Friday, October 29, 2010
I found this post to be very insightful: How Members Can Serve the Church on Sunday Morning
It is easy to think of church as something you simply show up to. But gathering for worship is the most important thing we will do all week. It is the time that is set aside to praise the one true God and give Him praise. It is the time that is set aside to hear the preaching and teaching of the Word and to encourage the faithful.
There are so many wonderful things that happen when the church gathers. This list helps us think about the part we can do as individuals in the life of our local body. It may seem to be a small thing, but when each of God's people serve the King in this way, a great deal of good can be done in the name of Christ.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
I am daily astonished at the grace and faithfulness of God. He never fails. Even though there is nothing in us that could earn a place in God's heart, He loves us and seeks to save the lost and transform the redeemed with His grace.
This morning I started reading Hosea. The picture of this prophet marrying Gomer and forming a family of unfaithfulness is wild. This is what God has done. He has chosen to love faithless people and redeem them with His love for His purpose.
No matter what you face, what you've done or what you will do, you can know that God's love endures. There will never be a time when He does not love you. He may judge you, if you do not repent. He may bring pain to sanctify you for His purpose. You may become indifferent to Him, but He will love you and will remain faithful to His eternal plan to redeem His world and a people for Himself.
Thank you, Jesus.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
"One of the highest and noblest functions of man’s mind is to listen to God’s Word, and so to read his mind and think his thoughts after him." ~John Stott
The Psalmist testifies, "I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. 15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. 16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word."Psalm 119:14–16
What a joy and honor it is to read God's Word. When we meditate on His Word, we are thinking His thoughts after Him. In the process His Holy Spirit speaks to us and guides us into all truth.
It is when we understand the Bible to be the inspired Word of God that we will delight in His decrees and never neglect it.
There are many Bibles that will remain closed today. There are many minds that will not think about God rightly. There are many lives that will turn away from God's way. It's not because they are more sinful than anybody else. They will miss the opportunity to commune with God and the evil of this world will continue to press on them.
My prayer: Father, allow me insight into the power of your Word. Please do not let my study be an academic exercise. In your grace allow me to feel your presence as I read you words so that I find comfort and inspiration in your love for me.
Let my life reflect your love. Let your truth change who I am. Let the discipline and denial of my flesh be a joyful living sacrifice of love to you.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
“Then they said to each other, ‘We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.’” 2 Kings 7:9
This is one of the curious encounters in the Old Testament when God reveals His unique inclination to bring Good News through the weak outsiders of society. God loves to reveal His glory through the weak individuals of the world. He makes boasting ridiculous. 1 Corinthians 1:27–29 “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.”
The situation in 2 Kings 7 was serious. The Arameans were attacking Israel and the inhabitants of the capital had become cannibals. God promised through His prophet Elisha that within a day that salvation would come.
The story goes from the King’s fortress to a group of lepers. These men were the lowest of the low. And yet it was through them that God revealed His salvation. After God had ran the Arameans off miraculously, these men discovered the truth. In the midst of their celebration they were grief stricken that they had not shared the Good News of God.
Oh, that the hearts of God’s people today would be like those lepers. We have been given Good News of great joy in a land where people are under siege by the enemy. People need hope. People need healing. People need salvation.
Ask God to enable you to share the hope you have in Jesus with one lost hurting person today.
Monday, October 25, 2010
"Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task." 1 Timothy 3:1
Last night a preschool class of children made this beautiful lego masterpiece and called it "Skateboarding Pastor Jason." It is a joy to be the pastor of these "precious ones" as Mrs. Cindy our children's minister is known to call them. Being a pastor to all my people is humbling and such a great honor.
There are well over one hundred thousand pastors in the denomination I am a part of. Each one has a noble task. We get to serve God's people with the love of Christ and the truth of His Word and guide them in Kingdom work.
It is a relief to know that we are simple under-shepherds. Jesus is the head shepherd and He is ultimately responsible for His sheep. But each pastor has been given oversight and will have to give an account to God for how we did (Hebrews 13:17).
Please pray for me and for other pastors and elders. We all want to serve our God and our people well. The evil one wants to destroy our marriages, families, ministries, and friendships. Our God is faithful and He has provided a pastor for His people, but also a people for the pastor. Let's all encourage one another and "let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Hebrews 10:24
Friday, October 22, 2010
I heard someone say this and it really made sense to me...
"When you tell God 'no,' that is the moment you stop growing."
The point he was making was that God wants us to grow in our love and devotion to Him, but most Christians get to a place where they are comfortable with where they are in their relationship with God. They decide they know enough or have done enough or have given enough and they refuse to go forward. God calls them forward, but they say 'no.'
