Category Archives: Churches in Minneapolis

Who does God worship?

tsslogo.jpgSermon excerpt
Rick Gamache

“Since saying that God loves Himself is so provocative, let me say this instead: God loves Jesus.

Jesus is at the center of God’s affection. That rolls off the tongue easier somehow. God loves Jesus. Well, yeah — only-begotten Son — of course He does! And there is lots of Scripture to back up the fact that God loves Jesus. Here are just a few.

Remember what happened at Jesus’ baptism. Here is how Matthew records it: “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (3:16-17). Now whose voice is that coming out of heaven? Obvious answer: It’s God the Father’s voice. And He is making it clear that He takes pleasure in His Son. Jesus is the source of pleasure for God and He loves Him. This is His beloved Son.

We can go on and on with texts like this. Here are a couple more.

John the Baptist says, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand” (John 3:35). In other words, the Father loves the Son so much that He gives Him supremacy in all things. That’s how much He loves the Son. He gives Him supremacy. He doesn’t do that for anyone else, only for the Son.

Right after Jesus has been transfigured only Peter, James and John are there. Their eyes are opened and Christ’s glory shines fourth brilliantly before them and they see it! And then in response to that display of Christ’s glory there is a voice from heaven again: “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him’” (Matt 17:5). In response to this manifestation of the glory of Christ, the Father says, “I love my Son. I take ultimate pleasure in My Son!”

Let’s turn and answer this question: In loving Jesus, was God the Father merely loving an amazingly holy and obedient man? Or is there anything extraordinary about the Son or the Father’s love for the Son? Is there anything extraordinary going on here?

Here is something extraordinary: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). This is more than merely a holy and obedient man, this is a man in whom dwells all the fullness of God. This is a God-man. And this God-man existed long before He was born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago which is why Jesus can say to the Father in John 17:24, “you loved me before the foundation of the world.” God loved Jesus before there was anything else, or anyone else to love. Before there was you or me to love, God loved the Son!

That’s why Hebrews 1:3 is so significant: “He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Jesus is God! This is why the apostle Paul says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

The glory of Jesus Christ, the glory of who He is and what He has done for His people is the glory of the Father. The glory of Jesus is the glory of the Father. We know the glory of God the Father by looking into the face of Jesus Christ.

And when the Father looks into the face of His Son Jesus, He too sees His own glory and He loves what He sees there. He takes pleasure in what He sees there. He worships what He sees there! He loves, He enjoys, He worships, Himself! God loves Jesus with an infinite and omnipotent love. He loves Him more than He loves anything or anyone else. And Jesus is God. So God’s love for Christ — who is God Himself — is an expression of the love He has for Himself.”

– Rick Gamache, Who does God worship?, excerpt from sermon (Dec. 9, 2007; Sovereign Grace Fellowship, Minneapolis, MN).

And there are other goodies in this sermon. Listen here:

Or download (11.1 MB):

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Related: Current debate, Is God a narcissist?

Rick Gamache sermon jam

Rick-GamacheI love sermon jams, the place where sermonic highlight meets background music. Sermon jams are excellent for the gym, excellent for personal devotion, excellent to share with other listeners less likely to listen to entire sermons, and overall just an excellent way to reach the lost and share the faith. Sermon jams are very common online, but few are as well constructed as those produced by 10:31 Sermon Jams. Many of their jams are available online for free download.

My interest was especially peaked when I heard the newest CD release would include a jam of my favorite preacher, Rick Gamache (pastor of Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Bloomington, MN)! No one has more personally and profoundly influenced my life in turning my gaze back to the Cross than Gamache and this sermon jam encapsulates his ministry so beautifully. Have a listen for yourself …

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Audio posted with the kind permission of 10:31 Sermon Jams. Special thanks to Bryan Guenther.

Giving and receiving correction

tsslogo.jpgsermon delivered on July 29, 2007
by Pastor Mark Alderton
Sovereign Grace Fellowship
Bloomington, MN

INTRODUCTION

We continue our series on topics that affect our fellowship – our life together – and which are vital to biblical and effective fellowship that builds up the church and the individuals in it. The topic of this message is correction.

Correction is another word for adjustment or changing course. It doesn’t have to be about sin. It can be about improving something like how a team is organized or how a person plays guitar. But the focus of this message is going to be about bringing correction to the sin in our lives, about moving from sin to obedience to God.

There are many, many things that could be said about correction – about methods of correction, about the different levels of correction like counsel, reproof and rebuke, and so forth. Our focus this morning is going to be on one thing: how to give and receive correction for sin in a hopeful and grace-motivated way. We’re going to learn how to speak into one another’s lives about our sin.

