Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Real Minimal Requirement

There are two things I don’t like in life. One is surprises. Good or bad, I have never liked not being in the loop about what is happening. I’m not a control freak, so I tell myself. I just like to be prepared.

The second one is unclear expectations. I like to know what is expected of me so that I can evaluate my contribution and be evaluated by others based on facts rather than feelings or assumptions.

When it comes to our faith, we have been given a minimal requirement of what is expected of every child of God. These three verses summarize it simply.

John 20:21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

Sending us where and to do what?

Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

How are we supposed to teach them?

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.

We are to pass on to them, that which has been given to us.

The bottom line is this. Disciples of Jesus are expected to help other people become disciples of Jesus.

What does that process look like?

At Living Hope it is a very simple process that is stated as our mission.

Help people: Get to God - Grow in Christ - Give to others

The only way a person can get to God is through a relationship with Jesus. If you do not have a life that is submitted to the love and leadership of Jesus, you cannot know God or gain access to His heaven. Helping people get to God means that you help them know Christ by His grace through faith.

To grow in Christ is to obey Jesus and learn to live in His grace more effectively. The practical steps to do this are: baptism, church membership, Bible study with other church members and daily personal time alone with God in prayer and Bible meditation.

To give to others is to be what Jesus is: generous. Followers of Jesus are to give their time and talent in service to their church and to their world. They are also to give their finances to the Kingdom work of Christ (a tithe or 10% of their income to Jesus’ church).

A disciple of Jesus is responsible to introduce other people to Jesus. If a person believes and receives Christ as the love and leader of their life, then the disciple of Jesus is to help this new Christian be baptized, join a local church, get connected in a Bible study (for us that would be an Adult Bible Fellowship or Small Group) and learn to have a daily devotional time alone with God. They are then to help them find a place of service in the church and world and to show them how to give financially.

The Bible makes this clear:

The minimum requirement of every Christian is not getting people to attend a worship service experience.

The responsibility of every Christian is to help people become followers of Jesus.

Many Christians believe that their primary responsibility is to get someone to attend church with them. That is a wonderful tool to help someone become a disciple of Jesus, but that is not the minimal missional mandate of Jesus.

At our church I have talked about being active in investing and inviting people (i2). The goal I gave was to invest in people’s lives with authentic love and friendship and invite them to attend church and come to love Christ. Many have sought to invite people to church, but then considered their work done. The idea has been that if we get them to church, then the staff and other “better trained” believers will take it from there.

That’s not right. That’s not what Jesus has asked of any of us. He expects each of us, as disciples, to make disciples. This means we are to do more than get someone to attend worship one Sunday.

Our job is to be engaged in what I will be calling (and those of you at Living Hope will be hearing a lot about) the i2 process.

Invest in people with love.

Invite them to know Christ and help people:

know Jesus Christ > be baptized > join our local church > get connected in an ABF or Small Group > spend time in daily devotions with God > serve the church > give financially to the church > serve the world by caring for people’s physical needs and spiritual needs by participating in the i2 process so that they can effectively invest in people with love and invite them to know Christ and help people: know Jesus Christ > be baptized > join our local church...

It’s a process that Jesus demands we be a part of as His people.

Monday, April 28, 2008

You’re No Rooster

Some friends told me recently about a classified ad they saw in a small town paper. It said something to the effect of

A good looking rooster for sale. Comes to his name called. Friendly with people and other animals. Can pet it. Or would be good eating.

People may desert you. People may speak well of you in one moment and then throw you under the bus in another. God never will desert you and would never betray you.

Hebrews 13:5-6 God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” 6So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

You are going to face many challenges this week: financial, relational, spiritual, or physical, but as you face them remember that you are not alone. God is with you and He won’t abandon you or sale you out.

If you have given your life to Him, you are His adopted child. You are the apple of His eye. You are His beloved. Do not fear and do not be anxious. Trust God.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

“Maybe?” A Segment Left Out of Sunday’s Message

I appreciate this new commercial by Michael Jordon (click here or on the picture.) The message is clear. If you want to be successful at something, you are going to have to work hard at it.

There is, I think, in our culture this idea that things just happen to people who are fortunate. In reality there are only a few flukes in the world. The people on this planet who are successful at what they do are successful because they work extremely hard.

The Christian life is no different. It is not easy. It is a challenge.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

The easy road is the one that requires the least from you, but costs you the most in the end. Go to work and get by. Approach your marriage to get by. Just get your kids out of the house without a baby or parole officer. Get enough of God that you feel good about yourself, but don’t ever really die to yourself so that you feel good about God. Each one will cost you in the end.

The Christian life is offered to all, but limited to those who are willing to give up on what is easy and sacrifice all for Jesus. That is the narrow road. Walking the narrow road requires the discipline of a great athlete.

