Monday, June 29, 2009

Sunday Reflections

Yesterday, one of our members passed away at the age of 63. It happened right as we were beginning church, but we didn't get final word until halfway into our service. We had a great service, even though most of us were distracted by the loss, and the sight of people leaving the church to go and be with the family.

John was out of town this week, so we had another friend of ours come in and lead us in praise and hymns. Wood did a terrific job, and man can he sing. It was a great time of praise.

The question of the day was, "Does God answer the prayers of the nonbeliever?" I will probably begin doing a series of posts on this series that we are doing at church, so I will refrain from gong into too much details. Basically, we concluded that, "God in his goodness and common grace may choose to answer a nonbelievers prayer (though not likely), but it is always for the purpose to bring himself glory and to lead people to his saving grace."

Due to the distractions in the morning service, we revisited this message and took some time to examine how it could apply to the Christians life. We spent most of the evening in Luke 18:1-14.

Overall, it was a wonderful day of worship, and my prayer is that God was glorified and his people were edified. My heart goes out to the family that suffered this lost, and it is my prayer that they find comfort and peace in the arms of Jesus, not anything else this world has to offer.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Church On Mission: The Beginning

For the past year and half I have had the awesome opportunity to be the pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church. The best way that I can describe this period of time is by way of growth. When I use this word, I am not speaking specifically of 'numerical' growth, which we have experienced, but of 'spiritual' growth. When I received the call to their pastor, I didn't have a clue what I was doing, and still know very little. This has truly been a season of learning and growing. With growth and learning comes successes and failures.

First, I would like to commend the members of the church for their patience with my failures and time of growth. I am a young man who at one point in my life I despised the church as a whole, and decided to never return to church, none-the-less become a pastor. My life was a picture of the biblical parable of the prodigal son. I am amazed at the sovereignty of God and the sense of humor he must have, by calling me back to the church and calling me to the office of pastor. In my time away from the church, I like the prodigal spent my time in the pig pen of the world, diving head first into a wicked lifestyle. During this time, I experienced what it was like being hopeless and totally depraved. Due to this life experience, when I became pastor I was full zeal and passion for the gospel of Christ and mission of reaching those that I met out in the world. This passion was not bridled, nor was it clothed in humility. I had no idea what it meant to shepherd, I came in ready to drive the flock, not ready to meet them where they were. The gifts of the spirit - kindness, gentleness, humility, and love - did not characterize my beginning. So I want you who are members of the church to know that I am deeply sorry for my attitude, and greatly appreciative of your patience in enduring my unbridled passion.

Second, I do not apologize for the heart behind this passion. I am deeply overwhelmed by the gospel and filled with conviction of my lack of pursuing the mission of living out the gospel. Last night I stood before you, a broken man, a man that realizes how prideful and ineffective my unbridled passion has been. I stood before as a broken soul who longs to see our community, both Christian and non-Christian changed by the gospel of Jesus. I so desire to see individuals ruined and freed by the same gospel that did the same in my own life. The challenge that we were confronted with last evening was that of the mission that Christ left for his disciples (which includes those of us today who call ourselves Christ followers). We were challenged to ask ourselves the following question: Are we willing to do whatever it takes to proclaim the gospel in order to see the lost saved and the saved disciples? It is my deepest desire that we all can say with all confidence...YES!

What I saw last night, left me very humbled and encouraged. I saw a group of people gather together in corporate prayer bowing before the cross of Jesus, broken. I saw individuals truly broken over our lack of pursuing this mission. I also saw broken individuals overwhelmed by the Spirit of God, overwhelmed with passion and zeal. I was humbled at this sight, and greatly encouraged at the potential that lies ahead. I pray that this is the beginning of a church that is going to live on mission, no matter how uncomfortable we become and no matter what it costs us.

If you are reading this blog, and you are Christian, I pray that you ask yourself this question. Many of us think that salvation is just a means to an end, namely heaven. Although heaven is a place we get to go when we die, the real gift of salvation is life, eternal life that begins now, living in the presence of God for his glory alone, getting to enjoy him forever. I pray that you are pursuing this mission and that you are truly enjoying this great and holy God we get to call our Father. I pray that you are so overwhelmed by the truth of the gospel that you stand before God and tremble, and that you are so free that you spend your lives proclaiming the gospel with your words and your lives. This is just the beginning, but I hope it is the beginning of us living as a church on mission. May God be glorified and may we be satisfied in him. Praise be to God, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What I Am Learning...

