Eight Watermelons

Divine Concurrence – What is the relationship between God’s sovereignty and earthly causes or earthly actors?

 

You may not be giving it much thought now, but eventually you will. There will be a tsunami, or an earthquake, or a bombing, or a murder. You will hear about it in the news. Or perhaps, God forbid, something catastrophic will happen to you or to somebody you know and love.  And you will ask, “Why did God let this happen?”

 

If you believe in a sovereign God who loves you, his child, with an everlasting love then you have to somehow come to grips with why bad things happen.  Whether it’s natural evil, like an earthquake, or moral evil, like a chemical warfare attack, bad things happen in this world over which a sovereign God rules.  

 

I can carry two watermelons. One under each arm.  I could carry three with some difficulty.  But add another, and then another, and then another… well… eventually it’s just too much for me to handle.  This is true mentally, especially when trying to grapple with something like “divine concurrence.”  

 

Let’s take a look at some truth statements from the Scriptures, each one an individual watermelon as it were, and see how many you can carry at one time by yourself.

 

1.    God has a purpose for everything in creation.

2.    God’s sovereign purpose includes the creation of all things.

3.    God’s sovereign purpose includes the creation all things in a way that some creatures function with free will (that is, they act freely and in accordance with their own natures).

4.    God’s sovereign purpose includes the fall of mankind into sin.

5.    Each individual is responsible for his own consequent sinful choices.

6.    God is not in any way morally responsible for the sinful choices of free moral agents even though he has a purpose for those sinful choices.  

7.    How God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are compatible is a mystery. God never fully explains this relationship in the Scriptures; he just states it to be so.

8.    God is able to make eternally good and beautiful things come from the sinful choices of free moral agents.

 

All of this can be seen in the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50.  Joseph affirms both God’s sovereignty and his brothers’ culpability. The story culminates in the statement that Joseph made to his brothers in Genesis 50:20 (ESV) – As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today

 

Both the brothers and God MEANT for something to happen.  The brothers are responsible for their sinful choices; God is responsible for making something great come out of those sinful choices.  We are not MEANT to understand it; we are MEANT to enjoy the amazing grace of a sovereign God in the midst of guilty, evil people.

 

Have a great time with all those watermelons!

Praying for Preaching

Something that we’ve been talking about as Elders lately is the need for a church, any church, and specifically OUR church, to pray for the preacher and his preaching.  Every Sunday.

Now, there are many things to pray for when you are praying for the preacher and his preaching, so let me give you one in particular.  From one of the best ever to craft a sermon, the apostle to the Gentiles said in Colossians 4:3–4 (ESV) – At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak

 

Pray for clarity!

 

Pray that the preacher would have a clear mind as he prepares. Preachers, being human, have lots of things vying for their attention.  They are easily distracted.  A preacher has personal issues he’s dealing with, family fights, financial worries, health concerns, political frustrations, stupid neighbors, and everything else everybody else deals with.  It’s easy to be distracted. Pray for clarity as he prepares. 

 

Pray that the preacher would have a clear mind as he preaches.  We deal in the mysterious, as Paul says in this passage.  The person of God is above and beyond us as much as he is above and beyond any other human being.  We’re bound by the text like anybody else, a text that doesn’t say everything we wish it would say but that says everything it needs to say.  We need clarity to understand the relationship between those things that have been revealed and those things that remain secret to God.

 

Pray that you would have a clear mind as you listen.  The roast is burning. The kids are squirming. The climate is stuffy.  The music is too loud.   That shirt doesn’t match those pants.  The curtains aren’t evenly distributed on either side of the center of the curtain rod. The fake trees look too fake. The Broncos are playing on the East coast this morning.  You know what I mean.  It could only help if you would acknowledge these things and pray that God would supernaturally give you ears to hear.

 

Pray that you would have a clear mind as you do it.  This is when good ideas slowly but surely translate into good character.  AS YOU DO IT! And because we lose clarity on what we’ve heard, we quite often don’t do it and end up a little more deceived about our own spirituality. That’s quite self-defeating: to go to church, hear good preaching, and end of more deceived than when you listened.  Pray that you would have a clear mind, the kind grace of God to give you eyes to see how you might faithfully apply, by the aid of God’s Spirit, what you’ve heard in the preaching of the word.

 

So, please pray for preachers and preaching.  Pray for clarity, for those who preach and those who listen.  Each week. Before preaching, during preaching, and after preaching. This is what we ought to do!  And as preachers, we would be eternally grateful for it!

Thoughtful Action: Discussion from Sunday's Sermon

Remember!

