Dec 30, 2008
Ministry wise, this has been a tough year.
I hate being a part of a church that's not growing and thriving. I don't do stagnation and not growing very well. And that's where we've been for the past two and half years.
A lot of that has to do with my leadership. I must become a better leader and pastor for our church to grow. I need to become a better preacher and communicator. I need to help our church to be more organized. But most of all, I need to pray for our church more.
So those are things that I resolve to do in the coming year. I will read and study to become a better leader for TPC and for Christ. I will read and study to become a better preacher and communicator. But most of all, I commit to praying more for our church and for God's leadership.
I don't want to go through another year like this ever again. I want to see God at work. I want to see lives get changed. I want to see God leading us in such a way that people's lives are actually being impacted and the Kingdom is growing in its influence.
I dream of being a part of a church that is sold out to seeing people get healed.
I dream of being a part of a church where the broken souls are ministered;
where the resources of the church's time, talents, and finances are committed to alleviate suffering in our local communities as well as the greater world;
where Christ-followers cannot help but weep and be broken by the hopelessness in our communities.
I dream of being a part of a church where Christ-followers are all over the business of rescuing hell-bound eternities.
I dream of being a part of a church that is sold out and committed to making this Kingdom vision a reality here on earth as it will be in heaven.
I dream of being a part of a church that is actually making a difference in the local community for the Kingdom of God.
And I am foolish enough to believe that this is not only a reality for Trinity Presbyterian Church, but that this is what Jesus had in mind when He began the entire "Follow Me" thing to begin with.
Oh how I long to be a part of a church like that.
God help me to be a leader for such a church.
• If you’re a dermatologist, you’re going to see people with bad skin
• If you’re a dentist, have you noticed how they’re always looking at your teeth?
Not only do we see what we’ve been trained to look for, but we see what we’re looking for.
• If you’re looking for zits, you’re going to see people with zits everywhere
• If you’re looking for cranky people, you’re going to see em’ all over the place after they’ve just spent all their money on Christmas
• If you’re looking for problems and mistakes, you’re going to see people with all kinds of problems everywhere.
We see what we’ve trained ourselves to look for, and we see what we’re looking for.
Now, here's the million dollar question: When's the last time you've seen Jesus?
And because we’ve lived so much of our lives without looking for the signs of Jesus everywhere and in everyone, we’re going to have to retrain our eyes to see Jesus.
And when we do that, you’re going to see Jesus at work everywhere.
This is so important because if you’re not looking for Jesus, you’re not going to see Jesus at work. And if you don’t see Jesus at work, you’re never going to be able to join Him in His work.
Do you see God at work in Jesus in your daily life? It's not that God has stopped working. We've got to retrain our eyes and start looking for Jesus in our daily living.
And when we do, I think we'll start seeing a lot more of Jesus.
Dec 24, 2008
I am not sure what to make of this God who seems so fickle. But the thing that I find unnerving the most is that God has to be reminded of His own words and promises by Moses. For God was going to destroy all of them because of their complaining and Moses has to remind God that He's a merciful God, and besides if God kills all the Israelites, how will that make God look before the Egyptians.
We are so quick to count on God's promises. We are so quick to rely and trust fully in His words, but here we see a God who needs to be reminded of His own promises.
More confused then ever? Me too.
But there are a few things that we can glean from this.
First, it is good to count and recall God's promises. Because God is faithful to His word. Even in Numbers God forgives the people of Israel. But I think recalling God's promises does more for us to remember who we are and what our purpose is.
Second, although God forgives, there are serious consequences to our sin and disobedience. God cannot save us from the consequences.
And it is those consequences we must live with all our lives.
God forgave Ted Haggard of his sins. I am sure of it. Because he's repented in public and I am sure he's done so in private. But he's still having to live with the consequences of his sins.
The best thing for all of us is to live right. Follow Jesus. Obey His commands. Then we don't even have to deal with the consequences of sin. Instead, we will be reaping the fruit of living for God.
Have a blessed Christmas Eve. Make it to one of God's churches and worship the Son who has been given to us.
Dec 23, 2008
No, the food was fine.
The service was good.
Nothing wrong with the lunch itself.
Then what was so unpleasant about the lunch?
There was a large table with five senior citizens. I didn't notice at first that there was one lady sitting at one end and four others sitting at the other end. The lady sitting by herself never stopped talking. It wasn't that she was overtly obnoxiously loud, but she was loud enough that all the people at our end of the restaurant could hear her every word.
I could tell you all kinds of things about her husband, her children, grandchildren, their illnesses and health issues and what medications they are taking to combat that. I can tell you how much her medications cost. I could tell you lots of stuff.
She never stopped talking. The entire time I was there for lunch. It wasn't as if the others were having a conversation with her. She just never stopped talking. They barely got in a word or two. I've never seen anything like it.
The other ladies were looking at their watches - (hint, hint), and when this lady didn't get the hint, the other four ladies put on their coats (HINT!, HINT!), but the lady just kept chattering away.
As if that wasn't annoying enough, she was extremely rude to the Hispanic waitress, saying things in everyone's - including the waitress - hearing, "I'm not going to tip. She doesn't deserve it!"
I didn't see anything that the waitress said or did. She was a fine waitress with everyone else.
And to top it all off - she's a Christian. She said so very proudly. She talked about her church, her Bible Study group, her senior citizen's small group, about how difficult it is to read the announcements on the screen, how things are not the way they used to be, etc.
She was still talking when I left.
Her friends were still sitting there with their coats on looking at their watch.
Man, that makes me sad. Why did she have to be a Christian? What does that say about our God?
I know. I'm a pastor and I shouldn't think things like that. But when I saw the look on her friend's faces, the look of the waitress, it just breaks my heart.
Dec 22, 2008
Sections that make me go - Huh? What does that mean?
- Leviticus 21:16-21 "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and say: No one of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the food of his God. For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, one who is blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or one who has a broken foot or a broken hand, or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or a man with a blemish in his eyes or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. No descendant of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord's offerings by fire; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the food of his God."
I don't get this. Some things - like a broken hand or foot might be an accident or even an injury one causes, but things like being blind, lame, having a limb too long, or a hunchback, or a dwarf, etc. are conditions people are born with. Why would God prevent such people from serving Him? He's the one who made them that way?
I don't get it.
Sections that just crack me up.
- Leviticus 22:4 No one of Aaron's offspring who has a leprous disease or suffers a discharge may eat of the sacred donations until he is clean. Whoever touches anything made unclean by a corpse or a man who has had an emission of semen...
How in the world were these guys to know if a man had an emission of semen? Were they supposed to ask?
That just cracks me up.
Dec 16, 2008
There is still much to be done, but I finally feel ready to work on the Christmas sermon.
It has been humbling to see the church family step up to minister and care for each other.
We will carry on. Ministry will continue. There are many who are still hurting in this world.
More than ever, this is the world that needs the Advent of the coming King.
More than ever, we need Christ to visit us afresh again.
Thank you all for your prayers and ministry through these difficult days!
Dec 15, 2008
As many of you know by now, David Brown took his own life on Thursday evening.
As a church, we have gone through deaths and funerals before. That’s part of the ministry. But somehow, this one feels different. There’s just something not quite right about this one.
When someone dies due to illness, old age, or even by a tragic accident, we hurt because we miss the individual but we don’t hurt because we feel hurt by the actions of the one who died. But that’s what this one feels like – suicides do that. It not only ends a life, but it injures everyone around. Suicide is devastating to everyone. There is no closure. No one got a chance to say goodbye. There is no explanation. It’s just pain all the way around.
And those who are left to pick up the pieces can’t help but wonder if there was anything we could have done to prevent this from happening, that somehow we could have done something, said something to prevent this.
And suicide makes a victim of all those left behind.
I have no idea why David did what he did.
I want to make sure that we all understand this – he did not do this to hurt any of us.
David is one of the most caring, loving, and giving persons I know.
He did not do this to hurt you – his friends, his church, his family.
