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The Gospel

Grows the Church • March 24, 2019 • Monty Mullenix

The Gospel: Grows the Church Acts 8:1-8 I. Persecution scatters the seeds of the gospel; 8:1-3. 1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Saul expressed his agreement with Stephen’s death sentence as publicly as possible by guarding the executioners’ clothes. The opposition did not end with Stephen’s death. If anything, his bold witness in both his Sanhedrin testimony and his death only served to fuel the flames. A violent persecution erupted and the Christians, except the apostles, were forced to flee Jerusalem. The resistance began in the Greek-speaking synagogue. They unleashed their fury on these Greek-speaking Christian radicals in their midst. The apostles and their fellow Aramaic-speaking Christians were likely able to remain in Jerusalem unbothered. Their Greek-speaking brothers/sisters were persecuted and forced to flee the city. The persecution and scattering of the Christians only led to their further increase. With the dispersal of the Greek-speaking Christians, the fulfillment of the second phase of Jesus’ commission began; the witness to all Judea and Samaria. Stephen was given a proper burial by “godly men”. They were probably some of his fellow Jewish-Christians. It was an act of real courage on their part. Saul, with the necessary authority from the chief-priestly leaders of the Sanhedrin, agitated the church, arresting its members in their own homes, and sending them off to prison. This century has seen a lot of persecution and martyrdom of Christians. Associated with the persecution is great effectiveness in the gospel message. Evangelism provokes persecution while persecution energizes evangelism. If we are obedient to Christ, we will face suffering of some sort. It may be suffering of tiredness or pressure of a concern for people. It may be the hurt that comes from people who disappoint us. It may mean being betrayed by people we trusted. It can take the form of persecution and being labeled intolerant for sharing Christ with non-Christians who do not want to hear the gospel, or for telling Christians things that they do not like to hear. A biblical understanding of suffering will take the sting out of it. It will help us maintain joy during it and turn the suffering into something constructive for the kingdom of God and the church. II. Persecution grows the church; 8:4-8. 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city. The persecution did not hamper those Greek-speaking Christians from sharing the gospel. If anything, it increased it. They communicated the gospel wherever they went. The dispersed believers did the utmost good to the people among whom they went by telling them the good news of the deliverance accomplished by Christ. Philip, another Greek-speaking Jewish leader who, like Stephen, was one of the seven appointed to manage the daily administration of the communal fund. Driven from Jerusalem, Philip went north to Samaria and shared the gospel there. To the Jews the Samaritans were half-breeds and heretics. It was thus a bold move on Philip’s part to preach the gospel to the Samaritans. In preaching to them, Philip was taking a major new step in the fulfillment of Christ’s commission. Great numbers believed his message and were filled with rejoicing. It is in sharing the gospel message that the power of suffering is best illustrated. The North African Christian writer Tertullian, addressing the rulers of the Roman empire, said, "Kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to the dust. . .. The more you mow us down the more we grow, the seed is the blood of Christians." Persecution intensifies the purity of the church and prioritizes the gospel message over every other activity. Nothing can hinder the growth of the church when the gospel is faithfully shared.

The Gospel

Reactions • March 17, 2019 • Monty Mullenix

The Gospel: Reactions Acts 7:54-60 According to Open Doors research, every month: • 255 Christians are killed • 104 are abducted • 180 Christian women are raped, sexually harassed, or forced into marriage • 66 churches are attacked • 160 Christians are detained without trial and imprisoned In 2018: • 3,066 Christians were killed; 1,252 were abducted; 1,020 were raped or sexually harassed; and 793 churches were attacked. 54 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep. When he threw the charge of blasphemy, persistent opposition to God and His ways back on them, their rage could no longer be restrained. Stephen had been filled with the Holy Spirit throughout his Christian life, and this fullness did not leave him at his time of crisis. Stephen remained calm, fully controlled by the Spirit of God. Suddenly, as he kept his gaze fixed upward, he saw a vision of the glory of God. The presence of Jesus at God’s right hand was much more real to him in that moment than the angry gestures and cries of those around him. He sees Jesus standing as a witness or advocate for his defense. Jesus had said, "I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God." Rejection by his own people, the Jews, would have been hard to bear, but acceptance by the greatest of Jews more than compensates for the pain. The presence of Jesus at God’s right hand meant a way of access to God had been opened more immediate than the temple could provide. Stephen is dragged out of the city for stoning. Stephen's last words just before he died are close to two of the last words of Jesus. Where Jesus committed His spirit to God, Stephen committed his to Jesus. On his knees among the flying stones, he made his last appeal to his Lord, not for his own vindication, but for mercy toward his executioners not to hold this sin against them. Having prayed, Stephen “fell asleep.” This is a peaceful description for so brutal a death, but one which fits the spirit in which Stephen accepted his martyrdom. God, knowing how much we can endure, gives us His strength in our times of need. This boosts our spirits and spurs us on to obedience, even to obedience leading to death. There is a depth of union with Christ that comes to us only through suffering. Not only do we share in His sufferings, He shares in our sufferings. God is powerfully at work both when life is going well and when dark clouds loom. The Bible tells us to anticipate suffering rather than avoid it. The Spirit's fullness in the darkness is so important for our spiritual health that God permits us to go through dark times in order that He can fill us afresh. During our pain we will wonder whether it is worth suffering for the gospel. At such times we ought to fix our eyes on Jesus. He is the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. With such a vision we can run with perseverance the race that is set before us, refusing to give up when the going gets tough, and divesting ourselves of unnecessary earthly weights that so easily entangle us. Paul said, "I want to know Christ . . . and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3: 10). The gospel that brings the crisis and persecution is also what gives us the ability to connect with Jesus in a deeper way during it. God’s plan for the empowerment of His people to share the gospel takes in account the pervasiveness of evil in our world.

The Gospel

God's Plan • March 10, 2019 • Monty Mullenix

The Gospel: God’s Plan Acts 7:1-53 He began his speech reminding them that they were his fellow Jewish “brothers” and showing respect to the elders on the Sanhedrin by referring to them as “fathers.” The real goal of God’s promise to Abraham was not the land. It was instead the freedom to give true worship and devotion to God. A sharp contrast existed between Joseph and his brothers. God was with Joseph. God had delivered Israel from famine and had brought them in peace to Egypt through the hand of Joseph. God had remained true to His promises. Israel was oppressed, but God was true to His promises. He raised up a deliverer and had him trained for his future role. God was with Moses. God remained true to His promises. He had looked upon their oppression and would deliver them. Moses was the one whom God had chosen as leader for Israel’s deliverance. But the Israelites had already rejected him; they would continue to reject him. Moses was the God-sent redeemer for Israel, the worker of signs and wonders, and the one who transmitted the living words of God. As such, he was a type of Christ. Also, like Christ, he was rejected by his people. Stephen was already moving in the direction of his temple critique. Already in the wilderness the people along with Aaron, the Priest, were moving in the direction of the distortion of the pure worship of God, which marked the temple of Stephen’s day. They made sacrifices all right, to golden calves and heavenly bodies and the like, but not to God. The result of the original apostasy of Israel was ultimately exile. God sent them “beyond Babylon.” Stephen saw that the temple of his day had become something other than a house of prayer. It had become a symbol of Jewish exclusivism and a rallying place for Jewish nationalism. As a Christian he was convinced that Israel would never find its true relationship to God and its true worship, apart from the Messiah. His historical survey had illustrated Israel’s constant rejection of God’s chosen leaders. Moses, Joseph, and the prophets are all types of and pointers to Christ. Stephen pointed out to his hearers that they had already rejected and killed Him. There is an implicit second chance offered to his hearers. Stephen was making an appeal for them to take the needed steps and repent. They were the guilty parties in turning the temple into an object for human manipulation and distorting its true purpose of prayer and worship. It was not he but his Jewish accusers who were the real lawbreakers. Stephen realized he would never secure his acquittal without compromising his convictions. He determined to use the situation as one last opportunity to share those convictions, one last chance to appeal to his Jewish contemporaries to abandon their pattern of rejection and accept the Messiah God had sent them. Ultimately his speech was not a defense at all but a witness. Stephen had Scripture as his source and authority. In the same way we too, because of the nature of God's truth, will become radicals if we take the Scriptures seriously today. We can rediscover truths that have been hidden from us because of theological, cultural, historical, or other blinds. True Christian love drives us to do things with which we are uncomfortable so that we can reach our contemporaries. Others who see these new ways of communication may become upset and oppose them. If Scripture drives us to radicalism, we must not be surprised if our best efforts at obedience to God go unappreciated. We are to use language and practices that our audience understands, if they agree with biblical truth. We must not tone down our message and leave out things that are unpleasant. Neither may we add things that are not in or contradict the Scriptures, or else people may become Christians but retain some of their practices that are contrary to Christianity. We must study people and their culture as well as biblical teachings that relate to their ideas and practices. We follow Stephen’s pattern and have gospel conversations and not templated presentations. We must then come up with a message and a lifestyle that is relevant, understandable, and inviting to their situation. This message will challenge their culture through God’s principles. When that happens, some who do not want to change will be provoked and oppose the Word. Others will accept what we say and be transformed by Christ.

