Devonwood Community Church of the Nazarene http://www.devonwoodchurch.com Living the Kingdom on Earth Mon, 04 Sep 2017 05:16:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.6 48794915 Great and Unexpected Things God Has Done http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/great-and-unexpected-things-god-has-done/ http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/great-and-unexpected-things-god-has-done/#comments Sun, 25 Jun 2017 03:22:53 +0000 http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/?p=2991 Surprising and counterculture would be appropriate words to describe how God often works in this world. The Christian Church for two thousand years has believed and taught that God’s Son became incarnated in the baby Jesus. God’s Spirit made the Virgin Mary’s womb come to life. There was nothing sexual about this impregnation. God didn’t lust after Mary and copulate with her.

A Surprising Birth Announcement

In response to Mary’s faith (Luke 1:38), God became a baby in Mary’s womb through a very holy act. In the birth of Jesus, both the Lord and Mary agreed to make themselves very vulnerable to the cultural forces around them. In Mary’s world, women who gave birth outside of wedlock were treated as outcasts. Mary’s road to blessedness was not an easy one. Her sufferings would be a portent of the even greater sufferings of the One whom she gave birth.

The baby Jesus was not born in a king’s palace or in a family of worldly privilege. Instead, he was born in a manger with farm animals and was greeted by humble shepherds, who were shunned by many in Jewish society. He was raised by parents of humble means and grew up to be a Jewish carpenter. The Christian Church believes that it is this Jewish carpenter who came as God in disguise. It was he who opened the way for us to be reconciled to our Creator and to become citizens of a new world.

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A Surprising New World Is Coming

Christians are described in Hebrews 6:5 as having already begun to taste the powers of the age to come. I believe this is referring to the Holy Spirit, who begins indwelling the believer’s inmost being when they trust Christ as their Lord and Savior. God’s kingdom has begun breaking into this world with the coming of the true King of creation, Jesus.

When Pilate fastened the notice of the charge for Jesus’ execution on the cross, it read: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews (John 19:19). The notice was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek (John 19:20), the three main languages of that part of the world. Pilate didn’t recognize at all, the truth of what he had written. It was so ironically true, that all the leaders of that society who were responsible for Jesus’ death, didn’t realize that they had just crucified the Lord of glory as a criminal (1Cor. 2:8).

It was this crucified Jewish carpenter who would be vindicated on that first Easter Sunday by his heavenly Father as the true King. In His resurrection, it was this “foolish” and “weak” God-man who defeated the biggest enemies of the human race: death, the devil and the evil entrenched in every human’s heart.

The Christian Gospel is all about how God has intervened in this present world through His Messiah/Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. God is beginning to make things right and to restore all things to Himself in a surprising and counterculture way, through the crucified and risen Jewish carpenter. No wonder Paul says that this was a stumbling block to the Jew and just plain foolishness to the Greek (1Cor. 1:23).

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In view of God’s great mercy to us through the gift of His Son, what should our response be? The Apostle Paul tells us exactly what our response should be in Romans 12:1,2:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (which is passing away), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

In other words, we are to live our lives in this present world as ambassadors of our heavenly country, whose King is Jesus. As we yield to His Lordship in our lives and to His indwelling Spirit, we bear witness to the the mind and presence of Christ Jesus in this present age, which is under the control of the Evil One. We bring the Good News that the true King is Jesus and we don’t have to live under the power of the fear of death or under the guilt and power of our sin. This indeed is gospel/good news to a dying and broken world.

QOTD: Are you living according to the power and truth of King Jesus or under the powers of this present age?

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Jesus In The Middle Of A Yard Sale http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/jesus-in-the-middle-of-a-yard-sale/ Sat, 27 May 2017 02:56:52 +0000 http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/?p=2976 Our church is having a Yard Sale tomorrow. It is a fundraiser for our Parking Lot Project. I also think there are going to be some other worthwhile goals accomplished in this Yard Sale. There are several people who are serving from our church to make this event possible. Desi Scullion and Margaret Thomson have done a very good job in getting others involved. It has been a blessing to see people working together to further the Lord’s work.

