Elijah Series: Showdown! Elijah vs. Prophets of Baal

The Prophets of Baal Defeated

So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that had been thrown down. Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.

And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.” And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

(1 Kings 18:30-40 ESV)


Ephesians is a great book for us, Providence! The reason it’s so relevant is because the writer of this book of the Bible, the Apostle Paul, is intently focused on encouraging the church to walk in the fullness of their identity in Christ. Along the way, he also has some very practical exhortations about how we can do just that. Here’s a great example.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Ephesians 5:1-7

Sexual immorality could mean watching porn. Did I really just read that? Yes, you did. It could mean adultery. It could mean sleeping together outside of the marriage covenant. Keep in mind, Paul here is not addressing “the world” (those who are outside of Christ). This word is for Christians. God is compelling us to turn away from these sins and become imitators of Him. Like a little child mimics his daddy, so we too desire to think and live like our Father. We WILL stumble, and we WILL fall. Is Paul saying that if we commit these sins there is no hope for us? This is one of those passages that scare us (and rightly so)! Does this mean that we can lose our salvation and become excluded from the kingdom of God? No, thankfully – for all of us – this does not mean that we can lose our salvation.

However, take a look at what he put in quotations – “that is, an idolater”. Idolaters will “lose” their salvation because they never had it in the first place. Idolaters do not worship God, they devote their lives to false idols. In other words, their entire life is marked by an unrepentant attitude toward their sin. They never repent of their sexual immorality, or covetousness. It scares me to think that in our churches there would be those who outwardly profess Christ, but inwardly, they really worship the gods of pleasure, wealth, and comfort. In contrast, Martin Luther said, “All of a Christian’s life is repentance”. What he meant is that we are going to sin, but a Christian is also going to repent. A Christian fights. A Christian goes to war with his or her sin. John Piper was famous for yelling at his congregation, ”Are there any soldiers here!!?”

To fight the sin of sexual immorality, you might need to get internet accountability. A good place to look is Covenant Eyes. This sight will allow you to have your internet activity monitored and have reports sent to an accountability partner of your choice.

You might need to break-up with your boyfriend or girlfriend. If your relationship is not heading in the direction of marriage, then my friend, you are simply playing with fire. Am I just a kill-joy, wet blanket, fundamentalist? No, it’s because I care about joy that I say that. Consider this. Sex outside of marriage is a fat lure on the end of a painful hook! It appears at first as though you can have pleasure, intimacy, and love without any strings attached – but there’s always a “catch”. Breaking up after sex is hard. Being a single mom or dad is hard. Relationships post-kids / pre-marriage are awkward. This is not God’s will for our lives. Here’s another option.

You might need to get married. Maybe you are living with someone, and you love them, and you’re a Christian. It’s time to get married. This is not an antiquated thing – this is a timeless thing. It’s the right thing to do – for your spouse, for you children, and for your relationship with God. Ephesians, chapter five, verses 25-33, describes biblical marriage. Paul says that it is like the relationship between Christ and His church. Christ is a God of covenants (promises). He does not say to His bride, “I will love you and be your God as long as you make me happy”. God’s love is a promise kept. If we are to be imitators of God, we will make a covenant with our spouse. We will be united with our spouse before God and before man. We will shout to the world that God is righteous! He makes a covenant with His church that He will never forsake.

The scripture above also mentions “covetousness”. Facebook might be the single greatest covetous-creating medium in the history of mankind. You see what your neighbor has, or does, and your admiration turns to envy and envy has a slippery way of becoming full blown covetousness. You desire to be fit, sexy, wealthy, healthy, and happy… just like your neighbor. You fall into despair because you are not fit, sexy, wealthy, healthy, and happy. Your neighbor seems to have better control of their kids. Their family seems less dramatic. Their marriage seems more connected. You avoid real community because everybody seems to have a better situation than you. Could it be that you are simply struggling with the sin of covetousness?

