Monthly Archives: March 2015

How the ‘Terrible Cross’ Can Help Us Overcome Life-Sucking Sin

crucifixion

Why can’t you overcome that sin that you keep sinning?

You know, that secret sin (or not-so-secret sin) that always seems to trip you up and causes regret, anguish and despair? The one that you know is wrong, but you always seem to bow to it anyway? The one that tracks you and pursues you? The sin about which you have the thought: “If only I could just conquer this one particular sin…”

How can victory be had over that nagging, leeching, life-sucking sin; and for that matter, other sins?

I wouldn’t be writing this if there were an easy answer. The Bible has a lot to say about this and we must hear and apply all the Spirit-inspired help the Bible has to offer. For sin is deadly and eternally serious. The cross teaches us that. If you don’t think your sin is life and death serious, then you don’t understand the cross and the meaning of what Jesus showed us and did for us. It’s that simple. And we must learn to employ the powerful Passion of the Christ and His Cross if we have any hope of progressively having victory over sin in our lives.

Have you considered how the cross might be used in your ongoing fight against sin?

Think about just a few of the physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual abuses Jesus endured in his final hours on the earth He created (John 1:1-3):

  • (Mark 13:36) Jesus agonized spiritually and emotionally in Gethsemane over His imminent sacrifice.
  • (Mark 14:50) He was abandoned by all of His disciples – “And they all left Him and fled.”
  • (Mark 14:65) He was punched, slapped and taunted by His own (John 1:11).
  • (Mark 14:66-27) He was denied by Peter three times, and this despite the fact that He warned Peter (14:30).
  • (Mark 15:1-3) He was lied about and called an insurrectionist – “The King of the Jews”.
  • (Mark 15:15) He was used as a political pawn and bargaining chip, and substituted for the convicted murderer and criminal Barabbas, and was scourged. It is necessary to describe the scourging (flogging) that preceded crucifixion to fully understand how much Jesus endured physically. “The prisoner was stripped, bound to a post or pillar, or sometimes simply thrown to the ground, and was beaten by a number of guards until his flesh hung in bleeding shreds. The flagellum consisted of leather thongs plaited with several pieces of bone or lead so as to form a chain. Men who were beaten in this way often collapsed and died by flogging. In some instances, the scouring would expose the entrails and on one occasion, reported by Josephus, the bones of a man were exposed.” (Sources: Danny Akin and William Lane) The beating could be so severe, that some prisoners died from shock before they ever made it to the cross.
  • (Mark 15:16-21) He was mocked, physically abused with a crown of thorns pressed down on his head and with a wooden rod.
  • (Mark 15:21) He is so physically spent that he can’t carry the traverse beam of the cross to His own death as the soldiers parade Him through the city as a public spectacle, warning all who see that no one crosses Rome.
  • (15:24) And finally “they crucified Him.” That’s all Mark says. Why doesn’t Mark tell us how horrible the cross is? He doesn’t have to tell the Roman Christians that he is writing to because it is a common feature of the ancient world. Mark’s audience knew how horrible it was, but we really don’t. Jesus now hangs, and likely naked, on the ‘slave’s wood’, a ‘criminal’s tree’, a ‘sign of shame’, the ‘infamous stake’, the ‘barren wood’, the ‘terrible cross’ and ‘the most wretched of deaths’, according to Josephus. He was positioned on a hill outside the city wall and was lifted high on a stake so that all would see that He was guilty of high treason (Mark 15:26), and He was executed between two convicted criminals who mock and insult Him (15:27 and 32). While He hangs, battered, exposed and gasping for air, He was continually mocked, ridiculed and maligned repeatedly – even by strangers (15:29).

God ordained that Jesus would come at this time in history, to be executed by the method of the cross. Why? couldn’t Jesus have come at another time and been executed by firing squad, electric chair or lethal injection?

There is surely more than one answer to this question, but there is an answer that will help us in  our fight against sin; there is something useful in the punishment that Jesus endured to bring us peace (Isaiah 53:5).

Here it is: THE CROSS SHOWS US HOW SERIOUS SIN IS – IT IS DEADLY SERIOUS. It is grotesquely serious. It is crushingly serious. It is wrathfully serious. It causes injustice that must be dealt with by justice – and Jesus took it for God’s glory and for the ransom of many (Mark 10:45).

