6/7/2020, Online Sunday Worship Service
The Holy Spirit through Paul exhorts Christians to “be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5.1). As someone else has said, “Christians must live as God’s children and be obedient to their Father.” The call to follow Christ is a call to imitate God is a call to holiness. We have been made children of God by the grace of God. Since He has saved us by grace through faith (2.8) we have an obligation to live according to His holy calling with which He called us (2.10; 4.1). But how is it possible to imitate One who is infinitely above us, the Sovereign God of the universe?
One major way in which our imitation of our Father appears is in how we lived before we came to Christ compared to how we live now that we know Christ. Perhaps before our conversion to Christ, we were supremely selfish; now we seek to serve others because saved people serve people. Maybe before our conversion, we lived to gratify our own desires; now we seek to do what God desires and so please Him. Before Christ, while we may have regarded basic rules of life and sought some measure of health or reputation, we did not regard God’s will; now, without regard to our own reputation or health, we seek to uphold God’s will. Before conversion we conformed to the culture & opinions around us; now we seek to influence culture for Christ and destroy every lofty opinion set up against the knowledge of Christ. As Albert Barnes notes, “Now [Christians] are to be governed by a different rule, and their own former standard of morals and of opinions is no longer their guide, but the will of God.”
5/31/2020, Online Sunday Worship Service
Some years ago I got a text message from a young person I know which contained a number of good though tough questions. One, in particular, was about Jesus dying on the cross: why did He have to die? Why does not God just pardon sins? After all, He’s God! Much ink has been devoted to the question “Why the cross?” While there are a couple of explanations, what seems best to me is what I call “perfect necessity.” In other words, the shed blood of the Lord of glory was perfectly necessary for the atonement of sin.
Remember that it is impossible for God to redeem sinners without vicarious sacrifice (see Hebrews 9.22). Vicarious sacrifice is necessary for God to accomplish atonement. This is the necessary part. In addition, this is the only way God could accomplish human redemption; there is no other way in the mind of God that atonement for sin could happen. While there are some theologians who argue that God could have redeemed people without the atoning death of God since with God all things are possible. Upon closer examination, though, Jesus Himself says, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14.36). Were there other options? According to Jesus, there was no other way to accomplish human redemption. Thus, God could not save people without the atoning death of Christ. This is the perfect part. Hence, a perfect necessity.
When it comes to human redemption, there’s something about it which could only happen in Christ and the cross. Christ dying in our stead is the perfect and best means of accomplishing our salvation. If there were another way, a more perfect and better way, God would have done that. Since He did it the way in which it is accomplished – the atoning death of Christ on the cross – it must be the only and perfect means to accomplish redemption.
5/24/2020, Online Sunday Worship Service
Broken but Holy
God buys broken things. That is a powerful truth at the heart of redemption through the blood of Christ (cf. Ephesians 1.7). This world is broken, cracked, shattered. Tune in to the nightly news if you doubt the fallenness of humanity. Witness the violence, bloodshed, deceit, and sin people commit. But God sent Jesus into the world to live sinlessly and die brutally because He loves humanity. By the blood of Jesus God ransoms lost souls from sin, death, and hell.
I have heard, though I have been unable thus far to verify the validity of it, that Israel carried both the second set of stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments as well as the original stone tablets which Moses threw upon the ground and broke when he comes down from Mount Sinai and saw the sinful activity of the people of God. They carried both sets to show that God cares about a shattered world and accepts people who are broken. “He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1.6, NKJV). Hear the mighty truth of this quotation. God accepted even us imperfect men and women because of Jesus.
Make no mistake about this, though. This is not cheap grace and costless discipleship. Note the kindness and severity of the Lord: kindness that we broken, flawed children of dust are accepted in Christ Jesus; severity toward us should we fail to pursue holiness. Read your Bible and this truth is unmistakable. He Who bids us to “Come unto me all you weary and heavy-laden” also says “Unless you repent you too shall likewise perish.” Therefore, brethren, desire to be more spiritual, more holy, more single-minded, more heavenly-focused, more wholehearted in following hard after God. Only by pursuing holiness can we truly be whole – mind, body, and soul.
