"All right then," Joshua said, "destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel." (It's time to make some lifestyle changes if you want to authentically serve the Lord.) The people said to Joshua, "We will serve the LORD our God. We will obey him alone."
Sunday, December 30, 2007
"All right then," Joshua said, "destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel." (It's time to make some lifestyle changes if you want to authentically serve the Lord.) The people said to Joshua, "We will serve the LORD our God. We will obey him alone."
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
My mother is scheduled to have a serious surgery on Tuesday morning in Reading, Pennsylvania. I found a cheap flight on Spirit Airlines and will have to drive a couple hours after landing to get to her place.
It seems like a long time since I woke up this morning to a new day, with new Scripture, and new blogs. I was really blessed and challenged by Flamingo's podcast! (Check out Monday's.) Leaders need to check this one out. It was interesting to find that Clay chose to use the same podcast at our leaders meeting.
We separated the Chirstmas gifts piled up in the lobby and sent 46 of them off to a local elementary school to fulfil the wishes of many boys and girls whose parents were struggling this year to buy their children gifts. Another 100 gifts will go out next Monday.
Cars came and went with canned goods for our effort to provide North Strand Helping Hand with 4.5 tons of food. We have really pushed the envelope this year as our church stepped up to the plate (or maybe the cross) to deliver funds for 200 turkeys for needy families at Thanksgiving, gifts for 146 children for Christmas and now 4.5 tons of canned food to warm the bellies of hungry people this year.
A female officer from our local police department was sent to investigate our ministry to battered women, which w. . . . . .
Opps! The plane came while I was in the middle of that thought. It is now Thursday morning and this is the first time I've had access to the Internet. I finally reached my mom's house at 2:00am and got up at 5:00am to take her to the hospital. Her surgery was difficult, but she seems to be through the worst and may be moved out of intensive care today. I have been learning a lot about patience, while still looking forward, more than ever, to the weekend.
This morning has been crammed with e-mail catchup, preparation to go to the hospital, and the continuation of projects for Gospelink and the church. Tomorrow I will visit the hospital in the morning and then relocate to New Jersey in preparation for an early morning departure back to Myrtle Beach. Hopefully there will be no delays. I have a meeting that afternoon with the board at the church concerning two budgets that represent two of the ministries I will be focused on in 2008.
Sunday is coming!
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Joshua challenged his generation with this:
"Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD . And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD , choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD ." Joshua 24:14-15 NASB
It seems like Joshua is saying we are going to serve something or someone. It's not a question of whether you will serve, but rather who you will serve.
Paul said that serving was a part of the testimony of the Christians at Thessalonica. "For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-109 NASB
They were serving with an anticipation of Christ's return. I was interested this morning in what Steve Furtick had to say. He has some interesting insight into what it means to serve the Lord.
Check out: Colossians 3:23-25. " Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. NASB
This would lead me to believe that serving the Lord is more than just volunteering at church or in the community. It is more than vocational Christianity. Serving is the natural lifestyle of God's children. When we do what we ought to, in the way we ought to do it, as though it is the Lord we are doing it for, we are serving the Lord.
Question: Do we do everything we do as servants of the Lord or do we do it because of men? Maybe we would face each day more "heartily" if we were reporting to the Lord instead of men. Every morning when we awake, the Lord is calling out, "REPORT FOR DUTY."
What do you think?
Sunday, November 25, 2007
As we looked at John 4 this morning, I was intrigued by the series of events that evolved from Jesus sharing the Gospel with the woman at the well. Check this out:
Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."
And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all the things that I have done." So when the Samaritans came to Him, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world." John 4:34-42 NASB
When Jesus told the disciples to "look up and see the whitened fields" they were witnessing the crowd of white-robed Samaritans coming out of the city in search of the Messiah that the woman told them she had encountered. Here was an opportunity to reap where the woman had sown. As Jesus said, "For in this case the saying is true, One sows and another reaps."
Our church is located in a tourist area. I talked with a couple today that come to church whenever they are in town. We are sowing into the lives of people who return home where someone else may reap. We have people come into our midst who are searching for something that someone else sowed into their lives and we have the privilege of reaping.
