Where is your “marketplace”?

“So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present.”

Acts 17:17

How can God use me?  What am I supposed to be doing?  Where do I serve in the church?

Have you ever asked yourself these questions?  Often when we get involved in church, we struggle with not being sure where exactly we fit in.  We see people public speaking, but that makes us nervous.  We see people singing & playing instruments, but only a few think they are talented enough for that.  Sure there is giving, helping set up, and being on committees, but we want to be doing ministry even beyond these things!!!  So what do we do?

Take a moment to consider this:  What if your calling is not in the church?  What if your calling is to serve the church in the marketplace?

We see in the passage that heads this post that Paul’s ministry consisted of two components.  First, he would speak in the synagogue and then he would go to marketplace and talk with people there.  Let us take a moment to consider if God is possibly sending you to a marketplace of your own!!

  1. Why the marketplace?

Because that’s where the people are!!!  Many years ago a reporter interviewed a notorious bank robber named Willie Sutton.  During the interview, the reporter asked why Sutton robbed banks.  His reply, “Because that’s where the money is.”

Why did Paul go to the marketplace?  Why should we seek out our marketplace?  BECAUSE THAT IS WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE!!!!  More specifically, that is where the lost are.

We have to acknowledge the truth that not many lost people randomly walk into churches on Sunday.  If we want to reach the lost, we will have to go to them.  Jesus makes it pretty clear, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt 28:19)

We have got to get out of the mindset that ministry only happens within the walls of the church.  Scripture shows us the opposite was more true.  Paul had some success in the synagogues, but it was on the block and in the marketplace that people were being saved.

  1. How does it work?

Okay, so maybe you are on board with going to the marketplace; now what?

Where do I go?  If we are going to go the marketplace, we have to know where it is!!!  You may think this is going to be some crazy place that you have never been before, but that actually is not the case.  Your marketplace is where you already are.  It is your work.  It is the restaurants you frequent.  It is the organizations (outside the church) you support.  It is your child’s sporting events.  It is the grocery store.  Your marketplace is all the places you already are.  You do not have to go looking for someplace new; you just have to open your eyes and see the lost people who are already all around you!!1

What do I do?  We always make this more complicated than we need.  You share Christ.  First, you share Christ by your actions.  You give others priority over yourself (Rom 12:10).  This may mean a simple smile, a quick apology, or a caring gesture.  Show the people around you that you are not only interested in yourself, but you have a genuine concern for them.  Then, you have to actually tell them about Jesus!!!  Look at the words Luke uses to describe Paul’s actions in Acts 17:17-18.  He “reasoned” in the synagogue.  Later, he “conversed” with the philosophers.  Finally, he “preached” Jesus and the resurrection.  Paul’s ministry was not done from behind a pulpit but on the street, giving and taking in conversation.  He listened.  He responded.  He spoke into people’s lives.  He pointed them to the Messiah.  You can do all of those things too.

  1. Why does it matter?

At the very end of the chapter, Luke writes this, “But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.” (v. 34) This is why we have to go to the marketplace!!!  There are people right here in Hardin County that have never heard the Gospel and they probably will never voluntarily darken the door of a church building.

Think about it this way:  Would you ever just walk into the local mosque?  Or the synagogue?  Or even attend a Catholic mass?  Why not?  Probably because it would be intimidating!!!  You don’t know their customs or expectations.  You might be afraid that you would accidentally offend someone.  Or you just don’t believe that they would have anything to offer you at their services.  THAT IS HOW THE LOST SEE US!!!!

IF we have been called to make disciples of all nations, and IF the nations are not going to just magically waltz through our doors, THEN WE HAVE TO GO TO THEM!!!!

I know this may feel horribly uncomfortable.  Sharing Jesus without the pastor nearby may feel like walking a tightrope without a net, but you can do it.  You have to do it.  There is no plan B.

We are his messengers, his witnesses, his ambassadors.  We have been commissioned to do this.
 
Let’s go!
 

Read more...

Get off the fence!!!

