Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Why Are Some Things Sinful and Not Others?

I had a great conversation with one of my kids this month on why God calls some things sinful and some things not sinful. Some ideas that arose were:
-We all decide to draw a line on what we consider sin and what we don’t consider sin.
-From where do people choose to draw wisdom on where to draw this line?

Some observations on this topic:
-We often want to decide the line based on our own desires.
-We also want to decide the line based on societal pressures.
-We often draw it at the point where we believe we will no longer receive joy from a behavior.

Conclusions drawn:
-If one is a believer, we trust that God chooses the line based on the wisdom given in His Word. Romans 11:33–35 says, [33] Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! [34] “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” [35] “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”
-God can be trusted to make the “line decision” because He has shown His trustworthiness in saving me from my sin even when I didn’t deserve it. Romans 5:8 says, "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
-I choose, by His grace, to let God draw that line from the Bible. He knows where I will find joy better than I do. Psalm 16:11 says, "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."

Choose wisely today,
Pastor Ben

Friday, July 24, 2020

Psalm 57: A Refuge in the Storm

Psalm 57:1–2 (ESV)

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings, I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.

I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

The words of Psalm 57, which David wrote when he fled from Saul, have brought great comfort to me over these past few months as we have walked through these crazy months of 2020. The year began with a flurry of activity preparing for our son’s wedding at the end of March. We got everything done, and in mid-February hopped on a plane bound for Southeast Asia. A couple of people asked if we were concerned about that virus in China. “Nay, we’ll be a long way from China.” We had a wonderful trip, but as we started home, the situation was heating up. Korea now had cases of this new virus, and we had to travel through Korea. This far off problem suddenly hit home.

After we arrived home, I became consumed with worry, not so much that I myself would get sick, but two fears plagued me. What if we became sick and started the coronavirus outbreak in Washington, IL, and what if we became sick and had to quarantine and miss our son’s wedding? Instead of sleeping, I tossed and turned. I lost weight. We watched our son struggle to decide whether to travel home from Asia. We watched our son and his fianc√©e’s wedding plans fall apart. I racked my brain trying to find a way to make everything turn out all right.

But I couldn’t make everything turn out the way I wanted. All of our older kids were significantly impacted by the chaos and uncertainty that Covid-19 brought. And we sat helplessly by. I cried bottles of tears, tears for my family, and tears over my own losses, losses I could never get back. I worried and fretted over all the unknowns of the future. I dreaded the weird, unfamiliar experience of going to the store. I cried the day I broke down and ordered masks for our family. I didn’t want to admit that this strange way of life was going to be around for a while. And in the midst of this, all the rest of life’s responsibilities continued. At times it seemed like pressures from every area of life threatened to crush me.

And in the midst of this, the Lord spoke to me through Psalm 57. “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful.” How I needed His mercy! I was in desperate need. My world was in chaos, and my heart was even more turbulent. I knew I did not have the resources to ride out this storm on my own. The attribute of mercy implies a heart that looks with compassion on those in need and desires to relieve their misery. It also implies resources adequate to meet the need. My God is the perfect one to run to when I need mercy. He is merciful. He has shown me mercy in Christ and continues to pour out His grace and mercy on me in the midst of life’s troubles.

“For in you, my soul takes refuge” I have had to learn this lesson over and over. I seek refuge so many ways before I finally turn to the One who is the only real refuge. I realized again that my favorite refuge is my own ability to solve problems and control my life. When I can’t figure it out, my mind spins with anxious thoughts, and my heart fills with despair. “In the shadow of your wings, I will take refuge.” Just like David, I had to give up trust in myself and decide “I will take refuge in my God.” And what beautiful imagery David uses. Every time I read it, I think of Jesus’s comforting, inviting words, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” That is my Savior’s heart, to offer refuge to his suffering people, even when we cause much of our own suffering by our sinful choices and self-reliant ways. And I can keep on trusting my Savior and God. His steadfast love and faithfulness to me will continue. That gives me hope because I know that the storms won’t be completely over in this life. They simply ebb and flow and change. Even as the chaos from the pandemic begins to ease, new challenges tempt me too restless nights and anxious thoughts. Daily, moment by moment, I have to keep seeking refuge “until the storms of destruction pass by.”

Even in the fiercest storms, I have hope because “I cry out to God Most High” My God is the Ruler overall. He is the One who created the heavens and the earth. Nothing is too difficult for Him. I am crying out to “God, who fulfills his purpose for me.” I know that no matter what happens, even when my life makes no sense to me, even when I am not faithful to Him, God is fulfilling his purpose for me, and his purposes cannot be thwarted. Pandemics, and difficulties, and even my own actions cannot derail God’s plan for my life or for the lives of those I love.