Ultimately it is the Lord who is at work. At some point, "It is no longer because of what a person has said or done, but it is because people encounter the Lord Himself, who is indeed the Savior of the world." Look at John 4:42 again.
It is great to reap, but it is just as great to sow. If we really look around us, we will see that there are opportunities everywhere. In some situations we sow seed into someone's life and in other cases we have the privilege of reaping where someone else has sown.
Let's rejoice together in God's harvest. That's my Wish.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
We live in a thankless culture. It may even be a generational problem, because young people in America grew up with the "rights" agenda injected into their psyches on a daily basis. As Christians, still tainted by the cultural "funk and junk" (a Clayism), it's a good time to consciously and intentionally live in a spirit of thanksgiving.
We should "Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the LORD is good; His loving kindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness to all generations." Psalms 100:4-5 NASB
Monday, November 19, 2007
I ran across this list of seven social sins that Mohandas Gandhi identified. It was interesting to think through this list.
Wealth without Work
Pleasure without Conscience
Science without Humanity
Knowledge without Character
Politics without Principle
Commerce without Morality
Worship without Sacrifice
Most Christians could "amen" every item on this Hindu leader's list. But how many Christians can "amen" the last one.
God is not truly worshipped when He only receives our excesses or leftovers. When we truly worship something, we sacrifice. When the world sees some guy sacrificing for a girl, they often say, "He worships the ground she walks on." When the neighbors see a guy washing his car three times a week, they say, "He worships that car." When a wife watches her husband play golf four times a week, she will tell her friends, "He worships golf." The world understands that true worship involves sacrifice. So did David when he said, "I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing." 2 Samuel 24:18-25
God is calling His church into authentic worship that will not go unnoticed by a watching world. If we are going to be engaged in the greatest spiritual harvest in history, it will take sacrifice.
Something to think about.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Very early in my first ministry, I found myself picking up the pieces of a ministry meltdown in a small town in rural Maine. God did some miracles in the ministry and turned the town upside down with the Gospel. He gave us some great friends and we saw multi-generational families baptized together.
One Monday morning, one of the gals who was among our closest friends came into my office. She looked at my large library (A heavy necessity before the computer.) and said, "Gee, Pastor, you have a lot of books. The way you preach, I didn't think you studied that hard." My mind and emotions began to short-circuit. Was she insulting me? Were my messages that lame? I had to assume she wasn't attacking me. Later I learned that my predecessor spoke Greek and Hebrew in his sermons and no one could understand him. She was saying that I preached messages she could understand. What I assumed about her feelings toward me as her pastor impacted how I received what would otherwise be considered a slam.
What people assume about Christians will impact how they receive what we say, too. Most homosexuals assume that Christians hate them. After all, there are "Christian" people walking around with signs saying "God hates homosexuals." Most people assume that Christians are judgemental. Have you ran across any "Christians" that would contribute to that assumption. Most people assume that Christians are hypocritical, that is, they say one thing, but do another. Where did they ever get such an idea?
We need to violate these assumptions. I am asking the Lord to show me where I can show homosexuals the love of God. I am asking God to make me more compassionate and less judgemental. I want to practice what I profess. One of the things we should be listening for is the statement, "I didn't think Christians were like you are. I assumed they were . . . ." Once people know we love them, it will shake their assumptions, and they may be able to hear what we are saying. Until then we can assume they receive our words in a defensive or negative way.
Hey, face it, we didn't pay much attention to God until we learned He loved us, even while were were His enemies. Up until then, He was a big Judge who condemned people to hell. Sort of the way most of the world views Christians.
I believe this generation is going to present a transparent, compassionate Christianity that violates the assumptions of a watching world and announces the good news of redemption in the context of authentic love.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
We are focusing on several areas of the church at this time. Rapid growth is a blessing but it also gives urgency to developing leadership and fine-tuning the vision by implementing the stepping stones that move people in the process. I began a crash course on small groups since I believed they are where we, and most thriving ministries, are driving people. As Clay and I talked I realized that I was not speaking to his vision, but was off track somewhere. He was juiced about where our people are serving and what is being done in our community in the Name of Jesus. Serving kept coming up.
