Tag Archives: Christian growth

We Must Know This

“If there is a God, how can I bear not to be that God?”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

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I think Nietzsche got it right here. Even as a believer, I struggle against this natural bent. How can I bear to completely surrender to someone other than myself? Surely, I know what is best for my loved ones and me. My reality often reflects this mindset. If something I’ve prayed for goes my way, Hallelujah! God has answered my prayer. If God says, “Wait” or, “No”, then hasn’t God failed to hear me and my prayer gone unanswered?

The Gospel itself reflects this tension. We need a Savior. But, God chose to effect our salvation by sending His perfectly innocent Son to die an excruciating, agonizing death on a cross in our stead. How many of us would think to have prayed for that? The apostle Peter failed in this regard and shows us his humanness.

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things…and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

Jesus’ response to Peter is shockingly direct.

But He turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

So much hinges on setting my mind on the things of God rather than on the things of man. To trust Him, I must know that God is utterly sovereign and completely good. But it is even more than that. I must also be willing to set aside my own plan for God’s plan. Submission to God’s will is paramount in trusting Him.

Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego discovered this as they placed their faith in God rather than in mere deliverance from Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace declaring, “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace…but if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods nor worship the golden image that you have set up.” A courageous Queen Esther demonstrated this when she asserted, “If I perish, I perish.” And, Job exemplified this when he said,“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

This same good and sovereign God sometimes withholds temporal deliverance or works in ways we never would have sought out or imagined. In the most ultimate way possible, Stephen discovered this as he was ushered into martyrdom. Battle-worn saints throughout the ages have come to know that even without understanding the why of it, suffering is evidence of God’s will and not a deficit in His character or a failure of their faith in Him.

We must know this, too. There is a God and He must be God.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

Matthew 16:21-23; Daniel 3:16-18; Esther 4:16; Job 13:15; Acts 7:54-56; Hebrews 11


Unsettled Ramblings On

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Sometimes I attempt to achieve a settledness in my life, but reality interrupts my plans.

I look around and try to figure a way to make this happen. I fall into a weird pattern. Ironically, I need rest so I work toward that goal. But. the harder I work the further my goal slips away. There is always something more to do. Always something out of alignment. Something always breaks. Someone always disappoints.

The Lord has given me a certain kind of life. In most places of the world, my circumstances would be considered ridiculously rich and comfortable. Yet, I still expend an obscene amount of energy in a fruitless endeavor to avoid every little bump and level all the rough spots.

What an insult to God that His boundless, expansive and pervasive Grace is not enough. What an affront to the Gospel of Christ when I refuse to rest in Him.

All of this exposes me for what I am–an idolator worshiping at the altar of Life-Easy.

My striving after a rest found in something other than the Sovereign Lord (who has ordained my circumstances) is like chasing after the wind. But, it only gets worse. In my anxiousness to secure smooth sailing for myself, I often fail to notice the sinking ships all around me. I am, after all, spoiled and immature.

Forgive me, Lord!

Create in me a grateful heart, first of all. Then, help me to rest even in the struggles and difficulties of life. Allow me to see that You are my only joy and true peace. Let me settle in You, and You alone.

Grant me a holy self-forgetfulness and the ability to look beyond myself with an eye toward offering the hope and help of the Gospel to people around me who labor and struggle alone.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.  Psalm 62:5

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Peace! Be Still!

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee (Photo credit: Seetheholyland.net)

He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Mark 4:40

Jesus and His disciples are out on the Sea of Galilee when a windstorm arises. The waves break over the side of the boat, threatening to capsize it. His disciples begin to panic and fear for their lives. But Jesus, undoubtedly exhausted after a long day of teaching, sleeps soundly in the stern. The disciples cry out to Him, “Teacher! Don’t you care that we are perishing?”

My storms are not literal wind and waves but nonetheless real. Just like the disciples, I become anxious and distressed. I fear the storm will overcome me and that I will perish.

The fragility of His humanness on display, Jesus is tired. And even in the midst of the storm, He sleeps. But here, I relate more to the human response of the disciples. As they responded to their storm, I respond to mine. Waves of despair engulf me and the storms of life fill my boat. I cry out to Jesus, “Don’t you care, Lord?”

Jesus hears and asks a question in return: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Like the disciples, I have seen the Lord do many mighty and wondrous works in my life and in the lives of others. But on this day, during this storm, I am too weak to give an answer. I plead for mercy and grace.

