Guest Spot: John Piper’s, “The Fierce Fruit of Self-Control”

 

sneakersIn keeping with our current sermon series on discipline, The Disciplined Disciplebelow is a link to a post by John Piper about fiercely going after self-control. We encourage you to give it a read and dwell on it prayerfully! You can find the link below.  We’d also love to hear your thoughts on this article and others.  Comment below!

We will be back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.

“Self-control is saying no to sinful desires, even when it hurts…”

“Fundamental to the Christian view of self-control is that it is a gift. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit…”

The Fierce Fruit of Self-Control – John Piper

 

 

Advertisements

Years of Mercy

oneway.jpg

I saw a sign driving recently that read, “Year of Mercy.” It stopped me because of the association I have with the word mercy. I love the implications of the mercy as a loyal love. Pope Francis declared last Easter that 2016 would be a year of mercy. Quoting theologian Cardinal Kasper, he said that mercy itself “is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient.”

Mercy implies a love that continues to be given even when the receiver of that love does not deserve it. For mercy to even exist, it assumes that the one receiving love has either not been loyal or has little to give in return. We would not need mercy if it were not for our disloyalty and insufficiency. While grace is the reason we thrive, mercy is why God allows us to even live.

Mercy keeps our heart beating and lungs breathing when both should have stopped the first time we disobeyed God. Yet the fascinating thing about mercy is after experiencing the mercy of God toward us, He expects us to show mercy to others. Scripture tells us that the expression of mercy is the demonstration of the Christian’s victory in Christ over the judgment we deserve. James 2:13 reads, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” This verse provides us with a choice and it should be a relatively easy one. When one chooses not to show mercy, judgment is not withheld. Yet mercy triumphs over judgment. It is confident in its superiority over judgment so much so that it always assumes mercy is the right choice.

However, if we are being honest with ourselves there are instances that even in the light of the mercy we have received it is hard to extend mercy to those who have hurt us or disappointed us. This, I believe, is why God gave us the OT book of Hosea. God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute and to have children, the first of which they named Lo-ruhama which means “she has not received mercy” (Hos 1:6). God gives the child that name to demonstrate how the unfaithfulness of Israel is warrant for God to withhold mercy. Yet, God who is rich in love ultimately desires to show mercy to His people and relent in His judgment. His priority is always mercy over judgment. But God does not give what His people refuse to receive and likewise give. Following this model, may 2016 and the years to come be times in which we receive and give mercy with open arms.

-James Passaro

A Taste of God’s Goodness

food-salad-healthy-vegetables

The table is set. My plate is piled full—juicy meats, creamy sides, tender bright veggies. The warm, heavenly aroma wafts up to my nose. I sigh happily. It’s time to eat. I take the first bite. It’s tender, juicy, savory, salty, delicious. I slip away into a happy reverie… and then my father’s voice snaps me back to reality, “Did you pray, yet?” I’m caught—deer in headlights. I manage to squeak out a muffled “Nawhp” between chews. My dad smiles, “Don’t forget to pray.”

If it wasn’t my dad, it was my mom (and sometimes my younger brother), always reminding me to give thanks before I chow down. Food to me is comforting, relaxing, satisfying, and always makes me feel at home. I love it. I love to eat. I love food. So much so, that I forget to think about where it comes from or what it means or that not everyone has enough of it.   So, I decided to put my fork down, take a step back, and think about food in relation to my faith. This is what I’ve come up with so far.

Food is a sign of God’s grace, provision, and love.

From the very beginning, God showed love for humanity by providing us with food to nurture our physical beings. In the Garden of Eden, humanity was supplied by God with every “seed-bearing plant on the face of the earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it” (Gen 1:29). Later, after humanity’s fall and in the face of grievous sin, God continued to provide. Having rescued humanity through Noah, in this ‘remade’ creation, we were given all creatures as food in addition to what God had already provided (Gen 9:3). Further, having been redeemed from the shackles of slavery in Egypt, God provided manna and quail for an entire nation of ingrates and complainers (Ex 16). In 1 Kings 17, God sent ravens to feed the prophet Elijah, and in the Gospels Jesus miraculously fed the 5000 with five loaves and two fish (Lk :10-17). Time and time again, God provides for the people, for us. This provision, this grace, this love, culminates in Jesus’ self-declaration that he is the Bread of Life (John 6:35). With this declaration comes a promise—an enduring promise that continues to this day—that we who believe in Jesus need not go hungry. Through the greatness of his love, our bodies and our spirits can always be made full.

Food is an expression of worship.

What then are we to do in response to this great love that God has shown to us? It is our responsibility to respond with thanksgiving, gratitude, and humility in the face of so great a grace. In the Old Testament period, food is frequently found in ritual sacrifice and offerings. Leviticus contains chapter after chapter of instruction on what animals and grains to offer and how to offer them and covers just about every type of situation you can imagine. Offerings of peace? Check. Guilt offerings: Check. Sin offerings? Check. Can’t afford a sheep? We have a special bird or a grain for that. You name it, God has instructions for it.

We are even instructed to perpetually remember God’s deliverance of the people from slavery in Egypt with the Passover feast. God instructs us to eat as an expression of worship. In Communion, this same Passover feast becomes the model the contemporary church recalls to remember what Jesus did for us on the cross. The Bread of Life given for us is broken that we might have life (See Lk 22:19). We celebrate this as we worship in Communion. The food that God provides for the well being of the people becomes the lifeblood of the community worshipping the God who provides. All we have comes from God and to God should return.

Food reconciles us to one another and builds community.

Fellowship is among the greatest gifts we are given. I can think of no easier way to get to know someone or connect more deeply with someone than sharing a meal. Even something as simple as a few minutes and a cup of coffee goes a long way. There is something unique about sharing food. It’s a universal language. When you open up your home (or your wallet) to someone, take time to be with them, and share your life (and your food) with them, it brings you together. In Acts, the budding New Testament church went from house to house eating together and praising God (Acts 2:46-47). In the Gospels, Jesus shares meals with disciples and strangers alike. He even goes so far as to eat with outcasts and sinners, inviting them into community with him (Mk 2:15). There is something special about eating and sharing with one another. When we do so, it strengthens the existing bonds in our community and also gives us an opportunity to invite new people into fellowship. Who’d turn down a free meal?!

As we recognize what God has given us, and how we are cared for, we have the opportunity and responsibility to respond worshipfully. We are to recognize, remember, and glorify God for what we have. And we have a responsibility to share that with our fellows, with outcasts, with the broken, the hurting, and those in need. As God provides for us, we in turn should share that provision with others.

I still forget to pray before I eat. I’m working on it. But my hope is that I will never forget how good my God is. I hope that when I am warm and stuffed after a good meal, or when I have overindulged at a holiday, that I will not forget how much my God cares for me. All I have comes from God. It is my responsibility to remember this, to appreciate God’s goodness, to come together with my sisters and brothers in fellowship, to care for those who are in need, and to show God’s goodness to all.

-Daniel Debelak