
  • David is proclaiming his humility in the face of the clear reality that he knows God knows the condition of his heart far better than he (Ps. 139).
  • He cannot hide his heart condition from God and so would say this with the complete awareness that God knows him intimately.
  • David knows he is not without pride at work in his heart, but he also knows and has demonstrated in his life that he genuinely does not want anything that God has not given him and will gladly give up anything he currently has for the Lord’s sake.

This great King starts with his own heart. vs.1 “O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty” NASB

  • A key aspect of humility is beginning with yourself: Who can know his own heart. It is “deceitfully wicked”. Only the Spirit of God can help us see our own hearts

“What the heart desires the eyes look for. Where the desires run the glances usually follow.”  Spurgeon

  • When the heart is right the eyes are right, and the whole man is on the path to a healthy and beneficial condition

Follow your ‘eyes’ (desires) back to your heart.

  • This is not a Psalm you want to take lightly. Better not to say this without being sure your own heart actually reflects it. There is no worse pride than that which claims humility with out possessing it.
  • He only wants to do what God has given or called him to do;   vs. 1 “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me
  • There is something intriguing and refreshing about a person who wants to be aware of their limitations. Who wants to avoid trying to do things they are not equipped to do. Who wants to keep themselves limited to their own sphere of capacity. Who wants to avoid the glare of the lights or the applause of men or the honor of position.
  • President Reagan’s plaque: It amazing how much you can get done when you don’t care who gets the credit.

Like David, Paul understood this reality:

  • Rom. 12:3 -  “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
  • This takes real grace to recognize your limitations and stick within them
  • David or Disney?
  • Not like today’s culture where we are given the Disney philosophy; you can be anything you want if you just believe enough
  • Instead of God determining our boundaries, we strive to determine our own.
  • The inscription to this Psalm seems to indicate that this Psalm may have been an “echo” of the sentiments in relation to Michal’s mocking comments when David danced before the are when bringing it back to Jerusalem.
  • 2 Sam. 6:21-22 “And David said to Michal… I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes.”

David models this attitude all his life:

  • In refusing to take the Kingdom from Saul even though anointed by Samuel (10 years)
  • In waiting on the Lord remove Ishbosheth, Saul’s heir for 71/2 years before uniting the Kingdom
  • In receiving the taunts of Shimei while leaving Jerusalem
  • In leaving the city and giving it over to Absolom instead of fighting for it.
  • He demonstrated a submission to God in all aspects of his life. An unwillingness to “take matters into his own hands” so to speak
  • The heart of this King is truly humble - but he goes a step further

THE SOUL OF A CHILD

This great King saw himself as a little child

  • “My soul is like a weaned child…”   vs. 2  This has many implications:
  • In the far east, and especially when this Psalm was written, children continued nursing much later than they do now.
  • As you can imagine, the older the child the more difficult the process of weaning.
  • There would initially be much fussing and demanding until the process was over and the child could rest on his mother without demanding immediate satisfaction.
  • The expectations of instant gratification and attention (with their subsequent petulant, demanding, complaining spirit) are now replaced by contentment, patience.
  • Now his mother is a true comfort even though she has denied him the comfort he is used to.

This has spiritual Implications as well;

  • Paul faced this problem among the churches he planted and cared for:
  • Heb. 5:12 “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food”
  • 1 Cor. 3:2  “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready”
  • These scriptures indicate that this process is not necessarily easy or speedy. Some fight against the discipline the heavenly Father is trying to bring about and so remain nursing babes.
  • As immature believers, it’s all about our desires and feelings. Our need for gratification. The natural spills over into the spiritual.

But as we grow older, the Father (Heb. 12) weans us off of “milk”

  • “Blessed are those afflictions which subdue our affections, which wean us from self-sufficiency, which educate us into Christian manliness, which teach us to love God not merely when he comforts us, but even when he tries us.”       Spurgeon

What exactly is a weaned child like?

  • Just as the child gradually breaks the habit of seeing his mother as only a means of satisfaction, so we no longer look to God only for what we can get from Him, but trust in his grace and provision.
  • We desire God for himself, not as a means for satisfying our wishes.
  • There is a mature trust that is aware God knows what he is doing and knows what is best for me.
  • To be a weaned child is to rest contentedly, patiently, and hopefully in the Lord
  • Am I content with knowing God’s knows my heart?   Yes, but I want people to see
  • Am I looking to get affirmation from people?    Yes, but I want God’s affirmation
  • Am I looking for recognition and acknowledgment?  Yes, but I want to grow
  • The Christian life is not neurotic dependency, but childlike trust.
  • We do not cling to God out of fear, insecurity, or panic, we come freely out of faith and love to a Father.
  • “God does not reduce us to a set of Pavlovian reflexes so that we mindlessly worship and pray and obey on signal; he establishes us with a dignity in which we are free to receive his word, his gifts, his grace.”      Peterson

How does this look in our lives now?

