Month: March 2020

Be a Sharpening Friend

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Proverbs 27

17 As iron sharpens iron,

So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

The gathering of brothers and sisters creates a sharpening of one another.  When we get together as brothers and sisters in Christ there is intentional edifying through words of love, encouragement and even correction.  I have sharpened my own knives for as long as I can remember having knives.  A dull knife is pushed against a sharpening stone at a certain angle; the movement of the knife blade against the stone cleans off small burrs and grinds the two edges of the knife until it sharpened.  The steel of the blade is actually changed at the edge of the knife.

Many times I have had burrs on my life and the edge of life has become dulled.  Friends and family have come at those times and have worked to restore the sharpness that my life needed.  As Christians, we need to keep our faith sharpened, our confidence in God’s word sharpened, and our ability to love others sharpened.  A dull knife can cut some things, but it is not an effective tool.  For us to be as effective as God would have us to be, the spiritual edge of our life needs to be maintained.

While we have more time on our hands, let us work at sharpening our own spiritual edge and let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works.  Whom can you love right now?  Whom can you edify right now?  As we sharpen our own lives we will be able to sharpen those around us.  Let us be people who care enough to edify, to sharpen others in our conversation, in our texts, in our time together.  Be a sharpening friend.

 

During yesterday’s sermon, a thought came to me that made the current workings of God crystal clear to me.  God is our good Shepherd and as our good Shepherd He is leading us to green pastures and to still waters.  He is guiding our lives as He sees fit.  Picture the Good Shepherd lovingly guiding us, His sheep, to green pastures and to still waters.  God has always led His people well.  God is leading His church as He sees fit today.  Yesterday I brought a message from Isaiah 45:5-8 that teaches us God brings both peace and calamity.  Satan brings confusion; God brings calamity.  God uses calamity to accomplish His ordained purposes.  Yes, the Good Shepherd is leading His people to His places. 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Living above our blind-spots, living in the blessings of God’s promises

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1 Chronicles 28:8–10

“So now I charge you in the sight of all Israel and of the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God: Be careful to follow all the commands of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever.

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. 10 Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.”

When you read this does your mind take you to Solomon’s foolish end?  Do you think about how both David and Solomon had a spiritual blind-spot regarding their sexual desires?  Do you then think about how susceptible each of us are to sinful blind-spots in our lives?  Before I think too much of David and Solomon’s failures, the mirror turns into my own heart.  The promises that God gave Solomon, in a similar way He has given to me. If these great men could not control those blind-spots but let them bring such great pain to their otherwise amazingly blessed lives, what hope of purity is there for me?

I am reading a book now by Kevin DeYoung entitled, “The Hole In Our Holiness.”  DeYoung reminds me of the constant call of God to His people to continually walk in His holiness, to increase in it, and never to stray from it.  Yes, great men failed; that does not mean that we have to.  Because of their failure we must be more diligent, more watchful, more aware of our blind-spots and fight against them.  God promises to be with His people.  Jesus Christ promised that He would be with us always.  Colossians 3:1-3 tells us to set our minds, our thoughts, our affections on things above. Let’s live there. Let’s enjoy the blessings of God for life and for eternity.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Better is a friend who is near, their friendship is sweet to us

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Proverbs 27

9      Ointment and perfume delight the heart,

And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.

10    Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend,

Nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity;

Better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.

We, here at JIBC, lost a dear friend yesterday.  Miles would have turned 30 today, he went to be with the Lord yesterday.  (His death was not Corona virus related.)  For the past two Sundays, Miles braved the COVID 19 threat and came to church with me to lead music for our livestream programs.  As one who understood the sound board, he also set that up for me.  This past Sunday, after the service, we went to a local South American restaurant where we were the only customers and enjoyed a couple hours of really good food and sweet fellowship only as brothers in Christ can enjoy.  We knew the sweetness of a man’s friendship as we talked heartily back and forth about life, about God, and about living for Christ.

Both my family and his are back in the US so Miles would have considered the people of JIBC as neighbors that are near.  Many of us had serious life-conversations with Miles for his passion was to point people to Christ.  It was easy for Miles to move from talk about work or motorcycles, or drones, or music to talk about Christ, what He was doing, and how He was using us here.  In so many ways, Miles was a neighbor that was near to us.  He lived far enough away, in Tangerang, that the trip here could take anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour and a half. On his motorcycle, Miles often got here wet from the rain. Last Sunday, his shoes were so wet that he took off his shoes and socks for the service, but never did he complain about any of that for he was happy to serve the Lord as a part of this church.

