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Monday, December 15, 2014

Why Are We So Willing To Keep Dividing The Body Of Christ?

Last I checked there was reportedly about 41,000 Christian denominations.  That number is up from an estimated 21,000 in 1982.  (Wow! In thirty-two years the number of Christian denominations have almost doubled!) The names of these groups range from Amish to The Way, with thousands in between and perhaps there are even others before and after those names, which I'm unaware of.  This number includes churches that are Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and whatever else.

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

How Should the Local Church Respond to Ferguson?

If anything, the many recent tragedies of Ferguson and subsequent protests and riots across the country, have shown us how divided this nation still is on the issue of race.  Yet my hope and I believe God's hope, for the Church at least, is that we realize we are not of this world. We are not black, we are not white, we are not Hispanic, we are not Asian, we are not Middle Eastern. We are not Jewish, we are not Gentiles... We are the Body of Christ, one new man, the redeemed, a Holy Nation, the hope of the Earth -through Jesus.  We are, together, members of His body, diverse in appearance and function yet one in essence.  We are all necessary to complete the diverse-unity that is in Christ.

"So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Gal. 3:26-29) 

Sure, we all have different heritages and that is not objectionable.  On the contrary it's wonderful!  Individually, we should consider our heritage as very important to us.  It's what makes us who we are.  We are the sum of all of our parts!  You are unique and special to God just as you are!  

I believe that we should all personally celebrate our heritage. It's not wrong for African Americans to celebrate their identity, such as is the case with 'Black History Month'. But neither should it be considered socially unacceptable for those of white European descent to celebrate who they are.  The same should be acceptable for the person of Asian descent, or Native American, or any other. I have a friend who nearly every day, reminds me with pride that he is Italian. I think that his pride in his heritage is admirable. Yet our personal celebrations of our national or racial heritage should never be at the expense of someone else, by tearing others down, or by exalting our racial group over any other.  I should be open to celebrating your heritage with you too, while relishing the fact that we are different and yet the same.

My family and I don't talk too much about our ancestry.  We are not ashamed of it, yet it isn't something we feel the need to be boastful of either. I am of German/Irish/Cherokee decent. My wife is a descendant of people who were English/Melungeon.  (Melungeon is a racial mixture of European, African, and Native American.)  We are very much the product of the American Melting Pot. So, does our ancestry even matter? Yes, but it only matters to me, my wife, and our children.  It doesn't matter in the church because, in the Church, our identity comes from Christ. We have 'put on Christ', therefore it's Him we should look and act like.

When it comes to the Church, as a corporate entity, we need to stop being 'black church' or 'white church' and start being "The Church".  We need to first be Christians.  We need to hold tightly to our spiritual heritage as sons and daughters of God, spiritual descendants of Abraham through faith.  We should NEVER allow our differences in heritage to divide us, and certainly our skin color should have no effect on us whatsoever.  The Church is one.

So how should the local church respond to Ferguson and other similar issues?  Certainly not with silence: I think our response should be completely non-racial, but rather wholly spiritual.  Remember, we're Christians first. Hatred, prejudice, rioting, bigoted talk, all stem from one root cause, that cause is sin (See Romans 13:13 & Eph. 5:1-4).  Through hatred, sin divides us... but WE have been washed.  We are new creatures in Christ, those old things are passed away and the new has come (See 2 Cor. 5:17).  

Racism in any form is a manifestation of prejudice, or 'pre-judging based on a generalization'. Prejudice is most often a form of hatred.  Sure, it manifests itself from white toward black, but just as commonly from black toward white, from Asian toward Hispanic, and so on.  But that is not who WE are... We are the Church!  We are one (worldwide) nation of believers who are begotten by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.  We are one people, of one blood, with one Lord.

A natural response would come from the flesh, but spiritual response must come from our spirit man which has been clothed in Christ. Just as the root cause of prejudice is sin, our spiritual response must have a root cause too. In the Church, our cause is Love.  If I'm forgiven, I'm required to forgive.  If I have received God's forgiveness, I will love.  Through that love and forgiveness we are unified.