Yard Sales And Holy Ground

Not only am I anticipating good fellowship with brothers and sisters in the Lord, but I am looking forward to meeting and engaging with our neighbors and our other customers. We will be having a BBQ and refreshments. I am sure that there will be plenty of laughs, storytelling and hard negotiating. Well, maybe not-so-hard negotiating. But I am sure there will be some good-natured bantering back and forth. It wouldn’t be a Yard Sale without this kind of conversation.

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I think if Jesus was walking the earth today, I think Yard Sales would be right up his alley. I think he would love a bargain and he would love the opportunity to talk and fellowship with people over a hot dog. I am praying that Jesus’ presence will be at work in and through his followers tomorrow. If this prayer is answered, tomorrow’s Yard Sale will be a huge success regardless of the money raised.

I am confident that we will accomplish all of our goals tomorrow. May the Lord bless our Yard Sale and may His face shine on all of the volunteers and customers. May the grounds of our Church tomorrow be truly holy ground and may our conversations be full of grace and good deals.

QOTD: Have you ever encountered Jesus in disguise at a Yard Sale?

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Baseball, Apple Pie and Best of All….Jesus! http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/baseball-apple-pie-and-best-of-all-jesus/ Fri, 05 May 2017 01:12:11 +0000 http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/?p=2952 Last Saturday, the Detroit Tiger Baseball Chaplain, Jeff Totten, coordinated his 31st Home Plate outreach before the Tigers-White Sox game at CoAmerica Park. Home Plate is a ministry where Christian players, active and retired, share their testimony of how they came to faith in Christ. It takes place in the morning of an afternoon ballgame.

Jesus and Baseball Diamonds

Our church has gone for the last several years and have greatly appreciated this ministry. We have heard and read testimonies from players such as James McCann. Matt Boyd, Michael Fulmer, Frank Tanana (retired) and Willie Horton (retired). Jeff Totten is a volunteer chaplain, who is part of Baseball Chapel Ministries. It is amazing to see how this Christian ministry has made a major impact on the North American sports scene.

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Chuck Congram, the former Senior Pastor of Lakeshore St. Andrew Church, use to be one of the chaplains for the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays have had many Christian ballplayers over the years, including Lloyd Moseby, Jesse Barfield and R.A. Dickey. Dickey has an especially interesting testimony of God’s faithfulness in his life.

He was born into a very broken home but ended up being raised in the family of Pastor Stan Toler. Stan is a Pastor in the Church of the Nazarene, as well as one of the most prolific Christian authors of this generation. R.A. Dickey is a man who is not ashamed of the Christian Gospel. Moreover, he boldly declares how the power and love of Jesus has brought healing and strength in his life. If you ever come across his autobiography at a bookstore, I highly recommend it.

Filling Restless Hearts With God’s Glory

One of the reasons I love this ministry is that I am a big baseball fan. I have played it, coached it and seen my children play it. Baseball has been a big part of our family. I also realize that even though baseball is a great game, it can’t be our all-consuming passion. Like anything else in God’s good creation, it is a blessing when we keep it in proper perspective. But it can be awfully disappointing when we try to elevate it to god-status.

Only one team wins the championship each year. And even when my teams win the championship, and I have seen the Tigers, Pistons and Red Wings win several championships, in my lifetime, that euphoric high only lasts a short time. Even though I have been elated at each Red Wing Stanley Cup victory or Tiger World Series victory, it can’t sustain us more than a few days. Like I said, I know this by experience. Even when I have played on a championship team or coached a championship team, the high lasted about 2 days, at most.

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As I have heard the testimony of Christian athletes and baseball umpires, many have grown up in Christian families, but many have also found Jesus as they have pursued their dreams of reaching the Pros. They came to realize the glory of professional sports is no substitute for the more weightier glory of the crucified and risen Jesus. They came to Him to save them from emptiness, destructive addictions and rocky marriages.

In professional sports, people tend to love you and heap accolades onto you as long as you produce at a fairly high level. You can become a bum in the fans’ eyes fairly quickly. It is a hard way to live if your self identity and self worth is primarily tied up in your performance or what other people think of you. It is also a hard and disappointing way to live if your greatest satisfactions in life are primarily dependent on how your sports team does or how big your house and bank account is.

