Monday, December 15, 2014
Nearly one third of the population of Earth claim 'some form of Christianity'. Yet it seems that just about every church sees things a little differently, and some a lot differently. Personally, I'm not sure God recognizes denomination! Jesus said He would build His Church upon the rock of truth that; He is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Most, if not all, denominations have been built by man and not so much upon that rock, but other bits of truth that we feel are important. Yet God does have a people who are His. Perhaps that Church includes people who are members of each of these denominations. Certainly our denominations aren't what it takes to save anyone and there is a purpose in the world for the Church to fulfill, but I'm not sure denominationalism is really helping.
I've asked myself, are these designations useful? Perhaps denominations within the Church serve a purpose. Because of denomination, we can go to a church in one location and then another and have a similar experience, even hearing similar doctrine. For example, you can go to a Southern Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and hear basically the same doctrine as if you attend a Southern Baptist Church in Seattle, Washington. Just as you could attend an Anglican Church anywhere in the world and find similar faith. The worship styles may differ, the length of service may not be the same, the culture may impact the proceedings, yet the basic doctrines are usually standardized within each individual denomination. From a human perspective, it may serve a purpose.
Why do we keep dividing ourselves though? There is only one true church. What does 41,000 different sets of beliefs do for the one who is looking for Christ? And how does this dividing benefit the Kingdom of God in the grand scheme of things? These are all valid questions that seem to recirculate over and over in my mind. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks on these things.
So what should we do? Should we stop attending denominational churches? Should we stop attending church altogether? (Not necessarily, and No.) Certainly Jesus foresaw this. He even addressed it! God's word forbids us to stop assembling ourselves together in Hebrews 10:25. We need each other desperately... And divisions within the church were addressed in the Bible on several occasions, first by Jesus himself and then by the Apostle Paul.
In John 17:20-23 Jesus prayed for all believers. He prayed that we be one, even as He and His Father are one. That is amazing unity! They are so united we cannot distinguish where Jesus ends and the Father begins, because they are one. Jesus claimed that by unity within the Body of Christ, the world will see that He was truly sent by the Father. Division in the Church then, hinders our advancement of the gospel and ultimately our presentation of Jesus Christ as God's Savior for a lost world.
In 1 Corinthians 1:10, the Apostle Paul said, "I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought." He continued the thought in Chapter 12 when he told us there were many different parts of the body, with differing functions, but that all were important and there should be "no schism", or formal divisions within the Body of Christ. Ephesians 4:3-6 also tells us to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
So, again, what should we do? Why are we so willing to keep dividing the Body of Christ? Most of our divisions are caused by human pride. Yet, I think the answer to our division is simple. It's a four letter word that we say easily, yet find more difficult to live out. A word that can only be lived out if we are living a Christ-Centered life. I believe the answer is love. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
What about that church that baptizes differently? "As I have loved you, so you must love one another." What about the church who meets on a different day of the week? "As I have loved you, so you must love one another." What about the church that seems to exploit or manipulate the goodness of God's grace? "As I have loved you, so you must love one another." What about that church that speaks in tongues? What about that church that doesn't? "As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
Let God deal with all that... Just love. It's not your church anyway, it's His. We have a purpose in the world that must be completed... So love! Instead of looking at how different we are, we should remember the admonition of Jesus to his disciples in Mark 9:40, "whoever is not against us is for us"...and we should love.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
I often think about how things are now, and what they could be like if just a few minor things had been different. This is not my way of wishing for something more, but rather a process of giving thanks for the great blessings in my life. I feel tremendously blessed. We don’t have anything extravagant, but we are blessed with all we need and more.
That’s not really my point though. When I consider what difference Jesus makes, I am considering a much more personal scenario. What difference does Jesus make… in my life?
I can think of hundreds of other such scenarios, and none of them end well, but the greatest difference that really matters hasn’t been mentioned yet.
Friday, November 7, 2014
The City is dazzling to look upon and vibrantly alive, bustling with activity. Lighted day and night, the city never sleeps. It seems as though the light from her illuminates the whole world around. Even viewing from this great distance, darkness is shattered because of her brightness.