The Gospel

Expect Opposition • March 3, 2019 • Monty Mullenix

The Gospel: Expect Opposition Acts 6:8-15 I. The gospel transforms and confronts; 6:8-10. 8 Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)--Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. Because of the gospel, Stephen was a man full of faith, wisdom, grace, power, and above all the presence of the Spirit. These were the personal qualities that equipped him for the ultimate witness he would bear. He was the first person, other than the apostles, to be described as working miracles, which helped to confirm the validity of the gospel message he spoke. Stephen shared the gospel message in the synagogue with his fellow Greek-speaking Jews. The opponents who debated Stephen were members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen. They came from four places: Cyrene and Alexandria (cities in upper Africa), and Cilicia and Asia (provinces in Asia Minor). Freedmen were probably the descendants of those who had been liberated from slavery or imprisonment. In fact, Paul himself may have attended this synagogue. Because of the gospel they could not stand up against Stephen’s wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. If we are to have this kind of wisdom, there are some things that must be in our lives. We must know the Scriptures. We must know the people to whom we are sharing. We must be able to let the Scriptures speak to the issues people face. We must ensure that there is no hindrance to the working of the Spirit in our lives. We must ,through prayer, make sure we are in tune with the mind of the Spirit. II. The gospel reveals opposition to God’s rule; 6:11-15. 11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, "We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God." 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us." 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. After failing to silence Stephen through debate, the Jews tried to silence him through coercion. They persuaded certain people to make accusations against him, which allowed them to take him to the Sanhedrin for a trial. He was accused of speaking against the temple and against the law. This is expounded with a claim that he said that Jesus will destroy the temple and change the customs Moses handed down. When Judea became a Roman province in AD. 6, capital punishment was allowed only by the decree of the Roman governor, except for offenses against the sanctity of the temple. In such situations, the Sanhedrin could pronounce and execute the death sentence. They had tried to convict Christ in this way but failed. The witnesses gave their evidence. Stephen’s teaching, they said, threatened both the temple and the law, for he maintained persistently that Jesus of Nazareth would destroy the temple and change the customs handed down from Moses’ time. Jesus had indeed said something about destroying the temple, and Stephen had evidently repeated His words. What Stephen meant was that the coming of Christ implied the end of the temple order. The apostles and many in the Jerusalem church might have continued to attend the temple services and be respected as devout Jews. Stephen held that the gospel meant the end of the sacrificial system and all the ceremonial law. While his accusers pressed their charge against him, Stephen stood before them with face aglow, as one in the presence of God. Stephen maintained a pleasantness in a very hostile circumstance. His relationship with God seemed to deepen as the oppositions grew. His face and demeanor showed it. Their reaction to the gospel did not affect how it had transformed him. The gospel is very personal, convicting, and irritating because of our pride and self-focus. The gospel confronts our self-focused and self-benefiting way of life. It often causes strong and even violent responses, which shows the work of the Holy Spirit. However, without the gospel there will be no fundamental change in anyone’s life.

Why?

February 3, 2019 • Craig Montroy

Sermon Notes - February 3, 2019 WHY HOLINESS? 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:11 PRAYER? 15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. Luke 5:15-16 THE GOSPEL? 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 DISCIPLE? 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26

Jesus As Our Rest

Hebrews 5:11 - 6:12 • February 17, 2019 • Monty Mullenix

Jesus as Our Rest Hebrews 5:11-6:12 I. If Jesus is our rest, we need to grow up; 5:11-14. They had been Christians for such a long time now that they ought to be able to teach others; but they still needed to be taught—the very ABCs of God’s Word. They ought to be taking solid food; however, they were still unable to digest anything stronger than milk, the food of infants. Are you teaching others how to live a moral godly life, easily distinguishing good and evil, or do you still need to be taught how to obey? Are you growing in your righteousness? Today is the best day to repent of spiritual immaturity and start living out the deeper matters of faith or when trials come, we don’t persevere. II. If Jesus is our rest, move toward maturity; 6:1-3. To go on insisting on the basics, therefore, would not really help them; it would be better to press on to those teachings which belonged to spiritual maturity, in the hope that the maturity would come. Will God permit them to even mature in their faith? If the same things are working for you to grow then, it is time to do something new. Stop trying to combine being a follower of Christ with how everyone else lives - your old lifestyle and relationships. III. If Jesus is our rest, there is no start over; 6:4-8. The group in these verses are genuine believers who “fall away” in the sense of willful disobedience to God. They do not once and for all deny Christ. They do fail to press on to spiritual maturity by direct disobedience to God’s will and word. The judgment that these believers incur does not involve loss of salvation. Temporally, this discipline involves loss of opportunity to go on to maturity in the Christian life, loss of effective service for Christ in this life, loss of the blessings of God that come from an obedient life, and in some cases perhaps premature physical death. Eternally, it involves loss of rewards in heaven and perhaps loss of position of leadership/service in the coming millennial kingdom. These are genuine believers who are in danger of forfeiting some blessings in this life, as well as rewards in eternity. The agricultural illustration is contrasting a fruitful believer who endures with an unfruitful believer who is unfruitful because of willful disobedience - resulting in a state of arrested development spiritually, a state confirmed by God himself. The Kadesh-Barnea episode furnishes the backdrop as it did for Hebrews 4. Their rebellion against God caused them to consider rejecting Moses and going back to Egypt. As a result, God swore an oath that that generation would not enter the Promised Land. Through the intercession of Moses, God forgave them their sin and did not reject them as His covenant people. Though they had forfeited the Promised Land, for the next 38 years they still were the beneficiaries of God’s miraculous manna and water. They received His divine leadership and protection. Yet they were under His oath and His curse that they could not enter the land. Though they wept tears of repentance and attempted to go up into the land, God did not permit them to do so. The readers of Hebrews did not face the danger of losing their salvation through total rejection of Christ. Their danger was falling into a permanent state of immaturity through a willful refusal to trust God to deliver them from their present troubles. The key to understanding the impossibility of renewing to repentance is found in Numbers 14. There, it was impossible for the people to be renewed to repentance because God had determined against permitting their entrance into the Promised Land. The ground for every Christian’s assurance and perseverance is the high priesthood of Christ. Genuine believers persevere, not based on what they do, but on what Christ has done. Such decisive refusal to press on to maturity through obedience places us in jeopardy of having God refuse to permit us to press on to maturity. The consequence would be the loss of blessing, growth, usefulness in this life, and loss of rewards in the eternal state. IV. If Jesus in our rest, we must not become lazy; 6:9-12. Considering what is at stake, the author does not want his readers to lapse into laziness, but rather to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. Who do you want to be like - the great people of faith or the people our culture see as great?

