Category Archives: Sermon Transcripts

Sunday’s Advent Sermon in 18 Tweets

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Sunday was the second Sunday of Advent, and I preached on 2 Peter 3:8-15. You can listen to the entire sermon here. I saw that a pastor friend of mine condense his Sunday sermon into tweets (140 characters or less), so I thought I’d try. It really boils the message down to the essentials!  Here goes…

Advent is a season of waiting, but waiting is hard. We’re tempted to give up, so Peter gives us perspective.

2 Pet 3:8 But do not overlook this one fact beloved that with the Lord one day is as 1000 years, and 1000 years as one day.

2 Pet 3:9a The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you…

2 Pet 3:9b …not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

God “delays” because every moment that passes is another moment that a non-believer can repent and believe.

But, the Lord will return. Judgment will come. His patience will end. It will be unexpected for the unprepared.

God’s judgment of sin, the wicked, and the unrepentant will be absolutely, categorically complete.

Therefore, Christians must live lives of holiness and godliness while waiting. And it looks like this:

1. Be diligent (make haste) to be found by Him without spot or blemish (1 Pet 3:14)

Make haste to continually forsake sin and diligently practice prayer, praise, Scripture intake, worship, communion, fellowship.

By the way, we do all of this on Sundays together!

2. Be diligent (make haste) to be found by Him at peace (1 Pet 3:14) But how?

Phil 4:6 Don’t be anxious about anything, but pray and make requests of God with thanksgiving.

Phil 4:7 And when you do, the unexplainable peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

3. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation. (2 Pet 3:15)

2 Cor 5:20 We are ambassadors for Christ as God makes His appeal through us.

Every day the Lord “delays” His return is another day for us to be ambassadors for Him to unbelievers.

In conclusion, while you await His return, grow in holiness and godliness – and share your faith!

Works of the Flesh and Fruit of the Spirit Defined

Today, my sermon text was Galatians 5:16-26.  I didn’t spend much time defining each word in both of the lists in the text (works of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit), so here is John MacArthur’s brief but helpful explanation of each word. To listen to the sermon, click here.

WORKS OF THE FLESH

Impurity is from akatharsia, which literally means “unclean” and was used medically to refer to an infected, oozing wound. It is the negative form of katharsia, which means “clean” and is the word from which we get catharsis, a cleansing. In Scripture the term is used of both moral and ceremonial uncleanness, any impurity that prevents a person from approaching God.

Sensuality is from aselgeia, which originally referred to any excess or lack of restraint but came to be associated primarily with sexual excess. It is unrestrained sexual indulgence, such as has become so common in the modern Western world. It refers to uninhibited sexual indulgence without shame and without concern for what others think or how they may be affected (or infected).

Idolatry is the obvious sin of worshiping man-made images of whatever sort. Sorcery translates pharmakeia, from which we get pharmacy and pharmaceutical. It was originally used of medicines in general but came to be used primarily of mood-and mind-altering drugs similar to those that create so much havoc in our own day. Many ancient religious ceremonies involved occultic practices in which drugs were used to induce supposed communication with deities, and pharmakeia thereby came to be closely related to witchcraft and magic. Aristotle and other ancient Greek writers used the word as a synonym for witchcraft and black magic, because drugs were so commonly used in their practice.

Enmities is in the plural and refers to hateful attitudes, which result in strife among individuals, including bitter conflicts. Wrong attitudes invariably bring wrong actions.

Jealousy is a form of anger and hateful resentment caused by coveting for oneself what belongs to someone else. Outbursts of anger are sudden, unrestrained expressions of hostility toward others, often with little or no provocation or justification. It is the all-too-common sin of unbridled temper. Although jealousy does not necessarily result in outbursts of anger in the way that enmities result in strife, the first sin in each case refers to attitude or motive and the second to action.

Disputes, dissensions, factions, and envyings are more particular and ongoing expressions of the general sins that precede them in this list. They represent animosities between individuals and groups that sometimes continue to fester and grow long after the original cause of conflict has passed. From the feuds of old-time mountain clans that lasted for generations to national hostilities that last for centuries, these sins can become an established and destructive way of life.

Drunkenness and carousing probably had special reference to the orgies that so often characterized the pagan worship ceremonies that many of the Gentile converts of Galatia had once participated in. In a more general and universal sense, however, they refer to becoming drunk under any circumstance and to all rowdy, boisterous, and crude behavior.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

Love. The first characteristic of spiritual fruit is love, the supreme virtue of Christian living (1 Cor. 13:13). Some commentators insist that in this context love is a synonym for fruit and therefore encompasses the other characteristics in the list. In any case, love is clearly dominant. As Paul has just declared, “the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Gal. 5:14; cf. Rom. 13:10).

Agapē love is the form of love that most reflects personal choice, referring not simply to pleasant emotions or good feelings but to willing, self-giving service. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). In the same way, the most extreme sacrificial choice a loving person can make is to “lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The apostle John expresses those two truths together in his first letter: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). But love is tested long before it is called on to offer that supreme sacrifice. As John goes on to say, “Whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (v. 17). A person who thinks his love is great enough to sacrifice his life for fellow believers but who fails to help them when they have less extreme needs is simply fooling himself.

