Monday, July 30, 2007

Didn’t Say Yesterday

Worship was a little disappointing to me yesterday. Our time of praise and prayer was amazing, but the preaching left me a little let down. I had prepared so much more information than I was able to share and even went over at the 11 am service. Sorry nursery and children’s workers.

I did not get to tell a story that I wanted to share that communicates the heart of the matter as it applies to tithing.

In early July I was studying at Reformed Theological Seminary, as I do one week a year, and visited Northland Community Church on Monday night, as I always do when I am there. It was a wonderful time of worship for me. They are a God-honoring church and their pastor Joel Hunter always blesses me with his Bible teaching.

But the greatest impact occurred when the service was over.

As we were leaving worship, I overheard two young women talking. One was a believer in Jesus, but the other was clearly a guest. The believer was explaining the offering that the church received.

I’m not in the habit of listening in on other people’s conversations, but the lady that was clearly a guest had asked the believer if that was the membership fee she had given when she turned in her check in the offering. That got my attention.

The believer told her friend that it was her tithe. She explained that when a person becomes a follower of Jesus that God becomes first in everything and that includes their money. So every time she makes any money she gives the first tenth or tithe to God.

The guest asked the believer if she should give. And I’ll never forget the believer's beautiful response. She said, “No, don’t give your money. It’s what I’ve been telling you. God wants your heart. Until God has your heart, nothing else you give really matters.”

They then went another direction in the parking lot and I didn’t get to hear the rest. I wanted to follow along and listen, but I’m afraid they would have thought I was stalking them. I just prayed for the guest that she would indeed choose to love God and receive His amazing love and grace into her life.

When it comes to giving or doing anything for God, we must realize that God above all wants our hearts. Once He has our hearts and is first in everything in our life, then everything else will fall into place.

Yesterday, as I was speaking on tithing, I could tell that there was a great deal of reticence among the people. I know that many in my church do not tithe and when I teach on it they get uncomfortable.

I hope I communicated the Gospel and the Biblical truth that God wants your heart. If God has your heart, you delight in giving Him your first dollars, the best part of your day to be alone with Him, and service to His Kingdom cause.

If God does not have your heart, anything else you give really doesn’t matter to Him. It’s like a man giving a woman flowers because he has to and not because he wants to. No matter how many flowers he gives or how costly they may be they don't matter if he doesn’t truly love her. They in essence are a guilt offering that can't remove the guilt of lacking love.

Give God your heart. Choose to love God. He loves you. When God gets your heart, your treasure will gladly follow. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Shepherds That Harm

Jeremiah 23:1 “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord.

Please pray for me that I will not be a shepherd that causes the destruction or scattering of God’s people. No shepherd is immune to sin and that sin can cause devastation and a dispersion of the church. My greatest fear as a pastor is that I would do anything that would cause harm to the church, the bride of Christ.

Please also pray for some pastors and some consultants to pastors who are causing the destruction and the scattering of the church. In particular I would ask you to pray for pastors that are a part of a movement called “The Emerging Church” and for a consultant in particular named George Barna.

I do not know the hearts of these “emergent” pastors and I do not know George Barna personally, but I am seeing some devastating effects their work is having on the church. I genuinely believe these men love Jesus, but I also believe that what they are doing is not good for the church.

There is no doubt that the church of Jesus Christ in North America has a lot of growing up to do, but many “emergent” pastors (Let me quickly say here that the term “emergent” is a loose term and to categorize “emergent” as a unit is not fair. There are different types of people and doctrines within the “emergent” movement, but because they use the heading I will too.) and George Barna in his book Revolution are encouraging the abandonment of the church.

I believe these men are sure they are serving God and are creating a “better” church. I just don’t believe that calling people away from a local body of believers they have committed to do life with and being hyper-critical of the local church is healthy.

What they have to say needs to be heard and there is a great deal we can learn from these dear brothers. Pray that they will not abandon the Biblical call to gather in local churches or alienate themselves from existing churches with their overcritical and many times arrogant statements and assumptions.

Pray that the church of Jesus will grow strong and that we as His people with differing views on critical issues and doctrines can unite under His banner and keep Christ and the Gospel He proclaimed and provided our focus and passion.

Pray that I will be an ambassador of the Gospel, a good shepherd to the local flock under my care, a friend to sinners, and a help to the hurting and voiceless in our world.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

You Can Do It, We Can Help

D.A. Carson, the author of the devotion “For the Love of God” we are using as we Walk in the Word, explains how he learned wonderful songs growing up that taught him facts about his faith. He writes,

I am grateful that I was brought up at a time when many of the songs we learned gave us some facts, some data, some reasons for things. Many Christians today could not name either the twelve patriarchs or the twelve apostles, and are dismally ignorant of a lot of other elementary data that the least informed Sunday school student a generation ago mastered by the age of six or ten. Of course, the acquisition of mere data does not necessarily make a Christian. On the other hand, ignorance of Scripture almost always ensures a painful immaturity.[1]

I envy the foundation this man received by his upbringing. I was not in church as a child. I received Christ at the age of 15 and began my journey limping from the lack of a Biblical background and worldview. I have since learned a great deal of theology, language, and history, but there are simple things that I have not memorized that I could now know had I received a good church upbringing.

I could have learned songs about God instead of songs that begin “Beans Beans good for the heart, the more you eat them...”

I grieve over the foundation I did not receive. My grief is greater now as I see most of the children in my city and corner of the country called the “Bible Belt” missing out on the same foundation.