Here outside the city, in the light gleaming from her, dark, evil things are readily seen; flaunted immorality, murder, slander, idolatry and black magic, are here. Signs tell me that none of these things can enter the city limits, and I question whether I would be allowed to enter… But, as though it is calling to me, I hear voices saying come! I must enter this City! I must behold its beauties for myself! I must see the King who sit’s upon its throne! What manner of King must He be to rule in such beauty and in such power!
The City still seems so distant to me though. As I travel toward it, I seemingly gain no ground in my journey. Always just out of my reach, I gaze upon it but seem to never approach it. Nothing I can do seems to make a difference. I cannot get there in my power, though I try intently.
At once, I am certain that he has mistaken me for someone else, but I can’t bear to say it. If I tell him that I am not who he thinks I am, he will doubtlessly pass me by! I cannot seem to speak, so I keep my mouth shut. Perhaps I will at least get a glimpse of the inside of The City before they realize I am not one who is worthy.
I turn in shock, horrified at what He will do when He sees me. How does He know my name? He extends both arms to welcome me!! “My son!”, He says as he holds me close! Certainly I do not deserve this! I have no merit! Who am I? I’m not from The City. I’ve tried to attain entrance and couldn’t even get close! But somehow the King knows me, He calls me His son, and He welcomes me in!
Yet, there are others lost in the Outworld, other sons and other daughters. Someone has to go after them! Will you go with me and the seeker, to search for them and bring them into The City?
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
I'm so saddened to hear though that he, the pope, has effectively declared the garden of Eden only a story and evolution 'real'. Some are declaring that this is the end of Creationism and Intelligent Design... Yet his opinion hasn't swayed me, I still believe the Bible!
Perhaps we don't understand creation fully,we are told very little, in just a few chapters... And God's methods are certainly mysterious, His word says so. Perhaps science and faith haven't been able to agree on what happened at the beginning, and science SEEMS to have some compelling 'evidence'. But the question is, "Do you take God at His Word (Faith in God), or do you try to explain His Word away in ways that we, in our finite understanding, can imagine them being possible?" (Faith in man's wisdom)
I'll stick with God. I believe with God ALL THINGS ARE still POSSIBLE!
Monday, September 29, 2014
Many of those wounded people from years past have been, and still are being, healed. Our congregation has grown back up to about 200 members, with an average Sunday attendance of about 150. Most of that core group is still here, but the majority of the congregation are those who God has brought here within the last ten years.
Several years ago, we paid off that mortgage too and have done many updates to the facility including a new roof, repaired the parking lot, several newly replaced A/C units, and now we are upgrading our sound board and updating our look in several areas. We are sending the gospel of Jesus around the world on podcasts and in mission efforts.
Here though, is where it’s clear how much God has moved… Instead of having a name that was once seemingly synonymous with ‘trouble’, we have become known as a church who loves, and forgives, and reaches after the heart of God and the souls of men.
On a personal note, don’t look at where you wish you were, but where you are now allowing God to take you. It’s a journey. Hang in there… be faithful! We are making a difference as a church, there is fruit for our labor, and you will see the same on a personal level, if you don’t give up. (See Gal. 6:9)
Thursday, July 17, 2014
We've probably all been there. This scenario is not specific to only teenage girls. Sometimes people leave. Sometimes people hurt us. Sometimes in their pain, people cause us pain. It's usually not intentional, but that doesn't make the sense of rejection feel any better.
As a pastor, I've felt it over and over. As a matter of fact, it seems that nearly each time someone leaves the church where God has placed me to shepherd, I feel that sense of rejection. In some cases it's severe, in other cases it may be milder, but that's directly related to how close that person and I had become over the years. I know that it isn't always personal, usually it's not, but it still feels that way. Sure there are exceptions, such as, if God has called someone into a new ministry and they are leaving to step in to that calling. There's joy in that! There is a sense of purpose and accomplishment and we bless their commitment to ministry and to God! Yet in most cases, people leave because they are looking for something different than what they are receiving, they are offended, they are seeking a position that isn't available, or a host of other reasons.
