Concerns…

outward focused life, the_tI am concerned.

I am concerned that we live in a “serve me” world. We are in route, if not already there, to being an entitlement culture. I hesitated even as I wrote that sentence because I don’t mean to start on such a low note. But to defeat a villain, the villain must first be identified. We live in a serve me world. And maybe, we live in and participate in this “serve me” world more than we know or would care to admit.

I have found there are times when people tip their hands that they are full fledged citizens in the “serve me” world. Like you, I have met many that somehow expect that everybody and every institution is a customer satisfaction desk dedicated solely to meeting their needs. Much to my dismay, I have probably done the same thing.

I’ve seen it in the college classroom. Students (training for ministry no less) will email explaining why they will not be able to submit their assigned coursework and suggest that I should change the due dates or the submission policies. It is not everyone, but it always happens with one or two. It is a “serve me” world you know, so change the policies.

I’ve seen it as a karate instructor. Certainly not with most, but with many over the course of the years – they confuse a class designed for training and instruction with a consumer product designed to serve their ever-changing best interests.
Ive seen it in the ministry. Countless hours with husbands and wives and children. Living in a “serve-me” world. It is a cancer in the home. In the complicated arena of relationships, people propel their marriages toward a train wreck when they live and act like it is everyone’s prerogative to live only for their own best interests. Men and women live like their spouses are customer service reps at a cell phone store or the complaint box at a local diner. When a husband or wife lives like their own needs trump all others, trouble is soon to come.
I’ve seen it with teenagers. At an age where maturity should be progressing, young people instead are increasingly egocentric. Rather than seeing their parents as people who God has given for their training and instruction, many youth really want their parents to be chefs, waiters, maids, and a bottomless ATM machine. And why not? After all, they are being raised and taught in a “serve-me” world.

It was last March when we learned of a New Jersey high school student who decided she could not live in her parent’s house anymore because of the rules – apparently as reported by news outlets, a few chores and a curfew was too much to bear. While living at a friends house – she attempted to sue her parents for the remaining tuition at her private school, as well as living and transportation expenses. An attorney was willing to represent her.

Absurd, you say? Why not? We live in a “serve-me” world.

The tension for the believer is this; as we study the scripture, we see the call of the Christian is dramatically different. The Christian believer, by that, I mean the man, women or young person who has declared Jesus Christ as their savior and only hope for eternal life and their only treasure in this life – the Christian believer is called not to subscribe to the “serve me” mentality, but to be a servant. “Servant” is a nice word, but if we translate it correctly from the Bible, what we learn about servanthood is that we are actually called to be slaves – slaves to God and His will. In bible times, a slave was not a person, but the property of another. For the believer, we are God’s property.

No truth is more pervasive in Scripture than this one – real freedom, real victory is found in obedience and servanthood to God. Yet no truth is more incongruent with modern culture. So, here we stand before stark
crossroads – The gospel message of true freedom vs. the culture’s ideal of living with a “serve-me” mentality.

Culture Teaches – Hold on to Life; it’s yours
Scripture Teaches – Lose your life, for His sake

Culture Teaches – Follow Your Dreams
Scripture Teaches – Let your dreams be His dreams

Culture Teaches – Pride wins the day
Scripture Teaches – Humility wins the day

Culture Teaches – Serve Me; Give Me More; I’m entitled
Scripture Teaches – Serve God; Serve others; Give me less; All I need is
Him.

For the next several weeks at Providence Church we are going to be in a series of messages titled- “The Outward Focused Life – Serving God in a Serve-Me World.” Over these weeks we are going to be studying the scripture on the key issue of servanthood in several key areas of our lives. First we look at the theological foundation of servanthood and why it even matters. We will continue from there to see what the scripture teaches about how we serve God in our families, serve God in the church, and serve
God with our time, our talents, and our treasures.

This journey will be a challenging one for me and I expect for you, but I think it will be worth it when the end game is to look more like Christ and answer His call on our lives.

