Tuesday, July 25, 2017, 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
Lifeline class orientation is July 25th and August 8th. The orientation 6:30-8:00p at Church of the Holy Cross on Daniel Island. This orientation is mandatory to be...
In 2012, The Gospel Coalition and Redeemer Presbyterian Church partnered together to release a series of 52 questions and answers and called it the New City Catechism. Historically, catechisms have played a central role in church life and been used to maintain gospel integrity, succinctly define biblical truths, and help the believer be “transformed by the renewal of their mind” (Romans 12:1). If you’ve attended ECBC for any length of time, chances are you’ve probably heard Buster quote or make reference to the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) or the Westminster Catechism (1649). These have been invaluable resources for Christians seeking to understanding and promote the truth of the gospel for centuries and the aim of the New City Catechism was to honor that tradition through an updated and relevant format. Tim Keller explains that “...we decided to adapt Calvin's Geneva Catechism, the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms, and especially the Heidelberg Catechism, to produce New City Catechism. While giving exposure to some of the riches and insights across the spectrum of these great Reformation-era catechisms, New City Catechism also looks at some of the questions people are asking today.”
The word catechism comes from the Greek word katechein which means “to teach orally or instruct by word of mouth.” In the early church, Christian converts wanting to be baptized and join a local church body went through a period of teaching and training (ie. discipleship) before being admitted. They were known as catechumens. The New City Catechism offers something similar for us today. Each question is designed to help us gain traction on a theological truth and each answer is worded with precision and care, helping us to accurately articulate an answer to questions like “What is prayer?” Accompanying each question is a verse or passage of Scripture that correlates with the topic. Additionally, the New City Catechism has commentary that goes along with each question. One old, one new. So when you get to question 4 about the Trinity, you get to read some thoughts from guys like Richard Baxter (1615-1691) and Kevin DeYoung (born 1977).
One of my favorite things about the New City Catechism is how approachable it is. Crossway has recently published a devotional book you could go through on either a daily or weekly basis, during an individual time of prayer and study or as part of a group discussion. Additionally, the New City Catechism can be obtained through a mobile app (available on smartphones, tablets, etc.) that is designed well and easy to use. The app has everything the devotional book does with one added special feature. By enabling “Children’s Mode” you can hear sing-along versions of all 52 questions and answers that are a great means to helping kids get excited about memorizing the catechism.
Right now, the staff of East Cooper Baptist Church is reading and reflecting on a different question of the New City Catechism each week. It only takes a few minutes each week, but it gives us a regular glimpse of the gospel and helps to stir our affections for Christ. Regardless of your age, stage of life, or how long you’ve been a Christian, the New City Catechism will prove a fruitful and invaluable resource to you as you seek to grow in your understanding of the Lord and what He has done for us through the cross.
We have been talking about intentional living as a church. Lynne King discussed this specifically at Women at the Well as we kicked off our summer. Buster has been teaching from the pulpit about how to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior, Jesus Christ. As we think about the summer, we can also think about the same intentional approach for our entire lives—all for His Glory and not our own. The time to begin is now, no matter what our age!
In life, we have a choice. We either can become more gracious and loving, or we can grow bitter and resentful. We can be a blessing or we can become more and more difficult to be around. I know myself and how easy it would be to default to bitter and resentful. The flesh is weak. One of my prayer partners and mentors has said many times, “Girls, we have to decide now how we want to be! We have to be intentional!” Life in this fallen world is not easy and we are all going to face suffering, losses, and trials. We have to be in prayer to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior (Colossians 1:10), just as Buster has been teaching. We have to pray that God will make us a blessing to everyone and that at any age we will allow ourselves to be more and more Spirit led—more and more like Jesus. Those who continue to grow and be affected by the Word are simply displaying His activity in their lives. Yield to Him. He is worthy and very good.
As I think about my legacy, I am reminded of mistakes from my past and things I do not want as part of my legacy at all; things I wish could be forgotten. I think this is part of being human and having a sin nature. The only life we can observe, done perfectly well, without any mistakes or blemishes, is that of Jesus Christ. That being true, as I press forward, now in Christ, I am thankful that I can look towards being intentional with the rest of my days and prayerfully ask the Lord to give me a good legacy to leave; to ask Him to help me to finish well (Philippians 3:13–15).
What does a good legacy look like? What do I want to leave behind? What really matters? I think our achievements and accomplishments are good things, especially where they impact the Kingdom, but even then they are secondary to relationships. How we love, encourage, and care for other people is eternal. When we do these things, Jesus said, it is as if we are doing them for Him (Matthew 18:5, Matthew 10:40–42).
