Category Archives: Monday Morning

Do You Have Ears to Hear and Understand? Afterthoughts on Mark 4:1-20

We plowed through Mark 4:1-20 yesterday and a whole lot more could have been explained and proclaimed. Therefore I wanted to give a brief synopsis of the sermon and provide a few extra comments from John MacArthur and Jonathan Edwards. I hope you will take five minutes and serious consider and digest what is being said.

A Mark 4:1-20 Synopsis

The big idea of the text is that Jesus is using a parable to compare the crowds with fruit-bearing disciples. The crowds are interested in the show – the signs and miracles – but they ultimately reject the teaching of Jesus and bear no fruit. They reject the truth that Jesus has already explained and proclaimed, and because they reject what has already been said to them, they will get no more (Mark 4:9-12, 25). They are hard of heart and are not true disciples.

There are three non-producing soils – the hard soil, the rocky and shallow soil and the weed-infested and crowded soil. They all look different but they all produce the same result: no harvest! The sower would have considered his time and effort a complete failure if the seed only landed in these soils, because they produce nothing of lasting value. There is only one soil that produces a harvest. It is fertile and supernatural. This is the kind of soil that produces a crop that is truly of the Kingdom. John MacArthur says, “There is no such thing as a fruitless Christian.” See Galatians 5:16-26.

MacArthur and Edwards Commentary

The quote/unquote Christian church is full of all kinds of people who believe in Jesus Christ. the devils believe, James 2:19, devil faith. But it’s about holy hatred of sin. It’s about brokenness. It about self-denial. It’s about repentance. Charles Spurgeon said, “There are people who come forward under an emotional appeal and then immediately go backward into their sin. They go into the inquiry room (walk an aisle) and get converted in five minutes and have nothing to do with godliness the rest of their lives.” It’s always the temptation of the church to cheapen evangelism and all it does is create superficiality. Look, false converts are going to happen any way, aiding and abetting them is not acceptable.  Dr. John MacCarthur

“If someone’s confession of the Christ doesn’t come from a deep inner contrition, a broken and contrite heart, a desire to be delivered from sin and come under the holy Lordship of Jesus Christ in a life of self-denial and sacrifice and service and even suffering, the you have no root…you have no root…” John MacArthur

“A holy life of holy love is the chief sign of grace.” Jonathan Edwards

A little tension from a Jonathan Edwards quote: “The true saints may be guilty of some kinds and degrees of backsliding, may be foiled by particular temptations, and fall into sin, yea great sins; but they never fall away so as to grow weary of religion and the service of God, and to habitually dislike and neglect it, either on its own account or on account of the difficulties that attend it.”

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Monday Hindsight on Sunday’s Sermon – Q & A From Speaking of Jesus Part 4

On Monday Ryan and I usually record the “famous” Eagle Heights Q & A Podcast in which we answer questions from the previous Sunday’s sermon. For the next few weeks Pastor Ryan is gone and so I will be answering questions via blog. Also this week, Colby Nicholson, our youth minister, will be helping me speak to the question we received.

speaking of jesus

PART 4 SERMON SUMMARY

First, here is a brief summary of the sermon this week. If we believe the Bible and trust in Jesus and His good news, we should want to speak of Him. We should want to confidently declare who He is to those who have not trusted in Him.

Why don’t we? Why are we so tepid and luke-warm and even apathetic when it comes to speaking of Jesus? How does God empower us to boldly speak of Jesus?

From John’s Gospel and the book of Acts, I tried to explain how God equips and empowers us to bear fruit for God’s glory and the joy of those who are trusting in Jesus.

  • For the Glory of God the Father, Disciples will bear fruit (John 15:5). Fruit bearing is the mark of true disciple of Jesus. How?
  • By abiding (remaining, staying, persisting) in Christ. To abide in Christ is to remain in His word (15:4-7).
  • Abiding in Christ and His word is the way we are filled with the Spirit. The Spirit inspired God’s word and the Spirit will use God’s word as we fill our lives with it (John 15:26; Acts 4:31-33).
  • When we are filled with the Spirit, who seals and indwells all who are saved (Eph. 1:13-14), we will testify about Him and glorify Him (John 15:26; John 16:14; Acts 4:31-33).
  • To testify about Jesus, at least in part, is to bear Kingdom fruit. This glorifies God and is for our joy in Christ (John 15:8, 11).
  • Conclusion: We need the power of the Spirit to overcome our flesh to speak of Jesus with confidence.
  • Application: We should focus on abiding in Christ and remaining in His word by filling our lives with His word, with the intent to gladly obey Jesus. God will use this to empower us to want to speak of Jesus. If we never want to speak of Jesus, then we should examine ourselves to see whether we are spiritually alive (saved), and we should interrogate ourselves to see whether we are really abiding in Christ (Bible intake and Prayer – John 15:7).

PODCAST QUESTION

In the sermon introduction, I briefly reviewed the third sermon in which I said that “ongoing relationships are the primary vehicle for speaking of Jesus.” Both last week and this week I suggested that our programs and events are like training wheels that often hinder us in speaking of Jesus because we never mature enough to be independent of them. At some point, we should mature to the point that we don’t need the training wheels of programs and events to speak of Jesus. This will allow our lives to be the program in which we relationally invest in others to invite them to Christ.

Here is the question we received: “A thought and question about training wheels…If I choose to ride a bike, I don’t need training wheels but my granddaughter does need them. If events and programs are like training wheels, don’t we need them? We aren’t all in the same place in life.”

I truly appreciate the question. But before I address it, below is a video that I first watched several months ago that gave me the idea for the training wheels illustration. It starts about 1:40 and the pastor does a good job of explaining the healthy balance of programs and their purpose. I recommend watching the whole video.

I would agree that there is always going to be some healthy level of programming or training and equipping structure. I would not completely exclude events either.

As a local church we have quite a few programs. For those who may not know, we have Core Groups, AWANA, Women’s and Men’s Ministry, Celebrate Recovery, Elements Training Courses, various children, youth and collegiate ministries, church membership, biblical church leadership, missions going, giving and sending, partnership ministries (Stillwater Life Services, Stillwater C.A.R.E.S.), Converge – our summer discipleship training, etc.

We also have done and continue to do quite a few events. For example, we have done various movies, Upward Basketball, at least one concert, various attempts to be in the community (block parties, free window washing at gas stations, free car maintenance, volunteering to winterize low-income houses, teacher meals at the schools) children and youth camps, multi-church sports camps, Celebration Stillwater, free gift wrapping at Christmas, Vacation Bible School, fair-trade fair, some have done neighborhood Christmas parties, Relationship Weekend, Revolution Weekend, etc. Not to mention we do a Sunday Morning worship gathering every Sunday in which the gospel is always present in print, singing and teaching. I reference these to point out that it is not as if we have stripped our church of either programs or events. (In writing this, I feel like Bubba in Forrest Gump, naming all the various ways shrimp can be enjoyed.)

