Soli Deo Gloria

I know we've been using a lot of Latin in Sermon Titles lately, but that is because we're reiterating 5 classic statements of Reformed Christianity. These sentences keep us right in the middle of the broad stream of Orthodox Christianity, and the remind us that we are part of a much bigger Church than just Oakland and just the 21st century. 
This week, we're studying Soli Deo Gloria, To God Alone Be Glory, which says in summary, that all of history is for the glory of God. The point of human existence, the reason God created us and redeems us is to "glorify God and enjoy God forever" (Shorter Westminster Catechism). 

To learn more about the Glory of God, I offer you this article,

SOLI DEO GLORIA,

written by John Piper and published by Ligonier.org (a ministry of R.C. Sproul). The article tackles several common questions: 
What is the Glory of God?
How Central is the Glory of God?
What is Our Hope?
How Do We Treasure the Glory of God?

If the hyperlink above does not work, try this: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/soli-deo-gloria/ 

SoliDeoGloria

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How Could a Good God Allow Suffering? – Another Implication of Resurrection

The Resurrection is more than a platitude and more than "pie in the sky" thinking. The Resurrection is the core of Christian teaching and as such has infinite application for human life. Good theology is a source of great comfort. While personal experiences of God's goodness and provision help confirm God's trustworthiness, our overall level of comfort and hope in the Christian Gospel is directly proportionate to the depth of our understanding.
In the face of gross suffering in the world, many people conclude that there must not be a good God in the world, or else none of this pain would happen. But does suffering and evil actually prove that God does not exist or that God is not good? That is the question Tim Keller answers in this podcast presented by The Veritas Forum, and his answer proves that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is more than a platitude. If the Resurrection of Jesus Christ actually occurred, then the whole theodicy debate has been reframed.

How Could a Good God Allow Suffering? Belief in an Age of Skepticism from Veritas [1] on Vimeo.

Here is the link to the Podcast if you want to download it to your phone/iPod. Tim Keller - "How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?" 

Nothing is Wasted – Our Easter Pallet Cross Wall

On Easter Sunday, we make art from used, broken stuff. Last year we made a 12' paper mosaic. This year we made a 4.5'x6' Cross Wall out of Pallet Lumber, and it turned out beautiful. This art is a tangible reminder that God can and will make the seemingly damaged, used, broken pieces of our lives into something useful, beautiful, and saving.

Nothing is Wasted Slide cropped

Next to our cross, there is the following Explanation:

Each of us comes to Jesus just like one of these boards. We come with our own raw beauty, the grains he put in our soul, the unique qualities God invested in us when he knit us together in our mother’s womb, but we also come with our own scars and rough spots, our own weaknesses, failures, and wounds. We come to Jesus with wounds other people inflicted upon us and with our own defects that have harmed others. We come “distressed,” not in pristine, brand-new condition.
Jesus does not reject our imperfections, rather Jesus takes us with all our knots, scrapes, splinters, scars, cracks, and nails and he reworks us into something more beautiful precisely because it was broken and now redeemed. He is so good and so committed that he is able to make beauty from brokenness, beauty from ashes, life from dust, and saints from sinners. Jesus doesn’t find us holy, he makes us holy.
In Jesus’ death on the cross, we see the worst of human sin, but in the resurrection, we see how God could use even that to redeem us. That’s why we call the day, “GOOD Friday,” because what was the worst day in history, God made the greatest. We, and even Jesus, still bare the scars, but somehow God gets more glory and we get more joy as we see just how beautifully God transforms our pain and weaknesses into testimonies of his goodness and faithfulness and artistry. Thank Jesus, that he accepts, redeems, and remakes used lumber like me and you, and makes us into his masterpieces.
In Jesus, we are    Reclaimed     |     Redeemed    |    Remade

As I designed and built our Easter Project this year, these three songs really moved me to gratitude and wonder at Jesus' incredible love.

Elevation Worship – Nothing is Wasted

Jason Gray – Nothing is Wasted

Chris McClarney – Beauty for Ashes

Why Pulling Together Now?