I was looking at Andy Stanley's Foyer, Living Room, and Kitchen model and realized that we are looking beyond the kitchen. Our vision is service. We want to drive people beyond small groups to service.
Check it out:
Exodus 7:16 And you will say to him, 'The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying," Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness. But behold, you have not listened until now. " NASB
10 times in this drama God says He wants his people released to SERVE Him.
Then Pharaoh called to Moses, and said, "Go, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be detained. Even your little ones may go with you." But Moses said, "You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice them to the LORD our God. Therefore, our livestock, too, will go with us; not a hoof will be left behind, for we shall take some of them to serve the LORD our God. And until we arrive there, we ourselves do not know with what we shall serve the LORD." NASB
Moses wasn't just trying to get Israel free from slavery but he wanted them to be able to serve the Lord.
The same is true for us. Galatians 5:13 says, "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love SERVE one another. NASB
Check this out: 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 says, "For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to SERVE a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. NASB
The world needs to see God's people in service to Him. Look at what the king said to Daniel:
"The king spoke and said to Daniel, 'Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.'" Daniel 6:16 NASB
Friday, November 9, 2007
Stuff happens in certain environments. Kids clam up when adults enter their environment. Normally calm and sensible people go crazy in the stadium environment. Environments are important.
Starbucks tells potential employee's that they "can make a difference in someone's day by creating an environment where neighbors and friends can get together and reconnect while enjoying a great coffee experience."
Hey, Starbucks is telling it's employee that their job is to "create an environment" where people can get together and reconnect. They are not hired to sell coffee. I am amazed at the number of people who confess that Starbucks does not have the best coffee in the world. But, Starbucks still attracts people and has set the bar in the coffee experience world. Its all about creating an environment that attracts people.
Starbucks is focusing on a cultural need that gathers people to their coffee experience. George Gallop said that Americans are among the loneliest people in the world. Starbucks has created a culture that addresses a deep felt need, and they sell coffee too. As a matter of fact, they have popularized coffee drinking.
It seems that Satan (nothing to do with Starbucks) is into environments and creates them everywhere to attract people. Jesus told us of this competition: "The thief comes only to steal , and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly." John 10:10
We have a message that changes lives that change the world. We have a message of life for those who are dead in trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1-10) We have a message of sight for those who are blinded by the prince of this world. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
We should be all about making a difference in someone's life by creating an environment where people can come together and connect while enjoying a great spiritual experience. A place where they can take time to consider the claims of the Scriptures and the good news of redemption.
As I think about the upcoming year and recruiting volunteers for Community Groups, I am not going to invite them to "lead a Community Group," but to come make a difference in someone's life by creating an environment where people can fellowship and connect while enjoying a great spiritual experience.
We are not about selling the Gospel but rather creating an environment where it will sell itself.
Just Thinking (Kind of a long thought this time. Sorry.)
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Then I ran across this story about Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa. In 1995, rangers at the park began finding dead rhinos that were battered and mutilated. As they investigated, they found that the culprits were teenage elephants. It seems that the teenage elephants at the park were turning increasing violent and had now added murder to their rap sheets.
They were entering "musth" at a younger age and for longer periods of time. The biologists at the zoo realized that these relocated teenage elephants lacked the social structure they needed. When a few older bull elephants were added to the park, it forced the young elephants to return to their place in the elephant hierarchy and the attacks on the rhinos ceased.
Here's what is interesting. Not only did peace come back to the park, but it actually repressed the teens' testosterone levels and delayed and shortened musth.
Is there a lesson here for adult male participation in the lives of teenage boys? I think so.
"Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers , lest I come and smite the land with a curse." Malachi 4:5-6
May the Lord restore the hearts of fathers to their children and men to the fatherless. God's structure for the family cannot be violated without consequences.
Something to think about.