Now, most of us are probably not thinking at this point, “How excellent! We’re going to talk about how to confront sin in my life. I’ve been feeling the need to have more correction. Why don’t we have a whole series on this?!”

More likely the idea of correcting one another provokes a feeling somewhere between tolerance and dread, unless you’re hoping that someone else who is hearing this will be more open to your correction after this message.

We generally don’t like correction. We like to get it over with as soon as possible and would be glad to avoid it altogether. It can seem so unfriendly and oftentimes it is brought with sinful attitudes and we respond to it in similar fashion.

Well, by God’s grace we’ll have a more favorable and faith-filled understanding of correction after this morning. Correction does not need to be a bad experience. In fact it should not be. There is a way to give and receive correction in a hopeful and grace motivated way. The Scriptures show us how.

Read the rest of this entry

Confessing Sin (1 John 1:8-9)

tsslogo.jpgsermon delivered on July 22, 2007
by Pastor Mark Alderton
Sovereign Grace Fellowship
Bloomington, MN

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[Along with Rick Gamache, Mark Alderton pastors a church in Bloomington, MN (suburb of Minneapolis). Mark is a very wise brother in Christ and gifted as an excellent expositor of God's Word. This sermon on confessing sin is 'lights out.' Literally! About 20 minutes before the sermon began the electricity went out. Mark continued with the sermon in a dark and hot elementary school gymnasium without any amplification. The manuscript is too good not to post here on TSS. Mark graciously offered this sermon on confessing sin and another for tomorrow on his follow-up sermon on giving and receiving correction. These sermons are a tremendous blessing. Thank you Mark! - Tony]

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The topic of this text and this message is confessing sin. Or in other words, it’s about agreeing with God that we have done something wrong; that we’ve either done something he says we shouldn’t do, or failed to do something he says we should do.

We are addressing this topic because we’re in a series dealing with those things that affect our fellowship, our life together as a church. And sin affects our fellowship, especially unconfessed sin, so this is a matter of importance to us.

I don’t know what you think of the idea of confessing your sins to someone or why you would want to do that. I can tell you what I thought of it growing up.

I was raised with the understanding that to be right with God you needed to go every once in a while to a priest and confess your sins to him in a confessional booth. I’m not sure how these appointments were set up – I know I never asked for them. But they were pretty intimidating to me and I thought that I’d better have some pretty bold sins to confess or the priest would think I was hiding something, and I wanted to get through this as quickly as possible.

So I got a list in my mind, and at the confession I’d say sheepishly, “Well, father (that’s what we called the priest) …”

… I got angry with my sister and I hit her

… I hit a golf ball through the house window and lied to my dad that someone threw a rock at it, and…

… I stole firecrackers out of my dad’s dresser drawer and blew up an anthill

Then, if all was right in the world, he wouldn’t ask for too much else, and let me go fairly quickly with an assignment to do some penance to show that my sorrow for my sin was real.

That was my idea of confessing sin. I didn’t like it and I had no idea why I needed to do it other than that it was expected of me.

Now that may not be your exact experience (and I would be glad if it wasn’t because that’s not a biblical model), but you may have some of the same misunderstandings and temptations related to confessing your sins to others.

Perhaps you don’t think you have much sin in your life to confess. Or perhaps you think that your sin is just between you and God and there is no need for others to know. Or perhaps you don’t know about the blessings God promises to those who live a life of ongoing confession of sin.

Read the rest of this entry

Breakout 1 > 2007 Sovereign Grace Leaders Conference

Thursday morning (4/12/07)
Breakout seminar #1
Rick Gamache: “Watch Your Devotional Life”

GAITHERSBURG, MD – Over the past few months I have come to see my pastor Rick Gamache as the most gifted leader and preacher I have had the privilege of seeing up close. And although I see him all the time, I wasn’t about to miss his breakout session incj-mahaney.jpg the Pastors College classroom. No regrets.

As he and associate pastor Mark Alderton preach through Acts on Sunday morning at Sovereign Grace Fellowship (Minneapolis, MN), they have especially pointed out the correlations between the Apostolic church and the contemporary Sovereign Grace church. Recently a sermon on Acts 6 outlined the role of deacons and thus the role of pastors. Acts 6:1-7 also became the primary text for Gamache’s breakout seminar, Watch your Devotional Life: The Pastor’s Communion with God. The text reads,

1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”

Pastors are mainly devoted to preaching and prayer. So the exhortation is for pastors to watch their preaching and prayer. This particular session was an exhortation for pastors to guard their prayer life.

