- ReadPastor's NewsMay 9, 2021
To the Congregation Sojourning in Ruston and beyond,
May you be filled with grace and peace by the presence of the Holy Spirit. May the King born from broken people for broken be your hope and present help.
This Sunday we finish our series in Rooted Christianity by looking at Gratitude Part 3: The Hands. As our liturgy will emphasize, Paul encourages us to work through labors for the good of all people (Gal 6:10). This is not mere well wishes or good vibes. We are called to have heads, hearts, and hands that are devoted to the Lord in bearing fruits.
Speaking of fruits, our next Sunday School series will be the Fruits of the Spirit. Our beloved brother, Bruce Willson, will be leading us for six weeks through the very important topic of Fruits of the Spirit. Bruce will be drawing from the fantastic little pocketbook by John Fesko: HERE. Please plan to attend and use the changing series as an opportunity to invite friends, neighbors, strangers, and future family members.
In worship, we will turn to Matthew 2: Crying for a New Moses. The chapter is full of prophetic fulfillment, danger/suspense, covenantal expectations, and important questions regarding the doctrine of scripture. I hope you can join us as we see the importance of Christ's coming and realizing he was born bearing great expectations.
Bonus: If you are a real curious cat or suffering from insomnia, Josephus provides a historical background to Matthew 2. Before Herod died, he went crazy, became increasingly cruel, and then murdered much of his own family.
Antiquities 17.188-89, 317 (17.7-8)
- ReadPastor's NewsMay 2, 2021
Saints sojourning in Ruston and beyond,
I hope you are all well and making time to turn off the noise and turn into your Father. After Psa 46 and 1-2, we have been readily equipped with the psalmic reminders of proper paths.
However, I confess that the noise of the media has depressed me deeply this week. I have allowed the world narrative to be defined by the news outlets, bringing despair to my heart. I must grab hold of what God is teaching us; I must be still and know him. I must again remember and believe that the nations will rage, but nothing will supplant his power—God's sufficient at answering all objections to his sovereignty. Let's pray that sinks in again.
Last night's book club was certainly an encouragement. I hope everyone can join the next one on May 26.
We continue looking at Gratitude in Sunday School. I wrote a little summary of our lesson last week HERE. The problem is if gratitude is not natural, even in light of Christ's great gift, then how does it begin to cultivate and blossom? Join us at 9:30 am.
Also, in worship, we begin our new series. I am very excited to dig into Christ as displayed through Matthew: Enjoying the Kingdom Now. Our series begins with the curious matter of the Genealogy of Hope. As I mentioned before, I encourage you to read through Matthew a couple of times to get the feel of the story. If you prefer, here is a great little video for you and the kids too. Great stuff!
I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday.
Remember that we have book club at the Stevens' house.
When: Wednesday, 28
Time: 6:30 PM
What: Knowing God by Packer. Chapters 1-4
HERE is a link to Hoopla's free audiobook.
Also, building on last week's Sunday School, a little write-up about The Attitude of Gratitude is not Native.
The Attitude of Gratitude is Not Native
Anyone honest with themselves will confess how hard it is to express a disposition of gratitude for more than a few minutes. Even when we are given a gift of great value, our hearts wonder why we didn’t get it in our favorite color. Or worse, why we didn’t get two. Since the fall in Genesis 3, we have a propensity toward an insatiable desire for more and more. This facet of human life is observed around the world throughout the ages. The ancient Greeks tried to create philosophies that curbed desired, and far Eastern philosophies sought enlightenment through negating such worldly desires. One such example is Seneca, who held that ingratitude is worse than murder, adultery, tyranny, or sacrilege.
Anyone who has been around children playing together will readily recognize the issue. But it is not just toddlers and toys that are the problem. The same is true for adults desiring promotions at work, bigger houses, shiny new trucks, or grander vacations. However, the root of the matter is not materialistic lives. Materialism is a symptom of the underlying deficiency. The real problem is that we have a conflated view of self and believe in an egocentric universe (See Jean Twenge, The Narcissism Epidemic).
We believe we are entitled to the biggest, best, and most. This conflated view of the self is a killer to gratitude and contentment. It robs us of remembering what we truly have received that is good. For this reason, it is right for us to say that an attitude of gratitude is not native to the human condition. It is not natural for us to feel gratitude for long.
We certainly find this to be true of our hearts in life, in the lives of our children, and in our culture. One clear example in Scripture of this lack of gratitude is Genesis 3–4. When we consider the hearts and attitudes of Adam and Eve, we should be shocked at their disposition.
In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve commit a horrific act of violence against God. Not only do they fail to obey him positively, but they also engage in transgressing his commands. The situation is worse when they begin to point fingers of blame. Adam dares to blame God for his own sins. It is, therefore, shocking how loving the Father is in showing mercy to them. He turns from obliterating them to slaughtering innocent animals for their sake. God strikes creation to save his beloved creatures. God sheds the blood of animals to save Adam and Eve. Furthermore, he makes a promise of the Gospel to save them and restore them in Gen 3:15.
The only thing more shocking in Genesis 3–4 is the lack of gratitude by Adam and Eve. Nothing in Genesis 3 displays a heart of thankfulness. There is no hint of gratitude or humility on the part of our first parents. In the face of an incalculable gift, they say nothing positive in response. Like a child at a party unwrapping a gift only to toss it aside and start ripping into the next one.
The saddest thing is that the problem is not only a lack of gratitude, but there is also overt arrogance and egotism on the part of our parents. While God promised to provide the solution, and he promised to provide the warrior-child, in Gen 4:1, we find our parents going in a different direction. At the birth of the first naturally born human, she says, ‘I have gotten a child,’ and God was on the side helping. Eve displays a heart of conflated self-confidence like the hearts at the rickety Tower of Babel (Gen 11). She places all her hopes on Cain and even names her second son ‘vapor’ (Abel) as if he were of no consequence.
Adam and Eve were promised salvation, but they were not grateful, and they did not cling to God for his present help for life. Gratitude was not their natural response. They were going to try and build their way back into heaven. But that all came crashing down when their favorite child kills the good child and becomes cursed by God (Gen 4:8-11).
Adam and Eve experienced a lived Psalm of Lament. After the trauma of crushed hopes and false passions coming collapsing on top of them, Adam and Eve turn back to God. In Gen 4:25, Adam and Eve rightly confess that God has provided; he alone should be praised and thanked for his work. And it is through those tears of loss and suffering that the people began to call upon the name of the Lord (Gen 4:26; similarly Exo 2:23-25). But, of course, it is only a few chapters later that this cry for help turns to “every intention of the thoughts of peoples’ heart being only evil continually” (Gen 6:5). The attitude of gratitude is not natural, and even when it blossoms, it fades quickly.
Thanks be to our Father that the Christian has a much clearer view of what to be grateful to God for. The past and present work of Christ is a wellspring of immeasurable gifts. They are more than sufficient to nourish a heart and life of gratitude. For this reason, we must continually come back to think and pray over these things (Phil 4:8). We must be vigilant in cultivating gratitude to Christ as a safeguard against wayward sins. While the world tries to sell us a message of entitlement, Christ proclaims again, “I have given, and I am giving.” So let us come with open hands to dine richly on Christ’s grace and gracious gifts without trying to buy it ourselves (Isaiah 55:1-2).
Pastor Dr. Chris S. Stevens
Seneca, de. Beneficiis, 1.10.4. Similarly Xenophon (Memorabilia 2.2), says “Ingratitude is an offense, the more heinous in proportion to the benefits received.” Furthermore, Cicero (Att. 8.4) held ingratitude as inclusive of all sins.
- ReadPastor's NewsApril 25, 2021
To the Saints in Ruston and beyond,
I hope you are all doing well and enjoyed the last cool front of the season. Around the corner waits warm days, bbq, crawfish, and picnics. Let us plan for times together.
This Sunday in class, we look at the important attitude of gratitude. For Christians, this is something we never have to fabricate. Whenever our hearts are drawn down by circumstances, or at least the perception of circumstances, we can easily be renewed in the attitude of gratitude. All we must do is turn to the cross and what drove Christ there. The love of God carried out in Christ on the cross should always be a sure source of gratitude.
In our worship, we turn to Psalms 1-2. Taken together, these Psalms are a source of rich theology, comfort, and security. I hope to draw out the importance of the Psalms as the opening of the Psalter and how it teaches us about human flourishing. Quite interesting and planned, of course, Psalms 1-2 also help prepare us for our new series.
The following week we begin Matthew: Enjoying the Kingdom of Heaven Now. I am extremely excited to spend a long time in Matthew. While it is a familiar book to many, it is always a fresh encounter with Christ and his teachings. I would challenge you to try and read Matthew at least a couple of times soon. This will help get a feel for the Gospel as a whole as we walk through the parts. Read it or listen to it in a couple of translations (perhaps ESV and CSB). Allow the story to grip you and transform you. Matthew's portrayal of Jesus does not allow us to respond with ho-hum feelings; it is moving.
I look forward to seeing you all Sundy,
Book Club: Wednesday, 28, at 6:30 pm.
Book: Knowing God by J.I. Packer. Chapters 1-4.
We have a couple of extra copies in the church library.
Also, if you can't read the whole thing, there is an online unofficial study guide: HERE