I have seen this happen. There are lots of Christians that stop or never really start to share their faith or study God's Word and pray or give financially to the church. Because of their disobedience, there is no growth. Their lives go into neutral spiritually and they slowly begin to turn cold to the things of God. The transformation is slow. It's not as though they hit the breaks. The issue is they don't hit the gas and the result is a lack of power in their lives.
Over weeks and months and years of this, they soon come to a stop. They don't even realize it because they are still there physically present in a lot of ways. They still look like regular Christians, but the fact is they are fruitless. They tell themselves they are ok and that it's normal to miss worship and avoid Bible study, prayer, service in the church, financial giving, and sharing Christ with lost people.
We must be careful to obey and see to it that we are growing and producing fruit in order to inherit all the Lord has for us.
Colossians 1:10–12 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
We are back from Los Angeles. The NAMB meetings were very informative. There is a great deal of change coming to that agency and I believe to our continent as a result of the changes to NAMB. Please join me in praying for our new president, Kevin Ezell and all the leaders that will influence the changes that are coming.
As far as LA... I enjoyed the visit, but I am thankful to be back home in Bowling Green. It's funny how life changes. There was a time when all I wanted was something new, something fast, and something more. These days all I want is to enjoy the people I love, enjoy the blessings God has bestowed on me, and enjoy the work God has called me to. The fact is my cup overflows (Psalm 23:5).
I grew up in a substantial city, but I have come to truly love my college town and enjoy the benefits of proximity, community, and the peace that comes with simplicity.
But that does not mean I or anyone else that lives outside of a major city can disengage form the needs in those urban areas. At our NAMB meetings, we learned of the declining condition of the spiritual health of our major metropolitan areas in North America. I will be surprised if Living Hope is not planting or helping plant a church in a major city in North America within the next two years.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
John 3:16–17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
I have been in three major metropolitan cities in the past three days. They are filled with people of all colors and different cultures. There are millions of them trying to make their way in life. They are all around walking, driving, and working.
As I sat in an airport terminal, in a rental car, and on a street bench, I sensed God’s presence and was overwhelmed with a simple fact: He Loves Them! He loves them more than I love my own wife and children and more than you love the person that means the most to you. He is the Almighty and He loves them with His Almighty love.
God loves all of these people. Despite what they have done and how they have ignored Him, He still loves them. He wants to save them. His great desire is to fill their lives with His loving presence.
The problem is that they have been deceived and find it hard to believe in God. If they can believe in God, they struggle to believe that He would love them the way the Bible says He does.
Those of us that have received God's saving love must show these people that God loves them. We must tell them how much God loves them. We must reveal how good life can be in a life that is filled with the love of God.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
"Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it." -George Bernard Shaw
Christ has set us free to live a life of love in honor of His grace and goodness to us. Those who come to Christ are free. We are free from the absolute power and the eternal punishment of sin. We are free to obey God and enjoy Him forever.
The question is what do we do with that freedom. Do we seek to love or slip into apathy? Do we demand more or less of ourselves? Do we seek to give generously as grace has been given to us or do we hide the talents God gives and use them to get things that will lose their sparkle, that rust, and that one day will be misplaced and forgotten?
We have been set free! What keeps us from enjoying it?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.” -Charles H. Spurgeon
Never has a people known so much information and been given so many great opportunities done so little good and wasted so much life. Father God, have mercy on us and let us believe in You and see in each other what You were willing to die for to save.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Fox News reports... Seventeen-year-old Miley Cyrus’ new music video for “Who Owns My Heart?,” which features the young star rolling around in a bed without pants on, blindfolded and later dancing with girls and older men in a barely there outfit, is causing an uproar among parents.
As long as parents keep outsourcing their authority and role model capacity to celebrities, there will constantly be upset parents. These celebrities do not need to be our kid's heroes. The greatest hero in any kid's eyes is a Godly mom and dad. There is no substitute for a solid set of parents and a church family of supportive leadership to help a child know who they are and what they can become.
Yesterday, I team taught with two of our elders: Bob Smith and Bill Starr. The message was on the calling, the commitments, and the qualifications for elders.
Both of the elders said things that were unplanned that really grabbed me. It reminded me how the Holy Spirit works in preaching and in life. The Lord has a way of getting messages to us and through us that may seem inefficient in our fast paced electronic world, but God's way works quite well.