Join us on Sunday Nights at 6:00 and be sure to invite someone.

Three Reasons Why I still Like the Dead Tree (paper) version of the Bible

bible

Ok, I confess…..I really like technology. For a guy who carried a pager in his early twenties, the things I see now are just amazing! I, like you, am one of millions of consumers of really cool gadgets like smart phones, tablets and BlueTooth headphones, and like many of you, I have no clue how they are made and no concept of how to fix them. I just really appreciate them. Not only is a lot of today’s technology just cool, it can also be very helpful in ministry. 

That being said, here is my next confession: Despite how much I like technology, I still have to use a hardcopy / print Bible.

Do not misunderstand me, I am not against Bible apps. I have great Bible apps on my phone and they are awesome. Some of my favorites are: 

ESV Free Bible App
ESV Study Bible App (complete with all the theological notes, etc.)
Reformed Study Bible App (This is a GREAT app. Lots of great theology articles are included)
Logos Bible Software App

Yes, I have plenty of electronic Bibles and references on my large phone (which serves as my tablet as well), but when it comes to studying and preaching, I need my dead tree version.

Here are three reasons why I will not trade my hardcopy exclusively for a digital Bible:

I can own It

When I have my hardcopy Bible, I am reminded that this is MY Bible. I can own it. I can share it. I can give it away. I can leave it to my children or my grandchildren someday. I really like it when I am about to walk out the door and one of my kids ask, “Daddy, do you have your Bible?” 

Maybe it’s a generation thing, but for me, because it can be seen, touched and handled, it feels important. God’s word is central to my life. My physical Bible reminds me of that. Sitting here tonight, in my home office, with my Bible on my desk, I have a visual reminder of my true treasure, that one paramount priority; to know God through His word. 

I Can Focus.

I need my hardcopy Bible, so I can focus. The great thing about a timeless printed Bible is that it is a single task item, and I need that. In a day where I have instant access to my email, to texts, to world news, to my calendar, to pictures from our family trips, and my continuing journey to break my Temple Run record, I do not need anymore distractions. Yes, maybe I should be more disciplined, and I will work on that. Nevertheless, I have to say, there is something so sweet to my soul when it is just me and my Bible – no distractions.

I Can Remember

When I hold my Bible (especially when preaching) I tend to remember two very important truths:

First, I remember that not everyone has a Bible, and I am so blessed to be holding God’s word. It is hard to believe in this day and age, but there are reportedly many parts of the world that do not have access to the scriptures. There are places in the world where it would be considered a crime, punishable by fines, imprisonment, or worse, to have a Bible. For me, this is important to remember. When I hold my Bible, I remember that I am holding something so powerful and so life changing that nations past and present want it as far away as possible.

Second, when I hold my printed Bible, and I feel the weight of this ancient truth in my hands, I remember the price that was paid by others that I could have a Bible in English. In our day of convenient online purchasing of any shape or style Bible we would like, we would do well to call to mind that blood that was spilled by courageous men in the past. Men who were so persuaded that everyone should have a Bible they could read, that they gave everything (up to and including their very lives) to make their dreams a reality.

Remember a man named William Tyndale (1494-1536)? Tyndale’s life was utterly changed when he discovered the doctrine of justification by faith while reading Erasmus’ Greek New Testament. Tyndale, who was a master linguist, knew the best thing he could do would be to produce an English version of the New Testament, so that many others could read these great scriptural truths. He would pay for this passion with his life. The English New Testament project was not welcome in England, so Tyndale had to hide out in Antwerp to work on his projects. He was eventually arrested and declared a heretic. Refusing to recant, Tyndale was simultaneously strangled and burned in the town square.

Tyndale was not the only brave soul who faced peril for the cause of Bible translation, but his story resonates with me as I hold my Bible today.

!
In the end, it’s not the binding, the font, or even the medium that matters, but the words. This is the Word of our Creator, and while it might not matter to Him whether you read a dead tree version or a digital copy, it does matter to Him that you read it, that you understand it, and that you treasure it. It matters to Him, it mattered to Tyndale and countless others, and I hope after taking these points into consideration, that it matters even more to you!

