Thursday, December 29, 2016

Redefining Life

This may not have been your best year spiritually and perhaps you started last year off with the best of intentions.  God's desire is that we worship Him through the knowledge of His Word.  It is through the Word of God that we learn the will of God.

Psalm 138:2 tells us that God exalts His name and  His Word above all things--hopefully we do that as well. We are told by the psalmist, "I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word."  God esteems His own name and Word above everything else!

We can attempt to define our lives by many different standards that really don't matter apart from God's standards.  At times we feel we are doing pretty well compared to many other people.  Doing life without a daily consumption of God's Word is to run spiritually hungry and spiritually parched.  The reality is that we can't display a relationship that does not exist in our lives; failing to spend time in God's Word is revealed in our personal walk.  Let's redefine our lives by getting back into the Word of God this year.  Allow God to quench our thirst and to fill us spiritually.  David cried out to God in Psalm 42:1, "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God."  

As a church, we work better together and fight the enemy better when we are strong spiritually in the knowledge of God's Word!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Hope Revealed

Did the Old Testament saints and prophets fully know who Jesus Christ was or what He would fully accomplish?  Did they understand the way that this promised Messiah would be born or how he would deliver them?  Did they understand that He would bring spiritual deliverance and establish a future kingdom and not an immediate physical kingdom for them to enjoy and rule?  Why does it appear that the picture of Jesus Christ is so much clearer in the New Testament?

As early as Genesis 3:15, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, was foretold as the One who would come and crush the head of the serpent (Satan).  This was going to happen through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and by Satan, along with his demonic host, being ultimately condemned to the lake of fire that was created for him. 

God was making preparations before the foundation of the world to redeem mankind through the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:18-21 tells us, "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God." However, God progressively made the Hope of mankind (Jesus Christ the Messiah--the anointed One)  known throughout the course of history until the right time of His revelation.  The patriarchs,  kings, prophets, and God's people in the Old Testament were given various degrees of understanding over time that there was a Deliverer and Hope coming through God's provision.  Then, Christ arrived at the proper time as prophesied through the virgin Mary and was crucified under the authority of Pontius Pilate.

The prophet Isaiah on several occasions made references to Him in different ways and shared what this Messiah would accomplish.  We are told that it would be through a virgin that He would arrive and that He would be called Immanuel (meaning "God with us", Is. 7:14) This helps to understand that He would dwell and live with the people.  He also tells us in Isaiah 9:1-7 that He would give light to those who walked in darkness, He would release those who were in bondage, He would rule in peace, and that He would bring perfect justice.  Isaiah even calls Him the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.  Much about His character and His role was told some 700 years prior to the Messiah ever arriving. 

Even though much of the prophetic news about Christ has taken place, all of Christ's work is not yet complete.  Christ is still saving souls and He will return and rule in justice as the perfect Judge.  HOPE continues to be revealed.  For the Christian, we take comfort in God's divine plan and sovereignty.  Christ is our living hope and He remains the only true hope for the world.  Let's share this hope with those who are living and dying without Jesus Christ all around us!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Maywood's Church Planting Partnership

My heart rejoices as God is working in our church to develop an understanding about the priority of taking the Gospel of Christ forward by planting churches that  also plant churches.  Some ask, "Do we really need another church?".  That is a fair question and the answer to that question is that we need more progressive, Gospel preaching churches.  Many churches fail to reach their community for Christ and a great deal of them exists in a self-preservation mode in which they exist just to take care of themselves.  They have lost the vision of "Becoming a people to reach people for Christ"--which is the Great Commission given by Christ.  Not all churches are faithfully proclaiming the Gospel or staying true to the Gospel message.  Currently, 3500-4000 protestant churches are closing their doors each year-- the church is in a crisis.

This year God worked through your great generosity in our Thanksgiving Offering to bless the Evangelical Free Church of Mount Morris, IL with a gift of money to help them launch a church plant in the Sterling, IL area.  Last week I was blessed to drive down to Mount Morris with one of our elders and deliver a card and that check for $15,000 to Pastor Bruce and his church family.  He was so moved and touched by your great generosity!  This week we are distributing prayer cards at the church so that we can pray faithfully for them and I look forward to some warm weather when we can drive down to Sterling, IL and pray over the area and seek God's direction for them and this church plant.

