Friday, March 8, 2019

He Must Increase, But I Must Decrease

This short verse with only seven words has stood in the back of my mind for years.  It is found in John 3:30.   This verse was John the Baptist's approach to a life that was to be lived for God's glory.  Beginning at John's birth, he always stood in the shadows of Jesus Christ.  John was a very common man who happened to grow up in a God-fearing family.   What we know about John’s formative years is that he lived in obscurity in the desert.  His diet was simple, honey and wild locust.  His wardrobe of camel hair would not win him any fashion contests.  It would be through John's public ministry that ended 400 years of prophetic silence.  
John’s ministry and his message marked the culmination of the law and the prophets, and at the same time he heralded the Good News of the Kingdom of God.  John the Baptist was truly a transitional figure; he formed the link between the Old and New Testaments.   You could say that he had one foot placed in each Testament.
We certainly know that John was not a crowd pleaser and we also know that his message was simple.  He routinely preached, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."  This message offended the religious leaders who already had what they thought they spiritually needed.   John willingly confronted the hypocrisy of the religious establishment and he went against their theological grain.  In fact, he did not hesitate to expose the immorality of Herod, which led him to die a martyr’s death rather than compromise his convictions.  
Jesus Christ affirmed & praised the dedicated life of John the Baptist.  He said that, “he was the greatest born among women because he had the privilege of pointing to the Lamb of God.” One thing to admire about John the Baptist was that he fully accepted his subordinate role to Jesus Christ.  He was never here to be recognized or to compete with Jesus Christ.  John’s humble view was,  I’m not even worthy enough to untie the sandals on Jesus' feet.
The religious Jews were trying to inflame John the Baptist to jealousy, anger, and discontentment due to the fact that many of John’s disciples had a stronger loyalty to Jesus than to John. They tried to create the feeling in John that he deserved more than what he was getting.  John responded this way—the church, God’s people, they are the Bride of Christ.  They belong to HIM!  I’m just the best man—the groom’s friend who was blessed just to play some part.
According to John, he was fine with this arrangement because he had only one purpose, which was point people to Jesus Christ the Lamb of God.  In fact, John says, I’ve got so much joy in my heart over what is happening that my joy level is complete~~I can’t put any more joy inside of it (John 3:29).  Then John speaks those infamous 7 words, “HE MUST increase, but I must decrease.”
The posture of John the Baptist~~it was humble and it was right.  It was similar to that of Jesus Christ—in Philippians 2 when Christ humbled Himself to the point of the cross.  As believers in Christ’s church—we all have one primary goal and purpose~~and that is to glorify God by pointing people to the Lamb of God.  It means we become more obscure and our Jesus becomes more visible.  It means that our passion to point others to Jesus Christ may remove us out of the spotlight and into a deeper servant role that includes sacrifice. 
"He must increase, but I must decrease."  John 3:30 


Thursday, February 28, 2019

7 Reasons Why We Need a Church Vision Statement

Over the last few years at Maywood you have heard me say many times over again that we are “Becoming a People to Reach People for Christ!”  I hope that the message has not become “old-hat” or cliché-like to you.  I want to share seven reasons why all churches need a church vision statement.

