Happy Halloween!

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Sorry it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Life has been moving pretty fast in my little part of the world. Yet, I thought I would make sure to post today.

In 1 Corinthians Paul writes, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:21b NASB). I would say that Paul’s message here is to be relate-able to everyone. I think that the churches that are having attendance issues (especially with the younger generations) tend to not think this way about this Scripture. But in light of a day like today, I think it is important to use the world’s festivities in order to show Christ; that’s a big way that we can become relate-able. So I found a poem that I thought I would share. I did not write it, and unfortunately don’t know who did.

I am a Jack O’ Lantern
My lights will shine so bright
For I’m a Christian pumpkin
My symbols tell what’s right

My nose is like the cross
On which our Savior died
To set us free from sin
We need no longer hide

My mouth is like a fish
The whole wide world to show
That Christians live in this house
And love their Savior so!

The story starts at Christmas
My eyes are like the star
That shone on Baby Jesus
And wise men saw from far

My color, it is orange
Just like the big bright sun
That rose on Easter Day
Along with God’s own Son

And so on Halloween
Let’s set our pumpkins out
And tell the trick or treaters
What God’s love is all about!

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Helping Our Leaders (3 John)

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In today’s reading, again John speaks about good and evil men, and talks about something new. The last couple days we’ve seen John speak about love; whether that’s God’s love for us, our love for God, or our love for each other. Today John speaks about caring for those doing ministry work.

October is Clergy Appreciation Month, so if you haven’t taken some time to thank your clergy members for all they do, I would suggest you do that. They’d would certainly enjoy hearing that. However, there would be some people out there that would ask, “What does the pastor do aside from giving sermons on Sunday?” There is a ton of stuff they do! The have to make visits to the people in their congregations that in the hospital or bound to their homes. They have to handle the administration of the church (oversee committees, deal with the building, supervise staff, etc.). They have to maintain their personal relationship with God. The probably have to attend larger church meetings (especially if your church has a hierarchy in it). They have to help out with your church ministries. And on top of that, and many other things, they must put together a sermon (and possibly a worship service) every week! They life of the clergy seems rather exhausting to me, and I definitely appreciate all the work my pastor does.

But imagine if they had to do all the things they do, and still worry about where they will live? John calls the church to a place where we should support our clergy. “So we ourselves should support them so that we can be their partners as they teach the truth.” (3 John 8 NLT). Paul makes several claims in his writings that it is the church’s duty to support the clergy (1 Corinthians 9, 1 Timothy 5).  So we should make sure that our clergy members all well taken care of, so their focus can be on doing God’s work, not their livelihood.

But this also can be taken to other leaders within our churches. We do have other leaders that we should support, because they are doing God’s work. I’m not trying to say that they must be paid. What I’m trying to say is that we should be helping their ministries as well. As a worship leader, I am a leader in my church. Yes, I am paid a small amount for my work, but the support I am most interested in is people being a part of the music ministry I lead. That support helps me to be more effective to reaching different types of people.

In my church, when you become a member, we ask if you are willing to support the church and it’s ministries. Everyone involved needs that support in order to stay functioning. It doesn’t have to be money, it can be your presence and involvement. So get involved, and help these men and women that need partners and support in order to do God’s work.

LOVE (2 John)

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As I was doing the reading for today and I struggled with what to write for a little (hence the late posting). The problem mostly came from the fact that the themes in the letters today and yesterday, are pretty much the same. So I really didn’t want to post the same thing twice.

But in today’s posting I’m covering one verse. 2 John is only 13 verses long, there are no chapters, and its a pretty simple, straightforward message. It may get confusing because John starts this letter saying, “I am writing to the chosen lady and to her children, …” (2 John 1 NLT). However, he is most likely speaking to a specific church, probably the same church as 1 John.

There was one verse that stuck out to me today. “Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.” (2 John 6 NLT). This says to me something very simple. As Christians, we don’t act a certain way because we claim to be Christians, we act this way because we love God. It really makes you look at your motives for what you do. Do you help someone less fortunate than you because your a Christian, or is it because you love Christ and that compels you to do it?