We will never understand, on this side of eternity, why he did this? And even if we did know why, it still would not ever bring David back, and it wouldn’t change anything.
If David could speak to us now, I think what David would say is how sorry he is to have hurt the very people who he loves. I think David would say, that what happened on Thursday evening was a rash act and an act that he sorely regrets.
This morning, I would like to speak to you as frankly and directly I can. There’s no point in beating around the bush. We all know what happened. And the question before all of us is, “Now what?”
I would like to answer this question, “Now what?” by answering three sets of questions David’s death presents us with.
1. Where is David now? What is the relationship between suicide and salvation? Could a real genuine Christ-follower commit suicide? Don’t people who commit suicide commit the ultimate sin and go to hell?
2. Did God know that David would take his own life? Why didn’t God stop him? How could God let this happen?
3. What does this mean for us now? Where do we go from here?
Where is David now? Could a real Christian commit suicide? Don’t people who commit suicide go to hell?
There are some terrible myths and misunderstandings about suicide and salvation.
In the fifth century, Saint Augustine taught that suicide was a violation of the sixth commandment - "You shall not kill."
And later Thomas Aquinas, taught that suicide was the most fatal of all sins because the victim could not repent of it.
So some Christians have taught over the years that those who commit suicide go to hell because they never have the opportunity to repent of their sin.
Let’s get some things straight.
Suicide is a terrible sin against God for only God has the power and authority over life. While suicide is a terrible sin, it is not an unpardonable sin. There is only one sin that Jesus says cannot be forgiven.
Jesus says in Matthew 12:31-32, “Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”
• Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit – to deny the works of God by taking God’s works and attributing it to the work of the devil.
• While suicide is a sin, it is not a sin that God cannot forgive.
But how can God forgive a sin that a person doesn’t have an opportunity to repent for?
This line of question is a misreading of scripture because it doesn’t take seriously the completeness and the totality of the work of God for salvation on the cross of Jesus Christ.
Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.
I want to take each of those phrases one at a time.
Salvation is by grace alone.
God tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Salvation is always God’s doing. Only God can save. And God saves because He is a gracious God. There is nothing that we can ever do, or not do, or say, or not say, that will merit being saved. It is totally God’s grace. It is totally God’s love that saves.
Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith,” we are told. While God’s work of salvation is total and complete, it is only through accepting God’s gift of salvation that we are saved.
God tells us in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have everlasting life.”
While God offers salvation to all, we must receive God’s gift of life through faith.
God tells us in John 1:12, “But to all who received him, who believed in His name, He gave the power to become children of God.”
God offers the gift of salvation to all, but only those who receive God’s plan for salvation are saved.
Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.
God tells us in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
And in John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
It is only Jesus who can save. There is no other way to salvation apart from Jesus Christ.
Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.
So where is David right now?
God’s word tells us that David is in the presence of His Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. David accepted and received Jesus as His Lord and Savior. Therefore God has forgiven David for all his sins – past, present, and future.
And that is the incredible good news of Jesus Christ. To those who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior God has forgiven us of all our sins.
In the course of any normal day, we sin many times – thoughts of lust, anger, jealousy, acts of unkindness, etc. And it’s not like God says, I will only forgive you of the sins that you repent of. It’s not like God’s going to say on the day of judgment, “You know James, you lived a pretty decent life, and you asked for forgiveness of all your sins, except for that one time when you lusted after that woman on August 10, 1995. So, sorry dude, you’re outta here!”
God’s work on the cross is complete. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.
You can rest assure that David is with God Himself right now.
Did God know that David would take his life on Thursday night? Why didn’t God stop him? How could God let this happen?
Did God know that David would take his own life? Yes. God knows all things. What happened on that night did not take God by surprise. God knows all things.
If God knows all things why didn’t God stop him? How could God let this happen?
God didn’t want this to happen. God was pleading with David to the last moment, “Don’t do this son. This is not the answer. You have a bright future. Don’t’ do this.”
God tells us in Jeremiah 29:11, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
Jesus tells us in John 10:10, “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.”
And God was with David to the very moment urging David to trust God and not do this terrible thing.
But God will not and cannot force any one to choose Him, because by doing so God would be unloving. Love necessarily requires a choice – love requires freedom.
When we obey God and follow His ways, the result is a blessed abundant life. But God will never force nor coerce us to obey Him. We must choose to do that.
And just as God was pleading with David to follow Him, God is telling us all the time, follow Me. Choose life. Follow Me. Don’t do this. Don’t do these things that will cause you harm. Don’t do these destructive things. Follow Me. Do life My way. Do marriage My way. Do dating My way. Do life My way.
But only we can do that. Love is only love when there is a choice to love. Love cannot be forced or imposed.
God gives each of us the ability to choose. When we choose to live life God’s way, we will reap the blessings God promises. But we must choose to live God’s way.
While the death of David did not catch God by surprise, God is deeply saddened that a life of such promise and potential was cut short by a terrible decision.
In a moment of excruciating pain and confusion, our friend committed a grave and serious error and sin. But this does not negate the awesome grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. David lives on for eternity.
On a cold dreary night some five years ago, a hurting and confused young man walked into our church because the sign outside said, “Lost? Come on in for direction.”
I was sitting in my office working when I heard a knock on the door and someone said, “There’s a young man who wants to talk with you.”
David walked into our church because he was hurting and was having suicidal thoughts and didn’t want to do that. He had nothing to lose. He had everything to gain.
I shared with David how God loved him and sent His Son to die for his sins so that he can truly start living.
That night, David accepted Christ in to his life and became a child of God.
Through the ministry of you and through church David Brown accepted Jesus as His Lord and Savior. David gave his life to Jesus, served in our short-term mission trips to Uganda three times, taught Sunday School with our little ones, and committed to serving God as a minister as a chaplain in the military and was scheduled to attend seminary at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in the fall of this year.
Many lives were touched and changed through David.
Through a terrible and painful choice, this promising life was cut short. And we here are reeling because of it.
We are going to miss David very much.
So now what are we to do?
If you have never received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, today is your day. Secure your place in eternity and allow heaven to enter your life today.
The same Jesus who spoke heaven into David’s life five years ago is here right now. Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Behold! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.”
He is speaking to you. You did not come here by accident. God wanted you here. God sent His Son to a manger 2,000 years ago so that you can have this opportunity today. You too can have heaven enter into your present by accepting and receiving Jesus into your life.
For those of us who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior, and for those of us who are hurting and in pain because of this, we must claim the promise of God in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.”
Even as tragic and terrible as the death of David is, God will make it good. God will continue to save souls. God will continue to change lives. God will continue to bring healing. And God will do all this through you and me.
For every time you offer your life, your hands to those who are hurting, your lips to those who haven’t heard the good news, your ears to those who need to be heard, your shoulders for folks to cry on, every time we say “Yes” to Jesus Christ, God is ministering.
So love on each other church. Hug on each other. Cry and laugh with each other. And show and tell the world of the incredible news of God sending His only Son so that heaven can enter our present.
We all have some reflecting to do. We all have some decisions to make today.
Dec 13, 2008
I am emotionally and physically drained.
Spiritually I am doing good, but I am tired.
When I think about what the next two weeks look like it looks impossible. but I know that with God it will not only be fine, but it will all turn out for the glory of God.
- a new sermon for Sunday because of the suicide on Thursday evening of one of our young men.
- ministering to two families who've lost a loved one
- to a church who is grieving over the death these two people
- eulogy for the Hall funeral
- eulogy for the Brown funeral
- sermon for Sunday the 21st
- sermon for Christmas Eve
- sermon for wedding on 27th
- sermon for 28th
- oh, yeah. Celebrating Christmas with my family.
If I can make it through this stretch then it's back to a somewhat normal schedule.
I know that God is in control. God will use all this for His glory. I can do all things through Christ. But these next few weeks are going to be something. I still covet your prayers.
Thanks for letting me just rant for a while.
Dec 12, 2008
Suicide is never God's will.