  • We can respond negatively in either of two ways:
  • We can see a challenge, take control (take matters into our own hands), use all the resources at hand, and attempt to become the master of our situation…
  • or…melt into whining, complaining, overwhelmed infantile responses that leave us paralyzed.
  • Rebellious runaways or whining babies?
  • We have no lack of counsel coming from our culture telling us that we should take control or play the victim card.
  • We can choose to respond in a humble, childlike trusting, restful, patient attitude that releases us to do the one thing that will bring security and health to our lives: HOPE!

THE HOPE THAT ENDURES

This Psalm has helped us see where our focus should not be.

  • Our hope firstly is not to be in ourselves:
  • Proud, overreaching hearts
  • Eyes are often a symbol of pride in the Bible and follow the heart
  • It is not to be in striving for greatness, honor or position

So what is our focus? What is David’s logical conclusion to adopting this childlike attitude and faith? =HOPE!  vs. 3    Oh Israel….HOPE IN THE LORD

  • Another translation: “Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope. hope now; hope always!
  • Again, it’s like David is sighing and pleading all at once. OH, Israel…   
  • It’s like the beginning of this Psalm where he cry’s and appeals to God. There is a brokenness and a yearning that is coming thru here.
  • Oh, Jehovah…..Oh, Israel….

David didn’t come to this hope by accident. It was all the various dealings in his life that drew him to and deepened his need to hope in God alone.

  • As we said earlier, you choose how you will deal with life’s challenges
  • Will you try to control or whine and complain or will you rest and trust with childlike faith?
  • Israel is to renounce all boasting and self-sufficiency and wait in lowliness and quietness for God, not only in the present but for all time and eternity. To HOPE!
  • This hope is not a passive, hand wringing, nervous, fidgeting effort to “buck yourself up” or make yourself “believe”
  • It is a settled, restful, humble expectation in a God who you know and trust.
  • The “forevermore” in our hope referenced by David, can only be a prophetic reference to the one who would sit on the throne of David forever…the Lord Jesus Christ!
  • We have the testimony of another even greater King who, like David, refused to be proud, but submitted himself fully to do only what the Father wanted him to do.
  • He refused to grasp for what was rightly his.
  • He refused to be proud but made himself a servant. He was willing to do this even in the face of death.

How can we have any hope before a perfect, holy, righteous God?

  • Only in the sure knowledge that the savior has not only purchased our own forgiveness and cleansed us, but given us his perfect, holy, righteous life.THIS IS HOPE! We have, in Christ, the only hope possible.
  • Because Christ died for you, you have confidence
  • Because Christ died for you, you have no fear
  • Because Christ died for you,  you have assurance and safety
  • Because Christ is now alive, you have hope!
  • This gives us true hope. Resting humbly, secure in the Father’s love and provision. Satisfied in Him!

CONCLUSION:

There are situations in life that defy explanation. Conditions for which there are no obvious solutions, that seem so profound and complex that you cannot absorb or contain them. At times like this, you can try your best to control them, whine, complain and sulk, or you can humble yourself and look to God in hope.

Then there are those things that we know God has been dealing with for years. The things we know about ourselves we wish were different but haven’t changed yet. But we know God is at work. So let him work. Allow him to bring change, Rest and trust.

When your soul is all stirred up to respond in all the old ways….rest and trust.

Psalm 131 nurtures “…a quality of calm confidence and quiet strength that knows the difference between unruly arrogance and faithful aspiration, knows how to discriminate between infantile dependency and childlike trust…” Peterson

APPLICATION:

What is it that is causing you to strive and try to control or manipulate?

Are you whining, complaining, and struggling with the Father?

Which afflictions are subduing your affections?

How can our view of discipline help us become like a weaned child?

What steps do you need to take to change your focus, humble your heart, and rest in God?

What scriptures can you memorize or meditate on that speak to your circumstance and help you change your focus, humble your heart, and hope in God?

Communion: Eating and Drinking in the Kingdom of God

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Communion Exhortation:
Eating and Drinking in the Kingdom of God 

Our modern fitness magazines tell us that eating and drinking are simply ways of refueling. If that was the case, God could have just given us rechargeable battery packs. But he didn’t because sharing meals together is a very important part of what it means to be human. Some of our best memories are a first date over dinner, celebrating a wedding by eating and drinking together, or being with loved ones for Christmas dinner. Eating and drinking with someone is a big deal - it’s an indication of the fellowship we share. To refuse to eat with someone is to reject their friendship. We don’t go out to dinner with our enemies.

Eating and drinking with someone is an even bigger deal when that person is way out of your league. What would it be like to be invited to the table of a person with real prominence? To sit at the table of king David or Solomon was to be treated like a member of the royal family. We call that a place of privilege because it’s a place we don’t really belong - except for the fact that the king set a place for us. It was for this privilege that we were created. From the very beginning, we were created for fellowship with God - to eat and drink in his presence. Adam and Eve were given a garden full of trees that were good for food, and they could eat from any of them, except one.

