The Hardest Place to Pray

An excerpt from Paul Miller’s A Praying Life allows for challenge in some of the things that we allow to take away from our time with God. What struggles do we face in the context we live? Miller does a good job of revealing our mindset and the influence of the surrounding American in this section of his text:


American culture is probably the hardest place in the world to learn to pray. We are so bust that when we slow down to pray, we find it uncomfortable. We prize accomplishments, production. But prayer is nothing but talking to God. It feels useless, as if we are wasting time. Every bone in our bodies screams, “Get to work.” 

When we aren’t working, we are used to being entertained. Television, the Internet, video games, and cell phones make free time as busy as work. When we do slow down, we slip into a stupor. Exhausted by the pace of live, we veg out in front of a screen or with earplugs.

If we try to be quiet, we are assaulted by what C.S. Lewis called “the Kingdom of Noise.” Everywhere we go we hear background noise. IF the noise isn’t provided for us, we can bring our own via iPod. 

Even our church services can have that same restless energy. There is little space to be still before God. We want our money’s worth, so something should always be happening. We are uncomfortable with silence.

One of the subtlest hindrances to prayer is probably the most pervasive. In the border culture and in our churches, we prize intellect, competency, and wealth. Because we can do live without God, praying seems nice but unnecessary. Money can do what prayer does, and it is quicker and less time consuming. Our trust in ourselves and in our talents makes us structurally independent of God. As a result, exhortations to pray don’t stick.



Paul Miller. A Praying Life. NavPress. Colorado Springs, CO. 2009: 15-16.

 

Mother’s Day Approaches

This upcoming Sunday we celebrate mothers, and as we approach Mother’s Day we also want to reflect on the Biblical examples of godly women, who above everything, put God first. The following is from a sermon, found at this site, but it helps us see a godly woman who loved the Lord and allowed the Lord to use her child.


Introduction

Motherhood is a special privilege and a sacred duty. Think about the role a mother plays in the nurture and development of a child. There is a South African proverb: “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the nation and its destiny.” A mother’s love is special and unique, but a mother’s duty is to raise a child to follow and serve God.

There may not be a greater heartache than for a woman to have the heart of a mother, the desire to nurture and love a young life, but not have a child. What great pain and struggle for young couples who want a child, yet cannot have one. It grips your heart to see the tears of a woman who wants to be a mother so badly.

This was the circumstance for Hannah, as recorded in Scripture. In 1 Samuel 1:10-13, we read:

“Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the LORD and wept with many tears. Making a vow, she pleaded, ‘LORD of Hosts, if You will take notice of Your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give Your servant a son, I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut.’ While she was praying in the LORD’s presence, Eli watched her lips. Hannah was speaking to herself, and although her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. Eli thought she was drunk.”

Hannah hurt deeply because she wanted to be a mother. In her pain she cried out to God. This is a side note and not the heart of the sermon, but when you are pain, there is no better person to go than God. As the hymn writer Elisha Hoffman tells us, “I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus, I cannot bear these burdens alone.” Hannah goes to God in her pain and makes a vow.

I. Hannah gave a vow to God

What a great gift it is to become a mother or a father, but what a great responsibility. I don’t know about you, but I am overwhelmed by being a father. It is an amazing honor to be given a precious young life to shape, mold, and direct. Unfortunately, I did not receive an owner’s manual with the birth of my son, and I make too many mistakes. I need someone more qualified than me to help me with this process, and Hannah points us to who that is.

Hannah gives her son to God literally, and she points us toward doing the same. Hannah promised her future son to God as a priest. To demonstrate the depth of her commitment, she committed her boy with a Nazarite vow. According to Jewish tradition, Levite priests served until the age of 50. Likewise, a Nazarite vow lasted for a limited time. But Hannah made a commitment that reached far beyond either one. Her vow was for all the days of his life.

I find it amazing that that Hannah would make such an extreme promise for a son she did not have. Now here is the difficult question: Mom, how much do you trust God? Do you trust Him enough to give Him your children? If not, the next question is, why not? Hannah trusted God completely with her son, and you can too.

II. Hannah gave her son to serve God

The North American Mission Board’s statistics have reported that baptisms in Southern Baptist churches have declined. More than 10,000 Southern Baptist Churches did not baptize anyone in a recent year. What will alter this course? Jesus told us that the harvest was plentiful, but it was the workers who were few. A new generation of individuals given to God could become a mighty army for His kingdom.

Listen to these quotes from missionaries about the need to take the gospel to the world.

“In the vast plains of the north I have seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been.” Robert Moffat.

“We talk of the Second Coming; half the world has never heard of the first.” Oswald J. Smith.

“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” Amy Carmichael.

“The mark of a great church is not it’s seating capacity, but it’s sending capacity.” Mike Stachura.