As the Church we should be manifesting the love of Christ in such a powerful way that the world around us sees no division.  That's what Jesus prayed for (John 17:21). That's who we are called to be. They will know we are His disciples because of the love we have for one another (See John 13:35).  If love is manifesting correctly, my African American brothers and I will be standing together for Christ, and together against hatred.  I urge you reach out to people of other races and show them you love them in Christ.  This could do more to heal than you can even imagine. That's how we, The Church, should respond in Ferguson, or to any other example of racism... with love.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

“What difference does Jesus make?”

As I write this, we are in mid November and in an early deep freeze.  The temp last night was 7 degrees, and we have, maybe, 4 inches of snow on the ground. I hear we have broken several temperature records. Yet a few trees still have beautifully colored leaves. This is a picture from my front yard showing the unexpected beauty we are experiencing. In a little more than a week Thanksgiving will be here, and then Christmas is only weeks away.

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.

I was thinking along those lines just the other day and my mind went to Jesus and his great sacrifice of Love, for the whole world, but I especially thought of his great love for me and my family. Then the thought came to my mind, “What difference does Jesus make?”.

What if Jesus hadn’t come to Earth? There would be no Christmas of course. Whether you like the way Christmas is celebrated, or not, is irrelevant.  There would have been no nativity and therefore no road from Bethlehem to Calvary, no savior.

Time would be recorded differently, as the Gregorian Calendar which we commonly use counts from the believed date of the nativity of Christ. Many of our laws would be different.  Most of the organizations of the world that do humanitarian aid wouldn’t exist, and the list goes on and on.

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?

Well, firstly, if it were not for Jesus I would be in some other line of work.  I certainly wouldn’t be a pastor, because there would be no Christianity. 

If not for Jesus in my life, I’m not sure I’d still be at that Caterpillar dealership either.  There was an issue that happened one year that brought me before the Vice President of the company.  After reviewing the facts he determined that my work performance, more specifically my character, spoke for itself.  He dismissed any investigation that could have ended in my termination.  Had I not known Christ and lived Him publically, I very well could have been involved in things that would have cost me my job.  Had my record with the company not demonstrated integrity, I would have likely been dismissed that day.

Without my relationship with the Lord, I probably wouldn’t have met my wife, Tracy, or had my girls.  I first saw Tracy’s beautiful face in church and shortly after, began my pursuit of her.  Even if we had met, it’s likely that we would have separated long ago because without Christ I wouldn’t be half the man I am today, and I would likely have mad devastating choices leading to our demise as a couple.

If it hadn’t been for Jesus I would probably not even be alive today.  Perhaps several things would have already taken me out of this life, such as my teenage love for driving way too fast, but certainly the wasp sting that nearly killed me in 1995 would have done me in.  I believe with all my heart, God spared my life that day to do His work.

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.

What difference does Jesus make?  He makes all the difference!  If not for Him coming to Earth, taking my place in the wrath of God and dying for my sins. I would be unquestionably destined for Hell. There would be no hope for me.  I was too imperfect.  My heart was too stained. My life was too sinful to ever have any hope…  And you were there in the same boat with me.

Thank God for the difference Jesus makes!

Friday, November 7, 2014

The City (An Allegory)

In the distance she glistens like a diamond, bright and gleaming.  With absolutely no imperfection visible, she's pure and wonderful. She's decorated with brilliance and abundance, unlike any other city Earth has ever seen.  From her streets, to her walls, to her gates, she fashioned in splendor like an ancient city yet her appearance is new and untarnished. No city in ancient Egypt, even in its most glorious days, could ever compare to her. Neither could the cities of ancient Athens, or ancient Rome, or the more modern cities like New York, or Paris or Venice. 

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.

Then suddenly, I see an inhabitant of the city.  His clothing is bright white and unblemished, completely unlike my garments that are dull, and stained and torn.  He’s moving through this Outerworld, among the thorns and the tares, and though they pull at him, his clothes remain unsullied.

