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

Overwhelmed with You!

Almighty God, You are my life, my hope, my treasure, my salvation, my security, my peace, my joy, my love, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Lord, and my God!

I have no words to express the depth of my gratitude. All I can do is worship You!

I am OVERWHELMED!

Pictures of Grace

sovereign graceI have often heard people say they have problems reconciling the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New Testament. In the Old we see Him kicking Adam and Eve out of the garden for simply eating something that was against His rules. Then we see God sending Cain out as a nomad with nowhere to call home all because he killed his brother Abel. And then when everyone has decided to live according what they think is right (sounds like something from the 21st century), God tells Noah a flood is coming that will destroy all humanity. Because Noah is a man of righteousness, God commands him to build an ark that he, his family, and a few chosen animals might survive the deluge. These are just a few of the examples that cause some people problems with a God who seems so unforgiving and unwilling to give anyone a second chance.

As I read the whole Bible I see something different. I see a God who consistently deals with people in the same manner. I believe the Old and New Testaments give us an unchanging picture of God. Over and over in both testaments we see pictures of God’s gracious patience. Never do we see an immediate outpouring of His righteous wrath. Throughout every story we can see His patience in not wanting any to perish, but all to come to a saving relationship with Him.

In this past Sunday’s message—Pictures of Grace—we looked at the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain, and the flood in order to see pictures of God’s grace. In each of these instances we can see how God patiently withheld what would have been just punishment to give ample time for all to repent and live in a loving relationship with Him.

If you have struggled with understanding what appears to be a different God in the Old and New Testaments, then I would encourage you to listen to last Sunday’s message. Simply follow this link, Pictures of Grace, and then click on the arrow pointing down. After that you will be able to choose between listening online or downloading it to a mobile device.

If you need to know more about becoming a follower of Jesus please contact me at pastorbob@lobc.net. And if you are looking for a church home, please join us on Sundays at 10:45 a.m. You can find out more about our church at WWW.LOBC.NET.

Stop Beating Yourself Up!

If you are like most people, you have already begun working toward fulfilling your New Year’s resolutions.  Most of our resolutions lead us toward being a better person this year than last.  I would like to share a little bit of my background hoping that it will help you achieve your personal goals.

From the age of eighteen until I was twenty-four, I made a mess of my life. If there was a bad decision to be made, I would choose it every time. I had been raised in church, became a Christian at age nine, tried to be a leader in the youth group, and was growing in my knowledge of Scripture and the Christian life. However, just after graduation, I started making foolish choices. Eventually, I found myself so far away from God that I couldn’t find my way back.

In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15.11-32), Jesus makes it clear that all we have to do is show our repentance, that is turn away from sin, by returning to God. He is always ready to restore us to a right relationship with Him, continue our Christ-like development, and use us for His glory. It is that simple.

I was too smart for all that. I knew I had been too wicked for God’s grace, and therefore, couldn’t accept God’s forgiveness, love, mercy, and grace. I couldn’t accept God’s gifts because I couldn’t forgive myself. I was beating myself up for my own sinful behaviors. I couldn’t hear what the Bible was saying about God because I was too busy trying to fix myself. Needless to say, I was miserable! No matter how frustrated I was with my backslidden life or how determined I was to make myself live the Christian life I continued down the wrong path. I was convinced that I was a hopeless case. I didn’t know it, but that was right where God wanted me—consciously aware of my inability to change on my own.

I realized that relief wasn’t going to come by my ability to control myself. In my own flesh I was always going to make the wrong decision.  My frustration was caused by trying to live up to the standards I thought was expected of Christians. However, in confessing my inadequacy to live out the Christian life on my own, God was then able to live through me. The only way I was going to be truly restored was to come to God broken and contrite. It was then that I was showered in God’s grace and restored into a right relationship with Him. Immediately, I realized I could never let guilt hold me back from enjoying my relationship with God.