True agapē love is a sure mark of salvation. “We know that we have passed out of death into life,” John says, “because we love the brethren… Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 3:14; 4:7). By the same token, as John repeatedly makes clear throughout the same letter, having a habitually unloving spirit toward fellow Christians is reason for a person to question his salvation (see e.g., 2:9,11; 3:15; 4:8, 20).

Jesus Christ is the supreme example of this supreme virtue. It was not only the Father’s love but also His own love that led Jesus to lay down His life for us, demonstrating with His own self-sacrifice the love that gives its life for its friends. And before He made the ultimate sacrifice, He demonstrated the same self-giving love in many lesser ways. As Jesus saw Mary and the others weeping because of Lazarus’s death, He, too, wept (John 11:33-35). He did not grieve for the fact that Lazarus had died, because He purposely delayed coming to Bethany until His dear friend was dead, in order to demonstrate His power to raise him from the grave. Jesus wept because of the great evil, destruction, and human misery caused by sin, whose final wages is always death (Rom. 6:23).

For believers, love is not an option but a command. “Walk in love,” Paul declared, “just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph. 5:2). Yet the command cannot be fulfilled apart from the Holy Spirit, the source of this and all the other manifestations of spiritual fruit. “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us,” Paul explained to Roman believers (Rom. 5:5), and it was for such “love in the Spirit” that he gave thanks for the believers in Colossae (Col. 1:8).

Joy. The second manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit is joy. Chara (joy) is used some 70 times in the New Testament, always to signify a feeling of happiness that is based on spiritual realities. Joy is the deep-down sense of well-being that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between himself and the Lord. It is not an experience that comes from favorable circumstances or even a human emotion that is divinely stimulated. It is God’s gift to believers. As Nehemiah declared, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). Joy is a part of God’s own nature and Spirit that He manifests in His children.

Speaking of how we feel about the Lord Jesus Christ, Peter wrote, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). Joy is the inevitable overflow of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and of the believer’s knowing His continuing presence.

Joy not only does not come from favorable human circumstances but is sometimes greatest when those circumstances are the most painful and severe. Shortly before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy” (John 16:20). To illustrate that truth Jesus compared divine joy to a woman in childbirth. “She has sorrow because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she remembers the anguish no more, for joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you” (vv. 21-22).

God’s joy is full, complete in every way. Nothing human or circumstantial can add to it or detract from it. But it is not fulfilled in a believer’s life except through reliance on and obedience to the Lord. “Ask, and you will receive,” Jesus went on to explain, “that your joy may be made full” (John 16:24). One of John’s motivations in writing his first epistle was that his joy might “be made complete” (1 John 1:4).

Jesus Himself is again our supreme example. He was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3; cf. Luke 18:31-33), but, just as He had promised for His disciples, His sorrow was turned into joy. “For the joy set before Him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Despite the misunderstanding, the rejection, the hatred, and the pain He endured from men while incarnate among them, the Lord never lost His joy in the relationship He had with His Father. And that joy He gives to each of His followers.

Although joy is a gift of God through His Spirit to those who belong to Christ, it is also commanded of them. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Paul commands (Phil. 4:4; cf. 3:1). Because joy comes as a gift from Him, the command obviously is not for believers to manufacture or try to imitate it. The command is to gratefully accept and revel in this great blessing they already possess. “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

Peace. If joy speaks of the exhilaration of heart that comes from being right with God, then peace (eirēnē) refers to the tranquillity of mind that comes from that saving relationship. The verb form has to do with binding together and is reflected in the modern expression “having it all together.” Everything is in place and as it ought to be.

Like joy, peace has no relationship to circumstances. Christians know “that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Because God is in control of all aspects of a believer’s life, how his circumstances may appear from a human perspective makes no ultimate difference. That is why Jesus could say without qualification to those who trust in Him, “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1). There is absolutely no reason for a believer to be anxious or afraid.

Jesus was the Prince of Peace, both in the sense that He was supremely peaceful Himself and in the sense that He dispenses His peace to those who are His. Even when He confronted Satan face-to-face in the wilderness, Jesus had perfect peace, knowing His heavenly Father was continually with Him and would supply His every need (Matt. 4:1-11). It is His own peace that He bequeaths to His disciples: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you” (John 14:27).

“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things,” Paul said; “and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:9). Because they have the God of peace in their hearts, believers need “be anxious for nothing,” having “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, [to] guard [their] hearts and [their] minds in Christ Jesus” (v. 6-7).

Patience. Makrothumia (patience) has to do with tolerance and long-suffering that endure injuries inflicted by others, the calm willingness to accept situations that are irritating or painful.

God Himself is “slow to anger” (Ps. 86:15) and expects His children to be the same. Just as believers should never “think lightly of the riches of [God’s own] kindness and forbearance and patience” (Rom. 2:4), they should themselves manifest those attributes of their heavenly Father.

In the last days, arrogant unbelievers will taunt Christians by asking, “Where is the promise of [Christ’s] coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:4). In their sin-darkened minds unbelievers will fail to see that, just as in the days of Noah, when God patiently delayed the Flood in order to give men more time to repent (1 Pet. 3:20), it is also because of His merciful patience that He forestalls Christ’s second coming and the accompanying judgment on unbelievers, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

Paul confessed that, as the foremost of sinners, he found mercy in God’s sight “in order that in [him] as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:15-16).