Adventures in Fellowship!

adventure

In my quiet time today, I was reflecting back on our church meeting this past week. Sunday night was to be our much-anticipated Splash Night for the children and teens of Providence Church. It all turned out to be quite an adventure.

I think we did most things right, leading up to the post-church special event. We advertised it. We posted it to our Facebook page and website. We made special phone calls and invited people. There was going to be no shortage of food either! We bought enough watermelons and ice cream to feed a big group. So there we were- The sermon was prepared for worship. The water balloons were filled.

Then it started….. Ka-Boom!!!! In true summer afternoon Florida fashion, the thunder and lightning began during church. It was looking like 6000 Mariner blvd was going to be on the losing side of the 20-30% isolated thunderstorm chance. The storm was definitely isolated…..right over our church meeting!!

The service continued, and so did the storm. Rain pounded the roof, lights flickered off and on, the sound system cracked, and babies cried. Another perfect Providence Sunday night.

As our church service came to a conclusion, I saw where the amazing hospitality helpers had rushed all the treats from outside into the small kitchen and dining area and were set up and ready to go. The food was ready, but It was looking like Splash Night was off.

We had a big crowd Sunday night, and many of us crammed into the side room for the watermelon and ice cream. Before we knew it, the rain subsided and the sun even peeked through the dark clouds. Our young people needed no prompting; Splash Night for the kids would be on again!

The helpers quickly assembled the supplies and the activities started – elementary in one area- teens in another. The Splashing began (especially for the teens and their unauthorized use of buckets, towels and water balloons.)

And then it came back…lightning…straight down and close by. Event canceled.…again. :(

As we all began to pick up muddy buckets and unused water balloons, and as others were wrapping watermelons and cleaning the kitchen, something struck me…..what sweet, sweet fellowship we are learning to have at Providence Church.

No one complained about the rain. No one criticized being inside, instead of outside, for watermelon. No one was perturbed with the ice cream choices or an upset baby during the church service. The helpers were joyful. The kids were joyful. Everyone who stayed was just…..together….sort of like a family…..the way church should be.

I am reminded this week of a scripture from our current 1 John Study…

“…that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. ” (1 John 1:3)

See, fellowship is something we share as Christians. It starts when we have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That faith in Christ allows me to have fellowship with the Father and with other believers. We can have fellowship because we have a commonality with one another; we have been redeemed, we have been conformed and transformed by our Lord Jesus Christ. And that gives us a shared foundation that an unbelieving world will never understand.

Christian fellowship is a beautiful thing. It means believers can love one another and be with one another in joy despite what the circumstances are. So, whether we are singing together in church, studying the scripture together on a Wednesday night….or shoulder to shoulder stepping on each others’ feet while eating watermelon and ice cream, we can have sweet Christian fellowship.

That’s the kind of church….that’s the kind of people I want to pastor.

– Pastor Greg

P.S. – Here’s some pics of our “brief” fellowship…

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splash2

splash4

splash1

 

 

Splash Day following Church this Sunday!

Splash_Day

Jesus-Apostles-small

“And it is certainly useful that by (the laying on of hands) the dignity of the ministry should be commended to the people, and he who is ordained, reminded that he is no longer his own, but is bound in service to God and the Church.” – John Calvin.

In just a couple of days, a dear friend and colleague of mine, Greg Gunn, will be the subject of one of the most ancient rites in the Christian Church, the laying on of hands in the service of ordination.

This was practiced not only in the New Testament (1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6; Acts 6:6) but also the Old Testament as well (Genesis 48:14; Numbers 27:23). I have to tell you, as the one giving the ordination sermon on this coming Lord’s Day, this terrifies me. Not because I don’t trust and respect Greg, but because of the weight of the responsibility for all who are ordained.

