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Thursday, May 30, 2019

June Prayer Requests

We may have suspended Wednesday night activities for the Summer (Kid’s Quest, Youth Bible Study, Prayer Meeting), but we should still look for opportunities to obey the one-another commands amid the busyness of vacations and other activities. To that end, each month this Summer I’ll post a list of prayer concerns that we can bring before the Lord on behalf of the body at PBF.  

Possible Building/Property Transition
  • Please pray for the property steering team.  Wisdom, endurance, time.  James 1:5: If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 
  • Please pray that God would move the godly and ungodly entities involved to accomplish His will for gospel ministry at PBF.  Prov. 21:1: The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.  (Ezra 1:1; Hag 1:14-15)
  • Please pray that all members would labor to maintain the unity of the church, as transitions tend to be times of great temptation to contend for preferences at the expense of the kingdom.  Eph. 4:1-3: I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Vacation Bible School (June 10-14)
  • Pray that God would bring a large number to encounter Him.  John 8:12: Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
  • Please pray that seeds would be planted in some, watered in others, and that God would grant growth in all.  1 Cor. 3:6: I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
  • Praise God for the workers and ask that they would be blessed in their labor. John 4:35-36: Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.

Youth Camp @ Crossings (June 24-28)
  • Please pray that the saved would enjoy intensified affection for Jesus.  Psa. 63:3: Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
  • Please pray that the eyes of the lost would be opened.  Acts 13:48: And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.  (Acts 26:12-18)

  • Please pray for spiritual renewal and energy for the chaperones.  Psa. 103:2-5: Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Warning Signs Preceding "Big" Sins

The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. (Proverbs 22:3)

I’ve heard the same question many times: how do people fall into the really big sins?  How it is even possible for seemingly mature believers to give in to what might be considered life-altering sins like adultery?  

We may have a hard time understanding it because we envision temptations to these kinds of sins coming out of nowhere, as if one minute a person can be living a life of complete faithfulness to the Lord and the next minute they are destroying their lives with an outrageous act of rebellion.  Yet, this isn’t really the way it happens.  Big sins are usually the result of the toleration of long series of smaller sins.

(Is it biblical to categorize sins as big and small?  Some would say no, that all sin is the same.  It is true that all sin is sufficient to condemn us to hell.  However, all sin is not the same in terms of temporal consequences.  The consequences of an unkind thought are not going to be the same as the consequences of murder.  This is demonstrated in the OT treatment of various sins.  There were some sins that were punishable by the death penalty and others that were not [Lev 20]. The NT echoes this by indicating that there are some sins that are more serious than others, like sexual sin or creating division in the church [1 Cor 5:1-13, 6:18; Titus 3:10-11].  This is the distinction I am making by using the terms “big” and “small.”)

The Bible teaches that our enemy is cunning (Gen 3:1; 2 Cor 2:11,11:3).  He’s no idiot.  He disguises himself as an angel of light to deceive us (2 Cor 11:14-15).  He’s not going to spook us with a temptation to a huge sin out of nowhere.  He will seek to lead us there slowly.  We could think of lesser sins as training wheels for the bigger sins.  We give in to relatively small things and those sins train us to tolerate sins that are a little more serious.  And those sins prepare us to tolerate bigger sins.  Sin is a progressive thing.  Slavery to sexual sin or compulsive lying or rampant gossip doesn’t happen over night.  We tiptoe into it slowly.  

All along the way, there are signs warning us, “Hey! Look out! Danger!”  As the proverb above indicates, we are wise to see danger and hide from it.  The Scriptures promise us that for every temptation we face, there is a way of escape (1 Cor10:13).  When we sin, it is because we did not take advantage of that escape.  We saw the warning signs and intentionally walked right past them into our sin.  

The most obvious warning sign is the Holy Spirit convicting us of sin.  But are there other warning signs?  Here are just a few:

(1) A gradual shift from a focus on godly influences to a focus on secular influences.  Sin degrades my appetite for truth.  When I find myself not interested in godly influences the way I once was, but secular influences are taking up more of my time, it may be an indication that I am avoiding godly influences so that I can remain comfortable in some sin.  

(2) A progressive appetite for certain smaller sins.  This may not even mean giving in to those sins, but may just be a ramping up of the intensity and frequency of temptation to those sins.  That is a warning sign.  You need help.  

(3) A progressive tolerance for certain smaller sins.  By “tolerance” I mean actually giving in to the temptation and not repenting and seeking help.  If there is a sin in your life that used to be completely out of bounds, but with which you have now become accustomed and even comfortable, that’s huge red flag.  Your conscience is becoming insensitive and you are progressing toward bigger problems.