With respect to these programs and events we should be willing to ask this: “How do we do them in such a way that we are helping people mature so that they are not perpetually dependent on them to lovingly serve each other and speak of Jesus?” There are some means that the Christian will never shed, at least if they are a Christian and desire to be a healthy Christian – God’s Spirit working through God’s word to build up God’s people for God’s mission – but our well-intended ministry structures should facilitate the kind of growth that would enable following Christ if our organized ministry was limited for any number of reasons – like persecution.

I agree with the texter, we need some sort of training organization and structure (program), but I wonder if we have often unwittingly made the programs and events the end when they should be a means? Activity in our systems does not necessarily mean we are successfully making disciples, which is the very thing Jesus commanded us to do (Matt. 28:19).

Yes, let us continue to provide training wheels for those who need them, but let’s also help people grow out of them so they can help others do the same wherever God is sending them. I don’t think the answer is programs or not programs, I increasingly believe, however, that we need to carefully evaluate whether our efforts are producing as many maturing disciples as possible. That also means choosing carefully thinking about the why and the how of the what (what is done). And as can be seen above, we aren’t in danger of doing nothing.

As Colby and I were talking about this, he had some helpful ideas that I want to share. He said, “People who are young in their faith do need some sort or training wheels but having programs does not relieve them of the responsibility to be active in evangelism without programs and events. What I think would be better training wheels would be partnering with a more mature believer to go out and do evangelism as part of a community. That way others can see it  modeled and participate through prayer and encouragement. The great thing about this type of “training wheels” is that once you have had this done for you, you will be equipped to do it for someone else.”

 

Monday Hindsight on Sunday’s Sermon – Q & A From Speaking of Jesus Part 2

speaking of jesus

On Monday Ryan and I usually record the famous Eagle Heights Q & A Podcast in which we answer questions from the previous Sunday’s sermon. For the next three weeks Pastor Ryan is gone and so I will be answering questions via blog.

Before I share and address the questions that were submitted by text, I want to do a quick recap of what the sermon was about this week.

In Speaking of Jesus Part 2, my aim was at least threefold. First, I wanted those listening to be aware of what the gospel is not. The true and saving gospel is narrow (Matt. 7:13-14, 21-23) and exclusive (John 14:6) and, therefore, there are many perversions of the gospel, “which is no gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-7). On the flip-side of the coin, one of my objectives was to clearly articulate what the gospel is, using the meta-narrative format of GOD, MAN, JESUS, RESPONSE, RESULT. Finally, I hoped to persuade people to truly think about whether they really knew and believed the gospel. For instance, if a person can’t succinctly explain that which has saved them, are they really even saved? We must know and love the gospel!

In response to the sermon, we received two questions that I am glad to answer.

God must have anticipated what our nature would be. Many people are shy, are reluctant to confront others, or for similar reasons find it uncomfortable to share their convictions with others. Why do you think God didn’t make our very nature in a manner that would make it easier to share the gospel? 

There is no doubt that some of us are wired differently than others when it comes to being social.  Additionally, I would argue that some have a gift of evangelism, meaning, the Spirit takes their personalities and social inclinations and empowers them for Kingdom work. The Bible teaches us that everyone is different and this is a good thing. It is in fact, a grace thing.  Our diversity as a a part of the body of Christ reminds us that we need each other because God has made us that way. However, I would warn against inadvertently and unwittingly blaming God for choosing to disobey. Our God-given strength in one area is not a reason to excuse ourselves from following Jesus in another area.

Inspired by the Spirit of God, Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:9 that we are saved for the purpose of “proclaiming the excellencies of Him who has called out darkness into His marvelous light.” There is no qualification for this purpose defining verse. If you are a part of the people of God, then you were saved to proclaim, and proclaiming requires the use of words. For without words, no one can be saved (Romans 10:14-17).

Let me pose a couple of questions that will also help us to think through what it might mean if we absolve ourselves from the responsibility to speak of the words of Jesus because we are introverted. Can God be glorified in weakness? Is God more glorified in your strength or weakness? I hope He is glorified in both, but if we struggle in an area, would it not be a greater opportunity for God to be made much of when people marvel that God used a person in an unexpected way? Perhaps we should see our lack as the opportunity for God to do more. I doubt the person asking the question meant it this way, but if not careful, we might find ourselves concluding that God is small and so is His ability to use us for His great glory.

If we want to be an evangelistic church, then why do we not have any form of visitation or is it only left to the elders and deacons? 

In the sermon I said that I desire for us to have a culture in which we speak of Jesus regularly without the need of an event our program. I want the gospel to be so real to us that it overflows out of our lives to others.

To speak to the question, let me first say that we do in fact do follow-up/outreach/visitation. On the organizational side of things, we have a staff person contact every person by phone who visits and fills out a guest-response card. I also hear frequently that members, on their own initiative, invite guests to lunch and their Core Groups. Follow-up is happening.

Visitation is not the same thing as evangelism. Yes, the gospel can be shared when we do visitation, but often times we are sharing the gospel with the already convinced, or at least we are sharing with those who believe they are Christians. And by the way, I am not categorically denying the usefulness of an organized visitation program. What I am questioning is whether it is the best use of time and resources. The truth is that most unconvinced and unbelieving people will never come to a church building or church gathering. By the way, they will likely come if they are invited by someone they trust – a friend, neighbor, co-worker. Who have you invited?

As I have already said, we want people to see themselves as the visitation program where God has placed them. If every Christian would see themselves as the traveling program, we would be far more effective.

The other reality is this. When we did do visitation it was the same small group of people who came and so only a slice of the church was attempting to speak of Jesus, and  the visits mostly proved unfruitful – meaning we often did not catch people at home. We want every member of our church to own the privilege of being gospel preachers (speaking of Jesus).

Think of it this way: When we gather to worship and build each other up, we want people to hear, believe and obey all that Jesus commanded so that we all go out on visitation, all week long. This is our aim.

I hope I correctly understood the questions and answered them in a straight-forward and helpful way.

 

Monday Hindsight on Sunday’s Sermon – I Hope No One Concluded…

We started a new sermon series yesterday and through the first sermon I wanted to communicate that one of the reasons we don’t speak of Jesus and share the gospel with more frequency is because we have a low view of God. We are not amazed by the presence of God.

