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Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

gbGlenn Beck is a news commentator that usually deals in the area of politics. My wife and I started to watch Beck about a year ago when he was on Headline News. Now Beck is on Fox News at a time that I usually cannot watch him. What I like about this guy is that he seems to point the finger at both political parties and asks the government to do what it is supposed to. He asks them to help this country move forward. He is quick witted and is even quicker to point out the absurdities of the political system. Our family is hooked on watching this guy because he makes a lot of sense commenting on the problems with America. Nothing beats someone being straightforward. I think its time for the Church to learn some lessons from this guy.

What would happen if we approached the Church like this? I have seen the Church sweep their problems under the rug for the past decade only to have them become bigger problems down the road. I think its time for the Church to really wake up and take a good look at herself. While I love what I do and feel great about the Church that I am Pastoring there still are issues to deal with. The Church in America is on the decline in case we did not know that already. One of the main problems is that we are afraid to step on any ones toes to see it move ahead. Does that make sense to you? Does it make sense to keep doing things the same way and expect God to suddenly bless that? How about being honest with each other and realizing that certain aspects of the Church and its tradition just don’t work anymore. While I believe that we need to be preaching solid biblical messages we still need to realize what year it is. I want the Church to be the best that it can be, but getting there is what frightens people the most. Ask yourself what needs to be done to move your Church forward in a way that honors God and then start doing it. We need to gain new ground and stop sitting idly by while the world is moving forward.

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Into The Unknown

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This past weekend my wife and I spent time with a Baptist Church that we have been talking to since October of this year. There was several informal times of talking with the congregation on Saturday which was fruitful and tiring. The more I sat with this group of believers the more comfortable I felt. I have been through this process before, but have never felt more at ease at any other time. On Sunday morning I preached a sermon and received a unanimous vote which never happened before. My wife and I accepted the call of the Church and will be moving there hopefully before the New Year begins.

Due to the tough circumstances that me and my family have been through this year I have a greater faith in the future than I have ever had before. When you go through tough trials it changes you in ways that you can never imagine. I have a greater hope in God, His Church, my family, and my faith. For the first time in ministry I have a peace that I know only comes from God. If there is one definite praise that I can give God for everything in the past year it is the fact that my approach and excitement level for ministry is at a all time high. I say that knowing that like any ministry there will be difficulties and criticisms. I am ready to embrace the unknown again after stating at the end of the summer that I would never enter into full time ministry again. God gets all the glory for my changed attitude and heart. We serve a good God who is faithful to those who trust in Him.

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A Firm Place to Stand

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This past year has had many different turns in it for me and my family. After returning from vacation in July I was asked to resign from my Church by the elders and not given a clear explanation of why. We were notified that we had 60 days to vacate the parsonage that we were living in as well which only added to our frustration and dismay. Within 45 days we moved back home and began to start over fresh and see what God had for us. This was a time of our faith being tested and learning to trust God moment by moment. It is times like this that you realize how close to God you truly are. In Psalm 40:1-2 David writes;

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

Those verses became a mainstay for me during the past 5 months. The Church that I was a part of is known as the Independent Christian Church or the Restoration Movement. It is known for letting preachers go for any and every reason imaginable. During the past 8 months of being associated with this group my theology had been changing through my own personal study of Doctrine. While I was crushed by this event initially it was a release from a tradition that I could no longer agree with.

Before my family and I moved I began a dialogue with a Baptist Denomination. While I was not sure if I was going to ever enter ministry again I talked to them at the advice of my former Pastor and mentor. This dialogue lead to further discussions which opened a door of ministry to do some Interim Pastoral work at a small country church outside of my wife’s hometown. Through this experience I have enjoyed preaching and pastoral work in a much greater way than at any other time in ministry. I have preached with a greater sense of the Spirit moving through me than ever before. While doing Interim work I was approached by another Baptist Church about the possibilities of becoming their Pastor. Talking with them has been a bigger process than I had ever experienced with the Independent Christian Church which I have grown to appreciate. As of now I am at the tail end of the process with this Church still not knowing what the outcome will be. I have learned through this process that God can be counted on and trusted. Whether I am Pastoring full time by the beginning of 2009 or not I still am doing ministry in the context that I love and considering what happened 5 months ago that is a praise and testimony to the grace and movement of God. King David was correct in Psalm 40! God does give a firm place to stand to those who wait patiently for Him. There is no other choice we have as Christians no matter how it looks on the outside.

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What’s Missing?

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I feel like in many Churches and with many Christians today there is a power and contentment missing in our lives. When Jesus saved us He did so with intention so that we could have an abundant spiritual life. Do you see yourself as a person who has the life that Jesus talked about? Is there an inner peace with God in your life? Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said that those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled.” Powerful words! He also said in that same sermon that those who would “seek his Kingdom and righteousness” first would find have what they really needed in this lifetime. I wonder sometimes how seriously we take these words from the one we claim to be the Savior of our lives. Maybe Jesus is just another category in our life and not our life right now. Perhaps we are just counting on an entrance into Heaven and so to grow closer to God is only for the few strange people in our Church who seem to want to do that.