Believers are commanded to emulate their Lord’s patience. “As those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved,” they are to “put on a heart of… patience” (Col. 3:12), especially with fellow believers, “showing forbearance to one another in love” (Eph. 4:2). Like Timothy, all Christian teachers and leaders are to minister “with great patience” (2 Tim. 4:2).

Kindness. Chrēstotēs (kindness) relates to tender concern for others. It has nothing to do with weakness or lack of conviction but is the genuine desire of a believer to treat others gently, just as the Lord treats him. Paul reminded the Thessalonians that, even though he was an apostle, he “proved to be gentle among [them], as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children” (1 Thess. 2:6-7).

Jesus’ kindness is the believer’s example. When “some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them,… Jesus said, ‘Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these'” (Matt. 19:13-14). On another occasion He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).

Just as their Lord is kind, His servants are commanded not to “be quarrelsome, but [to] be kind to all” (2 Tim. 2:24). And just as He does with all the other manifestations of His divine fruit, the Holy Spirit gives God’s children kindness (2 Cor. 6:6).

Goodness. Agathos (goodness) has to do with moral and spiritual excellence that is known by its sweetness and active kindness. Paul helped define this virtue when he observed that “one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die” (Rom. 5:7). A Christian can be morally upright but still not manifest the grace of goodness. He may be admired and respected for his high moral standards and might even have a friend who would risk his life for him. But the upright person who also has goodness is much more likely to have self-sacrificing friends.

Joseph was such a righteous and good man. When he learned that Mary was pregnant but did not yet know it was by the Holy Spirit, “being a righteous man” he could not bring himself to marry her, assuming she had been unfaithful. But being also a good man, he could not bear the thought of disgracing his beloved Mary and therefore “desired to put her away secretly” (Matt. 1:19).

David had a deep understanding of God’s goodness, as he repeatedly reveals in his psalms. “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” he rejoiced (Ps. 23:6). He confessed that he would, in fact, “have despaired unless [he] had believed that [he] would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps. 27:13).

As with every grace the Spirit provides, believers are commanded to exemplify goodness. Later in the letter Paul exhorts, “While we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10). “To this end also we pray for you always,” he wrote to the Thessalonians, “that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the word of faith with power” (2 Thess. 1:11).

Faithfulness. Pistis (faithfulness) is the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit that pertains to loyalty and trustworthiness. Jeremiah declared that “the Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22).

Because Jesus was faithful, He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” And because of the Son’s faithfulness, the Father “highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:7-9).

And as He was faithful when He came to earth the first time, He will be faithful to come again “in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). “Faithful is He who calls you,” Paul said, “and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thess. 5:24). In his great vision on Patmos, John saw Christ seated on “a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True” (Rev. 19:11).

The “servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God” are to be like their Lord in being “found trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:1-2). “Be faithful unto death,” the Lord assures His followers, “and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).

Gentleness. Prautēs includes the idea of gentleness, but is usually better translated meekness. In his helpful volume Synonyms of the New Testament, R. C. Trench writes that prautēs does not consist in a person’s “outward behaviour only; nor yet in his relations to his fellow-men; as little in his mere natural disposition. Rather it is an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting” (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953). It is that humble and gentle attitude that is patiently submissive in every offense, while being free of any desire for revenge or retribution.

Of the nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit, this one and the one following do not apply to God as God. The Old Testament never refers to God as being meek, and in the New Testament only the Son is spoken of as meek, and that only in His incarnation. In the New Testament prautēs is used to describe three attitudes: submissiveness to the will of God (Col. 3:12), teachableness (James 1:21), and consideration of others (Eph. 4:2). Although He was God, while He lived on earth as the Son of Man, Jesus was “gentle [prautēs] and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29; cf. 21:5; 2 Cor. 10:1). Like their Lord, believers are to actively pursue meekness and gentleness (1 Tim. 6:11) and to wear them like a garment (Col. 3:12).

Self-control. Enkrateia (self-control) has reference to restraining passions and appetites. As with meekness, however, this grace does not apply to God, who obviously does not need to restrain Himself. “For I, the Lord, do not change,” He informs us (Mal. 3:6). In His eternal being, the Lord “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Perfect holiness possesses perfect control.   But in His incarnation Christ was the epitome of self-control. He was never tempted or tricked into doing or saying anything that was not consistent with His Father’s will and His own divine nature. Again like Jesus, believers should “exercise self-control in all things” (1 Cor. 9:25; cf. 7:9), “applying all diligence, in [their] faith [to] supply… self-control” (2 Pet. 1:5-6).

This is taken from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Galatians.

The Battle Between the Flesh and the Spirit

walkbythespiritIn Galatians 5:17, the Apostle Paul says that the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other.  Here are the quotes I shared in my sermon this morning from Martin Luther and John Piper.  In these quotes, we get insight and encouragement about the battle Christians are engaged in between the Spirit and the flesh.

