Break Every Chain (Monologue)

The Bible is God’s love story to written to us

Let’s begin with the bad news

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God

Each of us have been born in sin, with a sin nature

We are blinded in sin.

Scripture tells us that men love darkness rather than light

 

We have spurned God’s law

We are bound and shackled in the chains of sin

Chains of pride, selfishness

Chains of envy and jealousy

Sinful chains of lust

Chains of addiction, laziness, indifference, ambivalence

 

Our transgressions are many

Our sins outnumber the grains of sand

We stand helpless and broken

Our situation is bleak

If you, O Lord, kept a record of wrongs, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared

 

Here is the good news

There is power in the name of Jesus

There is power in the precious blood of Jesus

That can cleanse every sin, every stain, every addiction.

He died so that you might live

Repent and turn to God

so that your sins may be wiped out

and times of refreshing may come from the Lord

 

There is no one too far gone

There is no one beyond the reach of Almighty God

Jesus can break the chains of sin and death

He can shatter every chain that binds you

Turn to him, trust in him today

The Rich King Became Poor

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9)

The Lord Jesus is rich. Rich is a reference to Christ’s preexistent status as the eternal Son of God in heaven. Jesus is the Creator of all, the Lord of all nations, First born of all Creation, the Preeminent One. He is the precious Son of God – fully God and fully man. He is the Name above all names, King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus Christ is the greatest, highest, Holiest, richest, Preeminent King.

The Lord Jesus Christ became poor. Poor is a reference to the humility of Christ’s incarnation, including His death. This is the truth of the Incarnation – God became man. Jesus took on flesh and skin. Christ took on our humanity. He was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. He faced the hardships of this cold world. He felt the painful effects of sin’s curse on the earth. He had no home. He had no place to lay His head. He humbled Himself as a servant.

Rich King Jesus became the poorest of the poor. He suffered and died the worst kind of death. He was beaten, bruised and ridiculed. He died a criminal’s death. A crown of thorns was placed upon His head. Nails were driven into His hands and feet. He was lifted high upon a cross. He suffered in anguish as the sins of the world were placed upon Him. He shed His blood as a ransom for many.

This truth is for you: Christ became poor so you could become rich. What does rich mean in this passage? The apostle Paul is not speaking of our earthly health, wealth and prosperity. He is not speaking of physical money, gold, stocks, bonds or IRAs. Paul is speaking of spiritual wealth: salvation and all the benefits that flow from Christ’s death and resurrection.

Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Those of us who trust in Christ become spiritually rich. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. We could spend hours recounting the many blessings in Christ: salvation, forgiveness of sin, removal of guilt, clean conscience, changed heart and life, substantial healing, protection from evil, wisdom in decisions, provision of our needs, comfort in times of trouble, hope that endures, no fear of death and the promise of eternal life in heaven. What a great exchange this is! The Lord Jesus became poor, so that you would become spiritually rich.

Christ shed His blood to pay the penalty for your sins and mine. He took our sin and shame, so that we could be forgiven. He was forsaken that we might be forgiven. He was condemned that we might be accepted. He died that we might live. Forgiveness is freely offered to all who repent and trust in Jesus. This hope is for you. Christ became poor so you could become rich.

You Are Not Alone (at Christmas)

Genuine relationships with people are important. We were not meant to live life alone. We are better together. Marriage and family relationships were created by God. And the church is God’s design and plan for community. But in this dark world, many of our core relationships have been broken. The wounds we carry are deep. Life is hard. Each of us will walk through seasons of suffering, pain, and loneliness. At times, we feel hopeless. We can easily be led into despair.

With all the connection that technology offers us, many of us feel alone. We can be surrounded by people and feel lonely. We can interact with thousands on facebook, twitter, and instagram. We can connect with people around the world within seconds. All this connectedness still can leave us feeling isolated and lonely. Columnist David Brooks writes: “The suicide rate has surged to a 30-year high — a sure sign of rampant social isolation.”

There is a desperate craving in our hearts. We can search for meaning and purpose in the pursuits of friendships, relationships, marriage, family, pleasure, money, career, and more. All these things will leave you feeling empty. Nothing on this earth can satisfy your soul. It’s never enough.

