Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Encouraging Email

I am proud to be a part of Living Hope. I received this email and it tells a lot about what makes the God and the church I serve so special.

Hey Dr. Pettus!I happened to visit your church today (Sunday, March 29). I was in town visiting some good friends of mine who happen to be new to the community of Bowling Green and have been visiting your church now for a few weeks. They really enjoy your church by the way. The reason for my email to you this afternoon is I wanted to let you know from a visitors standpoint how wonderful your church is and how much I enjoyed worshipping with your church family today and how I truly felt the presence of God today. I walked away from the 11:00 service feeling joy and blessed to know there is a church like yours that is preaching the word and is not afraid to do so. It was also so refreshing to see the joy your congregation had in worshipping today and to just feel the love your congregation has for the body of Christ. I felt like your congregation truly got what it means to be a body of Christ. I loved the fact your congregation even knew the church's mission statement and said it with such conviction and passion.

The service today was also a motivator for me to quit feeling sorry for myself. I have just recently moved to a new city(it has alone been 3 weeks) and I have been somewhat depressed and thinking about all the negative things that have been going on instead of the positive. My move was very much of a God thing and I chose to make this move. Your point today regarding how our Christian walk does not solely need to be about us was a good reminder today for me that I was given this opportunity by God to move to pursue what God wants for my life and to get going with it. First off, I need to find a church home where I can be apart of a body of Christ and do like your mission says, serve and grow. Secondly, I need to continue being in prayer and seek God for direction in what he wants me to do for a career (I am currently unemployed looking for a new direction that has been what I feel God breathed).

I appreciate your time and again just wanted to thank you for being obedient to God and not afraid to preach the word. I pray blessings for your church and know when I am back in town, I will definitely be visiting your church again.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

People Need Jesus & They Are Willing to Listen

"The Southern Baptist Convention, which is launching a new national campaign to bring unbelievers to Jesus, is up against a major obstacle: motivating its own members to evangelize." Read the rest by clicking here.

Check out these facts on Ed Stetzer's blog.

God's Plan for Sharing (GPS) gives four easy steps to reaching our friends for Christ.

1. PRAYING: Every church praying for every lost person. (Thankfully, every Sunday at Living Hope we request names be turned in for prayer and for members to write out their i-squared list - people they will invest in and invite to know Christ.)

2. ENGAGING: Every believer sharing as a trained witness.
(On Sunday nights Living Hope provides training in evangelism and hosts many training events at Wednesday Night Worship.)

3. SOWING: Every lost person receiving a complete witness.
(The Gospel is shared every Sunday at Living Hope and events for adults, students and children are provided monthly for members to bring their friends so they can hear the Gospel.)

4. HARVESTING: Every church harvesting and celebrating every salvation experience.
(By God's grace and for His glory Living Hope has seen someone baptized weekly this year.)

There is so much that must be done. There are so many entering into a Godless eternity. We must forget about ourselves and get to work.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Simple Way of Wisdom

Like everyone else in the world right now I am unsure of the future. No one seems to know what is going to happen. Last night I heard our president say that things are worse than he thought they would be, but he is confident that things will get better. He did not specify as to why he thought things would get better. It makes me think he really doesn't know that things will get better.

On the news I heard different talking heads discuss how things are going to get worse. They pointed to similar issues, but came to different conclusions. One group said that the government was not doing enough. Another group said that the government was doing too much. Neither side seemed to know anything for certain. It makes me think they don't really know that things will get worse.

The NCAA tournament is going on right now and I listened to a group "experts" discuss who they thought would win and why. Their arguments were sound, but their arguments were sound last week too and they were not 100% correct in their predictions. It makes me think they don't really know who will win.

The reality of life is that none of us really knows what the rest of today or tomorrow holds. And yet God tells us we can make decisions that are wise. These wise decisions will allow us to live with confidence and peace. I believe Him. The question is how is it possible to make wise decisions in a world where no one provides any level of certainty? God's answer thankfully transcends the temporary finite thinking of created beings and calls us to a more stable source of certainty.

We read in Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."

Living wise is a simple way of life.

Step One: Fear the Lord
This means that we are to respect who God is, what He has done, and what He can do. When we respect God and fear Him and nothing else we begin to live wisely. When we fear what won't last, we begin to wander away from God and toward a path of destruction.

Step Two: Know the Lord
This means we must seek to understand what God has revealed of Himself. Through the Bible God has provided more than enough facts for us to glean something of God's greatness and goodness. God is beyond our comprehension, but we can understand something of His power and love in Christ. When we see life through the lens of God's sovereign power and grace, we begin to understand life.

The wisdom and understanding of the life of faith in Christ provides us with all the security we need and the ability to walk the narrow path that leads to the life God created us to live. This life can live through recessions, depressions, bad bracket picks, rocky relational roads, and anything else this life can throw at us.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Learning His Letters and Loving It

My wife Carrie has found a website that our two-year old absolutely loves and it is helping him learn the letters of the alphabet. The website is ht www.starfall.com. This simple low tech site has my wild man sitting still with a smile on his face trying to understand the shapes and sounds of letters.

Our small group couldn't meet last night and I had Asher with me while Carrie was taking our daughter Mackenzie and her friends to youth group. I had my laptop out and I went to the site and we sat in the chair with me for almost twenty minutes clicking on the letters. He would point and tell me the letter he wanted and I would click it and he would sound it out.

