Monday, April 30, 2007

Too Late.

In my devotions today, I came across this from John 8.
21 Once more Jesus said to them, "I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come."
This verse really hit hard with me. Here you see a group of people who will come to the realization of their need for a savior, but it will be too late for them. They will die in their sins.

How many people are around me looking for a Savior? I pray that I will be a light that they might find him before it is too late.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Mary Vs. Martha

We had a great time with CTS at the Peace FWB Church in Granite City today. If I get some time later in the week I'll try to post some pictures.

One of the kids' dramas really hit home with me. It was about Mary and Martha. The way it was written, Martha was busy doing all of the social justice things. She was helping with the environment and working at an animal shelter - reading the Bible to dogs. :)

What struck me was Martha was portrayed as the "undiscerning" one because she was choosing to help her community over going to Bible Study and faithfully attending Sunday Morning Church. After all, Mary was wise enough to be at Bible Study and Sunday Services.

What does the scripture say?

Luke 10
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

41 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."


So my question is this...What does Mary look like today? Is she at the Bible Study - or working in the Homeless Shelter? Or some place else altogether? If Mary was here with us today - where would she be spending the majority of her time?

How do you sit at the feet of Jesus?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Mere Appearances...

How often I find myself judging something or someone by mere appearances. You'd think I would know better by now. In John chapter seven, Jesus is dealing with this issue. His own family has misjudged him, the Pharisees have misjudged him, and the people all around him are misjudging him.

After debating with them about Moses and Circumcision he gives this quote...
24 "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment."

So what is a "right" judgment?

Here are a few ideas...
Matthew 9:13 "But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Matthew 23:23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

Micah 6:8 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.

Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

Justice, Mercy, Faithfulness, Righteousness, Peace, & Joy - here are the factors to help make a right judgment. How are we doing?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hope for the Hokies

The passion movement is offering free music in light of the VT tragedy to hopefully be an encouragement. Passion artists - Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Matt Redman, and Charlie Hall each have a song you can download for free or download all of them.

Just go to www.hopeforthehokies.com

My Favorite Verse in the Bible

I get in trouble with my church family because I'm always saying, "This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible". I'm one of those people with a lot of favorites.

Here's the verse of the Day from Bible Gateway...
1 Peter 1:18-19
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

Question: How much is the worth of a soul?
Answer: How much is the blood of Jesus worth?

God loves us so much. We need to value others as He does. I need this reminder daily. That's why this is one of my favorite verses.

By the way if you want to get the RSS of verse of the day, it's on the front page of www.biblegateway.com

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Picture of Faith

I've had a few special friends in my life who have taught me what faith is by their example, much more than by their words. When folks are in difficult times and they still cling to God's words, that to me is faith. Very simply, faith is taking God at his word. John 4 gives us a similar example...

46Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 48"Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe." 49The royal official said, "Sir, come down before my child dies." 50Jesus replied, "You may go. Your son will live." The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, "The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour." 53Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he and all his household believed.

Notice the phrase - "The man took Jesus at his word and departed". He believed and he acted on that belief. That is faith. I pray that in the midst of difficult circumstances, especially like the ones we have seen this week at Virginia Tech, I will take the Lord at His word.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Waitress at Denny's

We started the God@Work campaign yesterday. (www.isGodatwork.com) I was so excited to preach. I hope the words came out right. I spoke from Romans 12:1-2 and I think the Lord really spoke to me if to no one else.

It's amazing how I have separated the secular and the sacred in my own life. I have been reminded in the past week that God wants all of my life and that my joy and my duty to him is complete obedience. Sometimes obedience is reading the Bible and sometimes it is mowing the lawn. But the truth is God can be and should be honored in both.
Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Sometimes I think we elevate the sacred too much. What we should be elevating is obedience. We should honor the idea of a living sacrifice pleasing God.

This is how I put it yesterday...
“God loves what the missionary is doing when he preaches in the midst of unbelieving nations. He also loves what the living sacrifice is doing when she pours another cup of coffee at Denny’s.”

So what decisions will you make today that honor God?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

In the Beginning

I'm starting the book of John in my devotions tonight. I'm hoping it will aid me in my quest to be salt and light.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
I love this verse. It is absolute proof that Christ is God. There is absolutely nothing that he cannot handle. He made it. He knows how it works. He can fix it. He is God.

The Sacred Zone

I followed a link off of the TallSkinnyKiwi and have found a very interesting discussion about the emerging church. Let me first warn you, the first session is meant to push you beyond your limits. I was very uncomfortable with much of what was said, but it did start the wheels turning. If you decided to listen to the following clips, please do so with your critical thinking filter turned on. ;)

The second session was excellent. I needed to hear this. The church needs to hear this. Here is the link to Michael Frost sharing his "messages" on Unless a Seed Falls...
http://www.christianityworks.com/pages/teachers.asp?pid=150

How do you view your world? Do you have a sacred zone and a secular zone? I will be preaching on this in the next few weeks. Does God show up at Church on Sunday, but he's nowhere to be found at work on Monday? Is God present on Sunday afternoon watching the ballgame as much as he is during the 10:30 worship hour?

If you have decided to separate your worlds, you are dealing with Dualism. One of the outworkings of this is that we try to "kidnap" people from the secular and bring them into the sacred zone where they can meet God. I think some of this has to do with the history of the Church in North America in the early 1900's. People came to the sacred and found God. And so we found a working pattern and stuck with it.

