Thursday, May 29, 2014

10 Things You Won't Find in the New Testament's Description of Church

This is just a list I put together a couple years ago. We could probably have an interesting discussion about some of the things on the list.

1. Weekly Sunday morning gatherings.
2. Weekly offerings @ said gatherings.
3. Voting.
4. Congregational Singing.
5. Exegetical preaching to a gathering of believers with spiritual transformation in mind.
6. Committees.
7. Youth Ministry.
8. Choirs.
9. Deacon Boards.
10. Buildings owned by the church body and dedicated to church usage.

BUT IF YOU LOOK AT THE GATHERINGS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH, YOU WILL FIND:

  • Prayer
  • People Reporting About Ministry
  • Group Discussions
  • Prayer
  • Discipline
  • Reading Letters From Other Believers
  • Did I Mention Prayer?


File this in the "for what it's worth" box. You can decide if you want to do anything further with it!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Emotional Health Is The Result of Following Christ's Agenda

Have you ever had one of those days when your mind just raced from one thing to another, and you gradually became more and more overwhelmed with all the different (and likely difficult) issues you were facing in life?

Maybe you’ve experienced the sleeplessness that ensues when your mind becomes full of the cares of the day.

What do you think Jesus would say to you if you told him about your stress, and your anxiety? What would he tell you to do?

Living a life centered on Jesus means I must invite Him into my stress. Especially on the days I’m overwhelmed, I must find the time and make the effort to turn my focus away from my own issues and toward His agenda for my life. Whatever “important” things have grabbed my attention, they pale in comparison to what Jesus says is important. If I can learn to share his focus, I’ll quickly find my life to be far less stressful and far more purposeful.

Read and Contemplate 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
"And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."
Paul was addressing a dysfunctional church full of people who had their own agendas and were therefore unable to get along. His solution was to focus on Christ.

There are days when my life resembles that church. I am pulled in so many different directions by the interests of life that I feel I can’t even get along with myself. I need to focus on Christ.

When I live by my own agenda, I demonstrate a belief that my wisdom is sufficient to get through the day. As Paul said, true faith is resting in the power of God rather than the wisdom of men.

It is scary to center your life around Jesus’ agenda. It feels like some really important things might not get done. But if I pursue Christ’s agenda and rest in God’s power, I can be sure that anything which does not get done, was not really important.

Today: Before you get too busy, ask yourself what Jesus would want you to do with your day. Center yourself on that goal, and let God take care of the rest.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Here Is A Simple Way You Can Be a Partner With Satan

Perhaps I am the only person who struggles with this, but i tend to think this is a pretty common issue:

I like it when people say nice things about me.

It makes me feel good about myself, and it makes me think that maybe I am doing something well. Sometimes people tell me I'm a good soccer coach. Sometimes they tell me I'm a good preacher. Sometimes people tell me I made a nice golf shot. Some people have told me I'm a fast runner. Once someone said I had above average intelligence.

These things make me happy.

I don't even realize that sometimes these people aren't telling me things for my own good. They may not even believe them, but they know I will. They're saying nice things about me because they have an agenda, or because they want something from me.

A few years ago I was reflecting on my week and realized that on three separate occasions, I had been paid compliments by people that initially made me feel very good about myself... then i started wondering if those compliments were truly sincere.

  • One person told me what a great job I was doing in a particular area.
  • One person referred to the positive influence I had on someone they knew.
  • One person told me what a great fit I was for an upcoming project.

Later, it struck me that each of these instances had given me an opportunity to feed the monster that lies within me
(aside)
i regularly point to the concepts of pride and autonomy as the root cause of virtually all sin. thus that which feeds my pride and autonomy is feeding my "sin monster"
(aside done)
... and then I realized that likely none of these people really believed what they were saying. They were flattering me.

Flattery is defined as "excessive or insincere praise."


Flattery is a powerful tool which causes us to gain a false view of ourselves and those around us, and if not recognized, will typically lead us into temptation by feeding our pride and distorting our view of reality and truth.