Monday, November 5, 2007
"When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days, they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. Thus they told him, and said, "We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there. Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan." Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, "We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it." But the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us." So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, "The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight." Numbers 13:25-33
A couple notes: Clay had a great message on Sunday about being enthusiastic as we serve up the Gospel even in the presence of giants.
Shortly after the message I was sharing a vision about where God is leading us in an area of ministry and had all the giants pointed out to me. I just didn't, and sill don't, see things the way this person saw them.
The Lord led me on this journey this morning. I thought I would look at giants and God's people, but instead came across "grasshoppers."
Check it out. The fearful said, "We became like grasshoppers in our own sight." When we really look at our humanity and forget we are connected with God, we only dwell on our inability to face what God has called us to.
Then they said, "And so we were in their sight." The fearful also make assumptions about the threat of what faces us. Joshua and Caleb were realistic about the challenges but were also excited about what God had promised.
Hey, here is who we serve!
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the vault of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers. Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. " Isaiah 40:21-23
Here is the heart and responsibility of a good leader:
Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, "We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it."
Giants or grasshoppers, it's how you see God, not how you see yourself.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
I located a flattened area where his tent had been, a bag of soaking wet old clothes, and other items too large to put on his bicycle. He had apparently moved on to another location. One might say, "Only God knows where he is." Then again, that is true, God does know where he is and thousands of others like him.
Within thirty minutes after leaving the woods I was approached by a church member with medical needs. Earlier that day, I worked with a local support ministry as they "bent" the rules a bit to help someone who is coming to the end of his rope and about to get real about what he is facing.
I am taking a crash course on ministering to the poor, looking at models, reading philosophies and searching the Scriptures. If you are a reader of this blog, I am open for comments. With the economic issues facing our culture, it may be time for the church to consider what the Lord would have us to do with the poor.
I believe God puts provision into three bags for each of His children.
- One bag is to meet our personal needs as He has promised. "And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19
- One bag is to meet the needs of ministry. "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed Thee?' In tithes and offerings." Malachi 3:8
- One bag is to help those in need. "And let our people also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs , that they may not be unfruitful." Titus 3:14
We really understand the first bag. The second bag seems to be a challenge for most. They continue to rob God by not bringing into the storehouse the funds with which the Lord has entrusted them. The third bag is really hard. That explains why the church culture has about the same wealth discrepancy as the world.
God has all the riches to meet the needs of His children, His ministry and the needy. The problem lies in the fact that He is attempting to distribute it through human hands.
I guess it helps when we understand that the issue is not, "How much of my money do I give to the Lord and to the needs of others?" But rather, "How much of the Lord's money has He given me to be used in each of these three bags?"
What's your bag? (Really dating myself with that one!)
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I have just been asked to assist in developing our benevolence ministry in the church. What a task. We know that, "the poor you have with you always." Matthew 26:11. But we also read, "But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. " 1 John 3:16-18
We have transients (maybe angels), single moms, unemployed dads, catastrophic events, and everything in between. We also have finite resources and an accountability of stewardship before the Lord. There is sometimes a resentment when people don't seem to want to help themselves and an embarrassment on the part of those who find it necessary to ask for help. It may be the most challenging part of ministry, especially in an area like North Myrtle Beach. You need the wisdom Solomon had when faced with two women fighting over the same child. You need the compassion that moved Jesus, the Samaritan, and Paul.
When it comes to helping those who need help, the Scriptures set the record straight in 2 Corinthians 8:13 - 15: "For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality — at this present time your abundance being a supply for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want, that there may be equality ; as it is written, "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack."
Jesus became poor to make us rich in him.
"Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written,
"He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor , His righteousness abides forever."
Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. Because of the proof given by this ministry they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
Did you see that God gives us seed (stuff and such) for sowing, not for hoarding?
I wonder how much overflowing of thanksgiving, proof of ministry, and glory to God will take place if we ever get a handle on what it means to give out of our abundance to those in need so that God will be free to redistribute His stuff and such among His children.