A great athlete practices and exercises their body to the point of exhaustion. The body tells the athlete to stop by sending pain signals, but the athlete refuses. The body provides more signals, but the athlete relentlessly refuses. The athlete forces the body to go beyond what it wants to do. The athlete refuses to obey the whims of the flesh and instead chooses to suffer in order to succeed.

Maybe the culturally western version of Jesus that makes Christianity seem easy is wrong? Maybe it’s not supposed to make you feel better or more comfortable? Maybe salvation isn’t a get out of hell free card? Maybe following Jesus is not about what I want, but is all about what God wants? Maybe we’ve been making faith a crutch rather than a cross? Maybe we should have been expecting less from others and more from ourselves? Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like the cost of discipleship is everything we have for everything God has given?

Jesus gave His life to redeem us. What are we giving to him? Excuses?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hope from Psalm 34

When I was a student at Belmont University, one of my professors, Dr. Lloyd Elder, shared how Psalm 34 had led him through some dark days. I don’t remember his age when it happened, but at some point Dr. Elder experienced a tremendous loss in his family. I do not recall the circumstances, but I can’t forget the pain he went through and described so well to us, his class. It was a deep pain that leaves a scar and causes a limp for the remainder of your life. As he shared the experience, I could see the weight of the ache still lingering on him.

He shared his experience during, what to this day, was the worst time of my life. I served as a student pastor, while I was in college, and one of my boys was killed at a youth event on a hay ride. On top of the devastation of watching a child under my care die, I was later sued by the parents.

I believe Dr. Elder revealed that wound to give me hope. Isn’t it amazing how we gain hope by seeing other saints endure and survive hard times? That day I received hope and renewal, when I needed it most.

Dr. Elder shared his story and then he opened his Bible to Psalm 34 and read:

v. 6-7 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. 7The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.

He confessed no miraculous vision or ecstatic experience. That text became his guide and his trust. He believed God’s Word to be true, and so, he was able to live each day knowing that God had not forgotten him. He was able to live knowing that God was with him and that there was an angelic host who stood as guard of his heart.

I too believed and still believe the Bible to be true. Those verses gave me hope along with these found in Psalm 34.

v. 8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

v. 15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry;

v. 17-18 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. 18The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

v. 19 A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;

v. 22 The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.

So, to the redeemed of the Lord, I encourage you to put your trust in the One who loves you and died for you. Turn to the One who knows what it is to experience the loss of a child, betrayal, rejection, and abuse of the worst kind. Turn to Him and be saved from a life of hopelessness.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Every Member a Missionary

Living Hope has seven core values. Next year we will be focusing the entire year on the core value Members Living as Missionaries - Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

This does not mean that we need to wait until next year to live it out. My prayer is that as I preach through the book of Acts and focus on this value that the church will be affirmed in what she is already doing and not convicted for what she’s not doing.

This is a really big deal. If this value is not lived out, a number of important things will not happen.

#1 Our church will not live out a core doctrine of the faith – the priesthood of the believer. Every Christian has direct access to God through the Son in the power of the Spirit. Every Christian is gifted by God’s design to serve Him. The chief end is to enable a person to glorify God and enjoy Him eternally. If each member is not using their position in the community, abilities and resources to serve God’s purpose, the church will become an institutional grave and a community joke. Each member is called as a priest of God to take the Gospel into the world and help as many people as they can Get to God. We do this by giving kindness and compassion to those in need and providing friendship and authentic love to those we know as we verbally communicate the Gospel to them and pray for their salvation. You don’t need a “preacher” for someone to be saved. You need a priest. And all believers are priests called by God to serve the Acts 1:8 mission.

#2 Our church will not reach its evangelistic potential. Every church has evangelistic potential. It is the total capacity of a congregation to reach people with the Gospel. Some churches have more than others based on the influence, giftedness and willingness of its people. If each member of our church is not leveraging every relationship, every gift, and every resource they can to spread the Gospel, then we will not reach our evangelistic potential. We will merely do what is comfortable and self-serving and in essence dishonor and disobey Jesus.

#3 Our church will not be a living growing body. We will become a cold shrinking social group. Evangelism is not the outcome of discipleship. Evangelism is discipleship. When you are sharing your faith and struggling through mental, emotional, relational and spiritual challenges with Scripture as your truth, Jesus as your foundation, God’s promise as your hope and the Holy Spirit as your guide, you become more like Jesus. Evangelism requires you to know God’s Word. Evangelism requires you to pray. Evangelism requires you to live what you believe. Evangelism requires God’s Spirit to be at work in you, through you and around you. Evangelism is the means to grow the disciple and to make disciples. Without evangelistic members, we cease to be a growing body of believers and become at best Christian consumers.

