Monday, March 26, 2007

Hillsong United. WOW!

Ok, 3 posts in one day, I know. That's a bit much. But since I'm on a roll, I thought I'd share a Hillsong United video that just continues to aid me in my worship of the Almighty.

Click here if the video doesn't show up in your reader.

Sometimes I wish I lived in Australia. I think I could listen to these guys all year round.

Christian vs. Christ Follower Part I

Have you seen these spoofs of the "I'm a Mac" commercials?

You can click here if the video doesn't show up in your reader.

I'm always a little late to the discussion. I knew there were some folks questioning if we should really use the term Christian anymore. Now some are using the term Christ Follower. I guess my original question is - well won't the same thing happen to the term Christ Follower? Will we just keep inventing new terms?

I do have to say - the paradies do make you think.

Is Availability Enough?

I've been wrestling with this question over the last week. I know that I've even said something like this before - God doesn't desire your ability, but your availability. We preach and teach this at church camp. "Surrender you life to God." "Tell Him your available." And these are good things. We need to surrender. We need to "turn our lives over" to Jesus. But recently it's hit me like a ton of bricks that God desires more than availability. God desires OBEDIENCE.

It's not enough just to say, "I'm here if you need me." It has to be "I will follow you." That means doing, not just being. Again, maybe you've heard something similar, "God is more concerned about your being than your doing." I'm having my doubts. I think God is concerned about both being and doing. For a large part of my early life I felt I was just to supposed to surrender until I became an adult and then I could do what God wanted. It turns out that all that time I should have been doing what God wanted. God's will isn't just about identifying with some sort of career. It's about making godly choices on a daily basis.

I guess what this says to me, is that for me to say I'm available isn't enough. I can't use that as an excuse for a lack of spiritual discipline in my life. God expects me to obey as far as I am able. I need His help that's for sure. And I can find forgiveness when I fail, that's also true. But I can no longer fall back on the "well at least I'm available" or "I'm surrendered" excuse.

I must obey.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Words of God

I have been once again moved with the Authority of God's word in recent weeks. On Tuesday's and Wednesday's we have looked at some of the specific prophecies of Scripture, and some of the archaelogical evidence that lines up with the scriptures. On Sunday Nights, we've been studying "How We Got Our Bible" and over and over again, the authority of God's word shines through.

Today as I was preaching, I didn't feel that I had to shout, or yell to get the point across. I was reading the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount and I remembered that these were HIS words. They have great power. Sometimes there is no room for discussion. Jesus said to give, pray and fast in secret. If we aren't doing as much, we are missing out and we are disobeying. Some have men's traditions for their rule of faith and practice, but we have the very words of God.

Lord, forgive me when I take for granted the precious gift of your words.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Approved By God

I need to read these verses more often...
1 Thessalonians 2:3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.

I am always prone to pleasing others. Sometimes out of fear of rejection, but hopefully more often out of desire to love and to encourage. These verses remind me that God tests my heart. He is the one I MUST please. I hope that I can teach the people around me, especially my children, that God is the first and last person on the list of people I must please.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Clean Restrooms or The Power of the Gospel

Here's my question... Do you think unbelievers are looking for the power of the gospel? I've said this before, but I think this is the missing ingredient in most of our services. We try to substitute good music, eloquent speaking, and maybe excellent dramas or videos. We try to have clean restrooms and good parking attendants and maybe even give away things to people who visit our church.

But wouldn't they come back if they witnessed the power of God in our assembly? Even if the restrooms weren't all that beautiful? That's my question.

Jesus' power would draw crowds from miles. We try to substitute human ingenuity to do the same. Here's part of my theory - I think that most people who church hop - leave the traditional church for the progressive church because they are really looking for the power of God. They may switch for "better" music, bigger children's programs, or a more so-called visionary pastor. But I think what we all really want to see instead of a show, is the power of God. My contention is that if God's power is being displayed in the small church - the people won't leave it for the more progressive church. And if the actual power of God is displayed in the progressive church (not just some exciting show - but real power) then less people will leave through the back doors of the progressive church as well.

Here's what got me started on all of this - 1 Thessalonians 1

4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our
gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy
Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.