“‘Not called’ you say? ‘Not heard the call’ I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned beg you to go to their father’s house and entreat their brothers and sisters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face – whose mercy you have professed to obey – and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world.” William Booth.

When I hear those quotes they stir something within me. How much do they stir you? They might stir you enough to give some money to a missionary or a mission fund. They might even stir you enough that you give some time and actually go on a short-term mission trip. And those are great ways to give to missions. But do they stir you enough for you to give your child to God?

You may say, “I think that is a high price to pay, to give my son or daughter to serve God.” And you are right, it is a high price. It was the price God paid when He gave His only Son to the world. Are you willing to give your son or daughter?

III. Hannah gave her son to worship God

When Samuel was weaned, Hannah made good on her vow to God and brought the boy to Eli the priest. Here is how 1 Samuel 1:26-28 describes that encounter

“Please, my lord,” she said, “as sure as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. I prayed for this boy, and since the LORD gave me what I asked Him for, I now give the boy to the LORD. For as long as he lives, he is given to the LORD.” Then he bowed and worshiped the LORD there.

Here is what is amazing about this passage. It is not Eli who worships God, but Samuel. I find it so amazing that this boy who is at the most, two or three years old at the time, knows how to worship God. How did he learn to worship? He learned from the only person around him: his mother.

Children are like sponges, soaking up every thing around them. One of the greatest moments of my life happened when my son, Jack, was only one and a half years old. His preschool teacher came to my wife and me and told me about what happened in his class. They had snack time and prayed over the snack. Jack put his two little hands together in a prayer position and bowed his head. That was special, but he did it again.

There is a speaker in the nursery that broadcasts the worship service. At one point in the service I said, “Let’s pray” and Jack stopped, bowed his head and put his hands together again. How did he learn to do that?

I’ll tell you where he learned it: at the kitchen table when we pray over a meal. We included him in the prayer. We stop and say, “Jack, let’s pray” and we all bow our heads, and mom and dad put their hands together in a prayer position so we can model prayer for our son.

I have to think Hannah did the same thing. She worshiped God and included Samuel in that time. That is how he learned to worship God. If you want your children to learn to pray, include them in a home prayer time. If you want your children to worship, worship in front of them. If it is service, ministry, Bible study, or any other spiritual discipline, your children will learn it from you if you model it in front of them and include them in it.

IV. Hannah gave herself to God

First Samuel 2:1-2 details Hannah’s prayer. It is the secret to how Hannah trusted God, and taught Samuel to worship God. Look at how I Samuel 2:1-2 records the prayer of Hannah. “Hannah prayed: ‘My heart rejoices in the LORD; my horn is lifted up by the LORD. My mouth boasts over my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation. There is no one holy like the LORD. There is no one besides You! And there is no rock like our God.'”

Hannah rejoices in the Lord and His salvation. Her horn, which is a symbol of power, is the Lord and her rock is God. In just a few verses, Hannah exalts the might and power of the Lord. These are not just words – they reflect her heart.

Jesus told the story of two men who built homes, one upon the sand and one upon the rock. The storm came and destroyed the house on sand, but the house on the rock stood strong. The purpose of Jesus’ parable was to lead us to build our life on the firm foundation of the rock, which is Christ.

Hannah built her life on the rock. She knew there was no firmer foundation. She was an example of worship to her son. How could she do that? Hannah had a personal relationship with God that fueled her trust, commitment, and life.

Conclusion

How can you be a mother who trusts God which her children? How can you make a commitment to lead you children to serve God? How can you be a model and example to your children of a life spent worshiping God? Your relationship with God through Christ fuels your trust, commitment, and life.

  • Can you trust God with your children? You can if you trust God with your life.
  • Can you lead your children to serve God? You can if you serve God.
  • Can you lead your children to worship God? You can if you worship God.
  • Can you lead your children to become mighty men and women of God, individuals He uses to advance His Kingdom?

You can if you have built your life upon the rock of a personal relationship with Christ.

Guts of the Gospel ii

Last week we focused on Romans 3:21-22, and continued that this past Sunday as we finished through verse 26. The article, found at this link, is the continuation from last week’s article that will help us keep afresh the Gospel in our hearts and allow us to remain in awe of God’s salvation plan for us. Praise God for His Son who was and is the propitiation for us.