Suicide is a grave sin before God.
However suicide is not an unpardonable sin.
The Bible is crystal clear that there is only one unpardonable sin - blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32).
While suicide is a terrible sin against God, for only God has the power and authority over life, suicide is not the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. In the context of Matthew 12, it is crystal clear that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is denying the work of God through the Holy Spirit and attributing it to the work of the devil.
When Jesus died on the cross, Jesus died for ALL our sins (John 10:28).
Salvation is by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9, John 1:12), in Jesus alone (John 14:6).
Then why do so many people believe that people who commit suicide will go to hell?
In the fifth century, Augustine argued that suicide was a violation of the sixth commandment - "You shall not kill." And later Thomas Aquinas, taught that suicide was the most fatal of all sins because the victim could not repent of it.
So some Christians have taught that those who commit suicide go to hell.
This is a misunderstanding about the work of the cross.
While suicide is a grave sin, it is not a sin that cannot be forgiven. And because Jesus died for all our sins, and since suicide is not blaspheming the Holy Spirit, even suicide can be forgiven.
Suicide is never the answer and suicide is never God's will.
So where is the young man who committed suicide last night?
He is in the presence of His Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. God has always loved this young man, and this young man gave his life over to Jesus Christ and committed to serving God with his life.
In a moment of excruciating pain and confusion, our friend committed a grave and serious error and sin. But this does not negate the awesome grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Now what is left is for Christ-followers to minister to one another.
He who promised, "Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus," (Romans 8:37-39) is true to His word.
The death of our friend is tragic and terrible. We, who have been loved by this young man, and we who loved him, will never be the same again. And as terrible as this time may be for our church, we boldly claim the promise of God "That all things God works for the good of those who love Him" (Romans 8:28).
Dec 11, 2008
Why? When there was such a promising future ahead of you.
Why? This can't be the answer.
A young man took his own life tonight.
I will never understand why.
You will be missed so much. I miss you already.
My heart aches. I have no more tears to cry.
I miss you. Oh, how I wish you were still here.
This has caused so much devastation to all who love you and who have been loved by you.
You were going to serve the Lord with your life as a chaplain in the military. The entire future was ahead of you. God was going to use your life to impact so many people.
You will be missed. You are missed.
May God have mercy on your soul and may God have mercy on all of us who are here missing you.
Dec 9, 2008
Quick question - as you read the book of Acts and the emerging church in the ancient world, does decently and in order come into your mind? In the midst of a chaotic world, where the Christians were in the minority, and where they consistently found themselves at odds with the world, do you see "decently and in order?"
Maybe that's the problem. We've become too decent, so all that we can do is decent ministry instead of a ministry that's rocking the world. We've become so orderly that we've essentially ruled out the possibility of the Holy Spirit moving the church to respond to real life circumstances with grace and openness.
One of my absolute favorite sections of the Book of Order - believe it or not there are sections there I absolutely love - is chapter 3 of the Book of Order and in particular G-3.0400. It reads, "The church is called to undertake this mission even at the risk of losing its life trusting in God alone as the author and giver of life, and sharing the gospel, and doing those deeds in the world that point beyond themselves to the new reality in Christ."
I love this passage! The church is to undertake the mission of Jesus Christ to bring new Christians into the fold, and to enable every believer to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ. And we are to do this above and beyond anything else, even to the point of risking the very existence of our very selves and certainly the institutional church.
But the huge disconnect with the rest of the Book of Order is that the entire thing reeks of "decently and in order!" Where did the radical missional focus go?
It got killed by "decently and in order"!
Just imagine - a church full of people who will do anything that God asks of them, who have declared and determined that there is nothing worth living for more than the cause of Jesus Christ.
Can you imagine what such a church would be like?
Can you imagine what God could do through a church like that?
Our understanding of following Jesus is so lukewarm and pathetic. For most churches, if more than half their membership show up for Sunday worship they would be delighted. No wonder our churches are struggling the way they are.
Fully devoted followers of Jesus - Yes, Jesus - whatever it takes, whatever you ask Jesus - fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
What an awesome church that would be.
Jesus told the church - Go, go into the world who is hurting and searching. Do whatever it takes to help them know that God loves them. And teach them everything that God has taught us through Jesus Christ. Baptize new Christians, and build up fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. That's what our calling is.
God, grant your church leaders the wisdom and discernment to know how to do that.
Dec 8, 2008
I've been doing this pastor thing for about 20 years, and in that time have seen and heard about some crazy stupid stuff.
So I shouldn't be amazed or shocked.
But, I am.
I don't know amazed or shocked is the best description - dewildered, dumbfounded, WHAT? - is probably a better description.
We do the dumbest things. We say and do things knowing that we will be caught. That we will have to answer for those things. That the consequences of those actions will be devastating to every they love. And we still do it! Why? What makes us do stuff like that?
How can we do stuff knowing that it will hurt the people we love?
And that's what sin does.
I shouldn't be shocked. I should know better. I've been doing this pastor thing for over twenty years. But I am still dumbfounded.
Why do we do the things we do?
Dec 6, 2008
God pursues us with His love and is constantly asking us "Do you trust me with your life? Do you trust that I am more than enough?"
Of course I know what the answer should be. Of course I should say, "Yes, God you are all I need. You are more than enough. I trust you with my life.".
But it's not that easy - at least if I take my words seriously.
Sure it's easy to say such things. We do it every Sunday with the songs we sing and the prayers we say. We sing songs about how, "You're all I need," "I give you my all," "I surrender all," without even blinking an eye.
But what would it really mean to trust God with everything? What would it mean to surrender all? How many of us actually do that?
For goodness sake - most people have trouble giving up watching the Cowboys on Sundays. I don't think we even have a concept of what it would mean to give God everything.
And the craziest thing about this is if we understand who God is, why so few of us actually make this commitment. If God is a God who loves us, wants what is best for us, and knows better than us, then why wouldn't we trust God with everything?
What am I afraid of?
To be honest, I don't trust God to manage my life and make me as successful as I think I can. I really think I can do a better job of making me successful.
There I said it.
And that's the whole crux of it. Our life is an the proof that we don't have a clue how to manage our lives, and yet because of sin and pride, we insist on doing things our way rather than trusting God fully with our lives.
That's the battle my friends. For me, for you, and for all Christ-followers.
And that battle will be won as we take it one day at a time. Today, I will give God my best. I will do the same tomorrow. And I am going to put together as many of these days possible.
Dec 3, 2008
I want to see that.
But the church doesn't seem to come close to kicking butt over the gates of hell.
So what's the problem?
Does the problem lie with the promise itself or is the problem the way churches have been going about the ministry and the mission of God?
Is the problem the promise itself? Was Jesus just pulling our leg? Is Christianity really nothing more than nice folks getting together on a Sundays to sing the words of songs that we know aren’t true, to mouth the words of prayers we know are empty, knowing full well that what we do on Sundays has absolutely no connection to the rest of the week? Is that what Christianity boils down to?
That as long as you can say that Jesus died for your sins and believe that He rose again from the dead, you can live any ol’ life and remain the nasty ol’ you and keep doing the selfish destructive things we’ve always done because you know you’re still going to be good when it comes to the end just because you at some point said a formulaic prayer and believe that Jesus rose again from the dead? Is that all there is to Christianity? Just show up once a week and pay your dues and you’re good?
Is that why Jesus came to die on the cross to descend into hell to rise again, just so we can be the same ol’ selfish nasty me and you, so that just because we uttered some words the same ol’ selfish nasty me and you can live in eternity?
Come on. You know that can’t be right.
Or does the problem of impotence of Christianity lie with how the modern day church has been practicing our faith?
I'll just let Jesus tell you.
"The the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me...I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
"Then He will say to those on His left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and you did not look after me...I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one fo the least of these, you did not do for me.
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Dec 2, 2008
You shall have no other gods before me...
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might...
That's the problem with God - this whole first thing.
We like to think that we give God our best but I don't think that's true.
When God asks me, "Am I enough?" I want to answer that God is more than enough.