Bill Starr shared a situation that we as an elder team recently dealt with concerning a staffing issue. We had prepared, prayed, and met about what we were going to do and agreed with a certain direction. That night Bill did not sleep well. He informed us that he was not comfortable with the decision. We had a meeting with the personnel team the next night and at the beginning of the meeting they shared the same reluctance. It turned out that everybody was of the same mind and got the same idea at about the same time.
In the message yesterday Bill said of the elders, "Please don't think we are indecisive. Know that we are Spirit-led and are always open to whatever He has for us."
As Christians, we must learn to live according to the Spirit and allow Him to lead us. This is not as mystical as many might think. The Bible is filled with directives that when followed provide the path God desires us to walk in life. On that path God will also steer us in very real normal ways toward our destiny.
God's direction for us will not always seem reasonable. I think about Jesus being led into the desert by the Spirit after His baptism (Matthew 4:1) and Philip being led away from a revival in Samaria to minister to a single Ethiopian (Acts 8). From a worldly perspective I would have wanted to have a party for Jesus and wanted to stay in Samaria where God was doing a great work.
God's ways are not our ways, but His way is The Way and we would do well to get our lives in line with God's will through obedience to the Bible and then wait for the Spirit of God to direct us in the details. The path might seem odd at times, but the outcome will delight. What He has done in the past through those we read about in Scripture, God will do again through His people today - Hebrews 13:7–8 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
The Gospel is so good and so simple and yet so many people reject it in favor of a politically correct syncretism that compromises truth and reflects a fear of man rather than a fear of God.
Friday, October 8, 2010
This morning while I was running, the sun came up. My mind was racing since I got out of bed and during my run my legs couldn't keep up with the pace of my thoughts. The world is such a mess right now and so many people that I love deeply are dealing with loss, financial woes, relational difficulties, and they all connect in some way to this spiritual battle that is raging in the cosmos.
As the sun came up, I was comforted with God's daily faithfulness to give us a new beginning each day. But then I was struck with the fact that even this will one day change. The sun, like all creation, is groaning and growing weaker. The only dependable hope we have is God. Only God can be counted on each day. His mercies are new each morning, but morning is not always promised. God's promise is that He will be with us. God's promise is that He loves us eternally in Christ. God's promise is that He is faithful and just and in Christ has forgiven us and made us holy giving us direct access to Him forever.
God does not change. We can count on Him.
God is simple (that is, totally integrated), perfect and immutable. These words affirm that he is wholly and entirely involved in everything that he is and does, and that his nature, goals, plans and ways of acting do not change, either for the better (being perfect, he cannot become better) or for the worse. His immutability is not the changelessness of an eternally frozen pose, but the moral consistency that holds him to his own principles of action and leads him to deal differently with those who change their own behaviour towards him (Ps. 18:24–27). --Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: 10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
I love working with a team. God has given me certain strengths, but with those strengths come weaknesses. When my strengths are added to that of other people my weaknesses are offset and the outcome is greater than a sum of our parts. Together we form a body whose abilities are multiplied for God's glory and purpose.
This morning I met with two of our elders and was again reminded of how blessed I am to serve as the senior pastor of Living Hope. I not only get to be a part of a church that is living on mission and where my family is being discipled and cared for, I also get to serve with Godly men that work with me to oversee the flock and make me a better man, dad, and shepherd.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
There is something compelling to me about a great comeback story. Last night I watched a documentary about how in October of 2004 the Boston Red Sox came from a 3-0 deficit to beat their rivals the New York Yankees. They had to win 4 games in a row. That is something that had never happened before.
It happened because of the heroic pitching of Curt Schilling in game six. He'd had surgery on his ankle and pitched with blood coming through his sock. Yes... playing for the Boston Red Sox;-)
David Ortiz and Johnny Damon were amazing at the plate. They both rose to the occasion in the last four games. Ortiz was clutch and Damon hit a grandslam in the final game.
As I watched this, there was a great bit of emotion that welled up in me and I don't really like baseball. The documentary showed how people had counted them out. News reporters dogged them. The city of Boston had surrendered and yet these guys pulled it out.
As good as this comeback was... it was not the best ever.
Over 2,000 years ago a man was said to be the savior of the world, the Messiah. He preached Good News. He healed the sick. Everything indicated that finally God was going to bring peace and order to the world.
But then Jesus was executed in the most heinous way known to man. He was crucified by the Romans who had become experts in death and suffering. His friends abandoned Him (Matthew 26:74-75). The crowds mocked Him (Matthew 27:42). God the Father turned His back on Him (Matthew 27:46) as the sin of the world was laid upon Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Two kind men laid Jesus’ dead body in a borrowed tomb. It seemed that sin had won again. The darkness appeared to have overcome the light. And then…
Three days later Jesus was raised from the dead. In His death He overcame the power and punishment of sin. In His raised life He overcame death and brought eternal life to our dying world.
