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November 17, 2013

"Justification by Faith Alone" written by Thomas Kavoori

What is it? It is to be justified before God whereby the righteousness of the whole life of Jesus Christ is credited to your account and the unrighteousness of your whole life is credited to Jesus Christ's account. This transaction is possible because of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is actualized in your life by grace through your 'faith' in Him. Since this is not of works of the law (Titus 3:5, Eph 2:8-9), you do not earn your justification. Jesus died for your past, present and future sins (Heb 10:11-12, Rom 6:10, 1 Pet 3:18) and He will never die again (Rom 6:9). Additionally, those who are justified are made perfect for all time (Heb 10:14). Therefore, once you are justified, you are justified for all time and you don't need to be justified again. Finally, once justified, you will never lose your justification because the Bible says that those who are justified will eventually be glorified (Rom 8:28-30), those who are Jesus's justified sheep will never perish (John 10:27) and that 'nothing in all creation' (including ourselves) can separate justified people from the love of God (Rom 8:38-39). Welcome to a salvation that you have not earned. How to be justified? Jesus Christ is the only way to God (John 14:6). He tells us to repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15, Acts 2:38; 16:31; 20:21). The Greek word for 'repent' is 'metanoia' which means 'change of mind'. The call is to 'change our mind' about who Jesus is and to place our 'trust' in Him for forgiveness of sins, eternal life, satisfaction, justification etc. If we genuinely 'believe' in Him, we will go to Him. We will 'do' something about it. Faith is always reflected by actions. Let's look at an analogy. When I tell a child that there is a candy bar in the fridge, only if he 'believes' me will he go and open the fridge. Notice that he doesn't open the fridge to believe me. He opens the fridge 'because' he believes me. Similarly, we are ‘justified’ before God by the inward ‘genuine faith’ that ‘works’ with the outward ‘action’ which reflects that ‘genuine faith’. James 2:22:-“You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected” So, if you 'change your mind' and believe that Jesus is the perfect, eternal-life giving, delivering, satisfying, holy etc. son of God, you will go to Him, be justified before God forever, be regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 3:16, 2 Cor 5:17) and will display evidence of a converted life. If you do not believe then you are condemned already and you have no hope (John 3:18). Why? The gospel gives us 'salvation' as a gift through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We do not earn our salvation through our dedicated discipleship, moral lifestyle etc. This ought to raise up affections of gratitude in our heart. Jesus demonstrated this in His own life when He looked at an adulterous woman and told her that He didn't condemn her. Only after saying that, did He tell her to stop sinning. This concept is seen all over the scriptures (Rom 6:8-14; 12:1, Col 3:1, Luke 7:47). Romans 5:8:-”But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 1 John 4:18:-”We love, because He first loved us.” You will never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never outgrow your need for the gospel-John Piper. So, look at your 'Savior' and 'Savor' His love for you through the Cross and go live for Him. Amen.