In Christ, we are reconciled people from all walks of life. The church is made up of all sorts of individuals who have their own hurts, struggles, and temptations. We also have our own gifts, blessings, and victories! The amazing thing about the church is that we are on equal terms with each other before God. That’s why we call each other “brother” and “sister”. Brothers and sisters are loved the same by their parents. Brothers and sisters are unique and it’s that uniqueness that enables the whole family to prosper. We can lift each other up. We can bear each other’s burdens. We can be a shoulder to lean on, an ear to listen, hands to pray.

Christians ought to never be covetous of each other, and we certainly ought to never be covetous of the world! What does the world have that we could possibly want? Jesus said, “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”. We alone have eternal life. We have joy and comfort in the Holy Spirit! “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore”. We are satisfied in God.

Finally, the Apostle tells us to avoid “filthiness, foolish talk, and crude joking”. Brothers and sisters, you’re non-Christian friends talk like this around you and you say nothing. You watch shows and movies where this is rampant and you feel no conviction. Perhaps your heart has been hardened to “filthiness”? Just as the sole of a foot becomes hardened from walking over rough terrain, so too the soul can become hardened to crude, blasphemous talk and crude joking.

You’re thinking, “Oh, brother, I guess I’ll just live like a monk and never go anywhere or see anything… I guess I can’t go to Easter dinner with my family because Uncle Joe’s going to be there, and I know how he talks!” That’s not what I’m saying. Paul said that if you were to never interact with immoral people, you would need to leave the planet! Jesus Himself hung out with sinners. He was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard! But there is a big difference between being around gluttons and drunkards, and actually being one. Likewise, there is a difference between being around someone who is using foul language / making crude jokes and actually laughing at those jokes or using the same foul language. Let’s not make it easier for sinners to sin. Let’s make it easier for sinners to find Christ.

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth”. How salty have you been lately? I’ve made the mistake of being hot sauce at times when I should have been salt. We’re not trying to burn anybody here! We’re trying to change the flavor of the conversation. Here’s an assignment.

I dare you… double-dog dare you, the next time you’re out in a public place and you hear someone blaspheme our Lord’s name… go up to that person, with all sincerity and gentleness of heart, and say, “Excuse me sir/madam, I would appreciate it if you would not take the Name of the Lord in vain. I find it very offensive.” Does that sound scary? Two things will likely happen. First, you’re going to get so pumped up with Holy Spirit fire that you’ll want to go out and dance in the street, like David. Why? Because the Spirit who dwells inside of you lives to glorify the Name of Christ, and He cannot stand blasphemy. You’re going to feel closer to God, you’re going to gain confidence, and you’re going to glorify Christ. Secondly, here’s what they are going to say in return to your rebuke (9 times out of 10)… “I’m sorry”. That’s right. There is shame, deep down. The problem is, nobody ever helps activate that shame. Nobody is salty. Then, after they apologize, smile and say “It’s ok, Jesus loves you.” You can say that, or you can preach the gospel. Either way. You’re call. :)

Friends, you are saints. You are beloved children. Be imitators of God – for your joy, and for His glory.

- Matt Johnson

Father, thank you that you call us your children. Thank you that we have everything we need in you. We are well equipped by the Holy Spirit. We ask forgiveness for the areas of our lives where we have failed to realize our calling as saints. We have failed to forsake the false gods of pleasure, wealth, and comfort. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for absorbing the penalty that we deserve for our idolatry. Help us to see the joy in living our lives for you. Help us to walk alongside of you. Hold our hand, Father. We are prone to wander, but where you lead us, we will go. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

OlympicGames_smallGood Afternoon Providence Friends,

  • Have you ever felt totally alone?
  • Have you ever stood alone against seemingly impossible odds?
  • Have you ever stared a challenge directly in the face with no certainty what the outcome would be?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you want to be sure to join us this Sunday night at Providence Church, as we open the Bible to the book of 1 Kings and begin our new study on the life of Elijah.

