Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Simplicity of One Thing- A Prayer for the New Year

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after;

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in His temple.

Psalm 27:4

My Beloved Heavenly Father,

This new year I ask one thing, that I may have but one goal, one pursuit, one focus that sets the foundation for everything else I do. Help me put aside distractions, temporal things that would divide my interests or weaken my resolve, and grant that from this one simple resolution much good would come, and that good for Your glory.

This have I asked of you Lord, and make it so, that should I diverge from this path because of the weakness of my flesh, that you would pull me back on course. You are the One I come to, Lord, trusting in Your grace and kindness, resting in Your mercy and love, hoping in Your power and promises.

That one thing will I seek after, directing all my desires toward one holy passion; searching for it as if for lost treasure and following no matter the cost is this: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord in sweet communion and humble accord with You. Oh how great and undeserved a privilege it is to be part of the household of God! What better way to spend the upcoming new year than serving You, Lord, the One who loved me when I was unloveable and adopted me when I was unadoptable! Please, Lord, allow me this, to practice for my future vocation in heaven by fulfilling my joyous duty here on earth, loving You and obeying You all the days of my life.    

Oh, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and behold the perfect loveliness of God! A longing only partly here fulfilled, but someday completely so when I shall see You face to face! Father God, give my mind a holy curiosity, a daily desire to inquire in Your temple. Let my heart be intent on following hard after You, let my will find gladness in complete submission to Your Son, and allow my life to be characterized by a sanctified yieldedness to Your Holy Spirit. Make me a humble inquirer, a listening inquirer, a thinking inquirer, an obedient inquirer, and grant me the simplicity of this one thing, that I might live for You.

For Jesus’ sake,
Amen.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


Looking for the Perfect King

The Magi Journeying

Image via Wikipedia

Sermon Notes
Pastor Milton Vincent
December 25, 2011-Cornerstone Fellowship Bible Church

Matthew 2:1-12
The theme in this section of Scripture is “searching.”
v. 2; “Where is He?”
v. 4; “inquired”
v. 8; “search”
v. 8; “found”

What we know about the Magi:
-Magi is plural for Magis (magician)
-Not a stage magician (i.e. David Copperfield, etc.)
-They were from Babylon or Persia
-Speaks of the wisest of men
-Tutors of kings, appointers of kings, advisors to kings
-Knew something of the coming King of Israel

SIX OBSERVATIONS REGARDING THE MAGI’S SEARCH FOR CHRIST, THE PERFECT KING

1. They travelled a great distance to find Christ.
-approx 900 miles from Babylon to Jerusalem, at least 4 month journey one way
-Imagine the conviction they had concerning the Messiah having been born for them to travel a total of 8 months to find Him.
-The Star was some sort of supernatural light.
-See Daniel 9; Numbers 24:17
-How far are you willing to travel to find Him?

2. They were persistent, bold and public in their efforts to find Christ.
-They came to Jerusalem saying; the word, saying, here is in present tense=continually saying
-They kept asking person to person, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?”
-They are bold, persistent and public in announcing their intent to worship this King.
-How persistent are you?
-See Heb. 11:6

3. They stirred up trouble in their quest to find Christ.
-Herod was troubled by their arrival-Bad news!
-Herod was suspicious and paranoid that someone would take away his power.
-History tells us that Herod was suspicious of his wife’s brother, mother and eventually his wife. He killed them all.
-History tells us that Herod also killed all 3 of his sons.
-The wise men arrived (not necessarily 3 of them) with a large entourage.
-Herod assumes a miraculous event has taken place but refuses to believe in Christ as King. He wants to kill Christ.
-(Note: Later in chapter 2, Herod orders killed all male children in Bethelem under the age of two! Such was his evil suspicion and paranoia!)

4. They received help from Scripture in their quest to find Christ.
-See Micah 5:2
-Look for Christ of the Scripture
-Go to the Bible; it will point you to Christ.

5. They rejoiced greatly in the star which led them to Christ.
-They rejoiced because they knew the star would direct them to Christ.
-If you value Christ, you will rejoice in people or things that direct you to Him.