But fellowship with God and a seat at his table was not good enough for Adam and Eve. They wanted to sit at the head of the table. Wanting to be the masters of their own destiny, they ate the forbidden fruit and they broke their fellowship with God. They were cast out of Eden, shut out from the presence of God, dismissed from his table, and barred from returning. Adam and Eve weren’t the only ones, just the first. Cain sold his birthright for one simple meal. Noah had too much to drink and made a fool of himself. The children of Israel grumbled against the Lord and demanded the food that they craved. Our history is riddled with sins of eating and drinking apart from God, and it’s an indication of our idolatry, greed, and a failure to trust in his goodness and promise to provide.

Thankfully, Jesus came to undo what we had done. He is the second Adam - the true Son of God who lived not by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. He fasted rather than feasting on the forbidden food so that he could be the spotless lamb of God who takes away the sin of his world. He undid what we had done so we could once again be invited to the Lord’s table. And now we can eat and drink in the presence of God, because Jesus shed his blood cleansing us from our sins and making us fit for fellowship with him and with his people once again. The Lord invites us to his table, but our invitation came at the highest price - the precious blood of his Son. So when we come together to celebrate communion, let’s remember the price he paid, and let’s celebrate the fact that we are forever welcomed at the table of our king Jesus once again.

Psalm 130 - Out of the Depths (Walk it Out Series)

Continuing our series in the Psalms of Ascent. Listen to the sermon HERE.

Lost at sea - a metaphor for sinking under guilt

Guilt: a universal problem

  • The  world’s ways to handle guilt

     - change the rules to eliminate

     - remove the concept

  • God’s entire plan of salvation is the removal of guilt

“The truth is that no one is more committed to having your soul free from guilt as much as God is.”

Psalm 130 is a prayer to help lead us out of guilt. Our souls were not intended to carry guilt - so God sent his son to set us free from it.

When we are lost at sea, this song teaches us three steps to safety.

Cry Out for Mercy - undeserved favor.

Repentance is involved and is the shift from having our backs toward God while we are looking to something or someone else for help to turning around and facing God and looking to Him for our help.

Wait for the Lord - “like watchmen for the morning.”

  • God ordains delay and uses our waiting to strengthen our faith.
  • We increase our dependence on God in our waiting.
  • The OT’s “wait” is the NT’s “rest.”

Hope in His Redemption

  • Hope is the basis for our future
  • Our hope is in God’s steadfast love
  • With God, there is plentiful redemption - more than enough! With a never ending supply!

WALK IT OUT

  1. Have you ever felt "lost at sea"? In what way?
  2. In what ways do you struggle with guilt?
  3. How are you tempted to look to "other gods" for forgiveness or redemption?
  4. Do you find yourself in a season of waiting? In what areas are you learning to grow in your faith during the wait? What challenges do you face in the wait? What scriptural promises are you clinging to (like a life jacket) during your wait? 
  5. What do waiting and resting have in common?
  6. Look up scriptures about God's steadfast love - what do they say? How do they apply to your guilt, shame, waiting?
  7. Take time to pray for one another - crying out to God for mercy!

 

Hurricane Harvey and Our Brothers and Sisters in Houston

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We call ourselves a "family of churches" because that's who we are, a family. Being a "family of churches" has many expressions including the one that is happening right now in Houston.

Sovereign Grace Church-Pearland, TX is located among neighborhoods, south of Houston, that experienced quite a bit of damage because of Hurricane Harvey. Two families in the church lost their homes. And the members of SGC-Pearland have been reaching out to, and helping their neighbors clean up looking for gospel opportunities.

In addition, the South-Central Region, led by Billy Raies, has asked Aaron Mayfield, an elder at Redemption Hill Church in Austin, TX, to be the point person to coordinate teams of volunteers who can travel to Houston and help with the clean up and rebuilding efforts. Aaron is in Houston now, and I spoke to him yesterday on the phone. 

If you are interested in helping by joining a team that's going down or giving money - please contact the church office at sgcpasadena@gmail.com and we can give you more information.

 

Psalm 129 - Songs for The Journey: A Song for Affliction

Psalm 129. A song for affliction. Listen to the sermon HERE.

Psalm 129. A song for affliction. Listen to the sermon HERE.

These songs of ascent were written to help us make sense out of life and to encourage us along the way. As Christians, we need a song to help us with affliction. Suffering comes in a variety of forms: hardships, setbacks, accidents, illnesses...etc.

The affliction in Psalm 129 is the kind that comes from someone bringing you harm on purpose. It involves being hated and the harm that results from that hate.

There’s much talk about “hate” these days.

  • White supremacy groups, racists; Charlottesville; anti-fa groups (blatant)
  • Not agreeing with an opinion (misnamed)
  • “Resist Hate”signs (ambiguous)

The Bible addresses being hated:

  • Jesus told disciples that Christians would be hated like he was hated.
  • A Christian’s new heart is equipped to love God and love what he loves and hates what he hates.
  • Our witness depends on: 1). Our love for one another and 2). Our love for our enemies

When God brings affliction into our lives, we have 2 choices:

  • We can either turn to or away from God; cooperate with the sanctification or become bitter and hardened.
  • Our response to affliction reveals the choice we’re making
  • What’s meant to perfect us can also destroy us
  • The same sun that melts wax, hardens clay

We need a Psalm for our affliction. This song tells us to do 2 things in affliction:

1. Entrust Your Affliction to God

God brought us out of affliction and uses this to show us his power and his love.