Do not despair if you feel the flesh battling against the Spirit or if you cannot make it behave. For you to follow the guidance of the Spirit in all things without interference on the part of the flesh is impossible. – Luther

When I was a monk I thought I was lost forever whenever I felt an evil emotion, carnal lust, wrath, hatred, or envy. I tried to quiet my conscience in many ways, but it did not work, because lust would always come back and give me no rest. I told myself: “You have permitted this and that sin. Your joining this holy order has been in vain, and all your good works are good for nothing.” If at that time I had understood this passage, “The flesh is against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh,” I could have spared myself many a day of self- torment. I would have said to myself: “Martin, you will never be without sin, for you have flesh. Despair not, but resist the flesh. – Luther

The better Christian a man is, the more he will experience the heat of the conflict. This explains the many expressions of regret in the Psalms and in the entire Bible. Everybody is to determine his peculiar weakness and guard against it. Watch and wrestle in spirit against your weakness. Even if you cannot completely overcome it, at least you ought to fight against it. – Luther

When the flesh begins to rage, the only remedy is to take the sword of the Spirit, the Word of salvation, and fight against the flesh. If you set the Word out of sight, you are helpless against the flesh. I know this to be a fact. I have been assailed by many violent passions, but as soon as I took hold of some Scripture passage, my temptations left me. Without the Word I could not have helped myself against the flesh. – Luther

A Christian is not a person who experiences no bad desires. A Christian is a person who is at war with those desires by the power of the Spirit. Conflict in your soul is not all bad.  Even though we long for the day when our flesh will be utterly defunct and only pure and loving desires will fill our hearts, yet there is something worse than the war within between flesh and Spirit—namely, no war within because the flesh controls the citadel and all the outposts. Praise God for the war within! So take heart if your soul feels like a battlefield at times. The sign of whether you are indwelt by the Spirit is not that you have no bad desires, but that you are at war with them! – Piper

To listen to my entire sermon from Galatians 5:16-26, click here.

 

Parental Guidance Suggested

This is a (very) condensed transcript of my January 27, 2013 sermon.
To hear the sermon in its entirety, click here.

It’s true.  Almost all parents (I wish I could say “every parent” but I know better) – almost all parents want to be good parents.  We want our children to be loved, nurtured, and protected.  We want our kids to grow to become healthy, well-adjusted, and productive adults.  And as Christians, we desire to see our children grow up to love God and serve Him.  How do we get our kids to that point?  I wish it was as easy as following a few simple steps.  I wish I could guarantee that if you do x, y, and z that your kids will turn out exactly the way you want them to be.  This just isn’t the case, but the Bible makes it pretty clear that if you do the following 3 things, you will greatly help your children to not only become well adjusted adults…but adults who love and serve the Lord.

1. Make All of Life God-Saturated

The Apostle Paul tells all followers of Jesus: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  As parents, if we want to raise children who glorify God in all things, then it’s imperative that they see us living this kind of life.  Before I became a “senior” pastor, I served as a youth pastor – for 10 loooong years!  Over those years, I interacted with hundreds of teens.  Among them were a large amount of kids from homes where mom and dad were either not following Jesus at all and didn’t care or where they were claiming to follow Him (at church) but really weren’t once they got home.  Among those kids, I can only count on one hand how many of these teens are now following Jesus as adults.  When dad and/or mom are striving to live God-saturated lives, the percentage of kids who leave home with their faith in-tact or with at least a solid foundation laid that they eventually come back to as adults is high.

May we strive to live like this father who commented on my Facebook page recently: My goal for me and my kids is to strive to make God’s Word so much a part of me that it becomes like inhaling and exhaling. Life itself. I think this is what is being described in Deut. 32:47 and Prov 4:13. I like the use of the word “permeate.”

2. Pray

From 1999-2004, I produced and hosted a weekly radio program called, Parenting Teenagers.  Over those 5 years, I hosted 164 radio programs where I interviewed parents, authors, and ministry leaders – asking them for advice on how to parent teens.  During this time, I asked many of my guests whose kids were adults to share with me and my audience what they discovered to be the key to raising godly kids.  Nine times out of 10, these parents said, “We prayed and prayed for our kids the entire time we were raising them.”

On one of the programs, I interviewed a dad who made prayer a priority in his home.  Tom Bishop has written some wonderful prayer books to help other parents pray for their kids.  These books are available for download for free here.  Here’s a link to an audio clip where he reveals what he’s discovered about praying for our children:

God had a layaway plan long before Sears did! We can ask for things for our kids today, and God can deliver it in their lives later. We may even be up in heaven and God will still be answering our prayers! The example of that is John 17 as Jesus prayed. God is daily still answering that prayer. Get a head start before the crisis come. Then when you get into the crisis, you’ll have peace inside because you have already prayed for these things. If you haven’t been praying, you had better start! If you are prayed up, then you can watch and see what God does with all those prayers you have laid up. It doesn’t mean you don’t pray then, but you will have peace.

We went through the same crisis that everyone else goes through, but when they came there was peace because we knew that God was using them. We have two out of the teen years, and one with only a year to go. We have seen our kids choose godly friends, chose to turn to God and walk with Him, and we have seen God take our imperfections and work through them. God has pulled things together for us, and He has been faithful. Most of my best prayers weren’t my idea at all, they were the Holy Spirit prompting them. I simply prayed them, and God brought tremendous blessing to my kids and to our family.