More to come on this topic, I am sure.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
An inch thick slice of onion taken apart ring by ring, stacked up like a volcano, filled with cooking oil and alcohol, and then set on fire! Flames were the big crowd pleasers, as eight of us sat around a large grill and were entertained by the chef who cooked up our food as part of his act.
You can fry an egg or you can roll the egg on the grill and announce that you are making an egg roll (Chinese joke in a Japanese restaurant). Then, you can toss the egg up in the air with the flat side of your spatula and on the third toss, as the egg is coming down, turn the spatula on its edge and slice the egg open as it hits the grill.
The food was good, but the way it was served up really got my attention and made the night. There is more than one way to cook an onion or fry an egg. The method was different but the chef was still serving up the same food.
The Word of God can be served up in many different ways too. It does not change the Word, but how it is presented can be attractive, attention getting, and effective. I'm looking forward to the new series Clay is doing at church. It's called the Ultimate Chef and it is all about serving up the Gospel to the world around us.
Great night! Good food, good friends, good object lesson.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Paul, the apostle, reminded the Corinthian church that God's deeper stuff is seen in the lives of those who put their trust in Him. Check it out:
"Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks , Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." 1 Corinthians 1:20-25
I am witnessing the power of God in the lives of people at the Bible study I attend on Tuesdays and at the Community Group I attend on Thursday nights. I see God at work all around me and am discovering deep truths as I search the Scriptures each day.
Reading a chapter of Proverbs a day and then doing some cross referencing on some verses that jump out is deep stuff. But the truly deep stuff is the power of God and the wisdom of God seen in the people who have put their trust in Him."
The real deep stuff is seen in "Changing Lives that Change the World." Look around you. Do you see God at work in people? Is He at work in you? Check out 2 Corinthians 5:17. His work in people is exciting stuff! Get engaged in this and you will never feel "under-fed" again.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
"Deliver those who are being taken away to death. And those who are staggering to slaughter, O hold them back. If you say, 'See, we did not know this,' Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul?And will He not render to man according to his work?" Proverbs 24:11,12
These verses caused me to physically place myself between unborn children and the paid assassin at abortion clinics in the late 1990's. I remember the night, after preaching at a pro-life rally, when a lady came up to me and put a baby girl in my arms. She thanked me for sitting at the door of the abortion clinic and preventing her from killing her unborn daughter. A life snatched from the jaws of death.
These verses have come to mind when I hear Death Metal. The lyrics of these songs are gruesome, vulgar and wicked. They become pipers of destruction to young people suffering the pain of broken homes, uncertain futures and a schizophrenic culture.
If the Gospel is anything it is a call to life. "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:1-7
My teenage son's friend just attempted suicide and shot himself through the temple. He survived but will now be blind. This week a friend at church asked my wife and me to pray for a young lady who just attempted suicide for the second time. It just impressed me again that we are not just winning people "to Christ" but the gospel is literally rescuing them from death.
Here is what Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly. John 10:10
It's raining outside and kind of a gloomy morning. I hope this wasn't too heavy. It just jumped out there to awaken me again to the significance of God's plan for man and what we are up to.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
The benefits include:
- A much better view. You can stand back away from the edge and have people tell you what they see or you can go up to the edge and see for yourself.
- A breath-taking atmosphere. I've been to Niagara Falls very often and hear most of the "oooooo...'s" and "ahhhhhh's!" from edge of the canyon surrounding the falls. Most of the noise away from the edge is just about what shop or restaurant people want to go to next.
- A growth in confidence and peace. It seems that the longer you stay on the edge the less it bothers you.
- Something to tell others about. Living on the edge fills you with stories to tell those who want to know about the edge but haven't had opportunity or desire to go to the edge.
- You cannot waffle while on the edge. Waffling while on the edge subjects you to a tremendous fall. Walk with Jesus.
- You cannot forget about where you are and become careless. Carelessness while on the edge subjects you to a tremendous fall. Read the Word.
- You will bother people while you are living on the edge. People who are afraid will continually urge you to move away from the edge or write you off completely as a foolish person. Be Gracious to People.