Jonah 2

 

1.    What does Jonah mean when he says, “I remembered the Lord” in Jonah 2:7?

2.    Why is it so often hard to remember the Lord when you are going through a difficult time? Why did it take Jonah (and us!) so long to get to the point where he remembered the Lord?

3.    Prayer is simply talking to God.  There are many things to talk to God about, but this passage gives us two in particular. Talk to God and him and talk to God about yourself.

a.    What do you need to remember about the Lord when you feel like he has banished you from his sight (v.4)?

b.    What do you need to remember about the Lord when you feel like he doesn’t care about your situation (v.7)?

c.    Does it help you to verbally talk to God about who he is, what he has done for you in the past, and what he has promised to do for you in the future?

d.    Does it make a difference to realize that you are not telling God something he doesn’t already know?  Why is it so helpful then to talk to God about God then?

e.    “Who are you trusting?” Jonah warns us against placing our hope in “vain idols” (v.8). What idols do you tend to worship instead of Christ?

f.     “How are you thinking?”  Why is it so important to maintain a thankful (v.9) attitude no matter how difficult your life might be?

g.    “What are you doing?” Jonah said he would pay his “vows” (v.9) What do you think he means? What is the connection between obedience and change in Christian growth? How does James 1:23-25 help answer that question?

Psalm for Prayer - April 16, 2018

Psalm 23(ESV)

A Psalm of David. 

1 The Lordis my shepherd; I shall not want. 

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 

3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Thoughtful Action: Discussion from Sunday's Sermon

Jonah – The Weirdest Preacher Ever

 

Refuse! - Jonah 1

 

1.    Do you believe Jonah is literal history? Why or why not?

a.    How does Matt.12:39-40 help answer the question?

b.    How does 2 Kings 14:23-25 help answer the question?

2.    How does Jonah’s low view of God lead to his refusal to obey God?

a.    How does Psalm 139 help answer that question?

b.    Based on the end of that psalm, how does somebody with a high view of God respond to Him?

c.    Give an example of a time when a low view of God led to poor choices on your part.

3.    Why does Jonah’s refusal to go to Nineveh make sense from a human perspective? 

a.    What were the Assyrians like?

b.    While we want to be careful, protective parents, why is it so important in this day to emphasize the safety of the “heart” to our children more than the safety of the body?

4.    Jonah’s choices put other people in danger.  We often do this as well. Here are some important things to discuss related to that.

a.    The sailors were not guilty of Jonah’s sin but were in danger because of it.  Be transparent and give some examples of times when you’ve done that to other people.

b.    The sailors were guilty of their own sins and were not innocent people before God. Could God have been dealing with each one individually as well?

c.    Jonah and the sailors had to make a difficult choice about what to do with Jonah.  Why does it get harder to return to the Lord the longer you refuse him?

d.    How is this story a powerful testimony that God can bring amazing beauty out of sinful choices?

5.    People typically associate Jonah with the “whale.”  It is important that we don’t define Jonah by this one episode in his life. What are the most important aspects of Jonah’s (and every other believer’s) life that should be in the forefront of our minds when we think of him and/or each other?

Psalm for Prayer - April 9, 2018

Psalm 30(ESV)

A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple. 

1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. 

2 O Lordmy God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 

3 O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. 

4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. 

5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. 

6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” 

7 By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed. 

8 To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: 

9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? 

10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!” 

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 

12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lordmy God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Thoughtful Action: Discussion from Sunday's Sermon

The Faithful Love of the Lord

Proverbs 16:6

 

1.    Proverbs are universal phenomenon. What are some of your favorite secular proverbs? Maybe some you’ve used as a parent or that your parents used with you?

2.    What does “atone” mean?

3.    How do people atone for their sins against each other? Why is this insufficient to atone for our sins against God?

4.    Using other Scripture outside of Proverbs 16:6, try to discuss the following questions:

a.    What is so unique and compelling about Jesus’ love for us?  Where do we see it most pointedly demonstrated?

b.    What is so unique and compelling about the Father’s love for us? Where do we see it most pointedly demonstrated?

c.    What is so unique and compelling about the Spirit’s love for us? Where do we see it most pointedly demonstrated?

5.    Why is it important for us to realize that God is “all-loving,” not “only-loving”?  What is the difference?

6.    The word faithful is synonymous with the terms “truth, justice, and righteousness.” What is a good working definition of righteousness again?

7.    Why is Jesus’s faithfulness so important, especially as he was dying on the cross? What good would his love be if weren’t also faithful?

8.    Give a working definition for “the fear of the Lord.”  How does it help the believer turn away  from evil?