Oct 31, 2007
"I just don't feel like talking to anyone. I don't want to see anyone. I just want to be left alone."
"What's the big deal about Sunday? Why can't I just worship God staying home?"
Comments and sentiments like these are ones we've all had before. And it's perfectly understandable. I mean, no one's perfect and I'm sure God understands.
What is worship to a Christian? What is worship to a Christ-follower? Is worship something we do when we feel like it or is worship more foundational than that?
Listen, Christian. Worship is not an option. That we gather in God's house with others to worship God is not an option. This is what Christ-followers do. Worship is at the core of our identity. This may not be a very popular position to take, but it is the only position I can take as a pastor of God's word.
You see, being a Christ-follower is all about being in a relationship with God. And because we are in a relationship with God, we never cease being a Christ-follower.
Just as it would be absurd to say that I don't feel like being faithful to my wife today, it is just as absurd to say that I am not going to faithful to God today.
The corporate gathering of worship is what Christ-followers do.
Of course, there are times when we miss worship due to illness or because we're stuck in an airport somewhere. But there is never a moment when we cease to be Christ-followers. And if we are Christ-followers, than we gather for worship.
As Christ-followers, we are to spend the Lord's Day the Lord's way.
I will see you in worship on Lord's Day.
Oct 30, 2007
It's been amazing to spend time with Roman and Elena. Their story of how they came to faith and of what God has been doing in their lives is truly awesome.
Roman and Elena came to know Christ in the early 90's. Since then, God has used the ministry and the testimony of these two people to start up three churches and they are working on their fourth. Roman became the pastor of his first church because he and his wife led more than 30 people to Christ. And they all looked at him and said, "You led us to Christ, you are our pastor." And before he ever went to the seminary, God used him to build up two churches!
One of the criteria for being ordained in the Russian Presbyterian Church is that the seminary graduates must be able to demonstrate they can lead at least 60 people to Christ. After they graduate from the seminary, they must go into an unchurched area and build up three bible studies of at least 20 new believers. Once they demonstrate that they are able to lead people to Christ, the seminary ordains them and purchases the land and a building for the ordained graduates.
I wonder what would happen to the church in America if that was our criteria for ordaining our ministers?!
The presbyterian church in Russia is less than 20 years old, and in that short span of time, there are now over 110 Presbyterian churches. There are over 10,000 new believers who are members of the Russian Presbyterian Church!
The way I see it, we are the ones who ought to be learning from the Russians how to do evangelism.
Oct 26, 2007
They are such a breath of fresh air. I always enjoy traveling and being with people from other countries because they provide such a different lens through which to look at life.
I am reminded again how blessed we are in the United States. Pastor Roman and Elena would be considered one of the fortunate and wealthy ones in Russia. They own their own home. They've traveled to Germany and France, and now to the United States. They own their own car. They are both well educated. And yet, our standard of living compared to the Russians is night and day.
We are so incredibly blessed.
I've been taking them shopping to get gifts and items for their friends and family back home. What is amazing is that the prices in Russia are not that much different than they are here. Everything here costs as much as they do back in Russia. And to top it off, their cars cost more. Their homes cost more. Their computer and electronics cost more. However, their salaries are a tenth of what an American earns at even $36,000 year.
I just don't understand how they are able to do it.
When I asked how they manage, their answer again reminded me how we take so much for granted.
They are amazed at how much we eat out. They are amazed that how much we pay for things like sodas and drinks and Starbucks. They told me that they eat out maybe once or twice a year for special occasions. The rest of the time they eat at home and they celebrate at home. They make do because they don't spend money on things like a Caramel Machiato or a Hazelnut Latte.
If you manage to drink just two of these drinks a week, that's close to $500 a year just on two drinks a week at Starbucks. That's more than what a typical Russian worker makes in one month.
We take so much for granted.