Here are the words, I shared last night at Dinner, just in case you missed it and you find yourself asking, “Why are we working so hard to pay off our mortgage debt now? What does it benefit us? Doesn’t everyone have debt?” The short answer is, “Because Jesus asked us to…” but another reason is below:

You have heard Denton, you have heard Rudy, you have heard Marie, you have heard Art, you have heard Wayne tell you that now is the time to Pull Together in Faith, and so we’ve launched and are currently planning the Pulling Together in Faith Campaign. Pulling Together is about sowing seeds for the next generation of believers, and by “next generation” we are talking about both our children and our children’s children, but we’re also talking about those people our same age, who will become believers at Oakland in the next months and years, and will lead the church for years to come.

You may have noticed that the farmers are out in the county “Breaking ground” as they say, pulling plows and discs and tillers, to prepare the land for seeds that will be planted in a few months. Well, now is the time for us as a church to pull the plow together to prepare for the future harvest. We cannot wait anymore than farmers can wait til July to break ground. It is time to take up the harness and the yoke together, and pull the plow together towards our new future.

But I know some of you are still wondering why. Some of you are still trying to wrap you head around and understand why we need to do this at all, let alone now. We have a comfy building, we have enough Sunday School rooms, we have enough seats on Sundays, we have enough room in the Fellowship Hall, we have heating and air, and this campaign doesn’t seem to benefit us in any way.

Well, I hear your concerns and your questions, and many people in our position have felt that way as well. And I could stand up here tonight and tell you how on more than a handful of occasions last year, we completely filled this Sanctuary and this Fellowship Hall, how we are already butting up to our capacity, and yet each of us have loved ones that we want to know the Love of Jesus in a real way that transforms their life and delivers them from self-destruction. And I could stand here and ask, “Where is your son Johnny going to sit, or your daughter’s boyfriend, Bob, or your sister, Sarah, or your neighbor, the Smiths; where are they going to sit, when they come, and how are you going to explain to them, that the service is full this Sunday, and they’ll have to come back next week earlier to get a seat in the sanctuary.”

Or I could stand up here and tell you about our dreams for new listening devices for those of us struggling to hear on Sunday Morning.

Or I could stand up here and try with all my breath to convince you that for the last 150 years, Oakland has given away money and materials and labor and land and members and elders and musicians and convenience and our pastors to start churches all over Johnston County. I could stand up here and tell you that because of people just like you scraped together enough money and resources to start and build the properties for 8 church all over Johnston County, from Oakland to Smithfield to Selma to Four Oaks to Princeton, down to Meadow and Newton Grove, over to Angier and McGees, back over here to Sanders Rd and 210. I could tell you that because people like us made gave even when it didn’t benefit them, the entire spiritual landscape of Johnston County was reshaped.

But I’m not going to do that. You’ll hear all about that over the next few weeks and months. Tonight I’m going to tell you another reason. I’m going to tell you that our faithfulness, your faithfulness, to break ground, to Pull Together, is already yielding fruit. With the weight of $800,000 in debt, broken into $6000 monthly payments hanging over their heads, the Session at Oakland has been very careful, and even hesitant, to expand the Operating Budget with any new ministries or expenses. There was always the possibility that the Budget would have to carry the $6000 a month payments, because those payments were being made out of a shrinking pile of money mainly left over from the first campaign 5 years ago. If that money ever ran out, and no further donations were given, we’d probably have to fire Michele, Cheryl, and Keeley, and cut my pay to make up the shortfall.

But as we’ve stepped out on faith to pay off this debt now, so the Session has stepped out on faith as well. The Session is making sure that our ministry doesn’t plateau. We are going to make sure that in three years we will sit around and thank God that we paid off the debt when we did, because our ministry will have grown and our Cleveland’s need will have grown, and we’ll have to make another big decision.

So the Session took the next step towards changing lives in Cleveland and making more and better disciples of Jesus, which will not only result in people in the pews, but souls in heaven, marriages growing in health, believers growing in knowledge and character, volunteers learning new ministries, and kids being spared from addictions and destructive relationships. We believe it will result in better preaching and better worship services. We believe it will lead to future pastor s and better businessmen.

So what fruit are we already seeing. Where are we sowing for the future. What is this campaign allowing us to do NOW? Why is this campaign so important?

We decided we’re going to pay it forward and we have created a new staff position at Oakland Presbyterian Church. We are looking for our next Youth and Children’s Ministry Coordinator.
That’s right we’re looking for a person to spearhead our Youth Ministries, to love our middle and high school students, to lead them to Christ, to shepherd them through doubt, to coach them through life.

