Transforming Graces, Part 2

  • Tuesday, March 29, 2011
  • Imagine yourself on an island, surrounded by characters and events that seem joyful on the surface, but on closer examination are not so desirable. When you walk to the edge of the island, you can see a wonderful place across the expanse of water, but it is too far to reach on your own. Then, one day, a bridge appeared and offered you an opportunity to leave the island of sin and embark on a journey of reward toward a promised wonderful time with God.

    Sunday’s message from Titus 2 is just such a story. It’s a tale of God’s own masterpiece of design that bridges that unspannable chasm between His holiness and the island where you’ve been held captive. Pastor Tom borrowed from Stuart Briscoe’s comparison of God’s incredible and love-driven construction of just such a bridge, much like the Golden Gate Bridge linking San Francisco with Marin County in California. Let’s examine the basic features of the bridge which illustrate God’s wonderful plan.

    There are two great towers which are the main points of support for the bridge. The first tower represents the grace of God. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.”  Titus 2:11  We don’t deserve this first tower, but it’s appearance brings excitement and radiance. Looking at the foundation of this grace, it is in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who serves us in humility.

    That second great tower is hidden until the first is first seen, then it wonderfully appears in the fog of our lives. “Instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”  Titus 2:12-13

    So, the two great towers of the bridge God has built for us are grace and glory. But the bridge isn’t complete until God stretches two amazing cables from shore to shore. As we continue to examine God’s loving plan of salvation, the first cable is that of redemption. How amazing that God stretches a cable to lift us off our island of sin. It’s a cable made of the blood of Christ. “...knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”  1 Peter 1:18-19

    That single cable is immediately joined by a second, one we label sanctification. “...who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”  Titus 2:14  Sanctification is that process whereby God works to do His will and glorification. It is goal oriented training that is designed to make us more like Him.

    God’s plan of salvation is the amazing story of His love-driven work to carry us across the chasm that separates us from Him. The Golden Gate Bridge is considered one of the marvels of man’s efforts to provide a way to travel over the Golden Gate, the entrance to San Francisco Bay. Perhaps this story will help you view the bridge in a different light, as an illustration of God’s wonderful way of bridging the chasm between man and God.

    Transforming Graces

  • Friday, March 25, 2011
  • I once sat next to an incarcerated inmate, shared a hymnbook and sang together the great truths of the liberating power of the gospel. After our singing and before I began my second message of the evening, I foolishly inquired as to how long he had been a resident of the correctional center. “I am doing life for first-degree murder.” Yikes! Speechless, I sat uncomfortably wondering what to say next. He didn’t wait. “I am grateful for my sentence. I had to be placed in the bondage of prison in order for God to set me free!”

    For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, training us (like teachable children) to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly (yikes…there is THAT word again…i.e. practicing self-control), righteously (according to a vertical relationship standard) and godly (reflecting the character of the Creator) in the present age (the here and now) looking for the blessed hope (continually looking up and anticipating the “great snatch”) and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (today would be a GREAT day for a trumpet).

    Check them off:
    • Ungodly behaviors…check
    • Worldly/fleshly drives and urges…check 
    • Rebel deeds…check
    Verdict? Guilty as charged!

    Now, check again:
    • Sensibility?
    • Righteousness? 
    • God-reflecting behaviors? 
    • Passionate about doing what is good?
    Liberation. Free!

    A twisted inversion possesses us. What we consider true “freedom”…unchecked passions, self-serving actions, in-your-face to God behaviors…we call this “being free”, liberated. But these are prison-guards, keeping us under control, dominating our very existence, manipulating every one of our fleshly weaknesses. But God in His grace sets us free! Free from such slavery, that we might be joyously bound to a new and gracious Master.

    Sometimes our sin ends up placing us into bondage so that grace can set us truly free! “I had to be placed in the bondage of prison in order for God to set me free!”

    The liberating power of the gospel!

    See you Sunday, Church!
    Pastor Tom

    Let the Nations Be Glad

  • Tuesday, March 22, 2011
  • In Acts 8, we're told that the new Christians scattered throughout the land, preaching the word about Christ. One of them, Philip, was called to go on the desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza, where he met an Ethiopian eunuch who had come to Jerusalem to worship. Philip witnessed to this man and baptized him in a nearby stream. That man went on to be instrumental in taking the word to Ethiopia, helping establish Christianity in that country.

