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. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Correction from God

This past week I've spent a good amount of time trimming tree branches that were either dead or growing out of control--and the job is not over!  The mess on the ground and the clean up process is another job in and of itself.  The dead branches were choking off the life of the trees and the over grown branches were certainly an eye sore, not to mention a frustration when cutting the grass.  However, I'm beginning to like the look of the new yard!  This job must be done every 2-3 years and it is a painful process--at least for the next few days. I suppose it is part of the privilege of owning many trees on your property.

Part of our growth and development as a Christian is God shaping and caring for us because we are His and we are precious to Him.  I'm sure we bring frustration to Him because of our sinful desires and choices that violate His best for us.  We are usually pretty comfortable growing and taking the shape that we desire.  Scripture informs us that God corrects and disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6).  What we may consider as trials, discomforts, and inconveniences in this life may be moments of correction and purification.  Perhaps we should pause, spend time with God, and ask Him if there is something that He wants us to see or understand through these times.  Pruning is uncomfortable but it is always for the health of the individual.  If all things are truly working out for the good of those who love God then perhaps we need to gain a different perspective.  Perhaps God is up to our good?  

God's desire for His children is holiness, righteousness, and goodness.  The cleansing and purifying process for his children can be painful at times as we grow into the image of His Son Jesus Christ.  God's motive is always love even if we don't recognize it.  My hardest days, with all of the pain and tears, may be the best days that God has for me as I recognize His beauty, love, and sovereign hand.  I can be thankful that God cares enough for me to want my best and to take the time to prune me.

Prayer:  "God, please make me a vessel of honor to be used for your glory.  The process may be painful and slow but please make yourself known in my life.  This life is much too short to be lived apart from you and your blessing.  Thank you for being my Father and for giving me your attention.  You are certainly worthy to be praised today and ever day!"

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Will God Provide?

As Christians, we are taught to bring all of our requests to Jesus Christ who hears us and petitions the Father for us.  But how long do we do this--especially if we have the ability to meet the need ourselves or through some other person.  What happens when we grow weary of praying according to God's will?  What if God's will is not in line with our thinking or desires.  I don't know about you but I tend to like to be able to see and touch the situation in order to have some form of confidence that things are getting done correctly (I'm sorry God).  I love answered prayer and I want to glorify God through it.  However, God does not always work through conventional ways--at least according to my conventional ways.  I suppose that is why He says in Isaiah 55:8-9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

I don't like to ask myself this convicting question but "do I allow God to be God?"  God has provisions that make sense to Him and that glorify His marvelous name.  Marching around a city seven times in order to bring down the walls seems ridiculous to me but there appears to be no grumbling by the people who actually did it (Joshua 6).  My efforts to accomplish things on my own apart from God may only serve as an obstacle to what God really wants to accomplish.  A sign of a great leader is that they trust in God despite odds and circumstances.  They demonstrate great faith and point others in that same direction towards trusting God. 

So, what happens if God does not provide?  Perhaps I have already received His provision in a different form that was actually best for me.  Perhaps God's answer was no.  Is God the first person that I seek in matters or do I seek Him after I have exhausted every other possibility?  The author of Hebrews says that "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. 11:6).  This is a bold statement but it reflects the truth about God's desires.  He is not pleased when we don't trust His unseen provision.  God desires our trust in His character and in His promises apart from what makes sense to us.  The created (us) is often guilty of telling the Creator how He must operate and what is acceptable--that is me many times.

Prayer:  "Lord, help me to understand you more and to stand in awe of Your greatness.  I marvel at your ability to always do so much more than I could ever imagine.  May I not get in the way of what you want to accomplish and may my life reflect great faith in Your character and trust in Your words.  Help me to lead others to You by how I live my life." AMEN.