So the next time you are hounded by “that sin” and you are harassed by your own fleshly desires, and caving to it feels inevitable, fight and wage war on it by dwelling on the Passion of the Christ and all He endured for you. Develop a mental sensory narrative in your mind that you can play in the moment of temptation. Hear the insults. See the blows and the blood. Put yourself in the place of those who were there. Remember that your sin was there and that you share the responsibility of the cross. Read chapters 14 and 15 of Mark and buy Martin Hengel’s book Crucifixion to study and learn about the details of scourging and crucifixion, and think on the crowd and remember that He bore your sin in His body on the cross, so that you might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24).

crucifixion

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Building Expansion Update: Construction and Fundraising

contruction trailerThe picture above is of the contractor’s trailer and is a sign of soon-to-be construction progress. So let me share with you the few details that I know, so you can know with me.

  • We did sign a construction contract this last Monday (March 23rd) and we are grateful for the patience of our church family. It “only” took 3+ years, but we should now start to see some visible progress beyond in addition to the children’s wing renovation that has already been completed.
  • The estimated time for demolition and construction will take 275 days, which will put us right around Christmas for completion of the construction and renovation.
  • One of the first things that will happen is that the children’s resource closet, on the west side of the building, will be emptied and turned into a temporary entrance during the expansion of the south side of the building. We may also see about having people enter through the back door on the northeast side of the building, but this is still in the planning phases. We ask for your patience and flexibility as we try to accommodate our week-to-week activities and the construction.
  • Once the steel is ordered for the expansion, it will take about 15 weeks for it to arrive, which will be sometime around the first of July. I suspect things will start to pick up considerably prior to the arrival of the steel.
  • There are a lot of details that are not yet known as it relates to when and how, but we will do our best to keep you posted so we can adjust as necessary.

FUNDRAISING AND FINISHING WHAT WE STARTED

The generosity of our church has been outstanding and encouraging. A big thank you to all who have supported this project.

With the support of the Finance and Facilities Team, the Elders explained to the church on February 22nd that we still need to raise at least $160,000. Since March marks the end of our three-year capital campaign, “Building Up”, the Elders have devised a plan to continue raising funds for the expansion and renovation. The plan is to:

  • Pray for God to increase our faith and provide through His people what is needed.
  • Ask those who made a pledge in March of 2012 to continue to work toward completing their pledge. There is still over $100,000 dollars in outstanding pledges from the original campaign.
  • Ask those who have completed their pledges to continue to give for the next year as they are able.
  • Ask those who have not yet joined us in giving to do so as they are able.
  • When we get close to the completion of the project and have a better idea of the exact amount we need to finish, we will make it know to the church and ask for people to pray and give sacrificially to raise what is needed.

In other words, we are going to ease off the fundraising pedal for the next several months and ask those who can continue to give to do so, and then we will do a big push in the last few months of construction. We hope that seeing construction progress will serve as a catalyst for giving.

Finally, in regard to fundraising I want to clarify questions and concerns that I suspect are in the minds of more than a few.

  1. As a matter of priority, I would rather you give to the ministry of the church by way of regular, joyful and sacrificial giving, and to missions before you give to the building fund. This building project is important, but it must not prevent us from local and missions ministry.
  2. I recognize we are asking our church to give sacrificially, and I am sensitive to the potential of fostering giving fatigue, but I hope we can continue to work together and trust God together with joyful hearts that honor our Lord.
  3. We have not, and we will not, take on any debt to complete this project. We do have a enough money available to complete most of this construction and renovation project. The rest of the money we need to raise will be mostly for finishes and furnishings.

I am excited about getting started and I look forward to the day when we look back and see how far God has brought us in this endeavor so that we can continue to glorify God together by trusting Jesus and obeying all that He has commanded.

Building Expansion and Renovation Update

(If this post raises more questions than it gives answers, please contact me so I can speak to the concerns directly. A lot of time has passed, many meetings have taken place and the plans have morphed since we began this journey. Below are two blogs that deal with some of the questions we were asking, receiving and dealing with early on in the process.)

Blogs previously written about Building Up:  

I was recently doing some spring cleaning and in my office desk I came across several years worth of documents that tell how we have come to where we are with regard to our Eagle Heights building expansion and renovation. I thought it would be good to update our faith family on what is currently happening, review briefly how we arrived at at this point and describe what we will be getting in the upcoming expansion and renovation.

Building Up Docs

Where are we in the process? We plan on signing a construction contract as soon as early next week, which means we should begin to see some demo, and eventually construction.