3. Demonstrate the Importance of the Bible

I was born in Columbus, OH and am a die-hard Ohio State Buckeye fan.  So, it pains me to mention this about a man who teaches at the University of Michigan, but I suppose the Lord cares even about Michigan Wolverines (not 100% sure though).  In an article by William Frankena, a professor of  philosophy at the University of Michigan, he says that when he was a boy, his father read at least one chapter from the Bible after every meal and that they finished the Bible every year for 16 years straight.  Obviously, this was transformational for him.  Seeing his father demonstrate the importance of the Bible by faithfully reading through it with his family for 16 years straight made a huge impact on him as a boy.

Pastor and author John Piper stresses how important the Bible must be in our homes.  He says,  “The Bible will be the sun in the solar system of all that we teach our children. It will not be one among many books. It will be the central book, the all-permeating book. The other books are dark planets; the Bible is the light-giving sun. All other books will be read in the light of this book. All books will be judged by this book. All books will find meaning in the worldview built by this book. Which means that this book must be known first and known better than all the other books.”

For more, click here to hear the full audio of the sermon.

The Consumation of God’s Kingdom

This is an addendum to my sermon on September 4, 2011.

AN EVENING OF ESCHATOLOGY

On September 27, 2009, Desiring God and Bethlehem College and Seminary hosted “An Evening on Eschatology” at the Downtown Campus of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. It was a discussion/debate moderated by John Piper (pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church and founder of Desiring God Ministries) about the return of Jesus with Jim Hamilton (professor of New Testament at Southern Seminary in Louisville), Sam Storms (pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City), and Doug Wilson (pastor of Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho).  I showed two clips from this during my sermon.  Click the image below for the video in its entirety:


MAIN BELIEFS ABOUT “END TIMES” PROPHECY

Historical Premillennialism
This belief was held by a large percentage of Christians during the first three centuries of the Christian era.  The Antichrist first appears on earth and the seven year Tribulation begins. Next comes the Rapture. Christ and his Church return to earth to rule for a Millennium. The faithful will spend eternity in the New Jerusalem which is a gigantic cubical structure, some 1,380 miles height, width and depth, which will have descended to Earth.

Dispensational Premillennialism
Declared a heresy in ancient times, was reintroduced circa 1830. Premillenialism received general acceptance by most Fundamentalists and other Evangelical Christians after the publishing of the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909. As in Historic Premillennialism, the Tribulation is believed to precede the second coming of Christ, and the subsequent establishment of the millennial kingdom — a thousand-year golden age on Earth. The Final Judgment follows the millennium. But, theologians are divided over the timing of the Rapture. Many Premillennialists search world events and signs in the heavens for some indication of the Tribulation, which they anticipate will arrive at any time.

Amillennialism
Amillennialists believe that the millennium is not an actual physical realm on Earth. They do not believe that it will last 1,000 years. Rather it began at the time of Pentecost and is currently active in the world today through the presence of the heavenly reign of Christ, the Bible, the Holy Spirit and the activities of Christian faith groups. Both good and evil will continue in the world during this time. Lawlessness, a falling away from the Church, and persecution of Christians will increase in magnitude. Finally, the current Church Age will end suddenly at Christ’s second coming. A type of rapture will happen when Christ returns: believers will rise to meet Jesus in the sky. All will then shortly return to Earth. The Day of Judgment will then occur. Events described in The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) and in most of the book of Revelation are seen as occurrences which have already happened, or which are symbolic in nature and not to be taken literally. The Antichrist is looked upon figuratively and not as a real person.

This belief was held by many leaders of the early Christian church during the first and second centuries. Simultaneously, other leaders — perhaps the majority — taught a version of premillennialism that is very different from today’s dispensational premillennialism. St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD), often called the “Father of Amillennialism” was largely responsible for the establishment of amillennialism as the formal church belief. It remained the generally accepted system throughout Christianity until after the Reformation in the 16th century. Many Christian denominations — including the Anglican Communion, Disciples of Christ, Lutheran, Orthodox, Reformed, Roman Catholic, and some Baptists continue to teach Amillennialism.

Postmillennialism
This belief arose during the early 19th century. Postmillennialism involves the view of last things which holds that the kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit, that the world eventually is to be Christianized, and that the return of Christ will occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace, commonly called the millennium.  The theory is based on the perception of a gradual movement towards social perfection. The entire human race is converted to Christianity, including the Jews. A millennium of peace and righteousness follows. After the millennium, Jesus returns to earth, resurrects the dead believers, and conducts the last judgment. The Rapture and Tribulation are largely ignored.

Preterism
This is a belief that the events prophesied in the New Testament have already happened. The great war of Armageddon in the book of Revelation occurred in the late 60’s and early 70’s AD when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, many Jews were killed and the rest were driven from Palestine. When Jesus talked about the end of the world, he did not mean that the physical world would be no more. He taught that the old worldview held by various contemporary Jewish groups was coming to an end, to be replaced by a new concept, the Kingdom of God. Thus, all of the major elements in the book of Revelation (Tribulation, Armageddon, Rapture, etc.) actually took place in the first century.

No Millennialism
Most skeptics and liberal Christian theologians largely interpret the contents of the books of Daniel and Revelation as having no prophetic information for our future. Many regard Revelation as being composed of visions, hallucinations or nightmares of the author, of little meaning for Christians today. Some believe that the purpose of the book of Revelation was to stiffen resolve in the early Christian movement to withstand persecution by the Roman Empire. Thus, its purpose was to predict persecutions and other events that were to happen to the early Christian church. They also reject the apparent prophecies in the Book of Daniel. They believe that Daniel was written early in the 2nd century BC, long after most of the events had actually happened. It was history recorded, not their future prophesied.