The ordination of a minister of the Gospel in a Reformed church is an event of great moment. In our Presbyterian tradition, this implies that a man has spent the equivalent of seven years in formal training and education. He has passed his written exams (equivalent in difficulty to the bar exam in the legal profession). He has been examined on his views and knowledge by the ministerial committee and gone before the entire Presbytery for a terrifying public examination. Imagine if in order to get your current job you had to stand on your feet for an hour or so and take questions from a field of 20 or more men more qualified and experienced than yourself!

There are some churches and traditions where the guy who is called “pastor” on the marquee is simply the guy with the largest Bible and the cleanest shirt. Today anyone can declare themselves “pastor” or “minister” or “apostle” just by garnering a small following. Many take on the mantle and yoke of ministry flippantly and completely unprepared. But Biblical ordination should prevent that from happening.

Let me ask you this: would you submit your body to surgery performed by a man who studied medicine in a lazy boy on Saturday mornings? Would you have a man defend you in a court of law who is a mere amateur in jurisprudence? Would you get into an airplane flown by a weekend hobbyist? How much more so, then, should our souls be put under the care and authority of a man who has been tried and tested first! Men should be trained, examined, and proven to have a high level of competency, and then ordained.

That day is Sunday for Gregory C. Gunn, who has become a dear friend and colleague of mine.

The promises made in this service are no less serious than marriage vows. In some sense, Greg will be publicly “marrying” the service of God. And the bond that will be forged in that moment will be no more breakable, no more escapable, than the divine merging of two persons in holy matrimony.

Yes, like a wedding there will be vows: promises made to be faithful to the Word of God; promises that the ordinand will remain faithful to the gospel and declare it with every last ounce of strength that he has. The pastor being set apart for ministry that day, as Calvin notes, is reminded through the laying on of hands that “he is no longer his own, but is bound in service to God and the Church.”

The great reformed Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon once warned his students, “The first sign of the heavenly calling is an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work. In order to a true call to the ministry there must be an irresistible, overwhelming craving and raging thirst for telling others what God has done to our own souls…Do not enter the ministry if you can help it.”

Those of us who have taken the ordination vows have neither time nor leisure to entertain any other dream, or pursue another calling. We are not playing around here. We are not “playing church.” This is blood-serious. We respond to the Gospel call with an urgency that requires the whole of us. As an ordained minister of the Gospel, we must preach the Word with every pulse, muscle fiber, brain-wave, and hiccup of our being.

And so I am both terrified and overjoyed at the thought of the elders laying hands upon one of my dear friends. These praying hands will place him in the tradition of thousands of years of men who have devoted their lives to the ministry of the Word and Sacrament. Many of them died in the line of duty as pastors, evangelists, and missionaries.

The magnitude of the commitment is almost too much to bear; which is probably why the symbol of the placing of hands upon the candidate’s head and shoulders persists to this day: he needs many people–praying believers–to hold him up, keep him standing, prevent him from falling on his face.

Left standing alone, the weight of the duty of the pastorate would certainly crush us.

Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.

 

Proclaim_study

Our new Bible study kicks-off this week, Wednesday, June 4th at 7:00 PM at Accuform – located in the Hernando County Airport Industrial Park. We hope you will come out and be a part of this weekly study as we dive deeper into God’s word and seek His will in our lives.

Maybe you’re on the fence about whether or not you should come. Maybe you’re wondering if this study is right for you. Let me give you three huge reasons why you should come this Wednesday night.

1. Ancient Truth Is Relevant Today
The Christian faith really is “ancient”. It’s a cool word isn’t it? I also like the word “antiquated”. But don’t confuse ancient with antiquated! Ancient means something is old. Antiquated means that something is old AND that it is irrelevant or outdated. The gospel that we believe is ancient, but it is unbelievably relevant for today. Every aspect of God’s word applies to our lives. The Old Testament points to Christ, and the New Testament tells us what Christ has accomplished and how we are to live as His Kingdom people. As we dig into the mountains of truth revealed to us in scripture, we avail ourselves to mountains of grace and wisdom!