Love can make people do some crazy things. It’s enough to cause a strong atheist to begin to take a look at this God thing. That’s my story. I was a man that didn’t want anything to do with God, didn’t need Him, didn’t want Him, and I certainly wasn’t going to be in love with Him. Yet, I feel in love with a Christian, and she told me that we wouldn’t be able to go farther in our relationship if I wasn’t a Christian. So I figured I would give it a shot. I opened my dusty old Bible and began reading Luke.

So we must love others. Love is the basic foundation of our faith and who God is (1 John 4:8). Share your love. Not just with God, but with others. He has called us to love one another, so shouldn’t we listen. Stop bringing each other down, but rather rise each other up. So just…

LOVE

We Must Love (1 John)

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I decided that it is time to do another Bible study. However, this one will be quick. Over the next three days I will cover the three epistles of John. So grab your Bible, and start reading.

Today we are reading 1 John. In this letter John discusses two major themes. First, he combats a heresy that has arisen that says Jesus never came in bodily form. The second is to love and care for one another.

The heresy that John writes against is teaching that Jesus never came to earth, the apostles never saw him, spent time with him, or touched him. Basically, that it was all a spiritual experience. This is obviously counter to the entire gospel message! John writes, “And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross — not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth confirms it with his testimony. So we have these three witnesses — the Spirit, the water, and the blood — all three agree.” (5:6-8 NLT). John is showing that Jesus was God’s Son, as proof from his baptism (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22). He is also showing that the Spirit came because of Jesus’ promise (Acts 2). And also showing that Jesus had a fleshly body, since he was crucified on a cross and his death is our salvation.

To me however, the biggest point in John’s first letter is that the defining attribute of a Christ follower is love. He says, “Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment — to love one another — is the same message you heard before.” (2:7 NLT).  John is referring to the message that Jesus shared all throughout the his ministry, and most likely the same message all the apostle took as they started new churches.

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” (3:18 NLT). This goes along with what James writes in his letter, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead…” (James 2:14-17 NASB). It seems counter to Paul’s argument that works cannot save you (pretty much most of Paul’s letter to the Romans). The difference here is that Paul is saying that you can’t do enough things to earn your salvation. James and John are both saying that if we have faith, we can’t help but do good deeds for the glory of God.

As Christians, we must love one another. “If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead.” (3:14 NLT). If we cross from sin into eternal life, it is because we have the Spirit inside of us, and that Spirit can’t help but love. So if you are still in sin, you cannot love the way Jesus, and the Christian lifestyle demands. However, I feel I should mention that this doesn’t mean we have to like everyone. There are people, even in my church, that I cannot stand. I still love them, but the moment that turns to hate, we’ve got a problem.

So love others. Christ loved everyone. God loves everyone. The Spirit compels us to love. This is the way it is for us. The most basic thing we can do on our Christian journey’s is to love others, unconditionally. Yes, people sin and that wrong. It’s ok to hate what they do, especially if it is a sin (we’re actually called to hate what evil and sin [Psalm 97:10]), but we can still love the person. Jesus showed his love to sinners and outcasts all throughout his ministry. So think about the words you say, and the things you do. Be certain that you are showing love to all people, especially fellow Christians.

When It Gets Hard

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Well friends, the reason there was no post yesterday is simply that yesterday got away from me. Have you ever had a day where you woke up, got moving, and the next thing you know you are going to bed after a very busy day? That was my day yesterday.

Anyway, have you ever been hurt by someone or something, and that wasn’t the intention? You’re just hurt, and you know you shouldn’t be, but you are. There isn’t a thing that can be done, it’s the way it is at the moment and you’re not sure where this is going. Well, unfortunately, that’s how I’m feeling today.

But a thought occurred to me today. Sometimes, doing the work of God leads us through hard places. It could be hard because God is taking us out of our comfort zones, or it could be difficult because everyone you are supposed to work with wants to go in another direction.

So today, I turned to one of my favorite books in the Bible, Ephesians. In Chapter 3, Paul gives a prayer for spiritual growth for the Ephesian church. One verse struck me today, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more that we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20 NLT).