5/17/2020, Online Sunday Worship Service
The Holy Spirit Says
The writer of Hebrews has a curious way of quoting Scripture. Curious for us, but it helps realign our minds concerning how we should view Scripture. Chapter three of Hebrews is about how Jesus is greater than Moses. Having made this case, the writer quotes a Psalm written centuries before the time in which he was writing. To introduce this text, though, he writes, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says” (3.7). “Says” is in the present tense. The writer does not say “A long time ago the Holy Spirit said” or even “the Holy Spirit said” using the past tense. “The Holy Spirit says” is present tense as if to say He is still speaking. This is not an isolated incident; in chapters one and two he uses the present tense to introduce various Old Testament texts also.
For us it may seem odd – the Psalmist wrote centuries before the writer of Hebrews put pen to parchment. Yet the writer quotes the Psalm as if it were written that day, even at the same time he was writing. Should we be surprised? God’s word is eternal and timeless. The Bible is old as yesterday, as modern as today, as new as tomorrow. Indeed, although the text of Scripture, Old, and New Testament, was written centuries ago, it is still as fresh as though it were written today.
“Today” is still today. “Today” He – the Holy Spirit – is still speaking. The Bible is not a dead letter written a long time ago by culturally backward people to other culturally backward people. It is no wonder the writer goes on to say that this word is a “living and active” word which is from God for us (cf. 4.12). God’s word is ever speaking, ever calling. He Who spoke at the beginning and worlds leapt into existence is He Who speaks today through His word. So “do not harden your hearts.”
5/10/2020, Online Sunday Worship Service
Mother’s Day Today is Mother’s Day. Have you ever wondered why it is not “Mothers’ Day”? I lost some of you I’m sure. The difference is small but has significant implications. The placing of the apostrophe was deliberate and important to Anna Jarvis, the woman who was the driving force behind this national
holiday. She specifically wanted it Mother’s Day, singular possessive (as opposed to Mothers’ Day, plural possessive), for each family to recognize and honor its mother, not a commemoration of every mother in the world. Hence, this is a day when we each individually honor our mothers.
God has been good to me in blessing me with a wonderful mother. My hope is that you can unite with me in expressing the same sentiments. Growing up with asthma, I can still remember on occasion having to wake up in the wee hours of the morning needing a breathing treatment and mom was there to help and sit with me. Mom was usually the one who helped with my homework, sometimes transcribing the handwritten pages of an essay or report into typed format. Even today, if I need advice about something or some insight into a matter, mom is usually one of the people I consult.
My mom has been and continues to be a woman who seeks to do what God would have her to do, a faithful woman to the Lord and to His Church. This morning I am grateful to God for her and the impact she has had on my life. But while I am certainly grateful for my mother, over and above that I am grateful for the Father. No matter how good my parents were to me or yours to you, the greatest benefactor of all is our Father in heaven. Perhaps even more significantly, no matter how bad your experience may have been with your mother or father, through everything there was the Father who has providentially brought you to the place where you are in your life. And it is God the Father who has graciously given us His Son for forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. ~Nick Perez
5/3/2020, Online Sunday Worship Service
In Constant Prayer, part 2
What does it mean to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5.17)? Perhaps it is akin to being “constant in prayer” (Romans 12.12). Typically it gets defined for what it does not mean: being on our knees always; never coming out of our prayer closet; staying on a mountain top alone with God. Usually it is described as having a continual attitude of prayer or a mindset focused on the abiding presence of God wherein we converse with Him in a persistent manner. I believe all that is right. But in a world which is increasingly apathetic and even hostile toward things religious, the deck is stacked against us when it comes to being in continual communion with God.
This has always been the case when it comes to God’s people seeking His presence. David once wrote how, “In return for my love, they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer” (Psalm 109.4). The latter half of that verse can also be rendered “but I am prayer.” The context for these words is an occasion when “wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues” (verse 2). They are all around David, surrounding him, ready to attack (verse 3). In other words, the deck is stacked against David. So what would David do? Get angry? Fight back? Return reviling for reviling? No. Instead, he loved his enemies and prayed. In fact, so constant was he in prayer that he literally said “I am prayer.”
“Always pray,” says Paul. Because often that is our only recourse. Because often that is all we have. Because sometimes we just need to be prayer. And if David, who lived nearly a millennium before Jesus lived, could so give himself over to prayer, surely those infused with the Spirit of God can do no less. Much more should we be prayer!