(4) A cooling of my pursuit of Jesus.  The Lord taught us in Matt 6:24 that no one can serve two masters.  A decreasing passion for Jesus is a sign of an increasing passion for some other god or sin.  

(5) A progressive difficulty spending time in the Word and in prayer.  This is tied closely to the previous one.  We all have days when we don’t feel like praying and when the Bible seems like its written in another language.  But a long season of dryness can be a warning sign that we are in spiritual danger.  There may be sin that is pulling us away from the Lord.  At the very least, these are times when we are more susceptible to temptation.

(6) Pulling away from meaningful fellowship and accountability.  We’ve heard it a million times, but that’s because it’ s true: God gave the church to the church to help the church be the church.  We need each other.  But sin likes to hide: For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed (John 3:20).  If we are avoiding other believers, it may be a sign that we are motivated to hide something.  

So, if you see one of these warning signs in your life, what should you do?  Tell somebody quickly.   Grab a brother or sister and tell them you need help fleeing from a certain sin or reinvigorating your walk with the Lord.  2 Timothy tells us that when we flee from sin and pursue holiness, we need to do it with others (2:22).  Sanctification is a team sport!  We must be in the Word and in prayer with others by our side. 

If you feel like you are entrenched in something or even in danger of heading down the wrong road, tell someone immediately.  The elders are always available and our church is full of believers who will encourage and help you.

We’re all capable of the worst of sins.  That’s why we need to pay attention to the warning signs and take advantage of the tools God has given us to combat sin.  

Friday, May 10, 2019

Success! Do These People Know How To Rummage or What?!

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. 
(James 1:27)

All I can say is that our Orphan Care Ministry team is serious about doing whatever is necessary to help others adopt children.  They proved it again by transforming PBF into a flea market and back again last weekend. 

It’s amazing what these people are capable of.  Wednesday evening after our monthly prayer meeting, it looked like a landfill vomited in our sanctuary.  Thursday represented fourteen hours of highly-motivated volunteers organizing, pricing, hanging clothes, and posting signage.  Friday morning a crowd of rummage sale aficionados showed up like we were giving away money.  

By the end of the sale at 3pm on Saturday, my only thought was, “How on earth are we going to get this place looking like a church before tomorrow morning?”  One hour later, my only thought was, “God is so kind and I love the body of Christ at PBF.”  Many hands make light work and the place was transformed very quickly.  

The sale was an enormous success.  The proceeds will be added to our Lifesong for Orphans Fund.  We explained last year that LifeSong For Orphans manages all the funds raised for adoption through our Orphan Care Ministry.  The funds are used for adoption loans, which are repaid via adoption tax credits.  The first loan to use the funds was recently repaid in full.  With the diligent fundraising and generous gifts of the last several months, the fund has quadrupled since that first loan was made.  We praise God for His blessing through the kindness, hard work, and generosity of many.

It’s crucial to remember why we care for orphans.  We serve a God who has a heart for the fatherless.  He sent His Son to die and be raised so that He might adopt a multitude of spiritual orphans eternally.  We are among that number.  We promote adoption because we want to be like Him and because we want to be a living picture of that gospel.

May the Lord bless all who contributed to the rummage sale by donating items, time, and sweat.  It was for an eternal cause!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

God’s Power to Save through Simple Means

Once again, we see the result of faithful gospel preaching: “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (v 21). It is quite extraordinary to consider just how often we find this type of phrase in Acts. Regularly, the Lord saves a multitude as the church faithfully fulfills its commission to preach the gospel. Regrettably, in our own day, many churches have turned away from the simplicity of preaching and evangelism. Some churches and Christians seem to think that preaching and evangelism are ineffective means of advancing the kingdom. Instead, many church-growth books advocate an endless array of marketing strategies and clever programs designed to bring people into the church. But God’s ways are far simpler and far more effective. This is his church-growth book: it is called Acts. Spirit-filled and Spirit-empowered preaching and evangelism are his appointed means of bringing people into his kingdom.

We should particularly note that the disciples in this passage did not have access to an enormous amount of money, or any status in the culture, or clever marketing techniques. These Christians were harassed and under constant threat of persecution. Yet God blessed their efforts to simply and clearly communicate the gospel to their friends and neighbors and anyone they met. Let us never doubt God’s power to save through the simple means of gospel preaching.

—R. Albert Mohler, Acts 1-12 For You: Charting the Birth of the Church