Jesus As Our Rest

Hebrews 4:1-5:10 • February 10, 2019 • Monty Mullenix

Jesus As Our Rest Hebrews 4:1-5:10 I. True rest can be forfeited; 4:1-10. The promise of entering the “rest” of God remains open and was not exhausted by entering earthly Canaan. God’s rest will not be reached automatically. There is a real fear of missing it, just as the generation of Israelites that died in the wilderness missed the earthly Canaan, although that was the goal which they had before them when they set out from Egypt. The Israelites of those earlier days had good news proclaimed to them, just as readers of this epistle had good news proclaimed to them. But the hearing of the good news brought no lasting benefit to those earlier Israelites, nor did it ensure their attainment of the goal for which they set out. Why? Because they did not appropriate the good news by faith when they heard it. It is not the hearing of the gospel by itself that brings salvation, but its appropriation by faith; if that faith is a genuine faith, it will be a persistent faith. God rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done in the preceding six days. God’s rest has remained open to His people who respond to Him with faith and obedience. It was disobedience that kept the generation of the Exodus out of God’s promised rest, despite the good news which was announced to them. That same promised rest was still open for the people of God centuries after the wilderness period. The writer of Ps. 95 urges his contemporaries to listen to the voice of God “today,” instead of hardening their hearts in obstinacy like their ancestors and being debarred from entering the rest of God as they had been. II. True rest is offered by God; 4:11-13. God’s word is living, effective, and self-fulfilling; it diagnoses the condition of the human heart. What this means is that the word of God probes the inmost recesses of our spiritual being and brings the subconscious motives to light. Nothing escapes the scrutiny of God; before Him everything lies exposed and powerless. It is to Him that our final account must be rendered. III. True rest comes from Christ being our High Priest; 4:14-5:10. Jesus is a merciful and faithful high priest. Jesus, the Son of God is not disqualified by His divine origin from sharing in His people’s troubles and sympathizing with their weakness. He himself endured every trial that they are likely to undergo but remained steadfast throughout. In Him his people have a powerful incentive to persevere in faith and obedience. Thanks to Him, the throne of God is where we have free access from which we may receive all the grace and power required for help in times of trial and crisis. The high priest’s duties were to present his people’s gifts and sin offerings to God. The sin offerings which he had in mind were those presented annually on the Day of Atonement. That was the occasion above all others on which the high priest in person was required to discharge the sacrificial functions. The high priest had to present a sin offering for himself as well as for his people. Jesus, being “holy, free from guile and defilement,” had no need to offer a preliminary sacrifice for Himself. It is by enduring the common weaknesses and temptations of the human lot, not by yielding to them, that He has established His power not only to sympathize with His people but to bring them help, deliverance, and victory. Jesus’ second qualification is His ability to sympathize with His people’s weaknesses, because He was exposed to all the tests and trials which they must endure. Gethsemane seems to be what is referred to here. The fact that the cup was not removed qualifies Him all the more to sympathize with His people. When they are faced with the mystery and trial of unanswered prayer, they know that their high priest was tested in the same way. He did not seek a way of escape by supernatural means - a kind they do not have at their disposal. To suffer death for God’s sake is described as the attainment of perfection. The death of Christ is bound up with His being "made perfect” in the present context. The essence of the perfection which our author has in mind consists in the twofold fact that by His suffering and death Christ: (a) became to all who obey him “the source of eternal salvation”, and (b) was “acclaimed by God as high priest after the order of Melchizedek.”

Called to Worship

Trust in God Above All • January 27, 2019 • Monty Mullenix

Called to Worship: Trust in God Above All Psalm 33:12-22 I. We worship a God whom we can trust; 33:12-19. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance. 13 From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; 14 from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth-- 15 he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. 16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. 18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, 19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. It is the relationship with God that defines God’s people; they do not author their own identity. God’s people have a future and an identity, because they are a part of the Lord. Our blessed status as God’s people moves us to worship the LORD as our God. The LORD sees all, even our inward thoughts. Thus, the "plans" and "purposes" of humans are transparent to Him, as is their willingness or lack of willingness to trust in Him. The myth of human power is debunked for the purpose of encouraging God’s people to place trust and hope in the power of the LORD rather than the futile pretense of self-power. No matter the greatness of a king’s army or a warrior’s strength, they cannot save. Deliverance cannot come from human power and sources of comfort: wealth, security, family, career, home, etc. The eyes of the LORD observe those who depend wholly on Him for their deliverance. The "fear" of the LORD is not terror but an awareness of one's absolute dependence on Him. It is the willingness to give up self-reliance and self-power in order to become those whose hope is in His unfailing love. We worship a God who is active, whose eye is upon those who rely on Him and who can deliver from death or from famine. The Lord’s gracious activity is His unfailing love, faithfulness, mercy, grace, and love. Thus, we who rely on God, hope in God’s unfailing love. God’s examination holds all people to the standard of His righteousness. Reliance on human power is doomed to failure in comparison to the power of the LORD. The LORD's purpose for those who hope in Him is deliverance. Worship reminds us that our trust must be in God and not in our power or ability. He alone has the power to deliver and to save. II. We worship a God in whom we put our hope; 33:20-22. 20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you. The LORD is the help and shield of His people. Therefore, they/we can wait in hope for the LORD. The shield is one of several types of movable protective shields used by soldiers in the ancient Near East. The people of God trust the LORD because He provides protective covering during the fight that a shield provides the soldier in combat. The king, warrior, army, and horse are not to be trusted for deliverance. The Lord is our help and our shield. Wait, trust, and hope are often misunderstood as passive terms; as something we do instead of engaging in more fruitful activities. Hoping, trusting, and waiting are what we learn to do only when we realize that our own efforts have either been exhausted or are completely meaningless. But to hope, to trust, and to wait in the Bible are not passive activities. To wait is not just to do nothing. To hope is not merely to close our eyes and accept what comes next. To trust and hope in the Lord’s unfailing love is to actively place our identity and future in God’s hands. To wait on the Lord is to look confidently to God for deliverance and expect that deliverance. It is in the waiting where God prepares us for our next assignment. Here is what you can do as you wait in hope on the LORD. Worship with passion and consistency. Deal with any disobedience or neglect of what God wants or His Word says. Intensify and get specific in your prayer life, especially for others. We worship a God whom we can trust. We worship a God in whom we put our hope.

