Monday, April 27, 2009

Sunday Reflections

Yesterday was yet another great day of worship at Idlewild. It is so amazing to see God at work in the lives of his people, and as a pastor it is very humbling to think that God is using me in such a way that is effecting many lives. I grew up hearing pastors talk about the highs and lows of being in ministry, but never really understood until this past year sitting in that seat. One thing that I have figured out is it was so easy sitting in the pew watching a particular pastor and thinking to myself what I would do different. It was so easy sitting their critiquing him and pointing out his weaknesses, without really knowing what he is going through. Being a pastor is tough, and if it wasn't I don't think that it would be worth pursuing. It is in the tough times, that we learn how to endure in our faith, that we learn to trust God more, and our hope in Christ is strengthened. I just pray that as I continue this journey, I would consistently seek "true wisdom", wisdom that comes from a generous God, to help me persevere (James 1:1-8, Romans 5:1-5, Proverbs 2:6-7, Matthew 7:7-8).

Last week we finished our series on the book of Ruth. It was an amazing journey, and such an awesome book that reveals our relationship with Jesus and the providence of God in our lives. Next week we are starting our new series, "Tough Questions: The Believers Guide To The Christian Life." I am totally excited about this, because I have gotten some good questions, which means I had better get to praying, planning, and preparing. This week though, was one of those Sundays that was a freebe, meaning there was no planned series or book to go through. I have been going through the book of Hebrews in my quiet time, and chapter 4 has really impacted my life.

I decided that we would focus in on Hebrews 4:11-13, and entitled the sermon "Dissection Leads to Satisfaction." The premise of the entire chapter is finding rest (satisfaction) in God's Rest. In reading the chapter, one sees that the children of Israel did not seek to find rest in God, and thus spent 40 years in the wilderness for their disobedience. The writer of Hebrews is warning his readers not to make the same choice. In his wisdom, he points out that if one is to truly find this rest or satisfaction, they must be impacted by the Word of God. He says that the Word of God is to dissect your inner being, so it can expose to you the motivations and attitudes of your heart. God's Word moves beyond the tough exterior (joints and marrow illutration) to the interior where our lives take place. There is no fooling or manipulating God. He sees all and knows all, and yet in his kindness and mercy still grants us grace and forgiveness.

I really have been challenged by these verses, because many of times when I sit before the Scriptures, it is not much different than sitting before another book. Sometimes, I do not see the Bible as "active" and as "living", meaning that it has a purpose, and that purpose is to pierce the hearts and souls of those who read, to bring change. So we conclude then that the only way a believer can find rest or satisfaction in God, is through the power of the Word of God, whether read or heard, dissecting our hearts and exposing the "real us" to ourselves.

My prayer for us all is that we will seek to find rest in God's rest. I challenge you to open up the Word of God, not out of obligation or guilt, but out of a deep desire to know God, to know the real you, and to be changed. There is no rest like God's rest!

(We read Psalm 95 in our Scripture Reading, which sets a great foundation for these verses in Hebrews 4...check it out if you get a chance.)

The Purpose of the Bible

"The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome… religion is ‘if you obey, then you will be accepted’. But the Gospel is, ‘if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey’. Those are two utterly different things. Every page of the Bible shows the difference.”

- Timothy Keller

(via Of First Importance)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reminder For Men: Love & Lead Your Wives

I meet with a group of men for accountability and Bible study on Wednesday mornings ever week. Yesterday morning, Mike brought up a passage of Scripture that really kicked me in the backside, and continued to do so all day. It effected me so much that I had no other choice but to respond in repentance to God, to my wife, and to the men of my church. I want to share with you this verse in hopes that it will kick you in the backside as well.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
-1 Peter 3:7 (ESV)

Did you notice the last sentence? The whole of our lives will be effected and will suffer, if we do not lead our wives according to Scripture and if we do not love our wives as Christ loves the church. As a pastor, this means that I am praying in vain, if I am not leading and loving my wife correctly. This means that my church suffers due to my lack of fellowship with my wife and God. Imagine the implications here....Men we are in real trouble!

I would commend you all (me included) to grab your Bible and meditate and memorize this verse. Allow it to kick your butt, and respond in obedience...confess your sin to your wife and God. We must stop being cowards, passive, and/or control freaks, and start loving and honoring our wives. Why? The reason is simple, we as believers are here to bring glory to God, and to know Him. If we do not obey, we are not living in fellowship with Him, nor are we living for His glory. In other words, we are living in sin. Think about it...Repent!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Easter" Sunday Reflections

Amazing!! That is the only word that comes to mind as I think about this morning's services. Allyssa and I arrived at the church around 6:30am, along with few other people and we made our way to the graveyard, yes our church still has a graveyard and it is pretty cool if you ask me. Anyways, we sang a couple of songs, read Isaiah 53 and S.M. Lockridge's "That's My King." After this we spent time together around some biscuits and gravy and tenderloin.

To be honest, I have been tremendously burdened for my church and my community lately. I always have a burden, but it has been a little more intense as of late. I have been at Idlewild for a little over a year, and we have seen one person give their life to the Lord. Not to take anything from that person at all, but I was beginning to question God's timing in the life of our church. I, along with others, have spent more time interceding for those in our church community.

So why do I tell you all this? Well today, our choir rocked! John and Kelley did a fantastic job putting together our Easter program together this year. Then I spoke on the Victory of the Resurrection, from 1 Corinthians 15. I attempted to lay out the gospel of Jesus, challenge those who call themselves Christians to be about the Father's work (that being preaching the power of the gospel to ourselves and to others), and invited nonbelievers to consider the sinful state and their need for a Savior.

Now what you may not know about me is, even though I am a Southern Baptist minister, I am not a huge fan of guilt ridden alter calls. I would rather expound the text (hopefully presenting clearly the power of the gospel in the text), and invite people to reflect on what was heard, examine their hearts, and discern how they should respond. Today, we did that, and a little girl came forward with her mother, and she said that she was a sinner in need of a Savior, and wanted to be saved. Again, I told her that God was calling her out to be His child, and that she just needed to tell him what she told me, and then claim Jesus as her Savior. So I prayed for her, and allowed her to talk to Jesus as only a 6 year old girl can.

I was so excited that I forgot everything I was 'supposed' to be doing. However, through God's mercy, I was able to collect myself long enough to serve communion. After the service as I was greeting people, a young man came up to me and said I need to be saved. We went into my office and talked, and he gave his life to Lord.

The miracle of Easter is this, that sinful man can come to faith in Jesus. Today that miracle took place in two individuals lives. Nothing I did, nor anything those two individuals did brought to them salvation. God granted them grace and mercy by offering them the gift of himself. I praise God that his is still the greatest phenomenon in all of history. I am still amazed at how glorious he is and how powerful the gospel is. May the praise and glory be given to God alone!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Friday And Listening Ears

Last night we had our first Good Friday service at Idlewild. Over the past month, I have wondered why it seems as though the only churches that have these services are the Catholic, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches. Why does it seem like Baptist churches only have "Easter Programs" or plays, instead of an organized observing and celebrating of the Friday our Lord Jesus took the Wrath of God for us? In an attempt to evangelize, I think we sometimes miss Jesus, even though our plays and programs are about him. It appears as though our programs play to an emotional experience, instead of a balanced experience. What happens is it becomes about what we can do, instead of celebrating what He has done.

Well last night, we observed and celebrated why we celebrate Good Friday. We sang songs and read Puritan prayers based upon the "precious blood". The text for the sermon was Matthew 27:45-54. With the help of James Montgomery Boice, I spoke on "The Miracle of Calvary". We seem to forget that the greatest miracle of all is that sinful man has the opportuniy to come to faith in Christ. That's why Friday is so Good.

Speaking of this, last night we didn't have a large crowd due to the vicious storms and Easter plays in the surrounding churches. However, even though I may have been frustrated with the crowd, God used the message to begin working on a 6 year old girl. It's funny, most adults sit back and because they already know the story they don't seem to realize that it still applies. On the other hand, there was this sweet child, who during the whole sermon took notes, without the help of mommy or daddy. After the service she came running up to me and says "look I took notes." As I read the notes, my heart began to break. She was really listening, and even though people have told me time and time again that children don't need to be in "big church" because they will not understand, this little girl did. In those notes was every point that I made, but what got me was she put it in first person:

1.) I am nothing but sin
2.) They nailed him to a cross
3.) Jesus is my everything

That was on a piece of paper from a six year old. God is beginning, in my opinion, to call her out to his kingdom. She is beginning to understand. She doesn't know how church "should be" nor does she know all the proper churchy lingo, and I hope she never does. What she is beginning to understand is that she needs Jesus, and I pray that during this Easter season that we realize that we are nothing more than sinful creatures, and without Jesus we are nothing. I pray that we get over our religious pride, and fall facedown at the cross and worship our Savior for taking the wrath of God for us.

God, give us all ears that hear, and hearts that obey. Have mercy on us, for we do not know what we are doing. Lead us to repentance and humility. May you be glorified with our broken lives.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Christ-centered Music: Red Mountain Music

I just wanted to let everyone know, due to a couple of my friends introducing me to them, Red Mountain Music is my new favorite worship band. They take old hymns, that did not have music to the lyrics originally and put music to it. They are personal favorite is the Gadsby Project, specifically "Dearly We're Bought" & "Christ, Or Else I Die". Go to Amazon or iTunes and download it like your life depends on it! Because your personal worship time will be enriched with this music playing in the background.