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We are studying the Sermon on the Mount for our Wednesday Night program. John Stott reflecting on this part of Scripture says that “it is the least understood and applied” piece of text in the New Testament. This part of scripture is a good one to go back through every few months. I have always thought a good practice was to read it completely through in one setting. This does not take long and helps understand the complete unit as a whole. Mt. 6:8 says “Do not be like them!” This is a pivotal point that Jesus makes. What He is saying is not to be like those outside of the church. To put it a better way, we are not to be like the world. This sermon is a call to live counter – culturally which many Christians find difficult to do. I think what I am seeing in the church today are many who want to define their walk with God on their own terms. The Sermon on the Mount dispels any thoughts of going our own way. It is to the point and only 107 verses long. In the middle of this sermon we find how we are to connect with God. Chapter 6 is a pause of sorts that tells us how to live, pray, and fast. With all the complicated how- to books out there in the Evangelical world this portion of Scripture leaves us with a clear direction that we are to follow. Why do we make our life with God so difficult? He never intended for it to be that way.

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On January 7th, the New Jersey state Senate defeated a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage. The vote was 20-14 and nine Democrats, including Senate President Steve Sweeney, either voted “no” or abstained. It seems that for the next four years this will not be brought up again. When I heard about this on the news I was happy since it seems that many states are caving into allowing this.

The issue of same-sex marriage is one that is not going away. What troubles me is the silence from the Church. Why are we not talking about this more and taking a stand. Even on the local level there seems to be not much talk. This for me is not about equal rights. This is a group wanting equal rights and telling America that we have to agree with them or we are racist. What ever happened to freedom of speech? The bible is clear on marriage! God created Adam and Eve. A man and a woman relationship is the one that God designed and ordained from the beginning.

I will say that my feelings do not drive me to violence in any way. I have the right as a citizen to voice my concerns for this problem as do those on the other side of the issue. What I cannot agree with however, is being shredded for my belief that same-sex marriage is wrong and against the will of God for His creation. I applaud New Jersey for their decision to say “No” to same-sex marriage. My hope is that it will speak loudly to many other states that will have to deal with this decision in the future.

Many years ago someone told me about a popular book titled Desiring God by John Piper. That was a little over 11 years ago. That book was a too deep for me at the time as a young Christian but after some time in the word I have a great appreciation for its content. Since then I have gone on to read many of John Pipers books, articles, and even have listened to many of his sermons thanks to the wonderful world of iPods. His overall ministry to the Church is one that many preachers will never experience. I say ministry because in the past decade Desiring God Ministries has continually grown. It is a place on the web where you can find biblically sound teaching through articles and grow in your faith in greater ways. On this website you will also find many of his books that you can bring up on a PDF format and print out. I don’t know of many ministries or writers who will let you do something like that. Perhaps that says a lot about who Piper is and his desire to see Christians grow in their faith. If you don’t know who John Piper is I invite you to look him up on CBD (ChristianBooks.com) and order one of his books. If you want to go deeper in your faith and like to be challenged this is a guy you want to read.

Disconnected

Several years ago I sat in a meeting with church leaders. I asked this group of 7 elders if they could show me the 3 distinct places in the New Testament where it mentioned what they were to be doing. Only 1 of them could remember one of the 3 places where it talks about elder leadership. This told me that these men who were to be leading the church did not know their New Testament very well and probably did not read their bibles regularly. When this took place I remember thinking “what are we doing if we don’t know the bible?”

As this years comes to an end I wonder to myself how many people sitting in the pews each week pick up their bibles after Sunday is over? I started in pastoral ministry in 2002 and will admit that I was more idealistic when I started out. I had this ideal of what I thought the church was, but now reality is staring at me and I cannot hide from it. We are lacking in the basic knowledge of the bible and cannot clearly define to others what the gospel is. Men from the 1st Century up to this point in time are willing to die for this and yet many cannot say what it is exactly. People cannot connect with a God or a Savior as they should if they do not know the Word of God. Going through the Word is not a simple task but it can bring a revival to your heart and conviction to your soul. Stay connected in the New Year that is upon us. Stay in the Word of God!

The leaders that I mentioned earlier. Most of them never reached out to the congregation and yet they always liked to pick apart the church staff. If they were not basing their positions on the bible, what point of view were they using then? If the Church does not know the Word it will do things in a very secular way. Trust me I know from experience that this happens a lot. Only those who know God through His word can stay connected to Him. Those who do not know the Word will just keep going through the motions and never see their spiritual lives grow.

Calling All Leaders

I wonder how satisfied people are with their church experience. I have to say that until the past year I have not found much satisfaction. The turning point for me has been finding a group of college students who are hungry for the word of God and enjoy growing in their faith. People who are excited about moving forward with God excite those who are just going through the motions. The generation that is in college right now seem to not want to just go to church or play church, they desire to really understand what God wants from them and to act upon it. That attitude is completely refreshing for me.

While I am excited by this group of college students I do understand the reality of it all. One day they will move on and into their lives after graduation. They will seek out a church and get involved only to hit a few road blocks. People who are sold out to systems and traditions instead of having a hunger to live out their faith will affect them in negative ways. Thinking about this brings a heaviness to my heart. Why is the church so frustrating so much of the time? I think one of the best answers is that the leaders who are in place are just going through the motions. It’s an easy thing to do in any local church. But it’s not the life the Jesus has called us too. If you are a church leader you have a great responsibility to keep the church moving forward. This means guiding people closer to God through bible study, prayer, and good works. It means being a change agent. It means helping people realize that worship and  the Great Commission must be prominent if people are going to experience God in greater ways. The greatest hindrance in the Church today are its leaders. God did not let His Son be crucified so that the local church could be a club of close-knit friends. He let his Son die on the Cross to redeem a people for Himself who are willing to give everything they can back to Him. If you are a church leader you have a great responsibility. Remember what you have been entrusted with and who has entrusted you to carry out the work of the ministry.

Matt Chandler Preaching

If you do not know about the Village Church in Dallas Texas you might have heard of their Lead Pastor Matt Chandler. Chandler is an outstanding preacher who is reformed in his theology and has an energy that many cannot compete with. His passion for the Word and the lost are a testimony to all of us in the church today. This past week it came out that Chandler had a brain tumor and I would like to post an article from Christianity Today as reported by Ted Olsen. Olsen writes;

Some sad news from The Village Church today:

On Tuesday, Dr. Barnett informed Matt and Lauren [Chandler] that the findings of the pathology report revealed a malignant brain tumor that was not encapsulated. The surgery to remove the tumor, the doctor said, was an extremely positive first step; however, because of the nature of the tumor, he was not able to remove all of it.

Matt, who is being released from the hospital today, is meeting with a neuro-oncologist this week to outline the next steps of the recovery process. There is a range of treatment possibilities but the exact course of action has not yet been determined. He will continue outpatient rehab.

The Lord is calling Matt and Lauren and The Village Church body to endure this trial. It will be a challenging road for Matt, his family and our church body. The gospel is our hope and the Lord is our strength. Matt and Lauren continue to find solace and hope in Christ. They weep facing this trial, but not as those without hope and perspective. The gospel clarifies their suffering and promises more of Christ through it all.

We pray for Matt and his family and the Village Church. We will continue to pray and stand alongside of our brother who proclaims the truth unashamed.