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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.

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.

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.

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.

Interesting Challenge

bibleA friend of mine from the Quad Cities in Illinois told me about an interesting challenge that his Church is going through. The Pastor challenged the congregation to go through the entire Bible in one year. The Church is probably about 350-400 in size and he said that 200 or so people signed up for this challenge. As we talked I kept wandering how this congregation will be transformed by those who accepted this challenge. There are many who do not regularly get into the word of God and find it easy to brush off with everything else going on in their lives. Those who take in a steady diet of the Word cannot walk away from it without their lives being impacted.

What about a Lent New Testament Challenge? That is what I will be challenging our congregation with this Sunday. The New Testament has a total of 260 chapters. If you were to read 6.5 chapters a day and you started on March 2nd you would complete the New Testament by April 10th. If you have never read through the New Testament from the beginning of Matthew through Revelation how can you know what the Word of God truly has to say? Challenge yourself to read the New Testament in 40 days and watch how God will grab a hold of your heart and strengthen your faith.

Sour Milk

penn1This morning while I was watching the news I had to endure what the winners from the Oscar’s had to say. While I am a movie buff, I do not like the rhetoric and agenda that Hollywood seems to promote unashamedly. As I was watching I had to listen to Sean Penn who won an award for the movie MILK. This movie (which I have not or will not watch) is based on Harvey Milk and his fight for equal rights for homosexuals. Penn stated that this was really about “equal rights” which is what he said when he won the Golden Globe for the same part earlier this year.

The issue of homosexuality is becoming an increasing issue in our culture. Now people are saying that this is a civil rights issue. This is becoming such a big issue that it is influencing those who are in the Church and Christians are beginning to sit on the fence. This is not a civil rights issue! This is a problem and those of us in the Church need to take the stand that scripture does. In Romans 1:18-32 & 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 God tells us that homosexuality is wrong. He tells us that this lifestyle is sinful and unnatural. This is what we must teach and preach since it is a part of God’s Will.

I will say that when witnessing to a homosexual or discussing the matter with them we should always do so in love and grace. With that said I do not think that the Church should back down one bit from what we believe is the absolute truth of God’s ordained plan for His Creation. Hollywood is leading a charge that will impact our culture in negative ways for years to come. Those of us who are in Christ must defend the faith and we need to realize that we have the same right to discuss this issue as those who are trying to promote something that is against God’s design. God blesses those who stand up for the truth.

weeping1One thing that has disturbed me over the past couple of years is the lack of remorse I see in people over their sins. People just don’t want to admit when they are wrong and will sometimes give a half-hearted apology when they feel that there is no other alternative. As a Pastor I have witnessed people only apologizing to each other to make themselves look good instead of feeling bad over how they have wronged someone else. I fear that Christians could be approaching God with a half-hearted attitude when it comes to sin in their lives. Growing closer to God means feeling greater remorse for our sins. It means that we are striving for a closer relationship with Him at all times. James 4:8-10 says;

Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.

If we will take these verses seriously we would see greater improvement in our life with God and others inside of the Church. Each of us is so quick to point our fingers at one another, but we need to always take a closer look at ourselves first. Not dealing with sin and grieving over it stifles our relationship with God. Are you the type of Christian who is sorrowful over your sin or you the type that just doesn’t give it much thought? Before we get caught up in style or programs lets get back to some basics and learn to deal with sin properly.

Are We Better Than HP?

hp1This past week I kept receiving a message that my Norton Anti-Virus was about to run out on my HP Laptop. This was troubling since the computer is only 2 months old and I have a receipt for a 3 year subscription that HP was suppose to install when I ordered this computer. I decided to call them only to be sent overseas and was re-routed several times to people I could not fully understand. After about an hour on the phone I became frustrated and asked if they would just send me another subscription for Norton in the mail. To my surprise they agreed. Usually something like this rarely happens, but we take what we can get these days from customer service.

Trying to resolve any issue with any ones customer service department can be frustrating. There is a lot of talk but rarely does the problem get resolved. As I think about my experience with HP today I wonder to myself how frustrated people become with the Church at times because they feel lost in what we do and our overall processes. Too much of the time Churches worry about being nice and huggy with new people in the building without much thought that they are confused or frustrated by not knowing why we do what we do. If we want to be better than a customer service department we are going to have to engage people in conversation and help them understand quickly who we are and what it is we believe in. New people coming into the Church are coming for a reason. Do you know why they are coming? Trust me, there is a reason. We are not called to meet every need, but we are called to minister to those who God brings through our doors. Lets be better than HP and help new people figure it out.

6 Minutes 25 Seconds

Do you have an extra 6 minutes 25 seconds to hear the Gospel and its affect?

mhMark Driscoll is the Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. I have been listening to his sermons lately and really enjoy his perspective. One sermon that he preached that I thought was really outstanding was one that dealt with faith and works. You can find that sermon as a media file at; http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/religionsaves/faith-works

This subject of faith & Works means a lot to me. The meaning comes from being a part of a tradition for many years that teaches wrongly that someone is not saved until they are baptized. Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone. If you don’t fully understand what it is to be justified by Christ take a look at this sermon. It is 57 minutes long, but it is worth every minute.