Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Building Your Calendar

Wow, it's that time of year again to go purchase a new calendar for 2016.  Some of you may still work off of a paper calendar and you need to go month by month and transfer all of those important dates.  The question remains, will you remove the lesser important items and make room for the significant things that really need to be in the calendar?  I'm talking about creating more room in your calendar for you to focus on you.  Would you be bold enough to remove some of the expectations that others have placed upon you so you can do what you feel is most important.  Would you consider creating a little matrix to determine if some of those things should even be on the calendar; like, do they help me accomplish my life goals, do they have eternal value, do they contribute towards building others up (in Christ), or do they make me a better Christ-follower?

Many of us build our calendars around our work, families, church, hobbies, and even house chores.  But do we take the time to truly invest in our own lives that we might be refreshed spiritually and physically.  Do we build our calendars based on our calling in this life?  Is God factored into our calendars?  This is convicting because many times Christians are so busy doing ministry and investing in others that they forget to replenish themselves.  Most men that I know who have fallen from ministry admit to the fact that they have been running dry spiritually and failed to spend time alone in prayer and in God's Word.  Many people are so dry spiritually that anything that looks wet they believe will satisfy their thirst.  The reality is that only drawing water from the well of living water that Christ supplies will quench our thirst.

Jesus Christ said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)  Christ was challenging the woman at the well not to think temporary but to think eternal.  As Christians, we should be living with another day in view and this should affect our calendar and the things that we place in it.  Paul said to, "make the best use of the time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:16).  

Let's take this challenge to heart and build a calendar that reflects a year that is dedicated to Jesus Christ and builds us up at the same time.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Finding What You Want or Need

I love this photo as it speaks to me in a certain way.  I see a precious little girl who has already been taught the joy and happiness that can be gained through the purchase of things. It appears to me that she is in good control of her situation.  For such a little girl, she comes across as very satisfied with her wise purchase and ready to take on life.  Some parent has really trained her well and early.

I really no  longer enjoy shopping unless I can do it at home on the Internet.  The only exceptions that I would make would be for Cabelas or Gander Mountain--I guess it is a man thing.  The enjoyment about the internet is that I can seek the best product very quickly and get all of the details that I would want in order to make my purchase.  I guess I feel a little bit empowered, and then the item is brought right to my front door--how great is that!  It is nice to feel special.  In fact, I can have it picked up for a return if I don't like the product.  It is certainly all about the shopper today, regardless of age.  We do live in a consumer driven society where the customer is king!  It is all about keeping the customer happy if you want repeat business.

Interestingly enough, the church wrestles with this same issue as it tries to be all things to all people.  There needs to be something for everyone. After all, people come in all different shapes and sizes.  Is this real and is this good biblical thought?  Many people shop for Jesus Christ on their own terms.  Have the lost world and Christians developed an image of Jesus Christ in their minds that is consistent with the Jesus of the Bible?  Would we want the Jesus of the Bible if we really knew who he was?  He calls us sinners who are in need of a Savior.  He asks us to repent of our sins and to follow him.  He instructs believers to "take up their cross and follow him".  Many people want to shop for eternal life, but sometimes they forget to read the fine print in God's Word.  Becoming a Christian is more than a matter of not having to go to hell.  Becoming a Christian is a matter of repenting of one's sins and following Jesus Christ as the Lord of their life each and every day.  It means that they refuse to dishonor His name in questionable activities.  It means they long to be holy because HE IS HOLY--and He asks that of his people.

I'm concerned that the commercialized Jesus that the world shops for is not the Jesus found in Scripture.  Many times believers can even package Jesus the way they want to see him--I suppose it keeps them more comfortable with themselves.  They fail to see him in all of His glory and righteousness.  Those who truly see Jesus Christ for who He is live differently--and yes, they even shop differently because they look for a different fulfillment in their life.

By the way, I still love the precious photo!

