Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mark Batterson: The Best Decision I Made...

I have been following Mark Batterson's blog for some time. Although, we would disagree on a number of levels theologically, I have been encouraged and challenged by much of his writing. His new article for Catalyst serves as a great reminder to all of us on the importance of a daily intake of God's Word.

He says,

If you want to grow spiritually, you need a consistent diet of Scripture. In fact, you will never outgrow your consumption of Scripture. There is no substitute. There is no supplement. The poet, T.S. Eliot, once observed: “Everything we eat has some effect upon us. It affects us during the process of assimilation and digestion; and I believe exactly the same is true of anything we read.” In other words, you are what you read.

I have a saying that I repeat to our congregation frequently:
reading without meditating is like eating without digesting. If you want to absorb the nutrients, you can’t just read it. You’ve got to chew on it. You’ve got to digest it. Meditation is the way we metabolize Scripture.

I find this very encouraging and challenging, and I would encourage you to go read his article here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sunday Reflections: Church On Mission First Step

A couple of Wednesday nights ago, I challenged our church to begin thinking outside the box of our church, and to realize what it actually means to follow Christ. The challenge was, "are we as a church willing to do whatever it takes to spread the gospel to the nations?" I left that night highly encouraged by the movement of the Spirit among our congregation. That night I saw people begin to really think about where their focus was in relation to how we approach "doing church" or "being the church."

Yesterday morning, we looked at 1 Peter 3:18-22 and our call to suffer and persevere with hope. We saw that the call to follow Jesus was a call to risk and endure ridicule and other types of suffering. We saw how Peter was encouraging followers of Christ, who were enduring suffering for that cause, in three ways:
  • Be Encouraged By The Sufficiency of Christ's Suffering
  • Be Encouraged By The Victorious Resurrection of Christ
  • Be Encouraged To Persevere With Good Conscience
We asked the question: "Am I suffering for the cause of Christ?" If the answer to that question is "No", then we must ask a follow-up question, "Why Not?" The whole idea of asking this series of questions is that if the call to follow Christ was a call to suffer for that cause, then why do we not hear or see anyone suffering for that cause? We concluded that if we are not suffering to any degree, then we most likely are not living for the cause of Christ.

On Sunday Night we stuck with the topic of "suffering." We took a break from our study in James, and looked at Hebrews 13:12-16. In this passage the writer (who remains unknown) challenges the reader to go outside the camp and join in Christ's suffering. We realized that the real mission is not what we do "in" the church, but what we are going to do "outside" the church. We realized that in Amercian Church Culture, instead of seeking the Kindgom of God, we generally seek comfort, safety, and security, especially in our churches. Again, it is a call to risk and live in the following two ways:
  • To let the fruit of our lips be that of praising God and proclaiming his goodness to the nations, beginning here at home in our realms of influence
  • To continuously do good to others, even if it means that we have to sacrifice our earthly comfort, safety and security.
All in all, according to what we studied yesterday and read throughout Scripture, that the call to follow Christ is a call to love and suffer for that cause. After the worship service last night an incredible thing happened...we took up an offering for local mission (even though there is a great need to reach the nations, we realize that in order to accomplish that mission, we must first start here at home). I was totally amazed at how our small gathering responded, and for me it was the first step for Idlewild to be a church on mission.

Thank you Idlewild for being an incredibily giving church, and for being so open to hear from the Lord and to catch the vision that Christ has left for His church. Let this be our first step to many more to come. Keep living for the cause of Christ, and know that I, as your pastor, am here walking alongside of you, willing to love and suffer with you. Let us go to him outside the camp and bear his reproach as we reach the nations for his glory.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sunday Reflections

Before I get to Sunday, I would like to tell you about our 4th. Saturday, Allyssa and I were trying to decide what we would do to celebrate the holiday. As many of you know, I served 7 years (4 active duty & 3 guard) in the Air Force, and the 4th is one of those holidays that I really enjoy. We had been invited to join some friends from church out at their lake house for an evening of fellowship, food, and fireworks. However, Allyssa who is ready to deliver our son at any time, was not comfortable going too far from the house. So we decided we would go to the local fireworks show, which was great...30 minutes straight, and get there about an hour early to do some "servant evangelism." We were joined by some friends, and we passed out around 100 bottles of water to spectators. It was interesting, because many people wanted to pay us for them, and were taken back at times because we were giving them away for free. This gave us a chance to share the love of Christ with them and the gospel. I tell you, even though I missed playing with my own fireworks, missed the cookouts and fun, this was by far the best 4th yet. I pray that God was glorified in our efforts, and that maybe we will see some of these people come to one of our services at Idlewild.

Now, time for Sunday:

  • The question for Sunday was: "Is there an age of accountability? If so what is it? If not where do infants and small children go when they die?
  • Look for more on this topic in the posts to come....
  • It was the longest sermon that I have preached yet (1 hour), but it was needed in order to present the answer to the question in a faithful way.
  • In our small group on Sunday mornings we have been going through the book of Galatians. Todd is doing a really great job expounding the truths from the text and bringing application to our lives. We had a great discussion yesterday on how we are to walk in the spirit.
  • After church, I was able to have a great conversation with a gentleman from the church, with whom always has words of encouragement and helpful critique. I love people's honesty.
  • Allyssa and I joined my parents and sister for lunch at their home. It was a great time to eat some really good food, and healthy discussion.
  • Allyssa then went to a baby shower that the ladies at Idlewild put on for her. We have some of the sweetest ladies in all the world, and the kindness that they have shown Allyssa and I is incredible.
  • I played golf with my minister of music and friend, John. We needed to get away and discuss how God had been working in our lives, and seek guidance from one another on some things we are now facing. The golf was fun, but the time of true fellowship - exhorting, encouraging, confession, forgiving - was so awesome. I look forward to the day when all God's people can move beyond superficial "fellowship" and begin to enter into true biblical fellowship. I find it very difficult to be fake and superficial, but I guess there is a time and place for everything. I just love true biblical community.
  • Finished reading the best book on the church yet, The Living Church by John Stott. I will post a book review on it in days to come, but if you haven't read it (especially church leaders), it should definitely be on your list of must reads.
As I experience God's grace and mercy in my life, I am realizing that I am so blessed. I love my church family and am grateful that God has allowed me to be their pastor. I love my family. I have seen such growth in my parents & sisters over the past couple of years in the midst of trials, that I am very encouraged. I love my friends, especially the Wed morning guys. God has surrounded me with a great cloud of witnesses, and I am convinced, had he not, I would not be where I am today. I love my wife Allyssa. She is a gift straight from God. Not only is she beautiful, but she has put on display for me what it means to forgive, to love, to be tenderhearted and caring, and how to truly be oneself. There is not a clearer picture in this world of authenticity than Allyssa Packett. I thank God for her. I love my son, Ayden. Even though I haven't met him yet (hopefully soon), God has been kind enough to give me a deep conviction to love him and shepherd him. Finally, most importantly I love my Savior Jesus Christ. I am reminded daily that I don't deserve his love, but in his goodness and grace he loves me anyway. It is only because of his love for me, that I am able to love him and those around me. Praise be to God!