———————————————————————-

3. God’s Righteousness Is Revealed In His Justice (3:25-26)

How can God maintain His justice while forgiving unjust sinners? Paul explains in 3:25: “. . . God displayed [Jesus] publicly as a propitiation39 in His blood through faith” [or better “through faith in His blood,” NIV]. The word “propitiation” (hilasterion) refers to the satisfaction of God’s righteous anger, so that He can now deal with us graciously.40 It’s a sacrifice which takes away wrath—a wrath quencher, which satisfies God’s anger.41

Although God is merciful, gracious, and compassionate, He is also righteous, wrathful, and just. He can’t lower His righteous standard. He can’t just wink His eye with the attitude, “Boys will be boys,” or, “Let’s let bygones be bygones.”42 God must judge sin. He has done so by nailing every sin (past, present, and future) on His Son. Hence, God’s wrath, His holy anger, has been appeased by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Salvation is infinitely costly to the Father and the Son, but absolutely free to you and me.

If you still struggle with this concept, consider that God’s intolerance toward sin is like the intolerance of a surgeon who insists on sterile instruments for an operation. A surgeon’s demand for a pure operating environment is not an angry reaction to the presence of bacteria. Rather, it is an inseparable part of being a surgeon. To expose the surgeon’s scalpel to bacteria would result in contamination, and you would not get upset that your surgeon insists on absolute cleanliness in the operating room where even a speck of dirt could lead to infection. You would insist on absolute purity under those conditions. You would demand that your surgeon be completely intolerant of any impurity. If you understand a surgeon’s “wrath” against contamination in a hospital operating room, you can understand God’s wrath against sin. God is perfect and sinless in every detail, and His character demands that He deal with the slightest contamination of sin. God also knows that sin leads to total corruption and infection, so for these reasons He must judge sin.43

In 3:25, Paul indicates that this act of propitiation was “to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance44 of God He passed over the sins previously committed.” Although the death of Christ for the sins of humankind was planned in eternity past and prophesied in the Old Testament, it didn’t become an earthly reality until almost 2,000 years ago. Therefore, Old Testament believers were forgiven on account of what was about to happen but hadn’t happened yet. God didn’t revoke the punishment for sin, He suspended the punishment.45 We could say, “Old Testament justification was through faith in the promised Savior; NT justification is through faith in the provided Savior.”46 Old Testament believers looked forward to what God would someday do; believers today look back at what Christ has already done.47 Prior to the cross, Old Testament believers were in paradise “on credit” (i.e., their sins had not yet been paid historically, even though they received some of the benefits from their faith. The same thing happens when we purchase something with a credit card and enjoy possessing the purchased item, even though we have not paid for it yet). God’s righteousness was shown at the cross in that God righteously judged and punished every last sin that man has committed or will ever commit. The cross is and always will be the center point and the focal point of all history.

Verse 26 tells us that God provided salvation “for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” God the Father demonstrated His righteous character through the cross of Jesus Christ. The words “just” (dikaios) and “justifier” (dikaioo) are both renderings of the root term for righteous. God has revealed His justice through the cross. We deserved death and hell—that would have been justice. But instead of getting what we deserve, we were not given what we deserve. That is mercy! But God has gone one step further as we saw in 3:24. He’s given us grace, which is receiving what we don’t deserve—the free gift of eternal life. This is the gospel! God has acted with justice by slaying His Son, but He also acted as the Justifier by allowing us to be set free from our sin by trusting in Jesus. What a God! What a Savior! There is no one else like our God! He has created and orchestrated a sovereign plan that you and I would never have come up with. To Him be the glory! God does what we cannot do.

But how can all this heavy-duty theology be fleshed out in our lives? Let’s review this passage and consider three applications. (1) When we present the gospel, we must always remember to emphasize sin (1:18-3:20). Unless we recognize how bad the bad news truly is, we won’t sense a need for a Savior. The good news of the gospel (3:21-26) isn’t truly good news until we first deal with the bad news. (2) We need to begin to see fellow believers as those who have been “justified” by God. I rarely think this way about others. It’s easy to see the faults and idiosyncrasies in other people. Yet this passage teaches that fellow believers have been declared righteous and are now seen by the Father through the blood of Jesus Christ. (3) We must be sure to present an accurate gospel. This means we must understand the words and the central message of 3:21-26. If we do, we’ll have a proper understanding of God’s righteousness and the free gift of salvation. God does what we cannot do.

The Guts of the Gospel

The article this excerpt is taken from can be found at this link. It is a helpful way of keeping fresh in our minds what we discussed yesterday in our sermon on Romans 3:21-26. Getting to the heart of the gospel that we see in Romans 3:21-26, this article continues with the same thought process of the importance of Romans 3:21-22 (and 3:23-26, which will be covered next week).


Imagine it’s Sunday morning and you’re seated in church anticipating the sermon. Suddenly, a man begins frantically canvassing the auditorium offering a life jacket to whoever would take it. Eventually, he approaches you with it. What would you do? You’d probably think he was nuts and turn it down, right? At best, you might politely accept it while yawning internally at your need for it. But, if you were on a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean, you’d lunge forward and grab that same life jacket as if your life depended upon it.

