Sermon – The Power of God

Throughout the book of Acts you see the power of God on display. One of the places you see this power on display very clearly is in chapter 19 as Paul ministers in Ephesus. Recently I had the opportunity to preach from this chapter during our Sunday morning worship services. Below is that sermon. I hope it’s a blessing and challenge to you.

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Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering (Part 3)

walking-with-god-through-pain-suffering-social-mediaSo far in this series I have talked about what the Bible teaches about pain and suffering (post one) and some of the reasons God allows pain and suffering into our lives (post two). In this final post I want to share a few things we can hold onto and remember when we go through pain and suffering.

God promises He will always be with us. We see this promise throughout the Bible. In Deuteronomy 31:6 we see God promise His chosen people that He will always be with them and that He will never forsake them. It’s His presence that will help them be strong and courageous as they move forward. In Psalm 23:4 David says he can walk through the valley of the shadow of death and not fear because God is with Him. As you move into the New Testament we see that Jesus’ name Emmanuel actually means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). The very coming of Jesus is a reminder that God is near to us. He came to us. Then in 1 Corinthians 6:19 we are reminded that even now as Christians we have God in us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. God promises to always be with us. His constant, real, and powerful presence is something we must hold onto and remember during times of pain and suffering.

God understands our pain and suffering. The second truth we can hold onto when we go through pain and suffering is the fact that God Himself understands how we feel because He Himself went through pain and suffering Himself. He entered into this world of pain and suffering and suffered through it. This is a teaching that’s unique to Christianity. Christianity not only gives us a God who is above our pain and suffering but a God who entered into our pain and suffering. He willingly puts Himself through it and knows how it feels. Don Carson says, “The God on whom we rely knows what suffering is all about, not merely in the way that God knows everything, but by experience.” God’s Word reminds us of this powerful truth as well in Hebrews 4:15 (ESV), which says, ““For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” When we go through times of pain and suffering we can run to our Savior because He understands how we feels.

God will end pain and suffering one day. For Christians, the pain and suffering we face on this earth will one day end. There is coming a day when the curse of sin will be lifted and this earth will be made new. One of the amazing things about that coming day is that pain and suffering will be done away with. Speaking about this coming day, John says in Revelation 21:4 (ESV) that “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Christians can look forward to this day and have hope.

Below is the sermon where I preached much of the content above. I hope this series of posts has encouraged you and helped you.

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering (Part 2)

walking-with-god-through-pain-suffering-social-mediaIn the first post of this series I shared three truths Christianity teaches in regards to pain and suffering. In that post I said that God uses pain and suffering for a purpose. God doesn’t allow things to happen in our lives for no reason. He uses pain and suffering in our lives with a purpose. In this post I want to continue that thought by sharing three ways God uses pain and suffering in our lives as Christians.

God uses pain and suffering to discipline us. One of the lies Christians buy into is that we can live in sin and nothing will happen. Maybe we boast that our sins are already forgiven and God’s grace is covering us. However, Paul says in Romans 6:1-2 that we should not use God’s grace as a license to sin. Because our sins are forgiven and we do have grace we should strive to live in holiness. But what happens when Christians walk in sin? What happens we start to live in a way that doesn’t line up with God’s Word and we chose not to repent? Hebrews 12:5-11 gives us the answer to those questions. When Christians live in sin God will discipline them. Like good parents discipline their children when they disobey, God as our perfect Father disciplines us when we walk in disobedience. He loves us too much to let us live in sin. Matt Chandler said it well in a sermon: “If you, as a believer in Christ, fondle what Christ put to death on the cross, please don’t be surprised when He breaks your hand. Please don’t be surprised when He breaks your legs when you keep running toward what He came to kill.”

God uses pain and suffering to grow us. Sometimes it’s not because of disobedience that God allows pain and suffering in our lives. Sometimes it’s just because He is trying to grow us up in our faith. Our faith usually grows the most in times of trials. James 1:2-4 is a great place to go to see this. James tells believers to actually “count it all joy” when trials coming. He says that because those trials, as hard as they may be, will strengthen our faith. Think about a football coach. If a coach wants to make his team better and stronger what does he do? He makes practices harder. He makes his guys lift more. He may even add additional practices and workouts. All of this may hard more pain and pressure onto the players but the coach knows at the end of it all they will be better and stronger. God knows in order to grow us up in our faith we often times have to go through pain and suffering.