I’m asking the Lord to still the storm.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


But This I Call To Mind

I am learning that Jesus must be enough. I have not fully apprehended that yet. Being honest, I would say that for me it is more like: Jesus + all of my kids leading good and settled lives is enough. Or, Jesus + health is enough. Or, Jesus + a life completely void of stress or pain or worry is enough. But, these are false equations and life this side of glory will never be perfect. If I count on “Jesus +”, then Jesus will never be enough.

I confess, it is hard for me to trust God!

Day by day looms a battle, will you trust God or yourself? Will you trust God or your circumstances? The truth of the glorious Gospel may be right in front of me, but I grope this way and that and so often fail to grab on to it. What a needy sinner I am!

Thank the Lord that the point where I am overwhelmed by my failure to trust Him is the very point where the truth of the cross still reigns.

Campfire

Campfire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No matter how useless and dark things may look to me, the Lord is faithful to keep a tiny spark of hope burning deep in my soul. Sometimes I can barely see it, let alone feel it.

A tiny flickering fire seen from a distance does not warm a man, but it will make him remember what warmth feels like and how cold he feels so far away from it and that it is none else but the Lord Himself that bids him to come near.

I would have extinguished any glimmer of hope long ago had the spark not been eternal and so graciously set ablaze by the Lord and His blessed promises.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.
 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.”   Lamentations 3:21-24

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


Covenantal Commitments Underlying Our Togetherness

SERMON NOTES–PASTOR MILTON VINCENT
December 2, 2012–Cornerstone Fellowship Bible Church

The following notes were taken during our 2012 Winter Seminar: Together for the Gospel.

The emphasis on community (togetherness) is a return to an ancient reality of the first century church. The matrix of togetherness is the matrix in which the Church was born.

See Acts 1:4, 6, 14; Acts 2:1, 44, 46-47

3 Types of relationships:

A. Casual relationships.
-No obligation.

B. Consumer relationships.
-Some degree of obligation, expectation.
-In a consumer relationship if you aren’t having your expectations met, you feel you don’t owe the other person anything and so you just leave the relationship.
-We often bring a consumer mentality with us to church.
-You can’t be “real” in a consumer relationship because you fear that if you are and the other person does not like it, they will leave.
-There is no covenantal commitment in a consumer relationship.

C. Covenant Relationships.
-i.e., marriage.
-In God’s mind, covenant gives freedom and security to a relationship.
-Covenant is the matrix in which true intimacy can flourish.

3 COMMITMENTS THAT UNDERLIE OUR TOGETHERNESS HERE AT CORNERSTONE:

1. God the Father’s covenantal commitment to us in Christ.
-The nature of the New Covenant. (Eph. 2:12-13; Jer. 31:31-34)
-We as Christians enter into a covenant relationship with God.
-The Gospel is not just the story of God doing saving acts, but also the promises of doing saving acts and then fulfilling those promises.
-For example, God promised to send His Son, and He did. God promised to raise His Son, and He did. God promised that He would send His Spirit, and He did. etc.
-The Holy Spirit is a pledge of God’s faithfulness to us. (Eph 2:13-14)
-God also promises that He will love us forever, will never leave nor forsake us, and that nothing will ever separate us from His love.

Because of the covenantal relationship we have with God (neither casual nor consumer based relationship), we have a safe place to relate to God, be transparent with Him with our sins, and enjoy intimacy with Him.

2. Christ’s covenantal commitment to us, His Church.
-Eph. 5:31-32
-Human marriage is a picture of Christ’s covenantal commitment to the church.
-Our relationship with Christ is based on covenant promises:
that He would build His Church
that nothing can destroy His Church
that He would die
that He would rise again
that He would ask the Father to send a Comforter
that those who look to Him for salvation would receive forgiveness, justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification etc.
that He would go to prepare a place for us
that He will come again
-Christ made a covenant and sealed it with His blood.
-See 1 Cor. 11:25; Matt. 26:28; Ex. 24:5-8; Jer. 31:31-34.

Jesus died to be the Senior Pastor and a member of our body here at Cornerstone (1 Peter 5). Jesus seals the promises he makes with His blood. He is covenantally committed to us. We can go to Him without fear that He will abandon us.

3. Our covenantal commitment to each other.
-Acts 5:12-13 (…none of the rest dared to join (cleave to) them…
-“Cleave” is a covenantal term.
-Those inside the church continually cleave to each other, those outside are not brave enough to do so.
-If God the Father and God the Son deemed our brothers and sisters to be recipients of His covenantal promises, we can too.

We struggle and hurt each other at times, but we covenantally commit to one another without fear of abandonment.