Please pray for Maywood that God would grant his favor and blessing as we seek to be a church planting church for years to come.  Pray that God would grant His vision to us in order that we would make decisions that honor His name and advance His Gospel.  At Maywood, we are committed to the authority of the Word, His Gospel and His glory!  Let us pray and labor together on this journey!  These are exciting days!

Pastor Gary

Monday, December 12, 2016

5 Surprising Insights About the Unchurched

This next Sunday is Friend Sunday at Maywood and this article is worth the read.  It will give us a better understanding of our culture and encourage us to invite someone.  It was written by one of my favorite authors, Thom Rainer.

They aren’t antagonistic.

They welcome a conversation with believers.

They aren’t staying out of church for the reasons you may think.

They are the unchurched. And because many church leaders and members have such misperceptions about them, churches often fail to reach them, or even attempt to reach them.

In one of the most comprehensive studies ever done on the unchurched, LifeWay Research, in partnership with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism in Wheaton, surveyed 2,000 unchurched Americans. They defined “unchurched” as someone who has not attended a worship service in the last six months.

One-third of the respondents were non-white. Genders were almost equally represented (53% male), and almost half have a high school diploma or less.

I want to unpack this massive research more in the future. For now, let’s look at five surprising insights about the unchurched.
  • Most unchurched do indeed have some church background. Contrary to some perceptions, the great majority of unchurched have a church background. Almost two-thirds of them (62 percent) went to church regularly as a child.
  • Most unchurched quit church because they got out of the habit of churchgoing. For certain, a number of them did leave churches for negative reasons, but that is not true of the majority.
  • One-third of the unchurched have plans to go to church in the future. Please read that statement carefully. One of three unchurched Americans are actually planning to return to church. Is your church actively inviting them?
  • The unchurched are very open to a gospel conversation. Nearly half (47%) would interact freely in such a conversation. Another third (31%) would listen actively without participating. Pause for a moment. Look at those numbers. Almost eight of ten unchurched Americans would welcome a gospel Another 12% would discuss it with some discomfort, and only 11% would change the subject as soon as possible. We can’t use the poor excuse that the unchurched really aren’t interested in gospel conversations. In reality, church members are more likely not to be interested in initiating gospel conversations.
  • If you invite them, they will come. About a year ago, I received requests to provide a framework for churches to invite people to church. We called it “Invite Your One.” We are now getting responses from churches that have initiated this ministry, and we are blown away at what God is doing. Among the unchurched, 55% said they would attend church if invited by a family member. And 51% said they would attend church if invited by a friend or neighbor. These numbers are staggering. The opportunities are incredible.
I have been involved in church research and practice for four decades, a testament to both my passion and elderly status. These data confirm my anecdotal observations that there has never been a more opportune time to connect with the lost and unchurched.

It’s truly an incredible opportunity.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Many of us do not have the time, patience, or desire necessary to work on something that is old, broken down, and ready for the dump.  However, I admire those who take the time and possess the passion to see something that was once considered valueless and then they transform it into an item of great beauty and extreme value.  I suppose we could say that some of us don't have an eye for it or we lack the creative juices to make it happen.

The sadness comes when people are viewed in this manner.  Often times the greatest trophies of God's grace are those who were so messed up that they were deemed as worthless and rubbish by others.  Although we would never tell another person this directly some of us would still allow these thoughts to be entertained.  Scripture serves to remind us that God makes Himself known through the broken down, the simple, the underprivileged, and even the outcasts.  Those who have served as champions of God's grace are often those who have fallen very hard in this life and by God's grace they have stood back up, certainly humbled and disgraced, but forgiven and loved by God.  I suppose we could say that they have been "repurposed". 

When people come to Christ whose lives have been in ruin or return to Christ after a journey away from Him--can God still use them?  Do we personally believe that they are valuable?  Perhaps a better question is do we see them as forgiven by God and ready to move forward for His glory.  Can God's glory still shine beautifully through their lives although once broken and perhaps still carrying battle scars.  The answer is emphatically yes.  God loves those with repentant hearts and those who find their restoration in Him alone.  Through genuine humility and dependency upon God alone, lives can be transformed.  David says, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17)."

Most of us do not want to be broken by God and yet God chooses for His servants to go through difficult times.  Many times it is in order for God to craft a vessel more fit for His service.  God believes in restoration and He does the BEST work.