God, Can You Hear Me?

Many years ago during a worship service, I noticed William was singing very loudly during the song “At the Cross.” I listened carefully as he sang, “At the cross I bow my knee, where Your blood was shed for me, there’s no greater love than this…” As he stood there with his arm around me singing as loud as he could, the smile on my face could not possibly have been any bigger. There we were, father and son, worshipping our Savior together.

Later that night as I was tucking William into bed, I remarked, “You sure did like the song, ‘At the Cross’ we sang at church this morning.” To which he replied, “Yes, I did, dad, but how did you know?” “Well,” I answered, “I could hear you singing and normally I can’t hear you. What made you decide to sing that song so loudly?” He said, “I was singing loud because I was wondering if God could hear me with so many other people singing.” The depth of his remark surprised me. I never expected a seven year old to think about such things. The unified voices singing praises was so great that William wanted to make sure his voice was heard by Jesus. I reassured him that even if a million people are praying or singing at the same time God is able to hear each and every voice. Everyone is important to God.

I know there have been times in my life when I didn’t feel like my prayers were making it past the ceiling, much less up to God in heaven. Nevertheless, our Father in heaven is always ready to talk with us; all we have to do is call out to Him. The Bible tells us that one of Jesus’ roles in heaven is as our intercessor between us and the Father. There are times we want to shout, to whisper, to cry, to sigh, and other times to sit in silence not knowing what to say. Regardless of how we approach Him, God hears us. He hears the pain, fear, sorrow, anxiety, concern, passion, longing, hope, joy, excitement, curiosity, and trust in our prayers. He loves us and longs to not only hear from us, but to share His plan for our lives. He loves to spend time with us—He created us to fellowship with Him. Don’t let the noise around you keep you from the most important conversation of the day. God can hear you, so take time to sit down with Him to talk, listen, and enjoy the familial relationship you have with your Father in Heaven!

A Memorial of Love

Love Is the Cross-powerpointI have always wanted to go to Washington, DC and see the many memorials honoring different people or events throughout the history of the United States. Personally, I would like to see the Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and the WWII Memorials. These memorials and museums offer a glimpse back in time. They may not be able to take you back to the events, but they can help give you a better understanding of history.

In all of creation there is no greater memorial of God’s love than the cross. Whenever we are struggling we can always look to the cross and be reminded of God’s unconditional love for all those who are His children. The cross is our hope, confidence, and peace that we have passed from death unto life. At the cross all our sins have been judged and now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

At the cross we see God’s love as His wrath for our sin is poured out upon Jesus. Why? Because Jesus not only died for us, but he also died because of us! He took upon Himself the punishment for our sin. Now, when we believe in His finished work upon the cross and commit our lives to Him, we will have forgiveness of sin and eternal life in heaven.

Regardless of the struggles, pains, or uncertainties we face in this life we need simply look to the cross to be reminded of God’s surpassing love. The cross moves our perspective from the temporal to the eternal, from the earthly to the heavenly, from the painful to the peaceful!

As we move into this Memorial Day weekend, let’s be sure to remember LOVE IS THE CROSS!

Tears of Joy

William 0 monthsI can still remember the day my son was born. I had been praying for him for twenty-four years and now  he was finally here! The nurse had just finished wrapping him up when she said, “Mr. Pittenger, would you like to hold your son?” I nodded my head yes with tears of joy streaming down my face. The joy I felt that day was more than I could ever have thought or imagined.

On January 20, 2013 I had the privilege of baptizing my son. He had chosen that dateWilliam Baptism because it was the same day I was baptized in 1974. I had started praying for his salvation way back in 1980 when I was 16, and now at the age of 48 I was seeing the fruit of all those prayers. I baptized him and as he came up out of the water once again my eyes were filled with tears of joy—uncontrollable JOY!

Today was special day at church. Pastor Alex Himaya explained in simple terms the importance of baptism and salvation. At the end of the service he invited anyone who accepted Christ or who had never been baptized to do so today. I watched as 23 people made a public commitment to follow Christ through Believer’s Baptism! I saw people whose eyes were filled with tears of joy as their loved ones were baptized.

tC BaptismAs I left church today I was overcome with tears of joy from seeing so many people join the family of God. I don’t know any of their names, where they live, or what they do for a living, but I do know they are my family—my eternal family!