So from Exodus 3:1-10, the 46th Psalm and Isaiah 6:1-9, I explained and concluded that “in every case, an unsettling encounter with God of awe and wonder preceded mission to others.” And after delivering the message two times, I felt pretty good about it.

Then came Monday morning,  and I thought, “Oh no! I hope no one thought this…”

You can hear the sermon by clicking HERE and the sermon series is called Speaking of Jesus.

Here it is. Here is one implication that I would not want someone to draw based on what I meant.

I would not want someone to conclude they need an awe moment, or a regular awe moment to obey! Sometimes people say really strange and unbiblical things like, “I need to pray about whether or not I need to be a part of missions, or whether I need to speak about Jesus to others.” In other words, they spiritualize to excuse their decision not to trust and obey. A person might need to pray for help to do those things in the strength that God supplies, but they surely don’t need to pray about whether they should do those things.

The Bible is clear that some things are the will of God for everybody, and proclaiming the message of Jesus is one of them.

I would be horrified if someone came away from yesterday thinking, “I should wait to share the gospel until I have some sort of close encounter with God. That’s not what I meant or mean.

What I meant to say or want to say is this: Our lack of speaking of Jesus is very likely proportionate to the wonder we have, or don’t have, in response to God. I believe strongly that one of the reasons we don’t speak confidently about Jesus is because we see God as little and not awe-inspiring. People who have true wonder of God and awe for God, tend to be worshiping and obedient people. They tend to be people who delight to praise the God who captivates them.

Another way to say it is that our evangelism problem is a theology problem. Like looking through a microscope, we look at God through the lens of the world and believe God to be little. Instead, like looking through a telescope, we should have have been looking at the world through the lens of God’s word that we might see Him as He really is: BIG!

Not only do we see this in in the three aforementioned passages, but we see it in Acts 2:41-43, as well as, in Paul’s conversion, his thereafter life and his epistles. The example and call to reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28) of God is all over the Spirit-inspired word and I believe it is closely tied to the desire to speak of Jesus regularly.

Amazingly, many of us who claim to be saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, have a low view of God and we are not amazed by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Ergo, we don’t speak much of Him. Can that be anything but wrong?

A.W. Tozer wrote, “Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.” He is certainly right!

Monday Pastor – Encouragement in the Midst of Grumbling

This past Sunday we tried to understand and apply Acts 6:1-7. There was a problem; a legitimate concern voiced in an illegitimate way and the potential for the apostles to be distracted from their calling (vv. 1-2). There was the solution from the leaders and congregation; Men of Godly reputation and character who were full of the Spirit and able to exercise wisdom in solving problems.  There was a progress report that demonstrated the problem was addressed; The word of God kept spreading, disciples were increasing and people were becoming obedient to the gospel.

Every Leader Faces Opposition.

Sometimes it is the leaders fault that he or she faces opposition. Sometimes a leader can make a bad decision and sometimes they simply fail to recognize and address every potential concern and problem. Both remind us that we are fallible human beings.

But even great leaders have their critics; those who complain about or against them. In Acts 4:32-37 there is a summary report of the extraordinary work of the Spirit in the life of the Jerusalem Church, which is expressed in sacrificial generosity that is meeting the needs of those who truly have needs. It says in verse 35 that people are selling their possessions and laying the money at the feet of the apostles  and the money was then distributed to those who might have need. But as the church is growing, so is the burden of this important ministry that is validated in the Old Testament. By this time the church is well over 5,000 and the disciples keep increasing (6:1).  It says in verse one  that the Hellenistic Jews are complaining against the Jews who spoke Aramaic because the widows of the Hellenist were not having their needs met.

It appears that the issue is only between these two groups; one complaining against the other. But ultimately the buck stops with the apostles since as the leaders they are the ones who are overseeing the distribution of money to those who have need. These grumblings are ultimately against the apostles and their leadership.

Were the apostles bad leaders? Were they incompetent? At the most we might say that the magnitude or success of the situation produced by the Holy Spirit, overwhelmed their ability to adequately carry out the administration for this rapidly growing church in Jerusalem.

How does this help us as leaders today?

First, no leader is perfect. As always we are driven to rely on and trust in Jesus, the perfect leader. Second, no leader can be perfect. Everybody drops the ball sometimes, if not frequently. Third, even if a leader is incredibly adept at the art of leading, no leader escapes grumbling, mumbling and criticism being directed at them. If anyone deserved some slack it was the leaders of the church of Jerusalem who have seen their ministry explode from 120 to over 5,000 in about six seconds (several months). The apostles did not escape criticism and neither does Matt Chandler, John MacArthur, John Piper, Rick Warren, John Maxwell, John Wooden, or Barack Obama. No one does. Not even Jesus escaped criticism and opposition.

Criticism or having grumbling directed our way might mean we are leading poorly, but it might also mean leadership is hard work and no one is ever going to please everyone all the time.

It’s what we do when people grumble at us that shows what kind of leader we really are. Do we handle the situation with  patience, seeking wisdom to solve the problem in a way that brings glory to God, or do we only validate those who criticize, showing ourselves to be sketchy leaders? If we don’t handle grumbling with solid problem-solving as the apostles did, we will only facilitate more problems that lead to greater distractions that keep us from doing what we are called to do.

So we should pray earnestly for wisdom as leaders, just as Solomon did (1 Kings 3:6-9) at the beginning of his kingship. But we should also be careful not to think that we are better than Jesus or the apostles in a fallen world. Criticism cannot be the gauge of our effectiveness in leadership because everyone will have their fair share in this life – at least if they try to lead.

Monday Morning Pastor; Misery and Building

Yesterday we looked at Acts 5:17-33 and asked, “What characterizes a gospel-driven person?” I gave two:

  1. The gospel-driven person knows and explains the whole message of Jesus’ life (v. 20). If there is a whole, full, and complete message of the gospel and what it means for those who believe, this must also mean that we can reduce the message of Jesus, resulting in a gospel that is no gospel at all (Galatians 1:8-9; 2 Cor. 11:3-4).
  2. The gospel-driven person obeys God by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (v. 32). “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God (Romans 8:14). Those who obey God as witnesses for Jesus with all of their lives, have the promised Spirit. Those who have the promised Spirit obey God by living for Jesus. The apostles were honest with the religious leaders when they basically said, “You are not witnesses of Jesus because you do not obey God because you do not have the Spirit of God.” We should never tell anyone they are a Christian if there is deliberate disobedience to the whole message of Jesus.The true evidence of being secure in Christ is ongoing repentance for sin and obedience to God by the power of the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:11). This idea is replete in the New Testament. See: Romans 8:9-17; Galatians 5:16-22; 1 John 3:23-24, 4:13. Jesus saves us with His finished work on the cross, but we should also expect that the Holy Spirit has changed us and will change for the rest of our lives.

