Monday, March 30, 2020

BE-ing the Church in front of a watching world



In this unique and crazy time, we must remember that the world is watching us. 
Many are watching how we respond to everything going on - so we have a wonderful and unique opportunity to show them what being a Christian is all about - how it changes and affects all that we do.

It’s critically important right now that we BE the church

The Book of Ephesians contains a theology of how we are to BE the church. As we navigate these unknown waters, it’s important that we:
   • Hold tight to what is required
   • Hold loose to traditions & preferences
Unfortunately, far too often, it’s the opposite. When we hold tightly to our traditions in one hand and our preferences in the other, we won’t have a free hand to hold tight to what the Bible calls us to. 

For the next few weeks, we’ll be doing a survey of Ephesians to look at what the Lord calls us to BE as the church in these uncertain times.

Ephesians 1 has two great reminders:
1. Verses 3-14 – Remember whose you are
In the midst of trouble, difficulty, uncertainty, these truths stand rock-solid:

• verse 3 – In Christ we have EVERY spiritual blessing!
God has given us what we need to navigate life today and tomorrow

• verse 4 – He chose us to be holy and blameless 
Everything happening right now is intended to bring each one of us greater sanctification.

• verse 5 – Predestined for adoption
He has made us His children.
He will protect & provide, just as we protect and provide for our own children.

• verse 7 – In Christ we have redemption
We have been rescued from the extreme selfishness that we’re seeing all around us right now. The hoarding is a product of selfishness.
We’ve also been rescued from sin, death, eternal punishment, and the need to worry.

• verse 8 – He lavished His grace on you
God has poured out His grace on us in an overwhelming and abundant way

• verse 9-11 – His unfolding plan
In these times, just like all times, we see God’s will, plan, and purpose unfolding. God is working everything for His glory and our good.

• verse 14 – The guarantee
Those that have turned from their sin and placed their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation are literally guaranteed heaven. (Click here to read about what it means to trust in Jesus as your Savior)

The final words of verse 14 remind us that 
It’s all to the praise of His glory.
Be encouraged: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies are new every morning

2. Verses 15-23 – Faith, Love, & Thankfulness

Paul heard about their faith. 
We need to be so fired up - so overjoyed - so radically changed in response to what God has done for us (verses 3-14) that people notice.

This faith results in two things:
1. Love for all the saints
John 13:34-35 – …love one another: just as I have loved you, (point 1 from verses 3-14) you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

While we’re socially distancing - we have new and different and unique opportunities every day to demonstrate that love for others. It’s an exciting time - the Lord is up to something different! How can we better love one another today? This week?

2. Thanksgiving
None of this is a response to external circumstances. Remember, Paul is writing from prison.
Simply put: be thankful
for salvation
for your brother & sisters
for what God is doing.

At the end of the day, this passage reminds us to:
• Remember God’s love for ME
• Live it out in such a way that others notice

Verses 17-21 give us a great example of how and what to pray for our brothers & sisters in Christ. If you need a list of church members to pray for, get in touch with me and I’ll get you one.

• Verse 22-23 – The Underline
The foundation is our FAITHFUL God who is absolutely in control of everthing!
Jesus is in control
He is our Head
We are His hands and feet.

Let’s keep all this in mind as we go about life this week and the next….

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Rob


Monday, December 30, 2019


 Ten Questions and 10 Suggestions
As you move into 2020, I would encourage you to set a goal to have a clear vision for where you are spiritually, and how you can grow this year. The following questions are designed to help you both look back in evaluation as well as plan for growth looking forward. 
To get the most out of these questions, set a time to regularly review these questions throughout the year. Maybe one question a day, or a couple of questions once a week. Whatever pattern works best for your schedule. Mostly, I would suggest that coming back to these questions regularly will help you keep ongoing spiritual growth "on the front burner" as it should be. Remember: one of the main goals of the Christian life is sanctification. Each of these questions point you to the main source of spiritual growth - God's Word. 