1.     Without a vision statement churches have no idea where they are headed.  Imagine someone on a ship adjusting the sails to head a certain direction while another person stands at the helm adjusting the rudder for another direction.  All the while the crew is paddling at different rhythms and reverse directions.  At that point the ship goes nowhere and the people remain exhausted.   Having no vision statement is like boarding the ship for vacation but nobody truly knows where he or she is headed. 
2.    A vision statement brings about the necessary changes.  Change is part of life and yet change can be painful.  With a proper understanding of why a church exists, decisions can be much easier to make because the sails are being adjusted to obtain the vision of the church.  With a proper vision statement people are able to loosen the ropes that have anchored them down for so long and set sail for where they are headed.  Tradition and the past cannot define future of the church.
3.    A vision statement gives purpose to every ministry in the church.  Many people within the church bring their own ideas in terms of what a church should look like.  This can be very confusing and frustrating at the same time.  Personal feelings get in the way and selfishness can begin to dominate.  A vision-driven church establishes ministries that fulfill the vision of the church.  The best choices are sought out in order to help move the church closer to its vision.  This means that the church can not do everything.
4.    A vision statement determines how the money in the church is spent.  A budget reveals a great deal as to where a church is headed.  The church should build its budget around a particular staff, ministries, and programs that bring about the vision of the church.  If a church believes they are called to reach their community with the Gospel then money should be set aside for strategic endeavors to reach the community and even plant churches.
5.    A vision statement is a picture of God’s priority for the church.  Churches that want to adhere to God’s idea to where they are headed should encapsulate the mission of God in their vision statement.  It should be biblical and everyone should be able to support it without reservation.  It provides the backbone to why the church is doing what they are doing.  A vision statement is God’s specific plan for a church for a specific time. 
6.    A vision statement directs the discipleship process of the church.  Most churches incorporate and sum up the Great Commission in their vision statements (Matt. 28:19-20).  Complete discipleship involves growing believers deep in the Word of God and reaching the lost for Jesus Christ.  Both are necessary components and exist together.  Discipleship is a journey in which we never arrive until Jesus Christ returns.  It also means that everyone is a part of discipleship process.
7.    A vision statement must move God’s people to action.   It should be quick, easy, and understandable that we have a job to get done as a church when we read or state our vision statement.  This is why it is posted everywhere at the church and on our social media.  The entire church shares the same vision statement whether children or seniors.

I hope that you have memorized Maywood’s Vision Statement and state it often to others around you.  I pray that it would become the priority of your life as God has led you to Maywood.  “Becoming a People to Reach People for Christ!”

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Standing for Life

My heart has been troubled since I’ve read and listened to the recent approval of the Reproductive Health Act in New York.  This legislation now permits abortions to take place all the way up until the child is born.  This new legislation, which was signed into law on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade (Jan. 22), has been celebrated as “progress for woman.”  The governor of New York wanted to be clear by stating that he was not representing the views of his own church (the Catholic church) or views of any religion.  My question is then, “When and where is God allowed to intersect society and impact its laws?”  Actually, to remove God and His Word from society would no longer make us “one nation under God.”  Who then sets the moral compass for our society?  The governor insisted that he is working only on behalf of the people and their constitutional rights.  Sadly enough, infants with beating hearts have no rights.

The horrific brutality of killing infants that is permitted by healthcare professionals and protected by law is abhorrent in the sight of God as He is the Author of life.   In just 46 years (since Jan 22, 1973), it is estimated that more than 60 million abortions have taken place.  When this is considered, think about how many more people should be serving and worshipping in our churches.  Consider how this heinous act has brought forth the displeasure and judgment of God upon this country.  All of this beckons the question, “How should and could we be a voice for God and for those who are aborted?”

I first want to say to those who have had an abortion that the sin of abortion is no less forgivable than any other sin. The Bible is clear that through faith in Christ, all sins can be forgiven (John 3:16).   As well, all those involved can find forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ— the woman who has had an abortion, a man who has encouraged an abortion, and even the doctor who has performed the abortion. 

Please know that God makes His view of abortion known in Scripture.  Jeremiah informs us that God knows us by name before He forms us in the womb (Jer. 1:5).  In Psalm 139, David says that God intricately designs us in our mother’s womb.  In the Old Testament, under the Law, a man who struck a pregnant woman and caused death to her child, that man’s life would be taken~~ “then you shall pay life for life” (Exodus 21:22-25).  Each person is conceived in the image of God and is deemed valuable and worthy of life (Genesis 1:26-27).  Through Scripture God is clear that infants in the womb are just as much of an individual as a full-grown adult.  I would conclude that for Christians we have the duty to prize and protect life for all—even those who are unable to speak for themselves.  As Christians, we should be able to speak freely and unashamedly concerning God’s view of life for infants.

