Friday, June 9, 2017

Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, June 11

It couldn't be clearer.  Throughout the book of Isaiah we have heard God’s gracious invitations. 

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Is 1:18)

 “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. (Is 43:25)

Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.  I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Is 44:21-22)

 “Seek the LORD while he may be found;  call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Is 55:6-7)

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:  “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.  For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made. Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry, I struck him; I hid my face and was angry, but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart.   I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the LORD, “and I will heal him. (Is 57:15-19)

God is gracious to offer to heal, us to revive us and give us peace.    But before we can be cleansed and healed we must acknowledge our need. 

Thankfully God’s grace that revives also reveals.  God’s mercy includes showing us the reality of our hearts.  Isaiah 57:11 summarizes it well:  Whom did you dread and fear, so that you lied, and did not remember me, did not lay it to heart? Have I not held my peace, even for a long time, and you do not fear me?  Isaiah says we do not fear God as we should.  We lie to him, others and ourselves.  We fail to remember God and we don't esteem him as we should. 
                                                                                                                                
I have spent some time this week considering these two quotes from John Piper and Alvin Reid. As you prepare for worship this Sunday I encourage you to take some time to consider these thoughts in light of God’s revealing and reviving grace. 

 Sin is the glory of God not honored, the holiness of God not reverenced, the greatness of God not admired, the power of God not praised, the truth of God not sought, the wisdom of God not esteemed, the beauty of God not treasured, the goodness of God not savored, the faithfulness of God not trusted, the promises of God not believed, the commandments of God not obeyed, the justice of God not respected, the wrath of God not feared, the grace of God not cherished, the presence of God not prized, the person of God not loved.” John Piper

In our current book study Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out Alvin Reid says, “all of us are excellent evangelists for the things that matter most to us.”  Hence, one of the reasons we don't share Jesus with others as we should is because we’ve “gotten over” the amazement of the gospel.  

Preaching the gospel to ourselves using these four points will help us get over “getting over” God’s amazing grace. 

1.  God is great, so I don't have to be in control.  He is sovereign and He has the power to save.  But we are all control freaks who are guilty of not trusting him.  Of this sin we need to repent.   

2.  God is glorious, so i don't have to fear others.  But all of us, at some level,  are people pleasers.  We fear man more God, and more often than not wanting the approval of others is the primary motivation for what we do.    Of this sin we need to repent.   

3.  God is good, so i don't have to look elsewhere.  Temptation can be powerful, but the moment we choose to sin we are in that moment saying what we want is better than what God has for us.  We don't believe God is good.  Of this sin we need to repent.   

4.  God is gracious, so i don't have to prove myself.  The culture says success is based on my performance plus other people’s opinion of me.  We have been forgiven completely by the one we have offended immensely.  We need to be living our lives for the approval of One.  Not doing so is unbelief.  Of this sin we need to repent.   (Adapted from Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out, p 37-38)

I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday.  

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, June 4

Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, June 4
Sermon Text:  Isaiah 56:9 - 57:21
Songs of worship include: Holy, Holy, Holy; Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery; Great Are You Lord

This is the promise God declares to us in Isaiah 57:
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, 
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place, a
nd also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly, 
and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isaiah 57:15)

This is one of the most beautiful statements in Scripture.  The One who is utterly separated from the inhabitants of earth in his “holy” place says that his dwelling is also with the lowly and the contrite. This is not to say that God will become less than transcendently holy; rather, he will bring his people to share that character.

God heart is not set on punishment, but on transformation, giving his people a changed nature, where rebellion and pride will be replaced by healing, praise and peace.

What makes this promise so amazing is the context in which it is found.  Isaiah 56 and 57 contain an ugly picture of the spiritual adultery, idolatry and spiritual laziness of God’s people.  God confronts these sins and makes clear the devastating consequences that are certain to follow. 

Yet grace breaks through the text in an amazing way.  God declares the humble repentant heart is revived and at home with God. 

Make no mistake, God sees and knows our sin.  “I have seen his ways”, God reminds us.  Yet what comes next is reason to praise and worship him: “but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him…”(Is 57:19)

Before we gather tomorrow for worship read Isaiah 56 and 57.  I look forward to seeing you there. 



Friday, May 19, 2017

Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, May 21

Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, May 21
Sermon Text: A Review of Isaiah 40-55

During the past six months we have journeyed through Isaiah 40-55.  Through the prophetic vision of Isaiah we have stood on the mountaintop of God’s sovereignty and seen the glorious plan of God and the finished work of Christ.  When we began this section last November I wrote, “To read the words of Isaiah …. and believe them means you can rest in the confidence that in Christ Jesus God is working in human history to accomplish his gospel plan.  To read the words of Isaiah….. and believe them means that God’s word is sure and it can be trusted.  To read the words of Isaiah ….. and believe them means you can rest in the confidence that his kingdom will come and it will know no end.  To read these words and believe them means you can rest in the confidence that the Lord is the Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, and eternally blessed are those who trust in him.” 

Last Sunday we heard God’s gracious invitation to,
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourselves in rich food. (Isaiah 55:1-2)

This Sunday we will share in the Lord’s Supper.  The Lord’s Supper is the continuing sign of belonging to God’s people.  The specifics of how it should be served and received are not mentioned in New Testament and are not important.  It is meant to be simple. 

Each time we gather at the Lord’s Table for Communion we take three ‘looks’.  First, we look within ourselves, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal any sin that needs to be repented of, confessed and forgiven (I Cor. 11:27-30, I Jn 1:9).  Second, we look back to the finished work of Christ, his substitutionary death and resurrection ( Lk 22:19-20, I Cor. 11:23-26).  Third, we look ahead to the return of Christ, anticipating his return and the gathering of God’s people at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19: 6-9)

The Gospel is demonstrated in the Lord’s Supper. It is one of the ways you publically testify to your personal relationship with Jesus.  It is not to be taken lightly or casually.  Paul wrote a letter of stern correction to the Christians in Corinth because they were allowing those who were in unrepentant sin to take the Lord’s Supper.  Paul told them that this should not be.