1. Do you thirst for God?
Psalm 42:1-2, Philippians 3:10, Psalm 34:8
Be sure you are drinking from the deep wells of God's Word, and diving into your faith community (the church you're a member of) rather than looking elsewhere. Drinking from God’s river will both satisfy you and leave you thirsting for more.
A.W. Tozer says - “O God, I have tasted Thy goodness and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I long to be filled with longing. I thirst to be made thirsty still.”

How will you grow in your thirst for God this week?

2. Are you growing in obedience to Scripture?
James 1:22, Hebrews 4:12
Until you’ve reached perfection, you need correction.
Train yourself to ask: “how does the Bible speak to this?” 
One of the biggest indicators of spiritual health is your attitude toward God’s Word.
Indifference to the Bible, is serious sin.
How will you grow in obedience to the Word this week?
3. Are you becoming more loving?
1 Corinthians 13, Luke 6:32, 1 John 3:10
Loving others even when (especially when) they’re not loving you is very hard, but necessary.Are you loving other Christians, the lost, and especially your family?

Who do you need to show love to this week?

4. Are you more aware of God’s Presence?
Psalm 16:11, Matthew 18:20
We need to be aware of God's presence in our daily lives. The best way to experience it is to go to the place where He has most clearly revealed Himself - in His Word.
The great British preacher Martin-Lloyd Jones said: The more we know and read [the Bible], the more it will take us into the presence of God. So if you want to set the Lord always before you, spend much time in regular daily Bible reading.”

Corporate Worship one place God's presence is manifest in a special way. There’s something unique about how He manifests His presence.How will you prepare your heart for worship each Sunday?

How will you prepare your heart for the corporate worship gathering this Sunday?

5. Do you genuinely care about others?
Philippians 2:1-11, James 2:16
Are you on the lookout for ways to help others practically? We need to encourage others spiritually, but also be ready to help them practically - maybe a hug, or a listening ear. Maybe spend time with them - take them to coffee or invite them to join you for a meal.
It begins in the Body of Christ, but then overflows to others from there. 

What practical help can you offer someone this week?

6. Do you enjoy the Bride of Christ?
1 John 1:7; 4:7; 3:10, John 13:34-35, Hebrews 4:12
Are you growing in love for the church? For your church?
Spiritual growth won't happen like it should if you're not growing in your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Specifically those He has placed you in community with.
What will you do to foster a greater love for your church this week? How will you obey Hebrews 4:12 better?

7. Are you growing in spiritual discipline?
1 Timothy 4:7, 2 Corinthians 13:5, Philippians 2:12
If you’re not regularly thinking through these issues - you’re not going to grow like you should be. 
You need to have a plan for spiritual growth and follow through with it!
Do you have a plan in place? What can you do today toward following that plan?

8. Do you Hate Sin? (growing in hatred)
Romans 12:9, Matthew 5:4, Psalm 51 
• Rehearse the Gospel
• Ask God to show you your sin
• Psalm 51 - read, meditate, pray, write it out
Before you see the cross as something done FOR you, leading to faith & worship, 
You must see the cross as something done BY you, leading to repentance…

How are you fostering a greater hatred for your own sin?

9. Are you becoming a quicker forgiver?
Colossians 3:12-13, Matthew 18:22
• Who are you NOT ready/wanting/willing to forgive?
• With whom do you need to start the ball rolling?
• Are you easily offended? Don't be someone who others have to "walk on eggshells" around in order to stay on your good side (that's sinful). 
Who do you need to forgive?

10. Do you look forward to Heaven?
1 Peter 1:13-16, Colossians 3:1-3
If you’re not excited about heaven - you’re not going there.


How will you grow in joyous anticipation of being with the Lord TODAY?


It doesn't matter how long you've been a believer or how vibrant your walk with the Lord is right now. We all need to continually examine our lives and strive toward spiritual growth. 

Philippians 3:13-15 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

These questions will impact your spiritual life if you pursue them purposefully.