October 3, 2013

Worship written by Thomas Kavoori

  • Why? We're all seeking 'joy' or 'happiness' or 'fulfillment' in our lives. Some believe that they will be fulfilled in romantic bliss. Some believe that they will be fulfilled in financial success or power. In order to attain these goals, we make disciplined sacrifices to get them. Empirically, Hollywood repeatedly shows us that these items fail to deliver with stories of divorce, drug-abuse, violence, emptiness, immorality, suicides, depression etc. Why aren't the promises made by our movies and music coming true in reality consistently? Why don't they deliver 'joy' or 'happiness' or 'fulfillment.'? In the Bible, Jesus tells us that He is the bread of life and that he/she who comes to Him will 'not' hunger and that He is living water and that he/she who comes to Him will 'never' thirst(John 6:35). Conversely, if we do not go to Him we will hunger and we will 'always' thirst. In the Old testament, David says that God will show him the path of life and that in His presence is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore(Psalm 16:11). Outside of His presence there is no fullness of joy. Paul says that the fruit of the Spirit is love, 'joy', 'peace', faithfulness etc. and apart from bearing Christian fruit, there is no fullness of joy(Gal 5:22-23). John the Baptist says that the friend of the Bridegroom(Jesus) is the one who stands and 'hears' His voice and he/she rejoices greatly because of the Bridegroom's voice which has led to his joy being made full(John 3:29). Outside of hearing your Heavenly Father's voice, there is no fullness of joy. I want to crush your hope of finding 'any' real, eternal, worthwhile, God-honoring, God-glorifying, positive, etc. 'joy' or 'happiness' or 'fulfillment' in a person or thing other than God. I do want to give you hope that this 'joy' is available to you. In fact, Jesus died for that to happen to all of us(Matthew 27:50-51, Hebrews 10:17-22, Psalm 16:11, John 15:11).
    What? Paul urges us by the mercies of God to present our bodies as a living and holy 'sacrifice', acceptable to Him which is our spiritual 'worship' to Him. The truth is worship works similarly for both believers and unbelievers. It depends on 'who' or 'what' we worship. Take someone who worships 'pornography'. He craves it. He believes that it satisfies. He is 'addicted' to it. He 'sacrifices' time, energy, money, relationships, health etc. to get it. Similarly, a person who is 'addicted' to the idea of being financial successful 'sacrifices' money, time, energy, relationships etc. to 'get' it. Whatever we worship is a 'God' to us. By doing this, Paul tells us that we have 'worshiped' and 'served' the creature rather than the Creator because we exchanged the 'glory' of God for an 'image' in the form of corruptible man and other creatures(Romans 1:23,25). We 'worship' boyfriends, girlfriends, sex, partying, drinking, pornography, food, friends, children, success etc. God 'wants' us not to have any other 'gods' before Him(Exodus 20:3) and to exchange the 'glory' back to Him. Do not misunderstand the word 'glory.' I am not talking about service alone. Remember, Jesus said that we must worship 'and' serve God alone(Luke 4:8). He uses two different words to indicate a difference in the meaning as seen in the text above from Romans.
    How? If Jesus offers us joy in Himself(John 14:6), then He wants us to get 'back' to being addicted or passionate towards Him. David compared his 'hunger' or 'passion' towards God to a deer that pants for the water(Psalm 42:1-3, 63:1, 27:4). God said that this man was after His own heart and that he would do 'all' the will of God(Acts 13:22). This is not a concept. This is an experience and Jesus is better than all our idols. You have to understand, believe and practice this if you are to move in worship towards God. This is the groundwork from the inside. Enjoying God. Your Bread. Your Life. Your Father. Your Master. Your Friend. Your Lord. Your Creator. Hopefully, Your Everything. In order to do this, I believe Jesus gives us a simple command. 'Behold', 'Seek' and 'Look'. What does 'glory' mean? Jesus tells us that eternal life is to 'know' Him(John 17:3). Then, Paul tells us that God caused his light to shine in our hearts to 'give' to us the light of the 'knowledge' of the 'glory' of God in the 'face' of Jesus Christ. On Mount Sinai, Moses asked God to show him His 'glory'(Exodus 33:18). From my study, I have come to the conclusion that 'glory' is the character or nature of God. It's about who He is and what He is like. God told David to 'seek' His face(Psalm 27:8). That is what He tells you and me to do. 'Seek' His 'face'. 'Know' Him. Then, praise Him for 'who' He is and 'what' He has done. This is why Paul said that He counted 'all' things to be loss in view of the 'surpassing' value of 'knowing' Christ Jesus His Lord(Philippians 3:8). Here is an application. This is how we are supposed to measure our spiritual growth. Ultimately, our growth is seen in how much or better we 'know' God. We can have head knowledge with no power or obedience. We can fake miracles. We can fake conformity to rules from the outside. We can't fake 'knowing' a person(1 John 2:14, 2 Cor 3:18). Do you know God? Do you know How He feels towards people? Do you know what He wants? Do you know why He gets mad at sin?
    Conclusion:-Seek Him. Get Him. Know Him. Enjoy Him. Praise Him. Serve Him. Glorify Him. 'Love' Him.