We’ve spent five sermons working through a section titled “Sin” that spanned Rom 1:18-3:20. These sixty-four verses contain nothing but the bad news that we’re utterly unrighteous. Paul has constructed an airtight case that every creature that has ever lived, or will ever live, is leveled under the weight of sin. The inescapable conclusion is that we’re not only guilty; we’re absolutely helpless and hopeless. In other words, we’re born into this world enslaved to sin on a sinking ship. God holds out a life jacket to us, but until we become convinced that our plight is truly desperate we’ll never joyously and tenaciously grab hold of what’s being offered to us. The intent of God in clearly exposing our sinfulness isn’t to make us feel bad—it’s to make us feel desperate! Desperate enough to wrestle with the question of the ages: “How can a person be righteous before God?” (Job 9:2)

Of course, a great chasm lies between Rom 3:20 and 3:21. It’s a deep canyon, a wide gap separating our condition and God’s character. We’re sinful and God is holy. How can we bridge the gap? How can we go from one side to the other? We can’t. But this is where the good news begins: Paul informs us in 3:21-261 that God does what we cannot do. This is not only the heart of Romans;2 it’s likely the greatest paragraph in the entire Bible. Therefore, if we fail to understand this passage accurately, we’ll be unable to grasp the central message of the Scriptures. For it’s here that we see who we are, who God is, and what God has done for us.3 If there’s one passage of Scripture to become an expert on, let it be Rom 3:21-26. Before you spend lots of time looking for principles in the Bible on career success and personal affluence, before scouring the text for ideas on how to change your wife, your husband, your kids, your parents, your pastor, and your church, look at Rom 3:21-26.4 Meditate on it. Study it. It will change your life! In these six verses, Paul reveals three ways that God’s righteousness bridges the gap between our sin and Himself.5

1. God’s Righteousness Is Revealed In His Word (3:21)

Despite our inability to obey the Law, God’s salvation can be found in the Old Testament Scriptures. In 3:21 Paul writes, “But now apart from the6 Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.” “But now,” two words made up of three letters each, serve as the hinge pin for the fate of humanity.7 After sixty-four verses of sin, you’re probably in need of some relief, aren’t you? How do you spell relief? Years ago, the answer was: R-O-L-A-I-D-S. But in this context it is “B-U-T N-O-W!” These two words signify that a “righteousness8 of God” has inaugurated a new age in world history. Unlike the first revelation of the “righteousness of God” that condemns us (cf. 1:17), this revelation frees us!9 In this context, the “righteousness of God” primarily refers to God’s activity in salvation; He provides righteousness for people who need it. The “righteousness of God” has inaugurated a new age that is “apart from the Law.”10 This is only fitting because righteousness has never been able to be obtained through obedience to the Law (cf. 3:19-20). We have been so infected by sin that we cannot heal ourselves. No one can purge his or her body of cancer by eating healthy food. Shunning cancer-generating toxins is a good way to avoid contracting the disease, but once someone has it, a cure demands radical action. Unfortunately, we were born with the disease of sin.11 But there is another way God makes His righteousness known, and it is apart from the Law.12 Once again we see that God does what we cannot do.

The righteousness of God has been “manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.”13 This phrase declares that God’s righteousness has been “manifested” through His Word. The root word “manifested” (phaneroo) is used back in 1:19 where Paul writes that God has made Himself “evident” to humanity through His creation. Now Paul states that God has revealed Himself through His Word. The phrase “the Law and the Prophets” is a summary term for the entire Old Testament. “The Law” referred to the first five books of Moses and “the Prophets” to everything else.14 The primary purpose of the entire Old Testament was to point to “the righteousness of God” that would one day be fully manifested in Christ. This very phrase was used in the theological theme of 1:16-17 where Hab 2:4 is quoted. Paul’s point is that the revelation of “the righteousness of God” isn’t some new phenomenon. Only in the death of Christ is there anything new or unique. God’s righteousness has always been revealed in His Word. Therefore, if you want to know who God is and what He’s like, you must know His Word. I cannot emphasize this enough. Many people have developed erroneous views of God based upon faulty thoughts or emotions. Often, I will hear: “Well, I think God is” or “God would never…” Whenever I hear someone saying these kinds of things, I cringe. Why? Because God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.15 So when it comes to the knowledge of God and how we can be right with Him, the Bible refers us to the witness of the Old Testament Scriptures.

Do you call yourself a “New Testament Christian” and avoid the Old Testament at all costs? If so, you’re missing out on God’s full revelation. Why not balance your diet of Bible reading with healthy portions of the Old Testament? My personal commitment is to alternate between the New Testament and Old Testament. This ensures that I’m always keeping the whole counsel of God’s Word before me. This also helps me to be an accurate Bible interpreter. After all, the only way to truly understand the New Testament is by knowing the Old Testament. May you and I see the promised Messiah and His plan of salvation in the Old Testament.