Here's the thing, I really value relationships. I really value each person. If you know me, I hope that's evident. I also really take my calling in God seriously. The Word says that church leaders, (pastors, elders) 'keep watch over your souls' (Hebrews 13:17). That is extremely serious to me. So, for two very substantial reasons it hurts me when people pull away.
Over the course of my ten years as pastor I've seen hundreds come, and hundreds go. If you don't choose to release those feelings associated with that though, it will begin to feel personal. Honestly, if you focus too much on people's actions it will put you in a downward spiral. It will cause bitterness. It will make you harden.
So, it's not only teenage girls that feel hurt by friendships. I know it's not only pastors either. I'm sure you have experienced similar things.
Here's my point. Love hurts, but love anyway. People will leave you, some will hurt you unintentionally, some will betray you and bring pain just for spite... But choose to love anyway. Don't let the actions of others make you hard. Forgive, and although you might not literally forget it, stop holding it against them. It isn't always easy, but love is always worth it. When we love, in spite of how it is returned, that's when we are most Christlike. Sure, love hurts... but love anyway.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
God is aware of our actions, and they reflect our souls condition. He’s taking notes and He is pleased when we deny ourselves and follow Him. Salvation is free, praise God, but discipleship will cost you!
- Pastor Jerry
Here is an excerpt from that poem written by C.T.Sudd:
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Saturday, April 5, 2014
Well if we are truly the light, and with this world as dark as it now is, we should be shining brightly and with purpose! Verse 15 tells us that people don’t put a lamp under something to hide it’s light. On the contrary, they put it ‘on a stand’ so that all may see by its light. Our light shouldn’t be hidden, but placed on display so that all may see.
I’m not saying put your life on display so that others may see ‘you’. Certainly some have done that and have exalted themselves. That’s clearly not what Jesus intended. Yet we are instructed to let our lives shine ‘before men’. We should put our lives on display in such a way, that our deeds point others to Christ.
The scripture says a lamp is placed “on a stand”. Our jobs, our ministries, our outreach efforts, even the raising of families, among other things, can be stands that lift up the light in us to display it to the world. What platform has God given you to shine His light in? Whether you see it as big or small, we all have some area of influence. Has he given you that influence, that lamp stand so to speak, so that the world might see you, or that you might show the world Jesus?
We are often given great opportunities to let our light shine personally and corporately. Let's use whatever venue, to place the light of Christ in us firmly atop it’s stand so that others might see Him in us. I believe with all of my heart this is God’s desire for us as His church, in our local fellowships and in this community. Shine now! In your home. In your work place. At your child’s soccer game. Walking your dog down the street. At the neighborhood yard sale. You can display Jesus! Let us set His light atop it’s stand, and let His light shine in our communities!
Your light may seem insignificant to you, but it certainly isn’t to God. Even the smallest light can be seen from the greatest distances in the dark. So shine today! This world around us is so dark, who knows, your light might be seen around the world!
Monday, February 10, 2014
In Luke chapter 18 verses 35 to 43 there's a story of a blind man who cried out "Jesus thou Son of David have mercy on me!"
The Bible tells us that Jesus heard him and stopped. Then he had the man brought before him and He asked the man "What would you have me to do for you?"
The man said "That I might receive my sight." Jesus healed him and the man followed Him praising God.
I was reading that this morning and noticed the phrase "and Jesus stopped" some version say "Jesus stood still." Then it says that "Jesus had the man brought before Him."
Don't be afraid to cry out to Jesus, no matter what your situation. Our cries can stop Him in his tracks! His word also says that "His ears are ever open to the cries of the righteous."
Jesus is listening for your cry today. Cry out to Jesus! Your cries may cause Him to stop and take notice. And then even greater, He may bring you before His presence!
In His presence there is fullness of joy! In His presence is where we find healing. In His presence is where we find restoration. In His presence is where our needs are met. In His presence even those who were once blind, can look upon his face!
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
As I prayed I realized, we've been taught to love the things of this world. Even though it may have been taught to us unintentionally, it was taught. We know how to be affectionate toward this world. It comes naturally, because we are in the flesh. We can look at our own lives and see that it's true... But we need to be taught how to love God.