“You gotta get off the fence!” I cannot hear these words without hearing the voice of Dave Marcum, my Sunday School teacher and friend. It is an exhortation to believe in God with all your heart.  Dave calls those who shy away from fully committing to Christ as “Fence-riders”, people who sit on the fence by refusing to commit to a position until they are sure they are on the right side.  These are people so concerned about being wrong or looking foolish that they remain silent.  Yes, they may identify as a Christian, but they would not tell another person about Jesus.  They may call themselves Baptist, but it is doubtful that they would take a hard stand on any doctrine.  They are just there… unless they are somewhere else! Unfortunately, we live in a climate where Christians can no longer “ride the fence”.  Even in the last few months, groups have entered Hardin County and demanded that schools and churches have no interaction.  Prayer has been challenged, Christian groups like Fellowship of Christian Athletes are being discouraged, and ministers are not allowed to be present on school campuses. While we do want to honor the separation of church & state, we must also make it clear that we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and nothing is going to prevent us from praying, worshiping, and living out our faith in public! Ironically, this is not a new problem.  Even in Jesus time there were those who wanted to follow Jesus, but they were not sure if they wanted to give up everything.  Let’s look how Jesus handled them.  (Luke 9:57-62)

  1. “I will follow you wherever you go!”
The first person that Jesus encounters in our passage is said elsewhere to be a Scribe. (Matt 8:19) His exclamation in this passage seems harmless enough.  He is professing that he will follow Jesus ANYWHERE!!!
Yet Jesus’ response tells us a great deal about this man’s heart.  “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  Jesus reveals in his response that this scribe saw God as an employer.  If he followed Jesus wherever He went, then he would be cared for.  He was hoping that following Jesus would be a life of comfort or success.  Jesus is letting him know that it was not so.  This man made the declaration, but there was an unwritten caveat.  He would not have stayed with Jesus on the open road.  He would not have slept outside, and he would have left the moment Jesus was betrayed.
 
Many Christians today are quick to sing, “Every move I make, I make in you.” Yet they would never let Jesus take control of their business, finances, or comfort.  We cannot be silent about our faith, even if it means being ostracized from the in-crowd or missing out on business opportunities.  Jesus is our hope for life everlasting; not our means for comfort in this life.
 
  1. “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.”

Again, we see a relatively reasonable request.  Most of us cannot imagine that Jesus would not allow a man to attend his own father’s funeral.  However, there is more to this excuse than meets the eye.  First, it is highly likely that the individual’s father was not dead yet (possibly not even near death).  Second, the concept of burying one’s relative included all of the business that surrounds the death of the person.  In other words, this person wanted Jesus to put his discipleship on hold until his father had passed (possibly years) and he had been able to collect his portion of the estate!

In contrast to the previous person who wanted Jesus to take care of him, this person wanted to make sure he had secured his own provisions.  He wanted to make sure that he first took care of himself.  Therefore, Jesus response is fitting, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”  We cannot wait until we take care of every other area of our life before we get to following Jesus.  People who wait for the “perfect time” to start following Jesus will probably never do so.  Instead, we need to remember that “Now” is always the perfect time to trust in Christ and be about His work.

  1. “First permit me to say good-bye to those at home.”

The last reasonable request from the fence-riders is to be able to say good-bye.  Many of us would hope that we would be given the opportunity to tell our families good-bye if we were leaving for a long time.  Again, Jesus sees into the heart of the individual and calls them to truly follow.  In this case, Jesus responds by saying, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

What is it about saying good-bye makes this man unfit for the Kingdom?  Simply this, this man wishes to go back because he wants the approval of his family before he leaves.  Going home to say good-bye means that he can give his family one more chance to talk him out of it, and he can make sure he has their approval in case things don’t work out.  This person is planning his exit strategy.  He wants to be sure that he has a home to go back to.  He is not willing to risk everything to follow Christ.  He needs a safety net.
Many Christians today are the same way.  We want to follow Jesus but not at the risk of everything.  We still want people to approve of our decisions.  We want to believe, but we don’t want to be one of “those people”.  We will follow Jesus, but we won’t do it if it means losing family, friends, reputation, or status.  We want to follow, but only if society approves.  In doing so, we miss out on what the Kingdom is all about.
 

People ride the fence for many reasons.  Some ride the fence until they know Jesus will take care of them.  Others ride the fence until they can take care of themselves.  Still others ride the fence in hopes that following Jesus will not cost them anything important.  Whatever the reason, those who ride the fence are not doing anyone any favors.  The last thing the world needs is more nominal Christians.  Whatever may have you on the fence, I challenge you to take that leap.  Trust in the Lord; trust in his provision, timing, and promises.  Yes, it will cost you something; it may cost you everything. But it is always worth it. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

(Mark 8:34-35)


Read more...