This psalm is about Israel’s corporate and historical affliction - God formed his people Israel out of affliction.

“Whereas most nations tend to look back on what they have achieved, Israel reflects here on what she has survived.”  Derek Kidner.

“This Psalm teaches, in the first place, that God subjects his Church to divers troubles and affections, to the end he may the better prove himself her deliverer and defender. The Psalmist, therefore, recalls to the memory of the faithful how sadly God’s people had been persecuted in all ages, and how wonderfully they had been preserved, in order by such examples to fortify their hope in reference to the future.”  Calvin

God preserves his people in affliction

  • Moses, Israel, David, Jesus

2. Entrust your enemies to God.

  • Because God promises to right all wrongs
  • Imprecatory Psalms - what are they? Can we pray them?

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Keep in mind that it was the patience of God that allowed us to see his grace.
  • Keep in mind that there are things that God hates. (Prov. 6:16)
  • Keep in mind that there are only 2 ways to live: slaves to sin or righteousness
  • Pray for God to right the wrongs w/o trying to avenge yourself

WALK IT OUT

  1. What's an "affliction" situation that you are facing right now?
  2. How are you responding? How is God calling you to respond?
  3. In what ways are you tempted to take vengence?
  4. What steps can you take to "entrust your affliction to God?"
  5. What steps can you take to "entrust your enemies to God?"

 

Sin Is A Disgrace To Any Nation

I came home from Church today and sat down to read the news paper. I was disgusted by what I read concerning the white supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville, Va. What is shocking is to realize that we fought a war to overthrow a government in Germany that believed in white supremacy and viewed other races as inferior and even worthy of eradicating altogether. The Germany of today will not even allow a Nazi salute in public without taking action against it. Racism has no place in American life and culture. We must stand united against any form of racism. It has no place in a world where God created all people  in his image.

We must understand however, that the image of God in us has been tainted by sin, and there is only one solution for sin...the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should not be surprised that sin can effect a human soul so thoroghly that one would believe their race superior to others, but we can boldly proclaim that Jesus died on the cross so that the sin that can lead to such egregious demonstrations that happened yesterday could be overcome, and the racial hatred that was demonstrated could be replaced by a love for each other and a racial unity that demonstrates something quite different; hearts changed by the gospel and local churches that live out that reality. We are all inwardly capable of such sinful thoughts and beliefs. Only the gospel can forgive our sin and compel us to honor the image of God all fellow humans share together.

The Power Of A Story

We are confronted every day, more and more often, with a challenge to maintain our distinctive beliefs in the Word of God. It's not uncommon to find sincere Christians who abandon sound biblical truth because they are confronted with a story that is so emotionally appealing that they abandon truth because they feel they need to 'follow their heart'. This article by Tim Challies is very helpful in preparing us for the 'stories' we will inevitably hear, and be help us be a biblically discerning people. Please read it!

Thanks...Lynn

Beware (and Embrace) the Power of Story - Tim Challies
August 8, 2017   #culture #sexuality SHARE
There’s a new gospel in town, and it has recruited cadres of evangelists. This new gospel heralds peace with God and man, it proclaims enlightenment through acceptance. Yet it’s not acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but acceptance of a new morality, the embrace and endorsement of what Christians have long understood to be forbidden. It’s a popular and powerful gospel and someone is going to proclaim it to you very soon. They will proclaim it and call for a response.

Argue theology and Christians will dig in, tell Christians stories and they will cave in.
A recent article at the ultra-popular lifestyle site Lifehacker provides a guide for its proselytizers. The title aptly describes its goal: “How to Talk with Religious Conservatives about LGBT Rights.” Apologetic in nature, it is meant to train people to persuade others to embrace this new gospel. Speaking honestly and as one of those religious conservatives, I consider it an effective bit of writing. If I was going to try to persuade religious folk to put aside their existing convictions to embrace new ones, it is exactly the article I would write. At its essence, it discourages persuasion through arguments and encourages persuasion through narrative. Argue theology and Christians will dig in, tell Christians stories and they will cave in.

As Christians we love stories. In fact, at Grace Fellowship Church we just celebrated a number of baptisms and each person was asked to share the story of how they came to Christ. James and Moon told how they had been Jehovah’s Witnesses, but came to understand they were involved in a cult. Ryan and Maria told how they had been raised in Christian homes and eventually been faced with whether or not they themselves believed what their parents had taught them. Ragu, raised in a Hindu home, had been handed a Bible and alone, in its pages, had found Christ. Jola told of being raised in a religious home but one in which he never once heard the gospel. All six gave testimony to God’s work in their life. They encouraged us not merely with the fact that they are Christians but with the story of how they became Christians. It was powerful. It was beautiful.