Are You Miserable?

Ephesians 1:13 and Romans 8:9-17 are crystal clear, if you are truly saved then the Holy Spirit lives within you. If the Holy Spirit does not live within you then you are not saved. The Spirit is the sign of the New Testament Covenant. Question: How do you know the Spirit lives within you? The Spirit gives evidence by bearing fruit (Galatians 5:22). How do we know that a tree is a fruit tree – a person is a Christian? They both produce fruit. How do we know a person is a Christian? The Spirit produces fruit in them. Paul says that the authenticating mark of the Christian is that the Spirit bears testimony with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). In other words, our spirit or soul displays or gives a testimony that the Spirit lives indwells us. Jesus also spoke about the role of the Spirit for those who follow Christ in John 16:5-15.

This is daunting and it is here that we might find hope in misery. After all, who obeys God all the time? Only Jesus did this. That’s why we need Him and should cherish Him and put our faith only in His life, death and resurrection. But there are some who don’t repent daily of sin and they have tried to make peace with sin by accommodating it in their life. The problem is this however, if you are a Christian and the Spirit dwells within you, the Spirit does not accommodate sin. If you are a miserable Christian, it’s because you are forcing the indwelling Holy Spirit to coexist with your unchecked sin. So if you are miserable this is a good sign, because the Spirit won’t let you be comfortable with the same deeds of flesh that sent the Son of God to the cross so that you could be forgiven of sin and live to righteousness. The Spirit and flesh (sin nature) are at war or opposition with each other (Galatians 5:17) Because the Holy Spirit convicts and makes miserable the Christian who carries out the deeds of the flesh, it is the so-called Christian who sins and is happy about it that is in the greatest danger of hell (Galatians 5:21).

A Potential Objection

Someone might say to this, “We all have hurts, habits and hang-ups.” No one is perfect. We all need grace. Yes, but Romans 6 is pointed in its rebuke of this excuse to sin. We don’t abuse grace by using it as an excuse to continue on in sin. Grace is for overcoming sin, not for making sin an acceptable norm. It is true that we all have weaknesses, but there are those who by the power of grace through the work of the Holy Spirit are overcoming the deeds of the flesh. Ask yourself this, “Would Jesus, Peter or Paul ever say, “You are imperfect, go ahead and keep on sinning.”

On A Building Note

Yesterday we met our initial goal of raising $5,000 to begin the planning process to improve and expand our facilities. I thank God for the responsiveness of our church family.

I see two benefits to pressing forward with plans to build in the days to come. First, there is a practical benefit. If we are to grow and reach more people then we will simply have to have more room to do so. Most people would agree that while we are thankful for what we do have, we were out of room when we built and moved into our current facility.

Second, I see a real opportunity for our church family to trust God in this venture. If there is one thing that people struggle to trust God with, it is their money. This building campaign will force most, if not all of us, to learn to follow God and trust God with our money as disciples. I fear we make money our god so often because it creates comfort and  ease and it allows us to trust ourselves. God instead wants us to trust Him with our money. Big difference. I see this as a discipleship issue just as much as I see it as a practical issue. Improving and adding on to our facility is going to require us to sacrificially trust God.

But it will also require us to trust God by trusting the leadership He has raised up among our local body. I know anytime leaders start asking for money, we get a little nervous. We have all seen abuse from leaders when it comes to money. But unless the leaders have given a reason not to trust their leading, we must submit to God by being willing to follow the leadership that He has provided. This also means that the church must also be willing to trust God by trusting themselves. After all, it was the congregation who voted to affirm the leaders that are leading and serving. Without good reason, to say no to the leadership would mean the same person who opposes the leadership is opposing themselves since they affirmed the leadership in the first place.

Finally, moving forward will give our church family and opportunity to trust God by trusting each other. The Elders and Facilities Team brought this recommendation to the congregation and the congregation unanimously approved the recommendation. To oppose the plan would then be a non-verbal statement of distrust toward our brothers and sisters in Christ who attended the meeting and affirmed the leadership of God through the Elders and Facilities Team.

Everyone of these requires us to trust God instead of ourselves, and you really can’t trust God without trusting each other. May God use this to grow disciples in His church. That is my greatest desire.

John Newton, Abortion and The Samaritan Neighbor

I normally don’t script my notes quite like this but with such an emotional and sensitive topic I want to be especially careful with my words and argumentation. These are the notes that I preached from yesterday and thought they might be helpful for those who were curious about sources I used, how I prepare, or something I said.

John Newton (1725-1807) – A sampling of His life. Slave trader, Slave Boat Captain, Blasphemer. From Jonathan Aitken’s book: “From Disgrace to Amazing Grace

P. 53 “I was exceedingly vile. I not only sinned with a high hand myself but made it my study to tempt and seduce others upon every occasion.”

P. 70 “My life, when awake, was a course of most horrid impiety and profaneness. I know not that I have ever met so daring a blasphemer. Not content with horrid oaths and imprecations (curse) I daily invented new ones so that I was often seriously reproved by the captain of my ship.”

P. 228 “My wonderful unsought deliverance from the hopeless wickedness and misery into which I had plunged myself, taken in connection with what he has done for me since seem to make me say with peculiar emphasis, ‘Oh to grace how great a debtor!’”

In 1788, 34 years after he had retired from the slave trade, Newton broke a long silence on the subject with the publication of a forceful pamphlet “Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade”, in which he described the horrific conditions (Pathos Interest Material: The story of a crewman, a mother and her baby in a longboat) of the slave ships during the Middle Passage, and apologized for. He says it was “a confession, which… comes too late….It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.”

In a 2006 the movie Amazing Grace was released that summarized the story of William Wilberforce, who spent his entire political career in the British House of Commons working to abolish the slave trade in England. In the film there is a powerful scene in which Newton is speaking to Wilberforce about “His confession” of all that he did and witnessed. In the movie Newton says, “This is my confession, Names, ship records, ports, people, everything I remember is here. I wish I could remember all their names, my 20,000  ghosts. They all had names. Beautiful African names. We called them with just grunts, noises. We were apes, they were humans. I’m weeping. I couldn’t weep until I wrote this. I once was blind but now I see.”

This is snapshot of Newton’s Life is the context for the hymn Amazing Grace, which he authored. “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see.”

Today is Sanctity of Life Sunday, (January 22, 1973 Roe V. Wade 38 yrs. Later) the day we take the time stop and affirm created, human life – whether born or unborn. Both mothers and unborn babies. All human beings from all countries.