Jeremiah 29:13 "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Waiting for Christmas

Looking back, one of the highlights of Christmas as a family was being able to give the gifts that we purchased to the children.  It was very difficult not to give them to them early.  My wife and I finally came to agreement as a couple and decided that we would open the gifts on Christmas Eve.  Some may view it as spoiling Christmas or caving into our kid's demands.  However, we were so excited about what we had to give them and we loved our kids dearly.  To my defense, I have found some families who give the kids their Christmas gifts  when they  purchased them--they  really make me  look pretty good : )

When I consider Scripture, I think about Simeon in the book of Luke chapter 2.  We don't know much about him but he is described as a devoted, righteous man of God.  Scripture identifies him as waiting for the "consolation of Israel" and that the Holy Spirit was upon him.  The Holy Spirit had told him that he would not see death until he would first behold Jesus the Messiah.  It happened.  Mary and Joseph arrived at the temple and what a Christmas gift Simeon would receive.  Could you even imagine being handed the Son of God (the God man) in your arms--the promised Messiah--the Redeemer of all mankind?  What more could you ever want--wow!!!  Waiting is indeed hard but when we consider the gift of salvation--nothing else compares.  It is well worth the wait!

Scripture says that Simeon praised God and blessed His holy name with a short song: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32  Simeon was thrilled and fulfilled!  He was now ready to enter the presence of the Lord.  The waiting was over and nothing could ever be compared to the gift of God's Son.  Indeed the light of the world had entered the world and the gift of God's Son had arrived!!!

Application:  Would you be willing to share the gift of eternal life with someone this Christmas?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


The lady in the photo reminds of a time when I went on a missions trip to Mexico with our church youth group.  I was 15 years old at the time and the trip still holds valuable lessons for life.  We drove a school bus from Detroit, Michigan to a location 150 miles north of Mexico City, Mexico to work with some missionaries from our church.  We had about a week to work on the church building, run a vacation Bible school, make home visits, preach my first sermon in a small village church with an interpreter, and to take in the scenery.  It was a summer trip to Mexico and we were not allowed to wear short pants. 

Many of the home visits were made on foot and at one point we even took a boat to ford a river.  At one of the ladies homes, she was so honored that we came to her place that she rolled out the red carpet for us.  It was a hut and we sat outside in chairs that were hand made.  The situation and moment was very foreign to us all and we were coached to always show great gratitude for every act of kindness.  We were made to feel like celebrities everywhere the missionaries would take us.  This specific lady wanted to show her generosity but she had very, very little to her name.  She went inside her house and brought out a large armful of oranges--it was all she had to share.  They were not the same shape, size, or color that I was used to seeing in the supermarket.  We all accepted them with great gratitude and enjoyed them.

That sister in Christ not only ministered to us but she worshiped Jesus Christ in her great generosity.  It has taken nearly 35 years from that moment to fully appreciate what it means to give almost all you have to love on someone else.  After all, that is not the American way.  I'll never see that sister in Christ again as she is probably with the Lord now.  We couldn't even speak the same language but I did understand the language of love.  Although most of us would not think of ourselves as having much, how generous are we?  Are the things that we have from Jesus Christ truly on loan from Him for a period of time?  How will we use them to build and advance the Kingdom of God?  Imagine if we all gave freely towards one another and God's work then what the world would look like?

Missionary, Jim Elliot, who lost his life in a brutal attack by the people he was trying to reach while on the mission field, once said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."  Is our life a mission for Jesus Christ?

Jesus Christ once said in Matthew 25:31-40, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Relationships that Thrive

Relationships that are enjoyed don't just happen and yet most people want healthy, lasting relationships with those they love.  I suppose we need to ask ourselves, "What contributions are we personally making towards those relationships?"  At times, not all individuals are contributing towards the relationship, which leads to frustration and a lack of satisfaction.  Different relationships take different investments of time and energy.  We need to spend a different quality of time with our spouse if we expect our relationship to make the journey and thrive.  Our children, whether we know it or not, need time to spend with us (with no agendas).  Quality time often takes place during the quantity of time that you give.  It is difficult to say that quality time will just happen.  As well, our friendships with others will blossom and deepen as a direct result of the time and work that we contribute towards them.