We have revived this same pattern today in what are known as attractional church strategies. These aren't all bad by the way. There are still many people in the U.S. who when presented with the opportunity to meet a need will still come to our Safe Zone or Sacred Zone or Churchhouse. You build it, program it, show it, share it, they will come. And some will encounter Christ this way.

But what is the alternative? Here's a scary word - holistic. Another word that might help - incarnational. Or the buzzword that is almost to the point of abuse now - missional. Instead of a sacred zone and a secular zone, there is just one zone - life. And God is present in it. All of it. Jesus is comfortable in the house of the tax collector and in the house of God. Paul is preaching in the synagogue, and making tents in the streets. And God is speaking and using people in all sorts of places, not just the sacred spaces. Not just the church service, or the youth group event, or the Christian concert. God is at work in the school classroom, in the library, at the coffee shop.

Luke 7:34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." '

How could anyone call Jesus a glutton and a drunkard? Because he was shining the light of God in the dark places. He was loving people where the religious people would not set foot. He didn't separate or compartmentalize his life. He was about his Father's business 100 percent of the time

I'm afraid this is happening all around me and I can see it in my own life. I'm busy running from sacred zone to sacred zone. From Sunday School, to Quarterly Meeting, to Mission Meeting, to Church Camp, to Christian Concerts (actually, I haven't been to a concert in a while, but you get the idea) to Bible Study, to Weekly Worship and so on. And any ounce of extra time I have I try to spend on my family.

But what's not happening is I am not making unbelieving friendships. I am not helping unbelievers encounter God on the park basketball court or at the photography seminar, or sitting down for a soda at the coffee shop. This is what I was doing when I was working a secular job. I was seeing God at work outside of the sacred zone.

I am finding myself in a desperate catch 22. I urgently feel that our church must be better in so many areas, that our state work needs to be better, that the sheep I am shepherding need so much knowledge in order to better equip themselves for ministry, that I'm not taking time to make it outside of the sacred zones.

But I can't blame it all on the church. I have something within me the truly doesn't want to be a bother. Does that make sense? I'm so afraid of being a bother that I avoid the risks of friendships with many in my world, especially in my own neighborhood. How can a preacher be somewhat quiet and maybe even shy at times? What am I so afraid of? It sounds like I need to get out of the boat.

Dear God. You know me. You know my fears. You also know my loves. Please, please help me get out of the boat. Please help me to know when to get out of the sacred zone and into the lives of unbelievers and when to totally immerse myself in tending and teaching the sheep that you have placed under my care.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Christian vs. Christ Follower Part II

We had a great discussion at the Penn house earlier in the week. We always have great discussions. I'm not sure if we ever reach any conclusions though. I showed the paradies on the Mac Vs. Pc about Christ followers and the discussion started. It seemed that most of us could relate to the "Christian" in some way or another and in that way we would be offended.

For instance, I thought the video made it look like Christians studied and read, and Christ Follower's didn't read at all. I would hope that Christ Followers will study and read too.

And of course we sided with the Christ follower often as well. I really like U2!

But what really hit home was a conversation that I had recently with a friend whose "Christian" neighbor was being everything but Christian. This religious neighbor was great about church attendance, etc... but when it came to loving their neighbor, it wasn't being demonstrated. Selfishness was being demonstrated.

I could see how it would nice to be able to define the True Church from the Psuedo Church. Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately) there is only one person that I know who has the attendance roll for the TRUE church. And I don't think we are going to find out who belongs for quite some time.

So I'm still not sure that calling people "Christ Followers" or "Christians" really makes much difference. Either one of them can spell H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E . And as long as there is a church, there will be hypocrites in that church. And sometimes I fall into the latter category myself. What I am hoping is that this kind of discussion reminds us all that living for Christ is about loving God and loving our neighbor and not about loving religion.

My Prayer

I'm excited about this weekend. I'm excited about the Debtor's Prison Drama that some ladies in our church will be putting on. I'm excited about my friend Steve and the great expectation he has for this coming Sunday. I'm excited about my nutty friend Jason and the unbelievable things God is about to do in their church. I'm excited for both of my brothers who are also pastors who desire nothing else than to see God's power move among the people they are shepherding. Then I read this scripture this morning...

2 Thessalonians 1

11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I was truly overwhelmed.

I have been praying for those mentioned above and others, but this began to excite me in my prayers. When God counts us worthy of His calling, He - through HIS power - fulfills OUR good purposes. He - through HIS power - fulfills OUR every act prompted by FAITH. We are active in these verses. We have purposes, we have actions, we have faith. And even though "we" are small, tiny, grains of sand in some ways - God uses us. Why?

That the name of the Lord Jesus would be glorified in us and we in Him.

By His Grace. Let that sink in. When we step out of the boat in faith to follow God's prompting, he uses us. He uses us when we walk in faith. When we make a phone call, say a prayer, hand out a bottle of water, send a mailer, knock on a door, visit a hospital, play ball with a little snotty-nosed kid in faith - God uses us to Glorify the Name of Jesus.

What a privilege to be on the same team as the Almighty. What an honor to be used by Him. Pray with me that many, many souls will come to Christ in the next few weeks because of the Grace and Greatness of God and because of the faith of His children.

My desire is to follow every prompting that God ever gives me in faith. Knowing that he WILL fulfill his purposes in and through people of faith.