J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

The Lord is My Sheep Herder

Animated_jesus_shepherd_sheep_hg_blk_000The 23rd Psalm is one of the most familiar sections in all of scripture.  Even people who are antagonistic towards God, Christianity, Judaism, or any other strata of religion associated with the Psalm find in it a wonderful, peaceful promise:  the Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

These days so many people twist and turn that promise into some odd statement from God about Bentley’s and never needing to go to the doctor.  But as far as I can see, sheep still lived a pretty sheep like life (only with no worries).  That really is the crux of the promise:  those that are weak and need guidance, sustenance, and care from someone who has their best interest at heart are blessed to be cared for by just such a person.

The children of God have a heavenly Father who is their shepherd.  He guides them to restful places while protecting them from dangers that they can’t even imagine.  The sheep more times than not are not even aware of the protection of the shepherd as he guides them away from danger and towards the meeting of their needs.

In the midst of our days, these are truths that are intended to comfort and even inspire.  We should know that God the Father is looking out with care for His children.  In addition, the children of God can also live taking great risks of faith and obedience because of their Father’s guidance.

We are going to take a break from the book of Romans this week at Sovereign King and pursue these great thoughts.  If you would like to join us, we meet at 10:30am each Sunday, and you can find directions to our space at http://www.sovereignkingpca.net/1.2.html.

September 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

I Will Always Love You

the notebookThere are seemingly a million movies made each year, and practically every one of them has some romantic story line.  You can see the grossest comedy or the scariest horror movie, and more than likely, there will be two people either in love or two people who fall in love by the time movie is over.  These movies make a lasting impact when they can create that scene where one character makes a declaration of love that is so convincing, the audience wishes that someone would tell them the very same thing.  And for some reason, men declaring their love in the rain is even more powerful.

For example, there is that famous scene in “The Last of the Mohicans” where Hawkeye declares to Cora Munro, “No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.”  I’ve spoken to many women who find the scene so memorable that they wish someone would say those very words to them and of course mean it.  More recently, a movie with a memorable scene like this is “The Notebook” where there is the perfunctory man of lower social status who falls in love with a socialite.  Apparently, the themes of Romeo and Juliet never grow old.  Well, the socialite, named Allie, confronts the young man named Noah, of course in a rain storm, about why he has never written her.

Allie: Why didn’t you write me? Why? It wasn’t over for me, I waited for you for seven years. But now it’s too late.
Noah: I wrote you 365 letters. I wrote you everyday for a year.
Allie: You wrote me?
Noah: Yes… it wasn’t over, it still isn’t over

And then they kiss.  Of course, there is always the example of Jack and Rose in Titanic promising each other that they’ll never let go. Once again, water is the key element to any promise of affection.  If you are a guy, maybe you just dig on the Terminator looking back and saying, “I’ll be back.”

One of the reasons that I think these moments are so effective and so memorable is that they give the impression of a secure promise of love.  Promises of love are made all the time, and by looking at the divorce rate, it is easy to see that promises of love are not easily kept.  I guess in any relationship, security is incredibly important.  If you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that a person loves you, then you can rest.  No security equals no rest.

Well, this week in the book of Romans, Paul wants to make God’s love to His children abundantly clear.  He is going to detail the many ways that God has demonstrated both that love and that security, and the intention of his telling is for those who have faith in Jesus Christ to exhale…to rest.

With that in mind, we are going to this Big Picture Question this week:

Big Picture Question:  What lengths does God go to assure His children that He loves them?

If you would like to join us at Sovereign King, we meet for worship at 10:30am and you can find directions at http://www.sovereignkingpca.net/1.2.html

A video preview of the sermon can be found below

September 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ignorance is Miss

ignorantChristianity is a religion based on faith, and scripture defines that faith as the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).  And consistently throughout scripture, one finds there is no real hope for relationship with God apart from faith:  As Ephesians 2.8-9 say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Although Christianity is faith-based, that does not mean that it should not also be an intellectual and researched faith.  In fact, researching and understanding Christianity actually reinforces the truths gifted by faith.  We see this explained in the beginning of the book of Luke:  Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Unfortunately, because Christianity is based on faith, many believers in Jesus spend little or no time pursuing depth of knowledge in the scriptures, in pursuing theology, or understanding the history of the church.  When those outside the church criticize Christians for this, they are completely justified in their comments.  The scriptures command a deep, organized Biblical theology in 2 Timothy 2:15

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

The phrase “rightly handling” or as some older translations phrase it “rightly dividing” is a tent-making term which makes sense as Paul made tents for a living.  It meant to cut all the tent fabric properly and carefully so that they would fit together to make a tent. The emphasis in this verse then is that one should study the scriptures diligently and have an educated and consistent theology.  Biblical convictions must fit within the greater framework of the scriptures.  Doing this hard study is an act of affection to God.  Studying is not a cold, hard academic endeavor.  It is an act of love.  The editors of the ESV Study Bible emphasized this when they said:

Knowledge without devotion is cold, dead orthodoxy. Devotion without knowledge is irrational instability. But true knowledge of God includes understanding everything from his perspective. Theology is learning to think God’s thoughts after him. It is to learn what God loves and hates, and to see, hear, think, and act the way he does. Knowing how God thinks is the first step in becoming godly.