King Solomon is known for his wisdom. In his lifetime, he pursued everything . . . education, agriculture, construction, and romance. Nothing could satisfy. At the end of his life, he said all these pursuits were meaningless, empty, a chasing of the wind. In his book of regrets, he concludes with this simple advice: Fear God.

In our hearts, there is a yearning and a longing for the One true living God who created us. God is here, and he is not silent. His name is Emmanuel, God with us. God came to dwell among us. Jesus was born on Christmas to die for our sins and provide hope and forgiveness. Acts 17 tells us that God appointed the very times and places that we lives so that we might reach out and find Him.

This Christmas season, I pray you hear the voice of God calling out to you. You are loved. You are not alone. There is hope in Jesus. Reach out and find him. He is not far away. He is near. God is with us. This is the hope of Christmas.

Class Notes: God’s Will & Making Decisions

I am teaching a Bible Study class this summer with Jeremy Dimmitt entitled, “God’s Will & Making Decisions.” We pray this will help Christians to understand and discern God’s will for their lives.


Class Notes:

Class Syllabus

Session 1: What is the Will of God? (DeYoung: Ch 1)

Session 2: How to Understand God’s “Calling” (DeYoung: Ch 2-3)

Session 3: Discerning God’s Will (DeYoung: Ch 7-8)

Session 4: Overcoming Doubt (DeYoung: Ch 4)

Session 5: The Way of Wisdom (DeYoung: Ch 5-6)
Session 6: Knowing God’s Will in Life

Session 7: Balancing Priorities & Taking Risks (DeYoung: Ch 9-10)
Risk-Taking and the Cause of Christ (Piper: Ch 5)


Our main textbook is:

Just Do Something: How to Make Decisions Without Visions, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, Wet Fleeces, etc. by Kevin DeYoung.


We are also referencing the following books:

Borgman, Brian S. Feelings and Faith: Cultivating Godly Emotions in the Christian Life. Wheaton: Crossway, 2009.

Friesen, Garry. Decision Making and the Will of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View. Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 1981.

Guinness, Os. The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purposes in Your Life. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2003.

Guinness, Os. God in the Dark: The Assurance of Faith Beyond a Shadow of Doubt. Wheaton: Crossway, 1996.

Jensen, Phillip D. and Tony Payne. Guidance and the Voice of God. Kingsford NSW, AUS: Matthias Media, 1997.

Okholm, Dennis. Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants. Ada, MI: Brazos, 2007.

Petty, James C. Step by Step: Divine Guidance for Ordinary Christians (Resources for Changing Lives). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1999.

Piper, John. Don’t Waste Your Life. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.

Veith, Gene Edward, Jr. God At Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life. Wheaton: Crossway, 2002.

Waltke, Bruce K. Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion? Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

Wingren, Gustaf. Luther on Vocation. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2004.

The Christian Response to Homosexuality in Post-Christian America

Many churches fail in their approach of addressing homosexuality. The liberal response embraces and celebrates sin. The fundamental response typically shuns and condemns sinners. The way of Jesus is neither of these approaches. The Christian response speaks truth in love and offers Gospel hope to sinners.

Here are 12 considerations to keep in mind in this day and age:

