“Believers compose one priesthood, one nation, one race, one temple, one plant, one flock, one family, and one body. We have all been made one spiritually, and we belong together in communion, living out that oneness in local churches.” (from the introduction, Life in the Father’s House)
I want to encourage all of you, especially our members, to take part in our upcoming church-wide discipleship opportunity – our Big Shepherd Group. Our theme is Loving the Church, and our discussion will be guided by the book Life in the Father’s House. This book will help us stay on task in studying and answering questions like what is a biblical church, and how is a Christ-honoring church supposed to function.
The goal of this study is to capture the awe and wonder of how God accomplishes his plan in the world through His primary means: the church. We want to grow in our understanding of the church being God’s ordained instrument for calling the lost to Himself and the context in which He sanctifies those who are born into His family.
This Big Shepherd Group is a time for the whole church (adults and youth grades 6-12) to practice doing life together as one church family through this study.
While the adults are meeting, our children will be learning and growing through ROCK Solid, a unique ministry designed to come alongside parents, encouraging and equipping them as they train and disciple their children in the knowledge of God through His Son Jesus Christ, as revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. (In case you wondered, ROCK stands for Resting on Christ the King!)
ROCK Solid will provide a fun and structured environment for children to be exposed to the Holy Scriptures for the purposes of understanding, memorizing, and obeying God’s commands. ROCK Solid will provide simple resources and tools that can be used by the families of the children to memorize and meditate on God’s Word during the week.
Childcare for infants and toddlers will also be provided during our Big Shepherd Group.
All of this will take place weekly on Monday nights (February 27 – May 22) from 6:00-7:30pm at the Quarterpath Recreation Center.
Hope to see you there!
I’m interested in why people visit our church, and I would guess you are interested, too. So I’ve asked our visitors, “What brought you to our church?” One consistent reason they are giving me goes something like this, “We want biblical preaching, and we have had a hard time finding it.” Maybe that sounds strange in light of so many churches in our area, but I’ve found this same issue in many of the places I’ve lived and visited. So what’s behind this troubling dearth of biblical/expository preaching?
…numerous influential voices within evangelicalism suggest that the age of the expository sermon is now past. In its place, some contemporary preachers now substitute messages intentionally designed to reach secular or superficial congregations–messages which avoid preaching a biblical text, and thus avoid a potentially embarrassing confrontation with biblical truth. (Al Mohler)
I agree with Mohler, and I see the results of his discerning view (he wrote that in 2004) being lived out in many, many pulpits today. It is tragic that any “preacher” would circumvent preaching from a biblical text in order to “avoid a potentially embarrassing confrontation with biblical truth” – especially when you consider this: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Rom. 1:16), and this: “…you have known the sacred writings [Scripture] which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God [preacher] may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:15-16).
Scripture makes us wise unto salvation, and the truth of God’s word counsels and guides us in godly living, and the Bible fully equips each of us for every good work of service to one another as the family of God. We need more of the Scripture in our lives, not less.
Our church could be known for many things: a great student ministry, inspiring music, super-duper elders, warm-hearted people, etc. (all good things). None of that saves us and, apart from God’s word, it doesn’t sanctify us. God’s truth saves and sanctifies (cf. Jn. 17:13-17). That’s why I preach and teach the Bible! And that, above all things, is what I hope and pray our own church family will be most known for in this community – we are people of the word of God.
The pulpit should be central, the focal point, of any church’s life and ministry. This isn’t because of the man behind it, but because of the God above it and His truth proclaimed from it. I have several quotes in my office which remind each day what my task is as a preacher of the gospel: “We are not sent into the pulpit to show our wit and eloquence but to set the consciences of men on fire.” And this, “The question is not, ‘have I preached well?’ but ‘have I served God and Christ and have I served the people of God?’ Charles Simeon’s questions about a sermon were: ‘does it uniformly tend to humble the sinner, to exalt the Savior, to promote holiness?”’