Called to Worship

Centered in God • January 20, 2019 • Monty Mullenix

Called to Worship: Centered in God Psalm 33:4-11 I. We worship and praise the character of God; 33:4-5. 4 For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. 5 The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. The first motivation for praising God is grounded in his character. What God says and does is always “right and true." The Lord is faithful in all He does. Because God is upright and reliable, He also loves righteousness and justice in the world He has created. God’s dealings with His creatures and creation demonstrate His “unfailing love" for them. This “unfailing love" of the LORD fills the earth. Ask someone “is it wrong to lie?” Why is it wrong? The Bible says it’s wrong. Why does the Bible say it is wrong? The Bible says it is wrong because it is based on the character of God who is true. Every command in the Bible is based on the character of God and that’s why obeying God’s Word is so very important. It is not just a book of random rules. All that we do in worship must be first and foremost based upon the character of God who is right, true, and faithful in all He does. We worship because all creation is full of His unfailing love. Worship is recognition of the character of God. II. We worship and praise the creative Word of God; 33:6-9. 6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. 9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. The psalmist turns to God's creative word. ln a reference to the creation story of Genesis 1, the focus is on the power of God's spoken word to call things into existence. God’s creative work is occurring when God speaks a word that in turn orders creation in a truthful and trustworthy manner. The heavens are set up above and limits are set on the threatening waters of chaos, which are gathered into one place. Out of God’s character, He created a perfect world by His word. God’s Word did not end at creation. We know the character of God through His Word that He has given us in creation and in the Scriptures of the Bible. Our praise and worship must be grounded on the creative and transforming Word of God. God’s Word is that standard by which we gauge all that we do in worship as we praise Him. We don’t come up with good things to say about God. We worship what has been revealed to us in God’s creative Word and is working in the world. III. We worship and praise the enduring purpose of God; 33:10-11. 10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. God stands firm in His purpose despite the opposing plans of the nations. God is the one in control as He "foils" the plans and "thwarts" the purposes of all who oppose Him and His will. His plans and purposes are enduring, standing firm forever through all generations. There is an ongoing effectiveness of God’s Word throughout human history. The Lord frustrates the purposes and plans of the nations and people who think they can control the direction of the human history, but His own purposes and plans endure. As believers, our worship and lives should conform to the Lord’s will revealed in His Word, because God’s word stands firm forever. Worship is not coming up with good things to say about God, but is the recognition of who God already is. Worship and praise God based on His character. Worship and praise God based on His Word. Worship and praise God based on His enduring purposes.

Called to Worship

Sing and Make Music • January 13, 2019 • Monty Mullenix

Called to Worship: Sing and Make Music Psalm 33:1-3 1 Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. 2 Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. 3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. The righteous and upright are those who rely on God as Lord and Savior. As followers of Jesus Christ, it is part of our identity to worship God through singing. It is God who created music and singing. Since our righteousness comes through what God has done for us in Jesus, we are totally reliant on a relationship with the Lord. Corporate worship gives us that opportunity and privilege as we sing praises together. Regular praise of God is to be done together as believers. When as individuals, we join a larger group for public worship, each acknowledges that he or she is not the sole author of his or her identity. Identity comes from belonging to the body of Christ. The body of Christ in return receives identity from its relationship with the Lord. Praise of God is a musical expression of what we have experienced, are experiencing, and will experience through Him. Singing and playing praise is about God. It is not about us. Although only two instruments are mentioned, they stand as representatives for all musical instruments — both those common in antiquity as well as those used today. A new song in Psalms often represents a song of thanksgiving, which is praise in response to some action of God. A “new song" is a logical response to a new act of deliverance. As our relationship with God grows and matures, and we experience Him in new ways throughout our lives, we are drawn to new ways to express our praise of Him. Every time a revival or awakening have come to our nation or world, new songs of praise have risen out of it. For such new joy, we want to sing to our Lord with a newness and freshness of our hearts. New praise must find its way to the singing lips and playing fingers. In an article by Chuck Lawless, Why We Need to Sing in Worship Even When We Don’t Know—or Like—the Song, he says that we must resist the temptation to not sing. Here’s why: • It’s right to sing God’s praises. Even if it’s not our favorite song, it’s right to join the people of God in singing God’s praises. He delights in the singing of His people. • Not singing sends the wrong signal. Here’s what it could look like: anger, burden, sin or distraction. Worse yet, if you’re not singing just because you don’t like the song, that really does border on arrogance. • Some songs you don’t like are quite biblical. Most of us choose songs we like based on the style and the melody, not on the words. Sometimes the songs we don’t like are straight out of the Bible – so not singing them takes on more significance. • We can learn a song best by singing it. I now love some songs I didn’t like when I first heard them, and I’m glad I at least tried to sing them. • We model worship for others as we sing. All of us model something by the way we worship. Some show the joy of encountering God. Others make worshiping God look boring and disconnected. Singing helps others to worship Him well. • Singing with the rest of the congregation promotes and reflects unity. Churches already struggle enough with internal conflict. In fact sometimes members who don’t sing are intentionally sending a signal of disapproval and division. • Singing encourages the ones leading the singing. The playing of music for praise should be done well and played skillfully. Our singing of praise is to be joyful. This needs to be one of the most joyful things that we do. The shouts refer to overjoyed shouts of celebration and joy. There is no such thing as emotionless worship. If there is not passion in it, it is not really worship. The phrases “sing joyfully” and “shout for joy” resonate. As we follow God in obedience, there is to be a continual freshness in our worship of Him, through our singing. Praise and worship are not only the natural expression of a follower of Jesus Christ, child of God, and temple of the Holy Spirit but it also changes us and our perspective of the world and who we are in it.

Dangers of Drifting Away

Dangers of Drifting Away • January 6, 2019 • Joel Gunn

Dangers of Drifting Away Hebrews 2:1-4 I. We are all in danger of drifting in our faith; 2:1. 1 We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. Hebrews chapter 1 establishes the supreme authority of Jesus Christ over the angels. Given the authority of Jesus over the angels and the fact that he is the divine Son of God, Jesus demands and deserves to be heard. We are all in danger of drifting in our faith. This is not so much intentionally doing something you know you should not. Drifting, in this context, is more failing to take positive action you should be taking and merely allowing things to slide. We are in danger of drifting away from where the gospel is the focus of our life. We are either growing in our relationship with Christ or we are drifting away from Christ. We avoid the danger of spiritual drift when we read, hear, meditate on, and obey God’s Word through action. II. Drifting is dangerous and carries severe consequences; 2:2-3a. 2 For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? The older covenant message delivered through angels was “binding”. The summary of that old covenant message is basically, every sin justly deserves punishment. Under the old covenant, every breaking of the law demanded a just penalty. If the old covenant that came from God and was delivered by mere angels and demanded payment for sin, how much more will God judge those who have ignored the gospel now delivered by His own son? The true danger of drifting is that we abandon the gospel itself and find ourselves under God’s judgement. We have no escape if we ignore or neglect the message of salvation. The gospel is good news for those who repent of their sin and trust in Jesus Christ. It is terrible news for those who do not. We cannot ignore the gospel for salvation and for the daily implications it has for our life. Though we are secure in our salvation and can never lose our salvation, we are not allowed to do whatever we want. We are to pursue holiness daily. III. There is hope and restoration in the gospel; 2:3b-4. 3b This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. The message of salvation that Christ brought is greater than the message brought through angels. It was announced by Jesus Christ himself, confirmed by those who heard him in person, confirmed by God and the Holy Spirit. All these bear witness to Jesus as the resurrected Lord and the superiority of the new covenant over the old covenant. We know we can place our hope in Jesus Christ! We are warned through credible avenues about neglecting the gospel and drifting. Unfortunately, our drifting is often not a blatant neglect of gospel message. We slowly detach ourselves from the public profession of the gospel until it ceases to have any influence on our life and the lives of those around us. When we are spending time in God’s word and “paying the most careful attention” to what we are hearing, we are less likely to pursue preference and the self-pride that destroys us. Being in God’s word and in fellowship with the church helps us maintain a “sense of sin” taking our personal, moral accountability before God more seriously. If we drift away from the message of salvation or treat it carelessly, we invite spiritual ruin for ourselves and even our family. What have you put before your relationship with Jesus Christ in your life? What is the next right thing in getting back on track with right relationship with our King?