God uses pain and suffering in mysterious ways. I would be foolish to believe that all pain and suffering fits into the two categories above. God may use it for one of those two reasons but He may also have a whole other reason in mind. Sometimes God allows pains and suffering into our lives and we have no idea why. That’s because God doesn’t have to reveal to us why He does what He does. The story of Job is a great example of this. Job really never learned why he went through what he went through. God never told him. Instead, God helped Job see who he was in light of Him. Job learned to trust God in light of pain and suffering. We, like Job, are often left in the dark about our pain and suffering but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a purpose for it. He knows what He is doing and we must trust Him.

Below is the sermon where I preached much of the content above. In the next post I will share a few things about God that we can remember and hold onto during times of pain and suffering.

Biblical Principles for Teen Dating

Teen_datingDating is part of the teenage experience. Most teenagers at some point will engage in dating relationships. As someone who works with teenagers I have seen almost everything when it comes to teens and dating. I have seen middle school students “fall in love.” I have seen high school students date for years and continue dating into their college years. I have seen teenagers hit rock bottom as the person they are dating ends the relationship. I have seen teenagers jump from one dating relationship to another just because they need that “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” relationship. I have sat with students who are dating that honestly want to honor God in their relationship so they set boundaries and spiritual goals for their relationship. If you are around teenagers, maybe as a parent or youth worker like me, you have seen some of this stuff. If you care about teenagers, as parents and youth workers do, you want to help them navigate and work through the strange world of dating.

So when it comes to dating many of us want to know what does the Bible says so that we can pass it  on to teenagers. We want them to obey God’s Word in all areas of their lives, especially when it comes to dating relationships. But here is the tricky part – the Bible doesn’t address dating. Yep, dating is never mentioned or even referred to in God’s Word. The simple answer as to why is because dating as we know it today didn’t exist back then.

So what are we to do? First, we tell them the Bible doesn’t address it. We need to be honest about that. Second, we look into God’s Word and draw principles out of it that can be applied to dating. That’s what we need to pass on to teenagers. We need to show them clear Biblical principles that can and should be applied to dating so they can go about it in a way that honors and glorifies God.

Here are some Biblical principles that can and should be applied to dating relationships. These are the Biblical truths we should pass on to teenagers to help them date in a way that would honor God.

Obey your parents dating rules. When it comes to dating, parents have different views. Some parents encourage it while other strongly discourage it. Some allow their children to date whenever their kid decides to while others set an age when their children can start dating. No matter what the rules are God expects teenagers to obey their parents. Ephesians 6:1 (ESV) says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Parents should set rules and boundaries for their teenagers when it comes to dating and teenagers should obey those rules.

Date other Christians. Christian teenagers should date other Christians. When a Christian teenager decides to date a non-Christian it usually hinders the faith of the Christian teenager. They will usually be pulled away from their relationship with God and be tempted to walk in a way that doesn’t line up with their Christian faith. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV) says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” Even though this verse is usually applied to marriage, it also can be applied to dating. If we would encourage Christians to marry Christians, doesn’t it make sense to encourage Christians to date other Christians? I think so. In this video, Tim Keller explains how it’s not practical for Christians to date non-Christians. In her book Sex and Dating, Mindy Meier adds a good point to remember. She says, “It’s fine to have friendships with non-Christians, but do not commit to anyone who does not share your same faith. True compatibility grows from a join quest to follow God, to conform your life to the guidelines of the Bible and to draw from the spiritual resources found in Christ.”

Pursue sexual purity. The biggest issue with teenage dating is the door it opens to sexual temptation. I have never met a teenage dating couple who does not struggle in this area. Teenagers need to understand that God created sex to be enjoyed in the context of marriage. When you engage in sex, or any sexual activity for that matter, outside of marriage it is sin. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 (ESV) says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” First Corinthians 6:18 (ESV) says, “Flee from sexual immorality..” Both of these verses use the term “sexual immorality,” which is the Biblical term that covers all forms of sexual activity outside of marriage. Teenagers should know that the Bible considers more than just intercourse outside of marriage a sin. God commands us to abstain and flee from any sexual activity outside of marriage.