August 29, 2013

"Ambassadors and Association" by Kevin Corr

So I’d have to say that I’m a pretty big fan of the Transformers movie series and have been ever since the first one came out; I’d probably even put it in on the top five of my all time favorite movies.  And you know what, though I wouldn’t put it in my top five, I’d have to say that I really enjoyed the second Transformers movie as well, which a lot of people might have to disagree with me on that.  I don’t think people would say that it’s terrible, but that it was definitely a disappointment compared to the first.  For me however, I thoroughly enjoyed it almost as much as the first movie and couldn’t wait for it to come out on DVD so I could watch it repeatedly, just as I did with the first movie.  Yet, when I finally got to watch it at home, I’m not even sure if I finished it- I didn’t remember it being that long!  I wanted to stop watching it after the battle when Optimus fights valiantly to protect Sam, but despite all his might he was unable to withstand Megatron’s sword to the back after all the gunshots and punches to the faces Optimus endured.  Everything after that scene: meh.  Despite all this, I still really like the movie.
            You see, when Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen came to theaters, I went to the midnight premiere, but I still saw it two hours later than I normally would have.  It came out the summer I graduated high school and for the first time in years, I got to return to Colorado where I grew up before moving to Georgia.  I got to see the movie with my best friend from my childhood (who was also excited to see it because he loved the first one) and he loved watching the sequel at the theater as well, even despite the fact that we had to watch the movie on a smaller screen because our other friend had ordered her ticket too late, so she couldn’t get into the theater whose screen was only a few feet smaller than IMAX.  We had a great time the entire night and loved the movie from beginning to end.
            I realize this is a bit of a lengthy introduction and is a random story from my life, but the reason why I loved Transformers 2 wasn’t because the story was so compelling (it wasn’t) or because I thought the twin robots were hilarious (though they were rather racist) or because it was full of Michael Bay explosions (that one’s actually true, but the size of the explosion doesn’t equate to the quality of the film).  I liked Transformers 2 because of the memory I have being back in Colorado, seeing it with my childhood best friend, and the fun I had that night.  I’ve maybe watched that movie only two or three times since I saw it in theaters, but I still really like the movie because of the good memory I associate with that film, not because of Michael Bay explosions.
            Now, to relate this to subject of being ambassadors of Christ, the fact is, anyone who is associated with the church, anyone who claims to speak the words of God, anyone who claims the Bible as truth, anyone who claims to be a Christian- well, they are an ambassador of Christ and as ambassador, they represent Christ, thereby reflecting him as well.  I’m not even referring to people of the present, but really the entire history of Christianity.  Unfortunately, I think the ambassadors of Christ have poorly reflected Christ throughout history by mistaking the will of God with their own, being an elitist and Pharisaical, or even just believing that they are a Christian when they have not truly been saved.  It is in my opinion that because of these mistakes from the past- and sadly the present as well- when people see the church, they have an association with it that tunes out the love of God, the fact that Christ died for them.
            Of course there are other reasons for why people are repelled away from the church, I simply point out this negative association people have because while there may be countless ambassadors of Christ, there are few who truly reflect Christ, while as the rest-- well, they’re just poor ambassadors. 

            So the church might have a few bad reviews right now and this is why I shared my story at the beginning. I still like Transformers 2, even though it was a pretty lousy movie, because of a positive association I hold with it.  As such, I write this to those who are discouraged by the negative view of the church given by those who are poor ambassadors of Christ, to encourage you that as you strive to bare the same title but with the intent of truly reflecting Christ, remember this:  “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.  For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:14-15).  If you are shining your Light and are continuing to be Salty, you may be the fragrance associated with what they believe to have gone foul.  Remember this though: the aroma of a fragrance may linger and please those who are unfamiliar to its scent, but a person rarely chases after something based just upon their nose.  A scent may attract, but a vast amount of Salt will make a person thirsty.  My point is, continue to reflect Christ so that those who are perishing may associate him with God’s love and no longer with the people who don’t deserve it in the first place.