This person will be in charge of coordinating all Youth Activities, Leaders, Curriculum, and Trips, in order to better fertilize our youth adults’ faith. This person will coach and train and organize our Volunteer Leaders, helping to prevent the burnout of key leaders at Oakland, and to fertilize their own ministerial growth. This person will also help plan and coordinate the Acorns and Sprouts initiatives on Sunday Nights. And they will be the point person for our Annual Vacation Bible School revival.

This position will take the pressure off of our volunteers, who currently bear the brunt of teaching, planning, chaperoning, researching, and implementing the necessary things for all our youth activities. This will take pressure off Andrew, allowing him to invest more time in preaching and ironically enough, in youth ministry.

This would simply was not possible before the campaign began. In fact, we twice left this position out of the budget for fear of the debt. Twice, we said, “We can’t do that until we get this mortgage paid off,” and so our kids will have to wait and our volunteers will have to suck it up and Andrew ill have to carry more weight. But not anymore. Thanks to our faithfulness now, in three years a generation of Christian leaders will graduate from Oakland ready to be ministers on college campuses and in the workforce. Thanks to your faithfulness today, in three years there will be a generation of students entering West Johnston and Cleveland High Schools, who love the Lord, who are prepared to share the gospel with their classmates, and are equipped to help answer their friends’ hard questions.

Let me try to paint a picture this way. Remember the guy, Andrew, who played the guitar on Ash Wednesday? Well Andrew is only 22 or 23 I think, and he’s the worship leader at a new Church in Apex. He started playing guitar because his Youth Leader taught him, and encouraged him. He learned to love Jesus because his youth leader loved him. By the time he graduated High School he was participating in worship on Sundays at his church, and a few years later, when his church decided to start a church, they had a worship leader with 5 years of experience to send to the new church, all because of a great youth leader, who loved Andrew and taught him the value of worship.

I believe that in our children’s ministries and our youth ministries, there are right now people that in 5 years will be leading worship at Oakland and in campus ministries at colleges around the State. I believe there are future pastors who will get a vision for ministry here at Oakland. I believe in 5 years we could see college kids coming home on Summer break to lead the next generation on mission trips. I believe that with guidance of a God-given, experienced leader, we will see our Youth and Children volunteers grow in their faith like never before and discover a passion for children and youth, and decide they too want to be youth ministers.

Friends, that’s just a taste of what is at stake in this Campaign. Just a foretaste, an appetizer, an antipasta of what is at stake in our faithfulness now. Why have a campaign? Addictions broken, cancers healed, joyous funerals healed, marriages saved, couples married who met here, ministers trained, missionaries released, new churches started, children loved, purpose discovered, regrets redeemed, and hope restored. And it starts with this Youth and Children Coordinator and with Pulling Together as we sow for the Future.

Is local Church Membership Biblical?

Since becoming a pastor I have found that certain questions crop up more than others. These questions are not always more important, but rather more indicative of our culture malaise. One common conversation concerns “formal” church membership. Over the previous 18 months, I’ve talked with many people concerning membership at Oakland, what it is, why we do it, what privileges and responsibilities come with it. Sometimes these questions arise in New Members Classes, but other times they happen over coffee or bbq.

CathedralHonestly, most of these conversations begin with someone’s concerns or hang-ups or past hurts regarding Church Membership. I hear things like, “My dad and granddad were both members of a church for a long, long time, and they served faithfully for years, until they eventually got burned out. I’m afraid if I become a member, I’ll be taken advantage of or taken for granted, and church will become more work than worship.” Others plainly state, “I don’t need to be part of a church to be a Christian,” or “Church just isn’t for me.” Some people are hurt when I suggest they join the church, saying, “I thought I was already part of the church, why do I need to need some slip of pater to make me part of the church.”

Like all things, our answers to these questions and concerns must come from the Scripture. So does the Scripture endorse or at least encourage some sort of “formal” membership in a specific church community rather than just general membership in The Church Universal? Does the Bible command us to participate in the life of a congregation?

I recently read an awesome article by a pastor in Texas, to whom I listen regularly. It answers so many of these questions and challenges both members and pastors to take membership more biblically and seriously. Check it out.

