Thursday, July 27, 2017

Praying Scripture

The way a person prays reveals a great deal about their knowledge of God and Scripture.  Since God’s Word is His will for His people, praying God’s Word is asking God that His will would be accomplished.  Jesus Christ gave his disciples an example of how to pray in Matthew 6:9-13 when He preached His Sermon on the Mount.  He said,  “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”

If we truly understood Christ’s desires then we would pray what He wrote in Scripture.  An example of praying this Scripture could then be, “Lord, your name is great above all names.  No other names stand in comparison to yours!  I pray for your return and I long for your kingdom to be established on this earth.  I long for you to rule as King of all kings.  Help me to trust you in my daily needs.  May I not get ahead of you or worry about things I don’t currently have.  Help me to wait patiently upon You for the provision.  Please forgive me for taking your name in vain and coveting that vehicle that my neighbor owns.  Forgive me for fighting with my wife and not loving her like Christ loved the church.  Please guard my heart and keep Satan far from me!  I long to be obedient to You alone.”

If we don’t form the habit of praying the Scriptures, our prayers will almost certainly degenerate into vain repetitions that eventually revolve entirely around our immediate private concerns such as health or money issues versus God’s larger priorities.  The early church prayed Scripture in Acts 4:24-26 when they prayed from Psalm 2.  They prayed back to God the very words that God had given them.  Many parts of Scripture are prayers—especially the Psalms.  So, simply to read these verses is to actually pray if we are thinking about what we are doing.  Scripture will model for us how to pray if we are spending time in Scripture.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Behavior Modification VS. Heart Change

Growing up in the church and having attended a Christian school, I was encouraged to exhibit good behavior that would honor God.  My behavior was also expected to honor my parents, my church, my school, and of course others. Many young people I grew up with struggled performing or producing the desired obedience that was expected of them by the church or the Christian school.  Often times, very negative attitudes developed in their lives because of the insistence and the pressure that was placed on them (they would be labeled as having a BA or “bad attitude”).  The unfortunate thing was that many of those who complied with the outward behavior had hearts that were very negative towards authority.  Which one was better—the desired behavior or a negative heart?  It may depend on what we are using as our measuring stick.
I believe that too often parents and teachers miss the mark when shaping the lives of young people.  I believe that we should desire more than a certain behavior but hearts that are fixed on doing the right thing out of a love for God.  Some would call focusing only on the behavior~~legalism.  It only focuses on the external obedience and not the heart issue.  Some insist on everyone just doing the same thing for the sake of compliance and unity.  I’m all for compliance and unity but I do believe that God’s Holy Spirit makes a better instructor than my forced rules that serve as the standard for everyone else.  God’s holiness should be the standard for all living.
I’ve heard it said before that parenting is not just hard work but it is “HEART-work”.  What does God look at~~He looks at our hearts!  1 Sam. 16:7 says, “man looketh on the outward appearance but God looketh on the heart.”  He created us to love, serve, and obey Him.   As parents, our job is to raise “spiritual champions” who live to please God alone.  This does not mean we are supposed to ignore the significance of developing our children’s intellectual, emotional, and physical dimensions. But, it suggests that we have to see the bigger picture of God’s priorities and raise our children in light of His standards and not our preferences.

Most of us focus on “behavior modification” that looks for immediate results.  In fact it’s an outcome-based approach to parenting.  It usually works quickly, relieving the immediate tension.  For example, a child whines so the parent requires him to stop and then rewards him by giving him the cookie he wanted.  Although the surface problem of whining is temporarily stopped, the underlying problem of demandingness is not clearly addressed.  The heart of the matter is never addressed.

The heart is a wrestling place. The heart chooses values to hold and convictions to live by.  Those convictions become the moral pillars in our lives that keep us on track.  Moses told the people in Deuteronomy 6:6 to put the commands of God “on your hearts.”  When David describes the righteous person in Psalm 37:31 he says, “The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip.”  “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat.” (Dan. 1:8)  When Jeremiah describes the New Covenant that God will establish with us, he says that it will be different than the Old Covenant with tablets of stone.  “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” (Jer. 31:33).  

I would suggest to parents that we take parenting to the heart level and loosen our grip purely on behavior modification.  When God has our children’s hearts He gets the rest of them as well.   I understand that we want immediate obedience but even more important are hearts that understand why obedience is important.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Why Do We Fail to Share the Gospel with the Lost?