#4 Our church will not seek the good of the city and world. God wants to shine His light and share His love with our city and world through our lives. If we do not take that light and love to them, we are withholding a gift God wants to give them. In essence we are robbing people of the opportunity to know Jesus. That breaks the greatest commandment and the second one too, which is in actuality disobeying all ten of the Big Ten. What our city and world does not need is a few thousand people keeping a secret and showing up in a nice tax free building on Sundays to sing, listen to a message, fellowship with other members, and serve and learn about the Jesus we refuse to be like or to obey. Our city and world need a few thousand people to share the secret of the Gospel of Jesus and the way of life we enjoy as God’s people. This means we tell them about it and enable and allow them to be a part of it.

That’s enough for today. More is to come.

What are some things you see that we will not do as a church, if we fail to live out the core value of members living as missionaries?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Earthquakes in Kentucky

What is up with that? At around 4:30 am the ground began to shake causing windows and doors to rattle. There is no known damage at this point. But, it certainly gets the brain going and wondering what might happen or could happen.

What do you do when your life begins to tremble and things begin to fall apart? How do you cope? Where do you find strength? Where does your peace come from?

I read Psalm 29 during my devotional time this morning and was reminded of what I do, when the world and/or my life quakes and trembles.

Psalm 29:1-11 A psalm of David. Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 2Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. 3The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. 4The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. 5The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. 6He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox. 7The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. 8The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh. 9The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!” 10The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. 11The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

Give God praise and live in peace! Nothing happens that God does not know about and have a plan for. Trust in the Lord and in His strength and know that His will is best.

Of this passage, D.A. Carson writes,
Small wonder that the psalm ends (29:10–11) by focusing on the universal reign of God: “the Lord is enthroned as King forever,” whether at the time of the deluge (the Hebrew word for “flood” in this passage is found only here and in Gen. 6–11)—the very deluge that most powerfully demonstrated God’s power to deploy the forces of “nature” as he sees fit—or in the perpetual blessings and strength God confers on his people.
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God : A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word. Volume 1 (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998), April 18.

Say to anyone or anything what Joseph said in Genesis 50:20 "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

God Cares for His Lawn

The lawns require grooming again in the “Blue Grass” State. Winter has given way to spring. Summer is calling and so are the weeds in the flower beds. They must be pulled and the shrubs must be humbled back into their proper shape and size. So it goes for any person who dares care to keep a presentable property in these parts.

There are some who love to do this work. There are many who do not. Some have the means to get others to do it and so avoid it. But whether you love it or hate it, the work must be done. Each week the weed eater along with either a push or ride mower must be maneuvered throughout the grass to give the lawn a manicured look.

The teacher of Ecclesiastes tells us,

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

This is not a pronouncement for moral relativism nor is it a call for us to shape our time according to our desires. It is a mere statement of fact. Seasons, emotions, life, resources, and jobs all come and go. But in a display of His power and grace, God “has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

And so, like time, we experience change, but God in His power and grace makes us beautiful in time. He takes a life that was cold and dormant in a spiritual winter and brings it to life in a resurrection of spring. He does not let that life grow wild and unkept. “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (John 15.2).

If you have been made alive in Christ, do not be surprised to see the great Gardener put to use His mower and other tools in your life. He will cut you. He will pull out the weeds in your life. He will allow the seasons to come and go. But never forget that He is clipping us to form us into a masterpiece. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

Friday, April 11, 2008


Douglas Gresham, C. S. Lewis's stepson and producer of the upcoming Prince Caspian, when asked about his faith journey and whether or not he had walked away from his faith, said in an interview with Christianity Today,

The problem is you have to define what you mean about ‘faith.’ We use that term much too loosely. I always believed in God and in Jesus Christ, but so does the Devil himself. Faith in that sense is not sufficient to make you a Christian. I think the faithful Christian is the one who lives out his or her duty to God and to Christ, and demands a certain submission to the will of God. My problem for many years was that although I believed in God and Jesus, I didn't want to submit my life to the authority of anyone but myself. And therefore, in a sense, I was worshiping myself and, therefore, had a fool for a deity.

We must return to an understanding of Christianity that does not allow mere mental attestation to be defined as faith in Christ. The call of Jesus is for us to place our lives completely in His hands and trust Him. That means we obey Him and love him, especially when everything in us and everyone around us encourages us not to.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Girls Savagely Beat Up a Girl

Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Proverbs 1:7
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Proverbs 9:10
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

You can watch the video by clicking the picture, but I don’t advise it. It made me sick physically. It also just makes my heart hurt.

The immediate question we have to ask is, why? Why would girls do this to another girl? How can they have that low of a value for another human’s life?

The “secular” sociologist, psychologist, philosophers, and scientist have given their opinions on this issue in America for years now. The symphonic answer that they give in unison is nature and nurture. They say that we have evolved, but that our natural instincts for violence must be nurtured out of us.