Again, I will say that unfortunately, many Christians don’t purse a deep level of understanding the scriptures.  In fact, right now, many may know more about the President’s proposed health plan, the stats of the their fantasy football team, or the plot lines of their favorite TV show than they do about piecing together the truths of Scripture into a consistent, God-honoring theology.  This is sad and should not be.  Make no mistake:  every believer is a theologian.  They are either good ones or bad ones.

As always, and definitively consistent with the themes of the book of Romans, Paul makes the case that one of the things that God does is help us in this weakness.  One of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to lead God’s children into deeper Biblical truth.  God always equips those to which He calls.  In light of that, let’s ask this Big Picture Question this week:

Big Picture Question:  How does God help His children know Him better?

If you would like to join Sovereign King this Sunday, we meet for worship at 10:30am, and you can find directions to our space at http://www.sovereignkingpca.net/1.2.html

If you would like to see a video preview for this sermon, you can find it  below or at http://bit.ly/mVoWd

September 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Dollar Store Clay Pots

clay potsJesus.

Say his name with emphasis, and it becomes a curse word.  Say it contemplatively, and His name becomes an act of worship.  Say it in some arenas it will offend, while not saying it in others is offensive.  As the old hymn sings, “Jesus, there is something about that name.”  All of scripture, and especially the book of Romans, make it abundantly clear:  there is no peace with God the Father without the work Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Not only does faith in the work of Jesus bring about peace with God the Father, His work also declares you justified or legally innocent of sin.  These truths, also known as the Gospel, should cause each and every believer to rejoice because they have a true and honest hope of seeing the glory of God.

The irony of the life of following Jesus is that you are simultaneously free and dependent at the same time.  You are no longer a slave to sin which makes you free, but you are also completely dependent upon Jesus for life, salvation, forgiveness, and obedience.  So, instead of living a life of futility, you can live a life of true, honest God-glorifying obedience.   A life of joy, happiness, and hope is possible but only as it is done in the name of Jesus Christ.  Do it for yourself, and you works will be futile.  Do it for Jesus’ glory and in His name, and you will find yourself.

No here is something else that is amazing:  God entrusts these wonderful truths to you.  2 Corinthians 4 describes this as a treasure in a clay pot.  It is like using a weak dollar store flower pot to hold a million dollars in gold.  If you are a believer in Jesus, that’s you.  God has entrusted the message of the Gospel, the wonderful work of Jesus Christ, to you.  He has ordained that the means by which people will hear the Gospel is you proclaiming the truths of scripture to those that need to hear it.

You would think that the church, who Jesus affectionately calls His bride, would eagerly and tirelessly proclaim to a lost and hurting world the freedom and peace with God that comes through Jesus.  Yet, outside the walls of most church buildings, Jesus’ name remains unsaid.  The simplest barometer to determine how the church is doing in proclaiming Jesus is for you personally to ask yourself how you are doing in that task.  If you remain silent in hearing that question because you know that you haven’t proclaimed Jesus to yourself much less world lately, then you know how the church doing…poorly.

You may say that you are inadequate, uneducated, or ill-equipped to proclaim Jesus and gladly leave that job to me or some other pastor.  But I would offer that if the treasure of the message of Jesus is in held clay pots, then God is looking for those who aren’t too confident in themselves but rather those who are confident in the treasure in which they hold.  Oswald Chambers called the paradox that God entrusts us with His message, “The Brave Comradeship of God.”

To understand this in greater depth we need to understand just how we are to live this life of freedom and dependence.  To help us we are going to do a brief overview of the first half of the book of Romans.  With that in mind, let’s make that our Big Picture Question.

Big Picture Question:  How are freedom and dependence the keys to understanding our relationship with God?

If you would like to join Sovereign King for worship, we meet each Sunday at 10:30am.  You can find directions at here.

September 4, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Like Father, Like Son

I am my father’s son and am proud of it.  For example, my father, affectionately called Sam, is a musician, and I am a musician.  He found the love of his life and married her as soon as he could.  I did the same, and though my 13 years of marriage don’t match his 54, I am well on my way to being happily married for the rest of my life.  My father worked 2-3 jobs to get through seminary, and so did I.  Sam happily became a pastor and found great joy in seeing people come to know Christ.  I am happily a pastor after declaring that I would never be one, but I have come to find the same joy that my Father had.