I read this blog post yesterday from one of my favorite bloggers, Thom Rainer.  It deals with what it will cost me to share the Gospel with others.  As your pastor, please know that it is my desire to serve as an example to you when it comes to sharing my faith.  It is always work and it is definitely spiritual warfare.  I don’t know of anybody who would say that sharing their faith just comes easy.  However, there is no greater joy than leading another person to Jesus Christ apart from personally coming to Jesus Christ.
“The topic of evangelism has grown strangely quiet in many churches. Pastors are not talking about it.  Other church leaders aren’t talking about it.  Members aren’t talking about it.  And if we aren’t talking about evangelism, you can be assured many of us aren’t doing evangelism.
There are likely many explanations for the death of evangelism in our churches. Among them is the stark reality that many of our church leaders, pastors and others, are not intentionally evangelistic.  Why is that?
Though it is not an excuse, we must acknowledge that the pastors and other church leaders pay a high cost when they become intentionally evangelistic.  Sometimes it just seems easier to keep our mouths shut about the gospel.  Look at these costs to being an evangelistic leader in a local church.”
  1. It is spiritual warfare. Satan and his demonic horde do not want people to know the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though the manifestations of demonic opposition are many, you can be assured the evangelistic leader will confront such opposition again and again.
  2. You will be viewed as narrowed minded. John 14:6 does not sit well with culture. Though Jesus Himself said He was the only way, truth, and life, leaders will be rejected and opposed for such “narrow-minded” thinking.
  3. Something else must be sacrificed when you are an evangelistic leader. Your time is limited. You have sermons to prepare. You have hospital visits to make. You have counseling appointments. You have way too many meetings. And hardly a day goes by without a new and unexpected crisis arising. You must sacrifice something else to take time to share the gospel with others.
  4. Some of your members will complain. You have some church members who will complain about anything that does not serve them personally. It may be headed under the passive-aggressive guise of “I’m not being fed,” but you can be assured some of your members will oppose your leadership in evangelism.
  5. New converts will be seen as threats or inconveniences in your church. True story. In one of the churches I served as pastor, a lady tried to get me fired because the “new people” were “messing up our church.” New Christians are needy. Some longer-term members don’t like to give up their comforts for others.
  6. Discussing theology is easier than doing theology. I wish we spent an equal amount of time sharing the gospel as we do talking and debating theology. Yes, we need to take bold stands for the truth. But we don’t need just to stand there; we need to do and go.
  7. You will have to break out of your holy huddles. It’s more comfortable hanging out with people who are like us and who believe like we do. But you will not have that luxury if you become an intentional evangelistic leader in your church. You will discover new relationships with non-Christians, which means you can’t spend all your time with Christians.
When was the last time we verbally shared the Gospel of
Jesus Christ with a lost person?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Visit Israel With Us

A little over two years ago I had the privilege of visiting Israel for the very first time.  I have studied theology for many years in a Christian school, Bible college, and seminary but I've only studied the Biblical setting from textbooks.  The opportunity to visit was phenomenal as it painted a backdrop for me to actually see, feel, and witness the land of the Bible.  Many of the places that I visited brought life to the Biblical narratives. Seeing the various locations and typography gave fresh insight and understanding to many Bible passages.  The journey allowed me to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry that led to His crucifixion.

While there I was able to visit Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem where Christ would be charged and ultimately crucified.  I walked through the Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.  Later I journeyed through Jericho to the Dead Sea where I floated in the highly concentrated salt water.  Another highlight was taking part in a special baptism in the Jordan River.  Two very special moments were sightseeing on the Sea of Galilee and walking the streets of Jerusalem to the Temple Mount.  There are too many places to list but I want to share more with you.

It was my desire for my wife and me to take a group from the church (and any others who would like to join in) back to Israel and share my experience but it was necessary to wait until I completed school--school is now done!  I would like to lead, prepare, and educate a team to take the journey back to Israel.  It will indeed be a trip like none other.  I will take time at the various sights to explain the significance of those sights and we will also have a professional guide with us.  The food was excellent and the accommodations were extremely nice at the hotel.  The charter bus provided great comfort by getting us right to the spot we were going to visit and staying cool at the same time.  I can honestly say that the entire time while visiting I felt safe and secure.

Please consider joining us as we prepare for the next trip to Israel on April 9-17, 2018.  Information can be picked up at the Welcome Center while registration / payment is all online (installment payments can even be made).  Contact the church office if you are unable to pick up a form and we will mail you the information.  My wife and I will be hosting a special evening for those interested in this trip to learn more.  I'll be able to answer more questions and share photos of my experience.