International Baptist Church Berlin Connecting people to Jesus, one another, and God's world
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Rothenburgstr. 13
12165 Berlin
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Haus Nazareth
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The Pastor's Blog

bible study

Reasons People Don’t Come to Church

Monday, September 16th, 2013 bible study 1 Comment

Called to Be Loved: Peace vs. Understanding

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your
hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 (ANIV) 

mental-health

We know it in our heads, but do we experience it in our hearts?  We say it, but do we mean it?

  • God is love!
  • God loves me unconditionally!
  • God loves me so much that I experience the peace of his presence in the face of circumstances I can’t understand!

But how do we get these phrases — these statements of truth — into our everyday experience?  How can we experience God’s peace even through life’s challenges?

I have to admit, sometimes life just not make sense.  We face problems, challenges, events, loss, hurt, pain, rejection…and there’s no way of explaining it away.  Many of life’s experiences defy understanding.  There’s no rational explanation…they are beyond reason.

I experienced this personally with the death of my father in 2006.  Our family was gathered for our traditional Thanksgiving holiday when my dad went to the doctor to find out the cause of a cough he couldn’t shake.  To our shock, he was notified within a few days that he was suffering from terminal cancer and the doctor told him he had less than a month to live.

Why?  Why my dad — a wonderful husband, father, pastor-missionary?  Why now?  There were no reasonable answers.  It didn’t make sense!  Why God?  Why?!

However, even in the last few weeks of my father’s life — he died about 3 weeks after his diagnosis — I experienced an inexplicable peace…a peace that doesn’t make sense.  It was a peace that began with my dad’s incredible faith and trust in God’s sovereign, loving care.  My dad reassured us of the hope he had in God’s faithful promises, and modeled the powerful peace that comes with God’s presence.  My dad faced his death full of faith, hope, love, and peace all of which came from the strength of God’s presence.

To this day, I can’t explain my dad’s death.  I have no answers to the “why” question, but this I know with certainty:  God’s peace — the peace of his sustaining presence — is a peace that defies all explanation, and it guards and protects our minds and our hearts as we go through life’s challenges.

What challenges, problems, or life experiences are you facing today?  Do they defy explanation?  You, too, can experience God’s peace by turning to him in faith, trusting that he loves you with a limitless love, holding on to the promise of his presence no matter what you’re going through.

That’s experiencing the truth:  God is love; his love is limitless.  He loves you enough to be with you, to strengthen you, and to give you his peace.

 

Thursday, September 12th, 2013 bible study No Comments

Called to Be Loved: Confident vs. Fearful

stretching_armsCertainly, all who are guided by God’s Spirit are God’s childrenYou haven’t received the spirit of slaves that leads you into fear again. Instead, you have received the spirit of God’s adopted children by which we call out, “Abba! Father!”” Romans 8:14-15 (GW) 

We know it in our heads, but do we experience it in our hearts?  We say it, but do we mean it?

  • God is love!
  • God loves me unconditionally!
  • God loves me so much that I can confidently bring my needs to God!

But how do we get these phrases — these statements of truth — into our everyday experience?  How can we experience the freedom from fear that allows us to run boldly into his presence with our needs?

Did you see the recent movie Lincoln?  As I watched the movie, I was taken by Lincoln’s legislative struggle to abolish slavery during the turmoil of the American Civil War.  I was inspired by Lincoln’s resolve to push the agenda forward against all odds.  But something else struck me that had no real purpose in the movie other than dramatizing what was true about Lincoln during his time as president of the United States.  Lincoln’s youngest son, Tad, had unlimited, open access to his father.

The same is true for those who are the children of God.  We are sons and daughters!  God is our loving Father!  Instead of being fearful, we have the confidence of children who are loved by their “Daddy” (“Abba”).  And we have unlimited, open access to our heavenly Father who loves and cares for us.  Consequently, we can come into his presence with confidence and ask for him to meet our needs.

