It’s time to push aside the negative thinking and draw our attention to God’s perspective of His church. He smells the sin, but He also breathes in the sweet aroma. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul highlighted six fragrant qualities that will help us think rightly about the church.
How tempting it is to claim the credit ourselves for the mighty works God does in and around us. Perhaps no one feels that temptation more than those who serve God in a public ministry—those who have been called to hold His glory in sacred trust. Whether their work becomes a movement of God or calcifies into a monument to themselves depends on one crucial factor: who gets the glory.
“You can’t judge a book by its cover”—that’s a phrase we’ve all heard before. What’s true of people is also true of churches—you can’t tell the effectiveness of a church by its building. To discover the traits of an effective church, we have to examine what’s on the inside. Fortunately, Jesus Himself shows us what to look for.
In the previous lesson, we studied several faithful men from the Reformation era. Time failed us, though, to tell the whole story of the greatest difference maker of that period, Martin Luther. Let’s pause for a while at his portrait and draw courage from his example of faith.
To illustrate how God uses ordinary people, let’s travel back in time to a period of history called the Reformation. The Reformation’s heroes and battlefields may not be as recognizable as the American Revolution’s George Washington and Valley Forge. Yet the soldiers who led a religious revolution from the 1300s to the 1500s made a tremendous difference in what matters most to us—our understanding of God, the Bible, and salvation.
While our impersonal world makes us wonder if we really matter, Psalm 139 tells us that we do matter—we matter to God. The Lord watches over us intently, He probes the deepest recesses of our hearts, and His love always reaches us no matter how far we stray. As we prepare to learn this last song in our study, let’s quiet our minds and silence the messages from the world that tell us we don’t matter.
Psalms 127 and 128 provide the encouragement we need to put the Lord at the helm of our families, and they show that blessings come if we keep Him at the centre of our lives and endeavours.
This psalm provides help for the helpless. No matter how bad life may seem, God is in control. And because He’s sovereign, He’s a perfect refuge and place to hide when life comes unglued. Why is God’s sovereignty such a help to us? We’ll see in Psalm 46 how the Lord’s sovereign power puts our fears to rest and instils triumphant confidence.
Who hasn’t felt alone and abandoned? Who cannot remember times when God seemed far away? Who doesn’t understand when a friend suffers a “panic attack”? Who hasn’t asked, “O Lord, how long?” If those four questions strike a note of relevance, you’ll have no difficulty identifying with David’s feelings as he composed Psalm 13. The psalmist may have begun on his face, but he wound up on his feet. Let’s find out what made the difference.
The first psalm extols the virtues of single-mindedness by emphasizing the danger of compromise. The godly life is placed in bold contrast to the ungodly…one leading to true happiness and the other to tragic destruction. Single-mindedness keeps the believer on the right track.