4/26/2020, Online Sunday Worship Service
In Constant Prayer, part 1
Repeatedly in Scripture we are encouraged to “seek His face” (Psalm 24.6; 27.8; 105.4). The phrase “seek His face” denotes the idea of seeking the presence of God. It is desiring to be where He is. One way in which we can seek God’s face is in prayer. In prayer we commune with God, talking with Him about anything and everything. Just as we are exhorted over and over to seek His presence, so also the Bible, specifically the New Testament, has a recurrent theme to be constant in prayer.
One such example is found in Ephesians 6.18: “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (ESV). Two great emphases emerge from this text. First, when Paul says to pray “in the Spirit” he is indicating that true prayer is spiritual (see Romans 8.15, 26; Jude 20). The Spirit is in us (1 Corinthians 3.16; 6.19; Ephesians 3.16; Acts 2.38) and He helps us in our weakness, even our prayer life (Romans 8.26). “The ordinary habit of the soul should be prayerful, realizing the presence of God and looking for his grace and guidance.” God is everywhere, always with us. In prayer, our spirit communes with God Who is spirit with the Holy Spirit interceding on our behalf.
The other important point to note is that prayer must be unceasing (“at all times”), undivided (“keep alert with all perseverance”), and universal (“all the saints”). Prayer must be non-stop, focused, and for all Christians. Our hearts must be constantly given over to the continual conversation of our souls with our Savior. We cannot spend our entire lives in a mountain monastery in quiet solitude with God, but we can & should live in continual communion with God, seeking His face through prayer.
4/19/2020 – Online Sunday Worship Service
Helpful Tips for Bible Reading
Helpful Tips for Bible Reading Accept the Bible as the Word of God. Modern and Postmodern critics of the Bible have worked tirelessly yet ingloriously in their attempts to discredit and undermine the Bible. But the Bible outlasts them all and will forever stand as the rock of ages that will never let you down. Read your Bible with an open mind. Do not go to the Bible just to prove your pet doctrines nor to force your ideas into the text. Rather, seek out with honesty and integrity toward the text the main and plain teachings of each passage. Read with a pencil and pad of paper handy. It is good to take notes as you read, especially if there is a passage or verse which is particularly difficult to understand. Even Peter said Paul wrote some things which are difficult to understand (2 Peter 3.16). Also, mark favorite verses so you can come back to them later and meditate on them. Commit them to memory so they are always with you. Read your Bible habitually. Aim to read it every day.
Hit more than you miss. Find a good reading schedule and stick to it with resolution. Stay focused during your reading; do not let your mind wander to upcoming activities or other distractions. Wear your Bible out. When you find a Bible which is falling apart you usually find a person who is not. The Bible is the number one bestseller of all time and it does not appear it will relinquish that title any time soon. So if you use your Bible often it will wear out and you can readily purchase a new one. The only drawback is that your marks from your old Bible will not be in the new one.
4/12/2020 – Online Sunday Worship Service
In the Presence of Jesus
He Has Risen
Jesus’ tomb was not empty for more than a few hours when alternate theories about where His body had gone began to spread (Matt 28.11-15). One bad idea birthed other bad ideas and for the next two millennia, people would continue to try and explain away the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, one chart I found has about eleven (11) different theories put forward by people throughout history in their attempt to explain away the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. None of these theories adequately factors in the facts of the empty tomb and therefore fail. The only explanation for the empty tomb is that Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of God (Rom 1.4). The resurrection, together with the crucifixion, of Jesus is the central event in world history. N. T. Wright says it is the moment toward which everything rushes and from which everything emerges new. All four gospels end with the empty tomb
(Matthew 28.1-10; Mark 16.1-8; Luke 24.1-12; John 20.1-9), angelic proclamation that “He has risen” (Mark 16.6; cf. Matthew 28.6; Luke 24.6), and appearances of the resurrected Jesus (Matthew 28.16-20; Mark 16.9-19; Luke 24.13-51; John 20.19-29). The central theme of the first century church’s message is the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2.22-24, 29-33; 3.15; 4.10; 5.30; 10.39-40; 13.37-38; 17.2-3, 31). The resurrection is so integral to the Christian message and mission that without it, Paul says, “your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15.14, 17). “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15.20). Nick Perez
4/5/2020 – Online Sunday Worship Service
Comfort in the Crisis
The Lord is in His Holy Temple (2)
Last week I traced the history of the temple of God from the tabernacle in the wilderness to the present temple of the Lord – our bodies. Consider the temples, the physical structures, which were the
location of worship for centuries for Israelites. Solomon’s was spectacular. Herod’s was huge. These structures were impressive and expensive, but it was not the money spent on them that made them significant. What made them so great was that they were holy. Whether in the tabernacle or temple, God’s presence resided in it over the Ark of the Covenant between the cherubim. God’s presence was in the Most Holy Place and no one but the High Priest could enter—and he could only enter once a year on the Day of Atonement. The reason: God dwelt there and that place was holy.