But when I am being honest with myself and with God, the real answer is that God + ______ is enough.
For me, it's God + "things going my way" is enough. Because when I find that things aren't going my way, I'm not very happy with God. It's not enough to know that God loves me, I want God to love me and for that to manifest itself in things going my way. That's the brutal honest truth.
I know that's selfish and childish. But that's the ugly truth. And that is the ugly truth that I want to get rid of by confessing it to God. I want to surrender all to God and I want God to be enough.
Nov 30, 2008
It's interesting that this book has cause such a controversy amongst Christian leaders.
Folks I respect like Mark Driscoll tells people not to read the book because it makes heretical claims about God and the Trinity.
And then there are other Christians leaders I respect like Eugene Peterson who equates "The Shack" as the modern day version of "The Pilgrim's Progress."
How can there be such divergent views on this book.
I was curious so I wanted to read the book for myself.
Here's my two cents on this - The Shack is no systematic theology. But that's perfectly fine. It never intended to be so. It's a novel. It's a fictional story about how grace and mercy and healing can break into a person's life. It was never intended to be a theological text book. It's a book about grace.
And when read as such, it is a marvelous book that demonstrates the awesome healing powers of God through grace.
Just as "Pilgrim's Progress" is not meant to teach systematic theology, neither is that the purpose of "The Shack."
And just as the fictional book "Pilgrim's Progress" teaches some monumental truths about God and who we are, so does this fictional book called "The Shack."
I whole-heartedly recommend that you go pick this book up and read it. You won't regret it.
Jesus tells us that the church of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world.
Jesus tells us that it’s God’s plan to use the church to transform the world.
I believe that to the core of my being. This truth is something I would be willing to bet my life on.
But here’s the thing I’ve been wrestling with.
If this is true, then how come we see so little evidence of this reality? Why is it that there are hundreds and thousands of churches all around our country and we seem to be on the losing side?
• Why is it that there seems to be ever more increasing violence and more war?
• Why is it that terrorism, racism, and consumerism seems more rampant than ever before?
• Why is it that there seems to be more divorce and more marriages breaking up all around us?
• Why is it that the gates of hell actually seem to be winning?
• Why aren’t our churches making more of a difference?
Nov 28, 2008
I have been wondering about all the resources and finances that goes into maintaining the facilities of the churches around our area. We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every year just to pay for our facilities, and I don't know of a single church that is filled to capacity. Why do we do that?
What keeps us from working together to make a difference in the community? Why couldn't we come together to pool our resources of finances, people resources, and talent resources to really make a difference in our community?
Oh, yeah. That thing called denominations.
You know what? To the 246,000 unchurched in our ten mile radius, our denominational differences don't mean a darn thing to them. They don't care whether we dunk em, sprinkle, or pour water for baptism. That just doesn't matter. What people want to know is...
- Is God for real?
- Can God really make a difference in my life?
- Is there a hope and purpose for my life?
- Can I really make a lasting difference through my life?
And yet, because of our stupid denominational identities, we are separated and leave almost no impact in our communities.
Does anyone else think that this is a wacky way to do church?
Nov 26, 2008
We're all going to have our fair share of turkey and fixings. Most of us will consume more food than necessary. We will be surrounded by the people we love.
It's been quite a year. We've made it thus far out of some difficult situations.
Remember to take the time out to thank God for all that you have. I encourage you all to take about ten minutes and write down on a piece of paper for the things that you thank God for. And as you make this list, I want you to think about the things that you couldn't live without. Because those are the people and the things that we most often take for granted.
After you've made your list, say a prayer thanking God for everything written down on your paper.
Have a blessed thanksgiving and make sure you get to one of God's houses for worship on Sunday.
Nov 25, 2008
• The false Jesus who says it’s all about comfort and security destroys Christian mission.
• The false Jesus who says it’s okay to turn a blind eye to the suffering in our very inner cities as long as we’re raising our children undermines Christianity.
• The false Jesus who says it’s okay to keep accumulating goods and bank accounts at the expense of investing ourselves fully to the cause of alleviating the suffering of our community repudiates everything the Christ of Scripture lived for and died for.
• The false Jesus who says it’s perfectly fine to remain racially divided in your churches and worship while the rest of the world is multicultural undermines the gospel that we are all God’s children.
• The false Jesus who says you keep doing church the way you’ve always done church in your own little circles and denominations because that’s the way we’ve always done church is killing our witness in a non-Christian majority world.
If that’s what being a Christian and being a part of a church means, is what we are doing here in our churches in The Colony, is it even worth doing? multiplying? Worth imitating?
We live in a community that has 270,000 people in a ten mile radius from us, and 91% of them are unchurched. Here’s what that means in a very practical sense. While we keep doing church the ways we’ve always done it, segregated by race, by denominations, and history, 246,000 of our neighbors, coworkers, and will spend an eternity in damnation apart from Jesus.
That my friends is simply unacceptable. We must discover better ways to do church. We must get better at making new Christians and growing them up to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
To the 246,000 unchurched in our area, our denominational differences don’t mean a darn thing to them. They don’t care if you’re Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalean, Church of Christ, Assemblies of God, or non-denominational. What they need to know is does God matter? Can God change my life? Is God for real? Is there hope for our world?
Nov 24, 2008
In an span of four hours, there was a couple who was sitting in my office who are at the end of their ropes and is desperately trying to make their marriage work. They are barely hanging on wondering if it's even worth trying to salvage.
And then within the hour, there was a different couple sitting in the same chairs who couldn't wait to get their married life started. They are going through pre-marital counseling and like every other engaged people I've worked with are convinced that they can work through any issue or problem they will face together as a couple. No one getting married thinks that they are going to divorce. No one getting married thinks I'm going to be absolutely miserable.
And as the two sets of couples left my office I pondered how we get there. How do we get to where we find ourselves.
Neither of the couples find themselves where they are without a myriad of choices. It's those choices that brings you to where you are in life - whether it's to get married or thinking that youare ready to quit on your marriage.
So here's the deal - today, make some good Godly choices. Make the choices that demonstrate your love and appreciation for one another. Avoid choices that discourage and demean. Make good Godly choices. You don't want to end up in a place of misery. You don't get there over night. It takes choices.
Make good Godly choices today.
Nov 19, 2008
It's been playing at our house and in our car on the ipod. He's had the thing repeating on the home stereo for the past three hours and he's not tiring of the song.
Nov 14, 2008
Evangelicals are hyper concerned about sexuality - to ensure that gays and lesbians are not ordained, that singles remain chaste in singleness and married couples remain faithful in their marriage, etc.
It's all crap if we are not partnering with God to make new Christians and faithful disciples.
It's all crap unless God is actively at work to transform lives, heal marriages, change eternal destinies.
It's all crap as long as we keep turning a blind eye to the poor and the lonely while we live in our luxury and keep going deeper in debt, totally mismanaging God's resources.
It's all crap as long as we remain blind to the injustices in our society and in our world.
Right theology and polity structures are tools to enable God's ministry and mission. Right theology and polity structures are not the aim of the church - they are tools.
Nov 13, 2008
The only way forward is for us to discern how we can be a church together. Although I do not know what that church likes, I can say with all certainty that it does not look like anything like the church and the denomination of today.
Many others and I have been looking at what this restructuring of the denominations might look like. And this morning I had a huge "A HA!" moment.
Martin Luther did not think through all the ramifications of what the protestant reformation would look like and be like. The more true statement is that the protestant reformation happened to him. The reformers did not know all the details and complexities. The details and complexities happened upon them as God's church happened upon them.
And I am completely at peace with that idea - that God will do what God needs to do. And our part in this journey is to continue doing what we've been called to do - make disciples of all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and to help them become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. And as we do that, the reformation will happen upon us.
Nov 12, 2008
Is the only thing that keeps some of us PC(USA) the property clause? Or is there more to being Presbyterian?
I think the only reason why some of us remain PC(USA) is the property clause.