It is important to understand our role in the relationship in order for us to strive to be the person that we need to be for those that we are interacting with, such as our wife, child, or friend.  Understanding the role helps us to be the best for that other person.  Perhaps a starting point for improving our relationship with the one we love is to ask them if they are satisfied with the current relationship and how could we possibly make it better.  There may be things that you are not contributing towards that are causing the relationship to limp along.  It might be painful to hear; however, a "wise" person (according to Solomon) welcomes the criticism of a friend in order that they might grow to be a better person (Proverbs 19:20; 27:6).

Consider some of these verses as a challenge:

     1.  Proverbs 22:6  " Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."  (Parents, this type of training takes time in order for us to reap the reward.  Time and wise counsel for your children will mark your relationship.)

     2.  Proverbs 27:17 "Iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." (Time and skill is required for friendships to grow, deepen, and to be what you would like them to become.  They certainly do not happen over night and without work.  Some of us may actually dull our friends and fail to sharpen them.)
  3.  1 Peter 3:7  "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."  (Marriage takes skill, time, and work in order for them to continue to blossom.  If all we have to show is a thistle bush then perhaps we should consider how we are tending to our gardens.  Husbands are being taught here to invest into their wives with wisdom so that they both may grow spiritually.)
Make the most of all of your relationships and be careful not take them for granted; one day we may wish we had invested differently but it may be too late.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thanksgiving as a Thermometer

It was always a great family time at Thanksgiving at my house as a kid.  I remember arguing over who would get the wishbone from the turkey.  Of course everyone loved the homemade dressing and chunky potatoes with gravy!  It meant Vernors soda over vanilla ice cream as a soothing beverage. I can’t fail to mention the great Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears competing along with a nice nap. The morning always included the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the evening with board games and leftover turkey.   It goes without saying that as a young boy I failed to appreciate the entire four-day weekend for what it was meant to be.  As an adult and as a Christian, Thanksgiving means so much more to me and my family.  The years bring about greater significance as I’ve grown in my understanding of the love and character of our God.

One marker that our dinner was ready was when the thermometer that was stuck in the turkey popped up.  At times I wondered if we had a defective thermometer as I waited with hunger pangs but it always seemed to pop up.  As a parallel thought, I wonder what it would look like if we as Christians had a pop up thermometer placed in us that popped up when we were truly thankful to God.  We might begin to replace some of our thermometers for fear that they weren’t  working properly.  Gratitude is a mark of a healthy and mature believer in Christ.  It is an understanding that God is the giver of every good gift.  It is walking in confidence that we are cared for and loved by the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and the God of all creation.  It is resting in His all-sufficient hand even when we are totally confused.  It is reflected in how we refuse to complain and grumble when things aren’t going our way because our God is in absolute control of the details.  It is knowing that our God withholds no good thing to those who love Him and seek Him.

Strong evidence of our salvation is found in a heart that expresses a life of GREAT gratitude back towards God.  It points others back towards Him because He is the giver of life eternal and an abundant life.  It is a life that expresses grace and generosity towards others because we have been the recipient of such grace and kindness from God.  A life of gratitude conveys that something significant has happened in our lives.  A life of gratitude transforms us into the biggest servants for Him.  Such a life doesn’t allow for a “poor me” mentality.

Listen to how many times “God” and “Christ” are the focus of all our blessings.  1 Corinthians 1:4-9, “I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.  Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.  He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.   God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

According to these verses, we lack no good thing and we have been enriched in every way! Amen.  LET’S  GIVE GREAT THANKS TOGETHER!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Loving the Unlovable

I've been reading through the book of Matthew and marking up my Bible as Christ interacts with people around Him.  I'm striving to ask the questions, "In what way did Christ instruct others?" and "How did He demonstrate love towards others?"  Christ challenges his followers by asking them, "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" (Matthew 5:46-47).

Christ is demonstrating what He values and prioritizes.  Christ wants us to love those who are the hardest to love.  For some it might be those who are poor and needy.  For others it may be those who you detest the most.  Nonetheless, it reveals the true love that we have for Jesus Christ by the way that we love on the unlovable people in our lives.  