Blessed by God

Blessed by God • December 30, 2018 • Monty Mullenix

Blessed Psalm 1:1-6 I. God’s blessings are hindered when we live like the ungodly; 1:1-2. 1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. The blessing leads to a negative example; a lifestyle to be avoided. These verbs indicate a gradual descent into evil, in which one first walks alongside, then stops, and ultimately takes up residence in the company of the wicked. The “wicked" are those who have been judged "guilty." The “sinners” are individuals who have a proclivity to sin. Such persons have not just committed an isolated act of evil but live lives dominated and shaped by their proclivities. The "mockers" actively seek to express disdain for right living and seek to belittle and undermine those who want to be righteous. This is a caution against adopting the attitude and lifestyle of the wicked, not some casual contact with them. Not including the kind of redemptive association that Jesus modeled, or having a gospel conversation. Rather than associating with the proponents of evil, the hearers are encouraged to immerse themselves daily in the delight of God’s Word, and to seek God’s message that guides and establishes the life of faith. Meditation stresses careful, diligent attention to Scripture seeking God's guidance for life. Intentional immersion in God’s Word is an effective antidote to the association with evil. God’s Word feeds and shapes the mind and heart of those who obey it. II. God’s blessings come to those who are living fruitful lives; 1:3-4. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. 4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Those who delight in God’s Word are "planted" by the Master Gardener in the place where they can receive the nourishment they need to flourish. Like the tree, the work of one who is rooted and grounded in God's guiding Word is fruitful. By contrast, those who have rooted themselves in evil and have drawn their nourishment and delight from their association with the wicked will dry up and blow away. The unnourished wicked have no permanence. The contrast is between a fruitful tree and useless chaff; between well-watered stability and dry, dusty, windblown impermanence. III. God’s blessings require following God’s path; 1:5-6. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. The final set of comparisons sets out the contrasting ways and result of the lives of the righteous and the wicked. The "wicked" and "sinners" will be unable to "stand" in the final judgment. Nor will these guilty ones be able to associate with the assembly of those who are declared "righteous." The "way" of a person is a chosen life path that, if left unchanged, determines one’s ultimate end. We are presented with a choice: the way of righteousness that God oversees, or the way of wickedness that will ultimately perish. God is the great pathfinder who has blazed the safe and secure trail for those who come behind. By contrast, the way of the wicked seeks to explore territory in which God is absent. This will consequently lead to separation from God and to destruction. Psalm 1 offers the same warning: Hear and do. Delight in God’s Word, meditate on it, and act on it. Let what you hear, read, and study so permeate your being that you live on the path that God sets clearly apart from the wicked, sinners, and mockers.

Since Life is Short

Cry or Cry out to God • December 16, 2018 • Monty Mullenix

Life is Short Cry or Cry out to God Psalm 39:12-13 12 "Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were. 13 Look away from me, that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more." David has moved a great spiritual distance from the point at which he began. His prayer is clearly one of repentance. He has come to the realization that life’s meaning cannot be related only to life here on earth and all that goes with it. He is a transient stranger whose home is God. There is now a final plea to God to listen to his cry and weeping: hear, listen, do not be deaf, look away. To have a God while in crisis is for God to enter into the crisis with you. The ultimate result is that I rejoice again before I depart and am no more. The psalm ends where it began, in a silence that waits for an answering word from God. David identifies with the humble role of a resident "alien" and "stranger". Both terms indicate a class of non-Israelites permitted to reside rather tenuously in the land. Having no solidarity group, the psalmist claims a place in God’s family. He sees this role as a family tradition. He embraces that he is a clanless visitor, like all who follow God. Ripped from a native homeland, oppressed, having families torn apart, the voices of Africans brought to America as slaves cried out in songs like this: Sometimes I feel like a motherless child. Sometimes I feel like a motherless child. O my Lord, sometimes I feel like a motherless child. Then I get down on my knees and pray. David has come to understand the tenuous hold on life a sinner experiences, and longs for restoration of the secure relationship God promises the faithful. Unless God relents and ends the punishment, he has no hope but to depart and be no more. Sin separates us from God. Having acknowledged his sin, he admits how great a distance this transgression has created between himself and the holy God. This sense of distance is the cause of weeping and a desire for change. Sin creates this kind of distance from God. God is the one who scourges the psalmist with blows from his hand-who rebukes, disciplines, and consumes the wealth of humans. Yet God is also the one to whom he cries for deliverance. This humble recognition that God is at once judge and deliverer is what the Old Testament means by “the fear of the LORD." We have no hope in self or others, but only the hope God offers. This kind of awareness and vulnerability places you and me in a position of acceptance in which God can act as salvation and deliverance. We need an appropriate perspective to live out our short human life. The daily pressures and concerns become subtly magnified into the meaning of life itself. Possessions, income, desires, enemies, friends—these are things that may become the stuff of life, as if they are going to continue forever. Life is limited in its span; if its meaning is to be found, it must be found in the purpose of God, the giver of all life. Life is extremely short, and what matters above all else is the relationship with God. Perceiving this should cause us to confess our sin. We are only a sojourner here. Our deeper life is rooted in God; the world is the stage in which it is lived out. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews in developing the great catalogue of men of faith says: “they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth” (Heb 11:13). Our permanence is not to be found in the world as such, but in God who granted us life in the world. We’ve all been given this gift of life by our Creator. Sin has marred and shortened this life. You can go through life upset and crying about its futility and shortness as you try to deal with sin and its consequences on your own, or you can cry out to God and live an abundant life. Cry and weep over your sin and the fact that you just did it again, not in despair, but to a God who offers salvation and deliverance through Jesus Christ.

Since Life is Short

Hope in the Lord • December 9, 2018 • Monty Mullenix

Life is Short…Hope in the Lord Psalm 39:6-11 6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. 7 But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. 8 Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools. 9 I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this. 10 Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand. 11 You rebuke and discipline men for their sin; you consume their wealth like a moth-- each man is but a breath. Where the previous verses spoke of the brevity of human life, now the focus is on the meaningless of human effort. The metaphor of walking in shadow and ambling slowly without purpose is used. The metaphor is a rather poignant symbol of the futility of human effort. To that metaphor, the psalmist adds the image of heaping up wealth, but it does not last long enough to enjoy. Their bustling is as vain as their compulsion to accumulate wealth is futile. After this series of dismal images of futility, the psalmist has reached the turning point of his argument. The turning point is signaled by the particle “but now.” He turns to his plea with a rhetorical question: Lord, what do I look for? God, and only God, can be the answer: My hope is in you! He finally admits that he cannot deal with his sin on his own and asks God to save him from his transgressions. To ask for forgiveness is an appeal to the character of the forgiving One. This appeal for forgiveness is based on his hope in the character of the Lord. The phrase about “being spared the scorn of fools” is something to the effect that God has no power to save the psalmist, or that God has rejected the psalmist. The scorn that he is referring to may have been about others rejoicing in the punishment that they assumed the psalmist was receiving at God’s hands. The psalmist returns to the theme of silence. He reminds God that his initial silence is accepting the Lord’s discipline. He believed that God had done this. David then renews the appeal: “Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand”. The psalmist is experiencing whatever crisis he is in - and it is not clear whether it is a health, legal, military, or economic crisis - as a rebuke and discipline from God. “You consume their wealth like a moth” conveys the sense of slowly being dissipated. God disciplines us when we sin and try to deal with this sin on our own. God will consume what we build up like a moth eats cloth. While living in Kansas we had grasshoppers that consumed all in their area, from clothes on the line to cardboard boxes that blew away. These verses close with the second occurrence of the refrain: “each man is but a breath”. This repetition, coming as the final word of this passage and as the final word before David turns to his closing plea for help sums up the psalmist’s angry, desperate argument. Under God’s stare, the sinner melts, because all people are futile - a breath. Having established the frailty of human life and the futility of human endeavor, where can the psalmist turn for effective help? He finds hope for deliverance from sin and the "scorn of fools" in Yahweh. You don’t want to be on the bad side of God. Deliverance comes at the price of confession of sin, and the psalmist acknowledges that the suffering endured is from God and is intended as "rebuke and discipline." It is this knowledge that has prevented him from voicing a complaint before the wicked; the punishment was deserved and just. The psalmist ties divine rebuke and discipline together with the earlier theme of human frailty. The futility of human endeavor - the inability of humans to secure even their own wealth - is understood here as a consequence of divine discipline. Will you put your hope in the Lord or in what you can do, or hope it will all work out?