Is there more to being Presbyterian than the property clause? Yes there is. And this is where things get more complicated.
That's all for today. My head hurts from being in a think tank meeting all day. More to come.
Nov 11, 2008
And that is exactly what we're supposed to do - have dominion over all things. But the problem with how so many of us live is that it seems that many things have dominion over us instead.
- schedule has dominion over our lives
- our financial commitments have dominion over our lives
- friendships and relationships have dominion over our lives
- addictions to alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sex, porn
In order to rule over all the things that God has put under us, we need to get straight just one thing - There is a God, and YOU are not God.
Once you understand that there is a God and that you are not God, then you understand that you don't own all these things, that you are a manager and a caretaker of all these things that have been entrusted to you. And when you start understanding that you will have to answer to God for what you did with your life, then you start managing your money, your life, your career, your sex drive and life, and everything else based on God's guidance. And when you do that, all these things become a blessing to you.
That's how it works.
Nov 8, 2008
What if you knew a truth that would make the difference between life and death...
What if you knew something terrible that was going to take place and you knew how to alert others to avoid this tragedy...
What if you knew all these things and when you told them to your friends and family no one believed you?
What if no one takes you seriously because they've always thought of you as a joke?
That's exactly what happened to Lot in Genesis 19:14. He has been told by God that Sodom would be destroyed because of its depravity. And when Lot goes out to his sons-in-law to warn them of the impending doom, "he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting."
What a sad statement.
And what's even sadder is that we as Christians have been sharing this same message - there is an impending doom and judgment that awaits every single human being. But this is totally unnecessary because Jesus has made a way for us by taking our sin upon Himself and paying the penalty for our sins. But everyone must choose. Everyone must act. And the millions of people all around our churches and Christians think of us and our message as a joke.
This is no one else's fault but our own. We don't live like we take this message of redemption and transformation very seriously. And if Christ-followers won't take it seriously, why should anyone else?
Nov 5, 2008
Abraham is 100 years-old when this promise finally comes to fruition.
Does this bother anyone else?
I know. I don't have much patience. But it bothers me that God would promise something and then not do it until decades later.
Abram believed God. And when God wasn't coming through like God promised, he took things into his own hands and conceived a child through Hagar.
Why is all that even necessary? Why did God wait 25 years? Was Abram not ready? What's the deal?
That's the thing. - God doesn't operate on our time schedule. God has His own timing. You can do that when you're God.
It's just that guys like me going through every day life with very little patience, has a hard time accepting this. But whether I have a hard time or not, God is God and His promises will come to fruition. That I know.
Still doesn't mean I have to like the waiting part.
Nov 4, 2008
For a people as individualistic as we are, the promises of God to Abram are absolutely frightening. We cannot help but think about our relationship to God in an individualistic way - my salvation, my God, etc.
But I wonder if that's the best way to think about God.
Just look at the promise of God in Genesis 15. What about all those people who have to live for 400 years in oppression and slavery? What about their rights? What about their freedom? What do they get in the promise of God?
But they have to be there. There needs to be 400 years of oppression. So are those people blessed for being enslaved because they are a part of God's plan?
Man, I don't know. I don't know how to make sense of all this.
What I do know is that sometimes the actualization of the promises of God take time. And often times, it takes more time than I am comfortable with. I hate waiting. I hate the in between time. I want God doing great things time all the time.
That's why I find such passages so difficult to understand. It's still God's word so I will keep wrestling with it.
Oct 30, 2008
You know, it's a strange thing. I travel a lot. And when I'm the one who's gone, I don't feel like something's missing. With Helen and Kaleb gone, man! Things were weird around the house without them.
I was trying to write my sermon last week from my study and you would think that the peace and quiet was good, but I couldn't concentrate. It just felt too strange around my house. So I packed up all my stuff and finished my sermon in the office.
That too is weird. I don't have any problems being by myself in the office. I don't think it's weird at all when the office is quiet.
But I didn't like my house being that quiet. I like the noise of people when I am at home.
Life is good. We're back to normal.
Check out what God is up to @
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
Oct 28, 2008
I've been Mr. Mom for the past week as my wife and my son have been visiting her family in California. Hey, anyone who knocks moms who take of their kids ought to just try it. I've always loved my wife and valued her as a partner. I have a greater appreciation for all that she does.
I am a blessed man.
I'll be writing more after my duties are over.
To all the moms out there, "You rock!"
Oct 23, 2008
I already told them to get ready for a new diet - cereal cleansing. This is where we clean the body system out with cereal for every meal!
No. It won't be that bad. We'll only have to have cereal a couple of times a day. Helen made tons of food and left it for us.
This will be a good time for me and the girls to bond.
It's weird. I'm usually the one traveling and leaving. I asked Kaleb where he was going as we were leaving for the airport, and he told me, "We're going to the airport!"
"And what why are you going to the airport?" I asked.
And he said, "To drop you off Daddy!"
That's the way it normally works. But this time I dropped off Helen and Kaleb.
You know, it's nothing when I am traveling. And of course I miss my family when I'm traveling. But this is different. I already miss Helen and the little man.
Life is funny like that.
But we can do this - me and the girls. We can do this. Yes we can.
Oct 22, 2008
I want my life to look more like the book of Acts. I want stuff to be happening. I want to see God at work. I want to see lives get changed. But I seem to be in a place in life where what is being asked of me is faithfulness.
I was reading about Noah today and this is how Genesis 6:22 describes him. "Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him."
That's pretty awesome to have the Bible say that about you. I know I can't give God perfection. Simply not possible. But I do want to live in such a way where this could be true about me from moment to moment. And I want to put together as many moments of faithfulness as possible. And I figure, the more of these moments I string together, the more I participate in God's will. So, God, you got me right now. And now. And now.
Oct 16, 2008
I wonder why that is. It's the same God I serve. I have no doubts about God. God hasn't changed.
It must be me. I am not sure if I have changed. My faith in God is still the same as it was before. But I guess what I can say is that my heart has been hurt, that I've gone through disappointments.
But everyone goes through disappointments. Every one goes through hard times.
All I know is that I want that spark back. I want to know how to get it back. I want that unbridled passion. I want that exhilerating joy that comes from knowing that God is in control and that I am right where God wants me to be doing what He wants me to be doing.
If you're reading this, pray with me and help me to hear God's guidance.
Oct 14, 2008
One of the reasons why I love speaking at these Wee Kirk Conferences is because this is where I get to meet some of my heroes and heroines. I will never forget the pastor I met in the Northwest Wee Kirk Conference in Idaho. He is a pastor of a small fishing village in Alaska with a town population of 120. He serves a church with less than 15 members. There are no roads that lead to his town. The only way to get there is by boat or sea plane. They are completely isolated. He's been the pastor there for over 25 years.
When I heard his story, I asked him, "Man! How do you do it? You are completely isolated from everything. What keeps you going?"
And his reply was, "If I am not there, who will go? Those people deserve to know that God loves them."
Man, I tell you what. These folks have something in them that I just don't have. Many of them come from small churches in small towns where there is very little hope of growing the church. And yet they are there, faithfully serving God and His people.
When we get to heaven, I am convinced that they will be at the head of the table.
Oct 13, 2008
I wonder why we don't pray more. I wonder why I don't pray more.
Jesus says, "Ask and it will be given to you".
Jesus says, "Ask of it in my name and that will I do to glorify the Father in heaven".
Why don't I ask more? Why aren't we more intentional and specific about asking?
Why am I asking these questions and not doing something about prayer?
Gotta go. Gotta pray.
Check out what God is up to @
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
Oct 8, 2008
While there is no doubt that preaching is a privilege, there are times it gets me down. I work hard to prepare my sermons and to preach them faithfully. And sometimes, I can't help but wonder, "What is the point? Is this making any difference?
And as soon as I think that, I realize that the finger is pointing right back at me. That's exactly what I do to God. I know His teaching. I know what I should do and what I shouldn't do and I struggle with the same ol' sins everyday.