6. When they finally found Christ, they worshipped Him.
-Jesus was probably between the ages of 4 1/2 months and 1 1/2 years old at this time.
-Note that they worshipped the child, not His mother (Mary).
-They fell to the ground; a posture that says “I am at your mercy and at your service.”
-Their worship was an act of respect and surrender to the King.
-They gave valuable gifts.

We do well to be seekers of Jesus like the Magi. Do you see what the Magi saw? Worship Him.

Note from Terrie to all my Cornerstone Family:
I try to give a faithful representation in my weekly Sermon Notes post of what is presented to us on Sunday mornings. Sometimes, though, I have to “fill in the blanks” by memory. I would be very thankful if you would leave a comment if ever there are any needed corrections. Blessings to you all!

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie


A Christmas Mystery

christmas 2007

Image by paparutzi via Flickr

“He, through whom time was made, was made in time;
And He, older by eternity that the world itself, was younger in age than many of His servants in the world;
He, who made man, was made man;
He was given existence by a mother whom He brought into existence;
He was carried in hands which He formed;
He nursed at breasts which He filled;
He cried like a babe in the manger in speechless infancy–this Word without which human eloquence is speechless!”  
Augustine of Hippo, Sermon on Christmas

The glitter, the glitz, the shiny bows and brightly wrapped packages; evergreens aglow, tables laden with every sort of food and favor, these are the trappings of how we celebrate Christmas. And enjoy these things though we may, they are mere allegories, like dancing shadows on the walls of Plato’s cave, fragile in their representation of a glorious truth…

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…*

Celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation. The jumping off point of the Gospel, without which there would be no Good News. Rejoice in the birth of Christ as a revelation. Revelatory grace and revelatory love.

What child is this? Born in a manger in Bethlehem. Living life as the perfect God-Man and dying for the sins of the world. He is the clearest picture of who God is. The purest portrayal of the Father. The transcendent God who takes on human flesh, intersects with time and enters history. Our history and our future. His birth changes everything. Glory to the Newborn King! Who can fully appreciate the miracle of the Incarnate God?

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).*  

God with us, worthy of the best celebration. This Christmas, I pray for you a holiday with its eyes on eternity, resplendent in its reflection of the Light of the world. May the reality of the Incarnation inform your heart and mind, manifesting itself in a glorious burst of ineffable praise at the mystery and truth of what God has done.

*(John 1:14, Matt 1:23)

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


Praying for the Glory of God

Lord's Prayer in greek in the Pater Noster Cha...

Image via Wikipedia

Sermon Notes-December 18, 2011
Cornerstone Fellowship Bible Church – Pastor Carlos Cuellar

Praying in such as way as to glorify God. The “Lord’s Prayer” is a model but more than that, it is teaching us to acknowledge God’s Glory.

1. Pray with a heart of child-like faith.
…Our Father in Heaven…(Matt 6:9a)
Pray in faith, believing God hears.
-Pray relating to God as a Father.
-See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God…(1 John 3:1)
-Consider Mark 10:13-16 as a picture of the Father’s heart.
What it means to be childlike:
-without pretense, sincere
-excited about who God is
-in awe of God
-completely dependent upon Him
-full of trust

2. Pray with a heart of humble devotion.
…hallowed be your name. (Matt 6:9b)
Who God is, is wrapped up in His name. (Ex 34:6-7)
-Pray in a way that causes His name to exalted.
-Hallowed=valued, prized, adored, worshipped
-1 Peter 3:15; Ps. 115:1

3. Pray with a heart of willing submission to God’s rule and plan for your life.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matt 6:10)
-Pray in the spirit of 2 Peter 3:13; longing for the day when Jesus comes again.
-Pray with a heart filled with a vision of the glory of the kingdom to come.
-Pray submitting to God’s will as revealed in the Scriptures.
-Pray asking for God’s will above your own will.
-Pray believing God’s will is best.
-See Rom. 12:2; John 4:34; Luke 1:38.