The great Puritan pastor Richard Baxter said of his own preaching, “I preach as never sure to preach again and as a dying man to dying men.” That’s good stuff! Ask the Lord to keep your pastor’s preaching faithful to the Bible – everything depends on it.
“Do unto others…before they have the chance to do unto you first.” Have you ever heard that little bromide before? That’s the not-so-golden version of the golden rule. Somehow, I don’t think that really captures what Jesus had in mind when He said, “And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way” – Luke 6:31. What Jesus had in mind was serving people in love, and Jesus practiced what He preached!
Throughout His three years of public ministry Jesus exhausted Himself in loving service to others. Jesus said of Himself, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” – Mark 10:45. The ultimate expression of Jesus’ humble service to others was that, “…being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” – Phil. 2:8.
Jesus’ example is more than challenging, it’s life-changing. Jesus showed us that to serve is to act in love; it will cost us something to invest in each other Jesus’ way. Here are a few simple suggestions, based on an ACT acronym, that each of us can apply directly to our service to God’s people in our own church family.
Available: Serving in the church family will cost you some time. It is time well spent. Your presence is important and encouraging. Be at worship services and church functions. Be prompt as a gift of service to those who are also sharing in the time along with you. Hang around and don’t hurry away; seek someone out (visitors or someone you don’t know well) and give them some of your time while you listen to them.
Committed: Commit your heart to church life. Church life should be at the center of life because it is what is most important about us – we are part of the family of God! Jobs, family, rest, etc., are important. It isn’t as much a matter of balancing your commitments but of focusing your efforts and resources on the most important commitments. Church life doesn’t compete with your life; it helps complete your life.
Teachable: Be available and committed to the teaching times of our church. Excited, eager, and expectant learners are contagious critters. It serves to encourage the body to see you and your family making the commitment to support the teaching times of our church. Being teachable is learning, growing, and changing…together.
Notice I haven’t said, ‘sign up for this’ or ‘serve by doing that’ or ‘I think you should…’. I don’t know what specific role your service in the church family will look like, but I do know you are needed and that the Lord would have you ACT (see Heb. 10:24-25).
Just like in most relationships, it’s the simple things, the little things practiced consistently that are most often the greatest blessings. Roll up your spiritual sleeves and be available, committed and teachable while doing, “all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” Colossians 3:17.
Don’t Let the World Hijack Our Stuff
I enjoy the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are back-to-back celebrations that most everyone looks forward to. And what group of people has more reasons to be thankful and celebratory than…you guessed it, Christians? The season belongs to us, and we are willing to share. Both of these holidays are expressions of gratitude for God’s good provision. Sure, each year there seems to be more about Santa and less about the Savior. And sure, there’s hustle and bustle, and there’s lots of hype and distractions as people hock their wares and try to make a buck off of the season. We understand that we live in a fallen world full of fallen people influenced by a great Deceiver – what do we expect? The world’s view of Thanksgiving and Christmas is anything but…Christian.
But that doesn’t mean we have to capitulate to it, complain about it, cloister ourselves from it, be a Grinch about it, boycott it, or even roll over and act like it doesn’t exist. What then?
Season Your Speech for the Season
We can weigh in. We can come alongside the hucksters and hypocrites, the marketers and malcontents, the relativists and revilers, and the lonely and languishing of our little neighborhood. We can smile. We can slow down. We can ask. We can listen. We can carefully, prayerfully and humbly make the most of the moment to speak graciously (Eph. 4:29; 5:15). Santa is exciting! We get that. Presents are exciting! We get that. Flying reindeer, come on, that’s just cool, weird, but cool. Use it. Meet your neighbor, cashier, waitress, whomever where they are and share some of your own joy with them. “Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person” (that’s Colossians 4:5-6, by the way).