[Not only is God’s righteousness revealed in His Word, in 3:22-24 we’ll also see that…]

2. God’s Righteousness Is Revealed In His Grace (3:22-24)

God’s plan of salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul writes in 3:22a that “the righteousness of God” is revealed “through faith in Jesus Christ16 for all those who believe.”17 He uses the noun “faith” (pistis) and the verb “believe” (pisteuo) to emphasize the sole condition of “God’s righteousness” (i.e., salvation). There are almost two hundred verses that use the words “believe” or “faith” as the sole condition of salvation. However, we must recognize that we’re saved “through” (dia) faith, not “by” faith. Faith is merely the means. What is important is the object of our faith—Jesus Christ! If we have the right object, the amount of our faith is not what is important. This means “all” are welcome who will simply believe in Christ. While Christians are often charged with being narrow and restrictive, it’s really all other religions that are narrow and restrictive. If good works are necessary to heaven, then all of us are excluded. In these systems, everyone is disqualified. Under the Christian faith, “all” can come, regardless of their background and past failures.18 The only condition is simple belief. Let me be clear: When you come to Christ, you do not come to give, you come to receive. You do not come to try your best, you come to trust. You do not come just to be helped, but to be rescued. You do not come to be made better, you come to be made alive!19 God does what we cannot do.


Keith Krell, pastor of Fourth Memorial Church in Spokane, WA, authors the above article.

An Update from the Warrens

The following link is for an update that the Warrens have provided that reveals some of what God has been doing in and through their ministry. Follow the link to hear about the exciting changes and great opportunities that they have had, as well as some ways to be in prayer for this family.

Update on the Warrens


Here is a brief excerpt from their article:

The last couple of weeks for us has truly been amazing and was the culmination of a very long road. Two Sundays ago, March 13th was the Grand Opening and Dedication Sunday of the Family Room addition to Open Door Fellowship (ODF) and Open Door Ministries (ODM). Thanks to all who celebrated with us. We thought we would share some of the events of the final week with you as well as show you some of the pictures…

There is None Righteous

The following article is written by R.C. Sproul, titled “None Righteous”. It is an article that helps us prepare for this Sunday as Pastor Craig Miller opens up Romans 3:9-20. What does it means that there is none righteous?


 

The Psalmist asked the question: “If the Lord marks iniquity, who should stand?” This query is obviously rhetorical. The only answer, indeed the obvious answer is no one.

The question is stated in a conditional form. It merely considers the dire consequences that follow if the Lord marks iniquity. We breathe a sigh of relief saying, “Thank heavens the Lord does not mark iniquity!”

Such is a false hope. We have been led to believe by an endless series of lies that we have nothing to fear from God’s scorecard. We can be confident that if He is capable of judgment at all, His judgment will be gentle. If we all fail His test — no fear — He will grade on a curve. After all, it is axiomatic that to err is human and to forgive is divine. This axiom is so set in concrete that we assume that forgiveness is not merely a divine option, but a veritable prerequisite for divinity itself. We think that not only may God be forgiving, but He must be forgiving or He wouldn’t be a good God. How quick we are to forget the divine prerogative: “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” (Rom. 9:15 NKJV)

In our day we have witnessed the eclipse of the Gospel. That dark shadow that obscures the light of the Gospel is not limited to Rome or liberal Protestantism; it looms heavily within the Evangelical community. The very phrase “preaching the Gospel” has come to describe every form of preaching but the preaching of the Gospel. The “New” Gospel is one that worries not about sin. It feels no great need for justification. It readily dismisses the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as an essential need for salvation. We have substituted the “unconditional love” of God for the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. If God loves us all unconditionally, who needs the righteousness of Christ?

The reality is that God does mark iniquity, and He manifests His wrath against it. Before the Apostle Paul unfolds the riches of the Gospel in his epistle to the Romans, he sets the stage for the need of that Gospel: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…” (Rom. 1:18).

This text affirms a real revelation of real wrath from a real God against real ungodliness and unrighteousness of real men. No appeal to some invented idea of the unconditional love of God can soften these realities.

The human dilemma is this: God is holy, and we are not. God is righteous, and we are not. To be sure, it is openly admitted in our culture that “No one is perfect.” Even the most sanguine humanist grants that humanity is marred. But, on balance … ah, there’s the rub. Like Muslims we assume that God will judge us “on balance.” If our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds, we will arrive safely in heaven. But, alas, if our evil deeds outweigh our good ones, we will suffer the wrath of God in hell. We may be “marred” by sin but in no wise devastated by it. We still have the ability to balance our sins with our own righteousness. This is the most monstrous lie of all. We not only claim such righteousness; we rely on such righteousness, which righteousness in fact does not exist. Our righteousness is a myth, but by no means a harmless one. Nothing is more perilous than for an unrighteous person to rest his future hope in an illusion.