4. Pray with a heart of desperate dependence upon God.
Give us this day our daily bread…(Matt 6:11)
-Pray for daily provision from God.
-Pray affirming that every good and perfect gift is from God.
-Admit that we need God.
-Remember that God is glorified when we are dependent upon Him. 
-See Matt. 7:7-11.

5. Pray with a heart of brokeness and repentance over sin.
…and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matt 6:12)
-True repentance involves heart, will and mind.
-Repentance is necessary not only for conversion, but daily and necessary for our relationship with God.
-When we see the truth of our own sin, we find it easier to forgive others.
-See 1 John 1:8-9; Ps. 32:5.

6. Pray with a heart of purity that longs for holiness.
…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matt 6:13)
-God does not tempt. (James 1:13-14)
-Pray asking not to be lead into any circumstances where my own heart will fail. Deliver me from myself!
-Pray confessing that my flesh is weak.
-Ask for deliverance from the evil one.
-As Jesus prayed, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)
-Pray with a heart that longs to be sanctified. (1 Thess 4:3)
-Also see Jude 24.

Realize that we don’t pray as we should, but there is hope because Jesus teaches us how to pray.


Thinking About Thinking

English: A photo of The Thinker by Rodin locat...

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Book Review
Think, The Life of the Mind and the Love of God
John Piper, Crossway Books

“…loving God with all our mind means that our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things.” -John Piper

Loving God must engage both the heart and mind. In Think, The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, John Piper encourages believers to think deeply about God as a means to glorify and treasure Him above all things. Using one of America’s greatest thinkers, Jonathan Edwards, as an example; John Piper asserts that a well thought out understanding of truth will stimulate the heart to love God. In this book, Piper wisely attests that thinking to the glory of God is not mere intellectualism or amassing great knowledge for its own sake, but rather “that all thinking–all learning, all education, all schooling…exists for the love of God and the love of man” (p 21).

After reading this book, I have been thinking about the life of the mind as it pertains to knowing God. Although finite man can never say he has learned all there is to know about God, what he does know he can know truly. As we study and think about Scripture, our understanding of God increases, igniting the desire to obey and glorify Him. Of course, knowing God entails more than just memorizing a list of facts about Him. That kind of knowledge only puffs up. Knowing God happens in the context of relationship and that relationship is only made possible because of the Gospel.

Oh, how magnificently layered is the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Can a man ever get to the bottom of that? What better object deserving our attention than the Holy Spirit aided apprehension of Christ and His Gospel! Consider the Gospel treasure waiting to be discovered by a deliberate contemplation of it. Think of the Gospel as a banquet. Positioned at the head of the table is our beloved King bidding us to feast on one delectable morsel after another.

Piper’s book has been a great encouragement to me to grow in my knowledge of God. Let us join heart and mind for His fame and for His Glory!

“…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  Matt 22:37

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


Praying As We Should

prayer..

Sermon Notes: Cornerstone Fellowship Bible Church, December 11, 2011
Pastor Milton Vincent

And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words… Rom 8:26

“Lord, teach us to pray”… Luke 11:1

FIVE THINGS WE MUST DO IF WE WISH TO SUCCEED IN PRAYING AS WE SHOULD

1. Realize that prayer is necessary.
-Rom 8:26 infers that (continuous, present tense)  prayer is necessary.
-Paul thinks that prayer is necessary. (Rom 8:26)
-Jesus thinks prayer is necessary. (Luke 18:1)
Do we live as if prayer is necessary? Or are our lives too full of things that are optional?

Many things are optional. Prayer is necessary.

2. Realize that there is a particular manner of praying that is necessary.
-Yes, the Pharisee in Luke 18:10-14 prayed, but his prayer was an abomination to God.
-James 1:6 states that we must ask in faith.
-We must ask with right motives. (James 4:3)
-We must ask according to God’s will. (1 John 5:14)

If you really examine yourself, do all of your prayers measure up to how the above verses would instruct us to pray? You could end up being paralyzed in trying to pray or asking the question, “Why even pray?”