Is Church Membership Biblical?  by Matt Chandler

 

Litany of Penitence – The Rocks We Dropped

On Ash Wednesday, we dropped the rocks that keep us from accepting God’s love and being useful to God and other people. We named the hurts and habits and hang-ups that get us in the way of us receiving and giving forgiveness. Corporately (Together), we confessed many of the things we do that dishonor God, hurt ourselves, and harm others, then we laid these down on the altar as sacrifices. Individually, we named other things that keep us from particularly following Jesus.

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Here is what we said:

Litany of Penitence

Laying down the Burdens and Sacrificing the Sin that Separates

“Hebrews 12 says, “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” All of us accumulate burdens that weigh us down and sin that trips us up. Each of us is “prone to wonder, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” Tonight we will name these burdens, these failures, these habits, these attitudes collectively and individually, and we will lay them down on the altar, so that we can cling to Jesus as our cornerstone. When our hands are already full of stones, we are unable to take hold of any treasure. Likewise, these sinful behaviors and attitudes fill our hearts and effectively prevent us from receiving grace and enjoying forgiveness. We must first lay down useless things in order to accept Jesus’ gifts of salvation, sanctification, and transformation. We must be willing to give up our old ways of thinking and behaving, if we are to be transformed by the Holy Spirit into new creations. Together we will pray responsively, and then there will be time for individual reflection as well. A Series of readers, will lead us in communal confession and surrender. Each will finish their prayer with the line, “LORD IN YOUR MERCY,” To which we will respond collectively, “HAVE MERCY ON US, O GOD.”

 

Greatest commands

Holy and merciful God,we confess to you and to one another,and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth, that we have sinned by our own faultin thought, word, and deed,by what we have done,and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.We have not forgiven others as we have been forgiven. Lord in your mercy,

Have mercy on us, O God.

 

Apathy and indifference

1 John 3:17 –  If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?

We lay down APATHY and all we do to ignore things that matter. We are often indifferent to the suffering around us in sick, poor, or lonely people. We find it too easy to ignore the pain of those fleeing terrorists in Syria or drug cartels in Central America. We give up our indifference and instead choose to love and to serve. Lord in your mercy, Have mercy on us, O God.

 

Blaming others

Matthew 6:5 – You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

We lay down BLAMING OTHERS. Too often we pass the buck, avoiding responsibility by find fault with others. Rather than blame co-workers, spouses, children, or even God for our disappointments, challenges, and failures; we will take responsibility for our part and make amends. Lord in your mercy, Have mercy on us, O God.

 

Impatience

Psalm 27:14 – Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

We lay down IMPATIENCE with God and other people. Too often we grow angry with slow people, traffic on the highway, or unanswered prayers. Instead, we will do what we can, when we can, and trust God’s timing for the rest. Lord in your mercy, Have mercy on us, O God.

 

Impurity

Ephesians 5:3 – But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity.

We lay down IMPURITY and all that defiles the image of God in us. Our world praises the sexually liberated, but we honor you with our bodies and our sexuality, laying down pornography, lust, objectification, and lewd humor. Lord in your mercy, Have mercy on us, O God.

 

Entitlement and me first

1 Cor 4:7 –  For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

We lay down ENTITLEMENT. We lay down ME FIRST attitudes and DEMANDING personalities. We give up the lie that other people exist to serve us, and instead realize that all we have is a gift from our homes to our bodies to our jobs to the breath in our lungs, we humbly receive these gifts with the hope that we can be a servant to others. Lord in your mercy,

Have mercy on us, O God.

 

People pleasing and fear of people

Matt 10:28 – Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

We lay down PEOPLE PLEASING and FEAR OF PEOPLE. We will give into cultural standards or cave to peer pressure. We quit altering our appearance, dress and body through eating disorders, excessive shopping, and suggestive clothing. Instead we find our value in Jesus.  Lord in your mercy,

Have mercy on us, O God.

 

Overcommitment and busyness

Col 3:23 – Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord,

We lay down OVERCOMMITMENT and BUSYNESS. We give up the things we do unnecessarily to make ourselves feel important, like attending every meetings, joining too many clubs, serving on too many committees. We give up doing more with less, and instead give God and others our best by choosing to do less with more intentionality, energy, and commitment. Lord in your mercy,

Have mercy on us, O God.

 

Distractions and wasting time

Romans 6:13 – Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.