Jesus’ love and presence in our life are not dependent on such perishable and fleeting things like athletic performance, physical attractiveness and material possessions. His glory is a lot more weightier and permanent than these god-substitutes. Furthermore, as He becomes more and more the center of our lives, He enables us to love others in a deeper and more consistent manner. No wonder Baseball Chapel Ministries has a passion to tell the Good News of the crucified and risen Jesus to others.

May the Lord continue to bless the ministry of Jeff Totten, and may the likes of Boyd, Norris and Fulmer continue to walk faithfully with Jesus. Go Tigers!

QOTD: What is your all-consuming passion and can it sustain you through life and death?

 

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Jesus On The Cross – His Final Words http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/jesus-on-the-cross-his-final-words/ Sat, 15 Apr 2017 01:54:19 +0000 http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/?p=2936 In Colossians 3:16, we are exhorted to let “the Word of Christ dwell in us richly as we teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as we sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” The Lord is calling us to follow Him in this regard. Even though the Lord Jesus was the incarnate Son of God, His mind and heart were formed and filled by Scripture.

Jesus Was Formed and Directed By God’s Word

At the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus was in the desert 40 days, eating nothing. Satan came right beside Him in His vulnerable state and tempted Him 3 different times. How did Jesus respond? He quoted Scripture 3 different times to overcome Satanic opposition.

For example, in response to the first test of turning the stones into bread, Jesus responded this way in Mt. 4:4 – “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3).”

At the end of His public ministry and life, Jesus again faced a monumental test regarding His trust in God and in God’s ways for His life. Two of the last seven sayings of Jesus on the cross are direct quotes from the Book of Psalms.

The saying “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” is from Psalm 22:1 and appears in both Mathew’s and Mark’s passion narratives (Mathew 27:46, Mark 15:32). And in Luke 23:46, Jesus quotes the words of Psalm 31:5 while giving up His dying breath: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. If you read Psalm 22 and Psalm 31 in their entirety, you realize that they pertain to King David.

In both Psalms, David finds himself in situations which can be described as dire. On the surface, without faith in God, they seem to be near-impossible trials where deliverance is highly unlikely. But somehow, near the end of both Psalm 22 and Psalm 31, David came to the conviction that God will deliver and vindicate him. He will yet praise and serve the Lord in the land of the living.

Image result for Jesus on the cross uttering "My God, my God why have you forsaken me"

On the cross, Jesus is also in a desperate situation. He is being tortured and mocked. But somehow He knows that He is going to be delivered and vindicated as well. He is the Son of David…….He is a descendant of the great King David.

But He is greater than King David. David was a shepherd boy when God called him to lead His people. David proved to be a good shepherd of both sheep and God’s people. But Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11,14) and in Hebrews 13:20, He is called the Great Shepherd.

Called To Be Formed and Directed By The Good Shepherd

And the deliverance and salvation that God effected through Jesus on the cross is a greater deliverance and salvation than David or any other Old Testament character experienced. Jesus was so steeped in the Scripture that He was confident that his heavenly Father was going to vindicate Him through His resurrection. Jesus knew that He would also justify and vindicate many through faith in Him.

We know that this was Jesus’ confidence not only through His quotations from the Books of Psalms but also from Jesus’ prophetic teaching in verses like Mathew 16:21 where he says He was going to suffer in Jerusalem and given over to death, but then, rise on the third day.

In the same way that Jesus placed His life and times in the hands of His heavenly Father, so we can place our life and times in the hands of our Lord. The Good Shepherd, Jesus, cares for His sheep. He is not like a hired hand who leaves at the first sign of trouble. But He lays down His life for the sheep.

His goodness is seen in this willingness. And His greatness is seen in His defeat of death and evil through the cross and the empty tomb.

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No matter what we are going through……..No matter what we will go through, we can trust the Lord and yield our lives to Him. Whoever is willing to do this will not lose their real selves, but find their true selves. Both now in this life and in the next.

This is the Good News of Jesus Christ.

QOTD: What or who are you ultimately formed and directed by?