God called us all to repentance in Isaiah 55:
“Seek the LORD while he may be found; 
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way, 
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, t
hat he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, 
for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7)

The Lord’s Supper is only for sinners.  But it is only for repentant sinners.  As you prepare for worship I encourage you to prayerfully read Isaiah 53, 54 and 55.  Let the prayer of David be yours: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps 51:10)


I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, May 14

Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, May 14
Sermon Text: Isaiah 55

“Come”, God says.  We hear it five times in the first three verses! 

In this week’s passage God is inviting you to come receive what you cannot earn.  He is inviting you come and know what it is to have soul satisfied. (55:1-5)  At first sight it sounds strange – buying “without money and without price”.   God’s best is available to us because his Servant ahs already paid the price.  Satisfaction can only be found in what God offers  - provision for our souls in the form of a love that lasts and a place in his kingdom. 

In this week’s passage God is also inviting you to come while you still can, and receive God’s full and free forgiveness. (55:6-8) Here is one of the greatest promises in the Bible: God hears and responds to the humble cry for forgiveness.  He stands ready to generously forgive, and does so when we seek him and cry out to him.  You are not promised tomorrow.  You may not be here this Sunday.  So Isaiah tells us there is a sense of urgency to this call - repentance must be an intense priority for us.  He tells us there is a certainty to this promise.  We will receive God’s generous abounding mercy.  

In Isaiah 55 God is inviting you to take him at his Word, even when you cannot understand it.  “The logic of grace doesn’t compute with us.”  It is both surprising and sustaining.  Like the rain from heaven, God’s Word is life-giving.  Like the rain, God’s Word is:  1) The source of life that comes from beyond us.  We can't control it – we only receive it.  2) The life it brings springs forth from death – it overcomes death.  It waters, saturates, sprouts life and allows the cycle of provision.  3) It fulfills and accomplishes the purposes of God.  The way God works is through his Word.  The way we live is through his Word. 

Finally, Isaiah 55 invites us to come sing with joy, and go out in peace.  (Is 55:12-13)   The chapter concludes with a vision of God’s triumphant grace.  It is a procession of praise involving all of the redeemed – including creation itself.  The effects of the fall are reversed and God is forever glorified through the display of his saving grace.   

As you prepare for worship read Isaiah 55.  I would encourage you to read the extended section (Isaiah 52:13 – Isaiah 55)

Pay especially close attention to Isaiah 55: 6-8. 
“Seek the LORD while he may be found; 
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way, 
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, 
that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

These words are not just for the lost.  All of us struggle with seeking satisfaction in places and from sources that will never suffice.  Ask God to reveal the affections and attractions of your heart that need to be repented of.  He will answer this prayer.  He will have compassion and will forgive.  This is his promise.  This is his unfailing Word. 

“Come” join us this Sunday as we gather for worship, just as we do every Lord’s Day.  Invite someone to come with you.  We will greet one another and extend to each other the hand and hug of fellowship.  We will sing songs & hymns of the faith, songs grounded in the truths of God and the good news of the gospel.  We will pray, both within our small groups and in our large gathering.  And we will read the Word of God and hear it taught.  We do that knowing and trusting that “No one loves the Word of God more than the God whose Word it is, and he, the eternal, almighty, impeccably faithful Lord, has pledged that his Word will never be fruitless, never come back empty handed.” (A. Motyer)

I look forward to seeing your there.  I will be praying for you until then. 



Thursday, May 4, 2017

Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, May 7


Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, May 7
Sermon Text: Isaiah 54


This Sunday we will hear the prophet Isaiah describe the benefits and blessings that are our because of the what we saw God’s Suffering Servant accomplish in Isaiah 53. 

These blessings and benefits are describes by Isaiah as “the heritage (inheritance) of the servants of the Lord” (Is 54:17).   That inheritance includes the miraculous growth of a family to one who was barren, a family so large the dwelling places have to be expanded.  It includes  a broken marriage restored, compassion conquering abandonment, love overcoming wrath and God eternal covenant of peace to those who had previously been his enemies.  It includes an eternal dwelling place, the city of God, beautifully built on righteousness and eternally secure. 

All of this God accomplished through his Servant, the Lord Jesus Christ.  What does this passage ask of us?  Joyful songs of praise!  “Sing O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud” (Is 54:1).  Our response should be one of songs of praise and faces that reflect the joy of the Lord.  “The test of a church’s faith is not only in the wording to its creed but also in the gladness of its worship.  If we aren’t going to hell anymore, if we stand to inherit every blessing Almighty God can think of, if nothing can stand in the way of our restored humanness because it’s all through the merits of Christ, the friend of sinners – if that can’t make us smile, what can?” (Ray Ortland, Isaiah, God Saves Sinners, p. 364)

As you prepare for this weeks time of worship I encourage you to read Isaiah 53 and 54. 
Then come prepared to obey these words from the Lord:

Sing praises to God, sing praises! 
Sing praises to our King, sing praises! (Ps 46:7

Oh sing to the LORD a new song; 
sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name; 
tell of his salvation from day to day.  (Ps 96:1-2)

I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you,
 O LORD, I will make music. (Ps 101:1)

Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; 
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
 tell of all his wondrous works! (Ps 105:1-2)

Sing praises to God and to his name! 
Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds.
His name is the LORD— rejoice in his presence! (Ps 68:4)