Thank you Jesus for such a wonderful gift that produces beautiful tears of joy!

LOVE IS A VERY SPLENDID THING

Love is a very splendid thing

It has been said that “love is a very splendid thing.”

Of the endless list of splendid things I could say of my love, Shirley, one that comes to mind today is all the love and care she has put in over the years to record our lives in pictures. We have a cabinet full of photo albums that hold the treasure of our journey together.Cabinet of Photo Albums

Every once in a while we will pull out an album, sit side-by-side, and look through the pictures and talk about our memories of each picture and how much fun we had. When we finish that album, usually one of the three of us will suggest looking at another specific vacation or event. The pictures are a reminder of the love, joy, happiness, adventure, fun, and laughter we have had throughout the years. It also reminds us of how far we have come over the last 22 years.Family Photo Albums

The love and anticipation that we felt when we stood at the altar and exchanged vows doesn’t compare to that which we have now. Why? Because now we have experienced the events of life that have been built upon the foundation of the love and anticipation we felt all those years ago. We now have hindsight into what it took to get to this point.

It is remembering that in all the joy and sorrow, happiness and sadness, peace and pain, accomplishments and failures, hopes and disappointments that we can make it through together until death do us part.

There is another picture album I like to look through when individually I am struggling—it’s the Bible.

In the Bible I see one picture after another where the grace of God empowered and equipped men and women just like me to accomplish great things, even in the midst of fear, pain, and tragedy.

Some of the pictures of grace I see are:
• God’s grace upon Adam and Eve after they sinned. (Genesis 3)
• God’s grace upon Cain after he killed Abel. (Genesis 4)
• God’s grace upon Noah of wisdom for the message to preach and how to build the ark. (Genesis 6)
• God’s grace upon Moses to be able to speak and stay humble in the midst of great victories. (Exodus)
• God’s grace upon David to go from shepherd to king. (I Samuel 16)
• God’s grace upon the 12 disciples to leave their possessions, follow Jesus, overcome fear, preach the Word, spread the good news of Christ, and endure martyrdom. (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts)

Regardless of what we are going through, we can pick up the Bible and find pictures of God’s grace being poured into the lives of His children to help them through every possible challenge.

God’s grace still empowers believers today, just as it did those in Biblical times.

God’s grace is truly amazing. But not only is God’s grace amazing, it is also timeless.  In tomorrow’s post, we will explore 1 Corinthians 1.4-9 and see pictures of God’s Timeless Grace.

What challenges have you walked through where you found God’s grace poured out into your life? What struggles are you currently going through that you need an extra measure of God’s grace to help get you through?

God’s Timeless Grace is Part 2 in the Sermon Series Church 101: A Study of 1 Corinthians at Living Oaks Baptist Church in Tulsa, OK.

Join us at 10:45 AM each Sunday for contemporary music and worship as we continue the series Church 101.Saving a seat for you

Living Oaks Baptist Church 8855 E 91st St
Tulsa, OK 74133

The Ekklesia

EKKLESIA

The Infrastructure of the Church Part 2

As we continue in the sermon series CHURCH 101, let’s explore the second  infrastructure of the Church of God – THE MEMBERS

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

The MEMBER’S POSITION

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus…”

The church, Christian believers, is the assembly of God’s people. The word church (Ekklesia) in secular Greek meant an “assembly duly summoned.” Paul changed the term to represent the church. We are called out of the sinful world by the Holy Spirit to be a part of the body of Christ. Ninety percent of the time, “church” refers to the local congregation, which speaks to the importance of a local community. One cannot grow into the image of Christ outside a local church.

Believers are “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” “Sanctified” is a perfect participle (Patterson 21). The Greek perfect tense portrays a past act, the consequences of which continue on. This is our position in Christ. We are sanctified in Christ. This is a past act that is to be lived out daily. Those who have been sanctified look like, act like, and live like it!