It is only right we remember how blessed we are. And secondly, it is only right that we become better stewards and managers of God's finances. All this material and financial inequality that have cannot be for only our consumption. We must get smarter and better at reinvesting it back to God's people.
That's enough for today. It's late and we have another big day tomorrow.
Oct 23, 2007
You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it?
C. S. Lewis, "A Grief Observed"
I think this is one of the reasons why I love the faith of the Ugandans so much. We don't think we need God as much as the Ugandans. For the many Ugandan Christians I have come to love, when they pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," this is not a figurative statement. God must send the rain to grow the crops, and God must help the crops to grow. Their day to day life is dependent on God.
That's why until you and I have been in a place where we were totally helpless and dependent on God, our faith will always remain shallow.
Believing things "on authority" only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York, I could not prove by abstract reasoning that there is such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so. The ordinary person believes in the solar system, atoms, and the circulation of the blood on authority - because the scientists say so. Every historical statement is believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Spanish Armada. But we believe them simply because people who did see them have left us writings that tell us about them; in fact, on authority.
A person who balks at authority in other things, as some people do in religion, would have to be content to know nothing all his life.
I just found out that I can write to my blog from my blackberry. How cool is that. So I will be updating even while I'm on the road.
If you haven't made plans for the weekend, be sure to join us on Saturday at 6pm for the Texas Barbecue with Pastor Roman and Elena, and then join us for a time of worship as Pastor Roman and Elena share about what God has been doing in their lives.
They will also be leading worship and preaching on Sunday. You don't want to miss out on hearing about what God is up to in Russia.
We'd love to see you this weekend.
Check out what God is up to @
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
And Jesus answers this question. Jesus says in Mark 12:29-21, "The most important one is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself." There is no commandment greater than these."
Did you just catch what Jesus did? This is why Jesus was a great theologian but terrible in math.
Jesus says, here's the most important one - and then goes, first and second.
What's up with that?
You see, the reason why Jesus answers in this way is because He couldn't separate these two.
Jesus says that you loving the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength will flow into how you love your neighbor as yourself. You can’t love God and not love and value people. Our relationship to God dramatically impacts how we treat people.
The true evidence of our worship and love of God is demonstrated in how we treat, value, and relate with one another.
• When we begin valuing God, we cannot help but start valuing people.
• When we begin loving God, we begin loving people.
• When we begin honoring God, we begin to honor people.
And this is what really bothers me. I think it’s a problem that Christians are known more for the things we are against than the things we are for. Of all people, we ought to be known as the people who stand for strong healthy families and marriages. We ought to be the people known for honoring and valuing people. We ought to be the ones who are known for helping people become who they were created to be.
• I think it’s a problem when we’re more angry about homosexuality than we are about starvation and AIDS in the world.
• I think it’s wrong when Christ-followers care more about who’s sleeping with who and who’s doing what with whom, when there are people all around us who are hurting and lonely.
• How can the church get so preoccupied with the things we’re against, when there’s a whole world out there that will spend eternity apart from God because we are too busy and too preoccupied with ourselves that we fail to walk across the street to get to know our neighbors.
• There’s something wrong with us when we have such little value for the life and the eternal destinies of human beings.
Of all the people on earth, Christ-followers ought to be the ones who stand for the things that make us truly God's people.
Oct 18, 2007
Here's the question that begs to be asked. Why did God save Peter and not James? And why did God save Peter from this death when Peter will eventually be martyred later? Why didn't God save Peter from martyrdom?
One of the reasons why we can't help but ask such questions is because for us - even though we may be Christ-followers who believe in eternal life - death is so final to us.
But, perhaps, death is something different for God and we are to learn from God what death means to Christ-followers. I don't think death matters as much to God as it does to us. Because God has opened a way for Christ-followers to defeat death. And we defeat death when we realize that death is not an end but an entrance into eternity.
Perhaps, we have become too comfortable with life here on earth, and we're not supposed to be comfortable here. Earth is not our home. Heaven with its full glory is our home. And when we fail to remember that heaven is our home, we cannot help but see death as a tragic event.
