Monday, March 29, 2010

Use Me God For Your Purposes

It was such a humbling and honoring experience last night when our Elders ordained me as an Elder in our church body. It was not something I was striving after or really had in mind. When I was approached about it, I was surprised and excited all at the same time. What a great honor and opportunity to lead others to be more like Christ. What a great responsibility to shepherd the church body. I love our church and the many people who make it up. I have been part of Family Church for the past 16 years and know God called me here to do His will and work. From the age of 15, I know God has called me to be a pastor. I've never wanted to do or be anything else since that time. I don't desire to do construction or web design - although they are hobbies of mine. I don't have a passion for any other vocation. I want to minister to people - helping them to be more like Christ, sharing the Gospel with others and equipping them to do His work. It is an honor to be a pastor and a double honor to be an Elder. It's not a position or title. I don't want that. It's a calling to do His will. Lord keep me humble and give me opportunity to build your church in a greater way.

We should all set our sights on growing and maturing in the Lord. These qualifications should be the goal of every believer, not just Elders and Pastors. These are goals we will all strive for if we mean business with Jesus Christ. In essence this should be our aim because as these marks are realized, we will also be accomplishing the other goals God has for our lives. Paul said in Philippians 3:12-15 (and I desire this for my life), "Not that I have already attained this – that is, I have not already been perfected – but I strive to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let those of us who are “perfect” embrace this point of view. If you think otherwise, God will reveal to you the error of your ways."

In 1 Tim. 3:1, Paul carefully chose to use the word "episkope", the “office or charge of oversight.” But why? Because this word stresses the ministry function and nature of this office as a charge from God and not title or position. God is not looking for men who are aspiring for position. Jesus made this clear to the disciples. The church needs men who want to serve the body for the glory of God and the blessing of others. I want to be a man like that. I am charged by you to do your Word.

Second, note the next statement of verse one. “It is a fine work he desires to do.” Underline the word work. Work is the Greek word "ergon" which means “work, deed, action, task, enterprise, undertaking.” The emphasis is clearly not on aspiring to a position or a place of prestige, but on the function and work of overseeing, an aspiration which is to have its root in godly and pastoral love for the well-being of God’s people rather than personal and selfish agendas. Paul says this is trustworthy and honorable. I desire to work hard for You Lord. I desire to serve and build Your church.

My prayer is that I would set my sights on spiritual maturity. As I do I want to be careful of my motives. The purpose of maturity is not to make us more comfortable and secure, or land us with a position in the church. Its purpose is to make us more like the Lord Jesus and effective as His representatives in a lost and dying world. I want to Exalt God, Edify the Body and Evangelize the lost. I want to exalt God, edify the body of Christ and evangelize the lost.

A student once came to Howard Hendricks with a problem. The student said, “Hey Professor Hendricks, I have a problem.” "What’s your problem?”, Hendricks said. “Why did the Lord choose Judas?” Hendricks replied, “Ah, that’s no problem. I have a bigger problem than that.” The puzzled student said "what’s that?” Hendricks replied "Why did the Lord choose you? Why did the Lord choose me?”

His point was, the Lord launched a worldwide campaign with the likes of Peter and common men. Why would he used common, average, uneducated men, that reached the world and turned it upside down? Why? Because these common men intimately knew the Lord and began to experience His life and character in theirs by the Spirit of God. He took common men and made them into great men who became spiritual leaders because they were experiencing Him. We need godly men like this!

If we must choose between giftedness and godliness, let us choose godliness. Both are great and needed but let’s keep the emphasis where God puts it! I want to be Godly and holy as I use the giftings you have give me to build your Kingdom. Let me keep my eyes focused on You - the author and finisher of my faith.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Don't Play With Fire

Last week, the weather was NICE! I went outside and spent most of one day raking the yard for the last time, power washing my back porch and a few other outside chores. I moved some stumps and logs into a pile from when I built my house and started some leaves on fire in that area. I went to check on Abby, who was playing in the sandbox. I played with her for a minute and then went to check on the fire and realized - it had spread outside of my pile into the leaves in my back yard. I grabbed my rake and began raking into the fire but it was bigger and spreading faster than I could rake. I connected three water hoses together and still could not reach the fire's edge. I managed to put out the fire on the sides and the back but the front continued to burn into the woods. I had no choice but to call the Fire Department. I tried to put it out, but between watching my 3 year old and the fast pace of the fire, I was out of options. They Fire Department arrived and the fire was out in a matter of minutes. Good thing I paid my dues to the FD.

The Bible says, "Surely wickedness burns like a fire; it consumes briers and thorns, it sets the forest thickets ablaze, so that it rolls upward in a column of smoke." (Isaiah 9:18). Sin spreads like a fire. It only grows bigger and out of control. We tend to think we can "manage" our sins. But the result is we get burned in the end. Destruction and devastation are the result of sin. I think that is why the writer of Isaiah compared sin and wickedness to a fire.

We can't hide fire. Speaking about the sin of adultery, the writer of Proverbs says: "Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?" (Proverbs 6:27) You can't play with sin - you will get burned.

It is also true that where there is smoke, there is fire. We may think that our sin is no big deal - after all, it is only a little smoke. Have you ever smelled someone who has been near a fire - they stink like smoke. Smoke kills as much or more than a real fire does.

There is one fire though that should consume you - God. The Bible says in Hebrews 12:28-29, "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."

Let the fire of God consume you, not the destructive fire of sin. Do you want to receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken? Are you worshiping God with reverence and awe? He wants to consume your life.

What sin is making you smell like smoke? You probably can't smell it, but everyone else can. What sin is burning down the righteous life God desires for you? Confess it to Him today and He will forgive you (1 John 1:9).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Teaching My Kids The Word

I've committed to teaching my girls certain "foundational" Bible verses at a younge age. Kids learn so fast at an early age - studies show they learn more in the first 5 years of life than in their 4 years of college. The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6
"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."

I incorporate Bible memorization in our story and prayer time before bed each night. We go through a list of Bible verses they have memorized. Abby (age 3) knows about 20 bible verses and Kylee a few more than that. We repeat all the verses each night and when I think they are ready, add a new one. This may seem like a lot, but remember that by age 12, a good Hebrew boy had memorized the first 5 books of the Bible. So a few verses is not much at all. This will help them form a foundation of theology and Biblical worldview at an early age. Plus it is a lot of fun to do this with them.

We also do a Bible story - they have their favorites. I'll never forget the time I was telling Abby about David and Goliath and I asked her what 5 things David picked up to put in his slingshot. She held up her little hand and said "5 DOUGHNUTS!". I laughed and asked her if she was hungry. We went to get a snack and then came back and finished the story.

One night Kylee asked me to tell her a new story she had never heard. I started telling her about the time Jesus told Peter to catch a fish and inside it's mouth was the money to pay their taxes. She asked me what taxes were. That's a good question. I tried to explain that Jesus said to pay to Caesar what was Caesar's. I said he was like a president. She wanted to know what a president was. That's a good question. I explained they were leaders of our country and their faces were on our money. We then had to look at the money and name the presidents on them. She asked if one of those was our president and I said no. Our president is Barack Obama. She laughed and said that sounded like a funny joke....she immediately got up and went to tell her mom a funny joke - "Barack Obama!" she yelled. If she only knew... I talked to her about respecting and praying for our leaders and authorities.

The point is to teach your kids the Word of God at an early age. Start with one verse, learn that and build upon it. You'll be surprised how much scripture you learn as well as an adult (it will help you as well).

Here are some verses I recommend to teach your kids:

Proverbs 30:5 - Every word of God proves true.
Matthew 6:24 – No one can serve two masters.
Deuteronomy 6:5 – You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Matthew 22:39 – You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
Psalm 19:1 – The heavens declare the glory of God.
Genesis 1:1 - In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Psalm 139:14 – I praise you God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Isaiah 43:5 – Do not be afraid for I am with you.
Psalm 1:6 – The LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish
John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whover believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.
Romans 1:16 - I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. It is the power of God for salvation for all who believe.
Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
2 Timothy 1:7 - God hasn't given me a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.
Hebrews 13:8 - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Ephesians 6:1 - Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right
John 14:6 - Jesus is the way, truth and the life...
Luke 12:34 - For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Psalm 119:105 - Your word is a lamp unto my feat and a light unto my path.
Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Ephesians 2:8-9 -For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast
Matthew 4:4 - Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Romans 3:23 - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What Makes Up A Church

What makes up a church? Some would say that a church is just a group of people who meet in a home, pray together, discuss biblical topics, and fellowship (this is a popular movement). They see no need for the public assembly of the saints (as we see throughout scripture - just read Acts - oh, and almost every book in the New Testament that follows. If home fellowship groups met in the early church, they always did with the church at large (Acts 2:46, 12:12, 20:8, 20:20).

Some say there is no need for preaching anymore. After all, we don't need someone telling us what to do anymore since we are all post-modern and can think for ourselves? Right? Well, the Biblical church always has a preacher proclaiming the word of God. Not just the mercy and grace scriptures, but also for discipline, correction and reproof (2 Timothy 3:16). How will they hear without a preacher (Romans 10:14)? The real church has a preacher. This, is the "air-war". Sending out the word of God. The "ground-war" happens after this. Almost every chapter in the book of Acts has someone preaching - Stephen, Peter, Paul. This preaching must be Jesus and Gospel centered. The OT points toward Christ (the Messiah), the Gospels speak of Christ (his ministry and life), and the books that follow in the NT refer back to his saving act on the cross and how to build his church. We must preach ALL of the Bible and ALL of its doctrines, not the doctrines of man or those that please itching ears (2 Timothy 3-4). Some preachers don't preach sin anymore. Some don't preach anything offensive. The word is offensive - in a good way. Paul writes, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18)

The Cross is Offensive. Preaching it is offensive. It is offensive today. It was offensive in Jesus' day. It was an instrument of execution. It was the equivilent of our electric chair. But it is the way to salvation. It must be preached.

So to be a church, the church must have consistent, preaching on the Sabbath.

The church must also administer the sacraments - baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Baptism must be observed by immersion and not by dipping or sprinkling. This must follow salvation (not for salvation). It is necessary to be called a disciple because it is a biblical command. It is the first step of obedience after salvation. (Romans 6:3-4; Acts 8:26-40). Jesus himself was baptized. (Matthew 3:13-17). Correct, biblical baptism is needed to be a church. Sprinkling or the choice of baptism is not the biblical method.

While baptism is a one time act, communion should be observed more frequently. Communion (The Lord's Supper) must also be administered correctly. We observe Communion because the Lord told us to. We are to obey His commands:
And when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 1 Corinthians 11:24 In observing Communion we are remembering Christ and all that He has done for us in his life, death and resurrection. It is for examining ourselves, participating in the Church body and Christ's death - his body and blood. The bread and juice are not the real body and blood of Jesus, but symbols. We should do it because Jesus did it with His disciples and commanded us to do the same (Matthew 14:22-24; 26:26-28).

So the real church should have preaching and sacraments. Part 2 coming soon - we have to discuss repentance, fellowship, ministry and much more.