So what is the power of God? It is more than words. It is Spirit Driven. It comes with conviction. That's what Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 1. In Romans he reminds us the power is unto salvation. I think one of the best displays of the power of God is changed/transformed lives. I think not only does the gospel transform lives, but those transformed lives are part of what draws others to the gospel. What do you think?

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Bottom of the Ocean Floor

I really enjoy the song Ocean Floor. I believe it is taken from this passage in Micah 7...
19 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
This is an awesome thought that God treads our sins underfoot and tosses them to the bottom of the ocean floor. I am so thankful for forgiveness.

I also want to repeat the verse from last time Micah 6:8. I can't seem to get this verse out of my mind. It just rings true.
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

What is Good?

Tonight I was privileged to hear Terry Forest speak at the Free Will Baptist Thursday Night Seminar. He did a good job of honestly presenting a scriptural approach to the form of worship. I didn't agree with every conclusion he made, but his main points were well taken. When spending time in corporate worship, the overriding concern should be "What does God expect?" What is good?

Worship is about pleasing God, not about pleasing ourselves. I think chapter 6 of Micah has something to say about this...
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

So what does God expect? A beautiful hymn? A fabulous show? A great band? Good Lighting? Great stage presence? Lots of illustrations? Nice flow? A huge offering? And on and on...

This is what God expects, this is what is good -

Act Justly,

Love Mercy,

Walk Humbly with your God.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Peace is Coming

We walk in the name of the Lord our God forever. He will bring peace. We've been studying why we believe in the Bible in recent weeks and it is amazing how many of the prophecies have come true and how many of the details of the scriptures have come to light through archeology. God's word is sure. And ultimately he promises peace for his people.

He will judge between many peoples
and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

4 Every man will sit under his own vine
and under his own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the LORD Almighty has spoken.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Responsibility of Leading

God expects a lot from his leaders. It is truly humbling. Micah gives us an example of leadership gone bad in chapter 3. Leaders, Prophets, Priests - they are all failing because of their selfishness...

1 Then I said,
"Listen, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of the house of Israel.
Should you not know justice,

2 you who hate good and love evil;
who tear the skin from my people
and the flesh from their bones;

11 Her leaders judge for a bribe,
her priests teach for a price,
and her prophets tell fortunes for money.
Yet they lean upon the LORD and say,
"Is not the LORD among us?
No disaster will come upon us."

Lord help us to lead with confidence, but unselfishness and humility.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

It's Not Ok...Sounding the Negative Note.

Ok, after reading this blog, you will think that I'm some whiny, bitter, old, worn out, angry preacher. I'm usually a positive person. I almost always see the glass half full. But studying some OT prophets has brought me back to reality.

Sometimes we hate to sound the negative note. We hate to be the one pointing out the problems. We'd like to pretend that everything is ok. Micah had a few people like that in his day. Note his words...
2:11 If a lying windbag should come and say,
‘I’ll promise you blessings of wine and beer,’
he would be just the right preacher for these people!

As much as I don't like to hear it, we need the prophets. We need someone to stand up and say... "It's not ok." (Speaking of speaking clearly- if you want to read a really good take on church hopping that I read today - check out Steven Furtick's blog.) In Micah's day there was a group of people avoiding justice, and claiming that nothing bad was coming down the pipe.

2:6 ‘Don’t preach with such impassioned rhetoric,’ they say excitedly.
‘These prophets should not preach of such things;
we will not be overtaken by humiliation.’

2:7 Does the family of Jacob say,
‘The Lord’s patience can’t be exhausted –he would never do such things’

We need some change quickly, our judgment is looming. We need justice. We need people to come to the defense of the weak. How are you bringing about change? You can point out the problems - which can be helpful, but even better you can bring about some solutions. I'm so thankful for friends who aren't just noting the potholes, but they are doing their best to fix them. Because I can't linger on the negative too long - notice in this passage that there is restoration...

2:12 I will certainly gather all of you, O Jacob,
I will certainly assemble those Israelites who remain.
I will bring them together like sheep in a fold,
like a flock in the middle of a pasture;
they will be so numerous that they will make a lot of noise.

