A Really Good Poem!

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:10

I have a confession to make. I am not really a poetry person. I’ve tried. I really want to be a poetry person, but poetry and I are just not a great match. In fact, I even studied a lot of poetry in college as my minor was Literature, but sadly I never really got the knack for understanding it. I really like the idea of poetry and I even try to read poetry every now and again, but most of the time, I find myself missing the point. I’d even like to be able to write poetry, but every time I’ve tried, the words just don’t come. Maybe I’m too linear, or maybe I haven’t practiced enough, or maybe I just need the right teacher.

Have you ever talked about or studied poetry with a real poetry person? I’ve had professors who were amazing poets! They could write amazing poetry and then when they read a poem, they were immediately able to analyze it with all the right words. These people will pick out ideas and concepts in places where I only see randomness. But it is actually the most interesting when you hear a poet describe their own poem. I just love that! This is when you hear the heart and passion behind the words. This is when the poem will jump off of the page and come to life.

I bring up poetry and poets today because in the passage above (Ephesians 2:10), the word that is translated as “handiwork” is the Greek word poēma, from which we get the word “poem.” This means that you could almost say that we are “God’s poem.” And if God wrote the poem that is you, then that means that we could call God a poet or The Poet. Wouldn’t it be great if we could talk to The Poet? Wouldn’t it be great if we could hear how he talks about his poetry? Would the poem just leap for joy and come alive, if The Poet could explain his poem?

I’d like to suggest to you that God, The Poet, did in fact explain his poetry to us when he gave us the words of scripture. The Bible is as much a book about who we are as it is a book about Who God is. In the pages of scripture, you will hear the voice of The Poet who wrote the poem that we call you. And I pray that as you read and study and explore the pages of scripture, you will understand how amazing all of God’s poetry is, but I really hope that you will look at the poem that is you and be able to say, “Wow, that is a really good poem!”

Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor

Training for Growth

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness… - 2 Timothy 3:16

As we have seen this week, Paul tells Timothy that Scripture is breathed out by God for four distinct purposes and today we get to talk about the fourth purpose: training in righteousness. So we’re going to consider how this statement is true: “the God-breathed words of scripture are profitable for training in righteousness.” At first glance, you might think that this verse is a truism. In other words, you might think that this statement is obviously true and therefore not all that interesting. You might think, “Of course, scripture is useful or profitable for training in righteousness! What else would it be used for?”

My only response to that would be if this seems so true, why don’t more people live like it’s true. I definitely see people regularly using scripture for teaching (we do this every Sunday), often for reproof (discovering what you did wrong), and often for correction (trying to fix what you did wrong), but training? That’s something different. Training, as this word is used here, is a dedicated discipline so as to learn a new habit or trait. Training involves repetition and prolonged effort toward a goal of making the truth of scripture become second nature. If teaching is useful in making someone more knowledgeable (which is a good thing), then training is useful in making someone more virtuous (which I think is a better thing). To be virtuous is to do the right thing for the right reasons. In order to be virtuous, you have to know what the right thing is (teaching) and then practice it through a long process of reproof and correction until the right thing is the natural thing. This can take years, but when it happens you know that you are growing into a man or woman of God who is “complete, equipped for every good work.”

So, my question for you is, what do you need training in? What trait do you want to be more natural to you? Is it reading your Bible every day? Praying regularly? Is it responding in peace instead of anger? Or maybe it is stopping an activity or action that is bringing you down, like language, internet use, music, etc. Whatever it is, consider turning it into a training plan. Set a goal, make a list, find an accountability partner, and then make it costly. We do this all the time for other training plans. We know how much work it is to train for a race or to get in shape, why would we think training in righteousness would be any easier? Maybe it’s time to start training. What’s your plan going to be?

Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor

Conviction and Correction

As a parent, on many occasions I’ve heard my kids say to one another, “you’re not the boss of me…” or “don’t tell me what to do!” Let’s be honest, most of us don’t love it when people tell us what to do. Whether it’s a government getting too involved in our lives, or a spouse or child over asserting themselves – we don’t like to be bossed around. I think there are two primary reasons for that nearly universal sentiment. First, being bossed around confronts our desire for independence. We want to call the shots and determine the course of our own life. Secondly, most of us live with a low-grade suspicion of authority. We’ve seen power abused and people calling the shots doing so to their own benefit, so we’re inherently skeptical of the motives of those bossing us around.

We bring all that baggage into the way we read Scripture. We often resist the instruction given because we don’t want to be bossed around – even by God. We don’t want to be told we’re wrong, and so, at times, we gloss over the way God wants to confront us and call us to repentance. However, one of the purposes of Scripture is for God to speak to us and tell us that we’re wrong. Listen to the way Paul wrote about this in 2 Timothy 3:16. He said, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” One of the reasons Scripture is useful is because it convicts (“reproof” in the ESV) us and corrects us.

The ideas of conviction and correction work in tandem; they’re two sides of the same coin. When the Scriptures convict, they call us out on the ways we’re wrong. When Scripture corrects, it shows us the way forward. Scripture calls us out in order to lead us forward. However, we must read the Bible with a sense of openness if we’re going to allow God to speak into our lives through it. We must be willing to be shown that we’re wrong, and we must be willing to change. We can read the Bible all day, but if we don’t have the right heart and an openness to God, we’ll resist His conviction and correction holding onto our independence and self-sufficiency.

As you read Scripture this week, maybe start your time with a short prayer, “God, show me where I’m off and lead me forward in your way.” That’s essentially what David prayed when he said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24) Then, when the Spirit quickens you, pause and thank God; He’s calling you out to call you forward. After you thank Him, make a commitment to act on what He’s shown you.

Pastor Ryan Paulson
Lead Pastor

Wise for Salvation

As I sat down to write this devotional, the song that came to mind was Peter Frampton’s classic 1976 hit, “Show Me the Way.” Why? Because the song title reminds me of one of the main functions of Scripture, which is to “show me the way” to salvation (or as 2 Timothy 3:15 says, to make us “wise for salvation.”).

In John 5:39-40, we have a recorded interaction between Jesus and “the Jews.” One thing that He says to them is very helpful when thinking about the role of the Bible in our salvation. This is what He says, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.”

We can see exactly what He is saying to them, and to us. Knowing the Bible does not result in gaining or possessing eternal life. In reality, knowing the Bible only results in knowing the Bible (and apparently is having a false sense of being saved) if we don’t do what it calls us to do, which is to come to Jesus and have a life!

Perhaps as we start the new year, these words of Jesus to “the Jews” would be good for us to take into consideration. As we evaluate our relationship with God, do we think we have the right standing with Him because of our knowledge of Scripture? Is this what we think saves us from our sins - that we know the Bible really, really well? That’s the salvation side. But what about the “growth in Christ” side? Do we tend to focus more on knowing about God than knowing God? Are we being careful to let the Scriptures do what God intends for them to do - to point us to Jesus so we can have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10)?

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Let no wise man boast of his wisdom, nor let the mighty man boast of his might, nor a rich man boast of his riches but let the one who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises mercy, justice, and righteousness on the earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23-24

May we be known as a people whose boast is not in how well we know the Scriptures, but in how well we understand and know Him!

Scott Smith
Connections & Growth Pastor

A Book to Bleed For

Series: The Good Book
2 Timothy 3:10-17

Speaker: Pastor Ryan Paulson

On Sunday, January 9th, Lead Pastor Ryan Paulson taught us from 2 Timothy 3:10-17 in his sermon message, A Book to Bleed For. This is the second message in a two-part series on the Bible, The Good Book.

What's Good

Series: The Good Book
2 Peter 1:16-21

Speaker: Pastor Josh Rose

On Sunday, January 2nd, Teaching Pastor Josh Rose taught us from 2 Peter 1:16-21 in his sermon message, What's Good. This is the first message in a two-part series on the Bible, The Good Book. (If you would like to watch the 5pm evening service from January 2 with Pastor Ryan Lunde, click here.)