Since Life is Short

Avoid Sin • December 2, 2018 • Monty Mullenix

Since Life is Short…Avoid Sin Psalm 39:1-5 1 For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David. I said, "I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence." 2 But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased. 3 My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: 4 "Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. 5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath. This psalm of David begins with him trying on his own to govern his behavior and not say anything wrong. There are wicked people present and he does not want to say or do anything that would be a sin. The struggle is between striking out verbally or alternatively speaking something "good." This is intensified by the fact that the wicked are watching him. On the one hand, his silence is an attempt to avoid having to admit sin or to acknowledge the justice of God's treatment in the presence of the wicked. The "fire" that makes the psalmist's heart "hot" is a graphic way of depicting an internal anguish as a result of keeping silent and trying to deal with his sin on his own. But this did no good. His pain grew worse, his heart burned hot within him as he thought about himself and his trouble, and he could contain himself no longer. Avoiding sin on our own is an impossible task that just increases our anguish. Sin separates us from God. Finally, he bursts forth in a desperate cry. His anguish moves him to an expression of the frailty of human existence. Rather than a diatribe against evil or even an anguished complaint to God, the psalmist offers an informed meditation on the fragility of human life. The psalmist wishes to know the "end" of his life and the "number" of his days; not in order to have mastery over life but to gain an appropriate appreciation for the tenuous and fragile nature of human existence. In a sense he has already gained the perspective requested and knows that human life is "fleeting", a “mere handbreadth", and its span of years "as nothing". This new perspective leads to a pessimistic evaluation of human life and its lasting accomplishments that is reminiscent of Ecclesiastes. It even uses the central and defining concept of that book. In the summing phrase of verses 4-5, the psalmist concludes that “each man's life is but a breath." It seems that the psalmist's evaluation of brief human existence is not so much that it is insubstantial in length—that point has already been made-but that it is ultimately just as insubstantial in accomplishment and consequence. Often pain (regardless of its source), whether externally or internally motivated, can cause us to lash out. In moments of pain, the sin causes many of us to strike out at others as a way of diverting ourselves from our own discomfort and passing the blame and pain on to others. Yet, we know the wicked around us will rejoice if we lash out. His suffering was not the result of divine weakness but of his sin. Because our life is short, we also cannot deal with our sinful tendencies on our own. It cannot be kept down, suppressed, or silenced by our own efforts. Our anguish also increases. During this struggle it is understandable to think that nothing we really do matters because life is so very short. There are two options that are available to us in these moments. We can choose to do and say what we want. Because life is short, and will all be over soon, we choose to just enjoy all life has to offer. Or we can choose to turn to God for our strength and accept His forgiveness. We resist the temptation to sin through the power of his Word and work of Christ. Holding on to His promise that there is no temptation that we cannot resist through Him and not of ourselves. Life is short, but for the follower of Christ that is not a reason to simply live for the joy of the moment, but to live for an eternity with Him.

In Christ:

Oneness • November 25, 2018 • Monty Mullenix

In Christ: Oneness Ephesians 2:11-22 I. We were all distant from God until Christ brought us near; 2:11-13. 11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)—12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. The Ephesians were excluded at one time from God's people, separated from Christ. They had no hope of escaping the human predicament and could not anticipate any relief. They were without God. When God is left out of the picture, life really is bleak and boring. Little reason exists to focus on anything other than self; that leads to alienation, division, and ultimately to despair. People need to hear God calling them to life; they need to hear God calling them to peace. II. We now have peace with God and His people through Christ; 2:14-18. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Jesus took the hostility of both Jews and Gentiles into Himself, and when He died it died. Not only does Christ take the hostility into Himself and destroy it, but He creates a new being in Himself. Grace not only connects us to God and Christ, it connects us to each other. The purpose of the new being is the creation of peace and unity between the people of God. We, as the church, are very privileged, but we are never to become exclusive. We must recognize that no barrier that rejects people for who they are is ever justified. All whom we meet are potentially people who will be in Christ and therefore one with us. The grace that has accepted us into Christ is extended to them by us. All people regardless of race or status—however defined—are to be valued, enabled, and treated justly. III. We are becoming the dwelling of God; 2:19-22. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. The church, as a family of faith, should have the feel of a family. Family members care for each other, are committed to each other, equip each other, and sustain each other. No one should be allowed to feel like an outsider in the church; all people need to know they belong. This text says that we do belong. Christ brought us home to God. We live in God's house as members of His family, and at the same time we are a house in which God lives. We belong with God and are involved in what He is doing. The other people in the house are family with us. This home defines us. Christ has given us a place in His world, and from that sense of belonging comes a growing ability to relate and accomplish the tasks to which we are called. This text asks that we remember where home is: We are at home with God. Many other barriers exist in our society; such as education, social standing, and economics. The differences will not go away, but the church must think through the fact that the differences should not divide us or make anyone feel less valuable. Remembering requires attention - it does not happen automatically. To apply this text means that time will be given to thinking, reading, discussing, and learning about the change God has brought. Remembering will lead to prayer and an awareness of God's presence and His involvement in what we do.

In Christ:

Alive • November 18, 2018 • Monty Mullenix

In Christ: Alive Ephesians 2:1-10 I. We are spiritually dead, apart from Christ; 2:1-3. 1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. It was necessary for the Ephesians to be raised to life, because they were spiritually dead, alienated from God. Our humanistic world tells us that we are basically good, and if we just believe in ourselves, we can do anything. Humans face a sad present, past, and future. We are not morally good. We are not neutral. Instead of following God, we follow three evil forces. These are the things that characterize you. We follow the ways of this world. The unsaved person is controlled by the world’s influences and by the values of the age, which are contrary to God’s values. The unsaved assume the attitudes, habits, and lifestyles of the culture. We follow the ruler of the kingdom of the air. There is little doubt that the devil is the being described. The disobedient are rebels against the authority of God, responsive to the prompting of Satan. We follow our sinful desires. Paul says that everyone is gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and are following its desires and thoughts. That is everything that is in opposition to the will of God. We, as the disobedient, are by nature objects of wrath of God, which is what we rightly deserve. Our spiritual status could not be more tragic or hopeless. We are justly under the judgment of God. He is right to condemn us in our sins. Did Paul over-exaggerate here to make his point? Is our condition this bad? Yes, it is this bad. While humans bear the image of God, we are spiritually dead and unable to come to God apart from new birth. Our behavior is explained by all three of these influences; the world, Satan, and our own sinful desires. They all play a part in the sinful condition of humanity. II. We are spiritually alive, being in Christ; 2:4-7. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-- it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. Men and women who have no hope or possibility of winning God’s approval by effort or merit of their own are justified freely by His grace, through Christ Jesus. God made us alive with Christ. Christianity is not about becoming a nicer person, nor is it about starting a new religious routine. It is about becoming a new person. Not only has God raised believers from death to life; He has raised them to His throne and seated them there with Christ in the heavenly realm. God’s purpose for His people is so sure of fulfilment that it can be spoken of as having already taken place. God has a further purpose, that they should serve as a demonstration of His grace to all succeeding ages. Paul says God will dispense grace forever to us in Christ. III. We are God’s workmanship, now that we are alive in Christ; 2:8-10. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. How do we appropriate what has just been said? By faith. We have not worked for it; therefore, we cannot brag about ourselves. God in His grace sent Christ to live the life we could not live, die the death we should have died, and be raised from the dead on our behalf. After saying that our works cannot save us, Paul still mentions the importance of works. He states that works simply are not the root of our salvation. They are the fruit of salvation. We are not saved by faith plus works but by a faith that does works. We have a living faith. We are God’s workmanship in Christ Jesus. Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16).