Double Whammy People (Nicely)
Enjoy and rejoice. Enjoy the provision of God. Rejoice in your many blessings. Take in the wonderful sights, sounds, and smells of the season and be thankful (Colossians again, 3:15-17). Rehearse the gospel to yourself throughout the day. Remind yourself that your life is a gift to be lived back to God out of deep gratitude. Then live out of the overflow of God filling up your own heart with Him… a double whammy of enjoying and rejoicing. Remember, “…everything created by God is good, and nothing should be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, since it is sanctified by the Word of God and by prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4-5). Sanctify (set apart to God) the season through your own devotion to Christ, to His gospel, and by your own prayers that God would use you as salt and light in an unsavory, dark world.
Happy THANKSgiving and Merry CHRISTmas!
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25 (emphasis added)
Community at LPBC
If you were asked if there’s a strong sense of community in our church body, how would you respond? Do visitors to our church see community in action? What will our new pastor Jeff Jackson and his family discover about church community their first year here at LPBC?
May we suggest that we have some room for improvement in this area? Now, we’re not saying that everyone in our church is totally disengaged and living their own independent lives. But based on our observations, as well as conversations with many of you, we are suggesting that there is a general sense of disconnectedness.
Is this a bad thing? Yes! When we become Christians, we not only identify with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, but we also become members of God’s family, the church. And as the church, we have both the privilege and responsibility to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21) and to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Heb. 10:24-25). This is good and necessary for each of us as we live life together and progress through Christ’s sanctifying work in us.
In his blog How to Build Community in Your Church, Daniel Darling* offers five very effective ways that we as church members can help create community: (1) attend the potlucks, (2) host other people at your home, (3) help someone move, (4) get involved in a ministry, and (5) know and pray over the needs of others. We would like to suggest two additional ways: (6) study Scripture alongside fellow believers during the Sunday 9:30am electives offerings and (7) become an active member of a Shepherd Group.
How do we evaluate our own participation in these items? As we do so, let’s not just evaluate our actions – let’s evaluate our hearts. And out of a heart full of love, let’s respond accordingly. Let’s remember the gospel and allow that to fuel our actions to love our church.
Why don’t we each commit to the seven items above? There are many, many opportunities in which we can participate in the life of our church and thereby build relationships and a vibrant community here at LPBC. New Sunday 9:30am electives start the first Sunday in September. Our church picnic is Saturday September 12th. Loving workers are needed for the nursery. Evangelistic and outreach opportunities abound.
If you are not already investing in, and committing to, the life of our church, why not start now, for the glory of God and for your love of the fellow believers in Christ at LPBC?
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! – Psalm 133:1
*Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Eddie Lepp and Greg Garrison
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” -Isaiah 41:10
Anxiety, fear, and disbelief are enemies that we all battle with daily. Anxiety can reveal itself in a worried soul, anxious about a specific task that must be done. Fear can be hidden in the bravado of man, fearful for others to see our vulnerabilities. Disbelief can be plain to see to all but us, as we live our lives as if the God we claim to love doesn’t exist. In all of these, there is a lack of trust in God. A lack of believing that He is who He says He is, and that He will do what He says He will do.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”-Jeremiah 17:7-8
Let’s fight daily to place our anxieties, fears, and disbelief on our Lord Jesus Christ and allow the truth of who He is and what He has done to penetrate deep within our souls. Let’s remind ourselves of his sovereign power as the Creator and Controller of all things, able to give or withhold as His will dictates. Let’s remind ourselves of His
love for us, so wonderfully displayed on the cross. He loved us to the point of suffering God’s ultimate wrath and separation from the Father for us. He cares for us far more than we realize, and He knows what is best for us.
“…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
For over ten months now, we as a church have been without a pastor, and that has caused us to remind ourselves of God’s sovereignty more often than we might have before. God has a plan for us, and He is watching
over us. He was not running around in worry and fear, wondering whether we will find a pastor or not. He has planned our path all along and has cared for us perfectly throughout the way – even if we have failed to see that perfect care ourselves. God is trustworthy!
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. – 2 Timothy 4:1-2
Let a Righteous Man Strike Me
We give praise to God for lavishing our church with His love, grace, peace, and mercy. We thank Him for His sanctifying work in each of us that allows us to joyful serve, love, and submit to Him, as well as to one another out of reverence for Christ. God is accomplishing His purposes in our church and, get this, He allows us the privilege and blessing to be part of that work! Wow!