Do we understand this, my friends? We may have our wishes and opinions on what to do, but it is through God that it will be successful. If He doesn’t want it to succeed, He will stop it. But, if He chooses to support us, we will do more and with more success than we ever would have dreamed.

This isn’t a plea to trust in God because He makes you more successful than ever. What this is is a revelation to the Will of God. We cannot comprehend it. It is perfect. It is right. Everything works to accomplish it (the good and the bad). And it can hurt. But God is still there through the hurt. David writes, “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.” (Psalm 32:10).

So if you come to a point where doing God’s work hurts, just know that He is still there with you. Hold on to Him, remain in prayer, and continue to praise Him. That’s the best thing we can do when life gets us down. I pray that this is helpful to someone else. But honestly I’m writing this more for me today.

From the Archive (8/14/13): The Secret Place

 

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There is an idea out there that I have heard called “The Secret Place”. Essentially this idea comes down to, “how do you spend time with God?” It means to intentionally take time out of your day, and spend it intimately with God, alone.

The New Testament is full of times where Jesus goes off, by himself, and spends the time in prayer. It’s almost always used as a way for him to regain or acquire strength for the coming events. There are two times that really stick out to me. The first is just after he feeds the multitude. After performing the miracle with bread and fish, and preaching to the multitude of people, Jesus finally sent them all away. Then he sent the disciples across the Sea of Galilee ahead of him. Jesus the went up a mountain, by himself, in order to spend time in prayer (Matthew 14:23). The second time is in the Garden of Gethsemane. The night before Jesus was arrested he took three of the disciples with him, told them to stay put, then moved away from them to be alone (Luke 22:41).

I hadn’t really ever given much thought to my alone time with God until quite recently. I always thought that I was doing pretty well if I made sure to read my Bible everyday. But I wasn’t getting the refreshment that Jesus received. I wasn’t sure what I was doing wrong. Then God stirred in my heart the answer, I have intentionally make time for God. Our relationship with God must be on purpose, otherwise it isn’t a real relationship. It’s the same thing we do with our relationships on earth; our friends and family must have time made for them otherwise they get neglected. The same is true for God. Back in March, my wife and I went to the Burning Lights tour with Chris Tomlin and Kari Jobe. I felt refreshed after that, so I felt that was what I needed to do. Find some time that I can go to worship that isn’t me leading it. But quickly I learned that wasn’t the answer.

This past Saturday night I decided that I had to start being intentional. So I set my alarm for 5 am, I had to lead two services in the morning, so I had to wake up early anyway. So I woke up, made some coffee and sat down with my Bible. My entire day went differently! Worship was great! I felt good, because I connected with God first thing. I am now on the fourth day of this “experiment” and it’s quickly becoming something I yearn for. This morning, I went on my back porch with my coffee and Bible, the brought out my guitar and started worshiping. That completed it for me.

So I encourage you to find that Secret Place, and intentionally spend time with God. This is where we can learn about the heart of God, and His will for our lives. It refreshes us and fills us with living water. My experience has been great, and I hope you will at least try it for a few days like I have. And have fun with it, God is your friend, so be His in return!

I’m putting a song by Kutless up here. It’s called Take Me In. I think it really fits with this post so listen and enjoy!

 

What Is Important?

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So we had a meeting at my church last night. Our church has decided to participate in a program designed to help your church become a thriving church. Our meeting last night was a precursor to an upcoming weekend where the program will tell our church what it needs to do in order to stay away from a decline. There was a statement made in the presentation that has been stuck with me all day, “The message is sacred, but the style and form are not.”

Essentially what was being said was that, as long as we preach the gospel and bring people to Christ, the way we do it is almost irrelevant. Now I know there are somethings that we shouldn’t do in order to further the gospel. For example, I don’t think we should go out with a group to a bar, get smashed, then attempt to teach about Christ. We are called to stay away from doing that, so it probably should be marked as not a good practice. But I think that this statement has stuck with me by some of the response in discussion, especially one in-particular.