Near the end of Psalm 57 David says, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.” I cannot say that yet. My heart is often storm-tossed and wobbly and waffling and inconsistent, but my heart is changing. It is becoming more steadfast. The key is, like David, to keep my eyes fixed, not on the swirling storms around me or on the raging storms inside me, but to keep my eyes fixed on the One who calms the storms with His great power and says to my stormy heart, “Peace, be still.”

Kim Anderson

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Please Pray for the Hornbrooks

Hi Evan,
Thanks so much for posting our prayer requests

1. Praise God with us for all the ministry opportunities provided by the Coronavirus.

2. Pray for our Bible Conversations with our next door neighbor´s on Fridays. We have had three so far. Marisol told us after the last one that she is on cloud 9 and so grateful for all she is learning!

3. This week Marisol´s nephew, Freddy, is borrowing Jamie´s computer because his broke and he works on line. His replacement should come in the mail soon. He is also asking for guitar lessons and Bible studies in English. Thank you for praying with us for the salvation of this family.

4. Thursday Jamie and I are going to meet with the unsaved husband of one of our long time members. His wife and daughters will be there as well. He seems extra open to spiritual conversations right now also.

5. That God will bless and provide for at least 8 families who are struggling to feed their families.
Our church is helping to provide what they lack. May it be a time of more growth for our church.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Please pray for Pablo and Judi Perez

Below are some of the ways that you can be praying this week for the Perez's this week as they serve the Lord through COVID-19:

1. Praise God for the first meeting, June 4, via Zoom of all of the house churches and discipleship groups. 69 devices were connected.
2. Pray for the coordinators of the strategic areas of MOPI (Movimiento de Plantación de Iglesias - Church Planting Movement) especially Communications and Media, Education, and Training so that we can use technology to effectively evangelize, make disciples, and train leaders.
3. Pray for the Renacimiento Church. A number of families are without work, and are therefore without money for food and being threatened with eviction. Due to COVID 19 regulations in Ecuador, the building is shut down until further notice. It has meant the real church is growing, but the "traditionalists" have a hard time comprehending that they can be the church without connecting to a building.

We also ask for us personally:
1. Judi came to the US on June 16 to be with her 89-year-old parents. Her Mom has been hospitalized 3 times since April 25. They are doing OK, but a return to Ecuador will have to wait until the situation due to COVID 19 changes.
2. Pray for Pablo as he regularly preaches/teaches/counsels via Zoom/Facebook/Whatsapp over 40 hours a week. PTL! his voice is holding out!

The Dreadful Burden of Teaching Untruth

A long time ago, Pastor Daniel asked me to consider reading D. A. Carson's book, Exegetical Fallacies. He mentioned this book again a few weeks ago in our hermeneutics study. The following question really challenged me to consider the weightiness of words in a believer's life. We often say counsel is simply giving advice, offering an opinion, or even something as subtle as body language or silence itself. Every counsel, beginning with self-counsel, we are constantly offering counsel. In this statement, Carson describes a sobering description of what we all do, many times without forethought, that of "laying on the conscience".
When you engage in the ministry of discipleship and/or biblical counsel, you are weighing doctrinal principles on the conscience of another person. Perhaps to people who literally are hanging on your every word.
Carson warns about the seriousness of handling and interpreting the Word of God accurately when he says,
"The sensitive student may ask, “If there are so many exegetical traps, so many hermeneutical pitfalls, how can I ever be confident that I am rightly interpreting and preaching the Scriptures? How can I avoid the dreadful burden of teaching untruth, of laying on the consciences of Christ’s people things Christ does not himself impose, or removing what he insists should be borne? How much damage might I do by my ignorance and exegetical clumsiness?" Exegetical Fallacies, D.A. Carson, page 22

I want to pass on this challenge so that it becomes a shared burden with all of us in this worthy ministry, that we all take seriously our responsibility to read, know, understand and interpret God's Word as He intended that we help ourselves and each other apply it appropriately and effectively. Carson's warning here is poignant, don't add to God's commands and don't require people what God does not require.
Don't minimize or overlook what God calls each of us to aspire to.
Any distortion or misrepresentation of His Word is a distortion of the Person of Christ, who is our only hope.
You and I can avoid the dreadful burden of teaching untruth by careful, diligent growth in knowing how to rightly divide the Word of Truth. D.A. Carson’s book, Exegetical Fallacies is a great help in avoiding this great burden.

1 Timothy 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.

Kent Kloter