God had called Elijah to important work, but it was hard work; it was lonely work.  It was work that pitched the prophet against seemingly impossible circumstances. I am excited to walk with you through the life of this ordinary man who God called to do extraordinary things.  The real joy in this study will not be so much what we learn about Elijah, but what we learn about God and His power and providence; and how His power and providence is active in our lives today. I hope you will join us for the adventure!

In addition to starting our new Elijah series this week, there are two other important things you will want to remember about Sunday….

Sunday, 4:30pm – Kids and Teens “Fun Olympics” – Come early for some fun and slightly silly games and win some Providence medals or treats!

After Church – Do you like pizza? Stick around after service for our Providence Pizza Night. Yum!!

If you need anything or there is a way I can pray for you, please feel free to contact me. My number is 352.428.6348 or email me at ggunn14@gmail.com.

See you Sunday and, remember, invite a friend!

- Greg Gunn

Papa Joe’s Employee-Relief Fish Fry

Have you volunteered yet for the Papa Joe’s Employee-Relief Fish Fry?

Providence Church has an awesome opportunity to reach out and help!papajoe

For the past 32 years Papa Joe’s has been one of the most giving businesses in this community. Papa Joe and Donna have sacrificially supported local ministries, fed the homeless, donated food, space and talent, and so much more. Now it’s the community’s turn to give back and where should the help come from first? THE CHURCH!

How important is it that the people of a church like Providence help? Very important! If the global church was providing for the needs of people, our world would look vastly different. Not to mention the fact that we wouldn’t have to be looking to the government to provide for our needs.

How can our church be a gospel-centered movement for the good of the city?
How do we engage the world around us with the gospel of Jesus Christ?

What does being “missional” mean – both as individuals and as a church body?

Jesus Christ was the first and greatest missionary. As Christ jesusfollowers, being a missional Christian is following the way of Jesus. The Bible tells us that He came from heaven to earth to die for a lost and dying world. He was sent, the Holy Spirit was sent, now we are to being sent. The Bible reveals how the mission of God was fulfilled through Jesus Christ and how we are called to continue and join our Lord in the Missio Dei (mission of God). The power to be missional comes only from God and motivated by the Gospel. It’s not something we have to fear, He does the work in us and through us! We just need to be willing to be used by the Holy Spirit in a mighty way.

The Gospel is not about what we do, but rather what Jesus did. He lived a sinless life, died a substitutionary death, was crucified, buried and resurrected for the salvation of sinners. Eternal life with the Creator of the universe, nothing can compare! Who gets to deliver that most-wonderful, amazing news? You and I!  The Christian life is about the reflection of the glory of God off our lives and into the world. (Matt 5:16, 1 Cor. 10:31, 1 Pet 4:11)

Compassion is seeing or knowing someone is hurting or in need, being affected by their circumstance, then doing something about it. We will never understand the needs of our community until we get outside the four walls of the church. Is that out of our comfort zone?  You bet. However, as a Christian, mission is not just an option. Being missional means doing things and going places out of our comfort zone, rolling up our sleeves and making a difference!  Christians should (and must) care for the hurting—and unfortunately many believers have lacked that engagement. Remember, the importance of the Gospel is seen in what we value.

So we need to ask ourselves, what place does the Gospel have in our lives?
Do we look forward to each day with anticipation of advancing the movement of God through the Gospel? Does that thought even cross our minds?

Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said, “These places of worship are not built that you may sit here charles_spurgeoncomfortably, and hear something that shall make you pass away your Sundays with pleasure… A church that does not exist to reclaim heathenism, to fight with evil, to destroy error, to put down falsehood, a church that does not exist to take the side of the poor, to denounce injustice and to hold up righteousness, is a church that has not the right to be. Not for thyself, O church, dost thou exist, any more than Christ existed for himself.  His glory was that he laid aside His glory…To rescue souls from hell and lead to God, to hope, to heaven, this is the church’s heavenly occupation. O that the church would always feel this.”