We lay down DISTRACTIONS and WASTING TIME. We give up the things we use to numb ourselves to unpleasant emotions and the things we use to procrastinate the necessary tasks. We give up TV, Video Games, Drunkenness, Comfort Eating, and anything we binge on to distract ourselves. Instead, we will make ourselves available and useful to Jesus. Lord in your mercy,

Have mercy on us, O God.

 

Destructive speech and gossip

Ephesians 4:29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

We lay down DESTRUCTIVE SPEECH AND GOSSIP. We give up laughing at other people, retelling other’s misfortunes, and using our words to hurt others or their reputation. We give up nasty Facebook posts, Tweets, and passive-aggressive hostility towards everybody from our parents to political pundits. Instead, we will season our speech with grace to encourage the faint and to bless our enemies. Lord in your mercy,

Have mercy on us, O God.

 

Bitterness and resentment

Colossians 3:13 – Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

We lay down BITTERNESS AND RESENTMENT. We quit hating others for their sins and we give up the right to make them pay for what they have done. We lay down the burden of retaliation and everything we do to cause them pain or wish them injury. instead trust God our Avenger to execute justice for them and us. We can forgive them as Christ has forgive us. Lord in your mercy,

Have mercy on us, O God.

 

Give up and quit

2 Timothy 1:7 – For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

We lay down our desire to GIVE UP and QUIT, which stems from laziness and fear. We are often half-hearted creatures hoping for healing through half-measures and easier, softer ways. We prefer the comfort of routine and low expectations, rather than the risk of fully committing ourselves to the active surrender of following Jesus. Lord in your mercy,

Have mercy on us, O God.

 

Pride and self-promotion

1 Peter 5:5 – All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.

We lay down our PRIDE and SELF-PROMOTION. We reject the lie that we are the center of the universe, that we know best, that we are better than others, smarter than others, and so God and people need us. We quit the habits of bragging, name-dropping, exaggerating, and out-right lying in hopes others will like us more. Instead, we will celebrate others and praise God. Lord in your mercy,

Have mercy on us, O God.

 

Guilt and shame

Isaiah 54:4 – Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.

    Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.

You will forget the shame of your youth

    and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.

We lay down our GUILT and SHAME. We lay down the lie that our sin is somehow too bad. We quit denying forgiveness to ourselves. Instead, we believe you died to cover our shame, you gave the Holy Spirit to give us power to conquer the things that make us ashamed. So, we will seek help conquering the actions that continue to bury us in guilt like habitual sin, addiction, lying, abuse, or our past. Lord in your mercy,

Have mercy on us, O God.

 

Striving and Hypocrisy

Ephesians 2:8-9 – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

We lay down our STRIVING and LEGALISM and HYPOCRISY. We quit trying to be good enough to earn your love, to merit forgiveness, and to win heaven. We repent of judging ourselves against other’s failures, and justifying our favorite sins as “not that bad.” We lay down all we have done as filthy rags and trust wholly in Jesus’ name and his cross to save us. Lord in your mercy,

Have mercy on us, O God.

 

IMPOSITION OF ASHES

There are millions of things we need to lay down. Millions of things that we have made the cornerstone of our lives, millions of ways we have dishonored and disobeyed God, millions of ways we’ve hurt ourselves and others. There are scores of character defects, shortcomings, and failures that keep us buried in shame, guilt, and unproductive cycles. It is time to lay them down. To lay it all down.

 

Col 3 says it this way:

 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

 

We invite you to think about the actions, attitudes, and occurrences that keep you from fully surrendering yourself to Jesus and his way of life. We invite you to think of those things you seek to hide from others most carefully and those things you talk about most frequently. We ask you to think about what you turn to on the bad days to comfort you and the things you think about first thing in the morning. These are probably the things that keep your hands so full, you cannot enjoy the benefits of Christ. They may feel like security blankets, but they are burdens.

 

Here is a PDF of the Rocks we dropped.

Litany of Penitence – Dropping the Rocks

For those interested, an entire order for worship and script can be found here.

