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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Today’s Sermon

Hello again!

Today we had a “step-in” pastor, who had been a missionary in various parts of the World for the majority of his life. He preached one of those “touch-and-go” type sermons, where he talked on various points, and then brought in a scant bit of the Bible to support one or two of his points. That being said, he did also preach good doctrine, that the Bible does teach (not that you might know that the Bible taught them after listening to the sermon). He taught us the “high-five”, in which I believe every finger represents a different Biblical principle. They were the following:

First, the thumb is to represent love, without which the Church would perish. Second, the pointer finger is to represent hope, which sustains the Church. Third, the index finger is to represent joy, which keeps the Church going. Fourth, the ring finger is to represent respect. Finally, the little finger is to represent truth.

He mainly used stories from his life as a missionary to demonstrate each point, but what I took away from it was this: firstly, that it’s only by Jesus’ ultimate display of love for us, when he died for us on the cross that the Church can keep from perishing. Secondly, it’s only by Jesus, our hope of glory, that we can be sustained. Thirdly, it’s only by our joy in our redeemer that we can keep going. Fourthly, we can live respectfully/obediently to God because of the strength that Jesus gives us. Finally, we can only find truth in the truth, the way, and the life: our savior, Jesus Christ.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Todays Sermon

 

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From Depraved to Saved

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16)

Now, this passage can seem a little foreboding at first. After all, if Paul was the foremost among sinners, what can we call ourselves? Now, it is true that Paul persecuted that Church (and so has some reason to try to call himself chief of sinners) it’s also true that none of us wrote a healthy portion of the New Testament. Nor, for that matter, have any of us in all likelihood been stoned, beaten, or imprisoned for the Gospel.

Yet, something we need to realize, is that Paul’s doing all those things (or having them done to him) didn’t have any impact on his actual salvation. It probably had a very significant impact on his faith, but did nothing towards saving him. – Paul was someone who recognized that no good deed he could do could ever compensate for even a single sin in God’s eyes. It’s only by Jesus’ death and Resurrection that both his and our sins could ever be wiped away. In fact, he essentially reminds us of his this fact here in 1 Timothy:

“But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”

Paul has a sense of his own depravity. He realized that Jesus’ saving him was really a miracle in patience. We all should, at least to some extent, think on how bad we really were. We should realize our own depravity, as Paul did. But we should also never stop there. Rather, we should do what Paul does in the very next verse:

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1: 17)

Yes we were wicked, but God is good, and he forgave us our wickedness! We need to constantly remember this; to constantly remember that though we were lost in our sin, Jesus chose to come and die so that we can live forever. It’s only by Him and Him alone that we can live a life to God.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Concerning The Law

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. (1 Timothy 1:8-11)

The law is good. I won’t be the one to deny that statement, that’s for sure. But, there needs to be a distinction made about who it’s good for. There are many religions, not the least of which is Catholicism, that still teach that the law is necessary for believers. (When I say “law”, I am of course referring to the Ten Commandments as they are defined by the New Testament, not any Earthly law). Now, while I believe we should strive towards obedience of the law through the strength that Christ gives us in order to live a more pleasing life to God, I believe Paul makes it very clear that the law was intended for unbelievers. As Paul puts it in the above couple of verses:

“understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient,”

Unbelievers need the law, not so that they can be saved by it, but so that they can realize that salvation through obedience to the law is absolutely impossible. Thus, hopefully leading them to Christ, who has already obeyed the law and lived a perfect life so that our short comings can be forgiven. However, does this mean that the law is useless for the believer? I wouldn’t say so. However, first someone needs to get a correct understanding of how they can, why they should obey, and the actual significance of obedience to the law as defined by the New Testament.

We’ll start with the last point first, because I believe its most important. The significance of the law for the believer is nowhere near what many would make it out to be. In other words, it is not (as I’ve already pointed out) a means of salvation. However, (this is the second point of the three here), I believe that since Jesus has given us grace and strength enough to do so (that’s the first point of the three), we really ought to try to obey the law. This is because. when we are saved, we are given a new nature: a nature that wants to serve God, and it is my understanding that obedience to the law is one of many ways in which we can serve God. We have to understand, of course, that we cannot hope to always obey or to serve perfectly. Only Jesus could ever do that. However, it ought to be in our new nature to try. The alternative is living a life of sin, which would be a rather clear indication that we may not be quite as assured of salvation as we once believed.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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Getting Back to Christianity

Hello again!