The world is watching!  We are called to lead people to Christ in both our words and our actions. People don’t care how much you know, until they see how much you care!

Filling the seats on Sunday doesn’t make for a successful church. We need to be an inside-out church and let the Gospel penetrate our lives as we treasure Christ and watch that love overflow to others!

Please join us this Saturday at Anderson Snow Park.

All for God’s glory,
Stephanie Knight

“All In” Means It Is All His


The last couple weeks at Providence church, I’ve been encouraging everyone to consider what it means to be “All In.” I’ve been praying and teaching for the end that many will come to a place in their spiritual lives where they will cry out, “God, here I am. Take Me! Use Me! Do whatever you want with me! You, Lord, are my God, and I am yours. Here I am, surrendered!”

We’ve looked at Joshua and his great speech to the people of Israel (Joshua 24), urging them to abandon the foreign gods and to follow the one true God and serve Him only. We studied three young men; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and learned that being “All In” can come with a huge price tag… maybe your life.

What we will soon see (this Sunday night), is that being “All In” also means that God owns everything! Many places in scripture, we are reminded of this amazing, comforting and beautiful truth. In particular, take a look with me at the this passage in 1 Chronicles.

1 Chronicles 29:11-12

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.

It’s a striking reality of the Christian life; God owns everything and it is our responsibility as believers, to manage what He’s given us. As I ponder this truth and consider the scriptures, it’s clear that God’s ownership applies broadly (but it is not limited to) three notable areas of our lives; God owns our time (our calendar belongs to Him), God owns our treasure (our checkbook belongs to Him), and God owns our talents (our abilities are for His glory). It follows then, that it is our responsibility to manage and give our time, treasure, and talents to the Lord for three reasons.

  1. As an act of obedience and worship to the Lord
  2. As an act of love for the church 
  3. As an act of mission to the world

John Calvin, the great reformer and theologian of the 1500′s summed it up like this,

“There cannot be a surer rule, nor a stronger exhortation to the observance of it, than when we are taught that all the endowments which we possess are divine deposits entrusted to us for the very purpose of being distributed for the good of our neighbor.” (Institutes- Book 3, Ch. 7)

My concern is that many believers – even genuine God-following, Christ-exalting believers – have succumbed to some nasty deceptions in this important area of their Christian lives. I know this because I was guilty too. It took me many years as a believer to sort out, understand, and apply the scripture in this area of my life. I had to shake off what I thought made sense to me and rethink some things I was taught and believed. I had to get serious about the scripture and understand that if God owns it all, then I must steward what I have and return to Him what is rightfully His in the first place; my time, my treasure, and my talents.

In the following blog posts I would like to just share candidly what three of these deceptions look and sound like, and compare that to how the scripture instructs us differently. Check back regularly – and please share with your friends! Also, it should be noted that these are certainly not exhaustive insights, but are really just my thoughts as I prepare for the next message. To get the full version of this message, you’ll just have to come this Sunday as we dig into God’s Word together.

Lord, I pray that you will impress on all of us that majestic and comforting certainty that all things belong to You! Lord, I pray our response to that would be one of worship and awe and we would cheerfully give our time, treasures, and talents for your good use. – Amen

In His Strong Grip,
Greg Gunn

An Advent Prayer


The following is from our good friend and brother, Dr. Wilfred Bellamy.

Lord Jesus, my Master, help me to bring to mind the significance of your coming.

It isn’t that I have forgotten the essentials of knowledge, but I need to be reminded of the deep truths associated with that knowledge, that in remembering the one I may not overlook the other.

You left the Father’s throne, you did not try to hold on to it, but made yourself to be as one who is without reputation. Lord of Glory, you became a nobody that I might become a somebody! – you took upon yourself servanthood so that instead of being served, as you deserved, you served others, and gave your life for them.

Baby of Bethlehem you became the exalted one, lifted up, and glorified. You were given a Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus (your Name) every knee would bow. It was you Lord, abased for me, whom the Father raised to glory. It was all so personal. The angels were correct from the beginning – Glory to God in the Highest!