As we continue in our transition between pastors, it is with eager anticipation that we all wait for our sovereign God to reveal to us who our next pastor will be. We affirm the Apostle Paul’s charge to Timothy in chapter two of 2 Timothy, and we pray that, like Timothy, our next pastor will preach the Word; and will be ready in season and out of season; and will reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching. And as we affirm and pray this, we must also examine ourselves to ensure that we Living Proofers are the type of people whose hearts gracefully and humbly accept reproof, rebuke, and exhortation.
If our self-examination comes up lacking, perhaps it’s because we’ve bought into the lie that we’re independent and that we can do whatever we want, whenever we want. Or, perhaps we take a certain amount of confidence in our self-sufficiency – that we need no one but ourselves to do and be who and what we want. Or, perhaps we’re guilty of both. Oh that God would reveal our pride and the error of our thinking!
Proverbs 15:32-33 explains, “Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” We read Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 7:5, “It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.”
Correction does not feel good at the time because it exposes our sin. But these wise words of Scripture above tell us correction is good and necessary. It is one way that God sanctifies His children. And many times this is done as a pastor preaches the Word – “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16b-17)
Let us surrender our pride and autonomy and self-sufficiency at the cross and find forgiveness, grace, and relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And as we grow in Him, yes, may we also joyfully accept His sanctifying reproof, rebuke, and exhortation. May our hearts be transformed to that of David’s, who prayed, “Let a righteous man strike me – it is a kindness; let him rebuke me – it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” (Psalm 141:5)
And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. – Matthew 22:35-38 (emphasis added)
Our Beloved Church Family,
What do you love most?
When asked this question, where do your thoughts and your heart turn? We know the right answer, but is the right answer usually our answer? If not, does this cause discouragement? And if so, what do you do with that? Where do you go from there?
We can tend to turn away into despair. Turn to other things to give us peace, joy and rest. These things could be good things, given to us from God. But as wonderful as these things could seem, they just don’t compare to the riches found in Him. God desires our absolute love and our all-out worship. He wants us to love Him more than our stuff. Why? Because He alone is the only one worthy to be worshipped and adored as such. He alone is the only one that can give us perfect peace and joy.
As stated, we tend to know this, but how do we genuinely do this? How do we love Him and worship Him when these things at moments seem so much better and more enjoyable than Him. Seek Him. Fight daily to find your peace, rest and joy in Him. If that seems a chore, or not reasonably achieved, then realize that it is not that He isn’t enough in Himself. He is more than enough! We just need to see Him as such. This is why we meditate on the wonderful cross. This is why we preach the Gospel to ourselves constantly. The cross is where our God shows us His sovereign majesty and beauty all in one place. On the cross, God displays His perfect justice in condemning sin and rightly establishing back His order destroyed by our sin. It is where He beautifully shows His perfect love for us in being the recipient of that justice in our place.
So fight! “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) Fight to acknowledge the depths and severity of our own sin, while at the exact same time recognizing the One who stood in our place, freed us of our sin, placed upon us His perfect righteousness and bore the wrath meant for us. That is our Savior! That is who we get to worship! Remind yourselves constantly of this and let your worship freely flow out of your love and appreciation of such an amazing God who is altogether mighty and perfectly loving.
He is worthy to be worshipped! And in His kindness, He has graciously allowed us to see Him as such and enjoy Him to our fullest. What a Savior.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. – Psalm 100
Humbly in Christ,
Eddie and Greg
In last month’s update, we mentioned how quickly our hearts can turn from loving each other in response to God’s grace to loving ourselves regardless of God’s grace. And we noted that prayer directs us to look to the cross and allows the truth of the gospel to guide our every thought, action, and deed – prayer that invites God to turn our wandering hearts back to the true beauty and joy that is found only in Him. Prayer that exalts His glorious Name. Prayer that beseeches the Lord on behalf of another. Prayer that reflects our desire to trust and rely on His sovereign will, provision, and timing.