At one point he requested I click the letter 'j' and we went through the different examples for 'j' and at the end there is a game that requires you to put letters together. So I click and moved them to their place and it spelled j-u-m-p. Then a voice sounded the letters out in order slowly at first and then faster. Asher repeated along with the voice. About ten minutes later I did 'j' again and when we got to the part where the letters come together to spell j-u-m-p Asher looked at the word and said, "jump." Now he may have just memorized that, but I also know that is a part of reading.

For what it's worth I am impressed with this site and recommend it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

When We See Others' Sin Part 3

When sin is confessed, it brings light to a situation that had been kept in the dark. In the dark the devil and our sin nature can work to confuse, disorient, and disguise. In that darkness secrets become septic. Silence becomes safety. People become isolated and disillusioned.

In the light there is freedom. There is no longer anything to hide. People are invited in to see what has happened and in Christ these believers can speak truth where the devil had been telling lies. God can start a fresh work. A sinner can be set free. Confession becomes the heart of a fresh start.

People must be allowed to confess their sin and be set free. James 5:16 "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

When a person reveals their sin, their siblings in Christ should bring light to that person's life. They must bring truth in love. In speaking the truth of what sin is and what it does enables a person to enter into reality. Telling them the truth of the Gospel - that we are far more sinful than we know are far more loved than we could ever imagine - enables a person to experience grace.

Those that hear the confession should not only bring light, but should allow light to come into their lives. We are all being deceived to some degree. 1 Corinthians 10:12 "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!" When we see others' sin, it needs to open our eyes to the reality of our own sin. We should let the light shine into our own lives. When we let the light of life come in and do it's work, we experience a renewed sense of God's grace and power. The light allows us to see ourselves as we truly are and see God as He is and find the healing hope and power of forgiveness in Christ.

The easy thing to do is to make excuses and dismiss our own secret sin. The smart thing to do is deal with it. James 1:23-25 "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does." Let the power of the light in the truth of God's Word bring a change in your life. Experience the freedom and joy that God's love and grace brings.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

When We See Others' Sin Part 2

There are two judgments that take place, when we see the sin of other people. We either judge them and condemn them or we judge ourselves and humble ourselves. The thing about sin is that it is universal. Everyone sins. Of course not every sin has the same level of consequences. Lying destroys trust, but murder ends a life. Lust destroys a mind, but adultery destroys a family and a future. But sin is sin and it is an affront to God.

The proper judgment a person needs to have, when they see the sin of other people is self judgment. You can know that your head and heart are in a wrong place and your life is more than likely in an unjustified spiritual position, when you judge others rather than judging yourself. It's always better to be the tax collector rather than the pharisee.
Luke 18:10-14 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Pharisees believe themselves to be right with God because of their supposed moral superiority. Their problem is they do not understand nor believe in the holiness of God and the condemnation of all sin. They believe that they are not in need of forgiveness because they do not understand the fact that they are sinners. Wrongly believing they have no sin in their own life, they wrongly judge others they see sin. Because they do not think they need forgiveness, they do not see the need to forgive others.

Those that judge others need to remember the words of Jesus. Matthew 7:3-5 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

They need to realize the damnable penalty of an unforgiving judgmental life. Matthew 18:21-35 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

When we see others sin, we need to realize that they have done what we have done. We have all sinned against God. Meditate on Psalm 51 and allow it to be your prayer.

Psalm 51:1-12 For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. 7Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Monday, March 9, 2009

When We See Others' Sin Part 1

Yesterday at Living Hope a dear brother and fellow servant in Christ stood before our community of faith and confessed that he’d been intimately involved with a woman that was not his wife. He shared that his behavior had disqualified him from ministry and asked the church to pray for him, his marriage, and his family. He is now seeking restoration under the direction of the church elders, seeking a new job, and seeking to find his place in the new reality he lives in.

The church responded as I hoped she would. People wept with and for him and his family. They prayed for him and the church is committed to supporting him spiritually, emotionally, and financially to get him through this painful season.

At the end of one service a dear brother hugged my neck and thanked me for handling the situation according to Scripture and with the grace of Christ. He shared how he’d seen a church kick a minister to the curb and turned their backs on him, when he shared a similar sin. That makes no sense to me. It just doesn’t register on my grid of grace.

Jesus said in Luke 17:1-4 “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. 2It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. 3So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

This tells us everything we need to know about how to deal with those who sin. We should do three things.

One, “watch yourselves.” The first thing any of us should do is realize that “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come.” People are going to sin. Hopefully, as believers grow in their knowledge of the grace of God their personal holiness becomes such that they can serve as examples of how to live. But even those that are to be examples fall and the right response from those of us who believe is to first examine our own lives and make sure that we are living “a life worthy of the calling (we) have received” (Eph 4.1).

Two, “rebuke him.” Call sin what it is. It is an affront to God. It is treason against the King. It is telling God that He is in error and that an action that He has deemed to be detrimental to a person’s life is not wrong, but right. This statement of fact must be based upon the Word of God and clearly defined as sin.

Three, “forgive him.” Give what God has given to us. There may be a cost to it. It may be painful to forgive. God’s forgiveness for us was expensive. It cost God His Son’s death on the cross. Because God has forgiven us, we can forgive others. We can give what we’ve been given.

This week I hope to share more about this to help us understand the power of the Gospel and give glory to our God. We serve a merciful King who loves us and His redemption gives us a unique way of life. My hope and prayer is that we can experience renewal in the grace of God as we see how it works in the real world.