Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Question For Me These Days?

In every season of life and ministry there always seems to be a single question that floods my mind and consumes my thoughts.

These days that question revolves around the church and how a local church like the one I serve best fulfills God’s desire and command (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20, & Colossians 1:27).

The question simply stated is this: “How do we (a local church) share the Gospel and be Christ’s church in a culturally relevant way without compromising the truth?” Or stated in simpler terms: “How do we provide light for the darkness?” Those who think this is an easy question don’t get it.

What’s to get? The church is becoming less and less important to Christians and to those who are not Christians. Christians who claim membership in a local church don't seem to miss not being in worship (Hebrews 10:25). Those outside the church don’t seem to miss being in Christ and living as a part of Christ’s body – the church.

Many Christians who are connected in Church want the church to be what they like and have always known (the music, the furniture, the message, and the ministries). Those outside the church don’t connect with what many in the church have always known. It is irrelevant to them and they see church more as a social club of good people that they can’t connect with or understand.

I see this at times in my own church and we are considered a “contemporary” church. I see it in the general attitude of some, certainly and thankfully not all, but some of the people. In the last year I have not had a single person in the church come to me concerned about providing a ministry that will care for and communicate the Gospel to those outside the church. The staff and elders have facilitated ideas and the church has attempted to communicate and connect with the culture, but the people in the church have only brought ideas of ministries they want started for those already in Christ and His Body - the church.

This scares me for a number of reasons. I’ll mention two here. One, we (the local church) could focus resources on providing ministries for the already convinced. That would make them happy. With thousands living and dying without Christ many in the church would be happy. Two, those outside the church wouldn’t care if we provided ministries and resources for the already convinced. They wouldn’t complain or feel hurt in any way. They’ll just wander this world separated from God getting used to the emptiness day by day and never meet the eternal living Christ.

I don’t have the answer to the question. I wish I did.

I am praying and I covet your prayers and your consideration of the question.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Opposite of “The Flood”

We have recently been without rain here in BG for a long time. My daughter commented to me this morning that it was almost 40 days that we went without any rain.

That is the opposite of what happened to Noah. He had 40 days and nights with a rain of judgment.

Right now it is pouring down rain. It is a wonderful sight. Water is gushing down the sides of our street. My brown grass is being pressed down by the weight of the water piling on it. Soon it will stand tall and green.

This rain is a blessing not a curse.

It is also a blessing to have God pour out His Spirit on us. Our souls get dry and crusty on this big rock circling the sun. We need refreshment and renewal. Our hearts and minds need something fresh and cool.

Isaiah 44:3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

My son told me this morning that a person can only go 90 hours without water. That’s 3 days and 18 hours.

I wonder how long the soul can go without spiritual refreshment. How long before the ground of the soul becomes so hard the Gospel seed can no longer penetrate it? How long until the parched land of the mind begins to crack? How long until the valley of the heart becomes a desert?

Why risk it? Don’t go a day without being alone with God. Don’t let a week go by without gathering with the church for worship? Don’t go a month without serving the needs of the church and the world. Be where God is and let Him pour out His Spirit down on your life and refresh you.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Too Critical of Christian Resources

I want to apologize for my arrogant and overcritical comments of Christian media and resource outlets this morning in my message. I shared an opinion that was neither gracious nor edifying. There are a number of wonderful ways in which Christ is honored and the church is encouraged with Christian media and resource outlets and I was very insensitive in disregarding their positive impact for the Kingdom of God.

What I shared was my opinion, which has no place in the public proclamation of the Word. My point was that as believers we need to be weary of accepting everything that claims to be Christian as Christian as we are commanded to in 1 John 4:1 "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."

It is important that as believers we understand what is primary, what is secondary, and what is merely opinion.

Things that are primary are things like the Gospel, the Word of God, and the doctrine of God. Things that are secondary are things like church polity, spiritual gifts, and how often communion is to be received. Things that are opinion are things like style of music, times of worship, and appropriateness of attire.

I am concerned that there are Christian resources that claim to be Christian that do not agree with what is primary to the faith. This makes them dangerous and egregious. Christians must discern what is true according to the Word of God and not based on what suits our personal appetites or egos.

Again, I apologize for my negativity toward Christian media and resource outlets. There are many profitable ones that honor God and help us as we seek to follow Christ.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Paris Hilton’s Mortification

I’m not into entertainment news, but Paris Hilton has become political, sociological, and now spiritual news.

In turns out, while doing time in jail, Paris made a collect call to family friend Barbara Walters. According to Walters, Hilton said: "I feel as if I'm a different person.” Walters reports that Hilton has retained a spiritual adviser and has taken to reading self-help books, which have inspired an awakening. Walters described it as knowing she has "a power she can use for different things." Paris is said to even be reading the Bible.

Mortification is a spiritual discipline. According to John Owen, the gifted puritan scholar and pastor, “mortification consists in a habitual weakening of sin.” When I speak of Hilton’s mortification I am speaking of her work to be transformed by being released from a pattern of behavior or sin that has sought to destroy her life.

I hope Hilton’s life is transformed, but I realize the challenge she faces.

It is the challenge most people face and that most people fail. It is the challenge to weaken sin so that it no longer controls us so that we can be free to live Spirit led lives.