Mom and dad, you can give your child a solid foundation in the faith of Jesus Christ. The church can help. Together you and the local church can provide your child stories, songs, relationships, and habits that will serve them through eternity. It is your duty according to Deuteronomy 6 and it is the church’s joy to help you.

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[1]D. A. Carson, For the Love of God : A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word. Volume 2 (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998), 25.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Lost Art of Disciple Making

In churches in general there seems to be something lacking. Some churches have guests, which are great. Their presence proves that the membership is investing and inviting people to Christ and His church. There are attenders. These are people who go to church, but do not commit to membersip. There are members who are baptized believers that make a covenant with a group of God’s people to be the church. Then there are volunteers who are members that provide vital acts of service that make the church work and enable it to function. They teach, greet, sing, etc.

What seems to be missing are genuine disciple makers. Jesus commanded us to “go and make disciples” in Matthew 28:19. This was not a suggestion.

Before you can make a disciple, you must know what one is.

John 15 gives us a simple picture of what a disciple looks like:

  • v.7 A Disciple Is Connected to Christ by Active Faith
  • v.8 A Disciple Is Visibly Transformed by Grace
  • v.9-10 A Disciple Obeys Jesus for Love’s Sake
  • v.11 A Disciple Is Filled with the Joy of Jesus
  • v.12-13 A Disciples Provides Sacrificial Love to All People

All of these qualities are inspired by the Spirit of God and can only be lived out by those who have and are being transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These qualities are also modeled and managed by people who are in relationships with other believes that are sharing and showing them how to be more and more like Christ.

This is the ultimate goal of disciple making – being like Christ. There are many things a person can do in the name of God, but unless a person is a disciple they are not living out God’s demand for His people. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer is known for saying, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”

Friends let’s not fool ourselves into becoming social Christians that have no value to God’s Kingdom work. Let’s be Spirit-filled Christians who are daily becoming more and more like Jesus and who are equipping others to do the same.

A Christian should always be in a relationship with one person who is helping them be more like Jesus and at the same time always be in a relationship with at least one person that they are helping be more like Jesus.

It would be wise to memorize 2 Timothy 2:2 “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." This is discipleship.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

God Made His Church Missional

As I shared with you a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about the church lately. I had the opportunity to spend last week with a wonderful group of doctoral students discussing God’s church and His intention for her.

I learned a great deal and am very excited about the church and what God wants to do through His people. I am looking forward to sharing my excitement with you.

Here's what I need you to know and be praying about.

On Sunday August 5th we will have our annual “Vision Sunday” where I will outline our focus for the year in view of our church vision, mission, and values. I intend to share some basic thoughts on what it means to be a church on mission where every member is a missionary.

Then we will spend two weeks looking at the life of Christ according to the Gospels on Sunday August 12th, Wednesday August 15th, and Sunday August 19th.

On August 26th we will begin the series “Grace Anatomy - recovering the missional church God made.” Each message will be based on a book or books of the Bible beginning with Luke/Acts and ending on Sunday October 7th with 2 Thessalonians.

In the end I believe we will see not only what God wants His church to be, but what it is we must do individually and collectively as His community of faith to fulfill His desire. Our key verse will be John 20:21 “Again Jesus said, Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’” We will be reminded that as the church we are called to care for ourselves and one another in Christ, but also to reach out compassionately to the world with the hope of the Gospel and the healing it brings.

Please be in prayer for this upcoming fall. I believe God’s Spirit is going to move us to get beyond thinking about what we want for and from God’s church and begin to live out what God desires for His church.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Today’s "Walk in the Word" reading blesses my soul.

Psalm 147:10-11 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; 11the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

Our God does not take pleasure in our abilities and personal power. He’s not impressed with what we drive or the resources we have at our disposal. Our capacity to commit and stand is not what delights Him.

God delights in those who are in awe of Him!

We don’t have to fake it with God. We can be the strugglers we are and rejoice in the Lord. God is holy. God is perfect. There is nothing dark in Him. He can squish us, but He doesn’t. Our delight in His goodness and greatness pleases Him.

We don’t have to beat ourselves up. We’re already beat up. We can admit that we are beat up, but that God is amazing and wonderful and honor Him for all that He is. When we do that, He is delighted in us. This is grace.

We can embrace His grace because He loves us. God is not telling us to merely do better. He’s not just making demands of us we can’t reach. He’s met the demands for us. He gives us His righteousness and makes us His adopted children. He does this because He loves us. His love is our hope.

We are free to acknowledge that God is great and that His love will never fail. We have hope in this. We are free in Him.

Thank you, Jesus!!!

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Pray for Your Pastor

I am a regular guy with a distinct call.

My responsibilities in life are as follows:

1. Love God will all my heart, soul, mind and strength

2. Love my neighbors as myself

3. Care for my wife

4. Raise my children according to the Word of God with the hope of the Gospel

5. Pastor a church and spread the glory of God throughout the world

As a pastor, I and my family face distinct challenges. These challenges are not unlike those of other leaders. The main difference is that the competition I’m working to edge out is an ancient evil. Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

The upside is that my boss can’t be beat. So in Christ I win. 1 John 5:4-5 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

There are pressures a pastor and his wife face that are unique. Good men who have served well are falling into sin and being disqualified from service. Please pray for your pastor and ask God to provide a hedge of protection around him and his wife and children.

Here are some statistics to motivate you.


  • Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
  • Fifty percent of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
  • Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
  • Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
  • Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
  • Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.

Pastors' Wives

  • Eighty percent of pastors' spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
  • Eighty percent of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
  • The majority of pastors’ wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.