Here are seven ways to strive to love the unlovable people in our lives:
  1.  Understand why they may be acting the way that they are acting.  They may have had a very bad upbringing or a very negative experience in their life.  It is easy to be critical when we have not walked a mile in another person's shoes.
  2. Pray for them.  This is of course what Jesus commands.  When we sincerely pray for someone, we begin to have a heart for that person, a true concern for their well being and a desire for their highest good.
  3. Look at them through God's eyes.  God sees them as unique and sent His Son to die for their soul.  Life may have scarred and hardened them but yet they are made in His image.  Seeing them as God sees them will cause us to see their worth.
  4. Forgive them.  It is very difficult to forgive those who have hurt us but it is what God expects of us (Eph. 4:32).  It is not condoning their foolishness or sinful action but it is releasing them and placing it under the blood of Jesus Christ, which allows us to avoid bitterness towards them.
  5. Choose to be a vessel of God's grace.  This may be hard but it typifies a Christ like spirit.  Those who have been forgiven should forgive much.  Most people would expect to be shunned and not given a second chance.  Let's show great grace and begin the healing process. 
  6. Treat them in a way that you would like to be treated.  Imagine a world that practiced the golden rule.  We can impact others in loving ways that may turn their behavior around.  It sends a message that you truly care and love them and it breaks the chain of negativity.  
  7. Seek to serve them.  Please don't tune me out.  By choosing to serve and walking in humility, you intentionally plant healthy seeds of love and reconciliation.  This may shock them but it will go far with the right motive.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Fatal Attractions

During my years of ministry I have had three personal friends who have had inappropriate relationships with other women while they were in ministry.  This does not account for all the men that I know, this is just the men that were close friends to me in ministry.  If I were to consider my friends in general (non-pastors) it would be about 15-20.  Please know that there have also been many women friends who have cheated on their husbands.

Most of my brothers never thought of or intended to head down this trail.  The crazy thoughts of unfaithfulness typically started when they were not walking in  fellowship with God and when they allowed their relationships with their wives to begin to deteriorate.  Closeness to their spouse was no longer prioritized or guarded.  It was typically a slow fade and they began to justify harmless glances and inappropriate moments with other women as borderline faithfulness to their marriage covenant.  Solomon speaks about the strange woman, "Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?" (Proverbs 6:27)  Flirting with the temptation of unfaithfulness is the first step to one's demise.  Looking for a freshness that comes from another man or woman, who is not your spouse, is foolishness and brings destruction.  The price is always higher than one ever plans to pay.  It often sets a pattern for their own children to follow.

Solomon says, "Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed," (Proverbs 5:8-11).  Most marriages DO NOT survive this unfaithful act, nor do the families.  The thought that this sin would never be found out is foolishness.  Couples begin to betray one another when in their mind they think of another man or woman in place of their spouse.  The sinfulness of pornography stages the physical act to be followed through with a real person.

The encouragement from Solomon was, "Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well." (Proverbs 5:15).  In other words, your spouse ALONE should be the one who quenches all of your thirsts.  This means physically and emotionally.  They are to be the source that you return to over and over again.  There should be NO substitutes that you would allow to diminish your need for the one who God has united you with for life.  If you are being tempted to head down this trail--Please Return Now and don't go any further.  The cost is far too great!

Prayer:  "Father, please preserve the marriages of those who proclaim you as Savior and Lord of their lives.  May their families stand firm in the character of Your love.  Please build your church upon men and women of godly character who walk in faithfulness to you and to one another." Amen.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Status Trap

Most people would never admit that they love attention or that it is important that they be recognized as someone important.  It is interesting that most people want to be credited for every bit of their ideas and insights.  At times, we disguise our pride as a pseudo humility for the sake of advancing ourselves.  I'm often amazed to find someone who really doesn't care if their name is ever mentioned for something great that they did.  They would not be offended if their name was never mentioned or even forgotten when credit was issued. However, this is typically not the case even in Christian circles.  Great pride exists in the church and in Christian institutions for significance and status. 