Never Forget…

A couple years ago I had the privilege of going to New York City in order to help a local church leader connect with a NAMB church plant in the area. During our time there we had the opportunity to visit the 9/11 memorial in Manhattan.  It was a cold November evening so there were not many other people around.  The silence allowed the noise of the rushing waters to fill the air.  It was a sobering place As we reflect on the events of September 11th, 2001; we realize that since that day our world and our country has never been the same.  I was in college the day the towers fell and that very day I was supposed to go to the visitation for my grandfather, a navy veteran who also retired from the FAA.  My family could not travel from the western side of the U.S. because all air travel was suspended.  We all just sat in disbelief about what had happened. We have all been changed by the events of this day.  Even the church cannot say that she has escaped the effects of that day.

  1. The World Shrank
I was a young man when the towers fell.  Places such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia were little more than places on a map to me.  These places did not play much of a role in my life, and I did not think often about the people who lived there. Even my faith was a purely American endeavor.  The Great Commission meant I was supposed to share my faith with my classmates and fraternity brothers.  Place like those mentioned above were a world away and someone else’s responsibility.
That all changed on 9/11.  Suddenly, these places in the world seemed very close, and very important.  Suddenly, there was a group of people out there who believed differently than me and were willing to kill for it.  The world shrank that day, and people who were once so far away were now close enough to touch.
  1. Christianity, more than ever, was bound to patriotism.
I think everyone can remember how our churches filled up those first few weeks after 9/11.  Many people came looking for answers.  Other came to hear a comforting word from the Lord.  Still others came because those who had attacked us were Muslim and we were a “Christian Nation”.
Whatever the reasoning, after the events of 9/11, Christianity became an increasingly “American” faith.  We made sure to keep the American flag on prominent display in our churches.  We did more to celebrate Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veteran’s Day.  We also made a point to pray publicly for our leaders and for our soldiers.
While none of this is bad, it was not necessarily a good thing either.  This patriotism came with a lack of love for those outside of our country’s borders.  The church seemed to take on a “take care of our own” mentality, which does not honor the Great Commission.
Jesus said, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)  One thing we must remember as we celebrate the freedoms we have as a country and pray for our soldiers is that the Great Commission was always intended to transcend national borders and the differences between people groups.

 

  1. The people of Islam need the Gospel
In contrast to the change mentioned above, we also became very aware that the nation of Islam needed to hear the gospel.  Now, I am not saying that there weren’t people who were particularly burdened to bring Jesus to Muslims around the globe.  However, I do think that most Americans did not have a clear understanding of Islam and American Christianity did not see the tremendous need to share the Gospel with people from Islamic Countries.
Today we speak a great deal about what God is going in the 10/40 window (https://joshuaproject.net/resources/articles/10_40_window) and we are regularly challenging individuals and churches to do all they can to reach people from these countries.
We must be reminded that God loves the Muslim just like he loves the Buddhist and the Atheist.  9/11 serves as a witness that the only thing that can truly thwart Islamic extremism is the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  Today I am praying for all those whose lives were forever changed by the events of 9/11.  There were so many who did not return home from work that day; so many that were forced to move forward without the people they love.  I am also praying for all of our service men and women who answered the call to stop terrorism both here and abroad.  I am praying for the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, both our military and first-responders. But I am also praying for our missionaries in the field who are trying to bring the Gospel to those in Islamic nations.  I am praying for them and for the people who will hear the Gospel through them.   May these people hear the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be transformed by it!


Read more...

Brother, your “ministry” is not worth your life.

Last week the nation was shocked to read about a pastor in California that had taken his own life after a lengthy battle with depression.

Andrew Stoecklein seemed to be doing quite well on the surface.  He was happily married and the father of three beautiful children.  He was pastoring a vibrant church in a beautiful area of southern California.  He certainly did not seem to fit the bill of a pastor struggling in ministry and fighting for his life.  His death has once again put the spotlight on the mental health of those in ministry.  As pastor appreciation month approaches, several Christian media outlets are posting articles about depression, suicide, and the pressures of ministry.