The question these children and others ask is, “Why?” “Why should I value life? Why should I be kind to others?” What they are really asking is, “Why does another person’s life have value to me?” The fact of the matter is that our children are smart. The slippery slope of secularism and naturalism ends up with an unyielding appetite for sex, violence, and power. Our decision to consent to the teaching that God is dead or at best irrelevant has produced a society where natural selection and the personal pursuits of pleasure have become the foundation of our society’s existence.

The result of this decision for a Godless society is a conscience free population. There is no love and/or fear of God. There is only a love for self and a fear of getting caught. That fear of getting caught is declining because our country does not have the resources or resolve to police itself. Our kids know it. They see it on TV. Our system of justice can be bought and beaten in this country. Our children are being taught to have no fear and no restraint.

So what do the elites of our country say? The “secular” sociologist, psychologist, philosophers, and scientist all have to shrug their shoulders. They want to teach children values, but to do that they have to claim absolute truth. To do that a person inevitably must come to the conclusion of a value giver – God. It seems that those who influence our society and lead it cannot and will not come to that conclusion. And so until they do and until we demand it as believers in the way we vote and spend our time and money, we will have to tolerate this kind of violence and social decay. After all, if there is no God, the question our kids will continue to ask is, “Who says I should love and care for other people more than myself?” Without God, we have no good answer.

As believers, we must train our children to love God and fear (respect) Him for who He is. We do this by what we do, what we say, and by our efforts to express how we feel toward God and our children with the way we spend our time, money, and abilities.

John Lennon asked us to “imagine” a world where there is no faith (religion) or hope of heaven. We don’t have to imagine it anymore. We see the results on the news. Don’t be too harsh on John. He genuinely believed that people are good hearted. He did have children. It is surprising that he never noticed that you don’t have to teach a child to lie, be selfish, or violent. They do that naturally. You must train a child to love and be loved. You have to train a child to respect others and authority. You have to train children to honor themselves and their parents. The training manual is truth and the author is Jesus.

Someone will say, “Why Jesus? Why not Islam, Hinduism, or some other religious system? That’s the problem with you Christians you think Jesus is the only way.” Well, what other faith system teaches to love because you have been loved by your creator? What other system teaches to sacrifice self and serve others with love and joy? What other faith system can reasonably show that God exists, came to us, provided a means to transform us, defeated our evil nature and enemy death, and demonstrated it with His death, burial, and resurrection from the dead? Jesus has done all this and more. Jesus teaches us that God is love, that God is just, that God is knowable, that God is worth living and dying for, that God is worthy of worship, and so much more.

What do you believe? Are you sharing it? Those who don’t believe in Jesus are sharing their faith. Until the people who bear the name Christ share their belief with a resolve to help our world with the light and love of God, there is no hope. And in the end, we who know better because we know Jesus are ultimately at fault, if we are not doing all we can to let people know the way, the truth and the life.

Friday, April 4, 2008

I'm Going to Miss Coach Darrin Horn

It was no surprise to me that Darrin Horn was announced as the new head coach at a BCS level school - South Carolina that is a part of the SEC, which is the best sports conference in the NCAA. It more than quadrupled his salary and put him in a position, as a coach, to compete with the best competition in college sports.

His departure surprised some people here in Bowling Green, which surprised me. Sure, he could have stayed here where he was comfortable. But Darrin is not about being comfortable. He is a man that has always sought to stretch himself and be in a position to compete at the highest levels. Having the opportunity to make over a million dollars with bonuses doesn't hurt either.

I am going to miss Coach Horn. He was a member of my church and a friend who sought to live out the i-squared strategy and help people get to God, grow in Christ, and give to others.

When I think about Coach Horn at WKU (click here and vote for Ty Rogers' Shot), I remember a coach that had me come every week and teach his players the Gospel. I had a non-mandatory Bible study with the team every week for the past 3 years. We had almost 100% participation and those guys heard the Gospel. Almost all of them have visited Living Hope and several consider it their church. This was the i-squared work of Darrin Horn.

I will also remember that his family was one that went to Kniceley. When we needed space and people to serve at a new location, Darrin and his wife Carla went with their two children and served. Darrin showed up early to set up and stayed after to take down. Carla served in the children's area. Why? Because they love Jesus and His church. They were also both very involved in their small group and were consistently in church on Sunday morning and at our mid-week worship, 20:20.

Most people will remember that Darrin graduated 100% of his players, was one of only a handful of coaches to win 100 games by age 34, led his team to the Sweet 16, and recruited and prepared an NBA bound conference player of the year in Courtney Lee.

I will remember that Darrin was and is a man who knows and loves Jesus and has and is leading his family to do the same.

Please join me in praying for Darrin and his family as they transition to Columbia, SC. Pray that they will be led by God to the church He has for them. Pray that their marriage will grow stronger during this transition. Pray that their children will adapt well. Pray that they will find Christian friends to do life with.