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Finding Gospel In Unexpected Places http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/finding-gospel-in-unexpected-places/ Sat, 01 Apr 2017 01:56:08 +0000 http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/?p=2930 In the past several weeks I have been preaching from the 12 Minor Prophets. They are found at the end of the Old Testament. They are called “Minor” not because Hosea’s or Amos’ prophetic ministries are less important than Jeremiah’s or Isaiah’s ministries. They are called “Minor” because their messages are shorter than the message of prophets like Ezekiel.

In this series, I have preached from books I have never preached before in over 20 years of pastoral ministry. These books include Zephaniah, Habakkuk and Nahum. I have to say that I have never been more blessed personally, in preparing a series of messages, than this one on the Minor Prophets.

Habakkuk And The Gospel

One of the reasons for this is that in each one of these Minor Prophets, the Gospel shines ever so brightly. For example, in the Book of Habakkuk, the prophet is crying out to Yahweh God in prayer because of the violence and injustice he sees among God’s people in Judah. To Habakkuk, it seems like the Lord is doing nothing about it. How are the descendants of Abraham going to shine with the glory of God’s character and ways, when they are practicing covenant unfaithfulness to their covenant Lord?

It seems like Habakkuk is crying out to Yahweh God and saying discipline us………purify us so that we can reflect your holiness in our relationships with one another. Instead, Habakkuk continues to see only violence and injustice as the Mosaic Law is paralyzed in its effect among God’s people (Hab. 1:2-4).

The Lord finally answers his faithful prophet in Hab. !:5-11. He tells Habakkuk that He will do something that Habakkuk is not going to believe: the Lord is going to raise up the ruthless Babylonians and they are going to sweep through many nations, including Judah.

Habakkuk is now more perplexed than ever. Why is Yahweh God going to raise up a more unrighteous people than Judah to discipline them for their unrighteousness (Hab.1:12,13). The Babylonians military might is their god and they capture people like they are fish (Hab. 1:14-17). Habakkuk says that they sacrifice to their fish nets (i.e. their military might), because by dependence on it, they live in luxury. They defy the true God , by treating their military prowess as their god.

 

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Habakkuk doesn’t understand all this. Why O Lord are you going to use the Babylonians like this? They are going to be even more deluded about their invincibility when they will be allowed to defeat many nations, including Judah. And how is God going to fulfill His promise to Abraham to bless all the nations of the world through his descendants (Genesis 12:1-3)? Babylon is going to destroy Jerusalem and its Temple. And the lamp of God’s promise to King David: to always have descendant from his family as king (2Samuel 7:8-16)  , is going to be snuffed out by King Nebuchadnezzar.

To Habakkuk’s great credit, he goes to the Lord in Hab. 2:1 and waits for an answer. And the LORD faithfully does answer in the rest of chapter 2 of Habakkuk. In the LORD’s answer, we have the well-known truth of Hab. 2:4b: “the righteous shall live by faith.”

The Lord seems to be saying to Habakkuk: ” It doesn’t seem to the natural mind that my purposes to bless the whole world through Abraham’s descendants is going to happen when I let Babylon invade Judah and destroy Jerusalem. But trust me Habakkuk, I will yet bring salvation to the world through the seed of Abraham.”

And as we know, that is what our faithful covenant LORD did in fact do. He brought the Jews back from exile in Babylon some 70 years later, and through a rebuilt Jerusalem and restored remnant, He brought the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, into the world to be the Savior of all peoples.

Habakkuk In The New Testament

No wonder the Apostle Paul writes what he does in Romans 1:16,17:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Note where the last phrase of Romans 1:17 comes from. It is a direct quote from Hab. 2:4b. Habakkuk had to totally rely by faith on God for His saving purposes to be accomplished for Judah. In Romans 1:16 & 17, Paul proclaims that everyone in the world, who wants to experience the salvation of God and become righteous in relationship with God, needs to totally trust God and His provision. And His provision is the crucified and risen Son of God.

 

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Habakkuk 2:4 was not only used by Paul to declare the Gospel, it also became the rallying cry of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. We are celebrating the 500-year anniversary in 2017 of this great movement of God.  Martin Luther was a Catholic monk who was tormented by a guilty conscience. No matter how many religious works he did, he still sensed guilt and alienation with a holy God.