Today we’ll be moving from Ruth (which we finished up last Saturday) onto 1 Timothy. – This is what God gave me today in His word:

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (1 Timothy 1:3-7)

What is the only “doctrine” that is indisputable among Christians; the only doctrine that causes stewardship by faith instead of speculations? What is the only doctrine which charges someone to love, and gives them the capacity to love by giving them a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith in God? What is the only doctrine which should never lead to vain discussions, or cause people to want to become teachers of the law?

Is it the Baptist doctrines? No, it can’t be those. Those have led to some many vain discussions among believers it’s: stunning. Could it be the “doctrine” of Catholicism? Catholicism is the epitome of what this doctrine can never be: they are not only teachers of salvation through the law, but their message is entirely void of love. Could this doctrine be the doctrines of the Armenians, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, or Jehovah’s Witnesses? No, no, no, and no. The answer is no, because none of these doctrines or religions can give someone a pure heart! None of these can cleanse someone’s conscience, or make them want to love others, and none of these can give someone a sincere faith. The only thing that can do that, is the Gospel.

Jesus, and not any one group, is the only one that can cleanse our conscience, give us a sincere faith in God, and give us a pure heart. – Only by looking at the cross, and seeing the great love that He has poured out for us, can we gain a desire to love others. That’s why, at first, those who followed Christ were called Christians. They were called that, because they were so radical in their faith that people came to identify them very closely with the one that they followed. They were not called Baptists, because baptism wasn’t nearly as an important thing as following Christ was to these people. They weren’t Catholics, because those who were around them knew that their obedience to the law sprang out of their love of Christ. We need to get back to that: to where people see that we identify so closely with Christ, they can only call us Christians.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2012 in Delivered Through Love, Religions

 

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The Weak of the World

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (Ruth 4:13-17)

Ruth: a widow, a Moabite, unspectacular in almost every way… And the great-great-great (etc.) grandmother of Jesus.  But why would God chose someone like Ruth to be a part of the genealogy of the Christ? Not only that, but why would her story, and not the stories of every other person in Jesus’ genealogy, be recorded in the Bible?

27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

God often uses the lowly in order to more clearly show His power. After all, who would have thought that someone as “un-extraordinary” in appearance (the Bible tells us there was nothing in his appearance to be desired) as Jesus would be form that God would choose to take when He became man? And who would have thought that a cross, which is nothing more than wood, would be the object used to bring salvation to all people? I hate to sound too cheesy, but it is a truth of the Bible that you don’t have to be gorgeous, or the best of the best at everything, or anything else that the World would consider extraordinary in order to be used by God. Ruth was nothing special (though she did have a commendable devotion to her mother-in-law), but God chose to use her to change the lives of trillions throughout the millennia.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Our Redeemer

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” And he said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. (Ruth 3:7-10)

Now, isn’t this wonderful? Ruth comes, asking her redeemer to take her under his wing; to protect her, and not only does he do so, but he also blesses her in the Lord. Not only that, but he calls her his “daughter”, signifying the feeling of protection he has for her. – You don’t let your daughter be unprotected, and by calling Ruth his daughter, he was essentially taking her into his family, and telling her that he would be her protector and guardian. I mean, really, what a perfect picture of our relationship with Christ!

Jesus, though it cost Him His very life, freely took us under His wing. In Christ, we are now sons and daughters of God almighty. As the Psalmist puts it:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (Psalm 91:1-4)

Through Jesus, and Him alone, we can be protected from sin. He is our shelter and our mighty rock. – Our redeemer has taken us and made us a part of His family; He has taken us into His family, and through His blood poured out on our behalf, we have been made new creations, holy, spotless and pure. Though sometimes we may not feel so spotless or pure, and though we may fall to sin occasionally, Christ can give us the strength to overcome in every situation. – We do still need to exercise that strength that God gives us and resist temptation, but even in that God gives us the very will to exercise the strength He has given us. As Paul promises us: there is no temptation that God will not provide a way for us to stand up under it. (See: 1 Corinthians 10:13).

The point being this: in every situation, we can know that our kinsmen redeemer, Jesus Christ, can and will give us strength.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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