Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Reformation Day!

Today is the anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his theses to the door at the Wittenburg door. On October 31, 1517, it began, the great reformation.

'God may you bring a new reformation to the hearts and souls of your people today as you did almost 500 years ago. May we declare the truths of your gospel, without any hesitation. May we realize just how desperate we are for your Word and your Spirit, and may you create in us a hunger and thirst that can only be satisfied at your table. May all this happen as we declare that it is all for your glory, alone. '

Take time today to think about the great importance of this event in human history, but do not worship this event. Allow this event in human history to cause you pause, and may you meditate and rejoice in worship of the greatest event in human history, that of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected. Soli Deo Gloria!

John Piper's Heart On The Election

Here is an excellent way to view our country and this election. We are God's people whose allegiance is to the Kingdom of Heaven and not to the kingdom on earth.

(via way of Desiring God)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Three Standards Of Evangelism

I have been reading a book entitled, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community, written by Tim Chester and Steven Timmis. In Chapter 3, the authors lay out the process of evangelism in the context of community. For many this will be a drastic change of thought, and will challenge how they think about evangelism. However, I totally agree with their conclusions on the topic and wanted to share with you the three standards in which I (as well as the authors) believe will be most effective in carrying out the Great Commission, while obeying the Great Commandment.

1. Building Relationships: We should develop relationships with those who are not Christians. We should seek to love our neighbors (those around us) by inviting them into our lives in order to live life together.

2. Sharing The Gospel: We should love our neighbors, but with gospel intentionality. We should live life together with the desire and purpose to present them the gospel, not just with our actions but with our words as well.

3. Introduce People To The Church Community: This is not simply inviting them to our church gatherings. This is part of it, but not exactly what this is intended to mean. Within the church community we have people with different gifting. Maybe one is good at hospitality (cooking, entertaining, etc) and another is good at communicating clearly the goals and beliefs of the community. We come together over a meal at someone's house, and we begin talking about life and the one who is good at communicating the gospel can present the core beliefs of the community. This can be done in homes, restaurants, gatherings, small groups, etc.

Understand that this is not a specific formula but a lifestyle to be lived by the church. We have to move beyond our understanding the church to be a building, to a community living life together. Within this context trust is built, love is shown, needs are met, and the gospel is presented. This is the standard by which evangelism is to be most effective in our present world. This is precisely the way Jesus lived out his life, and how the early church lived out their mission in their context.

What are your thoughts? Is this helpful? How does your church perceive evangelism? How well do they live life with those around them?

Quote Of The Day

"The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world...The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us."
-G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Formula: How To Know Right From Wrong

I am not usually much on 'Christian Formula's', but while reading Jerry Bridges book, The Pursuit of Holiness, I came across this formula and it seems as though it could be helpful for us, especially in those gray areas in life. The following formula is biblical and very applicable to our lives:

1. "Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial." (1 Cor. 6:12)
Question 1: Is it helpful - physically, spiritually, and mentally?

2. "Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Cor 6:12)
Question 2: Does it bring me under its power?

3. "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall." (1 Cor. 8:13)
Question 3: Does it hurt others or cause them to fall in their spiritual journey?

4. "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (1 Cor. 10:31)
Question 4: Does it glorify God?

"Am I willing to develop convictions from the Scriptures and live by those convictions?"
-Jerry Bridges

Pursuing Holiness: God's Provision and Our Responsibility

I am almost finished reading Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness. It is a great read, and packed with very convicting and applicable insights from an author who has definitely done is research on the topic and has obviously experience this pursuit in his own journey as a Christ follower. In His book he states the following about God's provision and our responsibility in our pursuit of holiness:

"God has made provisions for our holiness and he has also given us a responsibility for it. God's provision for us consists in delivering us from the reign of sin, uniting us with Christ, and giveing us the indwelling Holy Spirit to reveal sin, to create a desire for holiness, and to strengthen us in our pursuit of holiness."

"If we sin, it is because we choose to sin, not because we lack the ability to say no to temptation."

These two statements have great implications in my present experience on my journey. Many of times I am tempted and try my darnedest not to give in, but eventually fall. Almost immediately, I turn and fall on my knees and ask for forgiveness, and ask God to give me the strength to resist temptation. What I read in the above is that the crying out needs to happen in the midst of the temptation, if I am to overcome it. In my pursuit of holiness I need to realize that I have all I need to be obedient to God, and grow in holiness. The key for me is to not wait until after I fall to cry out to God for more strength, but instead cry out to him during my temptation, realizing that I have His strength within me through the Holy Spirit, and plead for mercy during this time.

It is inevitable that this process will take time, and I am sure to fail, but this is new and fresh way, for me at least, to look at this awesome pursuit. What are your thoughts? Are you in full pursuit of holiness in your everyday journey? May God grant us the grace and mercy needed to pursue him and his holiness.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Don't Waste Your Pulpit: A Cry To Biblical Saturation In Preaching

This is a must see video for all pastors. Please take the five minutes it takes to watch this and be convicted.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Sunday Reflections

In our morning service, I felt like John did a tremendous job reflecting the glory of God as he led us in our time of praise. I know there has been talk as of late around the blogosphere about singing songs that go along with the sermon as a negative thing. However, I really feel as though it enriches the worship service and helps get everyone, including myself, prepared to hear what God wants us to hear. We finished our series on the Sermon on the Mount, in which we focused our attention on the two types of foundations that Jesus describes in Matthew 7:24-27. I stressed that a life that is built upon anything other than the truths of the gospel, mainly Jesus, are not lives that are bringing glory to God. I compared the rock and sand to either building your life on Jesus or on church tradition. This is precisely what Jesus was teaching here in this passage. He was addressing those who were grounded in a particular religious establishment, but were unwilling to obediently follow Christ and His teachings. All in all I felt like it was an eye-opening experience for many and spiritual reality check for us all. My prayer is that many repented of their religiousity and turned to obediently follow Christ.

Last night was a great time of intimate worship. Again, I really felt the presence of God in our midst. We began our journey studying Psalm 51, a prayer of repentance, which has a played a huge role in my life pursuing Christ and His glory. We just covered the first verse, which was an appeal to the mercy of God, which is our only hope in seeking forgiveness. We talked about how we usually come to God like little children come to their parents when they have done something wrong, full of excuses and defenses. We learned that the only appeal we had was to appeal to His mercy.

It was a great weekend, except for the fact that Allyssa was sick. The past few weeks I have really felt myself in full pursuit of God's glory. For the first time in my life, I am feeling a genuine clossness with God, which is a very humbling expereince. My only appeal is for Him to grant me the grace and mercy that is needed for Him to be glorified in my life.

James 3: A Story

Every Christian should watch this video, and will probably need to repent when it is over.

(via Desiring God)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Seeking Our Glory Instead Of God's Glory

Over the past couple of years, I have seen a trend in Christians and churches: seeking their own glory, instead of God's. An example of this can be seen in many churches mission statements and how they approach ministry. They say look at us, look at what we are doing over here...leave your church and join ours, because we are most effective. Churches are measuring their effectiveness on growth, not spiritual growth but numerical growth. It seems as though busyness equates to holiness now. What is the deal with this self-centered, self-glorifying method to ministry and the Christian life?

I heard someone today say that their church is effective because they are the only church in their area that has a billboard and ministries for each age group. Is this really what we have come to in measuring the effectiveness of our church...a billboard? This is very disturbing to say the least. Where does God fit into all this busyness? Are we calling people to Jesus as the treasure of their life, or are we calling them to Jesus to buy into another product? The question I have and continue to ask is, 'Is there room for Jesus in our Christianity anymore?'

The Bible tells us that everything was made by Him and for Him...for His Glory, not ours. It seems as though the Western church has bought into this idea of consumerism and have adopted a business ideology for how we do church. Jesus has now become a product that we sell to people, instead of being the Lord and Savior of their lives. We sell them the idea of Heaven as the goal of salvation, instead of God Himself. We don't ask people to come and follow Christ, and follow through with the discipleship process. We instead ask them to accept Jesus and get heaven. We create a church environment that is comfortable for Christians and is effective on giving them a false sense of holiness.