After many struggles, the Ho;y Spirit revealed to Luther the truth of Romans 1:17, quoting Hab. 2:4, “The righteous shall live by faith”. The LORD opened Luther’s eyes to understand that salvation is a gift by God that is received by faith. The sinner receives forgiveness and a reconciled relationship with God, as we fully trust and rest in God’s provision of His crucified and risen Son, Jesus.

As I have preached through the Minor Prophets, I have come across many golden truths of the gospel like Hab.2;4. The Gospel of Jesus even shines in the dark hallways of Habakkuk and Zephaniah as God’s people are about to experience devastation and death through Babylonian exile. God resurrected them, just like He resurrected His Son on the third day from the grave.

Whatever your situation is, it is not hopeless. Entrust yourself to the LORD. He is worthy to be trusted. Even in death, His purposes in our lives will be fulfilled. “The just shall live by faith.”

QOTD: Are you trusting the LORD in every situation in your life, including your very soul?

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“Surprised By Hope” ( edited repost of Review of N.T. Wright’s Book) http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/surprised-by-hope-edited-repost-of-review-of-n-t-wrights-book/ Fri, 17 Mar 2017 23:45:40 +0000 http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/?p=2926 We are approaching the Easter Season. I thought it would be a good time to repost my review of N.T. Wright’s excellent book, “Surprised By Hope”. It provides a great summary of the Christian hope which is taught in the biblical record.

Putting Flesh And Bones On The Christian Hope

In his book, Surprised by Hope, N. T. Wright demonstrates again why he is one of today’s most readable New Testament scholars. He combines a great intellectual acumen and rigor with a wonderful pastor’s heart, which is always burdened to foster the faithfulness of God’s people.

In this particular book, Wright begins by demonstrating that both Christians and non-Christians are often confused about what the ultimate Christian hope is. Wright contends that most people have a very vague, sentimental and non-biblical view of life-after-death. This is understandable for non-Christians but it is more troubling and surprising that this is the case for Christians.

The most common cultural view regarding life-after-death is that somehow things will all work out in the end. We’ll either turn into angels or become liberated souls carried on clouds or floating in some ocean of endless peace. Wright shows how these owe more to Platonic or pagan beliefs than to biblical teaching.

Wright does a great job of expounding what the actual biblical teaching is on life-after-death. He shows that the Jews and early Christians always believed that what happened to the faithful right at death was a temporary or intermediate stage. The deceased believers are somehow held in the powerful and loving embrace of God. They are conscious but do not possess their new and glorified bodies until that Final Day.

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Wright writes that in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, God has shown us ahead of time what will happen to all of His people. The Jews always believed in the resurrection but it was a great surprise to Jewish expectation that their Messiah would arise from the dead to a new life right in the middle of this present age. It was also a great surprise to them that their Messiah died on the cross in the first place.

From solely a human perspective, the crucifixion of Jesus meant that he was not the Messiah or the Christ. In fact, in Deuteronomy 21:23, it says “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a cross”. But the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ reveals to us that He’s full of surprises. In Galatians 3:10-14, the Apostle Paul teaches us that Jesus became a curse on the cross not for his own sins, but for our sins. He became a curse for us, so that through our faith in him, we might receive the blessings of forgiveness and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Living As People Of Hope

Wright not only expounds that the Christian hope is specific, solid and sure but then he does an outstanding job of explaining the difference that biblical hope should have in our day-to-day lives. Wright demonstrates how the bodily resurrection of Jesus was a vindication by God the Father regarding the claims of Christ. In the bodily resurrection of the Messiah, God was showing that Jesus was the true Lord of the world and that the Roman Caesars were only pretenders to the world thrones.

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It was this kind of message or gospel that was troublesome to worldly rulers, and not the message of the Gnostics, who only believed in a spiritual or inward resurrection. The early Christians were faithful to the biblical teaching and understood that Jesus’ actual bodily resurrection had implications for the whole cosmos.

Their hope in the resurrected Christ not only motivated them to grow in a personal relationship with Christ but also to work for a transformed world because one day, God would remake all of creation. Bible study and corporate worship on Sunday morning are important but also work and play during the rest of the week is important. Our ultimate hope is to live in a resurrected body in a new heaven and new earth that will be more solid and beautiful than anything we have experienced so far in the old earth.