Now whoever believes in this will be saved.
You can join the comeback story. You can be a part of eternal history. Confess to God that you have sinned. Ask the risen Christ to forgive you and to give you His holiness. Live in the grace of God by faith and win in the victorious Christ.
Monday, October 4, 2010
This post was inspired by Matt Chandler's sermon (listen by clicking here - I highly recommend it).
In talking about Acts 19:15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” Matt provides a powerful and inspiring picture of Paul's ministry in Ephesus.
The demon said that it knew who Jesus was. There is no surprise there. Jesus had defeated them. But then it says that it had heard about Paul.
That is a humbling thought to me. These demons knew who Paul was. Paul had been ministering for three years in the city of Ephesus and everybody in that vicinity had heard the Gospel he preached. Not only had the people of that city heard the Gospel and about the servant of this truth, but the demons had heard it too. The demons of hell had spread word about Paul.
Imagine being of such use to God that you are discussed by demons. Imagine being a point of frustration to the demons of hell because of your faithfulness to Jesus.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
I have been surprised a lot recently. There have been so many unplanned things that have happened that I am getting to the point that if I am not surprised, I'm surprised.
This morning I went running and it was around forty degrees. Just a month ago the high was over 100 degrees and I was struggling. I am surprised I was wearing winter running wear today.
A precious man in my church was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks ago, but was sitting in church with his wife two weeks ago. I went by his home on Saturday and spent some time with him. He will be transferred to Hospice today. He will probably celebrate Thanksgiving in heaven with Jesus.
My children are looking more and more like adults. It seems like yesterday that we had moved to Bowling Green and got Mackenzie signed up for preschool and Jackson potty trained.
Life moves really fast. You can have it all one day and nothing the next. There is not anything that should be taken for granted. Life will be done before we know it and then we'll have to live with what we did with what we had. I am thankful for the Gospel that gives me hope and reminds me that God will always love me. There is nothing that will change that. I have not earned His love and His adoption of me into His family is by grace.
God's covenant of grace will stand. My trust is in Jesus. He will never change. In Him we can enjoy the surprise that His mercies are new each day.
Suffering sanctifies in a remarkable way. I can attest to this because of experience and by observations of others. He is the potter. We are the clay. He will mold us and it will hurt.
There is a Divine mystery in suffering, a strange and supernatural power in it, which has never been fathomed by the human reason. There never has been known great saintliness of soul which did not pass through great suffering. When the suffering soul reaches a calm sweet carelessness, when it can inwardly smile at its own suffering, and does not even ask God to deliver it from suffering, then it has wrought its blessed ministry; then patience has its perfect work; then the crucifixion begins to weave itself into a crown.
It is in this state of the perfection of suffering that the Holy Spirit works many marvelous things in our souls. In such a condition, our whole being lies perfectly still under the hand of God; every faculty of the mind and will and heart are at last subdued; a quietness of eternity settles down into the whole being; the tongue grows still, and has but few words to say; it stops asking God questions; it stops crying, "Why hast thou forsaken me ?"
The imagination stops building air castles, or running off on foolish lines; the reason is tame and gentle; the choices are annihilated; it has no choice in anything but the purpose of God. The affections are weaned from all creatures and all things; it is so dead that nothing can hurt it, nothing can offend it, nothing can hinder it, nothing can get in its way; for, let the circumstances be what they may, it seeks only for God and His will, and it feels assured that God is making everything in the universe, good or bad, past or present, work together for its good. –Soul Food
The great thing is to suffer without being. discouraged. --Fenelon
Lord, make me like you so that I too can say, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)
Friday, October 1, 2010
I love the quiet of the morning. Every morning I get up and pray and then check on our three-year old and head downstairs. I usually go for a run, but before that I sit in the quiet of the morning.
Before everything gets nuts and schedules have to be kept. Before my kids start making requests and telling us stuff they should have informed us about a week ago that has to be turned in today. Before texts and calls and emails start coming in. Before it all, there is a quiet dark morning and short sweet prayer and a quiet whisper of "Yep, I'm still here. I'm still in control. You're still my adopted son. I still have the whole world in My hands. I'm still God. My plan is working. My grace is sufficient. Rest in me."
Everybody gets that quiet morning. Some sleep through it. Some rush past it. Some ignore it. But like God, it is there. It is a wonderful gift to be enjoyed.