  1. Scripture is clear. Homosexual practice and behavior is sin. Both the Old and New Testaments are crystal clear on this issue. It is interesting that Jesus never mentions homosexuality, but he warned against sexual sin (porneia). Homosexuality was not tolerated in Palestine, so Jesus did not need to address this issue specifically. The apostle Paul warns against homosexuality on several occasions as he writes to Gentile churches.
  1. We have a minority view. The clear Biblical stance on homosexuality is now a minority view in America. Over half of Americans approve of gay marriage. There is no longer a prevalent Judeo-Christian worldview and ethic in our country. Younger generations are more tolerant and heavily influenced by friends, peers, media, and culture. Most Americans do not care what the Bible says about homosexuality. Christians thumping the Bible is falling on deaf ears. Satan is at work and having a heyday with this issue. While Christians must stand on Biblical truth, we also need to stay current on research and present rational arguments for our perspective. We also need to understand that most homosexuals in our culture tend to tie their identity to this inward struggle. This is a controversial, intricate, and challenging issue to unpack, understand, and address.
  1. We must become Christ’s ambassadors. Our nation no longer legislates morality in regards to adultery, divorce, homosexual practice, and abortion. We probably cannot legislate morality regarding gay marriage in post-Christian America. Even if we did, laws cannot change hearts. John MacArthur says, “Overly politically-active Christians make enemies with the lost.” He writes, “Rather than concentrating on political issues and debates, believers should be consumed with their responsibility as Christ’s ambassadors. That is the church’s mandate. When other priorities and pursuits crowd out the Great Commission, both the message and the mission get confused.” In our efforts to be responsible, voting, politically-active Christians, we can easily lose sight of eternal Gospel priorities. Satan is our enemy, not people. Homosexuals are not our enemy. We need to adjust our expectations, prepare for persecution, pray for revival, and become Christ’s ambassadors.
  1. This world is not our home. Our priorities must shift from an earthly focus to a heavenly focus. What is now seen on earth is only temporal, and what is unseen is eternal. America is not “God’s special country.” No country has ever been perfect or fully Christian. All nations are corrupt, and no nation will last. The earth will one day be destroyed. The Christian is not to ignore the political arena of the world nor his cultural identity for that would be irresponsible and disrespectful, but earthly politics and patriotism must be seen as secondary. It is essential that a believer prioritize the kingdom of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Living as an alien and stranger on earth, the Christian life is one of expectation and yearning for heaven—the better country to come.
  1. Never enjoy confronting homosexuality. There should be no applause or rejoicing in condemnation of sin. All too often, our preaching against homosexuality is a disgusting spectacle. Older generations tend to be too harsh when addressing homosexuality. The heavy duty of preaching against sin should be discharged with reluctance. Pastors should take a fatherly approach when addressing this sin, as if pursuing a wayward child. There is no joy in confronting homosexuality. We should find this difficult and heavy. We must shed compassionate tears for those who struggle with homosexuality. We must be humble and broken.

In the book, God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis presents some dangers in preaching national repentance. He writes: “Is it not, then, the duty of the Church to preach national repentance? I think it is. But the office—like many others—can be profitably discharged only by those who discharge it with reluctance. We know that a man may have to ‘hate’ his mother for the Lord’s sake. The sight of a Christian rebuking his mother, though tragic, may be edifying; but only if we are quite sure that he has been a good son and that, in his rebuke, spiritual zeal is triumphing, not without agony, over strong natural affection. The moment there is reason to suspect he enjoys rebuking her—that he believes himself to be rising above the natural level while he is still, in reality, groveling below it in the unnatural—the spectacle becomes merely disgusting. The hard sayings of our Lord are wholesome to those only who find them hard.”