Flattery is manipulative. It is something we all do when we want to gain an ally or a partner. It is not something we do when we want to gain a friend.

By the way, this observation isn't original with me. Proverbs 29:5 says:

Whoever flatters his neighbor
is spreading a net for his feet.

I've noticed a disturbing trend among many people who find it "appropriate" to use flattery as a tool for gaining influence, winning friends, gathering "buy-in", achieving promotions, etc... Sometimes this methodology is even encouraged and honored. I find it particularly disturbing when I sense that I am flattering someone in order to get them to see things my way. Ahh, the darkness that resides in us all.

No wonder Proverbs 28:23 says:

He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor
than he who has a flattering tongue.

Eve fell prey to a flattering tongue. The serpent tickled her ears with ideas of being god-like. He fed her monster by suggesting she was being treated unfairly, that someone with her gifts and abilities certainly deserved more privilege and responsibility than God was giving her.

His flattery distorted her perception of reality and truth.

This is what I must remember when I find myself flattering someone. I have become the serpent. I am appealing to their pride and autonomy so that they will do something to benefit me. In reality, I have become the tempter. I've become the serpent. I've led my neighbor into the wrath of God.

Scary.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Definitive to Guide to "Keeping It Real"

Not really. No list here. That would be unkind.

However, everyone hates a hypocrite.

Perhaps "hate" is a strong word, but the point is that very few people want to be friends with someone who acts hypocritically. Hypocrisy can be simply defined as "pretending to be what one is not." How many of us fit that definition sometimes?

Think about this question for a moment, "which is worse: someone who pretends to be religious at church or someone who pretends to be worldly in the world?"

Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is--his good pleasing and perfect will." Conforming means to change outwardly, or to change the shape but not the properties of something. A Christian who conforms to the pattern of the world is someone who is living in the world and whose lifestyle looks exactly like the lifestyle of the world.

Conforming to the pattern of the world might mean chasing wealth and success by trampling other people. It might be adopting the world's standards of sexual morality. It could be a choice to willingly sin because it "feels good" or it "looks good." The world's pattern exalts pleasure, self-centeredness, lust, uncontrolled passion upward mobility and more. It is very easy for any Christian to get caught up in these pursuits.

Of course, this kind of lifestyle flies in the face of 1 Peter 2:11 which says, “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” We are not called to love the world's value system, we are representatives (ambassadors) of another kingdom.

Are you conforming? You are either:
1. A Christian who acts like a Christian.
2. A Christian who is a hypocrite (acts like the world).
3. Not a hypocrite, but not a Christian.
Everyone want to be a person who is "keeping it real." Keeping it real means we might look a little different than those around us. In fact, if we aren't noticeably different, maybe we aren't keeping it real at all. Maybe we're actually hypocrites?

Friday, April 18, 2014

6 Reasons Good Friday Is Good

Good Friday is not good because of the cross. It is good because the benefits of the cross are applied to our lives.  Today is a great day to spend time considering how God extended His grace to us through the work of His Son on the cross.  Below, I've listed six words which describe the benefits of Christ's death. Take some time to read the passages and think about how Good Friday was good for you.


Take time to read the passage for each question, and then for each word, answer the four questions below:

  • How would you define this word?  What is an example of this from every day life?
  • How does this word apply to the relationship between God and humanity?
  • Did this happen immediately (at the cross), later (sometime after the cross), or is it a future event?
  • How does this effect me personally?


THE BENEFITS OF THE CROSS

Restoration. (Revelation 21:5-6)

Redemption. (Ephesians 1:7-14)

Regeneration. (Ephesians 2:1-6)

Reconciliation. (Romans 5:10-11)

Ransom (Mark 10:45)

Restitution (1 John 2:2; 4:10)

Once you've finished, spend time in worshipful prayer thanking God for His grace as demonstrated through His Son.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

5 Things I'm Communicating To My Church Family To Prepare For Easter Guests

I send an email to my church family every other week. This is one way I can communicate to them and invite them to communicate back to me. This week I did not have an all-church email scheduled, but I sent one instead. I wanted to be sure we had done everything to be prepared for this Sunday. God may bless us with many guests this week, and my desire is that we will be excellent hosts. This email is one way I'm trying to foster that.