He’s calling out, but I cannot yet make out what he’s saying.  As he nears me, I hear his Words.  His must be one of those voices I have been hearing.  His language is strange to, not foul as I am accustomed to hearing, yet I can understand it.  He is searching for someone.  He is calling out to someone with an invitation to a feast with the King inside The City. 

Oh what an honor someone is about to receive, to enter The City, and to feast with its King! What I would give to be invited, but I have nothing to wear and I am dirty, and unknown by all of its inhabitants.

With some apprehension, I decide to move toward him, to see if I might find who he is looking for.  Perhaps I can point him in the correct direction.  He sees me and comes closer.  At this point, I feel sick to my stomach with fear.  Why did I let him see me?  What if he means me harm?  But as he approaches I see compassion in his eyes and my fear subsides. Looking directly into my eyes he says to me, “We have been looking everywhere for you!  You have been invited to the feast inside The City.  Will you come?  Will you leave the dark things behind and come to The City with me?”

It’s impossible that they could be looking for me! How could they even know I exist?  How could they consider letting me in, in this condition?  Just look at me!  The signs have made it clear to me, I will not be allowed in.  Besides, I have tried to approach The City and cannot find my way there.

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.

About then, the seeker pulls a new garment from his bag and says, “We will get you cleaned up and we’ll get you to The City in time for the feast.”

As he takes me toward The City I notice that I am being washed clean in the light of the majesty shining in the midst of The City! The closer I get to it, the cleaner I become.  My dirty tattered clothes are now falling away… no wait, they have fallen away!  That new robe that was presented to me is now upon me.  I look different.  I feel different. I understand the language much more clearly than before.  The City is now close and its light is blinding!

We are at the gates now, and I look like a dignitary.  Dressed in his robe, I look every bit as marvelous as the seeker who found me.  My clothes are new.  My face is washed.  My hands are clean. I remember that I am unworthy to go in, but the gatekeeper cannot see it!  As we are about to enter the gates, the seeker says, “This is a son of the King!  He was lost in the Outerworld. We have found him and he has left all behind, and has come to the feast of the King!” 

Multitudes of people dressed like me, along with beings of light flying back and forth in The City, burst in to celebration!  The City echoes with shouts, “We have found Him, the one who was lost has been found!” I am being welcomed like a celebrity! Just as I am about to tell them that they are mistaken, that I am not who they believe me to be, The King calls to me… by name.

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! 

Then He points to the seeker, “Your older brother,” The King says, “was willing to leave all this splendor, to go into the Outerworld, to give his own life up, and become like you to find you and bring you here.  You were born in an evil place, but you are home now! The City is your home, come enjoy it!”

Forevermore I will be thankful! I still can’t understand how I, who was lost, became found, or how I who was unworthy became an heir. How can it be that I who was dirty, am now made clean?  How is it that I who was of the darkness, has become a child of light?  Or how can I, who was lost in the Outerworld, now be a resident of The City?  Thanks be to the King who had someone search for me!  Thanks be to the Seeker, who gave His life up to find me! 

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

The End of Creationism?

Pope Francis has declared that God isn't "a magician with a magic wand who can do everything"  On the contrary God is FAR superior to a 'magician'!  His power FAR superior to a 'magic wand'!

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

Letter to the Church (10 Years at Abundant Life Tabernacle)

Pastor’s often wonder if they are really making a difference.  Week after week we preach, teach, counsel, console, guide, guard, hold accountable, seek God, study, pray... and so on, and each week we wonder if we are being fruitful. Sometimes months, then years, go by without much visible progress and frankly it is often disheartening.

I know it’s the same for you too sometimes, pastor or not.  If we truly are in pursuit of God, we all desire good fruit that is visible to others and we all want to see progress in our own walk with the Lord.  We don’t necessarily desire it be visible for prides sake, but for ‘measurable progress’s sake’.
My family and I have been at Abundant Life for ten years, this month.  If I look at where I thought we would be by now, I will be discouraged.  If I look at where I wish we were as a church, I might be discouraged.  If I look at where I feel God wants to take us together, and we are still not there by the way, I might be discouraged. I actually have battled discouragement numerous times.  However, I have to look at how far we’ve come and if we are still progressing.