No one is perfect so this is not to say that our friend had no faults; this is only to say that he was an example of a friend whose sweet counsel many of us enjoyed and he made himself to be our close neighbor even when our physical brothers are far away.  We need men and women who because of Christ in them are our close neighbors.  We need close neighbors who provide us their sweet counsel and comfort and service.  We need those neighbors who loving Jesus serve even when that service is inconvenient and even a bit risky.

Because of the Corona restrictions in Jakarta, there will only be a few at Miles funeral tomorrow.  We plan to livestream the funeral over Facebook so more of you can participate.  Pray for Miles wife, now widow, her name is Ella.  Pray for her to know the Lord’s great peace in the valley of the shadow of death.

Be careful and be safe. Share the love of the Lord with one another in new and creative ways.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Looking ahead avoids regrets

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Proverbs 27

11    My son, be wise, and make my heart glad,

That I may answer him who reproaches me.

12    A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself;

The simple pass on and are punished.

The call for wisdom is great in every generation and is especially great now.  As we look at the escalation figures of COVID 19, the world crisis is only beginning.  What wisdom do we need and how do we live without exposing ourselves to this virus?  How do we minister God’s love and grace in the midst of this?  Two Sundays ago, I recommended that when we go shopping that we should buy extra food to put aside for others who will be coming to us for food.  As jobs dry up people are going to get hungry; we as Christians should be prepared to give out food.  I am reminded of God’s warning to Egypt and God’s preparation of Joseph as the one who would prepare the country for a time of famine.

Acting with wisdom now will give us opportunities to show love and care in the near future.

A prudent man is one who looks carefully at the situation before him and acts with caution to prepare himself for what is ahead.  We need this quality in our lives.  There is spiritual and physical evil around us all the time.  As one of my mentors said, we are all 3-4 bad decisions from moral failure.  We must consciously be aware of this and live with careful wisdom all the time.  Before we act, before we jump into a situation, in prudence, we must look ahead a few steps and see where it might lead.

In the end, we are trusting the Lord and living by faith. Yet, we are called to move with a careful looking ahead throughout our lives.  In talking to my parents last night, we were talking about their lives and how God has used them. During that conversation I told them that they should be thankful that they do not have a “box full of regrets.”  When each of us get old, which we will, may we be able to look back at our lives and not see a “box full of regrets.”  With prudence, let us look ahead and avoiding the evil move wisely through life.

 

Keep one another in prayer.  More than ever, we need the loving prayer of one another.  Some of us are going to get sick, it is inevitable.  Please respond to this email with prayer requests for us to share.  We pray because God hears and answers when we do. 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

A true friend tells you the difficult truths that you need to hear

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Proverbs 27

5     Open rebuke is better

Than love carefully concealed.

6     Faithful are the wounds of a friend,

But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

One thing about growing up in a pastor’s home is that there are certain truths that you hear all the time, and you hear them in real life situations.  I well remember my dad telling how the wounds of a friend are faithful but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.  If you have lived very long, you have known people who only told you what you wanted to hear while you knew they were against you.  These are people who at first you think will be great friends but in the end stab you in the back.  They never were your friend, they probably have never been anyone’s friend.

The other side of this proverb is that the wounds caused by a friend are faithful.  This happens when someone loves you enough to tell you something difficult about you, something that hurts when they tell you.  You know the conversation, it’s the one you work up to because it is so difficult to have.  Your dear friend, your brother or sister, your husband or wife, or even your parents have a way they do something or say something that always brings hurt to you and they seem oblivious to your hurt.  You don’t want to hurt them back nor do you really want to walk away, what do you do?

In this proverb we are called to open rebuke and faithful wounds.  We are told that these are acts of love, acts of true friendship.  Jesus taught us to take the beam out of our own eye before we seek to remove the telephone pole out of our neighbors’ eye, so the first step of confrontation is to carefully examine our own hearts.  Study the Scriptures, pray over your own faults, confess them to God and to others, then humbly confront the one you love about their faults.  Be faithful with your wounds, be loving in your approach, your friend or family member may be upset at first, let the Lord work on them. Be a faithful friend.

 Yesterday’s message was on a Theology of crisis. As Christians, children of God, we should know enough about God and about His workings with mankind to carry us through any crisis at any time.  I have posted this message on YouTube and trust it will help you think about the Coronavirus and our response to it with a biblical basis.  Here is the link to that message: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7boMKpjLiAw

We are well here in Jakarta.  Just like each of you, our lives have been changed as our governments and health officials seek effective ways of protecting us from spreading this virus.  I am definitely praying more and for more people that God would keep them during this time. If you have any specific requests, people you are praying for, please let me know and we will add them to our prayers also. 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

A Time to Pray, Not a Time to Sleep

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Matthew 26

36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”

39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.