Only three out of 10 pastors pray for 15 minutes each day. But here in Acts “the twelve” call out seven Spirit-filled deacons to care for the widows. This would free the Apostles to “devote” themselves to their leadership/pastoral task. The term “devote” (προσκαρτερησομεν) here is a strong word in the text. Even at the expense of other ministry opportunities, they were to “devote” themselves to a narrowed focus.

This priority is especially astonishing given the importance needy widows occupy in the New Testament. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27). By finding deacons to care for the widows highlights the significance of prayer in the pastoral life. The feeding of the widows was a threat to the Apostles — not because it was intrinsically a bad ministry — but because it hindered their primary duty. This reveals that the early leaders of the church did not have short prayer times in mind since it demanded a clearing of the schedule. They spent a lot of time at preaching and public/private prayer. This made it necessary to say “no” to other ministry opportunities. For example, being devoted to my wife does not mean I spend all my time with her. But it does mean she is a chief priority and because of this I must say ‘no’ to many good things. The same is true of prayer in the pastoral life.

Not only does Scripture call us to be “devoted” to prayer (Acts 1:14, 2:42), but Paul commands us to prayer (Rom. 12:12, Col. 4:2). A life devoted to prayer is the call of all Christians, and especially pastors. We need to watch it! Good ministry opportunities crowd in and demand time, but we must not let ministry become its own worst enemy. C.H. Spurgeon once said in a sermon,

“Sometimes we think we are too busy to pray. That is a great mistake, for praying is a saving of time. You remember Luther’s remark, ‘I have so much to do today that I shall never get through it with less than three hours’ prayer.’ … If we have no time we must make time, for if God has given us time for secondary duties, He must have given us time for primary ones, and to draw near to Him is a primary duty, and we must let nothing set in on one side. You other engagements will run smoothly if you do not forget your engagement with God” (Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. 18).

It would not be a Sovereign Grace conference unless every session was connected to the Cross. Gamache reminded us that our access to God in prayer comes through the work of Christ alone (Heb. 10:19-22). We must confess our inability to draw near to God based upon our own merits. The holiness of God does not consume us because of the Cross!

Neglecting the invitation is spiritual foolishness. We are called to ask, seek and knock (Luke 11:9-13). God promises to act when we pray. There is a cause-and-effect relationship to prayer. God says, “I will let your prayers effect My universe.” Amazing! Spurgeon writes: “We do not bow the knee merely because it is a duty, and a commendable spiritual exercise, but because we believe that, into the ear of the eternal God, we speak our wants, and that His ear is linked with a heart of feeling for us, and a hand working on our behalf. To us, true prayer is true power” (An All-Around Ministry, p. 13).

Psalm 50 shows the relationship of a breathtaking God and our drawing near to Him. In the first 14 verses we see a glimpse of the power and majesty of God. In verse 15 we are summoned: “and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” When we pray, we get the help and God gets the glory.

Pursuing the ministry without prayer is pride. Pastors are called to labor to “save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). The harvest is ready but the workers are few (Luke 10:1-8). Without God working in me, I will watch sinners run headlong to hell and my heart will be unmoved. God must be at work in our ministry and affections. Pastors are called to “stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24) and work for “your progress and joy in the faith” (Phil. 1:25). These callings make the pastor feel really needy! We are incapable of eternal fruit without the work of God. Thus, “Prayer is a means of crushing my self-sufficiency.”

“My life as a pastor is a life of war.” Seasons of blessing can lull us into a peacetime mentality. We can easily forget our dependence. “We will not drift into prayer but we will drift into prayerlessness.”

Gamache concluded with some practical advice for watching our prayer lives.

1. Structured and unstructured prayers. Sometimes we should just spill our hearts out to our Daddy. And there are times prayers will be shaped by prayer folders. Structure your prayer around Scripture as you are reading. There is a connection between prayer and the abiding Word in our hearts. Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Also, there is a connection between knowing His will in Scripture and praying according to that will: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14). Also, the Word and prayer are interconnected because the Word produces faith (Rom. 10:17) and that faith is essential to prayer (Matt. 21:22).

2. Expressing deep needs and high joy in prayer. We praise God in prayer as He meets us in our darkest despair and when He meets us in our delights!

3. Long and short prayers. Quick outbursts of prayer throughout the day and longer prayers that “linger.” Spurgeon says, “pray until you pray.” Linger in prayer until you enter into the spirit of prayer. Pray for prayer.

4. Spontaneous and scheduled prayers. Learn to pray throughout the day and also plan your prayers.

In all, it was an excellent breakout session and I was blessed to be there. Prayer is no strength of mine and I’m better encouraged and equipped to pursue prayer more faithfully. I’m motivated to excel, not out of guilt or condemnation of failure, but because prayer is our access to the fountain of God’s blessing!