Before giving some details about the upcoming project, it might be good to reflect on how we came to the place that we now find ourselves. Especially since it has been so long since we began this journey.

A BRIEF HISTORY

In 2011 we began working with TriArch Architecture Firm to produce a master plan (I found a plan from TriArch that was dated May 25, 2011). Several months later we began working with our current architect, Nathan Richardson, who did an extensive study of our current facility needs and future needs. Based on the work TriArch had done and his own study, Nathan recommended to the Facilities Team a “phase 1a” plan that would consist of both new and renovated space to make one functional building.

On September 11, 2011, the Facilities Team and the Elders asked the church to affirm two recommendations by vote. The first recommendation was: “Starting the Architect design effort for all of Phase 1a.  Moving forward with Phase 1a construction, only as the Lord provides in a debt free effort.” The second recommendation was: “That we move forward with a capital campaign over a three-year period with Horizons Stewardship Company. Horizons will assist us to raise the money needed to build phase 1a and to help our people follow Christ as disciples with their money beyond the three-year campaign.” We voted overwhelmingly to move forward with both recommendations.

We have been working and planning since that time to finish what we started, which included a three year capital campaign that began in March of 2012. Three years later we are technically winding down our three year campaign and thanks to the generosity of many we have exceeded the campaign goal that was pledged.

Having said that, I want to stress that we are not yet done raising money. Our campaign goal of $785,000 was based on pledges made by the people of Eagle Heights in March of 2012. It was never meant to be the amount we thought we would need to do the renovation and expansion that was being recommended. We recently told the church at a Communication Matters Membership Meeting (February 22) that based on estimates from contractors and our architect, we believe we will need to raise at least another $160,000 to finish the plans and furnish what we have proposed to renovate and build.

WE STILL NEED YOUR HELP

If you have not completed your pledge, please continue to give. If you have completed your pledge, like my family, and you can continue to give, please do so. If you have never joined us, there is no time like the present. Once we sign the contract, it will be an estimated 275 days before we complete the project. I truly believe God will provide, and it will be through the continued generosity of His people.

A FEW FACTS ABOUT WHAT WE ARE BUILDING

  • We will be adding 5,200 square feet to the south end of the existing building. The cost is estimated to be approximately $155 per sq. ft. (I wrongly stated that we were building 5,400 sq. ft. at our February 22nd meeting.)
  • We will be renovating approximately 3,200 square feet to synthesize the new space with the existing building. The renovation cost is estimated to be approximately $78 per sq. ft.
  • It is helpful to keep in mind that there are many costs associated with any construction or renovation project (building codes, etc.) that may not be immediately apparent.  We are learning a lot through this process. For example, because we are expanding our worship gathering space, we are required to add an additional fire sprinkler system in that room. These investments ensure we are  providing a safe and sustainable place for our church.
  • Why start when we don’t have all the money?  A Facilities Team Member who works in the construction business assures me we currently have enough money on hand to get the construction and renovation to a safe and conducive point – not leaving any dangerous or exposed areas. Meaning we can get the expansion in the dry and climate controlled, and hopefully over the next 275 days we can raise the rest of the money to finish what we started together.
  • It is important to note we have already renovated the Children’s wing of the building to accommodate the expansion.

WHAT ARE WE GETTING FROM THE EXPANSION AND RENOVATION?

Because we have chosen to add-on to our current facility instead of just building a new building to the west or the south, we will be getting:

  1. A very functional facility that is easy to navigate. Have you ever been to a church building that obviously has had many additions? We are not building a maze and that is a good thing.
  2. A more secure children’s area. We hope to move most, if not all, of our children’s ministry to the west side of the building. The area will have a secure check-in area that will restrict unnecessary traffic.
  3. New welcome and gathering space and new way-finding space. It may not matter to people who are comfortable coming to a crowded building, but people need to be able to enter the building without feeling like they are shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers.
  4. A cafe area to serve guests and facilitate community, as well as to offer a flexible space for ministry throughout the week.
  5. New storage space. There will be a space to store the basketball goals and most of the chairs we don’t use. This will help us free up worship gathering space.
  6. More worship gathering space. Depending on how the chairs are set up, we believe that by de-cluttering the room, we can increase our seating capacity by up to 40%. This may provide us with the opportunity to go back to one worship gathering.
  7. New entry access. Our current building has one point of entry. The expanded version will have three with a new covered drive on the west side where there will be a new concrete turn-around.
  8. A new conference room on the east side of the building with a new bathroom across the hall.
  9. A reconfigured office space.
  10. A new entrance to the bathrooms.
  11. A new guest/connection center so people can find information before they go into the worship center. This will be located in the existing welcome area, which will also free up the worship gathering space.
  12. An updated aesthetic. Not everyone values the looks of a building, but we always want to make a good first impression. Nothings should be offensive but the gospel. Within reason, we don’t want the building to be a barrier for people.

