Sep 29, 2008

The Coolest Thing About It's Not About You or Me

Here’s the coolest about "It's not about you thing." When we live our lives to give God the credit and glory, it doesn't mean that therefore we're going to be living sucky lives. In fact, totally to the contrary.

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.
The purpose and the goal of life is to give God glory and to give God the credit. And when you live like that, joy is the result. But if you pursue joy apart from seeking God’s glory and giving God the credit, you will have neither.

Sep 27, 2008

It's Not About You

What is the chief end of man?

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.
And the sooner we learn this, the better off you’re going to be, and when you start living as if life, and church, and marriage, and your career was not about you, I can tell you every one else around you will be singing the glories 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

Vows vs Contract

I've been preparing the next sermon series called "I Do". God's understanding of Marriage.

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

Dryer Vent Pipe Thing

For the past week, my wife has been complaining that our dryer hasn't been drying. Not only that, whenever we would run the machine, it would make our laundry room unbearably hot.

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.
James <><
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Sep 19, 2008

There is no doubt that I have a great job. I love what I do. But that does not mean that there aren't frustrations that come with being a pastor.

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.

James <><
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Sep 16, 2008

Clear and Gracious

Is it possible that you can be crystal clear where you stand when it comes to controversial issues like abortion, capital punishment, war in Iraq, gays and lesbians, Biblical sexuality, and still be wide open with grace and love to those who stand on the opposite spectrum on these same issues?

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.

James <><

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Sep 15, 2008

Jesus Had it All Wrong - Or Did He?

The biggest opposition Jesus faced were the religious of His day. They couldn’t stand Jesus. They couldn’t stand what He represented. The holiness and righteousness that Jesus offered was nothing like the religion of the Jews.

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

Biggest Hindrance to Christianity - Christians

In the book Unchristian, the authors asked both self-professed born-again Christians and those who are unchurched to identify their activities over the previous 30 days. And here’s what they found. When asked to identify their activities over the last 30 days, born-again Christians were just as likely to…
• 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
• Tithe
• 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.

Painful Words

Why do some people think it's okay to say whatever they want?

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.

James <><
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Sep 6, 2008

Faith and Works

The crying call of the Reformation is "Grace alone, by faith alone, in Scripture alone, all for the glory of God alone."

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

Could it be that I Must Change?

We, Trinity Presbyterian Church, have been scratching our heads to figure out why we have not been growing as we believe we should. We have tried many things - starting a contemporary service, starting small groups, men's groups, women's groups, etc. And yet we are still wondering where the new young couples, the youth, the children, the families, etc. are.

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

Christianity - Easiest thing in the World

Before you go thinking that I'm crazy, let me explain.

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.

James <><
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