That's when I felt that I heard the Lord say, "Love is surrender." Pure, simple, easily understood… “Love is surrender.” Clearly, God was teaching me to love Him.
I try to show my love to Him in many different ways. I pray, and try to submit my will to His. I try hard to be a godly example to the people in my life. I read His Word, sometimes just because I know I need it. I offer the very best praise I can muster, on a regular basis. And none of that is bad, but God said, “Love is surrender.”
So, I began thinking about this statement, and it seems so foreign to us. Because of our teaching, we are programmed to look at everything through the eyes of flesh. So, we may see love as a completely different thing. We are not taught to surrender. On the contrary, we are taught to stay on guard or to even conquer.
When you’ve lived a little while, you know that if you don’t guard yourself from others, you will often end up hurting. So when we love, we put conditions on it. Sometimes, because of our tendency to guard ourselves or even as we try to gain control of situations, or people, we find that we have caused hurt ourselves. I believe we often, wrongly, carry this ideology into our relationships. If we aren’t careful, we will have walls of protection built up even against our spouse or children. And certainly we do the same toward our God, but that isn’t what surrender looks like.
I’m sure you are familiar with 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. It says,
Let’s look at this from another angle: At Calvary, God surrendered to His own creation, in a great display of love. He didn't conquer us, although He surely could have. He didn’t even guard Himself. Instead, He ‘offered Himself’ in the person of Jesus Christ. Though He was God, He humbled Himself and offered all that He is, to us. We crucified Him in return. At that crucifixion, we displayed our 'love' for power more than our love for Him. Yet, He displayed love that we cannot even fathom, through His surrender.
Love is scary. It can really hurt if it isn’t returned like we are giving it. Love isn’t always easy. So we hide our hearts and guard our feelings, and sometimes even try to go after things, instead of opening ourselves up to possible hurt.
If real love is surrender, and I believe that’s what it is. Then it’s best displayed when we give it fully with no reservations. I know that’s scary, but ‘perfect love casts out fear’. When love is perfect, there is no fear of hurt.
God’s love toward us is perfected. We can see that by looking at Calvary, where He surrendered to us. So we need not be afraid to surrender to Him.
In response to my request, "Teach us Lord to love you!" He simply says, "Love is Surrender." We say that we love the Lord with all our hearts, but have we really surrendered everything to Him? Because that’s what love looks like.
If you want to know how much you really love Him, ask yourself this question. Am I fully surrendered to the Lord? And, if you want to know how much He loves you, ask yourself; “Did He fully surrender for me?”
Love, my friend, is surrender.
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
At the beginning of each new year many of us make resolutions. If you are one who does that, take a look at those resolutions. The ones you are most passionate about are the only ones you will keep. The others will be forgotten in a month or so.
The same goes for your commitment to Spiritual things. Whatever you are most passionate about, is what you will stick with and make a part of your spiritual disciplines. Your passions become the most important things in your life.
Do you love to pray? If prayer is a passion, you will pray about everything. You’ll pray for your neighbors, your bank teller, and your drive-thru attendant. You’ll pray for your job, your city, your kid’s school… if prayer is your passion. You will ask God for direction. You’ll ask Him for healing. You’ll ask for wisdom, and fulfillment, and peace. If prayer is your passion, then you will develop an intimate relationship with God in those times of communication with Him.
Whatever you are passionate about will be evident in your lifestyle. If you’re passionate about God the world will know it. If your passionate about justice, or civil rights, or child safety, the world will know it. If your passionate about your sin, those around you will know it to, even if you try to hide it. You can’t hide passion.
Sometimes it’s harder for us to label our own ‘passions’, or lack thereof, than it is for others to label us. Whatever it is that stirs you, moves you, or motivates you, will be clearly seen by those around you. They also easily see our lack of passion. So what are you passionate about? What is the world seeing when it looks at you? How would they label you if they were trying to name your passion?
I wonder… What do those around us think are the most important things to us?
In this New Year, why not return to our first-Love, Jesus Christ, and serve Him passionately?? If we do, the world will know it.