If you haven't prepared your church for Easter guests, there is still lots of time for you to send an email!

 

Sunday is Easter! This is often the most crowded day of the year in American churches, so I wanted to take a moment and send a few suggestions your way.

This Sunday morning, we have a great celebration planned. I hope you are planning to be a part of it. I want you to know that right at 10:30 we'll be launching into some creative and meaningful pieces of the Easter service. If you aren't there at 10:30, you'll definitely be missing out! This is a great week to get into the worship center on time...

More importantly, we will likely have many guests this Sunday. This is the only week of the year when many people come to church. We want to do everything we can to warmly embrace all our guests and demonstrate the love of Jesus to them! Remember, we are called to serve, not to be served... even on Easter Sunday!

Over the past year, I have been impressed over and over again with the incredibly friendly spirit that exists at The Gathering. I hear from many people who visit how welcomed they felt (some of you who are reading this have experienced that warmth!) Please think about these ideas to help us create a welcoming environment this Sunday:

  • Try to arrive early and sit near the front or in the middle of a row. We want to leave plenty of easily accessible seats for any late-coming guests.
  • If you see someone who looks lost, ask them if you can help them out.
  • During our connection time, meet someone you've never met.
  • Don’t race out. Enjoy a conversation or two before you leave.
  • Fill out your connection card. If everyone is writing on their card at the same time, we create "positive peer pressure"

Tomorrow is Good Friday, the day we commemorate Jesus' death. We are reminded of the great price He paid so that we could be the recipient of God's rich blessings. But He didn't remain dead! He rose again, and by doing so, He launched a brand new day in human history. I'm looking forward to celebrating our NEW DAY this Sunday! See you then.

 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

If You Are Asking What God Will Permit, You're Asking the Wrong Question

When I was a youth pastor (and still, whenever I speak to teenagers), one of the more popular questions kids want answered is, “How far is too far with my boyfriend/girlfriend?”
As our culture has become more sexually aware and explicit, that question has become more and more difficult to answer as kids today are exposed to far more far earlier than kids in the past. However, my answer remains the same today as it has always been.
How far is too far?
You’re asking the wrong question.
This exchange is very similar to one Jesus had with the Pharisees in Mark 10:1-9. The Pharisees (likely trying to trip Jesus up) came to him and asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"
I want to focus on the word “lawful”. Essentially the Pharisees were asking Jesus, “What can we get away with?” (it’s the same as “How far is too far?”). They were most concerned with how much questionable activity they could engage in without being considered sin.
Too often, we take this approach in our lives. We assume that we can do whatever we want as long as the Bible doesn’t clearly condemn it. This argument from silence is not only illogical, it is unhealthy and unwise.
Jesus didn’t answer their question. He turned the tables on them and pointed out the foolishness in their thinking. ”Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.” Jesus said. In other words, the law only exists because men’s hearts are evil. The law is the lowest common denominator.
Jesus moved away from the law and pointed the Pharisees to the created order. "But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’… What God has joined together, let not man separate." Moses’ law permitted divorce in some situations, but only because of men’s sinfulness. God’s intent from the beginning was that a man and a woman would be united for life.
Rather than debate what God would permit, Jesus wanted the Pharisees to consider what God had intended.
Instead of asking, “What can I get away with?” God wanted them to ask, “What should I be doing?”
The Pharisees wanted to get as close to sin as they could without crossing the line. Jesus wanted them to pursue wisdom with all their energy.
Are you living your life, trying to figure out what you can get away with?
Stop asking, “What is permitted?” and start asking, “What is wise?”