Unfortunately, the numbers do not lie.  Pastors across the nation suffer from depression, the feelings of isolation, and exhaustion.  Many do not think they are making a significant impact on their congregation.  Even pastors’ wives and children are not spared the stress and pain of ministry, with many reporting that they needed counseling for the pressures of having a spouse or parent in ministry.

I must say that I can understand how this must feel.  As the only pastor of a small church, there have been many times when I have doubted my calling.  I have questioned whether I was doing more harm than good to my congregation.  I have even struggled to do anything because of an overwhelming feeling that all my efforts were destined to fail.

So as I reflected on this pastor’s actions and the statistics that show that so many other pastors are on the same path; I was left with this word of advice:

Your “Ministry” is not worth your life.

Let me explain:

  1. Your “ministry” ≠ the Gospel

The title of this post is intended to be provocative and I have no doubt that some who read this would respond by ask, “Didn’t Jesus himself say, ‘For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.’ (Mark 8:35) Now you’re telling me that my ministry isn’t worth my life?”

Yes, that is what I am saying, and I am saying it because your ministry is not the gospel.  It is true that we may very well be called to go and preach the Gospel in places where the Gospel is not welcome.  We may be called to face persecution, imprisonment, even death as we faithfully share the Gospel with the lost.

However, that isn’t really what we are talking about here.  Here, we are talking about your “ministry” or the particular work or vocation where you are currently serving.  It is one thing to preach the Gospel knowing that you may be in danger for doing so.  It is quite another thing to stay in a certain position or job even though it is leading you to burnout or self harm.

Jesus himself told his disciples that they were to preach the Gospel and yet be willing to walk away from bad situations.  He said, “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.” (Matt 10:14) He gave them permission to move on instead of grinding to the point of exhaustion.  You need to know also that you have permission to move on as well.

  1. The Gospel will go on; even if your ministry doesn’t.

The next thing you may say is, “But I can’t do that!!!  If I quit, then no one will be here to witness in this church / community / town!!!”

Really?  One of the hardest things for a pastor, missionary, or lay leader to understand is that the Great Commission does not hang on our ability to succeed in a particular ministry.  I can promise you that even when you step down or step aside, the Gospel will continue moving forward.

Yes, your particular ministry may cease to exist.  Yes, you may see opportunities to share missed because of your absence.  And yes, things may appear to be worse because you are no longer at the helm.  But do not fear, the Gospel has not been thwarted and the Great Commission will go on.  We know this because the Bible is true.

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Rev 7:9)

See?  God is going to see that every tribe, tongue, and nation come before the throne in worship.  You cannot thwart the plans of God; even if that means stepping down for a season to rest and be with Him!

  1. Your family > Your ministry

This brings me to my last point.  I beg you that you please listen to this, your “ministry” to your family should always, always take priority over every other ministry you have; vocational or volunteer.  Pastors and every other form of minister often feel like everyone is demanding their time and attention; often at the neglect of their spouse and children.  I beg you here and now to break that cycle in your own life.  If a ministry or church cannot function unless you neglect your family, then it isn’t the place for you.

Even before Christ gathered the church, He established the family, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) In this moment the first family was formed and just as it was placed before the church in history, it should be placed before the church in priority.

One thing we know for certain, you cannot minister, care for, and love your family if you are not there.  It is far more important that you be a husband to your wife and a father to your children, than you be a pastor to a church.  A church, ministry, or mission can have a variety of leaders, but your family can only have one father.  Please, be that father.  You cannot do it if you are gone all the time, and you cannot do it if you take your own life.

Your family loves you and needs you; be there for them.

 

Brother, your “ministry” is not worth your life.  It is okay to step aside and/or step away.  The Lord will provide for you and He will take care of you.  Rest, seek counseling, and be with your family.  It is not too late.

 

If you are reading this, I am praying for you.  Pray for me too.


Read more...

The Buck Stops Here

The 33rd president of the United States, Harry S. Truman, has always been my favorite president.  While an obvious reason that he is my favorite has to do with our shared home state, another reason is the tremendous level of responsibility he took in his job and in life in general.

Harry Truman served his country during World War I and he tried to reenlist during WWII while he was already serving the country as a congressman before he was tapped to be Roosevelt’s VP.  When Harry Truman became president after Roosevelt’s death, he was famous for placing a sign on his desk.