I cannot fully grasp the reasoning but I marvel and rejoice that you became my Savior and that all the fullness of the Godhead lived in you. Crucified, raised, and ascended, it is by your grace that you brought truth to me, not my search, nor my want. It was you who brought light to my heart and filled me with hope of eternity.

And so today it isn’t so much an event that happened two thousand years ago that stirs my soul, marvelous though it is to recall, but it is the Advent promise that this same Lord Jesus will come a second time, “in power and great glory,” and gather me together with Him and all the saints in the clouds of Heaven. “So shall we ever be with the Lord.”

In this season of anticipation help me to keep my eye fixed to the horizon. Help me always to be ready, to live ready. Lift me above present circumstance to look for the Son of Man who will come when I least expect Him, and who will gloriously and suddenly appear – my Great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

May the Holy Spirit set my heart to longing for that day, that I may not waste my life on trivia but seek first the Kingdom of God. Release me from the distractions that preoccupy me, and grant that I may serve you in holiness and righteousness all my days. That’s my prayer.

Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Under the Son: The Pursuit of Meaning

under the son - a sermon series on the book of Ecclesiastes


I needed a mindless decompressing kind of activity this week, so I decided to thumb through my junk mail. After all, what could be more mindless? In the midst of credit card offers, and enticements to come buy everything from new cars to new furniture, I found that I had received one of those Alumni Magazines published by the college from which I graduated. Have you ever received one of those? Alumni updates are these pseudo-magazine type publications that colleges send out to past graduates offering all the news from your old college alma mater. They give faculty news, show construction updates, and often an article on some incredibly successful man or lady who is where they are because they also went to your college. The whole purpose of the publication, of course, is to eventually ask you to send money to help them with their new projects.

While I had no intentions of sending money (I gave them enough as a student), I confess that I had a sudden surge of good memories when I saw pictures of good old Crawford Hall and Louis Hall. Those were the two classroom buildings where I spent most of my time during undergraduate school. Many hours were spent sitting in desks in those two places.

Then I got to thinking: Who was Crawford? Who was Louis? Who were the people these buildings were named after? I know nothing about them. Were they men or women? Were they short or tall? Were they from here or somewhere else? They must have been important at some point, because they got a building named after them. Yet, I entered Crawford Hall and Louis Hall 2-3 times a week for four years and never, ever gave a thought to the people after whom the structures were named, until this week. It was just a name on a building, where I listened to lectures and (sometimes) passed tests.

Then I had a crazy, sort of depressing, morbid thought.

The day is going to come when I am going to die. I am sure I will not get a building named after me; however, I am also sure of this: within sixty minutes after my dead corpse is lowered into a hole, my friends and family will be at some church eating spiral ham, potato salad, and exchanging jokes. I will be nothing but a memory. I’ve been to a lot of funerals. Isn’t that is how it goes? Within minutes of honoring the deceased, life moves on.

Life has a funny way of doing that. The sun rises and the sun sets and rises again. The days turn into months, months into years and on it goes. Time is no respecter of persons. One day we look in the mirror and realize something; there are more years behind us than ahead of us, and we begin to ask ourselves tough questions. Questions like, “What have I accomplished? Will I be remembered?” This is a life phenomenon experienced by millions and millions of people, past and present. As one man lamented to me recently, “Life feels like a great letdown.”

This whole human dilemma is profoundly articulated by one of the wisest and wealthiest men in the history of the world, Solomon. In a wisdom book written near the end of his life, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he penned, “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:3) Solomon continues to write at length and demonstrate from his own experience that all work, wealth, pleasure, and wisdom “under the sun” is vanity, that is to say meaningless! Like a vapor, it comes and goes and no one notices.

The words of Ecclesiastes ring as true today as they ever have in the history of mankind. All life endeavors performed “under the sun”, which is accomplished for this life and world alone, are meaningless. That is until Jesus Christ enters the equation, and then everything changes.

