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Archive for March, 2009

Set Apart

glacierI remember many years ago when the talk of holiness dominated our small group discussions. It seemed like many of us wanted to get everything out of our lives that didn’t please God so that we could experience Him in greater ways. When people talk of holiness today they can quickly be labeled as being legalistic or fanatics by those who attend the Church regularly. Lately I have been focusing on holiness and realize that to experience God in fresh ways I need to always be adjusting my life to better match up with His Word. I think that is the best view of holiness that I can have. 2 Corinthians 7:1 says;

Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

This verse is only one place where we are told to focus on living holy lives. It means living in a separate way from the rest of the world. It means having different standards in our lives. For me one of the things that I need to separate myself from to some degree is different forms of media. Certain TV shows and movies infect my mind and do not enhance my relationship with God. I want to know the presence of God in greater ways and experience His power for ministry and Christian living. To get to where I want to go requires that I modify my life in all areas. God deserves people wanting to live lives set apart. When you think of what our freedom cost Jesus it is worth the effort.

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srtLast night our town hosted the SILVER RING THING which is an Evangelical purity outreach program. There were over 1300 in attendance. 112 new commitments to Christ and 386 rings were bought. My family was fortunate to host one of the Leaders of this event and I was impressed with the attitude they have for reaching the lost and giving a sound biblical reason of why teens should abstain from any sexual relations until they are married. This event was brought together through the hard work of the Youth Pastors of our community working for the greater good of the next generation. Unless you are blind you know that our country is beyond a moral decline and we are in a dismal situation. If your community is several thousand people or more I suggest getting in touch with this organization and doing this in your community. Society is dancing around the issue of morality and the Church must and needs to take a stand.

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esvLast year I attended the t4g (together 4 the Gospel conference) which is targeted for those who are Reformed (Calvinistic) in their theology. Out of the 3-5,500 people I would say that only a minority of us were using the NIV bible. The ESV (English Standard Version) which came out in 2001 seemed to be the translation of choice. At the conference I bought this version and began to look at it periodically and use it in my sermon study. With our Church going through the New Testament in 40 days I decided I would challenge myself for the entire year to preach, teach, and have bible study in this version alone. It has similarities to the NAS95 but it is more readable in style. Transitioning from the NIV is tough because I have been using it for everything for the past 7 years. The ESV I have found has a great literal delivery that holds to the original Greek better than any other New Testament translation that I have found. It took a few weeks to get use to a new translation, but I have found a greater appetite for the Word with the ESV. If you have been stuck reading the same version for several years give the ESV a year trial and see what you think. You may find yourself enjoying bible study in greater ways.

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rev-1Over the past few days I decided to read Confessions of a Reformission Rev by Mark Driscoll. It is an interesting perspective of how a Church Plant in Seattle Washington became a Mega-Church in less than 10 years. What I liked about this book was the desire to reach those who are not saved. Driscoll is an authentic writer who can seem harsh at times, but his attitude is something that the traditional church could learn from. He is an in-your-face sort of guy that I appreciate. Any one interested in re-thinking church growth and the struggles it takes to truly move a church forward should read this book. There is great substance mixed with the troubles that come with moving forward. This is not a how-to book since it is about the context of this church growing, but it serves as an example of where priorities need to be for God’s people.

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Out Of Focus

out-of-focusDo you ever go to Church and wonder what the purpose of the Church is? I think what I am seeing in the Christian Book Stores and hearing in some preaching today is helping the Church to lose its focus. Maybe we have lost our focus already! Our purpose as a Church (any true Church) is to be living for the glory of God. One of the greatest ways to do this is by evangelizing the lost. But the problem is that we don’t have a general enthusiasm for spreading the Gospel in our communities.

Could part of the problem be persistent sins in our lives? We don’t talk about sin and holiness much anymore. I have come to believe that sin is one of the greatest things that hold the Church and individual Christians back from serving God in greater ways. I don’t think that our lack of enthusiasm for spreading the Gospel can be pleasing to God. We sometimes even sit around and wonder why God’s blessing is not flowing in our Churches like we long for, but we don’t take into account our lack of evangelism.

Our focus in the modern Church needs to return to its roots that can be found in the book of Acts. We need to stop worrying about being comfortable and having programs that help us do nothing but take in more information. We need to be growing in Christ so that a desire to share who Jesus is becomes something that consumes us on a regular basis. I have to decided that in some way our Church will begin to shift to spreading the Gospel of Jesus as one of our main priorities. If we focus on the Gospel I believe that God will guide us in our efforts and will bless our work once it becomes truly Christ-centered. I want the fullness of God moving through me and my Church in this lifetime. To experience Him in greater ways I must honor the Name of Jesus by telling the lost about HIM.

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descentA few months ago I was looking for something different to read and came across Surprised by The Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere. This book discusses a journey with the Holy Spirit by a former Dallas Theological Seminary Professor. It is well written and will help anyone to think outside of the box that we have placed the Holy Spirit in within the walls of the Reformed/Calvinistic traditions. After reading this book I purchased Surprised by the Voice of God which is Deere’s follow up to his first book. I found the second offering more in depth and theological concerning the work and power of the Spirit that is still available today. While many might give Deere a hard time for his writings for becoming a part of the Charismatic Movement, I have to say that both of his books together are the best treatment on the subject that I have ever read. These are not books about tongues necessarily, but about the guidance, and promptings of the Spirit. Deere talks about prophetic words, impressions, dreams, and deliverance. If you have questions about the Holy Spirit and you are looking to have a broader understanding read both of these books and you will find yourself delighted and challenged by all of the material. No matter what tradition you are a part of there seems to be missing a desire for the Spirit to move among us and an ignorance of what His role is in the Church. These books could be valuable resources for any Christian Leader looking for a greater understanding.

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