BUT(In consideration of point 2):
3. Confess that we don’t know how to pray as is necessary.
In Rom 8:26, Paul gives us the answer to how to pray as we should. Start by going into God’s presence and humbly confessing that we don’t know how to pray.

4. Ask and allow God to teach us how to pray as is necessary.
“Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1)
-The disciples had been spending time with Jesus and came to the realization that they needed Him to teach them to pray.
-In Luke 11, Rather than beginning with the words, “Our Father”, the Lord’s prayer (perhaps more rightly called the disciples’ prayer as it is Jesus teaching the disciples to pray in response to their plea for help) could start with the words, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
-Approach prayer as being led by God. Then we can know that something of the heart of God is being revealed in our prayers.
-Prayer originates from God and our prayer is in response to His leading.
-In this way we pray God’s will.
-This only happens if we posture ourselves in humility and ask God to help us, teach us how to pray.
Prayer gives expression to the will of God.

“Prayer prompted by the Holy Spirit is the footfall* of the Divine decree.”
-Spurgeon

5. Savor the help of the Holy Spirit who prays on our behalf as is necessary.
-The Holy Spirit perfectly expresses our imperfect prayers to the Father.
-The Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf.

*footfall: approaching footsteps

Note from Terrie: This sermon was a paradigm shifter for me (especially Point 4, above). Thinking about this teaching on prayer helps me to see that my prayers should be less a list of things that I ask from God than an expression of humbly seeking God’s will and aligning my prayers with His good pleasure. I’m grateful to the Lord for using our pastor to help me bring my understanding of prayer into focus. Each year, our church devotes the whole month of December as a seminar on a particular subject. This year, the subject is prayer. I’m very excited to see what else I can learn this month.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


Happy Holidays!

Happy Christmas, painted by Johansen Viggo

Image via Wikipedia

Happy Holidays!
Do these words offend you?

There are lots of reasons why people may use the more generic “Happy Holidays” during the Christmas season. Perhaps the speaker means no offense and repeats the phrase without even thinking about it. It could be that the Happy Holidays wisher is just trying to be polite and truly doesn’t want to offend people who do not celebrate Christmas. Maybe the cashier at your local grocery store has been instructed by his boss to give a more inclusive greeting. Maybe he is just trying to keep his job!

Of course, there are those who purposely and consciously refuse to acknowledge the true meaning of Christmas, and some are zealous enemies of the cross, indeed! However, do we really think that the words “Merry Christmas” coming from the mouths of such people will in any way please God?

Whether the Merry Christmas naysayers’ motive be a premeditated denial of all that is Christian or merely ignorance of the weight and beauty of Christmas in the hearts and minds of believers, as followers of Christ what should our response be?

Five Ways Believers Can Show the Love of Christ to the Happy Holidays Crowd:

1. Have compassion.
If you are a Christian, you are a recipient of the great compassion of God. Consider the compassion of Christ toward unbelievers:
When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:34)

2. Show mercy.
Remember your helpless state before God had mercy on you.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–(Eph 2:4-5).

3. Exhibit understanding. 
Were you not in the same predicament before God graciously saved you?
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…(Rom 5:6,8)

4. Communicate Grace.
Consider Paul’s instruction to the Colossians about how to behave toward unbelievers:
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Col. 4:6)
And, Paul’s instruction to the church at Ephesus:
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Eph 4:29)

5. Convey Love.
The reason behind the season is Love.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:8)
Jesus suffered and died for the very ones who would crucify Him. That’s you and that’s me.

His motivation was love. Radical, life-changing, Gospel saturated love.

Listen to the words of Christ:

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matt 5:44)

So, when you are out and about this holiday season and someone wishes you “Happy Holidays!”, how should you respond? How about a heartfelt, “Merry Christmas!”? Who knows, you may get an opportunity to give a more thorough explanation of the true meaning of Christmas.

…for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord [!]…(Luke 2:10-11)

Merry Christmas!
By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


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