44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”

Our Lord knew what was next, He has spoken of it to His disciples and even to the crowd. As we consider the humanity of Christ, we see the frailty of human flesh for just knowing what was next did not prepare the Savior, He needed to pray. Do you find it interesting that Christ in flesh even asked His disciples to watch and pray with Him? This was the most important moment in history and the disciples missed it because they gave in to sleep instead of watching in prayer. Christ’s rebuke of them is stunning. He gave them a specific moment of watchful prayer and they slept.

My friends, the world is in another defining moment. Over 100,000 people who were well one, two and three months ago are terribly sick, some have recovered, many have not. Hospitals are filling up, supplies are running low, and medical professionals are weary. Financial markets are collapsing and fortunes are being swept away. Major corporations are facing the reality of bankruptcy putting untold amounts of people out of work. People are coming to grips with their humanity. Let us remember the call of Jesus to His disciples to watch and to pray.

God has never lost control of this world. It is His creation and He is not a distanced deity waiting to see how it all works out. In times of God’s judgment He always calls His people to pray. Are you praying more? Are you gathering for prayer? Is your pastor calling you to greater prayer? Are you calling your pastor to more prayer? Though written to Israel, the principle of 2 Chronicles 7:14 is timeless. God told His people that when they strayed from Him and found themselves in great affliction that when they called out to him and confessed their sins with humility that God would hear their prayers, forgive their sins, and heal their lands. Our sins, on a world-wide basis, are great before God. Let’s lead the parade here and confess our sins and then the sins of others as we cry out to God in a time where watchful prayer is so desperately needed.

Our son Justin and his wife and four sons are with us here in Jakarta. It is a joy from God to have them with us. They bring so much energy and life to every waking hour. We are taking them on a short trip next week and they are quite excited in anticipation.

 Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Internal attitudes of laziness, the real battleground

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Proverbs 24

30     I passed by the field of a sluggard,

by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,

31     and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;

the ground was covered with nettles,

and its stone wall was broken down.

32     Then I saw and considered it;

I looked and received instruction.

33     A little sleep, a little slumber,

a little folding of the hands to rest,

34     and poverty will come upon you like a robber,

and want like an armed man.

 

Laziness is nothing new. Solomon observed laziness in his day, and we see it today. Instead of looking at the results of being lazy, those are obvious, let’s look at the characteristics of those who are lazy. Far too often I corrected my kids for not picking up their things, but that was only the visible part of the problem.

Solomon tells us that the sluggard lacks sense. In other passages this describes a person who lacks understanding, one who does not know the end of his actions, he is destitute of discernment. It also describes a person who might not want to receive any instruction. With this in mind, let’s look at our own lives and ask a couple of questions.

First is this, how many times have we used the excuse that we just did not know how to do what we were asked to do? Perhaps we were tasked with something outside of our comfort zone and instead of working hard we decided we did not know how to do it. It seemed easier to just plead ignorance than to take the time to learn how to do it.

Second question is this, since we don’t want to be considered lazy, do we find reasons not to do the important things, the hard things, and console ourselves that we are better than someone else or better than we used to be? This is the hard one, for instead of doing something 100% right, we can find a way to do it so that we can say we did it, but we know it did not get our full effort. However, when our work is questioned, we simply say, “Well, I did the best I could.” At that level, we did not ask for instructions nor for help, we really did not want to, we were lazy of heart.

I don’t think I am as bad as the sluggard whose field Solomon passed by; however, laziness is a battle I face. I don’t want to ask for help and I want to do the minimum level of work to be accepted. As we battle this character flaw, this sinful way of living, we can look to Christ who in submission to the will of the Father, did all that He was sent to do. Jesus, in obedience, went all the way to the Cross until He could boldly proclaim that He had finished what He came to do. Then He died. With Christ as our example, let us strive to do all that we are called to do until we too are finished here.

 

In response to the growing alarm and panic regarding the COVID-19 virus, I brought a message yesterday looking for a biblical response to fear and to love. I asked the church to seek for the balance between preparing for protection and being loving to one another. We looked at the correlations of fear to faith and to the reality of God’s sovereignty over all things. I read an article from World Magazine about the church in China and the unique opportunities they are facing to lead people to Christ. As Christians, people who know where we will be after we die, we ought to be leading those around us to greater faith. They are filled with fear and need to know that there is hope in Christ regardless of the crisis. (The link below will direct you to that sermon.)

https://sites.google.com/jibc.or.id/jibc/sermons?authuser=0

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

We do not ever need to “get even.”