I pray that 2020 is a year of radical spiritual growth for you and hope that these questions help you in striving toward that goal.
Rob Signs

P.S. - Here are 10 of Jonathan Edward's 70 resolutions that have impacted me personally. It's crazy to think that he read through all 70 of his resolutions every week, but if you study his life, you'll find a life that was constantly focused on Christ and he most assuredly made a great impact on all he met. 


1. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, in my heart, mind, or with my body, except that which promotes the glory of God…  (Always ask: Will this thought, action, or attitude glorify God?)

2. Resolved, never to speak evil (or ill, or bad, or negatively) of anyone, so that I do not cause him or her any dishonor, for any reason, except for some real, tangible good. (Matthew 18 would say, that starts by speaking to them about it first)

3. Resolved, never to do anything, that I would be hesitant to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

4. Resolved, if I take delight in anything as a gratification of my pride, or vanity, for any reason, immediately get rid of it.

5. Resolved, to live so at all times, and to make every effort, so that I have the clearest thoughts of things of the Gospel, and heaven.

6. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently that I clearly and plainly see how I am growing in the knowledge of the Scriptures. (Spurgeon: Bleed Bibline)

7. Resolved, never to give in to, or even slightly ease up in my fight with my sins, however unsuccessful I may be.

8. Resolved, not only to refrain from any sense of dislike, annoyance, or anger in my conversations, but to exhibit only love and cheerfulness.

9. Resolved, that I will not give way to that laziness which will de-focuses and relaxes my mind from being fully focused and set on the Gospel, even when I have a great excuse for it.

10. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, where I could possibly in any area of my life have done better.


Rob







Monday, November 18, 2019

Paul's Practical Theology - Sermon Recap

Here's a brief summary of yesterday's sermon from 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13. There's a link to the entire message (40 minutes) at the bottom of the post.


Spiritual growth is hard. It doesn’t just happen. It takes effort.
Spiritual maturity takes time. The usual experience is slow growth over a long period of time. This is often frustrating to us, but when we come to realize that it’s the usual pattern for almost all believers, we can relax a little. 
While he’s excited that they’re standing firm, Paul also acknowledges the reality of the need for much spiritual growth to happen in the Thessalonians church. He’s not frustrated at their lack of growth. 
In this passage, we see three practical principles in Paul’s life that help us to live faithfully in the midst of whatever situation the Lord has us in.

1. Be Thankful
We want to see BIG things, MAJOR growth, huge dynamic changes. But most of the time, change doesn’t happen that way. So iwhether things are moving at a snail’s pace or rocketing forward, always be thankful for what the Lord is doing,. For the growth you’re seeing in yourself and in others. When you’re thankful, it changes your heart.

Five ways thankfulness changes your heart.
   1. It acknowledges God’s sovereignty.
   You’re saying - you’re in control and you deserve my thanks. When I’m not thanking God
   It’s easy to fall out of the attitude of gratitude
   And forget (James 1) that everything good & perfect gift comes from God.

   2. It acknowledges God’s goodness
   God is good. All the time. 
   All the time. God is good.
   God cannot do anything that’s not good.

   When I’m not thanking God, I can easily forget about His inherent goodness

   3. It promotes my humility 
   Matthew 7 tells us that we’ll be judged by the standard we use to judge others. 
   We need to be thankful for even the little things in life.

   4. It confesses my own inadequacy
   I’m in need of His grace, mercy, tender care, guidance, provision… on and on…
   The more I thank God - the more I remember how much I need Him.

   5. It helps me submit to His will
   When I’m thankful to God, it helps me to be submissive to His will because
   I’m remembering that He is sovereign, He is Good, He’s working for me, 
   so I can follow His will for my life. 

Paul is absolutely overwhelmed:
For what thanksgiving can we return to God
This is a rhetorical question
He’s saying:
I just can’t be thankful enough
There’s no way to be adequately thankful for what God is doing in your lives.