I remind us that we are the temple of God today (1 Corinthians 3.17; 2 Corinthians 6.16). God’s temple should still be holy. Holiness is a divine quality. We serve a holy God (Isa. 6.3; Rev. 4.8). Holiness denotes moral purity and perfection. Our holy God invites us to be a holy people (1 Peter 1.15-16). How dare we pollute the temple of the holy God with our sinful indulgences and impurities! Jesus on two separate occasions drove those people out of the temple that had defiled it by having a yard sale. What things would Jesus drive out (with a whip) from His temple today? In other words, brethren, “let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in fear of God” (2 Cor. 7.1).
– Nick Perez
3/29/2020 – Online Sunday Worship Service
What to Do in Distressing Times
The Lord is in His Holy Temple (1)
For about 400 years, the place of worship for the Israelites was a tent. Perhaps it is better known as the
Tabernacle. Throughout their wilderness trek, during the infancy of their existence as a nation, and during the reign of two of their kings, Israel called a tent their place of worship. Only when Solomon came to the throne did Israel finally have God’s approval to build the “house of God” (1 Chron. 29.2).
And so Solomon built the Temple of the Lord and it was a glorious dwelling. The greatness and beauty
of it is recorded in the Old Testament. It was ornately decorated with precious metals and the finest stones. Tragically, this temple only stood for about 340 years before the Babylonians tore it down. Later Israel would rebuild their temple, but those who had seen the beauty, greatness, and glory of the first temple wept when they realized that the new temple was not as glorious as the first. Herod would come along later and expand on this temple to make his own temple which was very grand
with magnificent marble and gold. In AD 70, even this marvelous structure was torn to pieces, not one stone left upon another, as the Lord had prophesied (Matt. 24.2).
Paul told Christians in Corinth, “God’s temple is holy and you are that temple” (1 Cor. 3.17 ESV, emphasis
mine) and reminded them that “we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6.16 ESV, emphasis mine). Today, Christians are the temple of God inasmuch as He makes His residence in us; God’s Spirit dwells within us. And God’s temple has always been holy and should still be holy today.
– Nick Perez
3/22/2020 – Online Sunday Worship Service
Sunday’s Worship Service 3-22-20 updated
by Nick Perez
Defining what a disciple is is both simple and complex. On the one hand, the word itself simply
means one who follows another. Overwhelmingly the word is used in the New Testament to describe
one who follows Jesus and His teaching. On the other hand, Jesus had a lot to say about what it
means to follow Him. Abiding in His word (John 8.31), loving God (Matthew 22.37), loving our
neighbors (Matthew 22.39), loving fellow followers of Jesus (John 13.34-35), bearing fruit (John 15.1ff), following Jesus according to the conditions He establishes (Luke 14.25ff) – the list can be quite
extensive of what a disciple is and does. So there is a risk of being overly simplistic on the one hand
and on the other hand being overwhelmed by a too-wordy definition.
Noting this risk, one text which has for me served to define discipleship is Luke 9.23: Jesus said to all, “If
anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (ESV).
Following Jesus (“come after Me…follow Me”) in all its simplicity and complexity are on display.
Renunciation of self and sin (“deny himself ”) is enjoined. The universality of the call (“He said to
all”) points to the communal and relational aspects of following Jesus, i.e. we do not follow alone. Daily
death to self (“take up his cross daily”) points to the transformative effects of the cross and the gospel in
the life of the disciple.