Now when I fall short of God’s plan, I am quick to run to the throne of grace, admit my failure, thank God for His forgiveness, and joyfully move on with my life all the wiser. If guilt has driven a wedge between you and God, it is time to run to God, confess your sin and guilt, then enjoy His forgiveness, mercy, grace, and love. Trust me, as someone who has been there, living a life resting in what Jesus has done brings about your best life now!

The Grace by which I Stand

I found this article by Tullian Tchividjian on Churchleaders.com.  As Christians we will find living the Christian life is easier if we rest in the finished work of Jesus rather than trying to live up to our own man-made lists.

The litmus test that I use for myself is that if people walk away from my sermons thinking more about what they need to do than what Jesus has already done, I’ve failed to preach the Gospel.  The Gospel is the good news that Jesus has done for me what I could never do for myself.  And a lot of preaching these days is “do more, try harder,” like you said.  It’s behavior modification.  We come to church expecting God to give us a to-do list or the preacher to give us a to-do list.  As long as we are given a to-do list, we maintain some measure of control over our lives.  Just tell me what to do.

This message of radical grace, that “it is finished,” is difficult for the human heart, the sinful heart to grasp because we’re so afraid of control being wrestled out of our hands.  So we come to church saying, “Pastor, my marriage is in trouble…my children are going off the deep end…my business is failing…I’m coming to you as the expert to tell me what to do to fix my own life…”  And as a result, our lives get worse, not better, because we’re taking matters into our own hands.

So my job at the end of every sermon—and this is the grid by which I preach—I preach God’s law, and then I preach God’s Gospel.  Both are good.  The law diagnoses my need and shows me that my best is never good enough.  So I’m always trying to help our people realize that they’re a lot worse than they realize and they’re a lot more incapable than they think they are.  But the good news is that God is more than capable, that He’s already done everything we need for Him to do.  He’s already secured in Christ everything we long for.  So my job at the end of every sermon is to, in some way, shape, or form, encourage our people by saying, “Cheer up.  You’re a lot worse off than you think you are, but God’s grace is infinitely larger than you could have ever hoped or imagined.  It is finished.”

And what I’ve discovered is that the people who lean on “it is finished” most are the ones who end up being the most free and whose lives change the most.  It’s the people who constantly demand to-do lists and then preachers who capitulate to that demand and give them to-do lists, those are the people who get worse.  I’ve realized, and I’m only 39 years old, but I’ve realized the more I try to get better, the worse I get.  I’m just realizing I am a narcissist.  I think way too much about how I’m doing, if I’m doing it right, have I confessed every sin.  In other words, I’m thinking much more about me and what I need to do than Jesus and what He’s already done.  And as a result, I’m not getting better.  I’m getting worse.

I’ve come to the realization that when I stop obsessing over my need to improve, that is improvement.  When I stop obsessing narcissistically over my need to get better, that is what the Bible means by getting better.  That’s why Paul was able to say at the end of his life, “I’m the worst guy that I know, and the work of grace in my life is that I’m free to tell you that.”  I think the whole notion of what it means to progress in the Christian life has been radically misunderstood.  Progress in the Christian life is not “I’m getter better and better and better…”  Progress in the Christian life is, “I’m growing in my realization of just how bad I am and growing in my appreciation of just how much Jesus has done for me.”

What Abortion?

Tullian Tchividjian is the grandson of Billy Graham.  Over the last few months I have read several of his blogs that have touched my heart.  I hope you enjoy this link to his article, “What Abortion?”  It is a wonderful reminder about God’s amazing grace!

“What Abortion?” by Tullian Tchividjian (click here)

Grieving Is Part of Your Calling

As a pastor, grief is part of your calling but how you deal with it determines your ability to continue on in ministry despite sadness of the heart.  In his article, “Grace for Our Grieving,” Paul Tripp uses the Biblical story of Saul and Samuel to give some great advice for ministers in dealing with grief.  If you are not a pastor, go ahead and read this wonderful message on grief.  I believe the scope of these biblical truths are wide enough to apply to everyone.

Click here for Paul Tripp’s article “Grace for Our Grieving.”