The extra time we have taken to refine the plan to optimize what we have, and to build something we can afford, has worked to our advantage. I believe this current project will get us close to having a building that could be a complete facility for the foreseeable future. We may yet need to add a minimal amount of children’s space, and we would also like to provide a dedicated youth space, but I believe those are much smaller projects compared to our current project.

Thank you for your continued patience and support. Again, if this spurs questions, please feel free to call or set up a time to speak with me. I am eager to speak with you and I will do my best to get you as many answers as possible. May God be glorified as we work together to trust and obey all Jesus commanded.

7 Suggestions For Preparing To Worship Together

worship

Do you ever wonder why worship is so hard when you gather with others for worship?

This past Sunday in Mark 14:12-16 , the word “prepare” was used three times as Jesus and His disciples prepared to take the Passover meal together.  I commented that we must prepare to worship and that as we prepare to worship and honor Christ, we are in the process of worshiping because it is all directed at honoring Him. Preparing to worship is worship. This means worship is not just something we do on Sunday, it is something we do all the time (Rom. 12:1-2 and 1 Cor. 10:31). Worship is an ongoing activity. The question is this: “Are we worshiping God, or something else?”

Though we are to be worshiping with all of our lives, Sunday is still an important time we gather to worship. It is a time we set aside to ascribe worth and honor to God for who He is, what He has done and what He will do. Therefore, a Christian is not just someone who goes to worship, but is a perpetual worshiper who gathers with others to continue worshiping. How then do we prepare to worship to maximize our time together?  Here are 7 suggestions for preparing to gather for worship:

  • We need to know WHY we gather for worship. We worship together because it is prescribed and described in the scriptures (Acts 2:42-47 and Hebrews 10:19-25). The Bible tells us to gather and that should be good enough. But additionally when we gather together to remember what unites us, namely the gospel of Jesus, (Eph. 2:11-22) and that we are not just a saved individual with a personal relationship with God, but we each are a part of a redeemed people, we remember and see that we are the gospel on display (John 13:34-35). Gathering together for worship is important because it keeps us focused on the gospel, teaches us to value His body and keeps us from becoming self-centered.
  • We should read the Sunday Morning Preaching Passage and pray through it. We should saturate our minds and hearts with the word that will be preached so we are prepared to interact with it and receive it. We should also pray that God would open wide the eyes of our heart, that we might see wonderful things in His word (Ps. 119:18). Our prayers should be shaped by God’s word.
  • We should be disciplined and get adequate rest. Sleep is a spiritual discipline that can increase Godliness.
  • We should determine not to be a distraction or be distracted. From my elevated perch, I have the vantage point of watching distractions unfold. Some are understandable and some are preventable. Going to the bathroom and teaching our children and youth to do likewise, usually makes leaving preventable. I can’t argue with the orphan Annie when she said, “Mister, when you got to go, you got to go!” But every Sunday? When the bathroom becomes necessary and someone does leave, you are not bound to observe their every step as though you are seeing something incredible. Walking is a normal human function. So determine to stay focused for your own good, the good of others and God’s glory. You can’t control others, but you can control what you see and for how long.
  • We should bring a Bible and take notes. I have personally found that taking notes helps me to track with the preacher on stay on the task of worshiping through listening.
  • We should sit up and lean forward. I complemented one of our members the other day, saying he was easy to preach to and that he encouraged me by the way he listened. There really is an art to the discipline of listening. He said he intentionally leaned forward to help his listening but also to be an encouragement to those who were speaking. Listening is worship and it is easier to listen when we intentionally posture ourselves to receive.
  • We should determine to respond. The preacher may not always be right, but the Spirit-inspired text always is. If the preacher is following God’s word and attempting to be faithful to the authorial intent, you can be sure God is speaking, and when God speaks, we must respond by asking: “What attitude or action do I need to change to follow Christ and glorify God?”