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Proverbs 24

28     Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause,

and do not deceive with your lips.

29     Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me;

I will pay the man back for what he has done.”

 

Romans 12:

18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Getting back to those who “got” you has become somewhat of a sport. The saying, “I don’t get revenge, I get even,” has become a badge of honor. One man I knew upped his game by saying, “I don’t get even, I get ahead.” Most of the time, getting even or getting ahead is a form of vengeance. For some this is a simple joke played on another, but for the angry at heart, getting even will include a form of meanness or pain.

We once had a boy who was committed to getting even with his parents for their abuse against him. Bobbi asked him one day, “When will you know that they have paid enough?” This question needs to be asked everyone who is set on getting even. When we take out a loan we know how much we need to pay back. But when we begin the payback of revenge, when will we know that the person has paid enough for us to stop our revenge?

The Scripture is clear on this point. Solomon calls us not to make a pay-back to the one who has hurt us, and Paul reminds us to live peaceably with all by never avenging ourselves. Paul then reminds us that true vengeance belongs to God and He will justly repay the wicked for their acts against us. Do you believe this? If you believe this, then you will drop all your efforts of revenge and vengeance against those who have hurt you or those who are hurting you. If you believe that God can do a better job than you at getting even, then you will be free to live at peace in your own heart.

Remember that bitterness is the only poison that while intended for another we drink ourselves. When we are seeking revenge, we are poisoning our own lives and our own souls.

 

A woman came to church the last two Sundays wearing a hijab. When we asked her about her faith, she said she had professed Christ. Some of us are in contact with her now and I ask you to pray for her to come to a full understanding of following Christ as her only hope. Religious people often add Christ to their current belief, but our Lord will not be shared. Pray for this woman to come to faith in Christ and in Him alone.

We have so very much to be thankful for today. Yes, the world is living in fear of COVID-19 but I know the God who is omnipotent and sovereign over all. Our God has saved us from our sin and will one day call us to His eternal home. As people talk to you about a global epidemic, remind them that the first global epidemic was sin and infected every one from birth. Jesus Christ came as the cure for that virus and God will deliver us from this virus either in life or in death. Either way, we have much to be thankful for.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Be careful whom we call “good.”

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Proverbs 24

23    These things also belong to the wise:

It is not good to show partiality in judgment.

24    He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,”

Him the people will curse;

Nations will abhor him.

25    But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,

And a good blessing will come upon them.

 

There was a day when a person’s character, how he or she lived their lives, was more important than what they did or what their talents were. For example, when we look back at King David and look at all of his conquests, his might, his establishing of the throne in Jerusalem, his determination to build a Temple for God, and more, it is all overshadowed by his sin against Bathsheba, Uriah, and God. His unwillingness to correct his sons also comes up as a weakness of his life. Yet today, when someone has done something great, their sinful way of living does not seem to matter. So many “famous” people and even world leaders are or were sexually immoral, have crimes in their past, are habitual liars, are homosexuals, pray to another god, and/or have been habitual law-breakers but because they have done something “great” none of their wickedness is ever brought up.

Our society has become so immune to someone’s private sins that whenever someone brings up the private sins of another they are immediately rebuked and put into the category of a hater or of a judgmental person. The righteousness of God is not respected and when we call a public figure to a greater righteousness we are cursed and mocked. No surprise, this was predicted three thousand years ago.

As people of God’s wisdom, followers of His word, we answer to Him first and foremost. Someone needs to call out sin for what it is and to reserve the compliments of goodness to those who are truly righteous. According to this passage, when we rebuke the wicked we are doing the right thing and will know a good blessing. Let’s be true to God’s word and to His righteousness. We must not call evil people good but must humbly and boldly call people to a higher standard of life, the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

As I looked out over the city of Jakarta last night, a storm came by. The clouds and rain cast an eerie glow over the city. It was beautiful as the clouds came in and the lightning filled the sky. We serve an amazing God who created everything we see and put it on a planet that is designed to sustain all of the life that God created. We studied God’s creation yesterday morning in light of Psalm 136 which states over and over that “His mercy endures forever.” We, the constant recipients of that mercy, rejoice in our wonderful and omnipotent creating and redeeming God.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS