Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Report for Duty

God has called us to service. Most people do not argue with that statement, but I believe we have a very narrow way of looking at service. I'm really trying to see what serving the Lord looks like.

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

Sowing and Reaping

What a great weekend! The finale of the Ultimate Chef was awesome. We are turned loose as a bunch of Gospel chef's to season our world with the good news of redemption. We are going to see a lot of seasoning taking place during our next series. Can't wait!

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving: Holiday or Lifestyle?

Romans chapter one is some powerful stuff. It speaks of the power of the Gospel to change lives. It reminds us not to be ashamed of the Gospel. It says that God is everywhere, if people are willing to look around. It says that people "suppress" the truth. It is one of those eye-opening sections of Scripture.

Tucked in the middle of this commentary on man's predicament from God's viewpoint is a little phrase that seems appropriate to consider in light of the holiday we celebrate tomorrow.

Check this out:

"For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Romans 1:21-23 NASB (In the KJV it says, "Neither were they thankful.")

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

Thanksgiving shouldn't be a holiday for the Christian. It should be a lifestyle. Don't be a turkey! Thank someone on a daily basis for something you appreciate. Thank God continually for His goodness, loving kindness, and His faithfulness.

Just Thinking.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Worship without Sacrifice

Most people understand that certain things are inherently wrong. They can identify many of the problems that fallen man faces, but their attempts to correct them without Christ are at best temporary.

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

Violating Assumptions

Assumptions are very powerful. If I assume you hate me, I will view everything you say or do differently than if I assume you love me.

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.

Just Thinking.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's All About Serving

When I first began to work with Clay NeSmith I realized that this guy was full of vision and was all about moving people to take their next step toward God and with Christ. Recently I have been getting clearer understanding of that vision.

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.

Exodus 10:24-26
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


My son is stationed in Germany. I visited him in July and had a blast. We played golf, walked his bulldog, and ate at a great outdoor cafe. He just sent me a note saying winter has set in and the snow is falling horizontal. He hates it. His job hasn't changed, but his environment has changed.

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

Musth, Men and Teenage Boys

I learned a new word. Musth is a period of increased testosterone levels in teenage elephants during which they exhibit aggressive behavior. When I learn a new word I try to use it to increase my vocabulary. I figured "musth" was one of those words that would only be useful in winning a point in a table game.

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

Giants or Grasshoppers - - It's all in your perspective of God

Check out this account of God's people moving into the land that the Lord had promised them:

"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.

Just Thinking.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Out of the Woods

We are all about helping people in need, but our real desire is to get them "out of the woods" and back on the highway of following Christ and doing life with fellow believers.

Speaking of the woods, Wednesday afternoon I was wandering around a patch of woods where a homeless guy was living. He had come in contact with several of our church people over the past month or so and was now on the verge of facing trespassing charges.

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.

Thinking, praying and planning

The Third Bag

Still looking at our benevolence ministry and trying to see what it will look like as we enter the new year. It seems the Lord is giving me a crash course on what we will be facing.

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!)

Just thinking.