In Christ:

Thanksgiving • November 11, 2018 • Monty Mullenix

In Christ: Thanksgiving Ephesians 1:15-23 I. In Christ we are thankful that God is at work in the lives of other believers; 1:15-16. There is power in recognizing the faith and love of other believers. It is very easy to be critical of others. Let us thank God in our prayers for the faith and love of God in the lives of other believers. It fights against a negative attitude toward others. We also need to let others know that we are thankful for their faith and the love they show. II. In Christ we can be thankful for the insight provided by the Holy Spirit; 1:17-19a. This is a prayer that believers know the continual revealing work of God’s Spirit, and that they know God. One of our great tasks of life is to know God better. As Christians we have another resource for life other than our 5 senses; our spiritual eyes. It allows us to see life from God’s perspective and to see His Spirit at work. Christian living requires a continual openness to the Spirit and His communication to us. It is not about strange mysteries, but about what we have in the gospel, and about its significance for life. We continually need insight into faith. Our spiritual eyes enlighten us to know the hope we’re called to and to know the significance that God’s call has for our future. Life is not a full glass slowly becoming empty. It is not over at death, not winding down, but winding up. What we do now lives on forever. We look forward to a happy ending with the story of our lives with God. This life is not all I’m going to get. Paul also prays for our spiritual eyes to know God’s incomparable great power. God’s power enables us to live a godly life. The power of the risen Christ is ours to do battle against worry, temptation, doubt, and demonic forces. We have the power to witness, to overcome sin, to live a holy life, to defeat the plans of Satan, and to have great faith for God’s mission. Does your attitude, demeanor, and conversations reflect these realities? Will you choose one other person here this morning to pray this for? III. In Christ we are thankful for the power of God at work; 1:19b-23. Paul goes on to show four areas where that power is manifested: 1) Resurrection: Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we do not have to fear death. Because of the resurrection, life has meaning. It gives us phenomenal hope and power for living a life of service to God. 2) Exaltation: Christ is exalted to the highest position possible. Life’s center of gravity is not earthly life but is in the heavenly realm with Christ and God. 3) Lordship: The power of Christ is far beyond all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in the present age but the age to come. The 5 categories of powers are stacked to emphasize that Christ’s victory over them is total. Who are these powers? They are spiritual beings. They are all subject to Christ. This is the power of the resurrection. The hold of Satan is broken for believers. 4) Headship: God has placed all things under Christ’s feet, appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body. The fullness of Him fills everything in every way. Christ is the head of all things for the benefit of the church. To be Christ centered involves commitment to the church. The church is intimately bound to Christ. He has sent His church into the world to make disciples of all the nations. That is what the church is. Our responsibility is to BE the church, not just to attend one. The church, the body of Christ, is at work in the world. Its ministry and message are the hope for the individual, family, community, and world. It is impossible to live the Christian life without the power of God. Do you ever feel powerless, like you want to obey the Lord, but you just aren't up to the task? In the same way that He raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him in the heavenlies and is going to bring all things in subjection to Him, so He shall raise you up to a new life. Are you thankful that God is at work in the lives of other believers, for the insight provided by the Holy Spirit, and for the continual power of God at work in the world? Will you pray for at least one other believer as well?

Lessons from Villains:

Defiant of God • November 4, 2018 • Monty Mullenix

Lessons from Villains: Defiant of God 1 Kings 22:1-40; 2 Kings 9:1-37 I. God’s Word comes true; 1 Kings 22:1-40. Ahab solicits help from Jehoshaphat, king in Judah, to recapture Ramoth Gilead from the Syrians. Ahab has waited three years for the Syrian king to make good his promise to restore Ramoth Gilead, but Jehoshaphat wants a word from God before proceeding. 1 Kings 22:6-8 Ahab has all sorts of prophets at his disposal. Jehoshaphat seems unconvinced by the prophets’ unanimity and requests another opinion. 1 Kings 22:15-23 These are not faithful prophets of the Lord, but court prophets on the king’s payroll who live to please him. Micaiah tells Ahab that he will die if he goes to battle. As he is sent to prison, he warns Ahab that he has spoken the truth. With such warnings made and with Ahab’s past experiences, Ahab is responsible for his own decision. Syria’s king orders his soldiers to focus on killing Ahab. At first, they chase Jehoshaphat, the only one dressed as a king. The Syrians realize their mistake, however, and stop chasing the wrong monarch. They seemingly have no one to pursue. 1 Kings 22:34-40 Just when it seems that Ahab will escape, an archer shoots an arrow at random that hits and mortally wounds Ahab. When the army goes home, they park his chariot, and the dogs lick up his blood. This event has not been a random death in battle. Ahab could not hide from the results of his own decision. God’s word to him, that he rejected, has come true. Ahab ultimately is judged as a man who heard from God, yet did not act on what he received. With Ahab, we learn the incredible foolishness of rejecting God’s Word and the absolute certainty of God’s judgment. Allow his story to lead you to repentance. Trust in Christ before payday comes for you. You cannot hide from the consequences of your decisions. II. God finishes all that He promises to do; 2 Kings 9:14-37 When Elijah departed the earth, he left a few things undone that Elisha had to finish. Thus, Jehu must become king, Jezebel must die, and Ahab’s descendants must perish. 2 Kings 9:14-15 Since he was wounded, Joram went to Jezreel to recover. A lookout sees Jehu coming with troops. The lookout finally identifies Jehu, but Joram still does not know why he has come. 2 Kings 9:22-26 Joram decides to go meet Jehu himself. They come together at Naboth’s Vineyard. When Joram turns to flee, Jehu shoots an arrow through his heart. Jehu orders his chariot officer to throw Joram on Naboth’s field, and reminds him how they heard Elijah’s prophecy ten years earlier. 2 Kings 9:30-37 Jezebel puts on makeup, fixes her hair, and waits for Jehu by her window. She does these things to look like, and die like, a queen. She is determined to die as the great Queen she considers herself to be. She then insults Jehu by calling him Zimri, the short-lived usurper of Elah’s throne. Jehu wastes no time. He identifies some eunuchs willing to betray her and orders them to throw her down. She lands in the street and dies when horses trample her. Jehu goes to eat. He orders some men to bury her, but they find nothing except her skull, her feet and her hands. Dogs have eaten the rest of her. Jehu kills Ahab’s family in chapter 10. Someday the wicked will be justly punished. Someday those who are in Christ will see the Savior in glory. In His grace, God has given you the opportunity to choose. Jesus warned us that those who try to save their lives for themselves will lose it, but those who lose it for Christ’s sake will gain life. Living for yourself and your prosperity has consequences for you and those around you; eternal ones. Like Ahab and Jezebel, God has given and is giving you opportunities to experience His grace and forgiveness. What are you doing with those opportunities? Will you repent and follow Jesus or live a defiant life?