2. Passionate Prayer
Two things about Paul’s prayer:
The How:
“most earnestly”
How passionate is your prayer life?
Are you driven to pray like what we see in Paul? Most earnestly, day and night
Or do you do it because you know you’re supposed to? To check it off your “to do” list? 

What is the attitude of your heart when you pray?

We need to live as if it all depends on us and pray as if it all depends on God.

Paul also prays night and day
Pointing to two things:
• a pattern of life - overflowing from the earnest, fervent, passionate prayers
• a system - He was disciplined, organized, and intentional in his prayer life.  

The WHAT of Paul’s prayer life
Verse 12 may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 

The foundation of effective ministry is found in both personal relationships (involvement in one another’s lives), and in love. Not generic affection, but agape love
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 expands on this

3: Gospel Transformation
v 13 - the end goal: to be established in holiness
It is not until we come to Christ and abide in Him that any of this makes sense.
The Bible says 
You were dead in your sin… disobedient, led astray, hateful, envious, slaves to various passions and pleasures…
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, (pointing us to the cross - Jesus Christ crucified, dead, buried and risen again) 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, (salvation is not something you can earn, no matter how hard you try) so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 
Paul’s prayer for them is that they be created in Christ Jesus
That they be established with blameless hearts
That they be holy before God

When we repent of our sins and place our faith in Jesus Christ, we’re radically changed and we will grow.

And that is something to be excited about
We need to be on the lookout for growth in one another’s lives

Thankfulness must be a primary goal

When we constantly complain and are consistently critical, it’s poison in our mind and heart.We have to recognize it as sinful behavior and stop it.
Ephesians 4:29Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

God has given me much grace
How can I not turn around and give that grace to others? (not just Christians - but ALL)
Remembering that I was a great sinner
But HE is a greater Savior

Read the lyrics to the song “How Deep the Father’s Love”
How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make this wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons and daughters to glory

Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

How can we not be thankful?
John 15:13-14 – Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Rob

Here's the link to the sermon on the church website: http://fellowshipjoplin.org/media/305766-1180564-2192322/pauls-practical-theology


Sunday, November 3, 2019

Paul's Hope, Joy, and Crown

1 Thessalonians 2:17-20


Three points from this passage
1. A Life-on-Life Passion for People
Paul had spent a few months with the Thessalonians. He’d taught them many things before he had to leave Thessalonica, but had a deep desire to re-connect with them. He had a love for them that desired being present with them face-to-face.

2. The attack/opposition of the Enemy
He's pointing out that the reason he's not been able to come back to them is that Satan hindered him over and over. Satan will always attack the church.
"For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe.  His craft and power are great and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal."
(Martin Luther, A Mighty Fortress)
Even though Satan is against us, God is still sovereign. Satan is still under His authority.

3. The Joy of Heaven
Paul lived with a continual focus on the return of Jesus. He was a true pastor - with a deep desire to see men and women become passionate followers of Jesus Christ.

Your crown is going to be the presence of the people that you were responsible to lead to the knowledge of Christ

Ultimately, this passage tells us that there is a deep, abiding joy that comes from being involved in "Life-on-Life" discipleship with others.

The Foundation: Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

Discipleship is simply Helping each other follow Jesus better

3 Rewards of Discipleship:
1. Increased longing for spiritual fellowship
Why there are fringe people in the church?
they don’t disciple
they don’t let anyone disciple them
When you offer God your gifts, passions, and abilities, it brings joy and your love for others increases.

You’ll want to lean more so you can share more

2. Increased Opposition
When you’re actually moving forward-  
there will be opposition
Satan will try to block your efforts
it will be all out war.
But that’s exciting - it says you’re threatening to the Kingdom of Darkness

3. Increased Glory
Paul is so excited to say: I want to see you make it all the way to the end and I want to be standing there when you meet Christ. I got to help you in your pursuit of Christ in life and it will be so glorious to see you in Christ’s presence face-to-face in glory.

Our glory is increased as we grow in Hope
My hope is encouraged in the midst of discipling someone toward their hope!

