It’s Friday…everybody’s working for the weekend. But, I want to encourage you to seek the Lord. Here’s some great encouragement from Psalm 70:
Hope this comes out of your heart this weekend.
My 2/7/16AM sermon, Watch Yourself from 2 John 1:1-13, is now online. As one who grew up in church, I honestly don’t remember taking a look at the book of 2 John. In this sermon, which continues looking at John’s letters, we looked at 2 John. I grabbed my sermon title and outline using 2 John 1:8’s command to watch ourselves. My outline was fleshed out showing how we watch ourselves when it comes to love, Jesus and abiding. I hope it encouraged you.
I am helped consistently by good friends around me both in and out of pastoral ministry. They refine and help me in many ways. There’s a groaning to pastoral ministry that is difficult for those who aren’t in it to see. Each week there are countless behind the scenes things that are happening in the lives of people and pastors are often caught up in this work (especially in the smaller to mid-size churches where a great number of pastors serve).
I was thinking last week about suffering and some situations that people I know are dealing with. It was over lunch with one of my elders and it had to do with somberly thinking about people, their situations and sufferings. I don’t wish ill or suffering upon any in the body I’m privileged to serve, but I consistently try to think and prepare myself for the suffering that may come. If tragedy would strike a family, for instance, they need a pastor who isn’t crushed by this, but one who is sorrowful, yet rejoicing. So, there’s a discipline to this.
You could say that pastors who serve well in those moments have prepared themselves for those moments. God’s grace is sufficient for all kinds of situations. What this means, practically, is working through some of these things emotionally when things don’t appear to be going “bad.” This is the heaviness or burden that some pastors feel. So, here it is principle form: pastors are to be trailblazers into suffering. We work through the emotions, hurt, and raw reality that may very well come in the hard situations. By doing this, we’ve already been there and done that (emotionally, at least).
One passage that helped me was thinking of Daniel’s three friends when confronted by the prospects of the fiery furnace. They said, God can deliver, but if we die, even then God will give deliverance. So, no matter the situation, pastors are holding on to Gospel realities throughout. God may very well deliver–that will be to His glory and for His fame. He may choose not to deliver. Situations will inevitably end in death. The cancers may not heal. But, even then, pastors hold out a deeper reality: even in this, God is delivering.
Because Jesus conquered death, pronounced, “It is finished,” and then actually defeated it by rising from the dead, we can offer real, deep, abiding and lasting hope no matter what situations we encounter. So, be a trailblazer into suffering, because there you’ll find rich Gospel realities that stand up to whatever situations we face.
I love this song by Michael W. Smith…this version sung with the amazing Carrie Underwood…
The magician grabs the hat and challenges Santa: And just what are YOU going to do about it? Here’s the rest of the conversation:
Santa: If you so much as lay a finger on the brim, I’ll never bring you another Christmas present as long as you live.
Magician: No more trick cards or magic balls or…
Santa: No more anything.
Magician: Oh, that’s not fair. I mean, we evil magicians have to make a living too.
Santa: Now you go home and write “I am very sorry for what I did to Frosty” a hundred zillion times. And then maybe, just maybe, mind you…you’ll find something in your stocking tomorrow morning.
Magician: A new hat maybe? Oh, yes sir. Goodbye everyone. I’ve got to get busy writing busy busy busy.
Now, why do I rehearse these details? Well, they simply show that Jesus is better.
1) He’s better than Santa. You see, when Jesus came as the Savior of the world, He didn’t come calling people to work up a fake sorry and contrition so they can receive good things from Him. They don’t have to write out anything a hundred zillion times. They don’t even have to say they are very sorry for wronging another person with the hopes that maybe, just maybe, they’ll earn Jesus’ good favor. Jesus simply gives it in spite of what we deserve or have done. We’re called to give up all hope of rescue in ourselves and to lean on Him only. Jesus forgives freely. We don’t put down a down payment on these things.
2) He’s better than Frosty. After all, Frosty is frozen at this point. He’s not able to do anything to effect change. Jesus is better than that because He went into the greenhouse (to use Frostyspeak) for us. He bore all the punishment and evil that we could possibly receive from sinful people so that we might be saved not just in part but on the whole. He’s a perfectly sympathetic High Priest.
3) And, of course, the salvation Jesus brings is better than what we see here. There’s so much contingent not on grace and mercy, but on penance and contrition. After all, is this even believable. Who could possibly be sorry enough to earn a gift from Santa. Jesus, on the other hand, says to any who are burdened with such things to give up. Come to Him, all who are weary and heavy laden and He will give you rest. His salvation is sweeter, deeper, and richer.
This holiday season, then, you have good news. A Savior has been born for you. You can freely rest in Him and know a love like you’ve never known. Jesus is better than these expressions. Look to Him.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Rest today in this truth that God loved you and acted, by giving His Son so that you could have eternal life. Believe in Him and receive the gift of eternal life this holiday season.
I was reminded recently of a post over at Desiring God on Nine Ways The Gospel Transforms Marriage. I thought remembering these would prove helpful as we think of the Father sending His Son to be the Savior of the world. So, these 9 ways (drawn from Gary and Betsy Ricucci’s Love That Lasts) could be thought of 9 ways the true meaning of Christmas transforms marriage. After all, Jesus is called Jesus because He would save His people from their sin (Matthew 1:21). Here are 9 ways the Gospel directly affects marriage:
2 Corinthians 5:17). Therefore, in our marriage, our past does not define us, confine us, or determine our future., Christians have become new creations (Ephesians 1:7). Therefore we can live free of all guilt and condemnation for every sin, and we can trust that God, in his mercy, will be gracious to us. , we are forgiven (Ephesians 4:32). Nothing done against us compares to our sin against God. Therefore all offenses, hostility, and bitterness between Christians can be completely forgiven and removed. we can forgive, just as Christ forgave us (Romans 15:7). Therefore we are not dependent on a spouse for who we are or what we need. , we are accepted by God (Romans 6:6, 14). Therefore we can truly obey all that God calls us to do in our marriage, regardless of any circumstance or situation. , sin’s ruling power over us is broken (Hebrews 4:14-16). Therefore we can at any time take any need in our marriage to the One who can do all things. , we have access to God through Christ (Romans 5:1-4). Therefore we can endure any marital difficulty, hardship, or suffering, with the assurance that God is working all to our greatest good (Romans 8:28). , we have hope (Galatians 3:13-14). Therefore we are confident that God is always with us and is always at work in our marriage, even when progress is imperceptible (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). , Christ dwells in us by his Holy Spirit (Romans 7:19-21, 24-25; Galatians 5:16-17). This indwelling enemy represents the essence of what is called the doctrine of sin., we have power to fight and overcome remaining sin, which continues to dwell and war within us (
Today, then, as you marvel at the birth of your Savior, consider what He did to decisively do something about marriage.
What encouragement was Joseph given from the angel about this baby in Mary’s womb:
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
Today, then rest in this amazing news that God sent a rescuer for you.