THE RAPTURE

Some of the above positions contain the belief  that the church will be “raptured” or “be caught up” in the air to meet Jesus – but there are different beliefs about when the rapture will take place.  Here’s a look at the main beliefs about the Rapture:

Pre-Tribulation Rapture
The Rapture happens just before the Tribulation, so that believers will not have to experience any of its disruption and pain. The main difficulties with pre-trib are contained in the Olivet Prophecy of Jesus. In Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, Jesus describes the terrible destruction and loss of life of the tribulation period. The disaster is believed to be so intense that no human (Christian or non-Christian alike) would remain alive, except that God shortens the duration of the disaster for the sake of the believers. Jesus then continues by describing his return towards earth immediately after the terrible devastation. From this passage, it is obvious that the rapture will follow the Tribulation. The supporters of the “pre-trib” position suggest that Jesus will have a total of three comings: the first during the first century; the second at the start of the tribulation, and a third at the end of the tribulation.

Post-tribulation Rapture
The faithful experience the full horrors of the entire Tribulation and are raptured only at the end of the 7 years. The main problem with this theory is that there are many Bible passages which state that Christ’s return will be at a time that cannot be predicted. But the Tribulation period starts with the arrival of the Antichrist and an interval of peace. Precisely 42 months later, a sudden shift occurs, a peace treaty is broken, and devastation begins. These would be well defined dates that would allow an accurate prediction of the end of the Tribulation. There are other weaknesses to this theory.

Mid-Tribulation Rapture
The Rapture happens 42 months into the Tribulation. Up to that time, the Antichrist brings peace to the world. After 42 months, events take a sudden turn for the worse. Some supporters of the “mid-trib” position suggest that there will be many mini-raptures.

Pre-wrath Rapture
This is a new theory, promoted by Marvin Rosenthal, former director of Friends of Israel, and others. Their view teaches that the church must experience most of the Tribulation, and then be raptured towards the end of the Tribulation period.

Partial Rapture
This theory teaches that the faithful born-again believers are raptured just before the Tribulation. Newly born again believers are are raptured during or at the end of the Tribulation.

God Has (And Will) Restore His People from Exile

This is a condensed transcript of my July 17, 2011 sermon.

Our story starts in Eden where peace, harmony, and unhindered community with God prevailed.  Perfection.  But man rebelled and bought the lie that we could be like God, and as a result, man was expelled from the garden.  This would become the first of many exiles God’s people would experience in their history.  Ever since then, God’s people have been stuck in a vicious cycle.  It’s a cycle that is perpetuated by sin and rebellion.  God’s people sin; they suffer the consequences; they confess the sin and turn from it; and God restores them back to himself.  And then the cycle begins again with sin.  But as we saw last week, God is faithful – even when we’re not. Are there consequences for our sin? Yes…and sometimes the consequences are almost unbearable. But when we confess our sin – no matter what price we’ve paid for it – is God ready and willing to forgive us and restore us? Yes!  This has characterized His interaction with His people from the very beginning.

The bad news is that rebellion (idolatry) ALWAYS leads to consequences (exile).  But the good news is that repentance ALWAYS leads to restoration.

Picking up where we left off last time: God’s people desire a king.  They reject God as their king because they want a human king like everyone else, so God warns them about this and then gives them what they want.  Saul is the first king, but because of his sin and rebellion, God rejects him and appoints David.  David is more faithful than Saul as king, but he also gets himself caught in the vicious cycle of sin.  After he dies, his son, Solomon, becomes king, but according to 1 Kings 11, he drifts far away from the Lord – so much so that God tells him that because of his sin, the nation of Israel will be ripped apart. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.” (1 Kings 11:5-13 condensed).

True to His word, the Lord causes the nation to be split and idolatry prevails in both the northern and southern kingdoms.  God – in His faithfulness to His unfaithful people – sends prophets to warn His people of the coming exile from their land if they choose to continue in idolatry.  It seems as though God raised up prophets to counter-balance the idolatry and rebellion of Israel under the leadership of kings, and because of this, the prophets and kings were often engaged in bitter conflict.  The more rebellious and idolatrous the king, the more conflict there was between him and the prophet God raised up to speak.

As time went on, God’s people strayed further and further away from Him.  King Ahab (king of the Northern Kingdom) married a foreigner named Jezebel who brought Baal worship into their marriage and into the northern kingdom.  God called the prophet Elijah to speak on His behalf to King Ahab and the people.  In 1 Kings 18:21 we read, And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. Because the people couldn’t decide who to serve, Elijah decided to sacrifice two bulls and challenge the prophets of Baal to a dual.  He tells the prophets of Baal to cry out to their god to devour their bull with fire. He does the same to His God, and of course, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the one true God – wins, and Elijah’s bull is consumed with fire.  In 1 Kings 18:39 it says, And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” Unfortunately, this didn’t last.  God’s people continued in their rebellious, idolatrous ways, and eventually, God’s patience ran out.