Now I also inherited some of my dad’s shortcomings as well, but out of respect to him, I’ll just own them instead of detailing them for you.  Any of my sinful proclivities are mine without much blame to him, and most of you know my shortcomings without me having to go through them one by one.

But in most ways, I am my father’s son and am proud to be so.

In the big picture, I don’t have any grand complaints about my dad, and I know that I am blessed in that.  Not everybody, in fact very few people, can say that they are thankfully just like their father.  Graciously, as we grow older, it is wiser to consider the strengths and talents of our Dads praying that God equip us with them.  As we consider their weaknesses, we pray that God would redeem them to obedience and strengths in our lives.

Either way, we are our fathers’ sons and daughters.  For some, that is a hopeful prospect and for others, it is a dreadful one.  But here is the good news:  when we place our faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, a wonderful re-parenting takes place.  Our Heavenly Father is our Father.  He is not weak as earthly fathers are, and He is stronger and more pure than any earthly father could hope to be.  The wonderful promise of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in John 17 comes to life in our lives because Jesus prayed, “Father, loved them as you have loved me.”  We experience the love and affection of God the Father to Jesus the Son in our lives.  He calls us His, and we call Him ours.

So, just as we reflect our earthly fathers, we are to reflect our Heavenly Father by imitating our brother, Jesus.  Jesus Himself declared this in John 8:42:  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.”

Living as the Father calls us to live and loving the Father as He has called us to love is done by imitating the true Son, Jesus Christ.  Understanding this is what we hope to accomplish at Sovereign King this Sunday, so in light of that, we are going to ask this Big Picture Question: 

Big Picture Question:  Who does God call His children to be and how does God equip us to be what He has called us?

If you would like to join Sovereign King for worship, we meet each Sunday at 10:30am, and you can find directions at http://www.sovereignkingpca.net/1.2.html

samandgordo

August 21, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 3 Comments

Back to the Future – Sermon Preview for 08/16/09

Last week at Sovereign King Church, we hunkered down in Romans 8 with the goal of understanding the implications of verse 1: there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That understanding led us to explore the three dimensions of this now non-condemned state.

The first implication is that there is no condemnation for past sins in Christ Jesus which means the intended life of a believer is to live without guilt for ourselves and without impugning guilt on others. Guilt means there is some penalty left to pay, but Christ pays His bills. There is no penalty left for sin.

There is no condemnation in the present for sins either, so the believer can repent boldly and fearlessly confess sin as Heaven rejoices when sinners come to repentance. Fear is removed in the present because there is now no condemnation.

There is also no condemnation for our future knowing that Jesus has promised not to lose any of those that the Father has given to Him. If you profess faith in Christ for your righteousness and forgiveness of sin, then the promise of persevering faith is yours and ultimately you will enjoy Heaven and the presence of God because Jesus cares for and preserves His own.

These things are true because of what God has done as illustrated in verses 2-4 of Romans 8. God saw your need and was compassionate to you. He sent His son, Jesus, in the flesh to take the curse of sin. Jesus fulfilled all the righteous requirements of God’s law on your behalf, and now you can live a life of Spirit enabled worship and obedience.

This is the Gospel.

Notice the progression of God’s work for us and how it plays out in the life of the believer. God saw your need, sent Jesus, Jesus lives, dies, and rises again, and you get to live a new and transformed life. Danish Theologian Søren Kierkegaard best summarized this out when he said, “Life in Christ is best understood backwards but lived forward.”

Consider that for a moment. The life of the believer only makes sense if it is understood backwards in light of God’s compassion and Jesus’ work. Then the believer can live going forward with the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Believers in Christ always look back to Jesus’ work to understand their life so they might live it best going forward.

Now, the reason that truth is so foundational is because that it is exactly how all of us live. Every one of us have some life changing event or series of events that cast a great light on the rest of life. Grow up with a damaged relationship with your parents and you can spend a lifetime trying to fix that mess. You can experience great success in school and in sports and then spend the rest of your life either trying to recapture that glory or using those experiences to go on to bigger and better things. Someone can break your heart years ago, and then you decide to spend the rest of your life never really being vulnerable again because you don’t want to get hurt again.

We all understand our lives backwards but live them going forward. That’s why the work of Jesus is so transformational. It is the one event in our past that will not truly haunt us. Understand it, and then live your life forward. Understand it, and every other event in your life will pale in comparison.

With that tremendous truth in front of us, why don’t we just make that our Big Picture Question?

Big Picture Question: How is life in Christ best understood backwards but lived forward?

If you would like to worship with us at Sovereign King, we meet each Sunday at 10:30am, and you can find directions to our space at http://www.sovereignkingpca.net/1.2.html

backtothefuture

August 14, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment