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Marriage problems are really only symptoms

marriage problems are only symptoms

Our marriage “problems” are only symptoms of the actual problem in our relationships with Christ. In my own marriage, for instance, the “problem” looked like I did not have enough time for my wife and children, but that was only a symptom. The problem was that I would not obey the Holy Spirit’s conviction to put my family ahead of the church, make my wife a priority, spend more time with my children, etc. Plus, I was being consumed with anxiety, versus trusting Christ like I should have. In other words, the marriage problems I was experiencing were directly connected to my relationship with Christ.

A couple’s marriage problems can only be fixed by focusing on their relationships with the Lord

This is why any biblical marriage counseling must address the husband and wife’s relationship with Christ. Couples I counsel are often confused when they share marriage problems they are experiencing and I respond by asking:

  • “What does your time in God’s Word look like?”
  • “How is your prayer life?”
  • “Tell me about your involvement in the church?”

A wife will say, “I just told you my husband yells at me. Why are you talking about his time in the Word?” Because the hope is that as a husband reads God’s Word he will become convicted of his sin and repent. He will become a more patient and loving leader. I do not have the power to change a husband’s heart (and apparently neither does a wife or there would be no need for counseling). A husband can only become a new man through a relationship with Christ. Continue reading Marriage problems are really only symptoms

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4 Ways to Determine Your Spiritual Gifts

Marriage-Gods-Way-author-Scott-LaPierre spiritual giftsHi Pastor Scott,
You talked about people having spiritual gifts and using them in the church. Do you have insight into determining your spiritual gifts? Thanks!

Here’s my response…

This is such a common question people have developed surveys to help determine spiritual gifts. Ephesians 4:7-8 says God has given at least one gift to each person, but Scripture doesn’t provide any strategies for determining those gifts. So to be clear, these are my suggestions but I can’t support them with verses.

1. Learn the spiritual gifts in Scripture.

There are two primary passages listing the gifts (Rom 12:6-8 and 1 Cor 12:4-11). Unless you have some familiarity with the gifts, you’ll never know what gifts you have. As you read the passages, pray God reveals how He’s gifted you.

These passages aren’t exhaustive lists so much as they’re palettes helping us understand what the gifts look like. For example, some people are gifted musically, but even though music is prominent in the church it isn’t listed as a gift. We shouldn’t assume that just because something isn’t listed it isn’t a ‘real’ gift.

2. Consider what you enjoy doing.

From my own personal experience and from what I’ve seen in other’s lives, it seems like most people enjoy using their gifts. Similarly, most people are also fairly comfortable using their gifts. They often look forward to it. Continue reading 4 Ways to Determine Your Spiritual Gifts

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When Christians choose not to eat certain foods

Marriage-Gods-Way-author-Scott-LaPierre - When Christians choose not to eat certain foodsLast post explained that food is amoral or spiritually neutral. There are no foods that – at least for spiritual reasons – Christians should avoid.

In determining how much to give some some Christians say, “God expected ten percent under the Mosaic Law, so that’s the guideline I use.” That’s fine (except that God expected much more than 10%), and many apply a similar principle to food: “God is wise. He forbid certain foods under the Mosaic Law, so it’s best to avoid them.” Again, nothing wrong with that. Pork is the most well-known prohibited food, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone saying, “Bacon is healthy. You should eat it.” 

If you do choose to  avoid certain foods, please accept these encouragements…

  1. Don’t tell people they shouldn’t eat certain foods, because the New Testament doesn’t tell them that. The New Testament tells people the opposite.
  2. Don’t let your restrictions lead to self-righteousness. When people think they shouldn’t eat certain foods, sometimes they look down on others who don’t share the same convictions. Interestingly, 1 Corinthians 8:9-11 describes people who feel like they can’t eat certain foods as being “weak.”
  3. Don’t let your restrictions be a distraction. Romans 14:17 says, “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Keep your focus on the “weightier matters.” Jesus described it as “straining out a gnat, but swallowing a camel.God doesn’t care what you put in your mouth, but He cares what comes out of your mouth. How you talk to your spouse, children, parents, friends is infinitely more important than avoiding certain foods. Why is this important to keep in mind? Because it is much easier to focus on the physical (food) than the spiritual.
  4. Don’t neglect the the Law of Christ trying to keep the Mosaic Law. Twice Paul said the Law is fulfilled in the word “love” (Rom 13:8-10, Gal 5:14). People’s view of food makes them unlike Christ when they become contentious and hostile.

Continue reading When Christians choose not to eat certain foods

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Much More Than Showing Up Sunday Mornings

Much More Than Showing Up Sunday Mornings

Even if you’ve been trained to think church is only about showing up Sunday morning and leaving when service is over you need to know that’s not what God wants! God’s plan is the opposite of shallow, superficial involvement with our brothers and sisters in Christ. The church is a family where we’re expected to be involved in each other’s lives and have people involved in our lives. The church is described as a body where every part is important:

  • “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body?” (1 Cor 12:15-16). Every part is important!
  • “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ Those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” (1 Cor 12:21-22) Each part needs the other parts! Every part has to be involved and working together to have a healthy, efficient body.

An interesting consideration is that although corporate worship on the Lord’s Day is important, if that constitutes your involvement in the church you’ll be unable to obey many commands:

  • Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification (Rom 15:2).
  • Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Phil 2:4).
  • Comfort each other and edify one another (1 Thes 5:11).
  • Exhort one another daily…and let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good words (Heb 3:13 & 10:24).
  • As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another (1 Pet 4:10).

If you think your responsibility toward the body of Christ ends at showing up Sunday morning and leaving when service is over, you’re going to disobey most of these commands. The level of involvement God wants us to have in each other’s lives is much deeper than what can take place when churches don’t challenge people to love and service.

Woodland Christian Church is growing, which is a good thing, but we want to make sure we maintain a family feel. That happens as people get to know each other and develop relationships. Attend church events and activities, but also invite people over to your home.

Author: Scott LaPierre

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A Little Effort Makes a Big Difference

A Little Effort Makes a Big DifferenceLast Sunday I concluded a brief sermon series on being part of a church family and being involved in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. This past week I received an e-mail that showed the importance of reaching out to people, and how powerful it is to receive a simple invitation for fellowship. Here’s part of the message, which I received permission to share…

“In the past I have been one of those people hurt by others, and in spite of trying to make friends no one returned the kindness. I tried several people and still no deal. Everyone had their own friends already or were too busy. So I became too busy as well and worked all the time. I became one of those people you described who didn’t put in the time or effort to make friends. Frankly I was tired of trying. I was done. People at work were my only so-called-friends and only one was a believer, and he did not return the kindness either.

Your sermon challenged me though. Lately I had been wanting to try again – largely because of the church family at WCC – making the sermon’s timing very good. Then something happened: a person at church actually invited me out to get together, and he actually followed through and it had nothing to do with me helping him with anything. Whenever people contacted me in the past it was never simply for fellowship: they wanted something. The last time someone called to just do something was about two years ago when my friend who moved away overseas came to visit. I honestly have some hope now that having friends and fellowship will be possible in our family at WCC. Thank you for the challenge. I will work on making that time.”

It’s wonderful how powerfully God works things together. You have an individual who’s already feeling challenged to be more involved in the church. God confirms the conviction through the preaching of His Word. Then God stirs up someone to send an invitation. How unfortunate would it have been if the person didn’t send the invitation? In last week’s sermon, I said personal involvement is more important than corporate involvement in the church, because while there’s a sign up sheet for the nursery, church cleaning, serving in the kitchen, etc. there’s no sign up sheet for making people feel loved; there’s no sign up sheet for making people feel like part of your church family. If you don’t pursue this sort of involvement in people’s lives, they miss out on those blessings.

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Ecclesiastes and Fellowship

I really enjoyed our Progressive Dinner a few weeks ago and I kept thinking about my devotional, the purposes of fellowship, our upcoming camping trips, etc. Some verses from Ecclesiastes kept coming to mind, and I’d like to share them:

  • Ecc 2:24 Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.
  • Ecc 3:12 I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.
  • Ecc 5:18 Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage.
  • Ecc 8:15 So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.

Ecclesiastes can be a difficult book. Some people find it very discouraging while others find it very encouraging. However you view it, the theme seems to be nothing in this life satisfies. If you’re familiar with King Solomon’s life you can see why God chose him to write Ecclesiastes. He had everything the world says brings happiness. He tried everything you could try, tasted everything you could taste, experienced everything you could experience and not only did it not make him happy, he found it all to be vanity or hebel; a Hebrew word translated as meaningless, pointless, futile or frustration in other translations. Hebel is used 61 times in the Bible and 30 of those times are in Ecclesiastes…5 times just in chapter 1 verse 2. That’s why some people find the book discouraging, because it looks like everything leads to hebel.

Based on the verses I shared though there did seem to be something Solomon found satisfying – which is why some people find the book encouraging – and that’s eating, drinking, and enjoying our labor. Lasting contentment came from the simple things in life. To me that’s what the progressive dinner is about. That’s what fellowship is about. That’s what beach camp and family camp is about. It’s about eating and drinking with friends and family, brothers and sisters in Christ. The world tells us what’s necessary to be happy, but it’s all hebel. Lasting contentment and joy is found in the activities of life that are from the hand of God (Ecc 2:24). Hopefully these are the activities we’re providing at WCC.

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Should we gather on Saturday or Sunday?

Should we gather together for corporate worship on Saturday or Sunday?
Should we gather together for corporate worship on Saturday or Sunday?

Why do we worship corporately on Sunday instead of Saturday? I’ve been asked this a number of times.

With Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, a transition took place between the Old and New Covenants. Both covenants were instituted with blood. The Old with the blood of an animal and the New with the blood of Christ. Consider the parallelism between describing the instituting of both covenants:

  • Exodus 24:8 Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.”
  • Luke 22:20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

With the institution of the New Covenant, a transition took place. From the seventh day of the week to the first. From Saturday to Sunday. Primarily this happened in honor of Christ’s resurrection.

Sunday is emphasized in the New Testament.

The phrase “first day of the week” occurs eight times in the New Testament:

  • Six times in the Gospels (Matt 28:1, Mark 16:2, 9, Luke 24:1, John 20:1, 19).
  • Once in Acts identifying the day the early church met. Acts 20:7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.
  • Once when Paul encourages believers to set aside something to give financially. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. More than likely Paul told them to set their collections aside on the first day of the week, because that’s when they gathered for worship.

If all we had was Acts 20:7 saying the early church met on the first day of the week, that alone would be enough to encourage corporate worship on Sundays.

  • John MacArthur said, The writings of the early church Fathers confirm the church continued to meet on Sunday after the close of the NT period.”[1]
  • Matthew Henry said, “The first day of the week is to be observed by all the disciples of Christ; and it is a sign between Christ and them.[2]

The Sabbath is not emphasized in the New Testament.

But there’s also the de-emphasizing of the seventh day in the rest of the New Testament. “First day of the week” occurs eight times in the New Testament, but “seventh day of the week” never occurs. But understandably we’d expect it to be called “Sabbath” instead. Consider:

  • The Sabbath is mentioned in the Gospels, because the transition to the first day had not yet taken place.
  • When the Sabbath is mentioned in Acts it’s associated with the practice of Jews who have not yet embraced Christ, but it’s never associated with the practice or worship of the church.

After Acts, there’s only one mention of the Sabbath:

Colossians 2:16-17 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

This is the only time the Sabbath is mentioned – say nothing about commanded – after Acts. This fact alone would be unimaginable if believers were expected to keep the Sabbath. The epistles are the letters of instruction to the church. Wouldn’t there be at least one command for Christians? Instead, the one verse mentioning the Sabbath identifies it as a shadow pointing to Christ, while making the point you can’t judge people based on their view of it. Consider the absence of a verse saying, “Let no one judge you regarding forgiveness…love…prayer…service.” Why don’t we see verses like that? Because forgiveness, love, prayer, and service are commanded. The Sabbath is not.

Paul also downplays keeping the Sabbath in Romans. “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.” (Rom 14:5-6b).

If Paul thought the Sabbath should be observed, two things are inconceivable:

  • That he would write these verses in Romans and Colossians.
  • That there would be no verses mentioning the Sabbath elsewhere in the NT. Contrast the amount of instruction on prayer, love, forgiveness, serving, with the silence regarding keeping the Sabbath.

Gather corporately on the Lord’s Day.

Why is Sunday known as “the Lord’s Day”?

  • In Revelation 1:10 John said, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” He’s probably referring to the first day of the week, which is why Sunday gained this title.
  • The more obvious reason is this is the day of the Lord’s Resurrection.

The early church met “on the first day of the week…to break bread.” The words “break bread” refer to communion as opposed to simply fellowship together.[3] As much as communion looks back to Christ’s death, it also looks forward to His return: 1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

Why would they celebrate communion on the seventh day of the week when Christ was resurrected on the first day of the week? They wouldn’t. This is one other reason for meeting on the first day of the week.

With the transition from the Old to New Covenant, the Sabbath was fulfilled in Christ. The same with other ceremonial portions of the Law, i.e. sacrifices, circumcision, festivals. The early church gathered on the first day of the week in honor of Christ’s resurrection, and we should too!

When you worship on the Lord’s Day, are you reminded of the Lord’s Resurrection? Do you have any questions about the Sunday worship, the Sabbath, or a believer’s relationship to the Law? Share your thoughts or questions below!

FOOTNOTES

[1] MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1477.

[2] Matthew Henry’s Commentary: In One Volume, p. 1716.

[3] You can see the that “breaking bread” is not the same as fellowship in Acts 2:42 where the two actions are distinguished from each other: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. In this verse “breaking bread.”

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A letter to WCC from my wife regarding the Motherhood Conference

What a joy it has been to prepare for this Saturday’s Motherhood Conference. I have been so encouraged in my own motherhood journey in studying for my message.

This theme, motherhood, is very dear to me. What a gift it is! The Lord does much refining work through motherhood. There is nothing like being a mom. One of my biggest struggles is trusting the Lord with my children. So I have been studying and praying about that a lot. I also struggle with patience…every day. I often feel like I am not any good at parenting, but I am thankful that I have a God who is willing to meet me where I’m at with these struggles. He is the perfect Parent and He is able to teach me and guide me as a mom. I seek to point my children back to Him and make sure they know mommy is a messed up sinner in need of a big Savior!

I am also thankful to be surrounded by sisters in Christ who are going through similar circumstances and feelings and can hold me up in prayer. Motherhood can be lonely, but I have a real sense of community here that comforts me and reminds me that I’m not alone. Thank you to everyone helping me put this conference together!

I’m praying this conference encourages mothers, as all of us mothers need it! If you are a mother be sure to come and invite your friends. We will have four speakers and special music from the Voetberg family. Lori Anderson will be speaking on parenting even when it’s hard. I will be speaking on the differences between a godly mother and a worldly mother and I will conclude on talking about how God sees us and is well acquainted with all our ways. Lisa Voetberg will be speaking on putting our perfect expectations in Christ, not ourselves. Vicki Donald will be talking about how the enemy has always wanted to tempt us to question what God has said.

I would like to close with my  favorite quote on motherhood: “The woman who makes a sweet, beautiful home, filling it with love and prayer and purity, is doing something better than anything else her hands could find to do beneath the skies. God sends many beautiful things to this world, many noble gifts; but no blessing is richer than that which He bestows in a mother who has has realized the meaning of her sacred calling.” – J.R. Miller

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The Importance of Home Fellowships

When we visited our previous church Grace Baptist I realized just how many home fellowships they have during the week…seven I think. For a church of their size (about 180-200) it seemed like a pretty big number, and each fellowship had about ten to twelve people. Two different families have talked to me about the fellowship in our church, wanting to be more involved with others, wanting to know others better, etc. I think that can be partially accomplished at some of our events, but the special events we have are usually more of a superficial nature. By that, I just mean there’s a larger focus on fun and enjoyment than sharing serious things that really let you know what’s going on in other people’s lives, while letting others know what’s going on in your life.

I’d love to see another home fellowship start (on a different night of the week than Wednesday so that people who can’t make it Wednesday might be able to attend). While I wouldn’t mind people from our Wednesday study attending, my hope is a new home fellowship would involve people who aren’t already attending the Wednesday night study…unless a night other than Wednesday would be better for them.

I’ve seen people experience a lot of success just choosing a book of the Bible they like and going through it verse-by-verse. If you’re not comfortable with that, Chris Booker has numerous videos you could borrow that would facilitate discussion and take some of the load off  regarding having to come up with your own material each week.

There are two important rules I’ve learned for home fellowships to be successful:

  1. Meet each week.
  2. Meet at the same place.

It’s been my experience when these rules aren’t followed, home fellowships don’t usually do well. Also, don’t be discouraged if it starts off small. They usually do start off that way and then grow over time. Six to eight people, or three to four couples is a great start!

Pray about it and see if God puts it on your heart to open your home and invite others over! If there’s any way I could support you, please let me know.

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Update on our trip to CA – Part II

Hello Everyone,

We made it back home safely from our trip to California on Monday evening about 5:00. My wonderful parents came over to our house before we got home to build us a fire and prepare us dinner. The church made a sign welcoming us back that hung in the kitchen, and a friend of ours got us flowers and some nice bread. It was very good to be home.

So here’s another day-by-day recap of our time in Lemoore/Hanford…

  • We arrived at Dave and Naida’s house Tue afternoon, Dec 4th. Dave and Naida have been two of our best friends since we first met them in 2005. Katie and I started attending a home Bible study Dave was leading, and in a few months Dave invited me to start leading it. Although I’d led Bible studies for kids and young adults, that was my start having my own study to lead each week. In the evening we had dinner with Dave, Naida and their daughter Danielle and her husband Charlie (two other good friends of ours before we left) and this was the first time we’d been able to see their son Levi. After dinner we surprised a home Bible study that I used to lead. It was great to see more old friends and see the study was going well.
  • Wed, Dec 5th I studied in the morning and went out for lunch with Dave. Katie stayed home and relaxed with the kids, and then met up with some girlfriends. Wednesday evening Charlie and Danielle came over for dinner again, and Katie went to a women’s study with Danielle, and Dave, Charlie and I hung out at the house watching kids and talking about ministry.
  • Thur, Dec 6th I met Pastor Joe in the morning at 9:00 until we met Dave for lunch. It was great to be able to discuss our churches, sharpen each other and share stories about how things are going. That evening we attended Bible study with Dave and Naida, which happened to be another Bible study I used to lead. Again, it was great to see so many old friends and meet some new people.
  • Fri, Dec 7th we met our good friends the Shifflets for lunch, and in the evening we went to Pastor Joe’s for dinner.
  • Sat, Dec 8th, I attended Grace Baptist’s men study in the morning, then we went back to Dave and Naida’s house. Charlie and Danielle came over again and in the evening we attended Grace Baptist’s Christmas dinner, during which I shared a devotional and provided an update on our ministry in Woodland. The highlight was being able to see so many wonderful friends.
  • Sun, Dec 9th was obviously church. I went early with Dave for prayer, then I preached at both services. The message isn’t on Grace Baptist’s website yet, or I’d provide the link, but you can probably check back in the near future and it will be up. It was wonderful being able to see everyone and see how the church has changed (and stayed the same) over the last two years. I only wish I would’ve had more time with everyone. We left after church so we could make it to Redding at a decent time. We stopped in Yuba City on the way to have dinner with Elwyn and Britta.
  • Mon, Dec 10th we left Redding in the morning and made it home in the afternoon.

It was a really, really great trip. I have to say it was somewhat bittersweet, seeing so many awesome friends, but knowing we wouldn’t see them again for a while. Glad to be back in Woodland though. Thankful to have so many great friends here too.