How can we continue to be gracious and loving in spite of obstacles and barriers; in spite of the myriad of struggles and sufferings that this fallen world contains?
I have realized that as we get older, so many things decline, but there is one thing that gets better with age and that is we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When Moses went up on Mt. Sinai and was in the presence of the Lord, he was glowing. When he returned to the people, they had to put a veil over his face (Exodus 34:29–35)! Over time, this glow faded. Hear 2 Corinthians 3:16–18 ESV:
“But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
We grow stronger in the Lord because He is strong in us! No fading! No decline! Inwardly we are indeed growing stronger day by day, all because of Him (2 Corinthians 4:16)!
So, this is not about trying harder and doing more. This is about intentionally resting in whose we are and trusting Him to complete the good work He began in us (Philippians 1:6). When our eyes are fixed on Him (Hebrews 12:2), we are filled with His Spirit and the Spirit yields fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22–23). Focus not on the fruit, focus on the giver (John 15:9).
So, here is what you can do to embrace this intentional life in the Spirit: determine each day when you will meet with the King. Spend time talking with Him and listening to Him in the Word. He will provide abundantly for you (John 10:10, Romans 5:17). Ask Him to direct you, to make you who He intended for you to be (James 1:22). Tell others what He is doing in your life and how you came to know Him. Ask Him for these opportunities and be ready (1 Peter 3:15)! Serve people in love and in His Name. All that we do here is for greater things in eternity for us and those around us. In everything, it is all about Christ (Mark 12:30–31). C.S. Lewis said, “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.”
Times of change, whether wonderful or challenging, give us an opportunity to assess our direction and to be intentional about navigation. With our identity in Christ, yielded to His authority, and on the path of grace (Ephesians 1:3–8), we can trust that He will take us where our lives will count for His Glory (Ephesians 1:9–10). All praise is due to the One to whom we belong (Ephesians 1:12–14)!
It is amazing to think that there is an estimated 90% of Americans that have some sort of unclaimed money or assets. At any given time, the government is holding more than $35 billion in unclaimed money or other assets for over 100 million accounts. Wow! What this means is that there is incredible wealth awaiting those who just take possession of what they already have. This could certainly benefit the owners in powerful ways yet it is just sitting there unclaimed and unused.
I view this in light of our children’s ministry. Many families do not see the incredible benefit of taking full advantage of what is offered to them. Therefore they are missing out on a wealth of spiritual blessings when:
Families regularly miss two or more Sundays out of the month
Families only attend church for one hour missing out on Preschool, Children, and CrossWalk Bible Study during the first hour or Kids and Jr. Kids Church during the second hour
Families do not take advantage of our Bible Memory Program
Families fail to participate in our Family Monthly Missions Projects
Families do not involve their children in our WAM–mid-week Worship Arts Ministry for Kids
Dads and moms do not seize the opportunity to teaching their child’s small group Bible study class or involve themselves in any serving capacity in our children’s ministry
Do you value corporate worship? Your children will follow your example.
What is your family’s church attendance saying to your children? As parents, we set our family’s priorities, and inconsistent worship attendance can hinder your child’s spiritual formation. A research study by Barna Group, involving a random sample of 1,000 adults in 2009, found that those who attended Sunday School or other religious programs as children or as teens were much more likely than those without such experiences to attend church and have an active faith as adults. This study did not need to take place; it just makes sense.
What is it that comes between you, your family, and consistent, corporate worship with your church family? Is it sporting events, vacations, or apathy? Whatever the reason, be careful. Do not let this be one of the major things that you regret as a parent when you look back at your child’s formative years. There is no college sports scholarship or career pursuit or extended times of being absent from church for whatever reason that is worth jeopardizing your child’s faith development.
With this, I would like to challenge you to recommit to reclaiming the spiritual wealth that our church offers you and your child every Sunday. You cannot go wrong with your entire family being involved in a small group Bible study class, large group worship in Kids Church, or worshiping together in church as a family. Why not make Bible memorization a family affair? Your kids are more likely to memorize the Scriptures if you are committed to it as well. We all desperately need to “hide God’s word in our hearts.” Memorizing God’s word as a family provides built in accountability if everyone is committed to memorization. What about taking advantage of missions projects to do with your children through our children’s ministry? At times throughout the year we collect canned goods for East Cooper Community Outreach to assist hungry families in the East Cooper area or write notes of encouragement to those who are sick in our church family and deliver these with cookie baskets. We also challenge our kids at church to collect funds for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering by doing extra chores around the house or by considering giving a week's worth of allowance. What about involving your family in our Love On Charleston events? There is a powerful impact among families who serve together.
