Cyber Book Club–Week 1: Bonhoeffer’s Family… and Yours

Paula Bonhoeffer with her eight children. Dietrich is the blond boy by his mother.

Paula Bonhoeffer with her eight children. Dietrich is the blond boy by his mother.

Hopefully you have your book by now (audio, e-book, or real 😉 and maybe a friend who you would like to get to know better to read along with us.

This week we are reading Chapter 1. Pretty simple! Not too long.

Here are some questions to think about as we read.

How has the family in which God placed you played a part in who you are today?

What traits have you inherited from your parents or grandparents that help you in your work today?

How did WWII affect your family?

We want to hear from you! Share thoughts in the comments section! Or better yet, share with the person next to you!

EBH

The Spiritual Connection Between the Heart and the Mouth

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Ever blurted out something really hurtful and then immediately apologized with some kind of excuse, hoping the excuse will automatically wipe away the inflicted harm? The excuse usually runs something like, “I’m sorry. I don’t why I said that. I’m tired and today has been a frustrating day. That’s not really me. That’s not how I actually feel.”
Well……actually…..it is. We just don’t like to see, admit, or confess our own horrible selves when they show up! The Bible reveals though that what comes out of the mouth was birthed in the heart – the good, the bad, and the ugly!
Consider these biblical assertions on the relationship between the heart and our actions or words.
1. Matthew 12:34 – For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
2. Mark 7:21-23 – For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.
The hard truth is that when we blurt out hurtful words, entertain unholy thoughts, secretly engage in sin, or speak ill of someone behind his back, it is a reflection of our hearts. Sin has taken root, it has been cultivated, and now it has blossomed! More often, it blossoms in what we say or how we say it. (James 1:14-15)
Rather than deny our sin through some lame excuse, better to own up to it, apologize for it, confess it to God, ask forgiveness, and seek the strength to sever the root of sin from our hearts! (I John 1:9)
On the other hand, our mouths do not only reveal when sin has taken root in our hearts, they also reveal when grace is growing in our hearts!! Note carefully how David describes the relation between grace at work in his heart and the song of praise on his lips. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.” Psalm 28:7
Let us pay close attention to the words of our mouths, for they are reflecting something about our hearts. When our words are unholy or unhealthy, let’s confess our sin to God and ask that He fill our hearts with faith, humility, and grace. When our words are pleasing to God and edifying to others, let’s praise God for His grace in our lives and beg Him to continue to fill us with His Spirit!!
The mouth reveals our true selves, our inner selves, our hearts. When they show us sin, sever the root! When they show us grace, give God the glory!!
Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor

Third Sunday of Epiphany: When Did Christ Call You?

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Each disciple had a moment when everything changed. They had their life before Christ– and their life after Christ. Between the two stood a moment, like a fulcrum at the center of a seesaw. A moment when Christ manifested Himself to them–one moment darkness and the next light.

An epiphany.

When did Christ call you? Or is He calling you now?

Matthew couldn’t have been expecting it. One day Christ walked by, paused, and said “Follow me.” And Matthew did!

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. Matthew 9:9

Is He calling you? Has he? Thank Him and step into the light. Step into a world lit by His truth and love!

If you are just now understanding this, the next step is to find a good church near you where you and your family can learn more about the Bible and enjoy the company and encouragement of other Christians.

If you live in the Fresno/Clovis area, come visit us! Pastor Wil is always available to tell you more about accepting Christ as your Savior. We meet at Clovis Evangelical Free Church and our address is 2377 Armstrong Ave., Clovis, CA. On Sundays, we have Bible studies for children and adults at 9:00 am and a worship service at 10:30 am. Our web address is clovisevfree.org.