The closest thing that I can come up with is the process of new birth. The baby growing in mommy's tummy, the uterus is a perfect world. It's warm. It's never hungry. All it's needs are taken care of. It seems like a beautiful world. But the parents have been getting the nursery ready and can't wait to see the baby born.
The baby is thinking to himself, I don't have do anything. I can just float around. This is a perfect set up. But the baby must do some things. The baby has to grow the lungs, the heart, the organs it will need to live in the new world. And the baby must grow those things because the uterus is not its home. It's supposed to be born.
And one day, whether the baby likes it or not, the baby will be born.
The same is true for every one of us. One day, whether we like it or not, we will enter into eternity. And what we are called to do while we are here on earth is to grow the lungs, the heart, and the organs necessary for us to live in eternity. And we do that by growing as a Christ follower by obeying God's teachings.
And whether we like it or not, that day will come. We will enter into eternity. And either we will be prepared for that new life by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, or we will be ill-prepared for life in heaven.
Friends, this is not our home. This is not our final destination. We are not comfortable here because we're not supposed to be. We will not find ultimate rest and happiness until we are in heaven. But in order to enter heaven, there are things we must do now here on earth. We must receive Jesus as Lord and Savior and begin growing up as Christ-followers so that when that day comes, death opens the way into heaven. Heaven is our home.
If you're reading this and you haven't done so, start preparing for eternity by receiving Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
- Admit that you are a sinner and you need for God to forgive you of your sins.
- Accept and believe that Jesus died on the cross for you.
- Begin growing up as a Christ-follower by obeying God's word.
- Find a Bible-believing church and start serving and giving there.
If you are in the Dallas area, there is a fantastic church called Trinity Presbyterian Church. Start attending and growing here.
We use the term, "Christian", as a self-designation. We tell others that we are Christians.
But the Bible doesn't use the term that way. Christian was not a self-designation. The disciples were first called Christians.
As the church began growing, the people around them noticed that they were different. They were not like the other pagans they knew. They were not like the Jews they knew. And so they looked at them and said, "Who the heck are these people?" And they called them Christians - because they were Christ-followers.
And when the first followers of Jesus were called by others, "Christians", it was derogatory term. According to Josephus, a Jewish historian during the days of Jesus, Christians were rumored to be both incestuous and cannibals.
- Incestuous - because they were calling each other brothers and sisters, and yet some of them were married to their brothers and sisters.
- Cannibals - because whenever they gathered, they broke bread and ate and drank the blood of Jesus Christ.
The question for us is this - Would someone know that you are a Christian by your actions and deeds? Would they know by the ways you treat them, and how you treat others that you are a Christian? Do your coworkers, neighbors, friends even know you are a Christian? Not because you tell them you go to church or because you are a self professing Christian, but because what your actions and deeds screams loud and clear that you are a follower of Jesus Christ?
I pray that we too will be the generation of believers where the unbelieving world cannot help but call us Christians.
Oct 16, 2007
I believe that the presidential elections are important. I will take the time to study the candidate's positions and voting record. I will vote because I believe my vote matters. But even as powerful as the President of the United States is, I have more influence on my family's welfare than any president.
I am all for voting responsibly. I am all for voting with our conscience and voting for our morals. I believe all Americans have the privilege and the duty to do our part by voting for our candidates.
But if we are really interested in the welfare and the health of our great country, we need to be more concerned with what we do in our house rather than what takes place in the white house. When we build Godly families, when we build Godly marriages, and when we raise Godly children, the collective of all our homes will result in a great and Godly nation.
I challenge you to be more concerned about the welfare and the Godliness of your homes than you are for the next election.
- Study the health of your spouse.
- Study the spiritual wellbeing of your children.
- Make sure that in the only house which you have control over, that God and God's will presides over everything you do.
So do your part. Get to church. Pray together. Love one another. And build up Godly families.