Another practical means of redirecting our eyes away from ourselves (and our circumstances) to the cross is through reading, studying, and meditating on God’s Word. In Psalm 119, the psalmist proclaims, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways” (v. 15) and “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (v. 105). He also implores the Lord, “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways” (v. 37). We see in these verses that God’s Word is the psalmist’s focus and direction.
We also read in this chapter that God’s Word is the psalmist’s delight and joy. “Your testimonies are my delight” (v. 24). “I find my delight in your commandments, which I love” (v. 47). “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart” (v. 111). “Your law is my delight” (v. 174).
God’s Word is also the psalmist’s comfort and hope. “My hope is in your just decrees” (v. 43). “Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life” (vv. 49-50). “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word” (v. 114).
God and His Word are also the psalmist’s desire. “With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments” (v. 10). “My soul is consumed with longing for your just decrees at all times” (vs. 20). “I cling to your testimonies, O Lord” (v. 31).
These are powerful, raw emotions that we see on display in Psalm 119. And these few verses referenced above only scratch the surface. We encourage you to spend some extended time in this incredible chapter! As we meditate on this chapter, let’s examine our own hearts and ask if God’s Word is our source of focus and direction? Are we finding delight and joy in the precious pages of Scripture? In whom (or what) are we finding our true comfort and hope? Is the intensity of our desire to hear from God through his Word at such a level that we gladly and without any hesitation choose Him over the things of this world?
God’s Word and prayer keeps our hearts fixed and our eyes focused on the gospel, on God’s amazing grace! Oh thank You, Lord, for Your mercy and forgiveness when we forsake You by focusing on the created instead of You, the Creator. And thank You for Your divine power that has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of You, who have called us to Your own glory and excellence! (2 Peter 1:3)
It is our sincere prayer that each one in our church family be counted with the psalmist who said, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).
Grace and peace,
Greg and Eddie
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42 (emphasis added)
Our Beloved Church Family,
As we look back to 2014, we are so thankful for how well you, Living Proof Baptist Church, have cared for and loved one another and the surrounding community. From teaching our Sunday electives and children’s Sunday school classes, to serving in the nursery, to organizing outreach events, and much more – you have taken to heart God’s command to love one another and care for our needs.
Now, as we look forward to the upcoming new year with its many changes and new challenges, let’s continue to remind ourselves of that which is of first importance. We, like Martha, can so easily be distracted by the cares of this world. Even in things that are considered “good” and important – serving in the church, providing for our families, caring for each other. Our hearts can so quickly and unknowingly turn from loving each other in response to God’s grace to loving ourselves regardless of God’s grace. We can become focused on the processes and systems in place in our lives of family, church, and self. Let’s instead continue to look to the cross, and allow the beauty of the Gospel to guide our every thought, action, and deed.
One way we do this is in prayer. Left to our own, we will always choose self. We need God’s intervention to turn our faces upward and away from the false beauty of sin. As we humbly depend on God for this, He will reveal to us His true beauty and the joy that awaits us.
So be in prayer for each other. For all of us to keep our hearts, minds, and souls fixated on the Gospel and saturated in His Word. Be in prayer for the elders as we rely on God’s wisdom to lead the church. Be in prayer for the deacons as they tirelessly serve the church, many times unnoticed and unappreciated. Be in prayer for David Bounds, the Sunday school/electives teachers, and Shepherd Group leaders as they teach God’s Word. And be in prayer for the many others who serve in so many different ways.
Pray also for our Pastor Search Team as they enter into the next phase of the search process – receiving and reviewing résumés. As of this writing, over 80 résumés have been received and more are expected. They know how much they NEED God’s guidance in this. They need your prayers. If you haven’t already done so, consider setting aside a specific day and time each week to pray not only for our Pastor Search Team, but also for our next pastor and also for our church body as we all continue in this transition time together.
Our reliance and focus must be on Him and not on ourselves.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
Humbly in Christ,
Eddie and Greg