The discussion got to musical selection. The presenter made the comment about how musical tastes have shifted over the last 50 or so years. And what he was hinting towards was some sort of addition to contemporary worship music (especially something rock sounding). Now my church is very musical. Aside from myself, many of our members are musicians. One man, who is such a member, stated “I have a problem with taking a pop culture genre, like rock, and attempting to bring it into the church. I just do think it gets the message across.” As my church’s contemporary worship leader, I got pretty offended because in one statement, this man trashed everything I’ve been charged to do. But now that I’ve had sometime to cool off, I thought I should talk about it a little.

This man is caught up in what church “should” be and now what church “can” be. We are called in 1 Corinthians to be flexible and relatable in order to reach more people. “For though I am free from all me, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-22 NASB). Now I know that gets a little confusing, so I bolded the most important part.

The most important function of the Church is to preach the gospel and make new disciples. I do not believe that Paul’s call for us to be all things, applies to us on an individual level. As the Church, it means that we must adapt to people, otherwise they will not connect with us; and if there is no connection, we cannot effectively preach the gospel and make new disciples. So that means that the form and style of our services might have to change, or simply add a new service. Churches with long standing traditions of piano and organ music, may have to look at adding guitar and praise team music in order to reach more people. The church cannot remain a mold that we have to fit people into. Rather we should be looking at how we can change to fit the culture, in order to preach.

Worship styles are definitely the biggest battleground in churches, and I’m not trying to advocate for one and demean others. I simply am saying that culture plays a part in how we can reach people. Jesus called us to go out and make disciples from all corners of the earth (Matthew 28:16-20). I’m sure we can ask any missionary that travels abroad that the same tactic that may work in New York City, is not the same that works in Tanzania. So why would we think that the same tactic that has worked for the church 50 years ago, still works for people today. It’s a new world my friends, and I think it’s time for some of us to question what is really important. Is it more important that we reach out to new people to further the gospel, or stay within our previous practices because it is what is familiar to us?

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Don’t Be Afraid

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Today I was thinking about what holds churches, and especially leadership, from achieving their true potential. As I think about the ministries I’ve seen start and fail, and the one’s that I’ve seen limp along, there is one thing that seems to stand out to me. The leadership seems to be afraid to try something new. I’m not sure if it’s actually a fear of failure, or we are unwilling to try new things because of success in the past. We get so tangled up in doing things the way they’ve always been done, that we don’t realize that stagnant spirit may be what’s killing the ministry after all.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul writes, “… fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:6-7 NLT). Do you understand that friends? God has not given us the ability of fear or the need to be timid. He wants us to over come those fears and be people of courage. “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13 NLT).

I feel that there is a lot of fear in the Christian world. Fear of being ridiculed, fear of negative reactions, fear of being condemned by society for not doing the “right” thing. I’m not saying that these fears are invalid. I have these same struggles myself. However, God wants us to overcome that fear. He doesn’t want the Church to become crippled by fear or offense. So I pray that we are all able to overcome our fears; that we are able to stand on our soap-boxes and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ for all to hear. If we are able to do this, maybe our ministries won’t fall apart because of a fear of change. Instead God will help us change in order to reach more people for His cause.

Superman or Clark Kent?

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Let me start by saying that I know I’ve used today’s image before, but I like it, ok?!

During his time here on earth, Jesus did many wonderful and great things. He healed many, cured blindness and disease, and changed the world with his teachings. He did all these things by faith and because he was God. But look at what he says in John’s gospel, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works that these he will do; because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12 NASB).

This says to me that since I have Christ, I can be like a superhero! No, we probably can’t do supernatural things or perform superhuman feats, but God can! He can use us to fulfill His purposes and achieve His goals. There is a couple that goes to my church that had a family member go to the hospital. Come to find out he had a blown an aneurysm, and was all but dead when they reached the hospital. Despite the grim situation, this couple began to pray and placed him on as many prayer chains they could. That was over a year ago! Today he is walking and talking and going through physical therapy to regain motor skills. Doctors, nurses, and unbelieving family members have been shocked at this man’s recovery from such a devastating injury. It’s amazing to think that all of those who prayed for this man have been involved in a miracle. Let’s see Superman bring someone back from death.

The radio segment that inspired this post leaves you with a simple question. Do you want to be in Christ and be greater than Superman, or be without Christ and be no more than a powerless Clark Kent?