I have always been one who has to learn most things the hard way. I have a tendency to expect from others what I expect of myself. While I can find a million reasons why this is a right methodology, I am realizing that not everyone is in a place where these expectations are attainable. I realize that I am not even in a place to live up to the expectations that I put on myself. As I read Scripture, a shepherd leads and cares for his sheep, even when they try to run away, even when they disappoint. As I reflect on my life, man, have I been a disappointment to my family, friends, and I even to God.

As I let that realization permeate in my mind, I am convicted of the times that I have written people off, rejected people, showed bitterness and hatred towards people, because they did not live up to my expectation of them. I have to admit that I am just a walking contradiction. I need to seek repentance of this sin in my life, and learn from the example that Jesus demonstrated on how to love people, exhort people, and hold people accountable, but as he said, "I did not come to condemn the world but to save it." WOW!

As a Christ-follower, I need to love others, even when they are unlovable, even when they disappoint. I need to realize that I am to love, not because the person deserves it, but because God first loved me and sent his son to be my propitiation for my sins. As a friend of mine said to one of his employees when they were complaining to him about a student, "Have you ever been shown mercy?" WOW!

I am starting to see this journey as a Christ-follower (especially as a pastor) much like the experience that I had in boot camp for the Air Force. God is like my drill instructor, he doesn't hate me, he doesn't want me to fail, but the reason that he allows these trials and struggles to come into my life is because he wants us to learn to succeed in every circumstance. It is a journey of being broken down, so that Jesus can be built up, just like I was being broken down as an airman, so that the Air Force could be bettered. I am so grateful that God is allowing my eyes to be opened, and my heart softened so that I can understand these things and learn for the future. I am reminded of what one of my friends told me recently, "Don't let this be about you, but let it help you keep your eyes and heart on the gospel and the spread of it, bro."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Walking In The Light

This morning I continued my study in the gospel of John. Today's passage was John 11:1-16, but the part that caught my curiosity was verses 9 &10:

"Jesus answered, 'Are there not twelve hours in a day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in them.'"

As I read this, I became curious as to what Jesus was trying to teach. Here is what came from my further digging, and I pray that it ministers to you as it has me.

  • Jesus claims in John 8:12 to be the light of the world.
  • If He is the light of the world, then to walk in the day (which means light) means to walk in the light that Jesus gives.
  • What is meant then by walking in the light? 1.) Walking in the light is walking in fellowship with Jesus; 2.) Walking in the light is following or obeying His Word.
  • It is obvious then with this understanding, that to walk in the night means simply to walk apart from Jesus.
  • What is meant then by walking in the night? 1.) Walking in the night is not believing in Jesus; 2.) It is not obeying His Word.

Central Theme: The evidence that an individual who claims to follow Christ is actually following Him, is whether or not he/she lives their lives in fellowship and obedience to Christ. In this passage the Pharisees wanted to stone Jesus for His claim to be God. These religious people thought they were righteous because of their heritage and knowledge of the law, but Jesus was saying that they were not righteous, because the light is not in them.

The application that I take away is, just because I do "spiritual things" and know a lot about "spiritual things", does not mean that I righteous. I am can only claim myself righteous, not by the works I do, but through the person (Jesus) that I know and who knows me. The result of this relationship is that I will live a life that is obedient to His Word.


"He Justifieth The Ungodly"

"Therefore, in the infinite sovereignty of His divine nature and in the splendor of His ineffable love, He undertakes the task, not so much of justifying the just as of justifying the ungodly. God has devised ways and means of making the ungodly man to stand justly accepted before Him. He has set up a system by which with perfect justice He can treat the guilty as if he had been free from offense; yes, can treat him as if he were wholly free from sin. He justifieth the ungodly.

I know that it is to me, even this day, the greatest wonder that I ever heard of that God should ever justify me. I feel myself to be a lump of unworthiness, a mass of corruption, and a heap of sin apart from His almighty love. I know and am fully assured that I am justified by faith which is in Christ Jesus, and I am treated as if I had been perfectly just and made an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ. And yet by nature I mut take my place among the sinful. I, who am altogether undeserving, am treated as if I had been deserving...Who can help being astonished at this?