This is the surprising hope that God has gifted us with in the resurrected Jesus. Thank you, Lord, and thank you, N.T. for opening our eyes and hearts anew to this very Good News.

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The Surpassing Greatness Of Knowing Jesus http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/the-surpassing-greatness-of-knowing-jesus/ Tue, 07 Mar 2017 03:01:20 +0000 http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/?p=2919 When Colleen and I were married over 21 years ago, we chose Psalm 37:3,4 as our life verses together. Let me quote them for you:

Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart (NASB).

These verses have given us direction and encouragement in our lives as we have sought to serve the LORD in our married life. These words have shaped us and strengthened us in the ups and downs of life. The words of Psalm 37:3,4 have been living words to us and have been the heartbeat of our calling in the LORD.

The Heartbeat of the Apostle Paul

The Apostle Paul wrote more of the Books in the Bible than anyone else. It would therefore be difficult to zero in on 1 or 2 verses that we could say definitely were Paul’s life verses. But as we study Paul’s life from Luke’s Book of Acts, and as we study Paul’s own writings, no verses capture the heartbeat of Paul more than what he wrote in Philippians 3:7-11. These verses come right after Paul’s summary of his religious credentials and accomplishments before he encountered the crucified and risen Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:4-6). Paul was on the fast track to becoming the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.

A seismic shift, however, occurred in Paul’s life while he was on the road to Damascus. He was on assignment to that great Syrian city: he was to arrest any Jew who believed that the crucified Jesus was the long-expected Messiah/Christ. But Paul’s plans and life were turned upside down as he encountered the risen Jesus in a vision (Acts 9:1-9). The great persecutor of the Christian faith became the great preacher of the Christian faith. His name was changed from Saul to Paul and the world was never the same again because of Paul’s great gospel ministry.

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After summarizing all of his religious credentials and accomplishments before Christ in Phil 3:4-6, Paul declares in Philippians 3:7-11 these words:

 But whatever was to my gain, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.  I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

It would be very difficult to come up with another passage from the Scriptures which would do a better job of capturing the heartbeat of the Apostle Paul.

His consuming passion was to personally know Christ more and more. Paul’s life was so taken up into Christ, that he was even willing to share in the sufferings of Christ, if that meant a closer relationship with the risen Christ. In many ways, Philippians 3:10,11 provides us with the most succinct and accurate testimony of the great Apostle Paul’s life. He came to know Jesus intimately, and as a direct result, was able to make Jesus known to so many others.

The Dynamic Tension Of The Christian Life

Furthermore, in Paul’s life, the dynamic tension of experiencing both the sufferings of Christ and the resurrected power of Christ, was consistently on display. In 2Corinthians 11:22-29, Paul chronicles some of his sufferings for the sake of making Christ and the Gospel known. He literally looked death in the face over and over again. Beaten with whips and rods, spending a whole day and night floating in the open seas, in danger from the rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger everywhere. But Paul’s passionate love and trust in the crucified and risen Christ opened the door for him to experience the resurrected power of Christ.

In the North American Church, especially in some circles, there is a lot of talk of experiencing the power of the resurrected Christ. But many times this talk of spiritual power is divorced from the need of coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ in a more and more intimate way. Can we genuinely and consistently experience the life-giving power of Christ apart from a growing understanding of who Christ is, as revealed in the Scriptures?  And can we genuinely and consistently experience the life-giving power of Christ apart from a willingness to share in the sufferings of Christ? I think the Apostle Paul would say no.

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I think there has to be a growing covenant-like intimacy with the Lord Jesus and that this comes through a sharing of both the sufferings and the resurrected power of Christ in one’s life. As Paul says in 2Corinthians 4:10: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” I believe that it is this dynamic tension of experiencing both the sufferings and power of Christ that makes our lives powerful redemptive channels of God’s grace and truth.

May the God of peace work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

QOTD: Is it the cry of your heart to know Christ more and more intimately, sharing both in His sufferings and His resurrection power?