Our Joy increases as well
3 John 4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 
Seeing someone grow in Christ brings great joy.

There is also a Crown - of exultation and boasting. 
I will have the great joy of boasting about what Christ is doing now, and then in heaven, what Christ has done in your life. 

Every person you help grow spiritually here on earth - you’ll get to be there to see them receive their reward. 
That should motivate us today

All of this is because of The Gospel.
In the gospel, we are drawn to love those with whom we have nothing in common.
In the gospel we can persevere through trials and tribulations rather than throw in the towel.
In the gospel we have the hope of heaven. We have strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. 

Whose life will you begin pouring into?

Soli Deo Gloria!
Rob Signs




Monday, June 24, 2019

It's Getting Personal!

Acts 8:26-40

Guidelines for Personal Evangelism
The story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch gives us some great practical principles for personal evangelism. 


1. We are all called to personal evangelism
Theologian/Author Michael Green in his commentary on Acts points out: Above all how the early church grew [was] by personal evangelism. 
Philip, a gifted preacher, was taken away from a thriving public ministry in Samaria for this encounter. Later, in Acts 20, he mentions both his public and his personal evangelistic ministry. We are all called to take the gospel to others. 



2. Simple Obedience
Philip was given an odd command. Leave this place where you encounter people constantly and go out to the middle of nowhere. He immediately got up and went.
When he got there, he ran to the chariot.

3. Don’t categorize people.
The Ethiopian wasn’t a likely person to be receptive. He wouldn’t have been easy to approach as he was an important, wealthy man
The Samaritans were ready. An Ethiopian wouldn’t seem to be ready to hear without laying some groundwork first, but God had prepared the soil!
The gospel is both simple enough that a child can understand it and profound enough that the greatest minds could never grasp the fullness of its depth. 

4. God Prepares the Soil
The Ethiopian was ready to hear the gospel because God had prepared the soil of his heart.
Every encounter is going to look different
sometimes times we plant seeds 
(like handing out million dollar bill tracts)
sometimes wen we water
sometimes we harvest harvest.
Our task is to share. 

5. Listen to their Questions
Philip began by asking “do you understand what you’re reading?”
Start by asking where they are? What are their questions? What do they believe?
Then, explain the gospel.

6. Use Scripture
Philip’s example: beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus
While we hope that our explanation of the gospel is helpful, what people need to hear is God’s Word, which is able to save their souls. (1 Peter 1:23, James 1:19, Romans 10:19, John 


Seek accountability from someone. Ask someone to check with you as to how your gospel preparation is going. Ask your Sunday school teacher to call on you to share your gospel verses or share the gospel in class, etc.

7. It’s All About Jesus
Everything in Christianity revolves around who Jesus is and what He has done. Everything. 
John Wesley used to say “we must offer them Christ”
When our own intellectual AND experiential knowledge of Jesus is deepening, we’ll be better prepared for personal evangelism. 

8. Seek a Response
Does that make sense?
Is that something you’d like to do now?
Do you understand what I mean when I say
repent?
believe?
Ask them to repent of their sins and place their faith in Christ. (Mark 1:15) 

9. Encourage Baptism
Notice that the Ethiopian was baptized immediately. This is relly the first step of obedience for a believer. Get baptized
It’s a public declaration of what Christ has done and a picture of salvation.

10. Church Membership
There wasn’t a church for him to go back to, but early church tradition seems to indicate that he went home and started the first church there. 
Today, there’s no reason for a new believer to not become involved in a local church right away.
God’s design is that the church is to be the fundamental environment in which we are going to grow spiritually.

This Passage Challenges Us
to put evangelism on the front burner
Whether that means
learning the gospel
identifying someone to share with
committing to pray daily for opportunities
getting out and sharing with someone
inviting that friend, co-worker, etc. to come to church

Don’t neglect what is not just a command, but what is one of the great privileges of the Christian life - sharing Jesus with others!

Soli Deo Gloria!
Rob