Over the years I have heard some Christians suggest that abortion would be acceptable in the case of incest or rape.  As harsh and awful as these acts against a woman may be, Scripture nowhere indicates or gives permission to exercise an evil for an evil.  In other words, terminating an innocent child’s life because of the circumstances that led to their conception could never be Biblically supported.  There are many loving families who would welcome a child from this situation and provide a nurturing environment for them—I know some people personally who love and accept these children.  In less than 5% of cases is rape, incest, or a mother’s own life the cause of abortion.  Most abortions that take place today do so simply because someone does not want the baby. 

In cases where the mother’s life is at stake during childbirth (which I have read is 1/10th of 1% of the time), I would encourage the husband, wife, and family to pray through this matter and seek the Lord.  James says to pray for great wisdom (James 1:5) and Paul says to be confident that your decision honors the Lord (Romans 14:5). 

Morally our country has lost its way, which is why Christians and churches must shine the glorious Gospel of Christ to our world.  The way home to God is through the cross of Jesus Christ.  There is always hope and restoration through the deep love of God.  Until Christ returns, God’s people must live this life with conviction based upon the principles in God’s Word.   

Thursday, February 7, 2019

How Many Bible Stories Are There in the Bible?

As a young boy I recall many stories read and shared with me about Bible characters and their great adventures.  My teachers would always strive to share with me the significance of why a certain story took place.  In my young opinion the Bible contained a great number of stories spanning thousands of years that talked about God’s goodness and often man’s disobedience.  However, I failed to see the single storyline of God and the great unity amongst the many stories that I was learning. 

Churches and Christians run the risk of proclaiming a false Gospel unintentionally by failing to read and teach the Bible in light of its main message, which is culminated in Jesus Christ.  The main storyline of Scripture is the redemption of sinful man by a holy and loving God.  It is imperative that we as God’s people understand the framework of the Bible in order to provide a better understanding of the events that have and are taking place in Christian history.  God is actively involved, sovereign, and bringing about events in order that His great name might be glorified.  All 66 books in our Holy Bible bring about a single unity in one common message. 

Allow me to share a few thoughts about the single storyline that stands at the center of God’s Word.  We need to keep in mind that the story of Scripture is God’s story of Himself as King over everything.  He is the sovereign Ruler and Creator of all things.  David says, “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” (Psalm 103:19)  Unlike all of creation, God created humans with a unique relationship with Himself.  He created all of mankind in His image.  This story, like most stories, started off as happy and joyful.  However, Adam failed to listen to the voice of God and attempted to cover his sin by blaming others.  Both Adam and Eve’s sin were comprehensively catastrophic to the human race and all of creation.  Yet, even on this very dark day, God provided news of a future hope that would come through the seed of Eve that would crush the Serpent~~Satan (Gen. 3:15).

The wickedness of man grew and God provided rulers, stipulations, laws, and covenants in order to guide and prepare His people for a Redeemer.  God, in His goodness and justice, chose a people that He would call His own.  This people would come through a man named Abraham.  God used various leaders, kings, judges, prophets, and even enemy people to guide the hearts of His people in preparation of the ultimate Savior.  In the midst of God’s patience and kindness towards His chosen people, they chose to dishonor God and make for themselves graven images and gods that would bring them trouble and dissatisfaction. 

It would be the King of kings Himself who would come to rescue His people for His praise.  It would be after many years of darkness that the Light of the world, the true light, would come into the world (John 1:9).  His name was Jesus.  He was not the kind of king that His people expected so they rejected and despised Him (John 1:10-11).  This King (Jesus) would not set up for Himself an earthly kingdom but His destiny was to the cross.  The reason why was because Jesus would give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  Jesus Christ would be the fulfillment of prophecy and the fulfillment of every Old Testament requirement found in the Law in order to forgive sins.  This King not only died to pay for the price of sin but He rose from the dead just as He said he would.  This was a demonstration that Jesus Christ was truly the almighty King and that not even death could stop Him (Mt. 28:18-20).

You see, since the beginning of time, God had a purpose in all that He was doing.  The entirety of Scripture tells of that single storyline.  When reading the Bible, make an attempt to see a single message that God is sharing with His people.  Keep in mind that “all Scripture is Profitable” (2 Tim. 3:16) but the intent of Scripture and how it fits together is for us to study and understand. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019


There are times in my life that God does not operate according to my calendar and I find myself waiting upon Him.  The truth of the matter is that patience is a virtue and it is also a supernatural by product that comes from the Holy Spirit as we walk in fellowship with God.  Being patient is a vital part of trusting in God, as our life circumstances are not always what we would prefer.  Practicing patience is a matter of trusting in the wisdom, power, and sovereignty of God during times in our lives when life does not make sense to us.  How is a Christian to rest with the confidence that God is at the helm even in our darkest hours?  Is it possible to trust the heart of God even when we can’t trace His hands?
God provides comfort, encouragement, and promises for His people through His Word.  Please take the time to read these seven references and rest upon the comfort of His Word.
Ephesians 4:1-3, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Philippians 4:6-7, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Proverbs 15:18, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”
Romans 12:2, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Psalm 37:7-9, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him; fret not when men prosper in their ways, when they carry out wicked schemes.  Refrain from anger and abandon wrath; do not fret—it can only bring harm.  For the evildoers will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.”

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Does the Bible Still Say to Tithe?

When people ask this question they are often asking whether or not God requires them to give 10% of their income to the church.  Both the Old and New Testaments say a lot about giving and the use of personal possessions for God’s glory.  I strive never to manipulate or pressure people to give, as it is a matter of the heart between God and the Christian.  My duty is to preach the Word of God faithfully and help God’s people to understand that our giving is an act of worship and a matter of the heart. 

The Old Testament tithe was an Old Testament practice, which was eradicated when Jesus Christ gave Himself on the cross of Calvary for our sins (Matt. 5:17-18; Rom 10:4; Gal. 3:23-25; and Eph. 2:15).  Jesus Christ was the righteous fulfillment of every aspect of the Old Testament Law.  Christians are no longer under the Law of God but under the Covenant of Grace.  However, God still calls Christians to His high standards of holiness and yet it is only possible because of Jesus Christ’s imputation of holiness upon those who believe in Him.   

Over the years the Christian church appears to have adopted 10% as the measurement to give to their local church.  Many who embrace that amount do so because of the teaching in the Old Testament.  Actually, the Old Testament Law required multiple tithes, which if combined, would be in excess of 25% of their income.  I would agree that this is a good and reasonable practice.  The New Testament also provides instruction on giving, which is giving with “great generosity” and with a “joyful heart” (1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:7).  According to the New Testament, there is no set amount or recommended amount of giving.  However, Christians are called to give generously, sacrificially, and joyfully.  They are called to respond to needs without restraints and to trust God in great faith for His provision.

I do not desire to be legalistic about giving; however, many Christians struggle with how much they should give.  It can be said that the Old Testament provides a framework under a system of Law in terms of how much to give, which was at least 10%.  We are blessed to live under the Covenant of Grace because of the work of Jesus Christ.  Praise God we are not bound to laws that we could never fulfill.  It could be said, “How much more should we desire to bless God with as we live under this amazing Covenant of Grace?”  Christ taught regularly about the struggle between one’s possessions and eternal matters.  In fact, He said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I believe that the joy of giving stems from being touched by the grace of God and personally being the recipient of the Gospel of Christ.  Our duty is to bring our offerings as an act of worship and praise to God.  It should be given with a heart that is fixed on advancing God’s church and the Gospel Message.  Those who struggle with giving miss out on the blessing of honoring God with their material resources that God has entrusted to each believer.  We as Christians are stewards of what God has blessed us with.  Ultimately, we are accountable to Him in terms of how we give, share, and manage those resources.

Please know, as your pastor, my wife and I count it an honor to give and want to be an example to the flock of God in this area.  God has called us to worship Him with all that we are and all that we have.  May He never be disappointed.