Sappy and Fruity

Few things are more discouraging than a crusty old woman or a dirty old man.  Few things, on the other hand, are more encouraging than an elderly person who is growing in the sweet grace and knowledge of Christ.

 

The psalmist says this of the righteous:

 

Psalm 92:14–15 (ESV)

They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,

to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

 

I’ll tell you what comes immediately to mind as I read and pray through this verse for our church family.  I love the picture of the dazzling colors of the sap-sprouting hardwoods of the Northeastern United States in the fall.  Last October, Noel and I took a trip to visit Sarah Warde, our other daughter, up in Maine during fall foliage season.  The colors were stunning, and the maple syrup makes any pancake tastes a million times better.

 

The second thing that comes to my mind are the elderly people in our church family at NRBC.  We are so blessed to have a faithful group of saints in the later years of life that are still bearing fruit in their pursuit of Christ.  We have been blessed as a church family to have such brilliant spectacles of God’s grace planted right in our midst. 

 

The 70s and 80s can be challenging years.  Learning to trust God better when your health starts to fail more, when your body starts to ache deeper, and when your mind starts to cooperate less – well, that is hard work.  To have the sweet disposition to repeatedly maintain that “God’s right and always does the right thing. He’s the rock I’ve built my life upon” – well, that’s not always easy to say.   But the elderly among us at NRBC are doing just that. What a blessing!  What a grace! What a gift from God!  They are still bearing fruit in old age.

 

Please take some time to get to know these well-planted trees that are a part of our church family.  Teach your children to speak respectfully and listen eagerly to them.  If God is going to make us a 500-year church, then all of us will one day wear those same shoes. May the younger among us learn from this stately forest and pursue righteousness now so that we are full of sap then.

Thoughtful Action: Discussion from Sunday's Sermon

Double Grace

1 Corinthians 1:30

 

1.     Can you elaborate on the wisdom of God that he displayed in conceiving and implementing the Gospel story from the following texts?

a.     Luke 10:21

b.     Luke 11:49

c.     Romans 11:33

d.     1 Corinthians 1:21ff

e.     1 Corinthians 2:7ff

f.      Ephesians 1:8

g.     Ephesians 3:10

2.     What aspect of salvation does “righteousness” refer to? 

a.     What does “righteousness” mean?

b.     How does Romans 8 teach us to rest in Christ when there is an all-out assault on your assurance of salvation?

3.     What does “sanctification” mean?

a.     In what ways are justification and sanctification similar?

b.     In what ways are they different?

c.     How difficult is it to both rest in Christ and work for Christ at the same time?

d.     Which do you tend to emphasize to the neglect of the other?

e.     How is his grace opposed to earning but not working?

f.      How does 1 Cor.15:10 show that our reward is due to God’s grace and our working even though it’s something that we will never earn?

4.     What aspect of salvation does “redemption” refer to? (See Rom.8:30; Eph.1:14; 4:30)

a.     On what basis does God reward our works according to 1 Cor.3:14 and the surrounding passage?

5.     How does union with Christ make all of these gracious things possible?

Psalm for Prayer - February 19, 2018

Psalm 92 (ESV)

A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath.

1 It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;

2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,

3 to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.

4 For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

5 How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep!

6 The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this:

7 that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever;

8 but you, O Lord, are on high forever.

9 For behold, your enemies, O Lord, for behold, your enemies shall perish; all evildoers shall be scattered.

10 But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil.

11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.

12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

13 They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God.

14 They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,

15 to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Thoughtful Action: Discussion from Sunday's Sermon

Abiding in the Vine

John 15:1-7

 

1.     What are some other possible translations for the word translated “abide” in the ESV? 

2.     What difference do you think it makes when you translate the word as “remain” rather than “abide”?

3.     What do the different Biblical metaphors of our union with Christ each add to our understanding of this crucial doctrine?

a.     A stone in a building

b.     A member of a body

c.     A marriage

d.     A branch in a vine

4.     In John 14-17, how are all the members of the Trinity portrayed as both creating and sustaining our union with Christ?

5.     How is v. 2 a:

a.     Warning

b.     Exhortation

c.     Encouragement?

6.     We are responsible to remain in the vine and yet God enables us to do this.  This is called the doctrine of “the perseverance of the saints.”  In the doctrine of perseverance, according to this passage…

a.     What role does faith play in v.5? What is faith?

b.     What role does fruitfulness play in v.2-8? What is fruitfulness?

c.     What role does prayer play?  What things should we be praying for above all else?

d.     What role does obedience play? What are we supposed to obey?