So, how far have we come in ten years?  I think we’ve come a long way.  (Please understand as I share this, that I am bragging on God, not me or even us.) Ten years ago this church was hurting.  There had been a church split previously that had left lots of wounded people, many people not attending anywhere.  There were only a handful of people who were still faithful members at ALT.  From the stories and the attendance sheets of those days, probably only about 25 to 35 people were regularly in attendance, down from 400 or 500 at one point.  There was a mortgage for this ‘multi-million dollar facility’, that was extremely reasonable but still a huge burden on the few still here.  There was very little reserve in the account to support a pastor and his family. There was a small worship team and no musicians, so worship was done by soundtracks. The church had been without a pastor for around 15 months. And honestly, the name of the church seemed synonymous with the trouble of the past.

There was a great core group of people here though, and a real desire to endure even in hardship.  There was a greenhorn pastor, and family, who was willing to risk everything to step out on faith even though, we knew if God didn't meet us, we were in very big trouble. There had been great words spoken over the church about greatness still to come. Words like: “This house will be a ‘hospital’ for the hurting, where people will come and be healed and will go back out to minister” or “This place will be a place of great fruit and will be an example to the whole region” or “Worship will lead the way (into the move of God).”

Ten years after God called us here, things are still progressing.  We still have a long way to go, as a church, to reach our full potential, but those words are coming to pass. Consistently people are coming here, being healed and returning to ministry, albeit, often elsewhere.  Light Our City among other outreaches that began in this church, have impacted and united churches in our region, and are continuing to be the example to the body of Christ here and even overseas. Our worship, while constantly in spiritual warfare, has expanded to become a potential powerhouse, or perhaps a ‘powder keg’, just on the verge of a major spiritual breakthrough which has the potential to lead us far deeper into His presence.  It consists of passionate and talented worshipers and musicians who do all they do for His glory!

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

Love Hurts, But Love Anyway

My youngest daughter Lauren came home really down yesterday. One of her best friends from school, and the soccer team, told her that she didn't want to be friends anymore. At about the same age, 14, Lindsey went through a similar thing too.  (Oh the joys of raising emotional teenage girls! Haha!)  Things later worked out well for Lindsey and her friend, and they are great friends still today.  I expect they will work out for Lauren and her friend too, but time will tell.

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

Your Eternal Significance

If your life is to really ever count for anything, eternally speaking, you must live it for Christ.  There are no other options.  Matt. 25:31-44 reveals the importance of every action here on Earth, in relation to its eternal significance.  It tells us of the day of judgment, as the Lord reminds those whom He judges what they did, or didn’t, do for Him. Things as seemingly insignificant as giving water to one in thirst, are mentioned (Please read it.).

I'm reminded of a quote from a poem by C.T. Studd... "Only one life, it will soon be past; Only what's done for Christ will last." The Apostle Paul said, "To live is Christ, to die is gain.” One minister put it this way, “If for me to live is money – then to die is loss. If for me to live is self – then to die is loss. If for me to live is ambition – then to die is loss. If for me to live is sin – then to die is loss…But if for me to live is Christ, then to die is GAIN!”

Great men and women of God in the Bible, and all down through history, have known this truth and lived it.  So often today, we know that our actions have eternal significance but don’t live like it.  There is great opportunity for you this summer.  Light Our City is not just a one day event this year, but a two month endeavor.  It gives you lots of chances to get out of ‘self’, and serve the Lord by serving others.  If you aren’t already, will you please consider where YOU might plug in to serve someone else? 

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!  

What are you doing this summer that has eternal significance?

- Pastor Jerry

Here is an excerpt from that poem written by C.T.Sudd:

...Give me Father, a purpose deep,
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.
Oh let my love with fervor burn,
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.
Only one life, yes only one,
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 one life, ’twill soon be past,
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.”
- C.T Studd

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Passionless Complacent Christianity

Have you ever been disillusioned? I'm sure you have. We have all had hopes that of been crushed, or even expectations that didn't come to pass. The Word of God says, hope deferred makes the heart sick. Many, if not all of us, have been 'heart sick' with disillusionment. 