It was against such an illusion that Paul stressed by citing the Psalmist: “For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.’” (Rom. 3:9–12 NKJV)

What comprises just under four verses of the New Testament is so radical that if the modern church would come to believe it, we would experience a revival that would make the Reformation pale into insignificance. But the church today does not believe the content of these verses: There is none righteous — not one.

Who believes that apart from Jesus not a single human being, without exception, is righteous. Not a single unregenerate person can be found who understands God.

Seeking God? We have totally revised corporate worship to be sensitive to “seekers.” If worship were to be tailored for seekers, it would be directed exclusively to believers, for no one except believers ever seeks God.

Every person turns aside from God. All become unprofitable in spiritual matters. At rock bottom no one even does good — no, not one.

Good is a relative term. It is defined against some standard. If we establish what that standard is, we can congratulate ourselves and take comfort in our attainment of it. But if God establishes the standard, and His standard includes outward behavior (that our actions conform perfectly to His law) and internal motivation (that all our acts proceed from a heart that loves Him perfectly), then we quickly see that our pretended “goodness” is no goodness at all. We then understand what Augustine was getting at when he said that man’s best works are nothing more than “splendid vices.”

So what? The equation is simple. If God requires perfect righteousness and perfect holiness to survive His perfect judgment, then we are left with a serious problem. Either we rest our hope in our own righteousness, which is altogether inadequate, or we flee to another’s righteousness, an alien righteousness, a righteousness not our own inherently. The only place such perfect righteousness can be found is in Christ — that is the good news of the Gospel. Subtract this element of alien righteousness that God “counts” or “imputes” for us, and we have no biblical Gospel at all. Without imputation, the Gospel becomes “another gospel,” and such a “gospel” brings nothing but the anathema of God.

With the righteousness of Christ promised to us by faith, we have the hope of our salvation. We become numbered among those blessed to whom the Lord does not impute sin (Rom. 4:8).


This article can be found if you follow this link.

 

Update from the Carr’s

Tom and Paula Carr

648-1 Sakai Machi, Izumi Shi, Kagoshima Ken 899-0122 JAPAN

0996-79-4748–from Japan; 937-919-5841–from U.S.;

tcarr@abwe.cc

Hi everyone,

This past Sunday we celebrated the resurrection of our Savior.  Hallelujah!  He’s risen!  How wonderful it was to have our service outdoors in a beautiful park overlooking the city of Izumi.  Though we were hoping to have some new adults join us, we were grateful to have five grade school girls, come to a service for the first time, along with most of our regularly attending adults.  We were also thankful to have over 20 kids come the day before for the egg decorating event.  Please PRAY for these children to think about the truths presented at both these times and for them and others to come regularly to the Sunday service.  In past weeks there has been good attendance by kids on Sunday mornings. PRAY that someday soon they all would put their trust in the Living Savior and become solid followers.

Rock, paper, scissors game at the egg art eventrock paper

​The boys in attendance had a great time!

boys attend

Easter Service at the park

easter serv.

Recently a young man in his 20’s named Akira made a profession of faith!  He had made another profession when he was a little boy but said he never really knew what he was supposedly believing in.  After studying with Bill, he said he finally understood and believed in Christ.  Please PRAY that he will truly follow Christ and obey his commands.  Right now he is doing a follow up Bible study with Tom.

Bill is currently back in the states helping his mom after the recent sudden illness, then death of his stepfather.  Please PRAY for comfort, strength and wisdom to care for all the details and for his mom to adjust.  This is the second husband she has had to bury.

Paula will be having a cardiac catheter ablation next Wednesday, April 6.  We’d appreciate your prayers for it to go well and that the procedure will help her feel better and have more energy.  As is common in Japan, this will involve a hospital stay from April 5th until the 8th.  The hospital is about three hours away from Izumi, so Tom will be with her there and Mitch and Tev will be staying with Becky P. and Paul Shook.

We are very grateful for your prayers and financial support.  Thank you for continuing to be a part of this ministry.