    Some may wonder why Philip left Jerusalem, where he had the opportunity to work with many Christians and others eager to hear the word. But this passage illustrates that when he left his comfortable surroundings, the Lord used him in a great way.

    On Sunday, Pastor John van Dinther read this passage in Acts 8, as he challenged members of Faith Bible Church to join him and the others from New Life Stockholm in reaching Sweden. Who among us will leave our comfortable surroundings and go? Will it be you?

    Click here to view a short video from our worship service with the Sweden team.

    Worship in the Language of Heaven

  • Friday, March 18, 2011

  • We speak the “language of heaven” here! Gothenburg. 1st B. Pride and passion. Not JUST “Baptist” but “FIRST Baptist”! Officially incorporated two years BEFORE the city of Gothenburg, Nebraska was officially incorporated. And Swedish. Very Swedish. The hymns that were sung? In Swedish. The announcements that were made? In Swedish. The proclamation of the Word? You guessed it. The language of heaven!

    But a serious integration began to take place. Marriage. Boy meets girl. Girl likes boy. Boy asks girl to marry. Weddings. And suddenly it wasn’t quite so Swedish anymore. German. German and Swedish. Integration. And a battle to maintain the language of heaven. Would the services be continued in Swedish? Perhaps they ought to be conducted now in German! ENGLISH!?!? Why in the world would the hymns, announcements AND the preaching be in ENGLISH?!? Who can worship the Living God in ENGLISH?!? Gone was the “language of heaven”.

    The 1930s’ “compromise” to English preserved the historic congregation. They were, after-all, the FIRST Baptist Church! The “language of worship” became the English language, which was soon labeled, “THE language of Heaven”.

    “And behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and tribe and peoples and tongue, standing before the Throne…saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the Throne, and to the Lamb!’” Revelation 7

    English, with a heavy Scandinavian accent and the audible undertones of German.  1st B of G-burg. Worship in the language of heaven!

    Join with us this Sunday as we welcome the Harvest Field Team from Stockholm, Sweden and together, with a bit of Swedish, a whole lot of English, and one heart and voice, worship the Lord our God. Worship in the languages of heaven! 

    See you Sunday, Church!
    Pastor Tom

    Does Your Behavior Draw Others to Him?

  • Tuesday, March 15, 2011

  • Remember when you were a kid in school and you learned about magnets? One of the fun things was to put a bar magnet under a piece of paper and sprinkle iron filings. As you sprinkled the filings and shook the paper a bit, the magnetic fields became very evident as the filings were arranged around the ends of the magnet. When you look at the bar by itself, it looked like a plain piece of metal, but when you applied the iron filings, it became very apparent that it was a magnet.

    There’s a lesson there related to our continued study in Titus. As we explore that lesson, let’s read those verses again. “Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.”   Titus 2:9,10

    As Pastor Tom dug into this passage, the instructions for all of us who have jobs of one sort or another became clear. The guidelines included:

    *   Be submissive in everything.
    *   Seek excellence in your job, because God is your inspector.
    *   No talking back, be supportive in your talk and other communication and not argumentative.
    *   No pilfering, and that goes for your time at work as much as it means taking home office supplies.
    *   Be a trusted employee, showing all good faith to your employer through your actions.

    Guidelines for believers in their work can be found in a number of places in Scripture. Take a moment to read a few we reviewed on Sunday.

    “Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.”  1 Corinthians 7:21-24

    “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance it is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”  Colossians 3:23,24

    “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as send by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.”  1 Peter 2:13,14

    When you work, do you appear as just another person, like that bar of metal, or when put to the test, does the magnetism of your Christianity draw others to Him like iron filings to a magnet? Remember, your occupation is more than a job, it’s God’s way of providing for you through your employer. You’re placed there as a magnet for the Lord and to draw people to Him. 

    Work: It’s More Than a Job

  • Friday, March 11, 2011
  • “Urge bond-servants to be subject to their own masters in everything…showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.”

    “Have fun at work. Another day in paradise!” 