2:13 The one who can break through barriers will lead them out
they will break out, pass through the gate, and leave.
Their king will advance before them, The Lord himself will lead them

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Terror of our God

This is not popular thinking these days, but look at what Micah says about the terror of our God as he comes to judge Samaria and Jersualem...

3 Look! The LORD is coming from his dwelling place;
he comes down and treads the high places of the earth.

4 The mountains melt beneath him
and the valleys split apart,
like wax before the fire,
like water rushing down a slope.

5 All this is because of Jacob's transgression,
because of the sins of the house of Israel.
What is Jacob's transgression?
Is it not Samaria?
What is Judah's high place?
Is it not Jerusalem?

6 "Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble,
a place for planting vineyards.
I will pour her stones into the valley
and lay bare her foundations.

The mountains melt like wax, like water rushing down a slope. God is to be loved, but God is also to be feared. Micah's prophecies were fulfilled. Samaria was left as a valley of stones and vineyards. Her foundations have been laid bare. God's word is trustworthy. His truth is sure.

Why I Believe

We started a new Bible study this week entitled "Why I Believe". And the first lesson has been great. We looked at some of the predictive prophecies of the scriptures. I know that accepting the scriptures is a matter of faith, but it is hard to see how people can deny the predictive prophecies. Dr. Kennedy points out the destruction of Samaria and how what he saw during a visit to the Holy Land is exactly what the scriptures said would be left. (Vineyards, rocks & exposed foundations) Bro. Tim pointed out some of the prophecies of Daniel and how specific they were. I enjoyed the truth about Tyre and how Alexander the Great was used to fulfill the prophecy about the destruction of Tyre. If you are interested in this, check out D. James Kennedy's Book - Why I Believe.

I'm looking forward to the days ahead as we look at some of the foundational truths of Christianity.

Monday, March 05, 2007

What is more important - Loving God or Loving Your Neighbor?

While doing some research on the Sermon on the Mount I came across the following video

This video is a response video to one of Rob Bell's Nooma Videos entitled "Bullhorn". Basically Bell is upset with the tactics of the Bullhorn street preacher, and he wishes that the megaphone preacher would put down his bullhorn and start loving people. Bell makes this statement - Loving People IS how you love God.

Doing some reading on the Emerging Church in recent months has got the wheels turning in my noggin again. In some ways it seems that the philosophy of this movement is more centered in what you are doing, than in what you are believing. I hope that is not to simplistic.

The bottom line is - we know that loving God and loving your neighbor is not an either or proposition. If you love God you will love your neighbor. If you don't love your neighbor, you don't love God. My question is this - Have we emphasized the loving God part too much, and the loving your neighbor part not enough?

Some have worded it this way. The Emerging Church Movement emphasizes orthopraxy over orthodoxy. Some may word it this way - right living should be emphasized over right knowing. As James would put it - I'll show you my faith BY my works.

In discussing this with one of my friends from church, he came across a very interesting observation. The Emerging Church Movement in some ways is a protest movement against fundamentalism. Yet one of the flaws (in my opinion) of fundamentalism is the emphasis on their definition of "right living" besides "right knowing".

In other words, the Emerging Church Movement and fundamentalism may actually have the same philosophy in this regard. They emphasize their definition of right living vs right knowing.

I'm still sorting this out and I'll try to come back to it later.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Mighty to Save Part 2

Again we see the Lord, coming in strength and in greatness. He speaks with righteousness. He is mighty to save. He comes with the right to redeem and he comes with the ability to redeem. He truly is our kinsman redeemer.
1 Who is this coming from Edom,
from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson?
Who is this, robed in splendor,
striding forward in the greatness of his strength?
"It is I, speaking in righteousness,
mighty to save."
But again, this time of redemption is not joy for everyone. He also comes with garments stained crimson. The blood of the nations who have met the wrath of God has covered his garments.

2 Why are your garments red,
like those of one treading the winepress?

3 "I have trodden the winepress alone;
from the nations no one was with me.
I trampled them in my anger
and trod them down in my wrath;
their blood spattered my garments,
and I stained all my clothing.

4 For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
and the year of my redemption has come.

If you need a clearer picture, examine Revelation 19
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

Our God IS mighty to save. We must proclaim his name to the Nations. Pray that God would send forth workers into his harvest.