CARRying the Gospel,

Tom, Paula, Mitchell, Tevia (in Izumi) and Andrew and Lindy  (in Cedarville)

 

Lyrical Remembering

Yesterday we gathered together to celebrate the Savior of the world who has defeated death, conquered the grave, and risen victoriously. We worshiped through singing about, meditating on, and giving thanks of such a wondrous truth. But brothers and sisters, let us not stop remembering. Let this be a time to continue to reflect upon what Christ has done for us on that cross. Let our hearts be constantly attuned to the mercy and grace that we eagerly celebrate over the course of Easter weekend. Let us be inspired and equipped by this truth to diligently easterandethicsshare the wonderful news of what Christ has done in humbling Himself to die on a cross. (Phil 2:8) And not just remaining dead, but rising again 3 days later, as the Scriptures say. (1 Cor. 15:4) Today remain grateful. Today think about those truths again, and then do so again tomorrow.

What follows this charge are lyrics that help point our hearts in such a direction. To be used not necessarily as the primary source of truth, but rather as a tool to help guide our gaze to Christ and what He has done for us while we were yet sinners. (Rom. 5:8)



“Christ is Risen”-Matt Maher

Let no one caught in sin remain, Inside the lie of inward shame
We fix our eyes upon the cross, And run to him who showed great love
And bled for us, Freely you bled, for us

Christ is risen from the dead, Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake! Come and rise up from the grave!
Christ is risen from the dead, We are one with him again
Come awake, come awake! Come and rise up from the grave!

Beneath the weight of all our sin, You bow to none but heavens will
No scheme of hell, no scoffer’s crown, No burden great can hold you down
In strength you reign, Forever let your church proclaim

Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church! Come stand in the light!
The glory of God has defeated the night!


“Jesus Paid It All”-Kristian Stanfill

I hear the Savior say, Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all.

Jesus paid it all,All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

Lord, now indeed I find, Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots and melt the heart of stone.

And when before the throne I stand in Him complete,
Jesus died my soul to save, my lips shall still repeat

O Praise the one who paid my debt
And raised this life up from the dead
O Praise the one who paid my debt
And raised this life up from the dead


“Nothing But the Blood of Jesus”-Robert Lowry

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! precious is the flow That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my cleansing this I see–Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
For my pardon this my plea–Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

Nothing can my sin erase, Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
Naught of works, ’tis all of grace–Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

This is all my hope and peace–Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
This is all my righteousness–Nothing but the blood of Jesus!


“Forever”-Kari Jobe

The moon and stars they wept
The morning sun was dead
The Saviour of the world was fallen
His body on the cross
His blood poured out for us
The weight of every curse upon him

One final breath he gave
As heaven looked away
The son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken

The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting?
Our resurrected King
Has rendered you defeated

Forever he is glorified, Forever he is lifted high
Forever he is risen, He is alive, He is alive!


“Because He Lives”-Bill Gaither

God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone,
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

What’s So Good about Good Friday?

This article is written by Justin Holcomb, and can be found at this link.


 

Why do we call Good Friday “good,” when it is such a dark and bleak event commemorating a day of suffering and death for Jesus?

For Christians, Good Friday is a crucial day of the year because it celebrates what we believe to be the most momentous weekend in the history of the world. Ever since Jesus died and was raised, Christians What’s So Good about Good Friday?have proclaimed the cross and resurrection of Jesus to be the decisive turning point for all creation. Paul considered it to be “of first importance” that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised to life on the third day, all in accordance with what God had promised all along in the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3).

On Good Friday we remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (1 John 1:10). It is followed by Easter, the glorious celebration of the day Jesus was raised from the dead, heralding his victory over sin and death and pointing ahead to a future resurrection for all who are united to him by faith (Romans 6:5).

Still, why call the day of Jesus’ death “Good Friday” instead of “Bad Friday” or something similar? Some Christian traditions do take this approach: in German, for example, the day is called Karfreitag, or “Sorrowful Friday.” In English, in fact, the origin of the term “Good” is debated: some believe it developed from an older name, “God’s Friday.” Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save his people from their sins.

In order for the good news of the gospel to have meaning for us, we first have to understand the bad news of our condition as sinful people under condemnation. The good news of deliverance only makes sense once we see how we are enslaved. Another way of saying this is that it is important to understand and distinguish between law and gospel in Scripture. We need the law first to show us how hopeless our condition is; then the gospel of Jesus’ grace comes and brings us relief and salvation.

In the same way, Good Friday is “good” because as terrible as that day was, it had to happen for us to receive the joy of Easter. The wrath of God against sin had to be poured out on Jesus, the perfect sacrificial substitute, in order for forgiveness and salvation to be poured out to the nations. Without that awful day of suffering, sorrow, and shed blood at the cross, God could not be both “just and the justifier” of those who trust in Jesus (Romans 3:26). Paradoxically, the day that seemed to be the greatest triumph of evil was actually the deathblow in God’s gloriously good plan to redeem the world from bondage.