I begin today with Newton because I know that in this room there are people who have directly or indirectly experienced the pain of abortion. The pain of a decision they wished they had back. Newton shares something with those who have experienced the trauma of abortion, he shares the memory of his sin but he models for us that God’s grace is magnificently sufficient. “He who knew no sin, became sin for us, so that in Christ, we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:21 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus………. Rom. 8:1

God’s grace is amazing for those who are in Christ. John Newton loved God’s grace passionately because he realized how horrible his sin was. Some of us will not and cannot know the riches of God’s grace because we will not own up to and deal with the wickedness of our sin. Let us all, let us liars, adulterers, thieves, abusers, hypocrites, murderers, gossips, slanders, glory-robbers, blasphemers, doubters, idolaters, proud-hearted people, Let us all run to the mercy seat of Christ and embrace the God of grace through Christ. God’s grace is enough for those who acknowledge their sin, turn from sin to Christ and rest in His grace that is extended to us in his finished work on the cross.

As we talk about abortion, if you have messed up, God has cleaned your mess up in Christ.

Sarah Marie Switzer at 24 weeks.

Abortion Facts

Since 1973, when abortion was legalized, there have been over 47 million abortions in the United States.

Last year there were roughly 1.2 million abortions in the U.S. alone and roughly 42 million in the world last year.

22%, 2 out of 10 pregnancies in the U.S. end in abortion. In NYC, 40% of all pregnancies end in abortion.

Abortions happen for many reasons:

  • Some men and women don’t know how they will take care of a baby. Can’t take care of themselves. They are in college or even high school.
  • Some women and men don’t want the inconvenience.
  • Some men and women don’t want a specific gender.

ILL: Australian Couple (Jan. 11th) aborted two twin boys because they already had 3 boys and wanted a girl.

  • Some women and men don’t believe they can financially afford a baby, a child.

I believe this is the biggest cause of abortions. Money. The Movie “Bella” by Metanoia Films

Abortion in recent years has declined, but the numbers are starting to creep back up again because of the economic down turn.

Why is abortion wrong? 1) Go to the podcast and listen to last year’s sermon. 2) Buy Randy Alcorn’s book “Why Pro-Life”

The question I want to answer today is, “What should we do and what are we going to do besides agree that it is wrong?” If we say it is wrong, what are we going to do about it? This is such massive problem, what can I do, what can you do?

From CT on Friday, January 21 “One of the most frequently repeated canards (unfounded accusations) of the abortion debate is that pro-lifers really don’t care about life. As much as they talk about protecting the unborn, we are told, pro-lifers do nothing to support mothers and infants who are already in the world. Liberal writers such as Matthew Yglesias are given to observing that pro-lifers believe that “life begins at conception and ends at birth.” At Commonweal Magazine, David Gibson, a journalist who frequently covers the abortion debate, asks how much pro-lifers do for mothers: “I just want to know what realistic steps they are proposing or backing. I’m not sure I’d expect to hear anything from pro-life groups now since there’s really been nothing for years.”

May that never be said of this church family. What would Jesus have us do?

Turn to Luke 10:25-37

VV. 25-26

If you put Jesus to the test, Jesus is up for the challenge.

Mark this, if you put Jesus to the test, He is going to test you. He is going to push you.

Jesus is not a pushover.  Jesus to the law expert, what does the law say?

V. 27

The Lawyer, the law expert gives him the law (Deut. 6:5 – shema and Leviticus 19:18)

V. 28

  • “Do this” Imperative                                                       you shall live (promise).
  • V. 25 “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”                      V. 28 “Do this”

There’s a word play here and an emphasis on the application of knowledge and belief.

V. 29

Just stop while you are ahead.

Let me ask you, Is this hard? This Is not that complicated, yet this guy, just like many of us look for loopholes, we do biblical gymnastics to avoid doing what we know we ought to do.

We try to soften the command. Make it easier. Look for ways not to do it.

We try to shrink wrap God and compress him and make Him manageable. We try to domesticate Him and His ways. .

What is God saying to you right now, and you are looking for ways to get out of it, and you use the Bible to do it?

Catch this, this scholar is all for loving God, but he wants to know who He has to love. Who is his neighbor?

Who is your neighbor? Who should you be loving? What is love? It’s doing what is best for someone else.

The guy won’t stop and so Jesus tells an explanatory parable or story.

VV. 30-35

This story is surprising in at least three ways.

1)      Those we expect to be a neighbor are not neighbors.

2)      The one we least expect to be a neighbor is.

ILL: The homeless man who found a student’s backpack with several Thousands of dollars in cash. He returned it.

3)      The lengths the Samaritan went to in compassionately serving the helpless man.

Actions he took  Summarized in this way:

  1. Met an obvious, right in front of him need.
  2. Compassionately loving.
  3. Inconvenient “Ministry is hardly every convenient.”
  4. Costly/Sacrificial/Above and Beyond the call of duty.
  5. Personal (v. 35b “I” twice = emphatic) Ownership. ILL: University Student at Wal-Mart who was helping a homeless family and buying a Bible.
  • V. 36 – The original question:

Who is my neighbor? V. 29

Who proved to be a neighbor?  V. 36 question

Application: Everyone is your neighbor because you are a neighbor. Are you a neighbor?

This is our privileged job to help people. To care for people. “To rescue the perishing, care for the dying, to tell them Jesus is merciful, Jesus can save.”

Implication: If you are not a neighbor, you really don’t love God and you very well may not be a Christian. It is both.

  • V. 37 Go and do the same. Here is the word “do” again.

V. 25 – “What should I do?”

V. 28 – “Do this.”

V. 29 – “Who should I do this to? Who is my neighbor?”

V. 37 – “Go and do the same. Be a neighbor by meeting needs.”

If we are going to help people, the mother’s of the unborn and the unborn, then we must be a neighbor for God’s glory. It won’t be easy. It will be messy. It will cost you something. But you should want to serve and love others.

What kind of disciple-neighbor are you?

There is so much need in the world. “How do you help millions of needy people? One at a time, right where you are.” Randy Alcorn

Randy Alcorn, in his book, “Why Pro-Life? Caring for the Unborn and their mothers.” Gives 13 suggestions to help mothers and their unborn.  I want to give 5.

1.)    Be a neighbor for yourself. Have compassion on yourself. Get help. Attend CR.

2.) Become thoroughly informed and educate yourself. Buy Alcorn’s book. Go to www.abort73.com

3.)    Thoroughly inform others. Educate. Watch for articles on twitter and yahoo news and wisely post them on facebook. Write a blog to process the material. Writing helps us to systematically think and place our thoughts.