We tell such stories to encourage believers and to persuade unbelievers. Our stories serve as ministry to the saved and evangelism to the lost. They add flesh and experience to what may otherwise be mere theology, mere ideas. Ultimately, we hope these stories will lead others to investigate and accept the great story God is telling in and through his world.

This new gospel is hijacking the power of story and Christian respect for story in order to achieve its goals. “I find stories are a lot more compelling than arguments,” says James Martin. “One of the stories I like to tell people is about a gay friend of mine named Mark. Mark was in a religious order and left. He ended up marrying his partner, with whom he’s been together for 20 years. One of the things he has done is care for his partner through a long-term serious illness. I often say to people, ‘Is this not a form of love?’ I just ask that question. So I think it’s less about argumentation than it is about stories, more about what Pope Francis calls a ‘culture of encounter.'”

He knows that Christians are well-stocked with Bible verses sufficient to counter any new idea. But he also knows that Christians are unequipped to counter the power of a good story. Just as we use story to persuade others, story is being used to persuade us. One common refrain among those who have changed their theological convictions in this area is, “But then I met…” or “But then my grandson told me…” or “But then my friend told me about Mark.” Now we are no longer slinging Bible verses back and forth, but being told, being shown, being forced to pass judgment on real people. Here’s how he says it: “If person is closed-minded, or is not listening, there’s not a whole lot you can do. But I tend to believe that people are open to experiences. So a closed-minded person who suddenly discovers that his son is gay or her daughter is a lesbian is really forced to look at that differently, because they’re confronted with a person instead of a theory, and with an experience instead of a category.”

A strong story can overcome weak convictions just about every time.
As we consider our culture’s widespread acceptance and celebration of this new gospel, we need to ensure we do not focus so heavily on theology that we leave ourselves unequipped when it comes to story. It is one thing to know and be able to recall relevant Bible verses, but another thing altogether to hear a story or even to witness one. Experience is a powerful persuader. A strong story can overcome weak convictions just about every time. Generals will tell that a good battle plan is one strong enough to withstand first contact with the enemy. In a similar vein, convictions have to be strong enough to withstand first contact with a friend—or a child or a grandchild or anyone else we love who has a story to tell.

If we are going to respond well to the new cultural ethos, we need to know God’s Story—his plan for humanity, sexuality, and marriage. We need to be fully convinced about why it matters so much. We need to be willing to suffer loss to uphold it. Ultimately, we need to know that for stories to be good and true and beautiful, they must align with the Story that is ultimately good and true and beautiful. We need to know and tell the better Story.

 

BIG Announcement!

Please welcome Luke Friedly as our new Pastoral Intern.

 Our pastoral internship is a twelve month plan designed to provide a broad range of pastoral opportunities and experiences in order to discover and develop pastoral gifts and skills that will prepare the intern for future pastoral ministry.

Luke grew up on Colorado, the oldest of seven, where God saved him at the age of 19. His Christian walk was always accompanied by a desire to know Christ and share him with others.

A desire for pastoral ministry has been on his heart for most of his Christian walk.  Luke has been on a long and steady theological journey, seeking God and His Word, which led him to study and complete his Master’s in Biblical Studies at Westminster Seminary in Escondido.  It has also led him to be a part of Sovereign Grace Church here in Pasadena where he feels closely aligned with our beliefs and practices.

We are excited to have Luke serve here as a pastoral intern and look forward to a fruitful twelve months of learning, growing, and serving together. 

Make sure you find him on Sunday and welcome him to the team!

Do You Need Help Reading Your Bible?

Part of Christian discipleship is regularly reading our Bibles. Do you ever find yourself wondering what to read? Do you lack interest or desire? CJ Mahaney has written an article on the Desiring God website that will "create an excitement in your soul for reading the Bible."

"Listen, if you read just one book this year, along with your Bible, make it this book, because this book will make all the difference in creating an appetite for reading the only book that matters." - CJ Mahaney

Take a few minutes to read CJ's comments about a book from John Piper: "Do You Need Help Reading Your Bible?"and then go buy the book! 

Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture 

Walk It Out Wednesday: Psalm 123- Finding Mercy

Finding Mercy

 

In our Psalms of Ascent - Journey to Joy, we are on Psalm 123. This psalm gives us a set of skills in faith, looking to God in a pride-filled world. Listen to the sermon HERE.

Receiving God's mercy is exactly what you need for your journey.

The pilgrim's journey to finding God's mercy:

1. Look up

  • Pride always brings our eyes down on ourselves, placing our desires and feelings at the center of the universe, creating it's own gravitational pull
  • Pride sings songs of descent
  • Lifting up our eyes to the God who is enthroned in the heavens
  • God is above- it's not just about space but about his nature. He is above in rank, honor, authority and glory. He is uncreated and our creator.