I wonder what the others in the boat thought when Peter stepped out on the edge and walked on water with Jesus. Jonah went out on the edge when he submitted himself to being thrown overboard because he had disobeyed God and his problem was causing a problem for everyone on the boat. Paul lived on edge and summed it up when he said:
"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. Philippians 3:8-16
The edge isn't as "ragged" as rumor would have it. It is sometimes uncomfortable, but always inspiring. It is sometimes unpopular, but always rewarding. It is sometimes challenging, but always worth the risk.
Just Thinking. By the way, Clay's message was off the charts this morning!
Friday, October 19, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I'm looking forward to connecting them to some of the churches in the Strand area. The opportunity to work with and support national preachers is a real blessing. It is also very convicting to understand how faithfully they serve under the most dire circumstances.
Yesterday, I met with the guys for our Tuesday noon Bible study in John. We looked at John 15 and saw that as we abide in Christ we will produce "fruit." Fruit can be people being redeemed in Christ (John 4:36), Christian characteristics (Galatians 5:22) or good works (Colossians 1:10). It all comes from abiding in Christ. Verse 5 says, "I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."
Our dependence on Christ is for more than salvation, it is also it is for everything pertaining to our spiritual life. We depend on Christ for our character, for our good works and for the privilege of effectively sharing our faith.
The center of our life is Christ. He is the center of our worship. He is the center of our relationships with each other. He is the center of our growth. He is the center of our service. He is the center of our sharing. This is reflected in our Focus Five logo and is the reality of the Christian life. In our physical life, we grow up as we learn to do life on our own. In Christ, we grow up as we learn to abide in Him and do life in Him.
Check out John 15:1-10 and then rejoice in verse 11.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
It is amazing to watch the Focus Five process produce Christ followers who are motivated to serve and share. It was not by design, but we have almost kept missions hidden. I have been traveling heavily this summer and have not been in position to "build" the mission ministry. We have continued with our mission support but have not advanced. What is happening now is like watching popcorn pop. People have been popping up asking about missions and the opportunity to get involved. I have been praying about how the Lord would have us become engaged in a local community outreach and today a person passionately requested to take the lead. Another man approached me about getting involved in missions.
When environments are created where people can WORSHIP, CONNECT, GROW and SERVE, they want to take the next step into the Fifth Dimension, SHARING. When God gets into a person's life, it is like steam in a kernel of popcorn. The believer is destined to burst forth in service and reveal the miraculous work of God that is taking place in his or her heart. It is great to help coordinate what God is doing.
"And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." Galatians 6:9-10
Pop, pop, pop, pop! Loving what God is doing!
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Some see people as lost or saved. It is true that you are either one or the other. It is also true that we are either alive or dead, spiritually. We can either see or we are blind, spiritually.
Christ said there was a time coming when the world will see Him no more but we will see Him, because He lives, we live. John 14:19
Check out these verses:
Ephesians 2:1-7 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live , but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.
1 John 5:11-12 And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life , and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life ; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life .
Praise the Lord for life! It's exciting to see the dead made alive and the blind seeing Christ. I was talking to a guy yesterday who is experiencing new life in Christ and seeing things he has never seen before. How great is that!!
Garage project is progressing. I'm considering a garage party when I get finished.
Enjoy the Life Christ has given you.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
In between these words of comfort comes this great promise:
"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also." John 14:18-20
What a great truth! Praise the Lord! And then after this time of encouragement He says, "Arise, let us go from here." 14:31b This promise is a basis for service not sitting.
Christ wants us to have confidence and peace as we serve Him because He is with us. In 14:21 He says He is disclosing Himself to us. Check out Matthew 28:18-20. Again, the promise that Christ is with us as we serve Him.
Great section of Scripture! It really came alive today. The garage project continues. Getting organized is not as easy as one would think, but it is worth the effort.
Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
I can't wait to get it all organized! Organizing my garage will:
1. Make a ton of room in the garage.
2. Make room for my Total Gym which means I can start to work on some of my physical needs.
3. Allow me to find and organize all my tools. Yahoo!
4. Make me feel wonderful.
I am also sensing the need to do some organizing in my life. It seems to get pretty cluttered over time. My garage has made me think of what I need to do to get my life organized. I need to have cabinets like: spiritual life, family, church, recreation and miscellaneous life stuff. Some stuff is still in boxes since resigning my old ministry and moving here. I am still operating from a tentative outlook and it is time to unpack and get to work.
Organizing my life will:
1. Make a lot more available time. (clutter causes waste)
2. Make room for the spiritual exercises I need to help me grow.
3. Allow me to use more of the spiritual gifts God has given me.
4. Make me feel blessed.
We had a great day at church with a very relevant challenge to stop trying to do life alone and to connect with others. Clay hit a home run! Check it out on the Barefoot link.
Caught a 17-inch flounder yesterday while spending a day at the beach with the family. Certainly going to put some of that time in my family cabinet.
Trying to put it all together.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
This morning my first job was to assemble the grill. (My daughter's boy friend and two of his buddies from Liberty University are with us for a long weekend.) I had plenty to do today so I didn't have time to waste on the grill. I decided that I would assemble it with the instructions this time. (Generally, I refer to the instructions only when the sub-assemblies I built, because it was obvious how they went together, did not fit together. This always means taking something apart and reversing the sides or bolts.)
Step by step I followed the instructions. Soon our new grill began to take form. Odd, unknown pieces became obvious important components as the construction advanced. The ash pan was coated with some sort of sticky substance that made it difficult to peel off the plastic bag. I assume this will make it work better. (I trust the instructions.)
I even installed the only high tech part of this primitive firebox, the temperature gage. The instructions had me install it last. The author knew the climatic emotion of snapping the retaining ring to the backside of the gage as a final step in the construction would bring a surge of pride to any man.
In the end it reminded me that following God's instructions in His Word makes a lot more sense than waiting until things don't fit together before turning to the instructions to see what we did wrong. In life, some things look odd or out of place, and some stuff is sticky and messy, but if we trust the Author of the instructions, the result will be wonderful.
Check it out in Romans 8:18-32
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
I spent my travel time in silence (I love silence.) or listening to old cassette leadership tapes (Our car doesn't have a CD player.) and interacting with the confident voice of my Verizon phone GPS. I enjoyed the mountains of northwestern North Carolina, the farms and smells of my native Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and the fall colors and beauty of upstate New York.
Two things made the trip worth the cost and the expended energy: First, it was a joy and privilege to direct people to the Scriptures and see how God ministered to their circumstances, calmed their troubled hearts and blessed them. This took place in churches, in living rooms, in offices, in restaurants and anywhere I encountered people for more than a five minute period. Secondly, I was blessed as people rehearsed salvation experiences. At Arrowhead Christian Bookstore in Johnson City, New York while I was doing a book signing event (Actually, when I look at the sales report, it was more like a "talk to the author event" than a book signing.), a man came over and shared how his 29 year-old son had yielded his life to Christ the week before. With eyes full of tears and a crack in his voice he rehearsed a lifetime of prayer and love for his son who had now become his spiritual brother.
I noticed a pattern on my trip. Where God's Word was often referenced in conversation and there was a visible burden for the lost, the culture of the church was warm and vibrant. Where talk revolved around the church and issues, the culture was stiff and stagnant. (Just an observation.)
It was soooooo. . . good to get back to my church. I attended a men's Bible study yesterday and found it hard to leave. I can't wait until Thursday night's community group meeting and then Sunday morning (I'll soak in both services to replenish what I have been missing.) I know Clay will be "juiced" with a challenge from God's Word and a hunger to see people take their next step toward Christ.
The demons of hell must be trembling to know that we have literally etched God's promises and our purpose in granite. (You have to see our new entrance!) Satan, we are here to stay and your gates will not be able to withstand the expansion of the church that Christ is building in North Myrtle Beach.
Speaking of trips, this one we call "life" certainly has its costs and expends a lot of energy. Like my recent trip, there are several things that make it worthwhile: the encouragement of God's Word and His people, and the experience of seeing "those who were once dead in trespasses and sins being made alive in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:1-10
Enjoy the trip!