If God justifieth the ungodly, then he can justify you."

-C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace, pg 11-10

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Reflections

The following are just some highlights of the worship service today @ Idlewild:

  • So grateful for my friend and worship leader, John, for his kindness in praying over me and the church before the service this morning. Prayer, especially intercessory prayer, is greatly underestimated in most of our lives.
  • Enjoyed our study through Galatians in our Sunday School class this morning. It is a little disheartening that the writer of our literature sometimes runs through the text, missing so much of the truths that are found. However, Todd does a great job of studying and teaching the material, always encouraging discussion amongst the group.
  • Looking out across the crowd today, I couldn't help but notice a 'liveliness' in the faces of each attendee. Each Sunday it appears that each person is coming to glorify and worship God, and expecting to enjoy him more and more. This is exciting!
  • John and Kelley surprised me by singing the old hymn, "There Is A Fountain" sung to a different tune. I have been worshiping to this song each day for about three weeks now, via Red Mountain Church. As John stated this morning, "Putting these old hymns to slower tunes, allows us to hear the words and come to appreciate them once again."
  • Today, we continued our series on tough questions. Today's questions: "The Baptist's Say, 'Once Saved Always Saved.' What Does The Bible Say?" The passage of scripture that we looked at today as our primary text was John 10:27-30. We learned that the power and authority of the Godhead gives each follower of Christ assurance and security in our hope of eternal life. It is not our ability by our power to obtain and keep our salvation, but the power of Jesus (because he is God) enabling him to save and keep those whom his father chooses to follow him.
  • Although my ecclesiology is being challenged in my pastorate, I am still operating according to the baptist tradition of congregationalism. So we still have business meetings, which is what we had tonight. I am always weary of these times, but tonight was good. We are going to make some purchases that are going to enable us to continue the mission that God has laid out for our church. I pray that we continue to live by faith, and follow God's Word and will in all we do.
  • Finally, I am always encouraged when people who are older and wiser come into your life and speak truth into it. This happened to me from an individual that God is using to challenge me, and at the same time encourage me. I pray that people who are older, would not use their wisdom to judge and condemn those of us who are young and passionate, but to use it to encourage and exhort us. Thanks to this individual for challenging me to pause and reflect on where I am spiritually.
I am humbled that God is allowing me to be a part of this revitalization of His church. Idlewild is far from being the church that God wants it to be, but I can rest assured that we are on the path of pursuing that destination. The gospel is our fuel, and the glory of God and enjoying him forever is our cheif end. Praise be to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Remember that the man who truly repents is never
satisfied with his own repentance. We can no more repent perfectly than we can live perfectly. However pure our tears, there will always be some dirt in them; there will be something to be repented of even in our best repentance. But Listen! To repent is to change your mind about sin, and Christ, and all the great things of God. There is sorrow implied in this; but the main point is the turning of the heart from sin to Christ. If there be this turning, you have the essence of true repentance, even though no alarm and no despair should ever cast their shadow upon your mind."
-Charles H. Spurgeon
What is it that you need to repent of today?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sunday Reflections...Late

Well, again I am late posting on this past Sunday's worship services, and I am regretting that it is going to be a short post.

Sunday morning we continued our "Tough Questions" series. This weeks question was, "What is meant by the fear of the Lord?" We went on a journey through Scripture to find the answer. We came to this conclusion as a result of our study, "the fear of the Lord is not a constant being afraid of God, but being in a constant state of awe and wonder of who God is (Holy) and what He has done (adopted enemies as children through Jesus work on Calvary)."

Sunday night we continue our study of the book of James. We covered James 1:13-16, which I entitled "Two Paths: Every Temptation A Blessing and Temptation." We learned that, "we do not sin as a result of being lured and enticed by outside forces, but by the evil desires within our own hearts." There is no one to blame for our sinfulness except for ourselves. Satan is not my biggest enemy, but Scott is my biggest enemy.

Through my time of study on these two sermons, I experienced a tremendous amount of conviction for sin in my life, and God was merciful to grant me repentance for these sins. This past Sunday was a transformational Sunday for this young pastor, and my prayer is that those who heard the message and saw their pastor wrestling with these tremendous truths, were encouraged and challenged to go home and wrestle with them in their own lives. As a result, I pray that each person experiences the mercy of God through the power of these truths in the spiritual journey.