Avoiding Legalism and Moralism with the Commands of Scripture

chainAny time we are presented with a list of commands, like the 50+ commands found in Romans 12-14, we are prone to head down one of two dangerous paths: legalism or moralism.
Legalism is the pursuit of keeping a list of commands, biblical or man-made, in order to make yourself right with God. Paul just spent 11 chapters arguing against keeping commands in a legalistic fashion. First, he argues that we are all sinners, so it does no good to try to keep a list of commands to be right with God because we’ve already missed the mark. We can’t undo by keeping the law what we’ve already messed up by breaking it. Second, the Jew already tried the way of the Law, and he is not right with God because he is a lawbreaker. Third, that’s why God made the way of salvation by faith in His Son and not by the law.
So when it comes to the 50 commands in Rom 12-14,or any other biblical imperatives, we must not view keeping these commands as earning salvation or favor with God. If we do so, therein lies an eternal danger. If you think that salvation is in the keeping of the commands, it is possible for you to make yourself obedient to these commands to a certain degree and totally miss heaven.
Moralism is slightly different but just as dangerous and just as prevalent as legalism. Moralism views Christianity as simply a moral code, a list of do’s and don’ts. Moralism is not trying to be right with God by keeping commands, moralism believes it is right with God by simply being a good person. However, the Christian faith is not simply good works; the Christian faith results in good works. The failure of moralism is the absence of viewing good works as being dependent upon faith and grace. In a moralistic view, Christianity is just being a good person. The eternal danger is that it is possible to be a “good person” to a certain degree and totally miss heaven!
So how do we avoid legalism and moralism when it comes to Paul’s list of 50 commands in Rom 12-14 or any biblical commands?
There is a biblical paradigm found throughout Scripture that gives us the answer. The paradigm is that as God has been so merciful to us in Christ to save sinners, we respond to Him with lives of worship. The commands of Scripture are simply clarifying for us how we worship God with our lives. In Romans 12:1, this paradigm is stated as “the mercies of God” and our response as “living sacrifices.” Remember, Paul calls this our spiritual worship!
We avoid legalism and moralism by viewing these commands as the way we worship God with our lives, the way we respond to the mercies of God in our salvation. Legalism is not worship. Legalism is not responding to God’s mercies by laying down our lives in humble obedience. Legalism is trying to obtain God’s mercies. Moralism is not worship. Moralism is not responding to God’s mercies by self-denial for the good of others. Moralism is simply abiding by a self-imposed standard with no regard for the worship of God. But when we are in awe of how sinful we are and yet God has been so graciously merciful to us, we respond to His mercies by laying down our lives, resisting the world, and filling our lives with God’s Word. It is not an attempt to make ourselves right with God, it is our willing, proper response for being made right with God. It is not simply being a good person, this life is worship!
If we approach the commands of Scripture as the way we worship God in response to His rich, eternal mercies to us in Christ, we avoid the eternal dangers of legalism and moralism!!
Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor

Cyber Book Club Launch–Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer 70 Years Later

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“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds..”Hebrews 10:23-24

Life is hard. You don’t have to live very long to figure that one out. We’re about being real so you won’t find any promises of a primrose path from us. But we FULLY believe in the promise of Jesus Christ when He said, “…surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 20) Watching Christ be faithful to His children in hard times strengthens our faith and encourages us to press on.

Join us as we see how Christ called, changed, and showed His faithfulness to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who lived in Hitler’s Nazi Germany.  Emerge encouraged, inspired, and thankful for the inheritance we have in Christ while gaining a new perspective on life before and during World War II. Bring your kids along for the journey too! Why not?

The plan is simple:

  • find a copy of the book (beg, borrow, but don’t steal!)
  • read along with us (we will tackle this book in small bites)
  • share how God is speaking to you in the comment section

We will begin reading on January 31st.

We look forward to sharing and learning together in 2015!

EBH

The First Sunday of Epiphany–Remembering that Christ’s Light is For All People

The Adoration of the Magi Artist: Bartoleme Esteban Murillo

The Adoration of the Magi Artist: Bartoleme Esteban Murillo

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your rising.” Isaiah 60:1-6

This is a good truth to remember as we grapple with the horrific attacks in France this week. When any group of people perpetrates violent acts on another it is easy to jump quickly to an us vs. them mentality. While governments should use all their just powers to protect the innocent and punish those who do evil, we can remember that God’s children will come from every nation on earth. God told Abraham of His intention to bless all men through him and Christ is the accomplishment of His will. Over and over in Scripture we read about God’s desire to bring people from all nations to Himself.

The first day of Epiphany falls the day after the Christmas season ends the morning after the 12th day of Christmas. This is always January 6th. On it, the Church remembers that God sent a star to reach Gentiles, who we know as the Wise Men, so that they could come and worship Jesus. Even at the birth of His Son, God invited all men. Since then, the good news of salvation through Christ’s atonement for our sins on the cross has spread to some of the remotest places on the planet. God’s inclusion of Gentiles into His kingdom is great news! After all, that’s most of us.

The first Sunday after Epiphany, we remember Christ’s baptism. At Christ’s baptism God illumined us not by a star in the east or by angels singing, but by a dove descending on Jesus and a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17

All in all, see how gracious God is to do so much to bring light into our lives!

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” 1 John 3:1