Category: Christian Living

Accepting “No” as God’s Will

Does God ever say no? This has forever been a timely question. One that Christians have wrestled through for years. One that Christians have also come to many different conclusions on. Below I believe R.C. Sproul communicates one of the healthiest thoughts on this issue. This article was found on Ligonier Ministries.

I am astonished that, in the light of the clear biblical record, anyone would have the audacity to suggest that it is wrong for the afflicted in body or soul to couch their prayers for deliverance in terms of “If it be thy will….” We are told that when affliction comes, God always wills healing, that He has nothing to do with suffering, and that all we must do is claim the answer we seek by faith. We are exhorted to claim God’s yes before He speaks it.

Away with such distortions of biblical faith! They are conceived in the mind of the Tempter, who would seduce us into exchanging faith for magic. No amount of pious verbiage can transform such falsehood into sound doctrine. We must accept the fact that God sometimes says no. Sometimes He calls us to suffer and die even if we want to claim the contrary.

Never did a man pray more earnestly than Christ prayed in Gethsemane. Who will charge Jesus with failure to pray in faith? He put His request before the Father with sweat like blood: “Take this cup away from me.” This prayer was straightforward and without ambiguity—Jesus was crying out for relief. He asked for the horribly bitter cup to be removed. Every ounce of His humanity shrank from the cup. He begged the Father to relieve Him of His duty.

But God said no. The way of suffering was the Father’s plan. It was the Father’s will. The cross was not Satan’s idea. The passion of Christ was not the result of human contingency. It was not the accidental contrivance of Caiaphas, Herod, or Pilate. The cup was prepared, delivered, and administered by almighty God.

Jesus qualified His prayer: “If it is Your will….” Jesus did not “name it and claim it.” He knew His Father well enough to understand that it might not be His will to remove the cup. So the story does not end with the words, “And the Father repented of the evil He had planned, removed the cup, and Jesus lived happily ever after.” Such words border on blasphemy. The gospel is not a fairy tale. The Father would not negotiate the cup. Jesus was called to drink it to its last dregs. And He accepted it. “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

This “nevertheless” was the supreme prayer of faith. The prayer of faith is not a demand that we place on God. It is not a presumption of a granted request. The authentic prayer of faith is one that models Jesus’ prayer. It is always uttered in a spirit of subordination. In all our prayers, we must let God be God. No one tells the Father what to do, not even the Son. Prayers are always to be requests made in humility and submission to the Father’s will.

The prayer of faith is a prayer of trust. The very essence of faith is trust. We trust that God knows what is best. The spirit of trust includes a willingness to do what the Father wants us to do. Christ embodied that kind of trust in Gethsemane. Though the text is not explicit, it is clear that Jesus left the garden with the Father’s answer to His plea. There was no cursing or bitterness. His meat and His drink were to do the Father’s will. Once the Father said no, it was settled. Jesus prepared Himself for the cross.

This excerpt is taken from Surprised by Suffering by R.C. Sproul.


These moments…

These moments are what we pray and strive for as believers. These moments are why I have done what I have for the last ten years. It should be the fervent prayer of the believer that not only God would use us as mentors for the lost we interact with, but as He captures their heart with His grace that He would begin forming a relationship that would blossom into a family bond with Christ at the center. A friendship that would allow us to walk through all of life’s struggles and milestones with them. Nicole and I have had the unmerited privilege of watching Brianna O’Donnell (now Moreland) grow from a young teenager – trying to figure life out- into a beautiful young lady who loves Jesus passionately, and now loves her husband unconditionally.

It was indeed one of the biggest honors of the last ten years of my life to play such a special part in this day. I was the officiant and Nicole was the Maid of Honor! Brianna is no longer a spunky teenager, but a beautiful sister in Christ.

I want to take this minute to encourage everyone today. Committing to Gospel-centered relationships are worth it. Not everyone we interact with will come to know the Grace of Jesus Christ, but when those who do kneel down next to you – before Him – declaring Him Lord an Savior, there indeed is nothing sweeter. Stay the course. He is faithful and just!


What does it really mean to be #blessed?

I came across this great little article from Vaneetha Rendall Risner at Desiring God. Veneetha offers us a healthier understanding of the word Blessed from the Bible.

Feeling blessed is in vogue. 

A quick look at Facebook and Twitter shows how many people today feel #blessed. In our social-media world, saying you’re blessed can be a way of boasting while trying to sound humble. 

College scholarship? #Blessed. Unexpected raise? #Blessed. Wonderful family? #Blessed.

As Christians we use that term too, of course. We pray God will bless our family. We attribute our undeserved gifts to “God’s blessings.” We talk about ministries being blessed. But what does it really mean? How should we understand the blessing of God? 

The Good Life

For believers, is the blessed life synonymous with the successful life? Is it the Christian version of the good life? A loving marriage, obedient children, a vibrant ministry, a healthy body, a successful career, trusted friends, financial abundance — if these are the characteristics of a blessed life, then having all of them should translate into an extraordinarily blessed life.

But does it? If someone had all those things, would they be extraordinarily blessed? 

Rather than turning to God, they might feel self-sufficient and proud. Perhaps a bit smug and self-righteous. After all, their hard work would be yielding good fruit.

Moreover, they wouldn’t need to cry out to God for deliverance; everything would already be perfect. They wouldn’t need to trust God; they could trust in themselves. They wouldn’t need God to fill them; they would already be satisfied.

God’s Richest Blessings

My desire for God is greatly fueled by my need. And it is in the areas of loss where I feel my need most intensely. Unmet desires keep me on my knees. Deepen my prayer life. Make me ransack the Bible for God’s promises.

Earthly blessings are temporary; they can all be taken away. Job’s blessings all disappeared in one fateful day. I, too, had a comfortable life that was stripped away within a span of weeks. My marriage dissolved. My children rebelled. My health spiraled downward. My family fell apart. My dreams were shattered. 

And yet, in the midst of those painful events, I experienced God’s richest blessings. A stronger faith than I had experienced before. A deeper love than I had ever known. A more intimate walk than I could explain. My trials grounded my faith in ways that prosperity and abundance never could.

While my trials were not blessings in themselves, they were channels for them. As Laura Story asks in her song “Blessings,” “What if your blessings come through rain drops? What if trials of this life — the rain, the storms, the hardest nights — are your mercies in disguise?”

This revolutionary idea of blessing is also firmly established in Scripture.

The Common Thread

One translation of the New Testament (ESV) has 112 references with the words bless, blessing, or blessed, none of which connects blessing to material prosperity. Consider these passages:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit. . . . Blessed are those who mourn. . . . Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake . . . Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:3–410–11)

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28)

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven. (Romans 4:7; quoting Psalm 32:1)

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial. (James 1:12)

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. . . . Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:1319:9)

There is no hint of material prosperity or perfect circumstances in any New Testament reference. On the contrary, blessing is typically connected with either poverty and trial or the spiritual benefits of being joined by faith to Jesus. 

According to the Key-Word Study Bible, “The Greek word translated blessed in these passages is makarioi which means to be fully satisfied. It refers to those receiving God’s favor, regardless of the circumstances” (emphasis added).

What is blessing, then? Scripture shows that blessing is anything God gives that makes us fully satisfied in him. Anything that draws us closer to Jesus. Anything that helps us relinquish the temporal and hold on more tightly to the eternal. And often it is the struggles and trials, the aching disappointments and the unfulfilled longings that best enable us to do that. 

Truly Blessed

Pain and loss transform us. While they sometimes unravel us, they can also push us to a deeper life with God than we ever thought possible. They make us rest in God alone. Not what we can do or achieve for him. And not what he can do or achieve for us. 

In pain and loss, we long for Presence. We long to know that God is for us and with us and in us. Great families, financial wealth, and good health are all wonderful gifts we can thank God for, but they are not his greatest blessings. They may make us delight, not in God, but in his gifts.

God’s greatest blessing always rests in God himself. When we have that, we are truly #blessed.


What does the X in Xmas mean?

This has been a question I have wanted to address for many years, so when I came across this blog post by R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries, I had to share it. Please enjoy this read. I’m praying it changes your perspective and maybe even causes you to apologize for how you’ve responded to this in the past.

What does the X in Xmas mean?

The X in Christmas is used like the R in R.C. My given name at birth was Robert Charles, although before I was even taken home from the hospital, my parents called me by my initials, R.C., and nobody seems to be too scandalized by that.

X can mean so many things. For example, when we want to denote an unknown quantity, we use the symbol X. It can refer to an obscene level of films, something that is X-rated. People seem to express chagrin about seeing Christ’s name dropped and replaced by this symbol for an unknown quantity X. Every year you see the signs and the bumper stickers saying, “Put Christ back into Christmas” as a response to this substitution of the letter X for the name of Christ.

There’s no X in Christmas

First of all, you have to understand that it is not the letter X that is put into Christmas. We see the English letter X there, but actually what it involves is the first letter of the Greek name for Christ. Christos is the New Testament Greek for Christ. The first letter of the Greek word Christos is transliterated into our alphabet as an X. That X has come through church history to be a shorthand symbol for the name of Christ.

We don’t see people protesting the use of the Greek letter theta, which is an O with a line across the middle. We use that as a shorthand abbreviation for God because it is the first letter of the word Theos, the Greek word for God.

X has a long and sacred history

The idea of X as an abbreviation for the name of Christ came into use in our culture with no intent to show any disrespect for Jesus. The church has used the symbol of the fish historically because it is an acronym. Fish in Greek (ichthus) involved the use of the first letters for the Greek phrase “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” So the early Christians would take the first letter of those words and put those letters together to spell the Greek word for fish. That’s how the symbol of the fish became the universal symbol of Christendom. There’s a long and sacred history of the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ, and from its origin, it has meant no disrespect.


Family Discipleship in Community Groups

I was perusing the internet and was deeply encouraged by how the Village Church in Texas incorporate young children and families into their Community Group structures. It is similar to the vision that we share in the sense that we want to include the whole family, but they also take it an extra step in the healthy direction. Check out this video!


Look at the Book: For God so loved the world

This video is from John Piper’s Desiring God website.

Soldiers take bullets for one another. Parents sacrifice daily for their kids. But who would die for their enemies? In this lab, John Piper reminds us that God did.

Some questions to ask as you read and study John 3:16:

  1. Do you believe God loves you? What makes you believe this on your best and worst days?
  2. According to John 3:16, in what way did God love the world? Do you feel loved by this day-to-day? Why or why not?
  3. What was the most refreshing reminder for you in this lab? Who can you share that with?

The first Advent Candle: Hope

On Sunday we lit our first Advent candle which represented Hope. Here is a little video from the Bible Project that explains that word in more detail.

In the Bible people who have hope are very different from optimists! In this video, we’ll explore how biblical hope looks to God’s character alone as a basis for trusting that the future will be better than the present.

More information on The Bible Project here


My Prayer for John Chau

In the wake of missionary John Chau’s death on November 17, 2018, at the hands of North Sentinel Islanders, my prayer is that God would do it again. Not the death of another man of course but the regeneration of another remote tribe in this world for the Glory of God. On November 20, 1839, missionary John Williams and James Harris arrived on the shore of the remote Erronmango Island with the conviction to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to this group of people, only to be attacked with clubs, killed and then eaten by the Islanders as part of a sacred ritual. Little did Williams and Harris know that some weeks before their arrival an Austrailian sandalwood trader had brutally murdered two boys from the tribe, forcing the tribe to resort to violence against any Westerners. However 20 years later this same tribe was visited by other Christian missionaries who were able to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them successfully, and today the Erronmango Tribe continues to identify itself as a Christian nation.