Solomon says in Proverbs 13:7, "One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth."  Many people crave to be known for significance.  However, people who find their significance in Jesus Christ and not in their own status have nothing to prove.  Richness can come through knowing that God knows all about our endeavors for Him whether or not we are ever recognized.  Richness can come by trusting in God as the sovereign One who rewards those who diligently seek Him.  Richness can come by knowing the brevity of this life and what is done for Christ alone will last.  Richness comes by understanding that, "By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life" (Proverbs 22:4).

Social status is one of the biggest traps that face us as individuals that cause us to limit what is done for Christ and others.  Country singer, Toby Keith, sang a song entitled, "I Wanna Talk About Me".  Some of the lyrics go like this:  "I want to talk about me, Want to talk about I, Want to talk about number one, Oh my me my, What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see".  The center of PRIDE is always "I".  The message of Christ's life contradicted this message of status and significance (take a moment to read Philippians 2).

May we find our significance in serving the One who gave Himself so freely for us--Jesus Christ!  Let's be known for this one thing--we are servants for His glory alone.  A servant may never be honored for his work, at least on this side of glory, but God will never forget!


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Healthy Communication

Most of us would deny the fact that we might be poor at communicating.  Healthy communication is so much more than being able to speak what is on our minds.  It is a matter of being able to listen and know when to respond--or if we should respond at all.  Healthy communication weighs the power of words before they are launched and considers the damage that might be incurred from them.  A good communicator will take time to evaluate what has been said, even it was unkind, and not retaliate with similar words to inflict injury. 

Christ says, that "out of the abundance of the heart" a man speaks (Luke 6:45).   Claiming that, "you forced me to say that", or "I did not really mean that" is not necessarily true.  From the depths of our hearts our words spring forth.  It is the mature Christian that changes the way they speak because they understand that they will give an account on the "day of judgement for every empty word they have spoken" (Mt. 12:36).  Scripture says a great deal about the use of words and how to use them.  Solomon even cautions not to waste precious words on a foolish man because he will either twist those words or those words will only fuel the fool to more foolishness (Proverbs 23:9; 26:4).  Apparently there is a healthy way to communicate according to Scripture.

Many times, it is not the words we choose but the cunning way we choose to use them.  At times we can be very destructive to others by the tone and attitude we give those words.  We can even embrace a false piety as we rebuke others for their short comings.  Our words can be filled with truth towards others but the way we deliver them can suck the life out of others and turn them not only away from us but away from Christ.  Although we would attest that gossip, lying, cussing, and arguing are distasteful to the Lord, in what positive ways are we exalting the name of Christ with our words?  Do our words give life and breathe encouragement to others each day?  When was the last time we took the time to praise another person for a job well done?  Would there be anyone that we need to seek forgiveness from for the poor use of our words?  Let's pray that God would grant us wisdom to know when to keep quiet, when to speak, and what to speak, because His glory is at stake.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Traits of Healthy Churches

A dear friend of mine, Dr. Chuck Lawless, recently shared some findings that relate to church health that his organization recently published.  I believe it is worth reading as we challenge ourselves in areas that others have found foundational.  Please take the time to read through his findings:

Over the last 15+ years, our Lawless Group team has conducted hundreds of church surveys. Most of the time, the churches with whom we work characterize themselves as “marginally unhealthy” or worse. Occasionally, though, we work with a church that sees themselves as “marginally healthy” or stronger.
Here are some characteristics of those churches:
  1. The preaching is strong.  It’s clear. It’s biblical. The people leave the service knowing ways they can apply the Word to their life the rest of the week. Church members indicate that they learn a lot from the pastor’s preaching.
  1. The worship is God-centered and vibrant. The styles may differ, but the worship is well done. Excellence is an expectation. Connections between the music and the sermon are clear. 
  1. Their small groups do outreach.  Every healthy church with whom we’ve worked has some type of small group whose focus is reaching unchurched people.  They choose their best teachers to lead the groups.
  1. They’ve dealt with cliques and divisions.  It’s not that these churches don’t have internal struggles; it’s that they don’t allow early sparks to grow into big fires. They address conflict early on in the process.
  1. They have a clear outward focus. Their members intentionally know non-believers. They provide evangelism training. Members aren’t concerned that there are too many churches in their area; in fact, they welcome new church plants. Their budget reflects dollars spent on others rather than themselves.
  1. They have a recognized strategy for producing disciples. The church has a membership class. They have a plan to disciple children, teens, and adults. Many of the members believe they’re ready to invest in someone else – and they know and understand the church’s disciplemaking strategy.   
  1. Prayer is a big deal. These churches do more than have a perfunctory prayer meeting; they actually pray throughout the week. They know prayer needs, and the church keeps members informed about answered prayers. Praying for pastors and missionaries is central to what they do. 
  1. They teach members about giving. They don’t assume that believers know about budgeting, giving, tithing, etc.  Instead, they intentionally build giving training into their overall strategy. Stewardship is thus a significant part of discipleship.  (And, by the way, these churches usually give at a higher rate than others). 
  1. They have a strong core group, but they also equip and invite others to serve. Long-term members are still critical to the work of the church, but they open the door for new members to serve as well.  These churches genuinely work on setting up the next generation to lead the church into the future.
  1. They believe the Bible. Our survey asks some basic “agree/disagree” doctrinal questions (e.g., “The Bible is the Word of God”). It’s not a surprise to us that the more strongly the church affirms the Word, the closer the church will be to being healthy. 

Please pray and consider if there might be a way that you could contribute to being a more healthy church member.  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Making the Right Decisions

One of the hardest things in our lives is to make decisions that are not black and white in nature.  We are all faced with decisions that impact other people and decisions that will have a lasting impact for years to come, such as choosing a mate or a career path.  Chosen poorly, there may be no going back or correcting those decisions.  Many times others suffer when we make poor decisions.  I've not been immune to making poor decisions and some are even downright embarrassing.

When I was a young man I was encouraged to read the book of Proverbs every month (one chapter a day).  I did that for years and needless to say, Proverbs is my favorite book in the Old Testament.  I highlighted and wrote all over that book to that point that you would think I was the author.  I remember so many of those by heart and they shape my decision making on a regular basis.  Every person is given and practices a different amount of discernment.  There are times that we all scratch our heads and wonder what prompted a person to make the decision that they did.  Was it purely convenience, ignorance, or was it made out of frustration?

When we stand in confusion as to what decision we are to make, we do not have to draw straws or pick the petals off of a daisy.  I believe if we truly want to know God's will in a given matter then God will provide the wisdom and insight for the moment--if we consult him.  Here are some guidelines that I have learned from over the years and I believe are very helpful.

  1. Do I know for certain that my decision will honor God? (Romans 14:23 tells us that we should have faith that our decision will honor God and that we should not operate recklessly when His glory is at stake.  James tells us, "And without faith it is impossible to please God." (James 11:6)
  2. Have I consulted godly, wise counsel?  Many people will talk to others who will affirm their poor decision because they already know what they want.  Proverbs 11:14 says, "Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety."
  3. Does God's Word give direct admonition about the matter or provide healthy principles?  It is imperative that God's people consider God's feelings about the matter first.  God's Word has much to say about most things.  Most have gone through common experiences that we are currently walking through.  (David declares in Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path".)
  4. Have I spent time in prayer with God about the matter?  Jesus Christ himself consulted the Father (alone in prayer) in life's most troublesome times.  Philippians 4:6 reminds us to take our anxious and needy hearts to the Lord.  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
  5. Has God given you a peace in your heart about the matter?  This is much more than giving yourself permission or taking God out of the equation.  If we are not in fellowship with Him we will never understand His full desires.  David says in Psalm 66:18, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;"  This is not to say God is unaware but God is under no obligation to listen to those who walk out of fellowship with Him.
  6. Am I truly seeking God's Kingdom first or my own selfish desires?  Jesus encouraged His disciples not to be caught up by the cares of this world but to be wrapped up in eternal matters.  He said in Matthew 6:33, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Evangelism and Why We Struggle

Most people struggle, not with being a good person, but with sharing our faith in Christ which has now allowed us to live a life of righteousness that is acceptable to God.  Most would say that our goal is to point people to Jesus Christ but yet they often never verbally share the Gospel message (that we all have a sin problem that only the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus can cure).  Jesus Christ came to save sinners and bring them into a relationship with Him.  Romans 10:17 tells us that, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." Our responsibility is to share what Christ did for the sake of sinful man.  God's Word and His Spirit can work mightily through our faithfulness and willingness to share the Gospel.

