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.
Church 101 Listen Now

The Infrastructure of the Church

Church 101

The Infrastructure of the Church

As we begin our study of Church 101, the first basic truth we will see is found in 1 Corinthians 1:1-3.

“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 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: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:1-3

As we take a closer look at these three verses we are going to see the infrastructure of The Church of God.

First, The Church of God is made up of THE MESSENGER

“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother”. (1 Corinthians 1:1)

The reason behind Paul’s opening in verse one is because those in Corinth were questioning his authority. The initial address of sectarianism is seen later in chapter one. Paul’s Position is stated clearly: He is an apostle. He was called by the will of God.

This speaks to the divine origin of HIS POSITION

God chose Paul. This was not a task he volunteered for. He was an apostle sent by God. The word Apostle (apostolos) means “sent from”. In the Greek, the one sent isn’t the main focus, rather the focus is upon the sender and the reason for the sending. So, God is the focus! God is responsible for Paul’s ministry as well as the message he is writing to the Corinthians (and to us). John MacArthur clarifies the role of the one sent:

When the Jewish supreme court, the Sanhedrin, was asked to arbitrate a serious dispute or to give an interpretation regarding Jewish law or tradition, they would send their decision by an apostolos to the parties involved, who were often represented through a synagogue. As far as the message was concerned, the apostolos possessed the full authority of the Sanhedrin. He did not speak for himself, but for the Sanhedrin. Yet he was more than a messenger. He was an emissary, an envoy, an ambassador. Paul was God’s envoy, God’s ambassador (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 6:20), God’s apostolos. (MacArthur 222-26)

Paul wanted them to know he was writing God’s message and that he is simply an emissary delivering the Lord’s message.

The next thing we learn about The Messenger is: HIS PERSON

“and Sosthenes our brother”
Though an apostle, he was still equal to all believers. All Christians are saints. The Corinthians had those who thought they were super-saints. Either prominence, prosperity, or power led them to feel superior. Paul associates himself with the church in Corinth using the term “Our brother”. The New Testament consistently presents the theme of family: We are One through the blood of Christ Jesus!

How is this applicable to the church today? Ministers are called by God. Trust me, no one chooses to be a minister. All are chosen and called by God to a specific task. Ministers are to proclaim the eternal, timeless message of God. We are ambassadors for God. We are delivering His message.

Even though ministers have different responsibilities they are still equal to the saints. All believers are a part of the body of Christ, so none are more important than the others. Ministers lead the sheep, but only by following Christ’s leadership. They are to be treated as part of the family. When a group or person tries to run the church it is never a good thing. When a pastor sees himself as a dictator it is never a good thing. It is like a single cancer cell that will eventually destroy the whole body. The church is one body united in Christ.

The first infrastructure of the church of God is GOD’S MINISTER.

In tomorrow’s post we will examine the Second Part of the Infrastructure of the Church of God.

Resource: MacArthur, John. 1 Corinthians. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1984.

The Church of God is the first 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.

Living Oaks Baptist Church
8855 E 91st St
Tulsa, OK 74133
www.lobc.net
918-250-0210

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A How To Manual for the Christian Church

The Church of God

Church 101 A Study in 1 Corinthians
There was a mother who had watched her son through the week begin to drain in energy. And by the end of the week he had simply lost the desire to get up and get with the day. She heard the alarm go off through the door. She listened as nine minutes passed and the alarm went off again. Apparently he just kept punching the little snooze button on top of the alarm. Finally, after three or four extra rings, she decided to take charge so she walked in and said, “Son, it’s time to get up. You’ve got to get up.” He peeked out from under the covers and said, “Can you give me three good reasons I have to get up?” She said, “Well, yes. First of all, it’s Sunday, and you need to get dressed for church. Second, you’re forty-three years old and you know better than to lie there. Third, you’re the pastor of the church and they expect you to be there!” (Swindoll 419)

I imagine this is how Paul might have felt when he heard all that was happening in the church of Corinth. And yet in spite of all they were doing wrong, Paul begins his letter with encouragement, joy, and thanksgiving. His letter dealing with the problems in the church of Corinthians is more like a how-to-do-church book. In fact, because of this I have entitled our study of 1 Corinthians as Church 101. In this wonderful book we will learn a great many lessons on how to or even how not to do church.

Some of the major issues we’ll deal with are:

  1. Divisiveness
  2. Church Discipline
  3. Litigious spirit
  4. Privileges and limitations of Christian Liberty
  5. Principles of Rhetoric
  6. Domestic Issues
  7. Women’s Roles and Status—home, church, society
  8. Behavior at the Lord’s Table
  9. Spiritual Gifts
  10. The Resurrection

As we study through the book, we’ll see the problems Paul addresses were not just relevant to 1st century Corinth, but are still pertinent for the church in 21st century. In tomorrow’s post we will explore the first three verses in Chapter One and examine the Infrastructure of the Church of God.

Resources:Swindoll, Charles R. Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations and Quotes. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998.

The Church of God is the first 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.

Living Oaks Baptist Church
8855 E 91st St
Tulsa, OK 74133
www.lobc.net
918-250-0210

Saving a seat for you

 

No, I Won’t Bless the Food

PrayerDo  you pray before you begin eating a meal? I don’t mean “God is great, God is good, thank You for this food, Amen.” I mean a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving for God’s provision. I once heard of a family who prayed over their grocery sacks before unpacking them so they didn’t have to pray at each meal. I don’t think this is the right motive or means for giving thanks for the nourishment God provides through our daily bread.

In his post “No, I Won’t Bless the FoodDonald Whitney gives some great instruction on why and how we should pray before we begin each meal.

Whitney writes:

In my travels, at the start of a meal with Christian brothers and sisters, I’m often asked, “Will you bless the food?”

“No.”

My hosts sit there in stunned silence for a moment. Then, with everyone staring at me with awkward, “What do we do now?” looks, I’ll add, “But I’ll be happy to ask the Lord to bless the food.”

Maybe it reflects the limits of my own experience, but it’s been my observation that nowadays fewer followers of Jesus pause like this at the beginning of a meal to give thanks for what they are about to eat.

This seems to be true for individuals and for families, at home and in public.

Why the decline? As with all Christian practices and disciplines, unless each successive generation is taught the reason for something, it soon devolves into mere a routine, then an empty tradition, and then disuse.

Biblical origins of mealtime prayers

Have you ever been taught the biblical reasons for the Christian tradition of praying before a meal? To continue reading follow this link: No, I Won’t Bless the Food.