The Northern Kingdom (called “Israel”) fell in 722 B.C.  Assyria attacked them and took the God’s people into exile “scattering them beyond the Euphrates” as God had warned them earlier.  The Southern Kingdom (called “Judah”) fell between 605 and 586 B.C. because idolatry prevailed there as well – even though prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied and warned them repeatedly.  The Babylonians attacked and took them into exile.  They also destroyed the temple in Jerusalem that had been built under Solomon’s leadership.  Because of their sin, all of God’s people were once again in exile and slavery. They had been removed from the land that God promised them – not because He was unfaithful, but because they were unfaithful.

Look at what God said through the prophet Jeremiah about the sin of His people and their eventual exile from the Promised Land: For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are ‘wise’—in doing evil! But how to do good they know not.” I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled. I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger. (Jeremiah 4:22-26)  When you compare this to the description of pre-creation chaos in Genesis 1:2, you get the picture that the sin of God’s people and their removal from the land God promised them was cataclysmic in nature. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep… (Genesis 1:2)

Through it all, God did not forget His covenant with His people. Why not?  Because God is faithful – even when we are not. In the midst of the exile, God speaks through the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel reassuring His faithless people that even though they are unfaithful to Him, He will not be unfaithful to them.

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Ezekiel 36:26-28
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

God promises – even when His people are in exile because of their idolatrous sin – that He will make a new covenant with His people.  This new covenant will involve an internalization of His Law.  He will put His Law in their minds and on their hearts – not just on stone, and they will know the Lord in a new and deeper way.  All the way back in the Old Testament, God is promising that He will one day send His Spirit to dwell in the hearts of all believers!  A second aspect of the New Covenant will be God’s provision for sin.  The sins of the people resulted in the curses of the Old Covenant (removal from the land).  However, as part of the New Covenant, God will forgive Israel’s wickedness and remember their sins no more. But how can a holy God overlook sin?  The answer is that God does not “overlook” sin.  It’s penalty will be paid for by a Substitute – His Only Son, Jesus Christ!

The great hope of Israel (and of all mankind) is Jesus, and Daniel – while in captivity in Babylon – sees this vision:  I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)  The great hope for Israel and for all mankind is the coming of the Messiah who will take the sins of all mankind on Himself and bring ultimate forgiveness and restoration…but I’m getting ahead of the story.  The climax of Jesus is coming up in a few weeks!

50 years after the temple in Jerusalem was leveled, God moves in King Cyrus’ heart to let God’s people return to their Promised Land to rebuild the temple.  What a moment that must have been for the Israelites, and what a testimony it is to God’s grace, forgiveness, and love.  This is their story…but it’s also ours.  God is Faithful to His people (then and now) – even when we’re not faithful to Him.  The bad news is that rebellion (idolatry) ALWAYS leads to consequences (exile).  But the good news is that repentance ALWAYS leads to restoration.  Are you suffering the consequences of sin in your life?  If so, repent and receive the restoration and renewal the Lord offers.

God Is Faithful (Even When We’re Not)

This is a condensed transcript of my July 10, 2011 sermon.

We humans sure have a knack for messing things up, don’t we?!  I tried to avoid the Casey Anthony trial at all costs, but I broke down last week at the gym when I turned on the TV at the machine I was using and saw these words: “Breaking News: Sentencing To Come Any Minute.”  I decided to watch while working out, but I never made it to the actual sentencing because of all the legal maneuvering on both sides.  It made for a very long and boring workout!  All of the legalese reminded me of my three months on a grand jury a few years back. I was reminded of some of the horrific cases we were exposed to.  My time on the grand jury reinforced a deep theological truth I was taught early on in my Christian upbringing: we humans sure have a knack for messing things up.

I’m leading my congregation on an overview of the story of God and the story of God’s people in the Bible – because in all reality, it’s our story too.  A couple of weeks ago, we saw that the story of Cain (Adam and Eve’s son who killed brother) demonstrates clearly that humans – after the fall – have a terrible capacity to misdirect their lives.  Sadly, this is still true to this day.  Throughout the history of God’s people (beginning in the Old Testament), we have been stuck in a vicious cycle of sin, and unfortunately, this cycle continues with us.  But as we will see (and as we know from our own experience as well) God is faithful – even when we aren’t.  Are there consequences for our unfaithfulness?  Yes, as we will see.  But through it all, God remains faithful.

We pick up the story in Exodus 25 where God gives Moses instructions for the building of the tabernacle, which will be a portable sanctuary where God’s presence will reside with His people as they move toward the Promised Land.  As we have seen from the beginning, God has always intended to be present with His people, and the tabernacle is proof of this for the Israelites.  And because worship of God is what His people should be all about, God goes into great detail to describe exactly how He wants the tabernacle to look.  The great detail laid out in Exodus shows that the worship of God is not something that should be taken lightly by His people.  God continues to be faithful to His people by blessing them with His presence as they journey to the Promised Land…but His people do not reciprocate.

Golden Calf

In Exodus 32:1-4 we read, When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron.  And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”

In an unthinkable act of rebellion and faithlessness, God’s people directly violated the first two commandments that they had just been given by the Lord: 1) You shall have no other gods before me. 2) You shall not make for yourself a carved image.  God had been so faithful to His people.  He had freed them from slavery, set them on their way to their own land, and promised to dwell among them via the tabernacle, but they were not faithful in return. And this is our story too. God is faithful – even when we’re not.