Recent Book Recommendations

Lately, I've recommended several books from eh pulpit. Reading has historically been one of the great tools for spiritual and theological growth in Christian lives. In fact, Christians historically supported and even provided public education to insure every child learned to read and write, so that they would have access to the incredible riches of the Scriptures and the Church's writings. While our culture is no longer the print-based society it once was, reading and meditating on that reading is still an awesome way to grow in the knowledge and faith of Christ. One of my first mentors used to ask me every time we met, "What are you reading?" Too which, he'd always follow up, "If you want to be a Spiritual Leader, you've got to always be reading." I was 18 at the time and hated reading, but slowly, I plodded through. 
So here are the recommendations, I made recently. 

Books for Lent

The Prodigal God

The Prodigal God is an extended meditation on the Parable of the Prodigal Father and Sons found in Luke. This is an incredible book for anyone looking to deepen or clarify their understanding of the Christian Gospel. Timothy Keller is clear, concise, and compelling; often swinging convicting sledgehammers of truth followed by soothing balms of gospel healing. I've read this book 4 times in the last year (3 times in 6 months). 

Prodigal-God-large

Celebration of Discipline

This book is a Christian Classic designed to teach Christians the skills (disciplines) they need to grow in grace and faith. This really is a primer for the basic practices of the Christian life, including prayer, fasting, study, meditation, simplicity, solitude, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. I love how Richard Foster surveys the Biblical verses, Church history, and modern practices to show the benefits of each discipline and the ways we can apply them in our lives. If you want to grow in PRACTICING your faith, in living it out, and in your personal relationship with Jesus, this is the book. 

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An Extra Sermon on the Parable of the Treasure and the Pearl

As I said last week, I want to start giving you extra sermons from some of the best preachers around. I hope you won’t compare me too uncharitably, though I strive every week to preach like these men and women. Personally I try to listen to 3 sermons a week, last week, it was probably 6. (I listened to the following sermon 3 times). Audio sermon recordings are great for drives to work, yard work, and washing dishes. You could rot your brain on pop music and Beyonce or you could edify your soul with a powerful message. Listening to sermons on you iPod is in no way a replacement for being connected to a local church. You cannot grow apart from intimate community.
This week I want to recommend “The Parable of the Pearl: On Priorities,” a sermon delivered by Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. You will notice that one of this illustrations I used toys start my sermon also appears in Tim Keller’s sermon. His sermon was brilliant, and is exceptional at emphasizing the SOLD ALL HE HAD part of our parable, whereas I worked hard to emphasize the JOY OF THE TREASURE part in hopes that you would be motivated to sell everything. Hopefully together they create a huge harvest of faith and righteousness.
At the following link, you can either stream the sermon or download an MP3 for free.

“The Parable of the Pearl: On Priorities” by Timothy Keller

If you are extra hungry, I also enjoyed these two sermons, which share many of the same points. They are from Briarwood Presbyterian Church, preached by Harry Reeder.
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure— Receiving the King and His Kingdom
The Parable of the Costly Pearl—Receiving the King and His Kingdom

An Extra Sermon about Judgment

As a personal discipline, I listen to multiple sermons each week. Some of these I listen to in order to prepare for a specific sermon. Other’s I simply listen to in order to be fed. I want to start sharing some of these sermons from other churches to help you in your walk with the Lord. I pray they will be helpful to you.
A few weeks ago, I preached on the Parables of the Weeds and the Parable of the Fishes. In the Parable of the Weeds, an enemy sows weeds among a farmer’s wheat crop. In the Parable of the Net or the Fishes, Jesus says the Kingdom is like a great net let down into the sea that pulled up all kinds of fish. At the end of each parable there is a judgment and a separation, which represents the final judgment that will take place when Jesus returns again and his Kingdom comes in full.
In our culture Judgment and especially the Final Judgment is often rejected as unloving, intolerant, narrow-minded, etc. The thinking goes, “If God is all loving and all forgiving, then God would not submit people to the humiliation of judgment or to the punishments of Hell.” But Jesus believes and the Bible teaches over and over again that there will be a Judgment Day and that some will be welcomed into the Kingdom of God and others will be sent away into Hell.

So the main question is: WHAT IS THE GOOD NEWS OF JUDGMENT? HOW IS JUDGMENT A GOOD THING? or more to the point: HOW IS JUDGMENT DAY GOSPEL?

I think this sermon is a neat starting place. It was preached by Timothy Keller, the Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He is one of the best teacher/preachers I know about, and one I listen to regularly. I hope you enjoy.