The sign read, “The Buck Stops Here”

This sign served as a reminder to Truman and his entire staff that they did not have the privilege of “passing the buck” on to someone else.  If it reached his desk, then he had a duty to address the issue and find a resolution.

It seems like this has become more an exception than the rule in life.  Most people want to “pass the buck” onto the next person in hopes that they can avoid doing anything that may be hard or cause them to miss out on something else.

This is also true in the church as well.  Most of us have a pretty good ideal of what the church “ought” to be doing

The church ought to be witnessing.  The church ought to be teaching the Bible to her members.  The church ought to be meeting the needs of her community in order to share the love of Christ.  The church ought to be on mission in her community, surrounding areas, and across the globe.

But who is supposed to do it?

Should the pastor?

Yes he should.  There is no question that the pastor should be sharing the Gospel with the lost, ministering to the congregation and the community, and taking care of others. 

But there is a problem here.  If a church delegates all ministry duties to the pastor, then the church cannot grow, many ministries and opportunities will be missed, and the pastor will eventually burn out and/or give up.  In other words, the church’s ministries will be severely limited, and it is highly likely that people both inside and outside of the church will perceive that the church still is not doing what it ought to be doing.

Should the gifted?

Another idea is that only the spiritually gifted should do the work of ministry.  Thankfully, this does not place all the burden on the pastor, but it still limits the church’s ability to do all that it ought to be doing.

Usually when we think about “the gifted”, we mean people who are natural teachers, extroverts, and people with the gift of gab.  But God uses several other gifts in accomplishing His mission.  1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  This tells us that ALL OF US are gifted to accomplish the mission of church.  If you think that the work of the church is only for the “gifted”, then you may have to realize that YOU are gifted and called to serve in the church.

Should I?

This is the heart of the matter.  When it comes to ministry and felt needs in the church, we can be tempted to “pass the buck” onto the pastor, the deacons, or some other gifted individual.  But the reality is that God has revealed that need TO YOU!!!

Do you see a group in our church that is being neglected?  Start a ministry!  Have you noticed a community in our county that is unreached for the Gospel?  Recruit an outreach team!  Do you have a burden for people who are lost?  Pray for them!

Jesus said in John 20:21, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”  I hope and pray that you will take this commissioning seriously.

So where do you see God working in your heart and life?  How will you respond?  Will you pass the buck, or will you own it like our former president and say, “The buck stops HERE!”


Read more...

Firmly Planted

A couple weeks ago I got a call on Saturday from one of our church members, John.

“Hey man, do you want to go floating on Monday?”

John had a couple kayaks that he had bought several years ago, but never had gotten them out on the water.  He brought them to church one summer as props for VBS and after ogling over them for a while, he said that we would go one day.  Monday was finally going to be that day.

“Sure!  Let’s do it!!”

A couple days later John and I found ourselves on the Nolin river right by Gilead Baptist Church floating on one of the nicest mornings I had seen in quite a while. 

As we followed the river through many dips and turns, we saw some wildlife, marveled at rock formations and notice the many beautiful trees that hung over the river, providing us shade.

John said, “Isn’t it amazing how some of these trees can have some of the root structure washed out and yet they still grow and hold tight to the bank?”

“I think it is probably a testament to how strong their roots really are.”

As we continued our float, I began to ponder what the Bible says about trees like these and how they related to the life of a believer.

Psalm 1 says:

1How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

The trees that we passed were a reminder that those cling to the Word of God will continue to grow no matter what the world may throw at them.

  1. These trees grow even in adversity.
    The very fact that we could see so much of these trees root structure reminded us that these trees had been through some stuff. They had seen drought and they had seen flood.  I have no doubt that pollution and liter had passed by their way.  They had seasons where they grew rapidly and times where they barely grew at all. 
    Yet they always grew and they always had to take the good with the bad.  Psalm 1 implies that the tree goes through seasons where a different tree might wither and die.  Living according to Scripture does not promise a life free from doubt, worry, stress, or hardship, but it does promise to give you all you need to endure these seasons and grow in spite of them.
  2. These trees are completely dependent on the source
    Right along with the previous point, it becomes very clear that the tree is completely dependent on the river for everything. No one had to tell the tree to dig down deep.  No one had to tell the tree that it would need a huge, complicated root structure in order to stand firm and take advantage of all the river had to offer.  It did it because it was designed to do so, and the more it grew up, the more it needed to grow down and dig deep in order to remain.
    It really is a shame that we are not as smart as trees.  We constantly need to be told that we have to dig deeper into our source of life.  We grow a little and we think we can put the Bible, prayer, and Christian community on the shelf.  We face adversity and we withdraw into ourselves instead of digging deeper into the Word of Life!  Can you imagine for a moment what would happen to a tree if it pulled its roots back into the trunk during a drought?  It would be dead in a week!!!  So why do we do it?
    We have to recognize that we NEED God, His Word, and a relationship with the Son in order to live in this life.   After that, we need to dig deep into his Word and our relationship with Him in order to get through it all.
  3. The tree uses this blessing to fulfill its purpose
    Now it may be a little self-centered on my part think that those trees’ purpose was to provide shade for me and John, but it sure was nice!!!!!
    Regardless that tree had a purpose. Perhaps the trees’ purpose was to hold the soil in place, or keep the water (and kayakers) cool & shaded, or maybe it was to provide food and shelter for animals that live near the water.  Regardless, it was not there just to suck up water and pull nutrients from the river!!!

We are the same way.  God is feeding you and growing you through His Word for a reason.  I can tell you what the reason is too!!!  You are here to make disciples.  Jesus said these words, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” (Matt 28:19-20) Now, I cannot tell you how you’ll do that or what it will look like; you will have to discover that for yourself!  But I can tell you that it will not happen if you don’t stay rooted in God and His Word!

 

The trees on the river remind us of our need for God and our mission for God, but it also reminds us that with God we will endure until the end.  I am praying that you will “dig deep” into the Word with us at THBC!!!  God bless!


Read more...

Be Gracious

The other day I am home from the office and while I was changing clothes, I turned to charge my phone.  As I did so, I discovered that the plug for my charger was missing.   Well, anyone who has children understands that this meant that my daughter had stolen my plug in order to charge her IPod. 

No sooner had I made this discovery when I heard shouting from my kids.

“You stole it!!!” 

“No, I didn’t!”

“Yes, you did!  You knew I was using that!!!”

I rushed down the steps to intervene before this shouting match turned into a fight.  There in my home office were my two daughters shouting at each other as loud as they could.  My oldest daughter, the one with an IPod, was accusing her little sister of stealing something that wasn’t really hers to begin with.

“What is going on here?”

“SHE stole my…!!!”

“Just like you stole my charger?”

(silence)

It is never fun to be reminded that we are just as guilty of sin. 

In Jesus day, He told the story of a salve who owed his master a large sum of money.  He was unable to pay the large sum at the time in which it was due.  He knew that the normal consequence for failing to pay a debt was the selling of his family and property and possibly prison.  Therefore, he fell at the feet of his master and begged that he would be given more time.

His master felt compassion for the slave and did not just give him an extension, but forgave his debt completely!  The slave did not walk out of that court a man with more time, but a man who had been set free from his debt and the fear of all punishment!!!

However as he left the court that day, the salve saw another slave who owed him a much smaller sum of money.  He grabbed the man and began to choke him, demanding his money!  The other slave begged him for more time in order to pay back the debt, but he would not have it.  He had the other slave thrown into prison for failing to pay the debt.

The slaves deeds eventually made their way to the master’s ears.  When he heard of the incident, his face became twisted with anger and he called the slave back into his presence.  The master confronted him for his wickedness and his lack of mercy and then sent him away to be tortured for the debt that had been forgiven him!  (Matthew 18:23-35)

Through this parable, Jesus reminded Peter that those who have been shown mercy ought to be merciful as well.  On other words, be gracious for you have received grace yourself!

This is something that should be true of all Christians as well!!!  We need to be quick to show grace and quick to forgive.  Here a some quick reminders that may help you do so.

  1. You are not perfect
It always has to start with us.  We have to remember where we used to be.  The slave in Jesus’ parable failed to remember that he had been forgiven a huge sum of money.  My daughter failed to remember that she too had taken things without asking.  We also have sinned against God in many ways and yet He has forgiven us! 
Paul, after listing several sins, says, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:11) This passage should be our reminder that were are only different because God forgave us!