    Having arrived a few minutes early for my appointment this morning, I slid into a vacant booth at the café’ and opened my Bible to steal a few minutes of sermon prep. At the round table to my left was gathered what appeared to be a regular coffee and breakfast gang of seasoned gentlemen. With typical big-boy bantering, they wound down their time together. Then one of them stood to his feet to leave, and his buddy said, “Have fun at work. Another day in paradise!”

    With the only apparently still "employed" member of their fellowship group gone, they shifted their conversation to Lincoln Public Schools' HR department. Not exactly complimentary, but certainly, if they were to be asked, full of corrections and solutions! They also had sage comments about the unions of Wisconsin, as you can imagine. I jotted down some of their many insights and thought, “My, what wasted wisdom. These guys seem to have discovered the elusive answers to every labor issue in our nation. Someone probably ought to listen to them!”  So, for a few more minutes I did. Then I thought, “Mmmm…probably not.” My friend arrived and I turned my attention to my breakfast appointment, satisfied that I had discovered at least one nugget to treasure. "Have fun at work. Another day in paradise!”

    Wisdom for Women

  • Tuesday, March 8, 2011
  • “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”   Titus 2:3-5

    Paul’s message to Titus as he headed to the Island of Crete is as valid today for the church as it was 2,000 years ago. The church needed leaders, but it also needed people whose lives lived to the glory of God. Our passage for this week points the attention of our focus on women. From the words of Paul, we can outline a dozen guidelines for women of the church. And, they’re broken into internal and external attributes. If you’re a woman in the church, consider your life and how it measures up to the standard suggested by Paul.
    Internal Attributres
    1.   Exudes Godliness—“Reverent in their behavior” When people look at you, what do they see? Do they see someone who bears the appearance of a God lover? Do they see someone who is involved in serving the church?

    2.   Let the Cursor Flash—“Not malicious gossips” It used to be talking over the back fence or the laundry line, but today, gossip can happen happen in an e-mail, a text, a facebook posting as well as over a cup of coffee with a friend. Perhaps this quote will provide a good guideline. “Everything that is said must be true...everything that is true does not have to be said!” Think before you trype. Pause before you send. Better yet, let the cursor flash!

    3.   Marked by Moderation—“Not enslaved to much wine” Do you obsess on the things in your life? It doesn't have to be wine. It could be chocolate, or fries or even that game of tennis you just have to get in. Be the master of your world, don't let it master you.

    He Who Walks with Wise Men

  • Friday, March 4, 2011
  • “He who walks with wise men will be wise…” Proverbs 13:20

    But growing old does not necessarily make one wise.

    “That is not appropriate behavior!” How many times have I heard the Nana make that statement to our grandchildren? Her mission? Teach them what is and what is not proper etiquette and appropriate behavior in each given situation. And then they went to the pediatric dentist where, if you are a “good patient”, you get to select a gift from a variety of options. And Meredith chose…

    The greatest lessons on appropriate behavior are better “caught than taught”. “A blind man cannot lead a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” Luke 6:39-40

    Some of my fondest memories of youth ministry years have to do with my sponsor team. Of course, we were radically committed to the spiritual health and maturing of high school students. But we also had an incredible partnership with a “blue chip class” of sponsors. In fact, one pastor’s assessment of our youth ministry was, “You just have a bunch of adults who love being together and don’t mind if some young people hang around with them!” That was a pretty accurate assessment.

    When I’m Grown Up, Part 2

  • Tuesday, March 1, 2011
  • “Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.” Titus 2:6

    Simply growing older does not mean one is growing wiser! The characteristics of the spiritually mature man, as Paul describes them to Titus, and not innate qualities, but only develop through reliance on the Spirit, reading of His Word, and resting in His power and authority! But the young men of the church are to be encouraged, are to be urged to watch and learn from those who are an example of such spiritual growth.

    “Likewise, urge the young men to be sensible"

    To urge is to most strongly entreat and encourage, to be active in point someone in the right direction. And that direction is one of "being sensible" – of having good judgment, common sense, and self-control. It is interesting that the ‘only’ character quality Paul mentions in terms of young men in this passage is that of ‘being sensible’. The young man who lacks common sense, who lacks judgment, who is lacking in self-control will have a most difficult road ahead to true growth.

    Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). The lack of self-control is listed among the “quality-traits” of the ungodly…