I have seen many people year after year try and change their life like Paris. They face a painful, embarrassing, or traumatic experience and they decide in their moment of enlightenment to be done with a certain sin or lifestyle. They look to God and some even go to church and make a profession of faith asking Christ to forgive them of their sin.

Sadly, in time most take their eyes off of God and fall back into sin. Why is that? Psalm 78:34-37 “Whenever God slew them, they would seek him; they eagerly turned to him again. They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. But then they would flatter him with their mouths, lying to him with their tongues; their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant.”

People make promises to God in the midst of pain, but once the crisis is averted they go back to life as before. They do this because they are not committed to God. They are only committed to themselves and use God. Once they feel they are ok they drop God.

The only way to truly experience transformation is through mortification.

First, admit your sin, believe on Christ for salvation, and confess Him as savior and Lord. Romans 10:9 “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Only after your sin has been pardoned and God's Spirit has entered your life can you be free from the power of sin.

Second, spend the rest of your life seeking to destroy the influence of sin in your life through the power of Holy Spirit. You will never destroy sin this side of death, but you can weaken its control over you. Again, John Owens helps us with his awkward sentence structure, “Now, though doubtless there may, by the Spirit and grace of Christ, a wonderful success and eminency of victory against any sin be attained, so that a man may have almost constant triumph over it, yet an utter killing and destruction of it, that it should not be, is not in this life to be expected.”

Pray for Paris. Pray for me. Pray for us all. Pray that we will fight the good fight of faith. 1 Timothy 6:12 “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

Friday, June 8, 2007

Noah R.O.S.E. & So Should We

I have had an amazing week this week.

On Monday and Tuesday I was at our children’s camp with Cindy Starr, the greatest children’s minister of all time, and a group of great volunteer leaders. The kids were not bad either.

On Wednesday I headed to our high school camp to be with Jeff Armstrong our new and amazing Next Generation Pastor. I had the opportunity to speak to the students on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

I want to share the outline from Wednesday night with you this week and the outline of my talk from Thursday next week.

On Wednesday night I spoke to the students about how Noah R.O.S.E as God called him to. A number of students were saved and God did a fresh work in a number of us.

I pointed out to the students that in Genesis 6-9 God called Noah and he responded and R.O.S.E to the occasion by being (R)ighteous, (O)bedient, (S)aved, and (E)ffective.

Noah was Righteous. Genesis 6:9 “This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” Noah let God control his actions, attitude, and the outcome of his life according to God’s Word.

Noah was Obedient. Genesis 6:14 “So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.” Even though it took him 120 years and people probably ostracized him, Noah did what God called him to do. He was a witness for God and announced the coming judgment at a great cost to himself.

Noah was Saved. Genesis 7:1-12 “The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, 7And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. 12And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.” Judgment came, but Noah was ready because he entered into the ark. Just as we must enter into Christ to be saved from judgment, so Noah entered into the ark and was saved.

Noah was Effective. Genesis 8:18-19 “So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 19All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on the earth—came out of the ark, one kind after another.” Noah, his family, and the animals were saved. He was effective in carrying out his call from God. I am saved because someone was effective in sharing the Gospel with me. Who will be saved this year because you were willing to share the Gospel with them?

God wants us to be (R)ighteous, (O)bedient, (S)aved, and (E)ffective. Will you be what God has called you to be?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Amos - Just a Good Ole Boy

Yesterday was a wonderful day, but I failed to provide proper background for the book of Amos. As we “Walk in the Word” we will always need to understand the background and big picture of a book, while we read it. I like to provide that in each Sunday’s message, but yesterday I got caught up more in the doctrine and application of the teaching of Amos and did not supply enough information on the historical setting or facts on Amos himself.

Let me fix that now.

The Book of Amos can be divided into two sections: “The Messages” found in chapters 1–6 and “The Visions” found in chapters 7–9. This division is revealed in verse one of chapter one of the book. This (message) was given to Amos, a shepherd from the town of Tekoa in Judah. He received this message in (visions) two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam II, the son of Jehoash, was king of Israel.

In “The Messages” Amos tells the people to “hear” what God has told him and he warns the people of God’s intentions, if they don’t return to Him.

In “The Visions” Amos sees and explains God’s intentions using a number of interesting metaphors. Locusts, a plumb line, ripe fruit, and temple worship are woven into the tapestry that makes the message of Amos so gripping.

There are five distinct types of material that make up the book: (1) oracles (or sayings) spoken by Amos, (2) vision-reports, (3) a third-person narrative reporting Amaziah’s opposition to Amos, (4) three stanzas of an old hymn, and (5) the title.

Amos prophesied for only about a year. He was from Judah, but prophesied in Northern Israel around 762 BC.

Being a southern boy myself who has no pastoral heritage, I appreciate and identify with Amos.

He was just a good ole boy.
Never meaning no harm.
Beats all you ever saw
Was in trouble with the law
Since the day he was called.

The king’s priest Amaziah told him to go back home and stop preaching because he was stirring up trouble for the king. “Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I was neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’”(Amos 7:14-15) . Amos was just an old farmer called by God to tell it like it was.

He lived in times of material prosperity. Those city folks in the Northern Kingdom didn’t think they needed God so they disobeyed Him and lived any way they pleased.

The message God gave Amos that appears in the book is primarily one of judgment, but it ends with words of hope.