Disillusionment brings with it lots of other things with it too. One of those things is a discouragement. Discouragement sometimes then develops into a loss of passion, and before long that loss of passion slips into complacency.

That's where most Christians seem to live, in passionless complacency.  It’s easy to get there for sure, but not so easy to pull out of.  I, for one, am sick of the status quo. I long for more!  I can't seem to be satisfied with a life of no passion, and it seems that’s all I see around me.  If we do have passion, it’s often for things other than God or His kingdom. Where is the church’s passion for Christ?  Where is our passion for lost souls?  Why are we settling for passionless lives and hearts sick with disillusionment?

The other day at a soccer game I heard a group of parents talking passionately about sports at their children’s schools.  One woman became so enraged that she couldn’t concentrate on the current game that was taking place, because she was focused on a scenario that had played out for someone else’s child at a different school. 

Isn’t that like us?  Sitting on the sidelines, no interest in the current game, certainly not personally involved in the game, and passionately complaining about something that doesn’t really even concern us?  I think it is. I also think that, in the Christian life, it’s a trick of the enemy to draw us away from what’s important right now.

So how can we shake this complacent nature we’ve allowed into our lives and into our church?  How can we once again regain the passion that drives us to accomplish God’s purpose and God’s vision for us?  How can we shake the disappointments in people, ourselves, or even in unanswered prayers?

Disillusionment most often comes when we feel let down by someone else or even by our own abilities. It’s a sure sign we are looking to the wrong things or to the wrong person for fulfillment.  I believe the cure for disillusionment, brings with it the cure for loss of passion. So then, we need to find the cure for disillusionment.

It happens that we will lose our complacency, and regain our passion, when our focus is shifted off of everything else but God. All of our failures, all of our crushed dreams, all of the people that have let us down, cannot continue to be our focus.  God must be our focus, our life!  He never fails!  He never lets us down.

The cure for passionless complacent Christianity happens when we allow the Holy Spirit to ‘revive’ us, and animate us for His purpose, and stop pursuing our own purposes.  It happens when we stop sitting on the sidelines complaining about what someone else is doing, and get in the game ourselves. 

I for one am tired of passionless Christianity. I’m tired of disillusionment. I’m tired of complacent Christians.  And... I’m certainly tired of all of those things in me. 

In this “Year of Pursuit.”  If you’ve let up on seeking God and started looking to other things for any kind of fulfillment, change that focus back to Him because we need a revival of passion in the church.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

This Little Light of Mine...

Matthew 5:14-16 is a very well known passage of scripture.  Because of familiarity though, we sometimes read and just passed right over it.  This passage says, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl (or bushel). Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

This is a very exciting scripture!  Jesus says that we are the light of the world.  We know that He was the light while He was here on Earth as He stated in John 8:12, but He says that WE ARE now the light of the world.  Yet, what are the implications of His statement? 

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

Cry Out To Jesus

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

I Asked the Lord to Teach Me To Love...

As I was praying today I believe the Lord revealed something to me.  It was pretty profound, to me at least. While praying, I told the Lord that I love Him, but I also asked that He teach me to love Him more.  And right then, the Lord really quickened my spirit. 'We 'don't even know how to love Him.' 

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, 
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Doesn’t that sound an awfully lot like surrender?

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

What are you passionate about?

What are you passionate about?  We all have something that inspires us, motivates us, or stimulates us to action.  And then, we all have things that bore us, makes us lose our motivation or causes us to fall into complacency. But what is it that you are passionate about?

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.

If we are passionate about worship, we’ll forget about those around us and offer our all to God in praise.  If we are passionate about church attendance, we’ll be there often and on time and we will love our time in His house. If we’re passionate about people, we’ll be loving and caring and people will know that they are important to us. If we’re passionate about family, or ministry, or our community, people will see it.

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.