But what most comes to mind when I recall this session is that prayer is the means of “crushing my self-sufficiency.” And prayer seems to be an excellent gauge of my understanding of the immensity of the pastoral task and my own utter dependency upon God.

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Related 2007 SGM LC sessions:

 

1. 2007 Sovereign Grace Ministries Leadership Conference

2. R.C. Sproul: “The Holiness of God”

3. Rick Gamache: “Watch Your Devotional Life”

4. Mark Dever: “Watch the Past: Living Lessons from Dead Theologians”

5. David Powlison: “‘In the Last Analysis…’ Look out for Introspection”

6. C.J. Mahaney: “Trinitarian Pastoral Ministry”

7. 2007 Conference photographs

Feasting on the Word: How to teach hermeneutics

Feasting on the Word
How to teach hermeneutics

Training a church in the way of proper bible interpretation is both very difficult and yet provides the potential of great fruitfulness. As your people are empowered to interpret and study Scripture for themselves, personal faith is strengthened and quite meditation times are made more fruitful.

I had the honor to sit in on the “Feasting on the Word” course taught by Mark Alderton, Associate pastor of Sovereign Grace Fellowship (Minneapolis, MN). If you are interested in bringing a hermeneutics seminar to your congregation I would highly recommend reading and listening to Alderton’s presentation first. I would say he did an excellent job of not only teaching the tools of hermeneutics but also edifying the body with the Gospel. This was first-rate, Cross-centered hermeneutics.

Here are the resources:

- PDF Booklet (2.6 MB)
- Session 1 MP3 (10.7 MB)
- Session 2 MP3 (8.5 MB)
- Session 3 MP3 (8 MB)
- Session 4 MP3 (10.7 MB)
- Session 5 MP3 (10 MB)

Thomas Fluharty

Did you know one of the top artists in this country is also one of the most passionate about the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Thomas Fluharty (also a worship leader at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Minneapolis) is a man driven by the Cross. It takes about 10-seconds into a conversation to know this man is driven by one aim:

“The chief end of Thomas Fluharty is not to be the greatest artist he can be, but rather to glorify the only living God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent for our sins. And to enjoy Him forever!”

There are not many who are as successful who give such amazing glory to Christ. And humble! (What grown man would put pictures like this of himself on the Internet?).

Check out his new blog to be humored by art and humbled by grace.

Why one church in Minneapolis defines herself as ‘Cross-Centered’

After recently listening to a great sermon on the Cross I have been convicted. Convicted because I have not been spending enough time studying the Cross. So over the next few weeks and months I am planning to study through John Stott’s, The Cross of Christ (IVP: 1986). I am a big fan of Stott but admittedly have never read the entire book through (please don’t email, I know the shame of this admission). So for the coming weeks I am going to center my attention and affections upon the Cross through this study.

The quote that brought conviction came from a sermon entitled The Glory of the Cross delivered by Rick Gamache, the senior pastor of a neat church in Minneapolis (April, 2006; Sovereign Grace Fellowship). Itself is a wonderful sermon well worth your time this weekend (listen in .mp3). Here is a short excerpt:

“I want to try and articulate briefly for you why we are very careful to refer to Sovereign Grace Fellowship as a ‘Gospel-centered’ or ‘Cross-centered’ church. If you have been around here for any amount of time you know we don’t refer to ourselves mainly as a ‘God-centered’ church though I definitely use those terms. We use that term on occasion because we are thoroughly centered on God here. But we don’t even use terms to refer to ourselves namely as a ‘Christ-centered’ church. Now, again we sometimes use that phrase because here we are thoroughly centered upon Christ. But we prefer to be even more precise so we use the term ‘Gospel-centered’ or ‘Cross-centered’ church … Because the Cross is the centerpiece of the good news, the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 6:14 that he ‘boasts in’ (‘exults in,’ or ‘rejoices in’ – that one Greek word can have all those meanings), he ‘rejoices in’ nothing except the Cross of Jesus Christ because it’s where our salvation was purchased and where God was revealed in glory. So Martin Luther was correct when he wrote this: ‘The Cross alone is our theology. There is not a word in the Bible which we can understand without reference to the Cross.'”

- Rick Gamache, sermon on The Glory of Christ; April, 2006, Sovereign Grace Fellowship; Minneapolis, MN

(sermon on The Glory of Christ; April, 2006, Sovereign Grace Fellowship; church in Minneapolis, MN)

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