I think Barbara Bush has it right when she told the graduating class at Wellsley College, "The health of this great country will not be primarily determined by what happens in the White House, but rather by what happens at your house."
Oct 15, 2007
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:25-31).
This is one of the most well known stories in the Bible. Most of the times we focus on Peter – and particularly of his failure to keep his eyes on Jesus and crying out, “Lord, save me!”
But I think there is a greater failure than Peter. There were eleven others who remained in the boat paralyzed by fear. Those eleven never knew the exhilarating joy of answering Jesus’ invitation to walk on water. Peter got out of the boat and became the only human being to ever walk on water.
If I had my druthers, I want to be Peter. I want to know what it’s like to throw yourself fully into the invitation of Jesus to walk on water.
I believe Jesus is still calling on His disciples to get out of the safety of the boat to know the exhilarating thrill of walking on water. But in order to experience that, you have to first get out of the boat.
God has given to Trinity Presbyterian Church the amazing invitation to be a part of God’s renewing ministry to establish God’s Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. God has given to this tiny little church the crazy dream to be a part of God transforming the world – not just The Colony, but the world.
And as we consider this crazy and wonderful invitation, the temptation will be to play it safe. But I encourage you to get out of the safety of the boat, and let’s try walking on water. That God will change the world and establish His Kingdom is a given. It’s going to happen. But whether you and I get to play our part is totally dependent on whether we will risk it all and get out of the boat.
What are you waiting for? Get out of the boat and throw yourselves fully to the cause of Christ and let’s start experiencing
Oct 11, 2007
The books of 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles are filled with lots of examples of bad kings and poor leadership. And as one reads through them cannot help but feel sad by how many of the kings led their nation and people astray. But this one has to be up there with the all time worst.
Think about this - for the rest of eternity, Jehoram's leadership is tied to this phrase, "He reigned in Jerusalem and, to no one's sorrow, departed." There were other notoriously bad kings in Judah and Israel, but no one else has this written about them. How could a person die to no one's sorrow?
This made me think about my life. Am I living a life that is impacting the lives of other people for the good? Am I living in such a way to add value to the lives around me?
I think this is a worthy question for all of us to ask. If God placed us here on earth at this time, in our particular context, with the people in our lives, it must be because God wants us to impact their lives for good. It must because God can add value to their lives as we live for Christ.
So is that what we are doing with our lives? Are we adding value to those around us?
Or is life all about what's in it for me?
May it never be said of you and me, and James (and you place your name here) lived for "x" number of years and to no one's sorrow, he died.
Oct 8, 2007
As a result of what God was doing through the church, hundreds and thousands were being added to their number.
Is such a church possible in today's world? I would give anything to see such a church in my life time.
And I think that's the key. It's not that we are preaching a different Jesus than the Jesus of the Book of Acts. I think it's because we don't believe in Jesus the same way that the first Christians did. They were moved to give and believe because of all the things that God was doing through the first Christians. They were witnessing the power of God on a regular basis.
Do we believe that God can do the same things today? We have made Jesus so safe.
When the first Christians prayed for God to act, they actually believed that God would do what God promised.
That's the biggest difference between our churches today and the church of the Book of Acts. We might give lip service to prayer and to what God can do, but do we actually believe God can change hearts, bring healing, restore broken relationships when we pray?
I am so tired of the status quo church. I want to be a part of what God is doing. I believe that God of 2007 is the same God of the Book of Acts. I will lead and preach with conviction and passion. And I believe God will do what God promised.
Lord, I want to see your kingdom established here on earth as it is heaven.
I want to see the Kingdom of Light destroy the kingdom darkness.
I want to see people get saved.
I want to see lives transformed.
I want to see people get healed.
I want to see YOU!
Oct 5, 2007
We can choose willingly to fall under the loving and firm guidance of God and suffer through the discipline of becoming the people we were created to be. Or we can choose to live life according to our own ways and live life to our own song and suffer the pain of regret.