4.)    Support Stillwater Life Service. Give financially today or monthly. Ask, what can I do? Watch this video of how two in our own church family are being a neighbor.

5.)    Share the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should not expect unchristian people to live like Christ. We should however expect believers/disciples to live like Christ. We need a 2 Cor. 5:14-15, 17 Revolution. We need an awakening. We need transformation that only the Spirit can induce.

Spiritually dead people (Ephesians 2:1-3) don’t make good neighbors.

“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him whom died and was raised again our behalf.”

John Newton, the blasphemer, the slave trader, the fornicator, the witchcraft participant, the drunkerd.

p. 350 Newton’s Epitaph “John Newton Once an infidel and libertine (unrestrained by morality). A servant of slaves in Africa. Was By the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Preserved, Restored, Pardoned and appointed to preach the faith, He had long labored to destroy.  “I am a great sinner and Christ is a great savior.”

“Ask yourself, five minutes after I die, what will I wish I would have given on behalf of the helpless while I still had the chance?” Randy Alcorn

Monday Pastor – What I Did Not Say

The day after Sunday can be just as daunting as Sunday itself. On Monday I, along with Ryan Smith, have the privilege of fielding questions about the sermon in our Q&A Podcast. I also listen to myself babble on and destroy English words and the English language. Thank God for the Holy Spirit who guides us in all truth, because a part from Him I would be in real trouble.

For example, yesterday I fumbled a couple of words and sentences and all I can do now is laugh at myself. Here’s the story. In Acts 2:9-11, Luke is listing the nations that were represented by Jews and proselytes (Gentile converts to Judaism) at the event of Pentecost. Unfortunately I kept calling the proselytes, “proselitites”. And I didn’t do it just one or twice, but thrice. Three times I mispronounced proselytes. But it gets better. There are two reasons that this is embarrassing. First, I distinctly told myself during my multiple readings of this text, “Don’t say proselitite.” What do I do? I say proselitite.  The second reason this is  embarrassing is because I was talking about the reputation of Galileans in the ancient Palestine as being people who were  unrefined in their use of language. I likened the Galileans to someone from Arkansas or someone who is Cajun and is known for their distinct accent and broken English. Well not only do I abuse the word proselyte, but right in the middle of talking about the Galileans and their poor language skills I utter this sentence about the Galileans, “They don’t talk real good English.” Is this divine retribution, or do I have a lot of work to do? Probably both.

Words I Left Out

Something that commonly happens while preaching is that I am constantly editing material by deletion as I go. Here are some of the things I cut yesterday for the sake of time.

John Stott on the uniqueness of Pentecost as an event in salvation history. Stott writes:

Yes, it is right to affirm that the word of God is always relevant. But this does not mean that we may simply ‘read off’ the text as if it was originally addressed to us in our context. We have to recognize the historical particularities of Scripture, especially of the ‘salvation history’ which it records. In one sense for example, the Day of Pentecost was unique and is unrepeatable, because of the outpouring of the Spirit on that day was the final act of Jesus following those equally unique and unrepeatable events, his death, resurrection and ascension. Similarly unique in some respects was the ministry of the apostles, whom Jesus appointed to be the pioneer teachers and the foundation of the church. We have no liberty to copy everything they did. It is in this connection that I need to say something about the difference between didactic and narrative parts of scripture, and about the importance of allowing the didactic to control our interpretation of the narrative.

I additionally question whether the specific ‘one step form’ of speaking in tongues is repeatable. I see no clear evidence from the rest of the Bible that this is normative by description or prescription in the New Testament Church. It may be that this was such a unique situation for the early church that God saw it fit to begin the mission of witness with a one time event of Spirit-enabled power for the speaking in intelligible nation languages for the sake of witness to Jews and Proselytes from all over the known world. Of course I consent that there is the tongues of 1 Corinthians, especially 1 Corinthians 14, but that is a gift of the Spirit by which a believer talks in tongues and a believer is gifted to interpret the utterance in a local gathering or assembly. The latter seems to me to be the normative use of tongues in the NT. In other words, the sudden ability to speak real nation languages was a Spirit-empowered miracle for a very unique time in the life of the fledgling New Testament Church.

CS Lewis and his Pentecost-like experience before conversion. Lewis recounts his having a long walk and talk with JRR Tolkien about the “true myth” prior to his conversion. Tolkien called the story of Jesus the myth that really happened. Lewis recounts:

“As we continued walking, we were interrupted by a rush of wind, which came so suddenly on the still warm evening, and sent so many leaves pattering down that we thought it was raining. We all held our breath. Appreciating the ecstasy of the moment.”

Where is the power? My main argument or point yesterday was that though Pentecost is a unique event in salvation history, the application for us today is that when God saves us and empowers us with the promise of the Holy Spirit, we change and so does our life. I went on to say that the Holy Spirit and a “status quo” life are not compatible. Another way I said what I was trying to communicate is, “Jesus and I don’t care don’t get along.” So if the Spirit of God lives within us, meaning we are truly saved in Christ, why don’t we see the power of God changing us and others? I touched on a few yesterday, but here are the complete five that were cut:

  1. We don’t recognize the work of the Spirit in our lives and the lives of others. We don’t recognize and give thanks for the Spirit changing and sustaining marriages. We don’t acknowledge God using us as witnesses or healing others when we pray. I recommend we start to look for evidence of the Spirit changing people and begin to write it down. It will make us more aware and thankful.
  2. We are not ready for what the Holy Spirit wants to do. We have not prepared ourselves and partnered with the Holy Spirit by having a consistent individual and corporate prayer life. We have not given careful attention to the Scripture the Spirit inspired. We have not made room for the Spirit to operate. See Acts 1:12-26.
  3. We have our own mission. Clearly the empowerment of the Spirit in the lives of the believers should result in gladly being all in for the mission of God. What is the main mission of God? It is witness for king Jesus to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8). I’m afraid we often get our own ideas about why God saved us and then we ask God to bless our mess. God changes us for His purpose, He does not conform to ours.
  4. Some are not saved. Simply put, many in our churches are lifeless because they have not been made alive by the Spirit. Romans 8 and Ephesians 1:13 are crystal clear; no Spirit equals no salvation. And if there is no salvation then will be no evidence of the Spirit. If there is no evidence of the Spirit then there almost certainly is no certainty of salvation.
  5. We’ve settled for status quo and spiritual misery. It’s hard for me to imagine this scenario but it may well be that there are people who are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, and they just don’t care. If true, my guess is they are miserable and walling off the conviction of the Spirit by seeking satisfaction in things that won’t last.