2. Renew Your Mind to Know God’s Will
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Sounds pretty good, right? Who doesn’t want to know God’s will? I think a lot of people believe that God’s will is mysterious, hidden, and knowable only for those who receive some sort of “special” revelation. And while it may be possible that the Holy Spirit will speak to you in a unique way, He ALWAYS speaks to us through the scripture which He has inspired. As a side note – think about it – this scripture is readily available 24/7/365 on our smart phones! A universe of wisdom on our fingertips! The more you read and study God’s Word, the more you will be in-touch with God’s Spirit. And walking in the Spirit will enable you to experience God’s best for your life. You will gain victory over sin, and grow in the fruit of the Spirit! “…and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

3. All Christians Are Disciples
A disciple is someone who submits-to and follows the teaching (discipline) of another. To be a Christian means that by faith we have believed the gospel – that Christ lived a perfect life, died as a subsitiute in our place, for our sins, and that He was raised from the dead on the third day confirming that the payment was accepted. We believe that. Amen? However, a Christian or “little Christ” as they once mockingly called us, are those who don’t just believe that Christ did something a long. long time ago, but that He is doing something today! He is alive and well, and at the right hand of the Father. Jesus Christ, the One we worship, is the One we FOLLOW. We STUDY His teachings given to us in the scriptures. We APPLY His commandmensts to our lives. We forgive. We love. We worship God in spirit and in truth. And beloved, we tell the world about Him! Our mission is to tell of His great love, His pardon for sin, and His benefits now and forevermore. How do we prepare ourselves to walk with Christ and share the gospel?

Come Wednesday night and see…

Resurrection Sunday at Providence!

Easter_Blog
Ten Practical Ways to Honor Christ on Resurrection Sunday

by Matthew Everhard

This coming Sunday is huge. This is the day that the Christian church traditionally celebrates the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But did you know that it is also an extraordinary opportunity to honor Him with your practical service?

Here are ten ways that you can glorify Christ be serving Him this weekend.

1. Post your church’s activities on social media. Help your church create a stir that something extraordinary is happening. Indeed it already has. Jesus rose from the grace.

2. Invite a friend. My experience shows this is the time of year that non-church people are very receptive to an invitation to come to church. Do it. Be bold. Take them to lunch afterwards.

3. Park as far from the church as you are able to walk. Give the visitors the impression that this place is accessible. Let them think, “This place is better than Wal-Mart! I pulled right in a primo spot!”

4. Beeline to a visitor. Make sure people feel welcome in your church. We forget how terrifying it is to walk into a new setting where everyone else seems to know each other. It is okay to let the people you already know and love float without you for a few moments. This is the best opportunity to connect all year.

5. Don’t take the best seats. Sit near the front. You read that right. Most visitors are hoping to “sneak in the back” and take a distant seat to observe from afar. Give the visitors and Christmas/Easter folk an opportunity have their choice of premium seating. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a charismatic to sit in the front row. You can stay Reformed, even if you are near the pulpit! Spurgeon said so. Or was it Calvin?

6.  Pray for your pastor. If he is like me, he is agonizing over his sermon this week. Really trying to hit a home run this weekend. Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire him, and pray that he remembers that the Holy Spirit converts sinners, not the best-prepared sermon.

7. Be a good example. Fill out the connection card. Open the hymnal. Pronounce the creed loudly. Keep your Bible open during church. All of these non-verbal cues show visitors, “This is how they do it here.”

8. Stay and clean up. Most years, this is the busiest weekend service of all. It’s also the messiest. Bulletins and gum will be everywhere. The restrooms will be well-used. The staff is likely exhausted from multiple services this week. Give them a hand.

9. Pray again. After the service is over, pray again for the sermon, that the Spirit would come and seal the message into people’s hearts even after the formal time of worship is over.

10. Tweet, share, and promote the audio, video, quotes, and Scriptures. Do this both before and after the weekend. Let people know what is coming up–and what happened when it is over.

– Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.

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)

CHILDRENOFGOD

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

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