You are a son of God…a daughter of God.  You’re loved unconditionally.  You can go to God and say, “Daddy, please, listen to me and my needs.”  And, guess what?  He does, and he responds in a gracious and loving way to meet the deepest needs of our lives.  This is his promise:

“So we can go confidently to the throne of God’s kindness to receive mercy and find kindness, which will help us at the right time”. Hebrews 4:16 (GW) 

So, instead of wondering whether God has time, or thinking that God is busy doing something more important, we can boldly come to God in prayer — any time about any need — and know that God is available, he is listening, and he is ready to care for our needs.

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 bible study No Comments

Called to Be Loved: Accepted vs. Ashamed

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to imagesGod.” Romans 15:7 (NIV)

We know it in our heads, but do we experience it in our hearts?  We say it, but do we mean it?

  • God is love!
  • God loves me unconditionally!
  • God loves me so much that he has accepts me just like I am!

But how do we get these phrases — these statements of truth — into our everyday experience?  How can we experience the acceptance of God’s love instead of cowering in shame?

Shame — often referred to as “false guilt” — is our emotional response to supposed short-comings and defects.  Embarrassed by what we know and feel about ourselves, we hide our true selves from others to avoid their negative evaluations.  The word “shame” itself is derived from a word that means “to cover” and that’s exactly what we do with our shame.

In our shame, we cover over our perceived “short comings” in an attempt to avoid criticism and try to gain the approval and acceptance of others by putting on a false front.  Thinking that “they” won’t like “me” if they really knew me as I “truly” am, we act, dress, and talk in a way that protects us from being known.

Of course, many of us feel the same way about God and our shame interferes with our relationship with God.  We think “I am so imperfect, how can God accept me?”  We feel judged, condemned, and criticized by God because we don’t measure up to his perfection.

The truth of the matter is this:  God’s is love, and God is so great that he wraps his arms around our imperfections and shortcomings and draws us to himself in love.  God accepts us “just as I am.”

In Christ, we have been accepted by God through faith — “By faith, we have been made acceptable by God.  And now, because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live in peace with him.”  (Romans 5:1)  Yes, God knows and sees us from the inside out — short-comings, defects, and all — and accepts us completely, totally, and unconditionally.

When we experience the greatness of God’s accepting love, we are freed from shame!  We begin to see ourselves in light of God’s love and realize “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” Romans 8:1 (NIV)  We are free to be ourselves; we don’t have to hide behind our shame.  We don’t have to seek the approval of others; in fact we are able to be agents of God’s loving acceptance…all because God in Christ has accepted us!

Stop hiding behind your shame!  Turn to God in faith and receive his unconditional and complete acceptance.  Share God’s loving acceptance with others and see what kind of difference it makes in you, your relationship with God, and your relationship with others.

 

 

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013 bible study No Comments

Called to Be Loved: Forgiveness vs. Guilt

images“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

We know it in our heads, but do we experience it in our hearts?  We say it, but do we mean it?

  • God is love!
  • God loves me unconditionally!
  • God loves me so much that he has forgiven my sin!

But how do we get these phrases — these statements of truth — into our everyday experience?  How can we experience the forgiveness of God’s love instead of carrying around guilt?

Guilt — true guilt — is the result of our sin.  And when we sin, the Holy Spirit starts his work in our lives to convict us of sin.  When the Spirit convicts us, it is God’s loving invitation for us to turn to him in confession and repentance so that we can experience the forgiveness that God offers in love.

Too often, because we don’t understand  the height of God’s love — a love high enough to overlook our sin — we hide from him because of our guilt.  Instead of running to God to receive his forgiveness, we run away from God and drag along our guilt.

In order to experience the height of God’s forgiving love…

1. Realize that God convicts us of sin to draw us toward him in love.

2. Turn from your sin toward God surrendering yourself to him in faith and love.

3. Admit your sin acknowledging it to God recognizing that you have broken the heart of your Loving Father.

4. Receive the forgiveness of God’s love and recognize that he cleanses you of your sin.

4. Yield yourself to the Holy Spirit and depend on God for strength to live in his love.

What is the Spirit convicting you of today?  Ask him…and he will do it!  What guilt are you carrying around, dragging with you through life?

Run to God in faith.  In love, he will forgive you!

 

Monday, September 9th, 2013 bible study No Comments
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