August 23, 2013

Glorification in Temptation by Kevin Corr

Personally, I’ve found that a common question among people of the church stems from the beginning of time: “Why would God have created the Tree of Knowledge in the garden of Eden in the first place? Wouldn’t Adam and Eve never have sinned if it was never there?”  I can understand why this question concerns people: if God gave us free will so we can choose to love him, could we not have chosen to love God even without that tree’s existence?  To be honest, I’m not sure that while God was creating the earth, God made that one particular tree with the intent that it would have the potential to be the downfall of mankind (though, being omniscient, I’m sure he knew anyways).  I doubt that that tree was any taller than the rest, or any greener, or it’s fruit any more tasty.  In fact, I believe that the Tree of Knowledge could have potentially been any other tree, but what gave it it’s title was just the fact that God commanded Adam and Eve to not eat from it.  As such, it wasn’t the fruit of the Tree that made Adam and Eve ashamed, but disobeying God’s command.  Like all of God’s command, they are of the utmost importance, but in this case, I would much rather have had Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command than God never declaring the Tree of Knowledge at all.
    Allow me to explain.  First off, obviously I do not condone the sin that Adam and Eve committed, but what I mean is that I’m glad God gave Adam and Eve the opportunity to sin rather than never giving them that opportunity at all.  Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan to sin and I think that just like with the Tree of Knowledge, temptation has an association as sin itself-- temptation equals sin, the Tree of Knowledge equals sin.  This is certainly not so however, temptation only leads to sin if you give in to it, but temptation is like a coin-- there’s another side to it.  When you resist temptation, when you resist the opportunity to sin, you are not merely avoiding sin, but you are glorifying God.  “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4), therefore the other side of the coin- resisting temptation- is living according to the law and commands of God; what could be more glorifying to God?  Looking on this side of temptation, such an opportunity could practically be welcomed so as to glorify God, rather than falling into sin.  Adam and Eve fell into the temptation of Satan to bring sin into the world, but Jesus resisted multiple temptations from Satan to never be bothered by him again and “angels came and were ministering to [Jesus]” (Matt. 4:11).  Analyzing the difference between the two scenarios, Adam and Eve only had each other, while Jesus had received the Holy Spirit by this point in his ministry.  While temptation may be scary because of the risks involved in falling into sin, with the Holy Spirit we can conquer temptation and Jesus was given even further support upon resisting temptation.  Though it may be difficult at first, the more we stand up against temptation, the easier and more opportunities we will have to glorify God.
    It may be crazy to think that there are opportunities to glorify God even when facing temptation, but this is where the question of the meaning of the Tree of Knowledge is answered.  Would Adam and Eve ever had sinned if there wasn’t a Tree in the first place?  Assuming that the Tree was the only means that Satan could tempt Adam and Eve, then I would have to say the answer to this question is no, the two of them probably wouldn’t have sinned.  But the other side to this is that they never would have had the opportunity to glorify God.  I’m not saying that if the Tree was never there that sin would’ve never entered the world (after all, Paul says in Romans 3 that man does not seek good so there may have been other opportunities for man to sin), but if this is true then there also would have never been an opportunity to glorify God.  Personally, though the risk was great, a world where we’re never given the opportunity to glorify God hardly seems like a world worth living in, even without sin.  I believe that God thought the same thing when he made the Tree and He may have been disappointed by the results, but He also knew the reward.  Since he gave us a second chance through His son, whenever we feel the sting of sin when falling to temptation, we have another opportunity to resist it and know the reward of doing so.