2. Wait on God

  • Once we see God in His rightful place, we find our posture before Him - as humble servants.
  • The recipe for waiting on God contains: patience, endurance, anticipation, expectation, faith, keeping watch, staying on your guard, attentiveness, ready to act, always willing to obey. 
  • Waiting on God is actually full and busy activity; one of the hardest things a Christian is called to do. 

Waiting on God is a readiness and willingness to obey God .   

3.   Receive Mercy

  • Not simple rule - instead we get these deep and difficult commands like believe, trust, depend, wait, rest, and receive. 
  • We serve by receiving
  • To look up to God is to wait on God – to wait on him is to serve him – to serve him is to receive from him. 
  • "Have mercy!" - This is the word that means stoop down and show kindness and grace to us. 
  • Receiving mercy (grace, kindness, favor) from God is the antidote to the weariness that comes from living surrounded by pride.

The sum of God’s mercy is Christ to us and for us. 

 

Application:

  1. How are you finding yourself weary, worn down, or even "fed up?"
  2. What's going on in your life that's reminding you that this isn't our home?
  3. Where are you tempted to look down?
  4. How does your understanding of "waiting on God" match/differ with the biblical definition?
  5. What are some concrete ways you can: Look Up, Wait on God, Receive Mercy?
  6. Where are you in need of God's mercy? Share with your community group specific ways they can pray for you.

 

Psalms of Ascent: Psalm 122- Worship

Last Sunday, Bill Fisher spoke on Psalm 122. If you missed it - or just want to listen again, click HERE.

The purpose of these psalms is to draw us spiritually closer to God and Psalm 122 is specifically about our worship. The writer of Psalm 122 is considering the worship of God’s people as they gather together to glorify Him.

MAIN POINT: God is calling us to joyfully worship Him in communion with Christ’s church and find that through our worship He gives us peace and security.

1. Where we should worship

  • OT- Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, the dwelling place of God
    • The Presence of God left the temple on the day of the crucifixion, but His Presence entered the followers of Christ on the day of Pentecost!
  • NT-God’s Presence entered into the members of Christ’s church and changed our worship forever!

2. How we should worship

  • Corporately, in community and diversity
  • Joyfully

3. The result of our worship is peace and security

  • Peace (shalom) Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. helps us grasp the hugeness of this peace:  “In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights.  Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”
  • Security (shalvah) -“is a prosperous tranquility.”  

APPLICATION

How do we go about growing in our worship?  

  • First, answer the call to worship.
    • This psalmist is a portrait of the disciple of Christ who is obedient to worship God as he prescribes.  
      • Hebrews 10:25 says—“not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
    • Remember, we grow in our ability to worship as we worship.
  • Second, put Jesus Christ before you each day.
    • Read your Bible regularly in order to get the picture the Christ we worship in front of you.
  • Third, learn the words to the songs that we sing.
    • This may seem trivial.  I know that they’re up on the screens.
    • Knowing the songs will allow you to close your eyes and lift your hands and be in God’s presence!
    • Speak them if you can’t bear to sing (but I encourage you to sing anyway!)
  • Fourth, pray for your church.
    • This seems like the nearest New Testament equivalent to praying for the peace of Jerusalem.
    • Pray for the “shalom” of this church or your own home church.
    • Your heart for God’s people will grow as you pray for them individually and as a body.
  • Lastly, trust God.
    • The world, Satan, our own hearts make up all sorts of reasons for us to stay at home on Sunday morning.
    • The Old Testament Jews were called to leave there homes and towns to go to Jerusalem to worship God three times a year. 
      • How would they earn a living?
      • Who would protect their land from enemy attack?
    • God’s promised them in Exodus 34:24, “no one shall covet your land, when you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times in the year.”
    • God promised to protect them as they worshipped Him.
    • There are a few things that should legitimately keep you from worshipping with the church, but they’re few.  And, praise God, for most of us they don’t come up very often.
    • Worship God with the church and trust him to allow you to deal with life’s problems later.

College and Career Ministry: Cultivating Community

This past Sunday, about 35 people from the College and Career group gathered in the Coffee House for a perfect lunch for a hot afternoon: grilled bbq chicken, pasta salad and watermelon.

As a response to many of the singles in the church voicing a desire for more community, Rick is spending the summer talking about the topic and, this Sunday, gave a practical talk on "How to Cultivate Community."

After noting that our church-wide Community Groups are designed specifically for this purpose and encouraging each person to join one, Rick gave some specific advice on how one can grow in cultivating community by reaching out and being more "other focused."

Here are a few of his points:

1. Build Rapport with People

  • Be warm and friendly.  
  • Be interested not interesting.  
  • We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
  • Ask questions.
  • If you do not share an interest with someone, try to learn why they are interested in it.
  • Be open minded.
  • When meeting new people it is important to try to understand how they see things so you can find middle ground.
  • Listen.
  • Try to really hear what they are saying.
  • Pause before responding.
  • Ask questions for clarity.