  1. Homosexuality should not be singled out as the only sin or the worst sin. The apostle Paul mentions homosexuality within lists of many sins (1 Cor 6:9-11; 1 Tim 1:9-10; Rom 1:18-32). We should be honest that we are sinners and each of us are battling different sins. We should speak of homosexuality as one of many serious sins including premarital sex, adultery, pornography, etc. 
  1. Hope must be offered. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church regarding homosexuality as something of their past that had been washed and cleansed. If Christians in Corinth could be cleansed of former homosexual sin, there is hope that anyone can be washed, sanctified, and forgiven (1 Cor 6:11). We do not write anyone off. There are people attending your church every Sunday who are struggling with same sex attraction and homosexuality. Many are carrying pain and guilt. They need to know that they are accepted even as they struggle with this issue. All sinners need encouragement to struggle against sin, no matter what kind. Individuals should not be penalized in the church for struggling with same-sex attraction while living a life of holiness. We offer real Gospel hope to sinners knowing there is substantial healing in Jesus Christ.
  1. Love must be paramount. Jesus said we will be known by our love (John 13:35). Remember that it was God’s kindness that led us to repentance (Rom 2:4). Love and kindness must be communicated in every conversation on this issue.
  1. Every word counts. Always be ready to give an answer (1 Pet 3:15). Our words can be easily misunderstood and twisted. Jesus said we will give an account for every careless word (Matt 12:36). We must guard our words carefully, especially in this day and age.
  1. There is a time to be silent. Pray for wisdom when to speak and when to be silent. There were times that Jesus did not open his mouth (Isa 53:7; Acts 8:32; Matt 27:12; 1 Pet 2:23). Sometimes we talk too much. Jesus cautioned Christians to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). The apostle Paul recommends that we not judge those outside the church (1 Cor 5:12-13).
  1. Some of our approaches are different.Christians are forced to make difficult decisions when close friends or family members pursue an active homosexual lifestyle. When invited to attend a gay wedding, a Christian has to prayerfully consider his response. There should be opportunity at some point to verbally speak truth in love. Once the Gospel has been shared and concerns voiced, it is important to show respect and love. Some would argue that attending a wedding would show complete support and approval of the marriage. Others would argue that avoiding the wedding would cause offense and irreparably damage a family relationship. These are difficult decisions. Each individual must count the cost. There are repercussions to either approach. Godly men and women have freedom in Christ to prayerfully approach these hard decisions and make wise choices. Be respectful of those who may have a different approach than your own.
  1. Do your best to avoid hypocrisy. Yes, the church is full of hypocrites. None of us have arrived. We must admit that some of the accusations we receive are well deserved. Our attitudes and words often cause unnecessary barriers. There are times to set clear boundaries. Pastors and clergy have to draw real lines when officiating weddings. If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, try to live at peace with all men (Rom 12:18). In our efforts to stand for the sanctity of marriage, we must be careful to not show partiality and favoritism. Homosexuals are sinners like us created in the image of God who are worthy of dignity and respect. Christians in society should not have a vendetta to refuse business and services to all homosexuals. For example, suppose you own a cake-making business. If you refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding, do you also refuse to make a cake for those who had premarital sex? Try to be consistent. Otherwise, you are showing partiality and favoritism to “certain sinners.” This does not communicate love. This shows hypocrisy and gives Christians a bad name. Philip Yancey’s new book, Vanishing Grace, laments how Christians have lost respect, influence and reputation in our culture. Some of the disdain we receive from the lost is self-inflicted.

Bible Study Questions

3 Basic Questions for Bible Study:
1. What? (What does it say?)
2. So what? (Why does it matter?)
3. Now What? (How does it apply to my life?)
Further Questions for Bible study:
1. What does this passage say?
2. What is the main point of the text (author’s intent)?
3. What does this passage say about God?
4. What does this passage say about Man?
5. How does this passage relate to the Gospel?
6. What Christ-centered Truths stand out?
7. What sin did God convict you of? (Repent, Pray, & Commit to Change)
8. What commands of God were you reminded of?
9. What promises of God were you reminded of?
10. What further questions do you have for future study?
Questions to Discuss After a Sermon:
1. What was the main point (or were the main points) of the sermon?
2. What encouraged/edified you the most in the sermon?
3. What did you learn?
4. Did you disagree or have concern with any of the sermon?
5. As time allows, discuss the 13 Bible Study Questions listed above.

Advent Devotional eBook

Our Providence worship staff is pleased to present an Advent Book. This devotional guide is divided into the four weeks that lead up to Christmas. Advent begins on Sunday, December 2. Each week focuses on a theme relating to Christ’s first coming. There are daily devotional readings written by our pastors for Monday through Thursday. At the end of the week, there is a selected passage followed by questions for reflection. We pray this is a helpful resource for personal and family devotions this Christmas season.

The PDF eBook is available at: http://www.pray.org/media/publications/publications/

This is a great opportunity to slow down during the busy Christmas season and meditate upon the wonder and miracle of Christ’s coming. It is also a great opportunity to lead your family in a weekly Bible study relating to the season. Christmas is filled with song, food and spending time with family inside and outside the home. This devotional guide includes suggestions for these items as well. Throughout each week, you will see Christmas recipes for the dinner table, familiar Christmas carols that retell of Christ’s miraculous birth, craft ideas for the home and for the kids, and dates and times for local Christmas events.

Special thanks to our worship intern, Michael Carter, for spearheading this project.

May Jesus Christ be our treasure this Advent season and all year long. God bless and keep you.