Do you value serving? Your children will follow your example.
Finally, what about serving at church? Where are you giving back to your church family? How are you investing in the lives of others? For dads and moms who struggle having dedicated time to spiritually invest in your kids at home, teaching your child’s Bible study class is a built in way to do so. As parents, you have a wonderful opportunity to serve in our children’s ministry in many ways. Among those are:
Serving as a nursery caregiver
Teaching your child’s Sunday morning Bible study class
Helping as a REP- a reliable, exceptional parent to assist your child’s Bible study teachers
Being a leader in Kids Church
Volunteering in VBS or Summer Sundays
Leading a group of children in our Wednesday night, WAM ministry
Assisting our church families and guests by serving as a kiosk check-in greeter
Preparing refreshments for Sunday morning volunteers.
Organizing crafts for preschoolers
Providing assistance for children’s ministry special events
The bottom line is that for the sake of your spiritual life and your family’s spiritual life, do not neglect Sunday worship. Reclaim the wealth of corporate worship and Bible study and the blessings of serving your church family. Put a stake in the ground and say with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
For the past few weeks I have been teaching through a series in the High School Ministry class on Sunday mornings called “The Gospel of Movies.” Basically what we do each week is look at a clip from a movie and discuss how it confirms or denies what we know about the gospel. We will then look at a passage of Scripture and compare the two. I have personally enjoyed this series because I really like movies, but I’ve also enjoyed teaching through this series because it helps to remind me how “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). You see, I believe that every story (and by story I mean every book, movie, poem, and play) contains echoes and indications of the true, ultimate, and greatest story of the gospel. Sometimes it happens with intention through people like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien who use fiction and fantasy to articulate the message of redemption, but a lot of times we can read the book of a secular author or watch the movie of a director outside of the faith that portrays unconditional love so well or a character’s willingness to sacrifice themselves for the life of another in such a way that we have think: “There it is. That is the gospel.” But it’s not just stories that have the ability to point us to the gospel. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Creation itself speaks out to proclaim the reality of the Lord which means that every sunrise and every sunset and every tree or flower or body of water that makes us stop and say “Wow, that is beautiful and amazing” is the world’s way of praising God.
I recently read a book that talked a lot about this. It was called Awe and the author, Paul David Tripp, talked about the way we as human beings see and experience the world and want nothing more than to be awed. And it’s true. We like being awed and amazed. We want to see cool, funny, awesome, emotion-stirring things. That’s why any time I see a video on YouTube that I really like, I send it out to about 5-10 people. We share these things with people because we want them to share in the awe we’ve experienced. Same goes for a movie or TV show or a restaurant. If we liked it, we want to tell others so they can witness and participate in the same things we did. Similarly, if we did not enjoy something we will be quick to communicate that as well. Don’t watch this movie. Don’t eat at that place. It is not awesome. It is awful. We pursue things that instill awe and we run from things that lack it. Awe has a lot of great stuff on this subject, but here are three of my favorite points:
Tripp says “[People] get up every morning, and without ever being aware of it, they search constantly for awe. They have dissatisfaction in their souls, an emptiness they long to fill, and they are attracted to awesome things. That’s why they go to great museums, stadium concerts, expensive restaurants, and playoff games.”1 Recently, the Clemson Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide in an exciting National Championship game. I had a friend get half a dozen tickets for about $700 each a few days before the game. On January 11th (the day of the actual game) he had people willing to pay him $1500 per ticket. But he didn’t sell them. He loves Clemson and wanted to be physically present to experience the event. He wanted the potential awe that accompanied the game.