The Holy Spirit, when He acts, demands a response. Acts 2:12-13 is very clear about this. When God acts it leaves people to wonder and inquire or it leads them to react with cavalier dismissal. Like the people that day at Pentecost we can ask sincerely, “What does this mean?” Or we can explain it away and blame sweet wine that is out of season. Either way, what Jesus has done in sending His Spirit to empower us, demands a response. There is no middle ground.

Monday Morning Pastor – Getting Close Enough to Forgive

We are three weeks into a sermon series called “Why the Church Matters” and I personally have learned a lot about the local church and what it is and what it does. God is editing my life, just as I hope He is editing the life of others as we think about bride of Christ. This last Sunday (August 1) we had a guest speaker, Curtis Cook from Hope Fellowship in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Curtis did a great job of working through Philippians 1:1-11 and giving us four ways to identify a healthy church from Paul’s letter to the local gathering (church) at Philippi.

Philippians 1:1-11 – A healthy gospel church

Here is my best effort to record the four identifiers of a healthy church that Curtis gave us from Sunday:

  1. A healthy church has a new identity as a result of the gospel. We are saints, holy ones, in Christ Jesus.
  2. A healthy church is a new community in the gospel. The gospel changes and continues to change us both individually and corporately. We are connected to each other in Christ and we should live connected.
  3. A healthy church focuses on the gospel and partners for its advancement.
  4. A healthy church has priorities that flow from the gospel.

Notice that all four of these propositions have the word gospel in them. I was wondering as I listened to Curtis speak, “How many times has he said the word gospel?” It was a lot and he was right to use the word over and over because we will in fact never move beyond the good news that Jesus is the solution for the bad news of our sin. The gospel will be the anthem of the people of God for the rest of eternity as we sing the praises of Jesus for the glory of God the Father.

How Involved Do I Need to be to Contribute to a Healthy Church?

Curtis said something that I think is very helpful in trying to understand what it looks like to be biblically connected to a local church. Curtis rightly acknowledged that we will in fact get hurt because the church is a gathering of people who are prone to error. The church is messy because people are individually messy. The church can be insensitive because people are insensitive. But relational messiness is true of all people and all groups. However, what ought to be unique about gatherings of believers is the effort to avoid relational trauma, and the willingness to deal with it in a Christ-like way.

It is hard for me to think of a way that we could be more like Christ than when we seek the forgiveness of those who have intentionally or inadvertently hurt us. Jesus said from the cross to the Father, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are dong.” (Luke 23:34) Paul said in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

How involved, how connected, do we need to be to a local gathering of believers to be biblically involved? We need to be close enough to others to be hurt and to forgive. We need to be close enough to hurt and be forgiven. How can you be kind, tender-hearted, and like Christ in forgiving others unless you are involved in the lives of others in a personal way? You can’t. And if you won’t then you might also be refusing to be involved in a local church to display the gospel with your forgiveness.

I’m Not Mark Driscoll

And I am glad I am not. Watch this video from YouTube and read the comments below it to see why. (BTW – This is quite entertaining if you have 8 minutes and BTW, he is right on with the content.)

For me and other pastors and aspiring pastors of all ages, but especially younger guys, it is easy to watch and listen to guys like Driscoll, Matt Chandler, David Platt and others, and think that if we only spoke like them or led like them then we could do great things for God too and sell lots of books and make our way up the iTunes list. But I am not any of these guys and God has given me a personality, gifts and skills to be sanctified in the Holy Spirit as the person He created me to be. Additionally, I don’t live in Seattle or Flower Mound, Texas and so the context in which I pastor and preach is a lot different.

I suppose what I am driving at and what I have to constantly be careful about is that I must be thankful for the pastor God has made me and is making me to be. I must be faithful to God with what He has given and let Him cause the growth or whatever may come. I think it is good to observe others and learn from them, but Jesus is the one we must seek to emulate as the Spirit guides and empowers us to live the life of Christ.

The other side of the coin of watching someone like Driscoll jump around and contort his face is that what we are watching on YouTube is 50 minutes a week. If that is all being a pastor is, then who wouldn’t want to be a pastor? The reality is however, speaking is only part of what it means to be a pastor/preacher, and most pastor/preachers spend a lot of their time doing things besides giving talks to thousands of adoring or angry people. The grass may always look greener from a distance, but there are usually lots of thorns and thistles and weeds along with green grass.

I personally enjoy watching Mark Driscoll, but I am careful to not want to be him or idolize him, and I think I would have to be on a lot of NyQuil or be insanely tired to do a tolerance rant. But who knows what might happen after listening to Christian radio.

A Word About “Lots of Other People” and Matthew 7:12

I wonder how it would change the way we treat other people if we really prayed through and then lived out Matthew 7:12 in all our relational endeavors? How much more like Christ would we be if we stopped to consider whether our words or actions treated others according to the Bible and according to the way we would want to be treated, which is essentially a summation of the Bible (Matthew 22:36-40).

I have recently developed a bit of a ministry rash to a statement that comes up in ministry conversations, and it doesn’t just happen in the context of being the pastor of a local church. I often hear people in ministry and other contexts saying that they feel or think a certain thing about a certain something, and “lots of other people have been saying or feeling the same thing too.”

To this I have to ask, who are all these other people that go unnamed and did they ask to be brought in as anonymous witnesses to strengthen the vocal person’s concerns? Also, how many is “a lot of people”? After all, if the person who has heard from a lot of people only knows five people, then two people might be “a lot of people.” In this case, “A lot of people” could be a very misleading statement – I’m inclined to think it often is.

I know I have invoked the “a lot of people” argument myself. I am culpable. I want to be clear that I am speaking to myself and all teachable people everywhere when it come to thinking about “a lot of people” and what the Spirit would have us do. Here are a few suggestions to consider before using “a lot of people” as anonymous witnesses:

  • Suggestion 1 – If you are going to invoke  “a lot of people” as a part of your reason for saying something, be prepared to tell how many people, “a lot of people” represents. Doesn’t that seem fair? Otherwise, the person you are talking to might think that the whole world is talking about them and your concern. Also, giving a definite representation of the concerned might help to show that there are not “a lot of people”, or maybe there are are, and then you can determine whether you really need to say what you were thinking of saying. Your argument might not be as strong as you think when you put in context.
  • Suggestion 2 – If you are going to call “a lot of people” as witnesses, be prepared to reveal who you mean by “a lot of people.” This also seems fair that the person you are speaking directly to, knows who he or she may need to talk with to resolve the concerns of “a lot of people.” That would be biblical.
  • Suggestion 3 – If you are going to out your support (those who agree with you) then you may want to to let them know that you will call them to bear witness when you go to the person you have a problem with or who might be able to do something about your concern.
  • Suggestion 4 – If you are going to share a concern on behalf of “a lot of people”, you may want to consider how it would make you feel if someone came to you and told you that “a lot of people” were saying this, that, or the other. Honestly and sincerely, what I am calling for is a biblical effort to treat other people the way that we want to be treated, for this is the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12). I know that if someone has a concern or doesn’t like something that I have done or am doing, what I would appreciate most is that they come straight to me and not leave me to wonder what is being said by “a lot of other people.”