See the BBC’s report on this story: https://youtu.be/IIELqrb9-tE

So my prayer today is that God would do it again; that He would use the death of John Chau to convict the hearts of the Sentinel Islanders, to ultimately show them the error of their way and bring them to the life-transforming news of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that five, ten, twenty or even forty years from now the Sentinal Islanders would also declare themselves a Christian nation. But, too, I pray that he would use the passion John Chau had for the glory of God, to stir new desires in believers all over this world to continue to go to the ends of the earth with the life-transforming grace of Jesus Christ. Only the message of Jesus can definitively transform hearts. Hours before John Chau died he wrote these words, “I hope this isn’t one of my last notes but if it is ‘to God be the Glory.'”

Ultimately we don’t know what God is doing here, but may our prayers be that he would do it again. God will you use one man’s death to transform a tribe, a nation, a world for your glory.


What is the book of Psalms all about?

The book of Psalms is the largest collection of poetry in the Bible. In this video, we’ll explore the design shape and central themes of this marvelous book, which was crafted to be read from beginning to end. The Psalms are an invitation to a literary temple where you can meet with God and hear the entire biblical storyline retold in poetic form.

Click here for more information on The Bible Project


The History of the ESV

Good morning church. I get the privilege to preach from the English Standard Version every single Sunday I stand before you to herald the Word of God. This is a beautifully made video about its history. If you are interested in knowing where it came from, take the ten minutes to watch. I’m praying that it stirs a reverence in your heart regarding God’s Word.

I Love you church,
Stephen


Most Valuable Thing That This World Affords

Over twenty years ago, the idea was born for a new translation of the Bible. After many conversations and much prayer, fourteen members of the ESV Translation Oversight Committee began work on the English Standard Version—an essentially literal translation standing in the classic mainstream of English Bible translations over the past half-millennium. In the preface to the ESV, the Translation Oversight Committee writes:

In that [classic] stream, faithfulness to the text and vigorous pursuit of precision were combined with simplicity, beauty, and dignity of expression. Our goal has been to carry forward this legacy for this generation and generations to come.

In this short documentary, members of the ESV Translation Oversight Committee and Crossway’s leadership team reflect on the history of the English Standard Version—with deep reverence, gratitude, and ongoing wonder at what God has done and continues to do through the ESV.

Soli Deo Gloria!—To God alone be the glory!


Midweek 9.1.17

Stephen talks to us this week about:

  1. The Elder & Deacon installation coming up on Sunday
  2. The Church’s new phone number (716) 791-7576
  3. This week’s passage, Ephesians 5:15-20


Midweek – 8.12.17

Tomorrow Stephen will walk us through Ephesians 5:1-2 where Paul calls us to be imitators of God, as beloved children. This is a huge section of scripture as Paul continues to remind the church in Ephesus that it’s all about BEING before DOING.

In the video Stephen also covers the following:

  1. Family Reunion, joint service on Sunday (with fellowship time at afterward)
  2. New Elder and Head Deacon installation
  3. Church clean out
  4. Baptisms and church picnic

Midweek – 7.21.17

Ian will be preaching out of Ephesians 4:17-24 this week and he will be spending time on the difference between being and doing. and why we so often get it switch the wrong way. Get your hearts ready to receive and be taught.

Stephen also talks about the following:

  1. Zac’s Mission and Worship Night: July 23 at 7 pm
  2. Church cleanup: From now to the end of August we will have cleaned out and donated some of the old stuff that we’ve had sitting in the church for several years. We will be making announcements on Sunday mornings letting everyone know what are in the boxes. If there is anything that you would like to grab out of them, please do. This week’s items are CHOIR/MUSIC BOOKS.
  3. Church Annual Meeting: August 6 after service
  4. A Family Reunion: August 13 Jame and Brandi’s church will be joining us for service at our location. They will lead in worship and we will be preaching.
  5. Church Picnic and Baptisms: August 20 we will meet at Tuscarora State Park for our outdoor baptism service and annual church family picnic. Please contact Dawn Monroe to help with the luncheon.