I wonder why we're like that. If we would just be better at the obeying thing the entire world would be better place.
I think what God is calling me and all of us to do is to be faithful to the task His given to us. The results are up to God and every single individual. But no matter what else is happening, we are called to be faithful to the task God has given to us.
So that's what I am going to do, one day at a time. And friend, you do the same. And together, God will change the world through sinful people like you and me - warts and all.
Oct 4, 2008
It just doesn't get much better than this.
Now, you tell me. In how many other large cities could you say that?
Dallas is a great place to be alive.
I am reading through John and I am constantly amazed at how much power our worldview and perspective has to blind us to truth.
For instance on John 10:24, Jews ask Jesus, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."
Look. Jesus has been making it crystal clear from the very beginning who He is. In fact, the Jews and the religious leaders were ready to kill Jesus twice already for blasphemy because Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. The truth is, because they believed that the Messiah could not be as human as Jesus was they could not see the Messiah standing right before their eyes.
And isn't that so much like us? We get so blinded by our pain, our circumstances, our pride that we miss the Savior standing right before us in our lives.
Check out what God is up to @
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
Oct 3, 2008
We went to McDonald's (his choice) and played in the Pirate themed play area. He ran around like crazy. Every time he climbed up to the top, he would come to the place where he can poke his head into this circular bulb type thing so he can give me the thumbs up.
After hanging out at McDonald's - after getting all his play out he was actually the one that said, "I'm done now Daddy. Let's get going" - we went to have desert at one of his favorite places - Yogurtland.
We had fun making our yogurt cups just the way we wanted them, and had a fun conversation together.
On the way home from Yogurtland, Kaleb and I sang "You Are My Sunshine" at the top of our lungs. It was fun for like the first five times and then after like the 20th time it got old. But he was still having a blast so I kept singing away.
It's funny how kids can sing the same song over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again and never get tired of it. I just got tired writing over, over and over again. And I'm pretty sure you're getting tired of reading over, over and over again.
Anyways. He's napping now and I think I will too.
What a great day!
Oct 2, 2008
The man believed the word that Jesus was speaking to him. That’s the first step. We must believe the word that Jesus speaks.
And the second step is just as critical. The man believed and he started on his way.
What an awesome statement of what a faith-life looks like.
Short and simple, but a profound reality of the faith-life.
Oct 1, 2008
I know. The title and the author just makes you want to go out and read this book.
But you really should. It is one of the best books I've read ever. If we take heart what this book has to teach us, it would totally revolutionize all our relationships.
The book is written in narrative form - like a story. It's not just theories and technical jargon. In real life simple words and characters, you too begin to see how you've been trapped. But most importantly, this books shows you how to get out of the trap - or box - as they call it.
This is a follow up to the book, "Leadership and Self-Deception". Another highly recommended book. The "Anatomy of Peace" goes deeper into looking at how we get in the box to begin with.
After reading it, I gave the book to my wife to read and she read it in one sitting. And now, she's passed the book on to one of her friends. This book has already changed our marriage.
It's that good.
Read it and change the way you look at the world.
Let's say that there was someone who lived in a country that knew nothing about God, the church, Jesus Christ, and Western history. And let's say that that person were to move to The Colony, Texas. Through some people, this person was given the gospels of Jesus Christ - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Question - if this person, after having read the gospels, were to visit our church, would they be able to recognize Jesus in our church? in our worship? in our practices?
Sep 29, 2008
Why would anyone ever want to be a Christ-follower if it meant misery and drudgery? That’s what God promises.
Jesus says, “I came that you might have life, and have it in abundance!” John 10:10.
And Jesus adds this by saying, “And my Father is glorified in this, that you bear much fruit.” John 15:8.
See, while our happiness and joy is not God’s goal, when we pursue God with our lives, and when we live in such a way to give credit to God, happiness and joy is the by-product, it’s the result of living a life of giving God glory or giving God credit. Don’t confuse the by-product with the goal itself.
Our joy and happiness is how we give glory to God.
- Go ahead. Try marriage God's way and have an awesome marriage.
- Go ahead. Try family God's way and have an awesome family life.
- Try work God's way and have an awesome experience at work no matter who your boss is, no matter who your co-workers are, no matter what.
- Try ____ God's way, and you're going to discover that there is no better way to do _____ than to do it God's way.
Sep 27, 2008
Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
So reads the shorter catechism.
We were created for the glory of God, and to enjoy Him forever. Tomorrow we will talk about the enjoying God forever part, but today, I'd like for us to consider what it means to live for the glory of God.
What in the world do we mean when we say the glory of God?
One of the best ways that we can understand this word is to think of the credit. All the credit be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. So when we say to our God and Father be glory for ever and ever, it means all the credit goes to God for ever and ever.
Here’s what this means in a very practical sense for you and me. Our happiness is not God’s ultimate goal, and nor should it be our goal. The goal is the glory of God. The goal is to give credit to God. This is one of the greatest truths that we can come to. Listen – it’s not about you.
- This church is not about you
- Your life is not about you
- Your money is not about you
- Your talents are not about you
- Your time is not about you
- Your marriage is not about you
- Your family is not about you
- Your community is not about you
- It’s all about returning and giving credit to God.
- It’s all about the glory of God.
It’s not about you. It’s all about giving credit to God. It's all about living for God.
Sep 26, 2008
Everyone of us who got married in the church took a vow before God and His people. We took a vow. We did not enter into a contractual agreement - we took a vow. There is a huge difference.
A contractual agreement says, "I'm in as long as my contractual partner continues to meet these contractual agreements."
When one takes a vow, that's an entirely different thing.
When a soldier takes a vow to protect our country and our constitution, he/she takes a vow to obey the orders of the commanding officer.
When the order is to go fight - it don't matter whether you want to fight or not. You go fight.
When the command is given to stand guard and stand your ground - it don't matter whether you're tired or if you feel like sleeping in - if the order is to stand your ground, you stand guard.
The order and command from our commanding officer, Jesus Christ, is to love our wives as Christ loves the church even giving up His life for her. That's our order.
And we can't act like this is something new for us. We took a vow. Our vows were for sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, no matter what else happens in life, I do take this person to be my wife/husband till death.
That's the vow. That's our order. Now it's time for Christ-followers to follow and obey.
Sep 24, 2008
I checked and cleaned out the filter and still we were having the same problems.
I pulled the machine out and got to the dryer vent pipe thing (as you can see I am very handy around the house). When I got the thing open, I could see clearly the reason why our dryer wasn't drying clothes and blowing hot air into the laundry room. There was a dust ball the size of a cantaloupe blocking the air in the pipe.
I cleaned it out and I am happy to report that the dryer is working fine now and the laundry room is not as hot as it used to be.
Here's the thing about the dust hair ball thing I pulled out from the dryer vent pipe thing.
Dust particles on their own couldn't have ever formed into a giant dust fur ball like that.
Hair on its own couldn't have ever blocked the vent pipe.
But when enough dust particles and hair got together we had a cantaloupe size blockage.
I think that's the way it is with us. Most of have a little sin here and a little sin there. I don't thing God cares about the size of the sins. To God sin is a sin. But when I say little sin, I am referring to the relational impact it makes in our lives. Very few of us commit the big sins - murder, rape, adultery, etc - that majorly impact our relationships and that lead to massive consequences.
For the most of us it's the little sins - gossiping here, lusting here, stealing time at work by not giving our best, etc. On its own they have the consequence may not be that huge. But in time our habits and shortcomings in character have a tendency to turn into a giant fur/dust ball. And pretty soon, if these sins persist, our relationships start hemorrhaging, our relationship to God becomes dull, we don't sense the presence of God, our life becomes joyless, we prefer the darkness.
This doesn't happen over night. It is the result of habitual rebellion and unwillingness to deal with our character.
So when's the last time you checked your heart vent pipe thing? Spend some time with God in an honest conversation and come clean. And start working on that character thing.
Check out what God is up to @
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
Sep 19, 2008
Today, I am going to do some griping.