Most people who struggle deciding what they want to do with their lives, never consider the more important question: “For whom am I doing it?”…  If life is all about accomplishment and gain “under the sun”, then Solomon was right - life is truly meaningless! However, if life is lived “under the SON” in a rich relationship with God through Jesus, then everything changes! I like how the Westminster Divines summed it up in the Shorter Catechism, “What is the Chief End of Man? Man’s Chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” (WSC Q1).

Doesn’t that sound great! Doesn’t that change everything? Life does not have to be a great letdown because now life is about loving God: enjoying Him forever. Life with meaning, because it is life under the SON.

Come join us over the course of the next few weeks as we take a look at the Book of Ecclesiastes in our sermon series, Under the Son: The Pursuit of Meaning.

Yours in Christ,
Greg Gunn

Happy Valentine’s Day! Do You Know the Four Loves?


Our culture loves this holiday. Some say it’s a massive conspiracy created by the Hallmarks and Russell Stovers of the world to sell as many heart shaped boxes of chocolate and cheesy greeting cards as possible. That seems plausible. However, could it be that our culture recognizes the importance of love, but has a hard time communicating it?

Did you you know that in the Bible’s original Greek language, the concept of “love” is communicated in not one, but four words? Our culture has one word: LOVE.

  • I love my dog.
  • I love this pizza.
  • I love God.
  • I love my wife.

It doesn’t quite get the job done, does it? The original Greek is much richer! In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Four Loves, the multiple concepts of love are communicated in much greater detail. Get a copy – it’s a great read. In the meantime, let’s look at the the four words and see how we can apply them to our lives today.

1. Storge (στοργή storgē[4]) means “affection” in ancient and modern Greek. It is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring. Rarely used in ancient works, and then almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family. It is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in “loving” the tyrant.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48 ESV)

Jesus is basically saying – you “storge” your parents, your brothers, and your sisters. Good. Everybody does that. But I’m calling you to a higher love. I’m asking you. No, I’m commanding you to love your enemies in the same way that you love your family. Impossible task, apart from the gospel. The gospel radically changes our hearts and enables us to love the unlovable. If you are having trouble doing that, stop right now and ask God to help you to love those who least deserve it. Ask for grace in this area, and I promise that it will be given to you.

2. Philia (Greek: φιλία) is the love between friends. Friendship is the strong bond existing between people who share common interest or activity. Lewis immediately differentiates Friendship Love from the other Loves. He describes Friendship as, “the least biological, organic, instinctive, gregarious and necessary of our Loves” – our species does not need Friendship in order to reproduce. He uses this point to explain that Friendship is exceedingly profound because it is freely chosen.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

The wisest man who ever lived (Solomon) is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so you can take this one to the bank… friends are good. Not the kind of friends you have on your Facebook account, but real-life, in-your-face, help-you-when-you-fall-down kind of friends. To be a perfect friend, you don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be available. Do you have a real friend in your life? Do you have one or two people who you can call – who are not your family – who will be there at your side in a moment’s notice? I’m afraid that probably very few of us actually have friends like this. How do you get one? You have to reach out and make an effort. Extend yourself. Offer yourself in time, in service, and hospitality. Have someone over for dinner. Get a cup of coffee. Play some golf. Jesus had at least three friends (Peter, James, and John) who were His “inner circle”… his support group… His true homies. The twelve disciples were close acquaintances or followers, and then of course there a few thousand groupies who loved Him when He gave out free bread, but later turned their backs to him when he was publicly executed. We need friends, friends. It’s a tough world out there. Let’s walk together.

3. Eros (ἔρως) is love in the sense of ‘being in love’ or ‘loving’ someone. Although it includes sexual desire, it is distinct from sexuality, which Lewis calls Venus. He does spend time discussing sexual activity and its spiritual significance in both a pagan and a Christian sense. He identifies eros as indifferent. It is Venus that desires the sexual aspect of a relationship, while Eros longs for the more emotional connection with the other person.

