God’s Discipline

I’m studying and reflecting on Psalm 30 this morning. David was disciplined for his pride, success and self-sufficiency. Dependence upon God was replaced with independence from God (verses 6 and 7a). God humbled him (v. 7b) and “shattered” him (New LIving Translation).

6When I was prosperous, I said,
“Nothing can stop me now!”
7Your favor, O LORD, made me as secure as a mountain.
Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.

Do see any possible application to what we’re experiencing today? Here’s the good news: verses 11 and 12 speak of deliverance! The gospel of Christ calls us to turn from our independence from God and turn to dependence upon God. Do not practice “social distancing” with God.

A Valuable Lesson from the Life of Major Ian Thomas

This is a short biography of Major Ian Thomas. There’s a great lesson for all of us!

Born in 1914 within the city of London, Ian Thomas dedicated his life to the service of the Lord as a child. At age 19, Ian became a “windmill of activity … every moment of [his] day was packed tight with doing things: preaching, talking, counseling” with passionate desire to win souls for Christ. But he found the more he did, the more energy he expended, the less happened. He states: “I became deeply depressed, because I really loved the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart; I wanted to be made a blessing to my fellow men. But I discovered that forever doubling and redoubling my efforts in order to win souls, rushing here and dashing there, taking part in this campaign, taking part in that campaign, preaching in the morning, preaching in the evening, talking to the Bible class, witnessing to this one, counseling with another, did nothing, nothing, nothing to change the utter barrenness, the emptiness, the uselessness of my activity. I tried to make up with noise what I lacked in effectiveness and power.”

In a state of spiritual exhaustion, one night about midnight, he got upon his knees and cried out God in despair. He continues the story: “I said, ‘Oh God, I know that I am saved. I love Jesus Christ. I am perfectly convinced that I am converted. With all my heart I want to serve Thee. I have tried to my uttermost and I am a hopeless failure! So far as doing anything more, I am finished…. It is useless for me to continue like this. I hate this double life!’ That night things happened.

“I can honestly say that I had never once heard from the lips of men the message that came to me then. I never had read it in print; but God, that night, simply focused upon me the Bible message of Christ Who is our Life. This was the moment He had been waiting for; seven weary years He had watched me running around and round in the wilderness! He had been waiting for the time when at last I would fall down in hopeless despair. I heard His voice: ‘To me to live is Christ … I am the way, the truth, and the life … If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life … When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we appear with Him in glory.’ Life! New Life! To me to live is Christ!

“It just came from every area of God’s Word, and very kindly and very lovingly the Lord seemed to make it plain to me that night, through my tears of bitterness: ‘You see, for seven years, with utmost sincerity, you have been trying to live for Me, on My behalf, the life that I have been waiting for seven years to live through you. I have been there the whole time. All the things you have been pleading for, all the things for which you have been asking, have been yours since the day seven years ago, at your request and invitation, I came into your heart at that Crusader boys’ camp; but you see, although you have given mental consent to the truth that I have been in your heart, and have accepted it as a theory, you have lived totally ignoring the fact. You have been busy trying to do for Me all that only I can do through you. Now supposing I am your life, and you begin to accept it as a fact, then I am your strength! You have been pleading and begging for that for seven years. I am your victory in every area of your life, if you want it! I am the One to whom it is perfectly natural to go out and win souls; and I know precisely where to go and find them. Why don’t you begin to reckon upon Me and say ‘Thank you.’

“I simply said to the Lord Jesus Christ that night, ‘Well, it is that or nothing! If this is true, then I am going to thank You for it in sheer cold-blooded faith…. I am going to thank You that if You are my life, and this is true, then You are my victory, You are my strength, You are my power, You are my future! You are the One Who is going to go out now, clothed with me to do all that I so hopelessly have been trying to do in the past seven years!’

“I got up the next morning to an entirely different Christian life, but I want to emphasize this: I had not received one iota more than I had already had for seven years! I had had the Lord Jesus, equal to all my need and in whom I had been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly things, for the whole of those seven years; but I stepped out on my way to the university that morning with a new song in my heart. I was saying, ‘Lord Jesus I thank You for the first time in my life, this is Your day! I no longer have the burden of running my own life.’

“At the end of five weeks God made it very plain to me He had something more to say. He had just begun to whet my appetite. He said, ‘That is My life. You know perfectly well that it has nothing to do with you, because it happened overnight! It is not a new method. It is not a new technique that you have learned. It is simply My life; being what I am, doing the inevitable. This is now the thing you have got to realize; you cannot have My life for your program. You can only have My life for My program!”

Such a life, Ian Thomas would often declare, is not a life of inactivity but of Christ-activity. It is not what you can do for God but what He can do through you. “It is all in Christ, you see; and all of Christ is yours!” Would you be willing to surrender everything and pray, “I do not want any other program, any other kind of life, but the one that You Yourself are prepared to live in and through me!”?

Ian Thomas died in 2007, at age 92, after decades of being a vessel through which God had full access to live His life. In the course of those years, Ian Thomas preached around the world and wrote several books, including: Saving Life of Christ, The Mystery of Godliness, and The Indwelling Life of Christ.

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.