God’s anger burned against His people for their betrayal. Three thousand people perished at the swords of the Levites, and God sent a plague on the rest of the people for their sin. The consequences were devastating, BUT the Lord forgave them of their sin and renewed His covenant with them once again. And God said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.” (Exodus 34:10)  In spite of the people’s sin, God makes good on His promise to be present with them even after their great betrayal with the golden calf.

Self-Confidence Leads To A Devastating Defeat at Ai

Moses dies, and Joshua is placed in charge of leading God’s people into the land that God promised their forefathers.  The conquest begins with God renewing His promise and covenant with His people.  He tells them that if they are faithful to Him and His word that they will be successful in their conquest and will be prosperous in the land.  But, after God’s great victory at mighty Jericho, the people get confident and apathetic toward the Lord and decide to take on the next battle at tiny Ai on their own.  They don’t wait for God’s strategy; instead they pursue their own strategy and attack, and in so doing, they suffer an astonishing loss of life.  Their disobedience cost them (as it does with us)…but God was still faithful.  They repented, He forgave them, and they eventually conquered Ai – this time under His direction.

Over time, Israel becomes established in the land that God promised them. God leads them to mighty victory after victory, and they gain more and more land, but Judges 2:12 reveals where the hearts of the people were after much of the conquest was over: They abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. The cycle of sin and rebellion, repentance and forgiveness continued – even after ALL that the Lord had done for them. Because of this, they experience the hand of discipline from the Lord, but we also see that the Lord does not give up on them – nor does He give up on us in spite of our sin and rebellion.

Rejection of God As King

God appoints judges through whom He rules and leads His people. Some judges are good. Some are not. Sometimes the people listen to the judges. Sometimes they don’t…but God remains faithful to His people. His presence remains with them, and He continues to bless them – so that they will be a blessing to others.  But, the book of Judges closes with these sad words:  In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)

In 1 Samuel, we’re introduced to the last judge: Samuel.  He’s the last judge because the people of God decide they no longer want to be ruled by judges…they want a king – just like everyone else.  Instead of recognizing God as their king and submitting to His rule through the judges He appoints, they decide they want a human king so that they will be like all the other nations around them.  Shockingly, God tells Samuel to let the people have what they want.  However, He tells Samuel to warn the people of what a human king will do to them.  Samuel does, but even after his dire warning recorded in 1 Samuel 8:10-18, the people persist in their desire for a king.  So, God agrees to give them what they want – on one condition: He chooses the king.  God’s faithfulness is evident amidst the unfaithfulness of His people in that when God chooses Saul to be king, He places His Spirit in him.  God gives the people what they want even though He knows that it will be bad for them…and then He still blesses them by filling their human king with His Spirit!  God truly is faithful to us – even when we’re not.

David and Solomon: The Unfaithfulness Grows

As the children’s Bible I used to read to my kids so pithily states, “Saul started off as a good king, but he quickly became bad.” That pretty much sums up Saul in a nutshell.  His disobedience led to God removing His Spirit from Him and placing it in a small shepherd boy named David.  After years of fighting off King Saul’s murderous attempts, King David assumes the throne.  He was a more faithful king than Saul, but he did not obey the Lord as He was instructed.  He had multiple wives and committed adultery which led to murder.  The Lord declared that the “sword shall never depart” from his house, and because of David’s sin, his family was riddled with strife.

His son, Solomon, followed as the next king, and even though he came from a family where the sword would never depart, God was faithful to Israel and unified them under his reign.  During Solomon’s tenure as king, there was a cohesive government in place, peace ruled the land, and a temple for the Lord was built.  However, the problem was that Israel was supposed to draw all other nations to God, but under Solomon’s rule, Israel seemed more interested in national pride and building their empire than in drawing other nations to the Lord.  Solomon also fulfilled Samuel’s warning from 1 Samuel 8 that the king would “take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work.”  In 1 Kings 5:13-14 we read, King Solomon drafted forced labor out of all Israel, and the draft numbered 30,000 men. And he sent them to Lebanon, 10,000 a month in shifts. They would be a month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of the draft. Solomon lived in excess and forced God’s people to serve him. Rather than trusting in the Lord, Solomon made alliances with foreign kings (and foreign women) to secure Israel’s safety.

Through It All, God Is Still Faithful

King Solomon was unfaithful to God in many ways, yet God remained faithful to His people.  During Solomon’s reign, he oversaw the building of the Lord’s temple, and eventhough faithlessness to the Lord was rampant in Israel under his rule, notice what happened once the temple was completed: When the priests came out of the Holy Place, and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,” the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God. (2 Chronicles 5:11-14)

God STILL blessed His people with His presence!  His design from the beginning has been to dwell among His people, and even in the midst of their devastating unfaithfulness, He was still faithful.  This is the God we serve.  He still desires to be with His people – so much so that He came and lived among us in the form of Jesus Christ – Immanuel, God with us.   While we were yet sinners, Christ came. While we were yet sinners, Christ lived.  While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  While we were yet sinners, Christ arose.  While we were yet sinners, Christ redeemed us.  While we were yet sinners, God sent His Spirit to fill us and live in and thru us.

God has always been faithful to His people – even when they’re not.  And He’s faithful to us today – even when we’re not.  This is His story…and it’s ours too!