In the end, we have failed to seek God's glory in how we live our lives and conduct our corporate worship services. In essence we are saying to Jesus, 'You are not enough, what you did on the cross wasn't worth it, we need something more.' This is devastating to the church and more importantly robbing God of what is rightfully His, all the glory and honor. How do we move away from this self-serving, self-righteous, self-centered ideology? How do we reclaim lives that long to seek to be satisfied with who God is and has done through Jesus, and seek to bring Him the most glory in how we live our lives? How do we stop calling people to come and look at our churches, and point to the cross and say 'Look at my awesome, mighty, and holy Savior'? It is in the best interest of followers of Christ and the church to turn back to the cross and repent of our religiosity and gain back our total focus on the glory of God. It is rightfully His, and He will pour out His judgment on those who try to take it away from Him.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sunday Reflections

Yesterday morning's service was incredible. We changed some things up a bit, which made some uncomfortable, but it was well worth it. It was 'Communion Sunday' and so everything that we did was centered around the observing of the elements. The atmosphere just seemed different in the church, and yet different in a wonderful sense. After the service was over, I was speaking with several people and surprisingly they were very excited about the direction the service went. Many of times as a pastor, it is probable that you will get negative feedback, and if you are not careful, you can come to expect it. However, when the feedback is positive, you can sometimes be blown away. It was great to hear many say that they felt the Spirit of God during the service.

Over all, I feel that God was definitely honored and glorified with what took place in the morning service, and I really sense that God is doing a great work in our church. This is very encouraging and I am excited about the direction God is taking our church. I am just happy to be a part of the journey, and look forward to the ups and downs that follow.

I had prepared so much for the morning service during the week, that I didn't really get the chance to prepare much for the evening service. I decided to speak from 1 John 4, on the amazing love of God and how that is played out in our lives. To be totally honest here, I felt like I was grasping for words at times and rambling at others. It was such an important topic, that I wished that I had spent more time studying and preparing for speaking on it. So after the service was over Allyssa and I came home and were winding down from a busy day. We were just sitting around watching the Steelers beat the Jaguars, and I get a couple of messages on my BlackBerry. They were from a couple of people at the church, expressing that the message tonight was really touching to them, and led them to call people that they had been angry at for some time, and ask for forgiveness and tell them they love them.

Wow! I didn't expect that one...but why? I guess because I figured that since I didn't do a good job in the delivery of the message, that people wouldn't get anything from the service. Apparently God's delivery counts much more than mine. He is always faithful, even when we are not. I am just truly in awe of how great our God is and how He can use us despite our weaknesses and flawes. I am grateful for Him allowing me to be used as a vessel for His Spirit and work, and hope and pray that I continue to seek His glory and honor and not my own. To God be the glory for the great things he has done.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Book Review: Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a relentless God

In a world where everyone is expressing a dissatisfaction with the state of the church (including myself), there is one pastor from Southern California who has spoken truth in love, to the subject. In a very humble, yet direct way, Francis Chan in his book, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a relentless God, has spoken out about the state of the church and the Christians who fill the seats every week.

I began reading this book a couple of days ago, and have not been able to put it down. This is probably in the top 5 books I have read on God's love and how it should move us to pursue Him, not out of fear or duty, but out of our total love for him. I found this book to be an easy read (in style), and yet very challenging (spiritually) because I found myself in a state of pause several times throughout it, reflecting on my view of God and how it effects my relationship with Jesus and with those around me.

There are so many things I would love to share with you that I learned from this book, however it would probably make you frustrated with me for writing so much. So I will leave it to you, to purchase the book and see for yourself. I would highly encourage you to have a pen and journal in hand, because I found myself writing as much as I was reading, which made it so much more fun. I would also encourage you to check out his website for the book, and watch the two to three minute videos that correspond with the chapters in the book. I found them very helpful in understanding more completely the author's perspective in his writing.

If you find yourself feeling as though you are working your backside off trying to be "good enough", or you find yourself discouraged because there is no such thing, you will find encouragement in this book. If you want to learn how to pursue God in a more fruitful way, read this book. This is by no means a self-help book; it is in fact a book that takes the focus off of self and encourages you to put the focus back on the one who created you for Himself.

I will end this post with one of the many challenging questions from the book in hopes that it not only spikes your interest in the book, but also causes you to reflect on the state of your heart as well:

"Would you describe yourself as totally in love with Jesus Christ? Or do the words half-hearted, lukewarm, and partially committed fit better?"

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Quote of the Day

"If life is a river, then following Christ requires swimming upstream."
-Francis Chan, Crazy Love