Submit Your Questions on Romans 8 -11

Ever been on a vacation and taken a tour? Kay/I have discovered the advantages of being guided by a knowledgeable tour guide. We learned this the hard way. On more than one occasion we decided to do a self-guided tour. It wasn’t wasted time, but when we talked to others who had a tour guide, we quickly discovered that we missed so much! The tour guide not only explained the history, they also invited questions.

Preaching the glorious truths of Romans 8-11 is much like the tour guide. I’m giving you a lot of information, but preaching does not provide an opportunity for you to ask questions.

Romans 8-11 is unfamiliar territory for most people. Furthermore, there are challenging truths in each chapter. I’m working hard at communicating what the Scripture says, but I suspect you have questions about what you are hearing. That’s great if you do.

I want to encourage you to write out your questions and submit them. Several people have done so already, but many have not.

Please submit your questions by emailing me at gbontrager@tgbc.org. Please do so by Friday, January 17.

Join us Sunday evening, January 19 and Wednesday evening January 22 at 6:00 pm in the worship center as a panel of pastors and laymen answer your written questions. Due to the number of questions, we will not take live questions. We will certainly be available after the meeting or in the days to follow to answer additional questions.

Looking forward to receiving your questions. Again, the simplest way is to email me with your questions at gbontrager@tgbc.org

Blessings,

Pastor Gerald

Two Truths God Taught Me about Himself in 2019

The two truths God taught me about Himself came by way of the following:

#1 God is intimately involved in every detail of my life—the good and the bad. Nothing happens—no matter how bad it may seem—by accident.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). God does not abandon His children. My temporary pain has an eternal purpose.

#2 What happens to me doesn’t matter nearly as much as how I respond to it. Quietly trusting God is better than loudly defending yourself.

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

#3 Suffering is the best schoolmaster.
“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (Psalm 119:71).

One of the purposes of affliction is to teach us things we would not otherwise know. Until hard times come, our knowledge of God and his Word tends to be rather theoretical, like the man who reads three books on car repair and then opens an auto repair shop. When my car breaks down, I want a man with some grease under his fingernails. If he’s too clean, I worry that maybe he doesn’t have enough experience.

So, from a preacher who has grease under his fingernails, here are the two truths God taught me about Himself:

#1 I AM SOVEREIGN, SO TRUST ME! God is in control. Nothing happens in my life that doesn’t pass through God’s hands first. What a great truth that provides such peace and comfort.

#2 I AM FAITHFUL, SO TRUST ME! God has the power, the resources, and the wisdom to bring about what He has decreed; therefore, I do not have worry or fret about how God will accomplish what He has purposed. I need only to trust Him.

Before 2019 I believed both, but as 2020 dawns I now not only believe them, I know them to be absolutely true.

Worship Christ This Christmas

Follow the example of the Wise Men this Christ. Matthew 2:2 give a clear purpose for why they traveled over 900 miles from the East to Jerusalem, “We have come to worship Him who has been born King of the Jews.” Christ was the object of their worship.

God created us with the capacity to worship. The issue is not if we worship but who, what, and how we worship.

When someone spends all his or her time and money on golf, boating, fishing, sex, gambling, watching television, surfing the internet, or ranting about politics, he or she is making a sacrifice. The alcoholic worships the bottle, the drug addict worships the high, the codependent person worships his or her relationship partner, the greedy person worships money, the control freak worships being in charge, and the helicopter parent worships his or her kid.

The novelist David Foster Wallace, not long before taking his life, spoke these words to the 2005 graduating class at Kenyon College: “Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship…is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough…Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you…Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.”

David Wallace was not a Christian, but he understood worship. Learn a lesson from the Wise Men. Set your focus on worshiping Christ.

Merry Christmas!

Advent 2019

The Whys of Christmas

It’s Advent season, again. I suspect some of you may love the feelings of Christmas, but you are not as excited to hear the stories of Advent yet again.

We need to guard against familiarity. The challenge for seasoned believers is that as they enter Advent yet again for the umpteenth time, they enter with fresh eyes and new wonder. While you may have heard the Advent story for years, I want to encourage you hear it again with wonder and excitement.

The Advent sermon series I’ve prepared this year is THE WHYS OF CHRISTMAS.

  • December 1, Why the Genealogies? (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 2:35-38)
  • December 8, Why the Virgin Birth? (Matthew 1:8-25; Luke 1:26-28)
  • December 15, Choir Christmas Musical; Why the Name Jesus? (Matthew 1:21)
  • December 22, Why the Wise Men? (Matthew 2:1-12)

The goal of the sermon series is to go deeper into these questions so we come away with a greater sense of amazement of what God did in sending His Son, Christ, to be our Savior.