 

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God’s Passionate Love For His People http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/gods-passionate-love-for-his-people/ Wed, 22 Feb 2017 21:34:35 +0000 http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/?p=2915 In the last month I have been doing a series entitled “Major Messages, Minor Prophets”. It has been a great blessing to be preaching on books of the Bible I have rarely, and sometimes never, preached from. The last 12 books of the Old Testament are called the Minor Prophets, not because the messages are less important, but because they are shorter books in length. As I have studied these books in preparing my messages, my love for the Bible and for the Lord has really grown. The whole counsel of God has a way of doing that to us.

A Costly Object Lesson

One of the main themes that have been emerging from the Minor Prophets is the nature and depth of God’s covenant love for His people. If anyone doubts that God is an emotional being should just read Hosea. God is pictured in this book as a jilted lover. Hosea was called by the Lord to give the mother of all object lessons when God commissioned him to marry a prostitute. What a way to illustrate the meaning of your message!

God’s long-suffering love for his unfaithful people was incarnated by Hosea in his love for his wayward wife, Gomer. The God that is pictured here is a personal God who is intimately involved and affected by the response of those He is in covenant with.

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God’s recurring passionate refrain in Hosea’s message is that there is no faithfulness and no love in the land (Hosea 4:1). “They don’t really know me”. And the knowledge God is talking about here is not a lack of head knowledge, but a dearth of intimate knowledge that comes from deep communion of 2 persons, like the conjugal love of a husband and wife.

Many of the Minor Prophets inevitably see the need for the Lord to painfully discipline His people. And they hint at the need for God to do a new work in the hearts of His people, in order to produce a faithful people, who can live in covenantal integrity with Yahweh.

The Need For A New Covenant

In Joel 2:28-32, we have the well-known prophecy of a time when God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh. A major fulfillment of this prophecy came on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on every Christian in Acts 2. Now, through the new covenant of Jesus’ shed blood, every believer receives the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to make our Bridegroom Jesus real to us, and who enables us to live in holiness and righteousness (covenantal faithfulness).

Yahweh God reveals the kind of covenant partner He is by actually incarnating Himself in human flesh, and coming on our side of the covenant, to fulfill our broken vows, by being nailed to a cross. What a loving Bridegroom! What a faithful Husband! What a Savior! Who can walk away from this kind of God?

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Let us hear these words of Hosea 6:1-3:

Come, let us return to the LORD (Yahweh). He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.

In this veiled prophecy, I can’t help but see hints of Christ’s resurrection on the third day, and also the pouring out of God’s Spirit, likened to winter and spring rains. The LORD has given the new covenant believer greater resources to know Him and to live faithfully with Him. He who has ears, let him hear what the Spirit of God is saying.

QOTD: Do you really know the LORD, and are you living in such a way that reflects covenantal communion with a righteous and holy God?

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Jesus Calls Us Friend http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/jesus-calls-us-friend/ Fri, 13 Jan 2017 18:14:30 +0000 http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/?p=2866 In the mid 1930s, the classic movie, “The Bride of Frankenstein”, came out. It starred Boris Karloff in the role of the monster. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie occurred when the Monster entered the cottage of a blind hermit, in the heart of the forest. The blind hermit thanked the Lord for sending him a friend.

The Power Of Friendship

The hermit taught the monster words like”friend”…….”good”……..”alone”………”bad”. They shared a meal and smoked cigars together. These two lonely souls found their humanity in their friendship. One the saddest parts of the movie occurred when 2 hunters stumbled across the cottage and recognized the monster. As they take him away to kill him, the monster forlornly cries out “Friend?”…..”Friend?”

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These movie scenes illustrate the power of friendship in our lives. We cannot experience our full humanity without friendship with other human beings. When the Lord first created Adam, God said “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). I believe that our need for friendship is so powerful that we not only need human friends, but we need friendship with God. Only the Lord can fully  meet our need for companionship. Our human friends are not able to take the place of our Maker in our lives.

A big part of the Gospel is that through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we have been made friends with God. Jesus is Emmanuel, ‘God with us’. While we were hostile toward God and powerless to change our alienated state toward God, He came to us in Jesus to reconcile us to Himself through His death (Romans 5:6-8). Jesus, who knew no sin, became the sin-bearer for our sins, so that we could enter into a right relationship with God (2Corinthians 5:18-21).

Friendship And The Trinity

Tim Keller makes a very interesting point when he says that loneliness is one problem in our life that arises not because of our sin, as much as it does out of our being created in God’s likeness. Keller goes on to explain what he means: he says that within the Trinity, the Father and the Son have always delighted in one another, communicated with one another, shared their plans and worked with one another, in the power of God’s Spirit. In other words, within the Trinity, an eternal friendship and fellowship has always existed.

It is a profound thought that friendship is eternal. It was never created, it has always existed within God. And because we are created in God’s image, our humanity will only flourish when we are involved in good friendships with other people and with the Lord. The good news is that Jesus calls us “friends”. Through Him and the cross, we are invited to participate in the fellowship of the triune Godhead (1John 1:1-4).

We cannot be friends with someone who is always guarded with us. Friends share secrets and themselves with us. They commit themselves to us. No wonder our great Friend Jesus says these words in John 15:13,15:

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends …….I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

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We are called to follow Jesus’ example in being His ambassadors on this earth. We are called to offer ourselves in committed friendship with Christians and non-Christians. The Church is called to cultivate meaningful fellowship with fellow believers and to befriend the stranger in our surrounding neighborhoods and workplaces.

This requires risk and cost, but the rewards are eternal. May the Lord give us grace and wisdom to not be so busy and distracted, that we miss the stranger and ministry that is right before our eyes. May we grow in friendship with the Lord and with those we live with, work with and worship with.

In the the name of our Lord, Savior and Friend,  Jesus.

QOTD: Am I cultivating a growing friendship with God and others? Am I putting myself out for Jesus and others?

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Our Global Family – Engage the Word (XIII) http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/our-global-family-engage-the-word-xiii/ Wed, 07 Dec 2016 19:19:46 +0000 http://www.devonwoodchurch.com/?p=2838 One of the Church of the Nazarene’s chief beliefs is that true holiness of heart will always express itself in love for one’s neighbor. It was out of the overflow of God’s love within his triune being, that He created the world, and then sent his Son, Jesus, to redeem the world. God’s love moves Him to bless and share Himself with others. As we come to share in God’s life through faith in Jesus and the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are moved to share God’s redemptive love with others.

Living In The Overflow Of God’s Life And Love

In 1 John 1:1-2, the Apostle John explains this love dynamic spilling into God’s world this way:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.

Why does the Apostle John proclaim God’s Son Jesus to us? He tells us in 1John 1:3,4: so that we may join the Apostles in their fellowship with the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ.  John wants us to experience the joyous reality of experiencing the love and intimacy of God through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

This is the calling of the Church according to our Lord Jesus in Acts 1:8. We are to be witnesses of His life and death for us where we live and work (our Jerusalems’) and to the ends of the world. The Church of the Nazarene takes this commission by our Lord very seriously.

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The Church of the Nazarene presently has 2.3 million members who are worshiping in more than 29,000 local congregations in 159 world areas. A typical outreach ministry of the the Nazarene Church occurs in the African country of Sierra Leone.

God’s Son Proclaimed In Word And Action

Each year, more than 1,600 children under 5 die from diarrheal diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation in Sierra Leone. The country has the highest rate of under-5 mortality in the world, according to Nazarene Compassionate Magazine, Summer 2016 Edition.

The Church of the Nazarene in Sierra Leone is partnering with rural water-poor communities to drill borehole wells that provide clean, safe water and prevent water-related illness. Nazarenes are compassionately sharing not only the spiritual water of Jesus for people’s souls, but physical water for people’s bodies.

This kind of ministry has resulted in many Nazarene Churches being planted in places like Sierra Leone and Bangladesh. The love of the triune God has been expressed in and through the real blood and flesh lives of Nazarene Christians. God’s love is shared unconditionally with those in need, regardless whether they respond or not to the Gospel message of Jesus. Clean water is given to all who are in need. This strangely sounds like Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan that we read about in Luke 10:25-37.

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The Church of the Nazarene continues to grow throughout the world as the message of God’s love in Christ is shared both in word and deed and in the power of God’s Spirit. Praise the Lord!

QOTD: Are you faithfully bearing witness in word and action the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those around you?

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