“My beloved is mine, and I am his” (Song of Solomon 2:16 ESV)

This is probably what we mean when we celebrate Valentine’s Day. After all, the holiday was a celebration in memory of the famous Valentine martyrs in the second century AD. It was said that the priest, Valentine was martyred for marrying soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for caring for Christians persecuted by the Roman Empire. It sounds like Valentine elders of the early church understood love in all of its various aspects. Perhaps the best application of eros in our lives is that between a man and a woman in marriage. At least in Lewis’ mind, sexual relations are almost an afterthought, and far from the center of what it means to love someone in an intimate way. In marriage, the key to intimacy is mutual respect and intrigue. Both men and women experience eros through the heart and the mind. But how those feelings are triggered can be radically different. Women usually want a man to feel interested in their feelings, their thoughts, and their dreams. This engages the eros emotion. Men, do you ask her questions? Do you let her talk and listen intently? Do you speak to her in a way that makes her feel equal, special, or even treasured? On the flip side, most men are not engaged through talking about our emotions. Some of us are, though! …and the same is true for women. Not all women want to gush about their emotions. The key is studying your spouse. Figure out what engages them, and what lights them up. Most men experience eros when a woman respects the man’s headship in marriage. This doesn’t mean treating him like a king or some kind of demigod to be served hand and foot. It means treating him as a leader among equals. It means letting him make decisions, respecting his opinion, and praising him for doing a good job. A man wants to know that his wife has his back. A woman wants to know that her husband cares about her feelings. When both sides are accommodated, eros love will be in full bloom. No chocolate necessary.

4. Charity (agapē, ἀγάπη) is the love that brings forth caring regardless of the circumstance. Lewis recognizes this as the greatest of loves, and sees it as a specifically Christian virtue. The chapter on the subject focuses on the need of subordinating the natural loves to the love of God, who is full of charitable love. Sacrificial love. It is the love that God has for his people.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you (AGAPE) me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I (PHILEO) you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you (AGAPE) me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I (PHILEO) you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you (AGAPE) me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you (AGAPE) me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I (PHILEO) you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:15-19 ESV)

There is an interesting play on words that occurs in John 21 that can only be seen by reading the original Greek language. Each time, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him sacrificially (agape), and each time Peter responds, that he is fond of him like a brother (phileo). Jesus was asking Peter if he was ready for the fate that awaited him – martyrdom. Peter would eventually show his agape love for Jesus by dying a death by crucifixion. Of course, it is even rumored that Peter was crucified upside down because he felt as though he was not “worthy” to suffer crucifixion in the same manner as his Lord. Perhaps Peter remembered how he cowardly responded to Jesus questions with “phileo”, but when his metal was tested, Peter proved to know agape love. You see, agape love is the love that makes all other loves less important. Agape love is eternal love because God is eternal. Agape love is sacrificial because God sent His son to lay down His life for His enemies. Agape love is intimate because the Holy Spirit now dwells inside each believer. Love is more than a study, however… Love is a verb.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 ESV)

“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 ESV)

One Year Anniversary! 2/10/2013

Anniversary Celebration

This Sunday Night is a special day for us. It has been officially one year since we marched into Spring Hill and placed a flag for Jesus Christ and the gospel of grace. Over the course of this first year there has been some amazing growth. We’ve seen new people come and get plugged into the life and mission of this church plant. We’ve seen leaders develop, we’ve seen sacrificial generosity, and wee’ve seen Jesus grow His church. Good things are happening, and that’s a reason to celebrate!

Join us this Sunday, 4pm – 6pm for a cookout. Then, stay for worship, starting at 6pm.

We will be cooking hot dogs and burgers on the grill. We invite you to bring a side dish, appetizer, or dessert to share. There will be games and activities for the kids. Everyone is welcome! Invite your friends, invite your family, invite your neighbors. This is going to be a great opportunity to introduce people to Providence Church.

This Sunday Night

lords supper with special guest matthew everhard

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