This is also the reason we produced this devotional guide. My hope is that you will use this devotional guide every day through this Advent season. When you ponder the weekly sermons on the whys of Advent, my prayer is that you will experience hope, peace, joy and love in Christ.

Parents, I want to encourage you to use this devotional guide every day with your children. The Advent season is a great opportunity to teach theology to your children. Use the sermons I preach on Sunday mornings to explore the meaning of Advent with your children.

And may God deepen our love for Christ and the story of Advent.

Making Your Time with God’s Word More Profitable

Pastor David and I are teaching a class on Wednesday evening on How to Approach the Study of God’s Word. Last night (10-30-19) I shared a resources from the Navigator Organization that has been around for at least forty years. It is a simple, but effective way to develop a profitable time with God as you study the Word. Here’s the approach.

As you study, keep these questions in mind:

  1. What example is there to follow?
  2. What command is there to obey?
  3. Is there a sin to avoid or forsake?
  4. What does this passage teach about Jesus Christ and God?
  5. Is there a promise to claim?
  6. Is there a difficulty with which I need help?
  7. What is my prayer from this passage for today?

From experience it has been proved that we both receive and retain more if we write down our findings. Here are a few more suggestions:

  1. Read over and study the preceding questions until they are fixed in your mind.
  2. After reading through the portion you are studying, go back and take it a verse at a time. When that is an answer to one of the questions, jot it down as briefly as possible on the sheet provided for that question.
  3. Study a book through from beginning to end, either a paragraph or a chapter a day.
  4. Each day add to what you found the preceding day.
  5. When you finish studying a book, file the sheet for the book. Soon you will have your devotional commentary on the Bible.
  6. Do not become discouraged when you receive only a few definite answers for some particular portion. The important thing is that you receive something. As we walk in obedience to what we have revealed to us, we shall receive more.
  7. It may take a couple weeks—or even a month—to really become acquainted with this method of study. Stay with it until regular habits are established. Once you start, you will always thank God for firmly establishing the habit of daily Bible study.

It takes time to develop this discipline, but it is time well spent. Begin to apply this approach to your Bible study. You’ll discover a deeper experience with God and His Word.

Join us on Wednesdays at 6 pm in the Worship Center as we practice this approach. We’re covering 1 Timothy 4:1-5.

Learn the Gospel (Part 2)

In the previous blog (Learn the Gospel, Part 1) I said that the first task in learning the gospel is to be sure we know what the gospel is. The gospel is God’s plan to reconcile sinners to Himself for His glory and their good.

The gospel is called “good news” because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human begins, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I am not! God extends to us His grace in Christ to redeem us from our sins.

The question I’m posing is this, “How does a believer learn the gospel beyond an intellectual definition?” In other words, how does a believer come to learn, that is to possess a deep understanding, of the gospel.

I’ve asked this question to our Deacons and Yokefellows and to several other people. Here’s a list of responses: 1) By preaching; 2) through teaching in Sunday School and/or small group studies; 3) by personal daily Bible study; 4) by living the gospel out each day of our lives; 5) by sharing the gospel with others; and 6) by singing the gospel. Those are all great answers.

But here’s one on my list that may shock you! We learn the gospel when we sin.

The gospel encourages us by reminding us that God’s grace covers our every failure. No string of obedient days would bring us closer to God and no streak of bad days is going to condemn us.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). This does not mean we have a license to go out and sin so we can learn the gospel. But what it does mean is that when we sin, we experience the grace of God to forgive us.

The grace that justified us is the same grace that sanctifies us. Thank God for His amazing grace!

Learn the Gospel (Part One)

There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the gospel. There is no greater message to be shared than that which we call the gospel. But as important as the gospel is, it is often given to huge distortions or over simplifications.

So, the first task in learning the gospel is to be sure we know what the gospel is.

Some people think they’re preaching the gospel when proclaim: “Come to Christ so you can have a purpose to your life.” Or “Christ will give you meaning to your life.”  Or “Christ will help you achieve your goals in life.”

All of those things can be true, and they’re all important, but they miss what the heart of the gospel is all about.

We define the gospel this way, “The gospel is God’s plan to reconcile sinners to Himself for His glory and their good.”

The gospel is called the “good news” because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. At the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness–or lack of it–or the righteousness of another.

The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His sake but for the sake of His people.

He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.

The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith–and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him–and in Him alone. When you do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.

This was, is and will remain God’s plan to reconcile sinners to Himself.

Let’s be sure that when we’re talking about the gospel, we understand that the good news is all about what God did in Christ to reconcile us to Himself. Everything else is secondary to this greatest need!