2. Take Initiative

  • Invite a friend or two to join a Bible Study
  • Offer to connect with someone over coffee.
  • Reach out to people when you think they need it.
  • Offer to pray for and with someone.
  • Don’t wait for help when you need it, ask.
  • Ask for prayer.
  • Be a good communicator.
  • Follow up with people.
  • Try to be clear and specific.
  • Be responsible.
  • Be a person of your word.
  • Be on time.
  • Be kind!

If you missed the meeting, ask Rick for his outline - it has many more details - AND -check out the LINK to find a community group that you can join!

 

Evaluation and Planning

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Every year around this time, Ron and Lynn set aside several days to "walk the walls" of the church, evaluating and praying over every aspect of our church, asking God for wisdom in planning for another year.

They start their time with praying for every member and regular attender and move on to recounting evidences of grace and growth in the life of the church. It's a regular reminder of the joy and privilege of being under-shepherds.

Would you, as the congregation be in prayer as well for them? Please pray that God would grant them wisdom, discernment and clarity as they evaluate, plan and strategize for more fruitfulness in the coming year.

 

Psalms of Ascent: 121- PROTECTION

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PSALM 121

There are two words that describe every Christian:

  1. Disciple: not just learning academically - but apprenticing alongside a craftsman to acquire skills of faith.
  2. Pilgrim: leaving one place on a journey to another place. Saying "no" to one thing in order to say "yes" to another.

We are on a journey - we are in between two places and the journey is filled with danger. Psalm 121 tells us where we can go for protection as we are on this journey.

Where do we go for help?

  1. looking to the hills can symbolize looking to anything else besides God for help. The Israelites built idols on the "high places." 
  2. the Psalmist entreats us to look to the LORD - who made heaven and earth.

What Does God Protect Us From?

"To have God as your protector is not a guarantee of no trouble- but a promise that no trouble can ever separate you from his love. His grace can never be diluted, his love never diverted.God’s protection is protecting our faith and secures our future. "

  1. From losing our footing - the small stumbles along the way.
  2. Sunstroke - prolonged exposure to trials
  3. Moon - God never sleeps - he always cares. Day and Night

We are on a journey. We need to know who we are and where we are going. We are disciples and pilgrims sojourning to a heavenly city. We need protection - not from our idols and pseudo gods but from the LORD - maker of heaven and earth. 

APPLICATION

  1. Do you see yourself as a disciple? as a pilgrim? How are you growing in your skills of faith?
  2. Who is discipling you? Who are you discipling? If you answer "no one" to either question, what step can you take to remedy that?
  3. Which of the 3 categories are you currently needing protection in? (losing your footing / prolonged trials / feeling like God doesn't care)
  4. Where are you tempted to "look to the hills" - to other gods / methods of salvation?
  5. Use your discussion in community group to pray for one another in this area.

 

Look Up - An Encouragement for the Journey

Recently, we spent a week in Kings Canyon National Park. As we drove in to the canyon, we saw towering sequoias, the white, roaring Kings river, cascading waterfalls and majestic snow capped mountains. While driving along, our playlist beckoned us with song after song with repeating lyrics:

"Come on my soul, it's time to look up; come on all you sick and weary, lay your burdens down; come to the table; lift up your face"

Again and again, we were beckoned to life our eyes, lift our faces, lift our souls. What a wonderful invitation we received at the beginning of our vacation! And, God met us with his presence during our time away.

But - we don't have to drive to the mountains to receive this incredible invitation from God. We have it on Sundays when we gather for corporate worship. We have it right here. Right now. In this place. With these people. We don't have to go searching for God in the mountains - he's here in the valley too!

God's spirit is inviting us to lay our burdens down, lift up our faces and souls and LOOK UP to Him - to commune with Him.

Micah 7:7 - But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.
Psalm 123 - To you I lift up my eyes- my eyes look to the Lord our God.

We look to God:

  • the One who hears us in our distress and delivers us
  • the One who rescues us from our enemies
  • the One who saves, sustains and empowers us

I believe God's spirit is inviting us to LOOK UP / to lift up our eyes, our faces, and our souls.

Do you feel too weak to lift your face? He's got you covered! Psalm 3:3--He is also the "lifter of our heads!"  What a gracious God we serve! 

 

 

 

Psalms of Ascent- A Roadtrip with Jesus.

Psalm 120

Luke Friedly started us out on our journey through the Psalms of Ascent. If you missed the sermon - or would just like to listen again- click HERE. Luke did an excellent job walking us through the introduction to these songs and delving into the first one.

There are three things necessary for a successful summer road trip: traveling with good people, going to a great place with a first class playlist. The Jews took an annual trip to Jerusalem's temple with their friends and family and sang Psalms 120-134 along the way, lifting their eyes and hearts to God. These songs will serve to reorient our hearts and provide strength for our journey.

Summary of Psalm 120 - "In my distress I called to the Lord and he answered me." The psalmist finds himself in distress because of lying enemies and is calling out to the Lord for deliverance.