As much as we can help it, we owe to each other to speak clearly and precisely about what’s bothering us. The other side of this coin is that we have many people who are too easily bothered. We live in a thin-skinned, therapeutic and hyper-sensitive age. Maybe I’m too sensitive about “a lot of people”,  but if we took the Bible seriously, Jesus would have us be very careful about leveraging anonymous and unnumbered witnesses to make our point to our brother and sister in Christ. There is more to being a Christian than being right or making our point, there’s treating others the way we would want to be treated.

Monday Pastor – Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Sunday was an exciting day for our church. The youth were back from Fall’s Creek and many of them experienced some sort of gospel stimulus, and hopefully growth, as they were a part of a very intentional and intense week. Also we started a new sermon series called, “Why the Church Matters”.

Against the Flow – Let the Fight Begin

Fall’s creek isn’t always an easy week. For some students it is painfully hard as they cling to sin and rebellion against God and His moral standard. For the youth leaders it can also be a very trying week as they go non-stop, sharing their lives and time with students to make the most of every moment. Fall’s Creek and camps like it can be very useful in saturating students with the word of God so that the Holy Spirit can operate on their unbelief.

But Fall’s Creek isn’t real life. I’m not saying the experience of Fall’s Creek wasn’t real, but real life is going home to the day in and day out environment that cultivates the distractions and attitudes and actions that keep us from loving God and obeying His word. Emotion and the good feelings of having a good week will only take you so far in obeying Jesus. Obedience is an act of the will that results in emotions such as joy. Waiting to feel the right thing or action based on feelings will only lead to denying the clear moral standard of God. We must commit to see that God always has our best in mind in calling us to obey His commands and once we see that and obey, the Spirit will produce in us the fruit of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, etc (Galatians 5:22). But we must walk in step with the Spirit. How do you do that? You obey the commands the Spirit inspired in the word of God.

This is the fight that our students have come back to. They must fight everyday to believe that obedience to God’s word is for God’s glory and their joy.

As the body of Christ, let’s pray that our youth will latch on to, and anchor their hearts and minds on one biblical truth they heard at Fall’s Creek, so that they can fight to obey because they know that God spoke to them and changed them through His word.

Do You Beat Yourself Up?

Yesterday in episode one of “Why the Church Matters”, we began talking about the church by understanding what Jesus had to say about the church. In Matthew 16:13-20, and especially verse 18, we saw that the church is God’s plan to advance the Kingdom and His plan will not fail. We also saw in the text that the church is Jesus’ possession. Jesus said, “On this rock I will build “my” church and the gates of Hades will  not overcome it. Why is the church Jesus’ possession? Because He bought it with His blood. This has many implications about how we think about the church and treat the church. Do we see the church as our possession, or as belonging to Christ? Do we have an entitlement mentality, or do we seek to serve each other the way Christ served us with His life and death? Do we have a deep sense of humility knowing that God, through Jesus, has chosen the church as  part of his plan to get the gospel to every tribe, tongue and nation.

Do we beat Jesus up when we slap the church around because we don’t like something about the people that make up the church?

The church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:31). We are His body and we are connected to Jesus who is the head. If we are truly in Christ we are connected to others who are in Christ. When we beat up others who are in Christ, we inflict pain and suffering on ourselves and those who Christ bought with His own blood. When we beat up the body of Christ, the church, we also beat Christ up. To trash the church is a no-win situation, and we ought to ask, “Hasn’t Christ suffered enough?” Didn’t Christ endure enough suffering on the cross when He bought us with His blood so that we would be His own possession for the praise of God’s glory. Do we really need to ridicule Christ more by ridiculing our brothers and sisters in Christ when we don’t agree with them on church matters? Why are we so slow to forgive as Christ forgave us, but so quick to be critical of others. Honestly, this is something I need to constantly ask myself. I’m guilty of bludgeoning myself and Christ with my hasty and critical words about those he died to save. Do you take the time to consider the church from this perspective? If I did and if we did, maybe we would be a lot slower to inflict pain on others in Christ because the light bulb would come on that we are hurting ourselves and Christ – again. And sadly, when we do this we restrict unbelievers from seeing Christ. Jesus said that one of the ways that we display the value of following Jesus is by loving each other. By this all men will know that we are His disciples (John 13:35).

This Will Be A Challenging Sermon Series

The topic of the church is more complex than I first thought, which only affirms in my mind why we need this sermon series. We must think biblically about the church to live obediently toward the church and as the church. We might think rightly and live in disobedience, but we will never think erroneously about the church and live obediently to God’s command. We must think right to live right and pray that God gives us the strength to do what we know we ought to for God’s glory and our joy. After all, the church most certainly matters because it is God’s plan that will not fail and the church is Jesus’ possession and body. I hope we come away with a clear idea about what the church fundamentally is and therefore what it does.

My Wife is on Mission to the Nations

I am so thankful for my wife’s (Lacey) example to go to the nations. I said Sunday, “We will not be fully invested in the mission of Jesus until we go to the nations on mission for Jesus.” I pray her example, and the example of the other three women who she went with, will challenge all people to go and give at least one week to Jesus away from Stillwater.

I admit I was momentarily resistant to the original thought of Lacey going to a place that is eleven and a-half hours away. But God holds my wife in His sovereign hand and no matter what happens, He is good and knows what is best for Lacey, my children and me. Lacey is in the grasp of a good and sovereign God (John 10) and that is all I need to know to be glad in Jesus.

A Statement I Like

Today I was in a meeting from  10 a.m. to 7 p.m. I listened a lot and learned a lot about many things. Most people in ministry have certain sayings they are fond of repeating. One sister in Christ said today that she regularly says, “Every revelation is an invitation to adjust.” I like that. It is true, every time we read or hear the word of God, it is an invitation/opportunity to the obey for our Joy in Christ. When you read the Bible and hear the Bible taught, do you think of it as an invitation by God to let the Holy Spirit teach you and empower you to obey for your joy –  for your good? The Bible is joy waiting to happen as we read it and hear it and obey it.

Of course, you do have to read it and hear it. We often can’t respond to the invitation because we don’t know about the revelation.