Lessons from Villains:

Self-Consumed • October 28, 2018 • Monty Mullenix

Lessons from Villains: Self-consumed 1 Kings 21:1-29 I. Selfishness leads to other sins to avoid; 21:1-16. Ahab desires to buy Naboth’s vineyard, a property located close to the palace in Jezreel. He selfishly wants to build a vegetable garden close to the palace. Naboth is theologically motivated, not financially motivated. His God was not money but Yahweh. Naboth knew the Old Testament understanding of land—that land ultimately belonged to God who gave it to the families. Naboth knew that selling the land wasn’t an option and that established laws kept the land in the families. Ahab should have been out caring for the nation; instead, he is pouting in his bedroom. Beware of the self-centeredness of Ahab. If God ever gives you influence, remember why you have it. It isn’t to satisfy your selfish desires. It isn’t to trample on others or glorify yourself. You have influence, so you can bless others. Jezebel tells her husband to act like a king. She then promises to show him how a real monarch gets what he or she wants. Jezebel now assumes Ahab’s role, his authority, and even his name. She concocts a plot against Naboth’s life. The people take the innocent man and stone him to death. Ahab does nothing to check his wife’s scheming or even to express disapproval of her deed. Once she hears Naboth is dead, Jezebel commands Ahab himself to take possession of the murdered man’s land. He dutifully follows her orders, having seen how to be the kind of king Jezebel respects. Ahab and his queen have added murder, stealing, false witness, coveting, and oppression to their already serious religious sins. Naboth could have been richer. He could have perhaps negotiated a bit more and worked his way up the royal ladder. But Naboth lived by the word of God. This is the only time we hear him speak. He simply says, “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” We see in Naboth an example of a person being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. In Ahab and Jezebel, we see the nature and destiny of those who inflict such injustice on them. We must be willing to suffer for the sake of righteousness. Will you lose financial opportunities for God’s Word? Will you die to follow God’s Word? II. God denounces selfishness (payday someday); 21:17-29. Ahab is enjoying the herbs from his vegetable garden, and Jezebel is probably planning her next scheme. But then someone appears. Elijah is back! Ahab now calls him his “enemy” and demonstrates his self-centeredness. Elijah responds much as he did in the earlier encounter, claiming that he has only pursued Ahab because of the king’s evil deed. God instructs the prophet to expose Ahab’s sins of murder and stealing and announce to the king that dogs will lick up his blood where dogs had drunk Naboth’s blood. His wife will die for her sins. In fact, dogs will eat her, which was a fate worse than Ahab’s, for it implied denial of a decent burial. Quite unexpectedly, Ahab humbles himself, which is his most positive act in the book. God forgives him and postpones the judgment on his family, which demonstrates the Lord’s grace and mercy. It has always been the Lord’s desire to turn Ahab’s heart. Why did God wait so long? God pronounced judgment, but what of Naboth? The mystery of God’s timing in judgment appears throughout scripture. Judgment may be delayed, but it is never cancelled. How can we escape God’s just judgment? We need a substitute. That’s what we have in Jesus. God provided the righteousness we need in Him. Judgment will fall. Either Jesus takes your judgment, or you will face it. We cannot hide from God. He knows our sins—in thought, word, motive, and deed. We have one solution: in Christ we are safe. In Christ we’re righteous. In Christ we’re loved. In Christ we don’t have to fear impending judgment. In Christ we have power to stand up for the oppressed, and we look forward to our future reward in His kingdom. Jesus’ enemies conspired against Him too. They falsely accused Him of blasphemy, mocked and beat Him, and eventually took Him outside the city to kill Him (Heb 13:10-13). Jesus' blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel and the blood of Naboth (Heb 12:24), for their blood cries out for vengeance, but Jesus' blood cries out with forgiveness to everyone.

Lessons from Villains:

Pride, Evil Partnerships • October 21, 2018 • Monty Mullenix

Lessons from Villains: Pride, Evil Partnerships 1 Kings 20:1-43 I. We all get demands for surrender; 20:1-6. Israel’s old foe Syria rouses itself again. Fully armed and accompanied by a coalition of thirty-two kings, Ben-Hadad attempts to capture Samaria. Ahab agrees to give money, women, and children in return for a retreat. Because of continued humiliating demands the Israelites decide to fight rather than surrender. A war Israel seems destined to lose appears to be inevitable. How easy is it for us to play Ahab? It takes Spirit-filled courage to stand up against bullies who want us to compromise biblical truth. The spirit of Ben-Hadad is at work in the world. We will be tempted not to view sin as wickedness, to be silent in evangelism, not to treat marriage as a holy covenant, and not to insist that Jesus is the only way to salvation. In moments of timidity, let us look to God, who alone is sovereign, for strength and power to do and say what is right. II. God’s mercy extended to us in the calls to surrender; 20:13-14, 22. Consider the grace of God here. The word of God came to Ahab. Did he deserve such a gift? No. This was grace. And how will the battle be won? Yahweh will hand him the victory. Could Ahab have defeated such a multitude on his own? No. This is grace upon grace. Notice also the purpose of God’s grace: “That you may know that I am Yahweh.” Israel wins the battle, though Ben-Hadad manages to escape. Another prophetic word tells Ahab the enemy will regroup and strike again in the spring. Ahab had only received opposition from the prophets, but in this passage, he hears the promise of victory. What did Ahab do to experience victory? Nothing. Throughout Scripture we find that “salvation is from the LORD.” While we were perishing, God intervened and won the most important victory in the most unlikely way-through a cross. III. God offers to defeat our enemies; 20:28-30. This is the third time so far that God has sent His messenger to Ahab. Syria must learn the Lord exists everywhere and controls all terrain, so Israel will defeat the larger army again. The Lord is portrayed here as sovereign over all matters in all nations. Israel’s victory is so complete that Ben-Hadad is forced to flee and hide from Ahab. By now Ahab should know who his God is, who God’s messengers are, and who his enemies are. Unfortunately, he remains oblivious to the implications of what he has seen and experienced. The God of the Bible is Lord over all things, and we should seek to place the totality of our lives underneath His rule. We shouldn’t live with a distinction between our secular lives and our spiritual lives. Submit your private life, public life, church life, dating life, financial life, family life, work life, and recreational life to the Lord Jesus Christ. Seek to glorify Him in every way. IV. Pride can steal our victories; 20:31-34. Ben-Hadad pleads for his life and his request is granted. Inexplicably, Ahab makes a treaty with this long-term foe who has twice sought to devastate Ahab and his people. Pride can steal away the victories that God wins for us. Partial obedience is still disobedience. V. Ungodly partnerships have consequences; 20:35-43. Ahab does not realize he is pronouncing judgment on himself when he exacts judgment on a presumed soldier. Only God can balance judgment and mercy. Judgment always begins with God's own people. The message of the church must point to its own need for repentance. If Christians are honest, they have much for which to repent. Their values do not suggest that their lives are committed to seeking first the kingdom of God. Grace and mercy are implicit in the story. Ahab not only fails to seek divine guidance, he appears to resist it each time it is given. His failure to pass God's judgment on Ben-Hadad is fatal. He responds to the announcement of his own judgment with anger and resentment; to his own demise and that of his nation. Grace is amazing because God shows it to those who don’t deserve it. Ahab and Ben-Hadad are living illustrations of how not to live. They show us what “the fear of the Lord” doesn’t look like. Drunkenness, greed, violence, injustice, and faithlessness is not how you should live your life. The saddest part of the chapter is that God actually showed grace to these men, yet they still refused to see the Lord for who He is and submit to Him. Jesus lived a sinless life and gave His life for sinners like these men. Look to Him for salvation. Look to Him as your example of how to live a humble, others-oriented life. Look to Him for power to do justice and show mercy. When you’re confronted by God’s Word, you can respond with faith and obedience or walk away resentful and angry.

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