Two types of lies that we face (and the enemy behind them is the same--Satan who tries to destroy our faith)

  1. lies and malicious gossip from enemies
  2. lies we believe that are destructive to our faith

We call out to God in our distress - and he answers us and delivers us. But, sometimes, we don't get the deliverance we expect. During those times we need to realize that God answers our distress with a promise - that His grace is sufficient.

APPLICATION QUESTIONS: [listen to the message again]

  1. Reflect on how God has rescued you in the past. Share with someone an example of God's faithfulness to you in your distress and how he has rescued you. If you haven't experienced rescue yet, what promises in God's word are strengthening you in your wait? If you don't know any promises, share with your community group - they can help strengthen you by sharing scriptures and promises with you.
  2. Are you currently in distress? Take some time now to cry out to the Lord for deliverance. Share with your community group so they can pray with and for you.
  3. Are you currently experiencing lies - from within / from without; either about you or inside you (lies that you are believing that are holding you captive). Identify any lies that might be affecting your faith and growth in the Lord and bring them into the light of God's word.

Worship Matters Video Intensive Training

"In 2008, Bob Kauflin wrote Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, in which he sought to connect a biblical theology of worship with what worship leaders actually do on Sundays. Through the book, Bob builds congregational worship on biblical principles that transcend cultures, generations, and ethnic groups.

Given the encouragement that’s come in response to the book, Bob has recorded a 12-session training course as a supplement to Worship Matters. In this video series he teaches through a broad range of topics, from practical guidance on putting songs together, growing in spontaneity, and planning a service to spiritual topics like humility, comparison, and idolatry. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more practical, engaging, and pastoral tool for worship leaders, pastors, and anyone involved in music ministry in their local church.

The sessions can be viewed consecutively or separately, depending on what serves you. Watching these videos with friends or the musicians at your church would be ideal, as you get to work through the content together. Outlines, transcripts, and subtitled versions in English (and Spanish, in the future) are available for download underneath each video.

We hope and pray this video series proves to be a helpful tool for you, your team, and your church in developing your gifts and increasing your love for our glorious Savior, Jesus Christ!" - Sovereign Grace Music

Click HERE to link to the Worship IntensiveTraining Videos.

The Kingdom Strikes Back

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A New Decree

In series in Esther, we are in chapter 8. [You can listen to the sermon HERE]. In chapter 8 - we see the Gospel message displayed in story form:

The Irrevocable Decree of Death - The Counter Decree of Life - The Window of Opportunity

The Jews, after receiving the death decree and the counter decree had a window of opportunity to prepare to "strike back." Astoundingly, many people during that time became Jews.

We can see our own story in Esther - we've been given the death decree because of our sin against a holy God. He, in his mercy, has provided a way of escape - through Jesus Christ's sacrifice. We've been given a window of opportunity - a chance to prepare for heaven and bring others with us.  This is how we "strike back" - not with human weapons - but weapons of walking in the Spirit, sharing our faith, being witnesses for Christ on the earth.

Questions of Application:

  • If you only had 9 months to live - how would you live differently?
  • What's on your "bucket list"? Are those things kingdom related?
  • According to the message, how are our spiritual weapons different from worldly ones? 
  • Where are you tempted to use weapons of this world?
  • What are the weapons of our warfare? How can you grow in using them? 
  • What's one thing you can do this week to "strike back" - for the Kingdom?

 

 

Men's Quarterly Event: ACT LIKE MEN

July 1st

8-11 @ SovGrace Church

On July 1st - we will be hosting our 2nd quarterly Men's Breakfast. We have invited Kevin Bryan, a pastor from Redeemed South Bay Church to speak.

Our theme is taken from 1 Cor 16:13: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”

We will be discussing what it means to be the leaders and men of God that He has called us to be.

Join us Saturday, July 1, from 8-11 @ the church!

God's Sovereignty and Evangelism

Here's a quote that didn't make it into the Sunday Sermon in Esther, on God's sovereignty. It's from J.I. Packer's Book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.  I thought it might be helpful to fill out questions you might have regarding the subject.

“Evangelism, we have learned, is a task appointed to all God’s people everywhere. It is the task of communicating a message from the Creator to rebel mankind.

 The message begins with information and ends with an invitation. The information concerns God’s work of making His Son a perfect Saviour for sinners. The invitation is God’s summons to mankind generally to come to the Saviour and find life. God commands all men everywhere to repent, and promises forgiveness and restoration to all who do. The Christian is sent into the world as God’s herald and Christ’s ambassador, to broadcast this message as widely as he can. This is both his duty (because God commands it, and love to our neighbor requires it) and his privilege (because it is a great thing to speak for God, and to take our neighbor the remedy - the only remedy- that can save him from the terrors of spiritual death.)

 Our job, then, is to go to our fellow men and tell them the gospel of Christ, and try by every means to make it clear to them; to remove as best we can any difficulties that they may find in it, to impress them with its seriousness, and to urge them to respond to it. This is our abiding responsibility; it is a basic part of our Christian calling.”