This could be a relationship with a special someone, playing a sport, working towards a goal (like going to a good college) or getting a high-paying job. A good way to figure out where you look for awe is to finish the sentence… “If I just had this_______________ I would be completely happy and my life would be perfect.” On February 5th Tom Brady appeared in his 7th Super Bowl. He is without question one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Personally, he’s at the top of my list. But a few years ago Tom Brady was being interviewed on 60 Minutes and said this: “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings, and still think there's something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, "Hey man, this is what is." I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think: God, it's gotta be more than this. I mean this can't be what it's all cracked up to be. I mean I've done it. I'm 27. And what else is there for me?” The interviewer followed up by asking Brady what he thought the answer was. Brady’s response was simply “I wish I knew.” C.S. Lewis has a great answer. He said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
The two houses I lived in while growing up both had the good fortune to be in cul-de-sacs. I say this was a good thing because it meant I could play outside in the “road” without my parents worrying about cars or anything else potentially hitting us. The cul-de-sac was a dead end. It didn’t lead anywhere. A lot of times that is how we treat awe-inspiring people and things. We delight in the thing or the person or the event without going any further. Instead, these created things are meant to lead us to be in awe of the One who created them. They are supposed to be avenues, not cul-de-sacs. Tripp aptly states, “As it is true of a street sign, so it is true of every jaw-dropping, knee-weakening, silence-producing, wonder-inspiring thing in the universe. The sign is not the thing you are looking for. No, the sign points you to what you are looking for. So you can’t stop at the sign, for it will never deliver what the thing it is pointing to will deliver.”2
My hope in talking about Awe and avenues is to encourage you and strengthen you in your faith. God is infinite, eternal, and unchanging and He created the heavens and the earth and He is bigger and grander and more delightful than we can ever imagine. But, He desires a relationship with each of you. He cares for you on an individual person basis and wants to know you and for you to know Him. And the way the divide between us as sinful, finite, creatures and Him as loving and just and infinite Creator is reconciled, is through the perfect life and sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. God has revealed Himself to us through His Word and His world. I believe that to grow in your relationship with God you have to be in the Word. It is our primary and best way of, as 2 Peter 3:18 describes, “…growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ.” But I also believe we have the opportunity to experience and witness the goodness and majesty of God every day through the world that He has made. So follow the avenues, experience the awe, and take great delight in the One who is before all things and in whom all things hold together.
1Paul David Tripp, Awe (16)
2Paul David Tripp, Awe (21)
I was looking at my retirement account the other night and wondering how to get the greatest return in 2017. I was thinking…“Hmmm. The stock market is at an all-time high. Interest rates are projected to go up. Gold is down and oil is going up. And Trump is shaking things up. So what should I do?” I will admit right now that I didn’t have a clue and I was not even sure who to listen to.
But it did cause me to reflect on the investment advice Jesus gives in Luke 16. (And you can count on his guidance being 100% on the mark!)
In this parable, Jesus tells of a manager who was about to be fired. Worried that he would not be able to provide for himself, the dishonest manager ingratiates himself to those who are indebted to his master so they’ll take care of him when he loses his job. Jesus then tells his disciples what they are to learn from his parable.
“And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings…. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?”
(Luke 16:9, 11-12)
Here is my paraphrase. Use worldly wealth to make friends who will greet you when you enter heaven. If you are not faithful in the use of your money, don’t expect heavenly rewards. After all, your money is not really yours. It belongs to God. And if you don’t use his money for his purposes, what makes you think he will reward you?
For years I just paid lip service to these verses. And that’s because I did not truly grasp this foundational truth.
Despite being familiar with these truths for many years, I must admit to failing miserably at living them out. Being more concerned about accumulating wealth than honoring God, I was quick to keep and reluctant to give. Naturally, I earned a well-deserved reputation for being cheap.
But in 2012, Congress passed a law that was going to dramatically increase the cost of flood insurance on our Isle of Palms home. To escape this impact, Ceil and I decided to elevate our house by about eight feet. In making this decision, I had to fight a battle in my heart and mind about spending a lot of money. During this struggle, God impressed this truth on me: My house is not mine and my money is not mine. It belongs to God. So quit worrying about God’s stuff. He will do what’s best with his resources.
This was a truly liberating moment. It freed me from anxiousness over “my stuff” and worrying about tomorrow. For instance, now when I am faced with an unexpected expense like a car repair, I just say to myself, “If this is how God wants to use his money, then so be it.”
Having our grip on money loosened by understanding who it really belongs to allows us to begin living out this next truth.
Most people want to please their boss. When I was in the Navy, I was entrusted with significant resources. And my commanding officer made it very clear that I was to use those resources to accomplish the Navy’s mission. And, if I did it well, I would be rewarded.
Likewise, God gives us his resources which we, his managers, are to invest wisely. This parable teaches that wise and faithful investing of God’s money will yield a specific return: people greeting us when we arrive in heaven. This should not be a surprise to us, for God sent his Son “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). And God has left us on earth to help other people get to heaven, to make disciples of all nations for his glory, honor and praise. Knowing this, it only makes sense that we should use our resources towards that end.
So, the question we should ask ourselves is, “Am I at least as concerned with growing my eternal reward as I am with my growing my bank account?” What is the focus of my investing? Is it primarily focused on increasing my pleasure and security or is it on extending the kingdom of God? As Randy Alcorn says in his book, The Treasure Principle, “You can’t take it with you but you can send it on ahead.”
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