Look, some people complain when I call to tell them I missed them on Sunday. They say that they are grown adults and they don't need the pastor guy calling them every time they aren't there on Sunday.
Fine. You don't want a call? I can live with that. But you are wrong about not having to worship. If you are a Christ follower, worshiping God is not an option or an issue of convenience. It is a matter of allegiance and obedience.
But I am getting off track.
Now people are complaining because I don't call them. Look some of the people complaining haven't been to church for months and not only that they are living in a way that is totally contrary to scripture.
So how many times should I call?
What should I say when I do call when I know they are living in sin and haven't been to church for months?
So here's the deal. I'm just gonna keep on loving folks, praying for folks, and doing my best to be a godly pastor.
And I'd like to ask you for a favor. Just show up and serve God and His people and we've got no problems.
Check out what God is up to @
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
Sep 16, 2008
I don't know how you answered that question but I am going to tell you not only my answer, but the only answer that is right - not only is this possible but this is how every Christ-follower must live because that's the way Christ lived.
Jesus never was wishy washy when it came to morality. He always told it straight. There was never any beating around the bush.
However, that truth was accompanied with such love, grace, genuine concern and acceptance that the very people who needed to hear the truth welcomed such truth.
I think it's a good thing that Trinity makes it clear that we are against abortion as a birth control. But if we are going to be against abortion as a means of birth control, then we have to be wide open with love and mercy for those women who have had abortions and for those women who have are living daily with the pain and guilt that comes from having made that decision.
Because if that is not who we are, and all that people ever hear is that abortion is bad, how many times do you think that a woman who has had an abortion can put up with hearing how much her life sucks? Is there any hope for her? Is there any hope that she might not suck so bad? A woman who's already suffered through an abortion is already dealing with guilt and the pain of that decision.
It is a good thing that Trinity makes it clear that the only sexual relationship that God approves of is between a husband and wife. No other sexual relationship - pre-marital sex, sex outside of marriage between husband and wife, gay sex - no other sexual relationship is right before God.
Because this is our position, we must also be wide open to those who have already failed sexually. And if people have failed, how many times are they going to hear how they've messed up? When will they hear God's call for transformation and hope?
Judgment doesn't change people. Grace and mercy changes people. Only when people know that God cares for them are they ready to hear God's truths.
Grace and mercy must come first. And once we've developed a relationship of love are people ready to hear about the truths of God.
Check out what God is up to @
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
Sep 15, 2008
Jesus had it all wrong.
• He couldn’t care less about the religious codes of ritual purity.
• People and their hurts and needs were always of greater concern than the keeping of the religious Sabbath laws.
• Jesus just wasn’t kosher. Jesus just wasn’t holy according to their religious standards. Because if He was holy, He would know how dirty and impure these people were.
And the most amazing thing about these religious people were that they could somehow take the incredible message of the God who is for us, and turn it against the very people who needed this God the most.
And in our day, if Jesus were walking earth in 2008, I am positive that Jesus would see beyond the tattoos, the piercings, the long hair, the clothes, sexual deviancies, the loud music, sins of all the people to see a child of God who desperately needed to find themselves in the grace of God.
And in the presence of Jesus, regardless of who you were, you were welcomed, received, and made to feel like you were the only one that mattered to God. So much so that God would send His only begotten Son to die for them so that whoever would believe in such a God would be made a child of God and would never die but have eternal life.
And friends, I am so disturbed and disgusted by how much I am not like this Jesus, and how my life and faith has been more like the religious leaders of His day who crucified Jesus.
There’s something terribly wrong when Christ-followers of today are better known for what we are against – against gays, against sex, against change, against freedom, against choice, when Jesus is the greatest example of a God who is for people.
And we have to ask ourselves, are we more like Jesus or the Pharisees and the Sadducees of His day?
Sep 10, 2008
• Bet or gamble
• Visit a pornographic web site
• Take something that didn’t belong to them
• Consult a medium or psychic
• Physically fight or abuse someone
• To have consumed enough alcohol to be legally drunk
• Use a non-prescription illegal drug
• Say something untrue
• Get back at someone for what they did or said
• Say mean things behind someone’s back.
NO DIFFERENCE – they found no statistical difference.
In the areas where they did find differences it was in things like: Self-professed born again Christians were much more likely to…
• Own their own bibles
• Attend a weekend service
• Belong to a Bible Study
This is the reason why 84% of unchurched say they know a Christian personally but only 15% said they can see a life style difference in them.
Bottom line – Christ-followers are not doing a very good job of demonstrating the glory of Jesus Christ. Let alone, helping others find their way to Jesus, the sad truth is that, Christians are the biggest hindrance to others finding Jesus Christ.
Why do some people act as if there are no consequences to the words they spew out of their mouths?
While everyone would agree that it is wrong to beat someone with their fists, why do some people think it's okay to beat others down with their words?
I don't get it.
The scars and the marks words leave on the soul are just as bruising as the scars on the body.
Does it really make you feel that good to beat another person down with such hurtful words?
I don't get it.
Check out what God is up to @
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
Sep 6, 2008
The break through for Martin Luther came when he realized that salvation is by grace alone - that there is nothing we could possibly do to merit or earn salvation. Salvation is purely the work of God. Salvation is something only God can do for us.
This is an absolute truth.
I have been studying the gospel according to John with the elders of our church. And one of the surprises has been Jesus' emphasis on works.
Jesus says, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God's wrath" (John 3:36).
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life...that makes perfect sense. That goes with everything we've ever been taught about salvation.
It's the next phrase that I find surprising. You would think that Jesus would say, "whoever does not believe in the Son will not see life but must endure God's wrath." But that's not what Jesus says.
He says, "whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God's wrath."
Jesus juxtaposes belief with disobedience.
And what awaits those who disobey is God's wrath. Jesus ties our obedience to salvation!
While it is absolutely true that salvation is by accepting the grace that God offers us in Jesus Christ, it is also absolutely true that there is no such thing as believing in Jesus that is not then accompanied by obedience. That's why you find Jesus repeatedly saying to those whom He heals, "Sin no more."
To think that belief in Jesus is only a mental agreement without accompanying it with our actions and deeds is simply false.
For Jesus, right behavior and our obedience naturally follows our believing Jesus. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, if we believe that He will come to judge the quick and the dead, if we believe that Jesus is King and Lord, then it only follows that we would obey.
Salvation is 100% the work of God.
And believing and accepting God's plan for salvation therefore leads to our on-going obedience. So, yes, it is faith and works.
Sep 3, 2008
And we keep thinking of new ways of doing church - maybe the solution is in going back to a single service, maybe we need to do a blended service, we need to do this, we need to do that.
What if the thing that must change isn't a thing at all?
What if what we need to experience God's full awesome power is not a program or a thing at all?
Could it be that I must change?
Sep 2, 2008
Do I think being a Christ-follower is easy? I must tell you that I think this is asking the wrong question.
I think this is a wrong question to be asking on several accounts.
First, this question assumes that Christianity is about doing and not-doing. It puts the whole enchilada on the whole doing thing - am I having sex outside of marriage? Do I steal? Do I cheat? Do I watch porn? Do I have homosexual fantasies? Have I had an abortion? Did I read my Bible today? Did I pray? Am I tithing? Have I shared with someone about Jesus? And the list could go on?
Being a good Christian isn't so much about doing and not doing. In fact, we become Christians by grace and grace alone. It is by accepting what God has done in Jesus Christ. It is by accepting what Jesus did - the very thing that we could never do for ourselves - that we become a Christ-follower.
This doesn't mean that doing things and not doing things doesn't matter. Read on.
Second reason why the above question is asking the wrong question is because it is akin to asking two people madly in love with each other, "Is being in love easy?"
Look, when you're in love with someone - where you can't think about anything else, where you don't want to do anything without that other person, where you all you can think about is your lover, loving is the easiest thing in the world.