We can often hit roadblocks and  fail to live and share the Gospel.  I'm not saying that we fail in going to church but that we fail in sharing our faith with a lost and dying world.  The church (you and I) can be very busy with nice and wonderful things that serve the saints but the urgency is still taking the Gospel to our dying community without Christ.  What will we do personally about this?

Thom Rainer wrote about various roadblocks that we encounter as a church and I believe it is worth considering:

1.    Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.
2.     Many Christians and church members do not befriend and spend time with lost persons.
3.     Many Christians and church members are lazy and apathetic.
4.     We are more known for what we are against than what we are for.
5.     Our churches have an ineffective evangelistic strategy of “you come” rather than “we go.”
6.     Many church members think that evangelism is the role of the pastor and paid staff.
7.     Church membership today is more about getting my needs met rather than reaching the lost.
8.     Church members are in a retreat mode as culture becomes more worldly and unbiblical.
9.     Many church members don’t really believe that Christ is the only way of salvation.
10. Our churches are no longer houses of prayer equipped to reach the lost.
11. Churches have lost their focus on making disciples who will thus be equipped and motivated to reach the lost.
12. Christians do not want to share the truth of the gospel for fear they will offend others. Political correctness is too commonplace even among Christians.
13. Most churches have unregenerate members who have not received Christ themselves.
14. Our churches have too many activities; they are too busy to do the things that really matter.
       Please pray for someone today who does not know Jesus Christ as Savior that you would have the opportunity to share Christ with that person.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Spiritually Parched

There have been times in my life that I have been spiritually parched and have even become dull towards the things of God.  Those times were typically marked by a lack of focus and a lack of desire to maintain a relationship with Him.  I suppose one could say that I was walking in the wilderness of life with no real purpose for existence--I was living for the moment and for myself.  Those were times that I lost sight of my high calling as a believer and shifted the focus from Christ to me.

As I study church history, going back to the reformation, God worked mightily on behalf of those who sought Him with a pure heart.  It was through those who were willing to set their own agendas aside and hear from God that great things were done.  The reformers and preachers that were involved in the great revivals testified of God's blessing due to a humbling of His people, praying for God to change them, yielding to Him in obedience, and then God added His blessing.  It was really nothing magical; God operates on the principles set forth in His Word.  Many times we as believers are guilty of wanting the garbage in our lives to stay there while we offer our sacrifices of praise to the Lord.  We often want God's favor and yet we fail to understand what He wants from us (holiness).  God is clear that he desires our obedience first and foremost and not our burnt offerings as a result of our disobedience (1 Sam. 15:22).  Great things happen when God's people humble themselves and seek the face of God (2 Chron. 7:14).  We will remain spiritually parched apart from God.

Jesus said in John 4:14, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” There are no substitutes to what we find in Jesus Christ alone.  Jesus Christ came in order that we might have life and that we might have it abundantly (John 10:10).  Please do not misunderstand the life that Christ gives.  He call us to a life of denying our own desires and a life of "taking up our cross" and following Him.  This is a matter of choosing to obey Him each day and focusing on His glory and not ours.

As long as we are pursuing the things of this world we will remain spiritually parched--we can expect heartache, frustration, and disappointments. God wants to revive our hearts for His glory.  Could we humble ourselves today,  seek His forgiveness for our disobedience, and love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength?  This is indeed the way to an abundant life.

"Please revive our hearts O God that we might make YOUR name GREAT!"