The cross is where we see the convergence of great suffering and God’s forgiveness. Psalms 85:10 sings of a day when “righteousness and peace” will “kiss each other.” The cross of Jesus is where that occurred, where God’s demands, his righteousness, coincided with his mercy. We receive divine forgiveness, mercy, and peace because Jesus willingly took our divine punishment, the result of God’s righteousness against sin. “For the joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus endured the cross on Good Friday, knowing it led to his resurrection, our salvation, and the beginning of God’s reign of righteousness and peace.

Good Friday marks the day when wrath and mercy met at the cross. That’s why Good Friday is so dark and so Good.


 

Engaging Easter

This article serves as the conclusion of an article written by Paul Deffinbaugh titled “The Significance of the Resurrection.” As we approach this weekend remember what Christ haseasterandethics accomplished and what that means for us. Let us joyfully celebrate the resurrection of our Saviour!


If our response to the resurrection of Christ is of such significance, what keeps some, who sincerely believe in His resurrection, from the salvation which His death, burial, and resurrection are promised to provide? I believe that there are several reasons why some who believe in the resurrection are not saved.

First, we fail to grasp our own true condition as it relates to the death and resurrection of Christ. Since our Lord was the innocent, sinless Son of God, His death was on our behalf, and not for His own sins. Peter put it this way:

Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. for you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls (1 Peter 2:22-25).

If Christ did not die for His sins, but for the sins of men, then we must first acknowledge that we are sinners, and that it was our sins that He bore on the cross. In a very personal way, my sins put Christ on the cross.

I should even go beyond this to say that my sinfulness would have eagerly participated in rejecting Christ and calling for His execution, just as the crowds did as recorded in the gospels. My sinfulness not only made it necessary for Christ to die–it would have willingly participated in the crucifixion of Christ. It is very easy to condemn the fickle crowds, who a few days before hailed Jesus as the King, and then cried out for Pilate to crucify Him, and to release Barrabas, a murderer, instead. Had I been there, I would have called for Christ’s crucifixion.

The greatest problem we face is not accepting the resurrection of Christ, and that fact that “He lives” today. The greatest problem we face as sinners is recognition of the fact that we are dead in our transgressions and sins, and are eternally lost apart from His death, burial, and resurrection. It is our condition of being helplessly dead in our sins which makes the resurrection of Christ such a vitally needed truth (cf. Ephesians 2:1-10).

Second, we fail to properly grasp the majesty, power, and awesome holiness of the resurrected Lord as He presently is, and as He will be when we stand before Him. Not only do we tend to minimize the seriousness of our own condition; we also fail to grasp the majesty, purity, and power of Christ’s present condition. Let me challenge you, my friend, to read the description of the resurrected Christ which the apostle John gives us in the Book of Revelation. If this does not inspire a godly fear of the coming wrath of God, nothing will.

Third, we fail to take the death and resurrection of Christ personally. There are all too many religious unbelievers who have taken the resurrection of Christ to be true academically, but they have not taken this matter personally. Allow me to give you two biblical examples of those who took the resurrection of Christ personally.

In the second chapter of the Book of Acts, we find the church being baptized by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The unusual manifestations of the Spirit caused a great crowd to gather in Jerusalem. Peter took this occasion to explain that this manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power was a partial fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. This prophecy spoke of the coming “day of the Lord” when God would judge the sins of His people. Peter then went on to show that the power of the Spirit was poured forth on these chosen ones because He had been raised from the dead, a fact to which the empty tomb and the Old Testament Scriptures testified. Peter boldly proclaimed that while they had been responsible for the death of Christ, God had purposed to save them by His death, and had also overruled their actions by raising His Son from the grave. The bottom line of Peter’s message was this:

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ–this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).

Here we have it in a nutshell. They were guilty of rejecting and crucifying Christ. By the resurrection of Christ, God had overruled their actions, and had proven His Son to be both Messiah (the sin-bearer promised in the Old Testament) and Lord, the one who would come in judgment, as Joel had prophesied. Taking this personally, many in that crowd confessed their sins and professed faith in Christ as their Savior (cf. Acts 2:37-41).

Saul, later known as Paul, also had a personal encounter with the resurrected Christ, as recorded several times in the Book of Acts (cf. chapters 9, 22, & 26). When Saul was intercepted by Christ on his way to Damascus, he acknowledged Christ as Lord, and he came to see the ugliness of his own sins, even though they were religious and outwardly commendable in the sight of men (cf. Philippians chapter 3). It was when Saul saw his own sinfulness and Christ’s majesty and power that he was converted.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most significant events in history. I pray that you, like those in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2) and like Saul (Acts 9), will come to recognize the seriousness of your sinful condition, the holiness and awesome majesty of God, and will come to trust in Him as your Savior and Lord. I urge you to trust in Him, in His death, burial, and resurrection, not only in an intellectual and academic way, but in a very personal way, as God’s only provision for your salvation.


To read the full article, follow this link.