And when you're in love, you're not thinking about the stuff you've got to do and not do - oh, don't cheat, don't have an affair, do nice things, say loving things, etc. All these things happen as a result of being in love. The key is the person. The key is being in love.
When you love someone, all these other things flow from being in love. And the thing is, you can do all these things without love.
When we focus on anything else other than Jesus Christ, we're asking the wrong questions.
But when we become Christ-focused, when we keep our eyes on Jesus and realize how awesome He is, then doing and not doing just falls into place.
When we have a doing and not-doing problem, we have a love problem, we have a Jesus problem.
But when we love Jesus, being a Christian is the easiest thing in the world.
Even as I write this, I need to confess that I am much more comfortable with doing and not doing than loving Jesus thing. I am learning and growing to be more of a loving Jesus person.
And when I forget about what being a Christ-follower means, I quickly resort back to being a rule keeper and a breaker.
But I can also confess that I want to be more like the lover. I want to know Jesus more. I hunger for genuine Christianity.
Check out what God is up to @
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
Aug 31, 2008
Being sick sucks.
Being sick wouldn't be that bad if it didn't suck so bad. I mean, I got to stay home all day, read, watch tv - thank God the college football season got started. I must have watched five games yesterday - and just lounge around all day. But it sucked because my head was pounding, my ribs were hurting from coughing too much, my throat was sore, my nose was sore from blowing it all the time, and my joints and muscles were aching. So, yeah. It pretty much sucked.
I'm finally starting to feel better.
It was a perfect time to get sick though. I don't have to preach this week because it's youth Sunday and the kids will be leading worship. How perfect is that. Thank you God. This was the perfect week to get sick.
Aug 28, 2008
And here’s the truth that’s been haunting me. If our conception of who Jesus is false, then it is better for us to be atheists because our allegiance and adherence to a false Jesus is absolutely devastating. It would be far more preferable if we just didn’t believe anything.
The false Jesus who says it’s all about comfort and security destroys Christian mission.
The false Jesus who says it’s okay to turn a blind eye to the suffering in our very inner cities as long as we’re raising our children undermines Christianity.
The false Jesus who says it’s okay to keep accumulating goods and bank accounts at the expense of investing ourselves fully to the cause of alleviating the suffering of our community repudiates everything the Christ of Scripture lived for and died for.
If that’s what being a Christian and being a part of a church means, is what we are doing here at Trinity and thousands of churches like us around the United States worth doing? multiplying? Worth imitating?
The Jesus of scripture is not very nice to the comfort seeking suburbanites like you and me.
And yet Christ keeps bidding us. Christ keeps calling us. Christ keeps challenging us to grow deeper into the word so that Christ can go deeper into the world. I am absolutely convinced that Christianity as we know it has to go through a major overhaul if we are to be faithful to the Christ of scripture.
I confess that I need to grow. I confess that I need to change. I want so desperately to know how to live a life that is holy and so full of joy that it is profoundly attractive to our world. I ask you to go on that journey with me. And as we pursue together how we might be more like the Christ of Scripture, I am absolutely convinced that God can change our world.
Aug 26, 2008
Now here is a man who is absolutely holy and yet the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the swindlers, the thieves, and the underbelly of Israel loved being around Him. In fact, the only ones who seemed to have a problem with Jesus were the religious of the day.
I don’t know about you, but I find this quite disturbing.
Because you see, when I look at my life and ask the question, “Who would have been more comfortable around me – the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the swindlers, and thieves or the religious of today – there’s no question. The religious people would be far more comfortable around me.
And if the truth be told, I am not very comfortable around the underbelly of our society. I would much rather hang out with other religious people.
And the thing that frightens me most about that is that the religious people were the ones who crucified Jesus. And I can’t help but wonder if Jesus were walking the earth today, if I might not find myself in the same camp as the religious of His day.
Instead of going out into the world with the hope and the message of Jesus Christ, we prefer insulating ourselves in our little cocoons in order to keep the very people whom Jesus sends us out, out!
Instead of infiltrating the public school system with Christian children and Christian teachers, we create Christian schools.
Instead of infiltrating our neighborhoods with the love and hospitality of Jesus Christ, we hand pick our friends.
Instead of tackling the needs of the underprivileged in our world, we move out to the suburbs so that we don’t have to look at the poor.
And if the truth be told, I don’t think that’s how Jesus would have lived His life. And I don’t think that’s who Jesus is calling us to be.
Aug 25, 2008
Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers
This was a song about how when he was a young man he prayed that his high school sweetheart would be his wife. And now decades later, as he's sitting with his wife, he thanks God for unanswered prayers.
Terrible theology. Totally wrong. There is no such thing as unanswered prayers. God answers every single one of them. It’s just that we may not like God’s answers to our prayers.
God always answers our prayers in the following four ways:
• No – when our request is wrong, God says “No”. No is an answer. We just may not like hearing no. But if our request is wrong, God will not answer "No." Like, "No, James. You cannot dominate the world."
• Slow – when the timing is wrong, God says “Slow”. My son is 3 years old. Let's say he tires of playing with his toy cars and he says, "Daddy, I want a real car just like yours'." While my immediate answer may be "No," it is not a forever "No." It is only a temporary "No" because I fully expect him to have his own car and drive when he's old enough.
• Grow – when our motives are wrong, God says “Grow”. Even when the request is right, and the timing is right, if our motives are wrong, God will say, "Grow." I may ask God to use me as a leader for the church and the denomination to help grow the church. But if my motives are selfish and pride oriented, God will tell me, "Grow up James. Take some more time to grow deeper into the word."
• Go – when our request is right, and the timing is right, and we are right, God says “Go!” Now that's what I'm talking about! When our request is right, the timing is right, and our motives are right, God says, "GO FOR IT!"
God always answers prayers.
Thank God for that!
Aug 23, 2008
Beauty of Mathematics !!!!!!!
1 x 8 + 1 = 9
12 x 8 + 2 = 98
123 x 8 + 3 = 987
1234 x 8 + 4 = 9876
12345 x 8 + 5 = 98765
123456 x 8 + 6 = 987654
1234567 x 8 + 7 = 9876543
12345678 x 8 + 8 = 98765432
123456789 x 8 + 9 = 987654321
1 x 9 + 2 = 11
12 x 9 + 3 = 111
123 x 9 + 4 = 1111
1234 x 9 + 5 = 11111
12345 x 9 + 6 = 111111
123456 x 9 + 7 = 1111111
1234567 x 9 + 8 = 11111111
12345678 x 9 + 9 = 111111111
123456789 x 9 +10= 1111111111
9 x 9 + 7 = 88
98 x 9 + 6 = 888
987 x 9 + 5 = 8888
9876 x 9 + 4 = 88888
98765 x 9 + 3 = 888888
987654 x 9 + 2 = 8888888
9876543 x 9 + 1 = 88888888
98765432 x 9 + 0 = 888888888
Brilliant, isn't it?
And look at this symmetry:
1 x 1 = 1
11 x 11 = 121
111 x 111 = 12321
1111 x 1111 = 1234321
11111 x 11111 = 123454321
111111 x 111111 = 12345654321
1111111 x 1111111 = 1234567654321
11111111 x 11111111 = 123456787654321
111111111 x 111111111 = 12345678987654321
Now, take a look at this...
From a strictly mathematical viewpoint: What Equals 100%? What does it mean to give MORE than 100%? Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%?
We have all been in situations where someone wants you to GIVE OVER 100%. How about ACHIEVING 101%? What equals 100% in life?
Here's a little mathematical formula that might help answer these questions:
If: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Is represented as:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.
H-A-R-D-W-O- R- K
8+1+18+4+23+ 15+18+11 = 98%
11+14+15+23+ 12+5+4+7+ 5 = 96%
1+20+20+9+20+ 21+4+5 = 100%
THEN, look how far the love of God will take you:
12+15+22+5+15+ 6+7+15+4 = 101%
Therefore, one can conclude with mathematical certainty that:
While Hard Work and Knowledge will get you close, and Attitude will get you there, It's the Love of God that will put you over the top!