Don’t let the person you are dating become the center of your life. Many times when teenagers date they place the person they are dating at the center of their lives. They neglect friends, family, and even God at times because their boyfriend or girlfriend has become the most important person in their life. Teenagers must understand that God should be the most important person in their lives. He doesn’t tolerate or share that spot with anyone. Whenever we put anything before God, it’s becomes idolatry. It’s safe to say many teenagers make the person they are dating an idol. Teenagers who desire to maintain a healthy dating relationship will not put the person they are dating as their first priority.

A few weeks ago I talked to our students about dating in our “Dating, Marriage, and Sex” series. Much of what I posted above was from that talk. However, if you want to hear more about these Biblical principles that can be applied to dating I’d encourage you to listen to that talk online. Click here to listen.

Books I’ve Read Recently

7men_book7 Men by Eric Metaxas. If you enjoy biographies this book is for you. Metaxas basically packs seven mini biographies into this one book. As the title suggests, Metaxas writes about seven men in this book: George Washingon, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles Colson. Metaxas attempts to paint a picture of what real manhood is through the lives and accomplishes of these seven men. He says, “The idea of manhood has fallen into some confusion in the last decades. This book hopes to help correct some of that by asking and answering two vitally important questions: First, what is a man? And second, what makes a man great” (page xiii). Metaxas writes from a Christian perspective and realizes real manhood only comes in embracing God’s idea of manhood, which all these men in this book embrace and portray in their lives and accomplishments. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it for everyone, especially men, who want to get a picture of what God can do through people who yield to Him and fight for others.

9781781913673And So To Bed by Andrian Reynolds. I’ll admit, I don’t embrace rest and sleep the way I should. I struggle to go to bed at night without staying awake worrying about what happened that day and what is on my plate for the next. I tend to stay up too late and struggle to wake up early. I’d rather work than sleep many times. This is an area God has been convicting me about and I am striving to grow in this area of my life. Because of that I wanted to grab a copy of this book and give it a read. As Reynolds explains in the introduction of this book there are really no Christian books on the topic of sleep. It’s an area Christians know is important but many of seem perfectly fine to not get enough sleep and don’t view it as a thing God cares much about. Reynolds says, “Sleep is of greater spiritual importance than you may have imagined, both in terms of what it does for us now, but also in terms of what it teaches us about the future” (page 10). Reynolds writes this short but pointed book with this main idea throughout: “Sleep is part of our created humanity, a good gift from God to be treasured and enjoyed; an earthly picture of a spiritual reality” (page 10). Throughout the book Reynolds makes the point clear that sleep is a something we need as humans and not only something we need, but it is a gift we can enjoy and learn from. I specifically enjoyed chapter 5 of this book where Reynolds gets very practical. He shares about why some people don’t sleep well and how it could be a medical or a spiritual issue. He also shares some practical tips on how to sleep better. Overall I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who wants to get a better understanding of sleep from a Biblical perspective as well as some helpful tips on how to embrace this gift God has given us.

A Fresh Look at the Book of Jonah by Greg Laurie. I decided to read this book in preparation for our Jonah series we are doing in our student ministries this month. I wanted to read a book on Jonah that was practical and insightful, but not very technical and academic heavy. I knew I would use plenty of commentaries and Bible study tools so I wanted to read something pretty simple. I found this book to not only be simple and insightful but very practical. Laurie shares, in great detail, about the story of Jonah and explains there is much more to Jonah’s story than a giant fish. Laurie helps the reader understand more about Jonah and the city of Nineveh and how God worked throughout the book of Jonah. I really enjoyed this book and it helped me get a better understanding of the story of Jonah and what I can learn from God’s working throughout the story. I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to understanding the book of Jonah better and is looking for a simple yet refreshing read of how our God works in the lives of people.

Up next on my reading list is Finding Common Ground by Tim Downs and Jesus Continued by J.D. Greear. I also plan to finish The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer in the next few weeks.