Thursday, August 27, 2015

God’s Vision for Maywood

God has been gracious to me in allowing me to complete almost eleven years of ministry at Maywood.  It has been a joy to have all of my years invested in the same church and I’m so thankful to have so many people that I call dear friends.  I have labored in the trenches with many dynamic workers that have helped make my work much easier—THANK YOU for your love for Christ and for being an encourager to me and to so many others. 
When I think about God’s expectations of His church and what we are to be devoting ourselves towards I believe that God is concerned about His glory being made known to the world.  Christ was very clear that the ENTIRE church (you and me) be involved in His work by making disciples—but what does that mean?  It means that ALL Christians at Maywood must be actively sharing the Gospel and we should be consumed by that task.  Part of that process also means helping people grow in Christ.  Both sharing the Gospel and discipling others is required of all Christians. (Matthew 28:19-20)
As with any company, we MUST know why we exist.  Does our company exist to make bicycles or boats?  Just being busy with fun and good things does not mean that we are on track with God and His expectations for His church.  As a church, we will remain rooted in the Word of God, driven by the Gospel of Christ, and all for the Glory of God.  I desire our church to be a threat to Satan because we are entering his domain (this world) and delivering the saving message of the Gospel that can snatch them from him.  The pastors and leadership of Maywood are doing all we can to steer the church in a Biblical way and to reach our community with the Gospel.  This means that we will have a very strong “outward focus” to reach our neighbors for Him and to then grow them for Christ.
My hope is that everyone would know why we exist at Maywood.  In a nutshell, we are BECOMING A PEOPLE TO REACH PEOPLE FOR CHRIST.
Please don’t miss this Sunday as we have a great time talking about the future!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

10 Results of Poor Discipleship in the Church

It is my firm belief that nothing of lasting value flows from a ministry unless it is firmly planted on the foundation of Scripture.  It is critical that each believer be a student of the Word of God in order to be victorious in this life and in order to be a healthy contributor to God’s church.  Many Christians walk powerlessly and defeated each day and wonder “why”.  Disruptions and conflict occur within churches that neglect the principles in God’s Word.  Dr. Chuck Lawless does a good job summing up the results of churches that do a poor job with discipleship.  
  1.    Biblical illiteracy. Listening to sermons and attending small groups are great for learning the Word, but many believers who attend both still know very little of the Word. Strong discipleship deepens the knowledge gained and helps believers apply biblical truths
  2.  Faith struggles. That’s what happens when people don’t really know the Word. That lack of knowledge makes it difficult to trust God when believers face their own obstacles and impossibilities.  
  3.  Inward focus. Churches typically default into an inward focus; that is, their attention is more on themselves than others. Only an intentional strategy to direct believers to the Word and the Great Commission can change that focus. That’s what discipleship does.
  4.  Lost church members. People must know the gospel to respond to the gospel and to proclaim the gospel to others.  Apart from being taught and equipped, how can they know the gospel enough to evaluate their own lives and then evangelize others?      
  5.   Unqualified leaders. Churches often select leaders based on their faithfulness and willingness. Both of these characteristics matter, but poor discipleship sometimes leads to faithful, willing, yet unqualified people in leadership positions.
  6.   Continual whiners. This one is almost inevitable when discipleship is lacking. Baby believers remain babies unless they are fed and learn to feed themselves. Babies who never grow up, but who nevertheless lead, often become whiners.  
  7.  Sin struggles. One reason believers wrestle continually with sin is that they have never been taught how to deal with temptation. It’s tough to win a battle when you don’t understand the armor you have to wear.  
  8.  Weak families. Even healthy Christian marriages and strong God-centered parenting are the result of discipleship. When we assume couples and parents will just “get it right” apart from the church’s teaching, we’re often proven wrong. 
  9.   Powerless churches. God’s blessing falls on churches that walk with Him in obedience and pray to Him in dependence. Undiscipled people, however, seldom do either one – and the church goes through the motions without the power of God.
  10.  Generational problems. When one generation is not discipled, the next generation also pays a price. The unhealthy, unbiblical cycle continues, and the church suffers for decades – though (and here’s part of the tragedy), they don’t always recognize the problem because they haven’t been equipped to do so.