The Glorious Benefits of Trials

Sermon Notes-Brad Lay (our missionary to Albania)
November 4, 2012-Cornerstone Fellowship Bible Church

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.         1 Peter 1:6-9

4 Wonderful Benefits of Trials in the Lives of Believers

1. Focus on final salvation. (v. 5-6)
-Anticipating the coming of Christ.
-We try to make the “now” comfortable.
-In the midst of trials, we long for heaven, our final salvation.
-Trials provide the dark background against which our faith shines.

2. Genuine, God-glorifying faith. (v. 7)
-The purpose of trials: “so that the tested genuineness of your faith…”
-Testing proves our faith is real.

3. A walk full of love, faith, and joy. (v. 8)
-This is not a command or exhortation, but Peter is telling them what they are doing.
-Peter is reminding them of the reality and result of new birth-you love Jesus whom you have not seen.

4. Progressive and final salvation. (v. 9)
-Yes, they are already saved and justified.
-But the final result of that kind of faith is salvation.
-Our faith is tested and becomes stronger, taking us all the way to the finish line.

Note from Terrie: My notes here fail to do Brad’s sermon justice. It was an encouraging word from the Lord. I would recommend that you listen to the sermon when it is posted on the church website. I was blessed, and I’m sure you would be, too!

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie


Grace Community

Sermon Notes: Pastor Milton Vincent
August 12, 2012: Cornerstone Fellowship Bible Church

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8

There is a sense in which the grace of God is a currency or commodity. Paul wants to teach us how to do commerce with the grace of God.

FOUR TRUTHS TO HELP US RICHLY EXPERIENCE THE GRACE OF GOD IN COMMUNITY WITH ONE ANOTHER:

1. We each have graces given to us.
-Rom. 12:3, 6
-We have been given “little graces” (gifts) according to the “big grace” God has given us.
-These graces are part of the treasury of grace from which our brothers and sisters are to draw.

2. The graces we have been given are different from one another.
-Rom. 12:6
-They differ in categories, levels, combinations, manners given (duration and occasion), opportunities, manners of expression.
-There are thousands of shades and hues and combinations of gifts, all by Divine design.

3. The different graces we have (and don’t have) are determined by Grace.
-Rom. 12:3
-It is grace that determines our gifts, gifts we have and gifts we don’t have.
-By the grace of God, whatever deficits you have in gifts puts you in need of your brothers and sisters.
-We sometimes find ourselves in divinely appointed circumstances that make us realize our deficits and reach out to our brothers and sisters to draw from them and the treasury of grace in them.
-Paul did not do everything alone, he had Silas, John Mark, Barnabus, etc. He took his brothers with him.
-Our gift deficits are an expression of the grace of God just as our giftedness is.
-We actually have all the gifts because we experience them all in relationship with our brothers and sisters.
-In community with one another, we possess all the gifts.
-Technically, the gifts we do have are not our own, but they belong to our brothers and sisters.

4. We each should exercise the graces given to us.

A. If given the grace of prophecy, exercise it according to the faith.
-Two kinds of prophecy, revelatory and non-revelatory.
-Acts 11:27-28; 21:10-11; Acts 15:32
-“Must correspond to the rule of faith as proclaimed by the apostles and believed, confessed and taught in the churches.” (In my notes, I missed the name in order to cite this quote. Sorry.)

B. If given the grace of service, exercise it by serving.
-People with this gift are skilled in discerning needs, both material, physical and spiritual and they find pleasure in meeting those needs.

C. If given the grace of teaching, exercise it by teaching.
-Instructing in doctrine and practice.
-In a sense, exercising spiritual authority.
-People with this gift are skilled in discerning where there are errors and bringing the word of God to bear on them.

D. If given the grace of exhortation, exercise it by exhorting.
-lit: to call from along one’s side, to comfort, encourage, challenge, motivate, rouse, rebuke.
-Not as an authority figure, but by coming alongside someone who needs encouragement, etc.

E. If given the grace of giving, exercise it with liberality.
-People with this gift are skilled at discerning needs and meeting them.
-Are often gifted at generating income and resources in order to meet needs.
-This does not mean that the person must be rich to exercise this gift.
-Finds joy in giving time, resources, income.

F. If given the grace of leadership, exercise it with diligence.
-lit: to stand before.
-Someone who can see the giftedness of others and use and direct their gifts.
-All husbands have this gift to one degree or another in order to lead their households.

G. If given the grace of mercy, exercise it with cheerfulness.
-Showing sympathy and compassion to those who are suffering.
-Gladly helping and sustaining those who are suffering through a time of dire need.


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