May 21, 2013

Doubt written by Anna Wostbrock

Doubt is and has been a struggle since the beginning of mankind. In fact, I am convinced that it was doubt that brought sin into the world. Back in the Garden of Eden, God provided Adam and Eve with everything they needed and more. Think about the most beautiful place you’ve ever been… stop. The beauty that you just pictured must have been far less than the beauty that surrounded man in the Garden God had created. God gave them everything except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It could have been mere curiosity that led Eve to that tree but just maybe, Eve looked at the tree, desired what the serpent told her the tree would provide and then suddenly it happened. Eve doubted God’s provision. Eve did not believe that God had her best intentions in mind when he forbade her and Adam to eat from the tree. For doubt left unchecked, can worsen into unbelief. And unbelief means we are no longer trusting Him.
            You see, I am just like Adam and Eve every day. Daily, I struggle with the fact that God does not do what is best for me. That He is hiding what will truly make me happy. Those lies, which I choose to think upon at times, are extremely far from the truth. God not only always has what’s best for me in mind but He also knows when to reveal it. So often we allow our doubt and unbelief to fester in our minds up until the point where we explode. Our emotions hit a wall and if you’re anything like me, you end up hurting someone with your emotional outburst caused by personal problems of lack of trust towards Christ. This person is probably thoroughly confused by this point because 5 seconds ago, you were normal and all they did was kindly tell you it was time to eat dinner, while you were in the middle of your favorite TV show. True story. Don’t let it happen to you. But what if we brought our doubts to God BEFORE they turned into frustration. He is always there to listen to us but we have to, in return, listen to him. He loves us enough to correct us when our attitude is wrong, so be prepared for some possible loving correction (Rev. 3:9). Go to God with your worries and doubts and let him comfort you. He loves you and knows what’s best for your life. Don’t bottle them all up inside you. Christ knows that life is hard and that it is rarely "fair". But remember who He is. Emmanuel. God with us. Hear His sweet voice:

Trust me Child. I have your ultimate good in mind. 

April 29, 2013

Think you got it under control?

I'd like to share with you all somethings that I've been learning and God has been showing me. I have this habit of wanting to know what's going to happen. For instance if there is a schedule I will check it numerous times, I'm sure I've asked Tony multiple times a trip about what time or when something was going on. I like to be in the know. Well when it comes down to God and his plans for us we aren't going to get to know everything. One reason being if we knew what was going to happen in our future then that doesn't leave much room for faith, trust, and surrender. How much would that require us to rely on God? Not much at all. When I look at my future I have to trust God and have faith in what he is doing that it will work out. Proof is in one of the probably most used cliche verses to throw at some one but fact of the matter is that all things do work together for the good those who love God (Romans 8:28). Like our guest speaker said a couple weeks ago, life is kind of like a puzzle with out the picture, you get pieces along the way and sometimes you see where they fit and sometimes you don't but at the end of your life you will see the picture and see where God put together something amazing and you had no idea what it was going to end up like. We have to come to terms with this or else we are going to be miserable and always wondering or asking God why something is the way it is. Accept that you won't understand everything, you won't know what's ahead until you get there. Even when you think you have a handle on where you're going and what you think God's plan for you is, you don't. Yeah, God will reveal somethings to you, but not the whole picture. We need to also surrender control over to God on our lives. God has a plan and I believe that he is going to accomplish that plan. We have the choice to surrender and obey or to be hard headed and think we have it under control and do it our own way. One choice will result in peace while I can testify that the other will be a struggle and get you in a spot that you never would have been in had you surrendered to begin with. God has reminded me of these things lately and I've felt like the rug was pulled from under my feet, but the reality was I put too much faith and trust in my own self and my own plans that I was not standing on the solid rock of Christ, I was standing on a faulty plan. As some of you maybe at a point in your life where the surrendering control and having to trust God completely is a struggle and down right scary I hope you remember Philippians 4:6-8. do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:6-8 ESV)