That we make mistakes along the way, that we stray, that we err is a certainty. This is part of what it means to be a fallible and sinful beings. No one will ever live a perfect life. But should we choose to follow hard after God, God will never disappoint us.
While we must all suffer either the pain of discipline or the pain of regret, the difference is that the pain of discipline weighs ounces and endures for a moment, the pain of regret weighs tons and can last forever.
The choice is up to us.
Oct 4, 2007
Everyone has problems. That's what it means to live in this world.
Then why is it that some people are able to thrive and live to the hilt while others get tripped up by one problem after another? Why is it that some people are over-comers while others get overcome by the problems?
The problem is the way we see problems.
Winston Churchill said, "An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity."
This is what separates leaders from followers. Leaders see an opportunity to grow and learn from challenges. Leaders look for solutions to the problems they face and make their world and the world around them a better place.
The problem is not problems. The problem is with the way we see problems.
What the world with problems need are leaders who can seize the opportunities that every problem presents.
Oct 3, 2007
It's interesting that we would call the table of the Lord's Supper, the Lord's table. Because it really wasn't His table. He had to borrow that table. He borrowed the room which He and the disciples gathered. He had to borrow the food.
It was the custom of Jesus to be invited to the table of others. And Jesus was often times criticized severely for the company He kept.
Only one time did Jesus invite His disciple's to His table - it was the day which the Lord was to be betrayed. He gathered with His disciples in that borrowed room, and broke bread and shared wine with them on a borrowed table. And Jesus offered the disciples the only thing and everything He had - His whole life.
He broke bread and said to them, "This is my body broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And then after they supped, Jesus took the cup and poured out the wine and said, "This is the blood of the new covenant, poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Do this also in remembrance of me. Because every time you eat of this bread and drink of this cup, you proclaim my death, and my resurrection, and my coming again."
All who have said "yes" to Jesus are welcome to the Lord's table.
And Jesus continues to be criticized for the company He keeps and welcomes to the table. Jesus has always welcomed the messed up, broken, wretched people to His table in order to renew them and change them. And that is the only reason why people like you and me can come to the table.
So the next time you are standing before the Lord's table. Remember that Jesus gave His absolute best. He gave of Himself so that we might be forgiven and be the people of God.
Since Jesus gave His best, it's only right that we do the same.
Oct 2, 2007
This comes at the end of the passage where John tells us about the resurrected Christ. Mary goes to the tomb to see that the stone was tossed aside and the tomb was empty. She runs and tells the disciples that someone has taken Jesus. Peter and the other disciples run to the tomb and they find the tomb empty and the burial linen of Jesus still in the tomb.
And while Mary was still outside the tomb, Jesus appears before her. And only after that, Jesus appears to the disciples, minus Thomas. And then we have that famous passage where Jesus appears to Thomas and invites him to put his finger in the nail mark in His hands and on His side.
All this and the entire story of Jesus was written for us that we may believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in His name.
That's pretty important. What we're talking about is eternal life, eternal destiny.
And what I find so surprising about all of this is that the first person to witness both the empty tomb and the resurrected Christ is a woman.
Now, I don't say that because I want to demean women. I say that because during the days of Jesus, the words of a woman were not even allowed in the court of law. A woman's testimony was worthless during the days of Jesus. The people's perception was that a woman's word wasn't worth a salt.
And the most important story of human kind, all hinges on the testimony of an eye witness who was a woman!
If you wanted to fabricate a story about the resurrection of Jesus, you would never have the woman being the first eye witness to both the empty tomb and the resurrected Christ. That would undermine the entire story.
But you see, the disciples had no choice but to tell the story in this way because that's the it happened. There is no other plausible explanation for the way this incredible story is told.
In deed, a remarkable way to tell a remarkable story.
But there has never been another story more important than this: the tomb is empty, He is risen. He is risen indeed!