 

  1. They are not perfect
Once we come to the obvious truth that we are not perfect; it is much easier to remember that they cannot be perfect either!  We often place the burden of perfection on people.  We want people around us to just know exactly how to respond to every situation.  We want people to do right by us every time; even when that actually isn’t good for us!!!  We place that burden on people and it is a burden that they cannot bear.  When they fail us, we condemn them for being so selfish, mean, and cruel.  We judge them without mercy and often without a full understanding of the situation.
We have to remind ourselves that we are not perfect and we cannot expect others to be perfect either.  Rather, “everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;” (James 1:19)

 

  1. Christ is perfect, and He forgave

“I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8:11) These are the words of Jesus to the woman caught in sin.  He had every right to condemn her.  In fact, He was the only one with a right to condemn her.  Yet he chose to forgive her!

 

Go, and do likewise.


Read more...

Let us gather…

Summers are a blessed time full of fun and exciting events!

Many of us have taken advantage of this season with camps and trips, vacations and adventures.  But often this also means that our full schedules tend to pull us away from gathering with other believers for the purpose of worship.

It does not take much to notice that churches all over the nation see a drop in worship attendance over the summer months.  Unfortunately, for many this also means getting out of the habit of corporate worship; with some taking a very long break before they gather again with their church family.

It is during times like these that we need to be reminded of the importance and certainly the blessings that come when the saints gather together to worship God.  Here are a few things to consider as we head into the school year and try to get back into a routine.


Read more...

Reflections from Camp

As many of you know, I have the privilege of co-directing our local associational camp.  This year was one of the most challenging and most rewarding camps that I have been able to be a part of.

God did some tremendous things at camp this year.  We saw kids come to know Christ.  We got to hear from many who wanted to further their relationship with Christ through Baptism.  We even got to talk with several young people who felt a strong pull towards missions.  It was fantastic!

Now that I am home and I have had some time to reflect on all that happened at camp, I wanted to share with you my reflections from camp.


Read more...

Wanted: Christians who…

Imagine for a moment that you saw this ad in the paper:

WANTED:  Christians who would be the Church and not just go to church.

What would be your initial reaction?  What questions might you have for the person who posted the ad?

What would be the difference between a Christian who is the Church versus the Christian who merely goes to church?

I want to present to you a few qualities of Christians to strive to be the Church.

  1. They are present.

The first clear characteristic of Christians who are being the Church is that they show up.  Those who just go to church view church attendance and participation as something to do when they are available.  If the things of life (work, recreation, chores) demand their attention, being present is quickly sacrificed.
But to those who are the church, presence and participation are a priority.  They are there even when it is inconvenient.  They show up even when they don’t feel like it.  They serve when better offers come along.  This isn’t limited to Sunday morning either, they are always there to give a helping hand; whether it is encouraging a brother/sister over coffee or getting dirty on a project at the church building.  Those who are the church always show up!

  1. They are giving.

Paul writes, “For God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9:7) Therefore, it stands to reason that those who are the Church are eager to give and give sacrificially.

But there is more to this than giving, there is a mentality to the Church that this world is passing away and all the things that are in them. (1 Jn 2:17) This should mean that the Church does not desire to cling to the things of this world over the things of God.  The Church ought to be generous in their giving because they know that by giving the local church is able to do more as she meets needs and shares the Gospel with the nations.  Paul also wrote, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”  When the Church gives, God will use those gifts to reach the nations with the Gospel!

  1. They are sharing.

Jesus clearly said, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (Jn 20:21) This “sentness” means that every single person who claims Christ is supposed to be a witness for Christ in this world.  People who are the Church embrace this fact and seek to share the good news of salvation through Christ to the world.  They just don’t do it as part of a church program, nor do they delegate that responsibility to a pastor or someone “gifted with evangelism”.  The Church shares the Gospel with their family, friends, and coworkers.  When they aren’t sharing, they are praying for those who need to hear it.

  1. They are loving.

The last and probably the most important characteristic of the Church is love.  Jesus told his disciples, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35)  First, the Church has to love one another.  We love each other even when we disagree.  We love each other even though we are different.  No matter way, we love each other.  Secondly, we love those outside of the church.  We love them so much we speak the truth in love. (Eph 4:15)  We love them so much that we do everything we can to see them come to Christ.  People who know nothing about us or our faith should be able to see that we love others.

 

So how would you do?  Would you be able to answer the ad?  Imagine for a moment how different things would be if everyone sought to be the Church and not just go to church!  It would change the world!!!


Read more...