Psalm for Prayer - February 12, 2018

Psalm 37:1–11, 39-40 (ESV)

1 Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!

2 For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.

3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.

6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

9 For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.

11 But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.

40 The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

Checking Up on Your 2018 Resolutions

So, how are you doing?  Your Bible reading?  Prayer life?  Financial discipline?  Eating habits?  I’m talking about those resolutions you made just a little over 5 weeks ago as the calendar turned to 2018. 

 

Now, there are some changes I don’t want to make.  I don’t want to be hipster or lumber sexual or - I believe the word when I was in college was - “preppy.”  I never make resolutions about how I dress.  Maybe you do. Good for you. Whoopdeedoo.  To each his own. 

 

What I’m talking about are those more substantial goals you set for yourself on January 1.  Hopefully, one of your New Year’s Resolutions was something along these lines: I want to get to know God better.

 

There are some things I don’t care about changing, and there are some things I desperately need to change.  If I want to change in areas where I need to change, there are some habits that must change.  If you are going to change spiritually and get to know God better, it will come as you slowly but surely, daily, consistently consecrate yourself to him.

 

For those who are enjoying the ReBiChron Initiative, we’ve been reading through Exodus this past week.  Exodus 29 really stood out to me.  From it I was reminded that if I hope to change, it is extremely helpful to begin and end my day with consecration.

 

Exodus 29:38–39 (ESV) - Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight.

 

What I’m saying is not new.  This has been the habit of many of God’s people since Exodus 29.  Listen to this “EXHORTATION TO PRAYER” from a booklet originally in German called Morning and Evening Prayers from the 16th century:

 

Arise, dear soul, and carefully reflect who He is with whom thou speakest and before whom thou standest when thou prayest. Behold, thou speakest with God, thy Maker, and standest in the presence of Him, the eternal Majesty, whom thousand times thousand holy angels and arch-angels attend. Therefore, O Christian, enter thou into the closet of thy soul, and beware, lest thou failest to put from thee all sluggishness of heart, and liftest up to thy God a countenance free from blame. Then wilt thou delight in the Lord and have power with Him, and prevail. Yea, thou wilt conquer the unconquerable God and bear away the blessing through Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

This would be an excellent way to use the psalm of the week, for example. These inspired poems of heart-felt praise and wonder have so much to teach us about prayer.  Just a few minutes each morning and evening to pray through the psalm can be life-changing in your pursuit of a more dedicated walk with the Lord.  I think it is helpful to do this formally. 

 

Exodus 29:40–41 (ESV) - And with the first lamb a tenth measure of fine flour mingled with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and a fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering. The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord.

 

“Twilight” according to the Talmud explains as the time between the sunset and the time the stars become visible. The exact ingredients for each offering were spelled out as well as the time.  And they did this same thing over and over and over again, every day, for hundreds of years.  It would have been considered apostasy to forsake this routine.

 

I understand all the dangers of routine.  It can become rut, ritualistic, and rote.  You will have to work to keep it from becoming dull and routine.  But it is extremely helpful if you can develop a habit as well.  How one can do this without actually doing it in a formal fashion is beyond me.  I know it’s not beyond some.  But you have to actually sit down and read your Bible if you are actually going to read it.  It has to happened at some point in time, at some place in time. You may enjoy “just doing it whenever you can.”  Maybe your life isn’t as fixed as many others. That’s totally fine, and there’s nothing more spiritual about being more structured in doing it – as long as you actually do it. 

 

Here are some questions I’d like to ask you now that we are several weeks into the New Year.

 

·      Where do you engage in daily consecration to the Lord?

·      When do you engage in daily consecration to the Lord?

·      How do you engage in daily consecration to the Lord?

·      What is your plan for reading, memory and meditation?

·      How are you structuring your prayer life so that you pray for those people and things for which you are responsible?

 

Just trying to provide some fodder for your thought life here.  My encouragement to you is to somehow…

 

·      Be proactive

·      Be reasonable

·      Be organized

·      Be accountable

 

…in your efforts to grow spiritually.  Learning how to rest in the sufficiency of Christ to do an amazing work in you comes first and foremost.  Faith first.  But it’s a faith that works.  Our efforts are miserable Saviors but necessary servants.  A faith that doesn’t work is a faith that only whines and wishes.  Keep your eyes on Jesus WHILE you do what you need to do.  He changes us BECAUSE he is gracious and faithful. He changes us THROUGH a simple child-like faith. And he changes us WHILE we are obedient.