There is a life that Jesus promised to us that we forget about most of the time. It is a life that entails a dynamic relationship with God. It is not a life of ease or a life that is without pain, but it is a dynamic life and many are not finding it today. Maybe our problem is that we forget about the promises of God in His word because we are not into the word like we should be to see those promises. In John 7:37-38 it says;

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

I believe in that promise with all of my heart. But it has to start somewhere. It has to be practical enough for us to attain it. It starts with a steady diet of prayer and the word. That diet must be steady and we must not let anything hinder our time with God each day. If you are to ask any Christian about their spiritual life with God you will find that prayer is the main thing lacking in individual lives and as the Church comes together. Jesus gave this promise to everyone who would become His disciple. Are we thirsty enough to see how real this promise is?

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The Country Church

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Since the beginning of November I have been preaching at a Country Church outside of the town my wife is from. This is the area that I am from and I have enjoyed my time with this group of believers who have an appetite for the Word of God. When I was approached about preaching for them I was hesitant for the first time in my life. After the first Sunday had concluded (first time preaching in 3 1/2 months) I felt much better than I had expected. What I have noticed is that the more thoughtful a group of believers are I find myself gaining more passion as well.

This time with preaching has been more of a blessing than at any other time in my ministry. I know that is due to my theological change and the freedom that I experience in the pulpit. I have discovered in all of this that people in any Church have an appetite for the Word of God. Some have not heard the straight forward truths of Biblical Doctrine in a long time. Preaching to any group of people who are thirsty for every passage of scripture is refreshing. The Reformation took place through good Biblical preaching that taught basic truths of the faith and doctrine. What changed the world so long ago still has the same power for today.

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tulip

This past Sunday I preached through Ephesians 2:1-10 which is a mainstay of Reformed theology. In this text Paul tells us that when we are outside of Christ we do nothing but follow our own sinful nature/desires of the flesh. We clearly see in this text that God moves within us and gives us a desire to seek Him out. Once we place our faith in Him we are saved by the grace of God alone. This passage of scripture has become very dear to me over the past 12 months as I was looking into the Doctrines of Grace more closely not ever imagining that I would end my journey by giving myself over to them completely. While Paul discusses our regeneration and salvation in this text for the first 9 verses he ends the text in an interesting way.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

There was a distinct reason for our being saved. God saved us out of love and by grace but with the intention that our salvation would shine through what is produced for the Kingdom. Not too long ago I ran into a man who attended the Church where I met and married my wife at. He told me he no longer attended their because they were not fundamental enough (he didn’t like that they had no set doctrinal statement) and now he is attending a different Baptist church. I asked him how he liked his new Church and he said; “They don’t have enough programs for kids!” No matter where we are we need to be fulfilling the “good works” that have been laid out before us by our Lord. It’s easy to complain about the Church and what it lacks and much harder to be a person who helps it improve in areas that are lacking. If any local Church is going to see improvement it will take those who cherish the Doctrines of Grace and their salvation working to make it better each week. Any Church is only as strong as its disciples. If you are in awe of what God has done by saving you from a life that runs toward sin then take seriously what it says about the work to which you have been called.

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Attitude Counts

Yesterday my wife and I spent some time with our friends from a congregation that I recently was the Pastor of. These friends have stopped attending the Church since I was forced to resign and not even given a good reason of why this happened. Since they have stopped attending the Church some of its leaders have acted arrogant and a bit snide to them when they see them in the community. When they told me several of the stories my heart ached for them and my former Church. This type of attitude should never be a regular occurrance for God’s people. Jesus died because he loved us (Romans 5:8), but despite the love that God has shown His people we still sometimes want to justify ungodly attitudes. When we approach fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, family members, and co-workers we are to be full of grace and love which is missing in today’s culture. If you are in Christ and have been saved by God’s grace you have an opportunity to be a leader wherever you are by demonstrating to everyone around you how much you love God with your attitude. Your attitude in general reveals to others who know you are a Christian how mature you are in Christ. I am not saying that you should be a doormat to everyone around you, but you should be the most humble and loving person to everyone you can who will receive it. When you act with arrogance as a Christian toward others it will get around eventually through people talking and the name of Jesus will be profaned. Everyday God gives us the opportunity to let our light shine for his glory through our attitudes. Shine brightly for the the One who gave His life for you.

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Some things in life are never what they seem. Many times in our lives we envision how things should be, but they always are much different once we are in the midst of them. When I was 17 I signed up for the Army and thought in my mind how it was going to be, but once I was in Basic Training it became much more difficult than I had ever imagined. What I had dreamed up in my mind was not what I had experienced. You would think that after having that type of reality check at a young age that I would have stopped dreaming of how things would play out in life. The truth is I have not stopped, but I have learned to accept reality for what it is.