“As Christians one of the strongest rebukes we can have when we sin is to be reminded of who our Father is. And reminding ourselves of whose we are should be one of our strongest deterrents to sin. Remembering our position can compel us to improve our practice.” (MacArthur 301-303)

 

The MEMBER’S PRACTICE

“called to be saints” (verse 2)

Our practice is based upon our position. Believers are to live out who we ARE in Christ, not how or whom we are trying to be. We are saints or holy ones – God’s called out distinctive people. We are to discipline our bodies to live out who we are in Christ—saints and holy ones.

“Christian discipleship involves striving to become that which in terms of status God has already given. Practical holiness entails being transformed in Christ-likeness and goodness day by day” (Thiselton 31)

We are God’s called out and set apart saints by and for Him. Therefore, we are to reflect God’s character in our daily lives. Not to be saved or to please God. We do so because we are saved and long to live and look like whose we are!

“A little boy was accustomed to attending a church which had beautiful stained-glass windows. He saw that the windows contained pictures: “St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, St. Paul,” and others. One day he was asked, “What is a saint?” He replied, “A saint is a person the light shines through.” (Barnhouse 203)

“Does God’s light shine through you? Christ commands, ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven'” (ibid 203).

The MEMBER’S PARTNERSHIP

“…with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours…” (verse 2)
The Corinthians had the habit of thinking they were an island all to themselves. They could live and set their rules however they wanted. In truth, no church is isolated from other Christian communities. Community tradition, doctrine, and practice are all very important. Paul wanted them to know they were a part of the entire body of Christ.

Notice: “Call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (verse 2). This is the earliest confession of faith—Jesus is Lord. Lord was OT reference to YHWH. Here Paul declares Jesus the same as Father God. There are those who do not believe in the Trinity. However, this verse and many others prove a great problem to their beliefs. Regardless of some non-essential differences, we are in a partnership with all true believers.

We must realize our POSITION and PRACTICE have an effect on the universal church of Christ!

The MEMBER’S PRIZE

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 3).

The gift of God’s grace.
Grace always precedes peace. Grace is God’s free, unmerited, sovereign gift. It is God’s “undeserved, gracious acts whereby He has chosen to provide existence, with all its benefits, and access to God, with all its blessings to those who are the objects of His purpose”—His sanctified saints! (Patterson 23)

The gift of peace
Our definition of peace is no problems, worries, sickness, or struggles. Peace is not a harmonious state or relegated to heaven (Patterson 23). “Peace is the confidence of God’s favor, even in the midst of conflict” (Ibid 23). It is based upon a harmonious state with God. Not a subjective feeling of inner tranquility (Thiselton 33). This peace can only come from Christ and is only given to believers (MacArthur 313).

The gift of God Himself
Grace and peace are the outflow of God’s presences. Paul wants the Corinthians to know God is the ultimate gift. They were too caught up in spiritual gifts. They were bragging about tongues and teaching. They thought they were special because of their gifts. Gifts, by the way, were given freely, not earned because someone is a special Christian. Believers should be focusing on the presence of God in their lives. He has given Himself to us bountifully. “Grace is [God’s] favor [upon believers], and peace is one of its fruits” (MacArthur 308).

Paul begins the letter to the Corinthians by setting out the infrastructure of the church of God. There are MINISTERS and MEMBERS. Each have their specific part to play. Ephesians 4 says that ministers are to equip the members for the work of ministry. That is exactly why Paul was writing to the Corinthians. They were focusing on how important they were as individuals. Paul reminded them of the importance of the body of Christ. It is God’s church and His called-out saints!

Points to Ponder

    • We are to follow God’s plans for His Church.
    • Ministers are to lead, but they are not the heart of the church.
    • Members are to follow and serve, but they are one body.
    • Regardless of whether gifts are seen by all or behind the scenes, all are gifts.
    • No one gets to brag because of their gifts.
    • We ARE sanctified—past act of God.
    • We are to live out who we already are in Christ.
    • God is our prize!
    • Our focus and prayers for other things must be secondary to desiring Him.

Resources:
Barnhouse, Donald Grey. Timeless Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004.
MacArthur, John. 1 Corinthians. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1984.
Patterson, Paige. An Exposition of First Corinthians: The Troubled Triumphant Church 2nd ed. Fort Worth: Seminary Hill Press, 2011.
Thiselton, Anthony. First Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006.
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