To this day I still remember a day in the fall of 2004 when Sarah told me that she was pregnant. I remember crying and hugging her because I was full of joy. That is when my problem of living in a dreamy state started all over again. For the next 9 months I began to dream along with Sarah of what parenthood would be like. We talked about what we would do as parents and how we would handle ourselves much better than “other parents” who always seemed to be stressed out. I watched 3 Men & a Baby, and Look Who’s Talking so I just figured that it would be a breeze. I must admit that the first 3 months of Dylan’s life I remember thinking “what did we get ourselves into?” This parenthood was far from any movie and was all consuming. The reality was far from what I had dreamed up in my mind. It took me 3 months to feel comfortable with being a dad. I cannot imagine not having Dylan in my life and love being a dad, but the reality of it all could never be captured by a Hollywood movie or a dream that my mind concocted. Reality is accepting life on life’s terms and living within those terms and not a dreamy state.

One of the problems that the church of the 21st Century is having is that it is not living fully in reality. In the past 20 years the Church has seen a dramatic shift in its theology and practice. The Gospel of Jesus has been changed into a feel good self help manual that is far from the reality that Jesus presented while he walked among His creation. During the entire summer our Church we will be spending its time in all four Gospels to see if we are Living in Reality. We will lay our lives next to the Gospels to see if we are living in a way that Jesus has commanded us to live. Sometimes we begin to live in a dreamy state when it comes to our relationship with God. We have heard someone say something that sounded biblical even thought it wasn’t or we have listened to the health and wealth gospel which has distorted the message that Jesus presented. I have a strong desire to live within the parameters that Jesus has laid out so that I can experience Him to the fullest in this lifetime. To do so requires perseverance on a daily basis. My desire must be driven by what his word says in its proper context or I am living in a dreamy state. I invite you to examine yourself with me this summer to see if we are living in a way that matches up with the reality of God’s Word.

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As I look around at the state of the Church I wonder how serious we are about our relationship with Jesus. People in the Church tend to become more isolated than what the believers of the 1st Century were. They had a vibrant faith that conquered cities in the name of Jesus. They had less comfort and a greater devotion to what they had been called too. What will it take I wonder for the 21st Century church to have that same type of fire that the church initially started off with when it was formed? I don’t think that another church program is the answer or even going to a conference to get fired up for only a moment in time.

I think one of the missing elements that hinders spiritual growth is dedication. The early church was dedicated to the Great Commission no matter what their circumstances were. We need to take not of that collectively. When we decide that we are going to give our best to God despite what happens in our lives I believe that we will see God move in great ways among us. It sounds simple yet we have a problem with truly living it out all of the time. Revival is what serious Christians are longing for. Before revival can come we must saturate ourselves in prayer and God’s word regularly. How can we know what God wants from any body of believers who are not in constant communion with Him?

If we want to be serious about our faith we have to decide that we are going to live for God with intensity. It means that we are willing to come before Him and let Him direct how we live our lives and learn to submit to His authority. The bible says that humility comes before honor. Are there any humble Christians left who truly desire God’s Will for their lives? When humility is taken seriously we will see a turn around within the body of Christ. When it is not achieved we will only keep spinning our wheels and professing that we love Jesus.

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Many years ago I heard a great preacher say “the thinking of the world has found itself inside of the Church!” As a young Christian I wondered what those words exactly meant. I did not fully understand what he was saying. A decade later I remember those words and realize how true it really is. Every Church in the world has some problems that they deal with on a regular basis and some of those problems can be found every time we look at ourselves in the mirror.  The problems that I am referring to are those that each of us create without so much as a second thought. One of the biggest problems that I see many of us creating is that of constant criticism. We have become a Church that acts and talks like the world around us.

Everyone who is a Christian and attends Church regularly probably has had an issue with how they use their words. We usually don’t want to admit it but everyone of us at some point and on different levels has been wrong. I see this happening in the Church and I have been growing tired of it lately. The world around us accepts using negative words toward one another as a common occurrence and because it seems normal it finds its way into the Church. Perhaps its time to break this cycle of negativity among God’s people! All of us don’t want to admit our faults, but they are ever present for everyone to see. Each of us has many faults that we do not want to admit to ourselves and others. Knowing we have faults should help us to be more gracious, but unfortunately it does not. Why is that? Why do we knowing pick each others faults apart more than offering a compliment? I think the simple answer is that we have taken on the thinking of the world. It could also be that are commitment to Christ never reaches beyond ourselves into the communities that we are a part of.

What would happen to any congregation if it was willing to turn this attitude around? I think that any congregation that was willing to learn to compliment each other more than complain about one another would experience a fresh move of God in their midst. But all of this has to start somewhere. It has to start with the individual. It has to start with you and me making up our minds that we are going to glorify God in every way possible that He has commanded us to in His word. I want to learn this winter to see all the good qualities in my Church family before I begin to look at the negative ones. I want to learn to be a person who compliments others around him and encourages people more. It all starts with a decision and takes daily work to back up that decision. In Galatians 6:10 Paul says “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” We can fulfill this scripture by learning to compliment each other instead of being critics. This I believe is what God intends for His Church and this is the person I want to become everyday.

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