Sep 3, 2014

Equipping the Saints to do What?

No too long ago I read an article where the author was addressing the role of church leaders in the context of the local church. His point was simple and based upon Paul's writings in Ephesians where he defines the work of the pastor as one who "equips the saints for the work of the ministry" (4:11-13).

This would be, I think, especially true for the pastor-teacher.  For many of us, he is the one who takes the majority of responsibility for carrying out this work.  According to the author, this not only is true for the pastor-teacher but for the other leaders God has given to the church.

One only needs a small amount of exposure to a present day local church body to realize that much is missing today when it comes to this mandate being fulfilled.  Of course, there are many things expected of the pastor and leaders that in and of themselves aren't bad, but nevertheless fall way short of what it seems God wants for the everyday believer and member of his church body.

Many will say that the primary role of the pastor is to preach.  In fact, there are many who would judge a pastor to be good if he is a good speaker.  While I agree that preaching the word is central and very important to the work of the pastor-teacher, this alone falls way short of the ultimate standard.  What then, is Paul suggesting the leaders of the church be able to do?

The text says that they (church leaders) are to equip the saints (believers) for the work of the ministry.  It would seem easy to figure out what this means but maybe not.  No one would not expect believers to serve the Lord in connection to their spiritual gifts and talents. But, to get at the heart of the mandate we probably should ask a question about the primary focus of the early church at this time.

Without question, the answer seems clear.  The early church was about evangelism. That is, the expansion of the gospel into an unbelieving world. With this view in mind, the use of our gifts makes a lot of sense.  We are to use our giftedness as tools to be use in reaching out to a world without Christ.

Now, if we go back to the point at which we began, we can see why many churches are not growing and what must be done.  In order to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, we must return to the work of equipping the saints to understand the gospel and show them how to share their faith with  others who do not know him yet.

If we stop at talking about evangelism or be satisfied with preaching occasionally about the importance of evangelism, then we deserve what we get.  But, if we are committed to what's important to the Lord about the church, then we must equip the saints to evangelize effectively.  And this will take a lot more than mere talk. What do you think?

Aug 8, 2014

Is HIS Resurrection YOURS?

Many folks will remember the excellent book written by David A. Dean many years ago entitled "His Resurrection and Ours!  This book explained with clarity that our future resurrection is tied to the resurrection of Christ.  Paul the apostle put it this way:if Christ is not raised then we will not be raised! (my italics).

Recently, I was asked to preach at my local church and I chose to speak on this topic but I approached it in a little different way.  I began with the apostle Paul's words in the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15 where he reminds the believers in Corinth of the gospel he preached which had at the center of it an emphasis upon the resurrection of Christ.

At the end of Luke's gospel (24:44), Christ is seen reminding the disciples after the resurrection and before the ascension of the gospel message.  It seems that these guys had a hard time remembering what was really important.  Rather than worrying about overtaking the Romans, Jesus wanted his followers to think about their relationship with him.

Later on, Paul writes to the believers in Philippi that he wanted to "know Christ and the power of his resurrection (chapter 3).  This to me is amazing.  To think that the apostle Paul, of all people, was still in the process of knowing Christ and trying to experience his power in his life is mind boggling to say the least.

What about you and me?  My sermon title recently was "A Truth worth Remembering!"  This is so true.  We must remember the importance of the resurrection and more so, the importance of experiencing the knowledge and power of Christ's resurrection in our lives.  It is so easy to go through life on a daily basis and try to do what we do in our own power.  We all know that this doesn't work.  We need Christ more than we think.

So, here's a thought for consideration.  Go through your day and do not attempt to do anything without first thinking about what it would mean to do it in the knowledge and power of Christ.  I am trying to do this and I encourage you to do the same.

Aug 1, 2014

FROM CULTURAL TO SCRIPTURAL

In a context where the Lord invites all people to join themselves to Him, he invites them into his house which will be know as a house of prayer (Isaiah 56.7). He will accept the prayers of his people and give them joy as they worship the Lord.

This primary purpose for the house of the Lord has unfortunately and sadly been neglected in most churches of today.  If you are seeking fellowship as it is called in most churches and by most believers then you will hit gold.  If you desire good food, you will be filled.  If you long for programs that will scratch where you itch, look no more. Incredible effort is given to provide whatever you need, especially in larger churches.

However, if you are looking for a place where people are committed to prayer, where prayer is more than an attachment to whatever else is being done for whatever reasons, you will be looking and searching for sometime.  The reason is simple.  For many leaders and even pastors, prayer is cultural not biblical or Scriptural.

We pray because, after all, that's what Christians are supposed to do.  We pray because we think that by praying we can get what we need.  We don't pray because it the lifeline we have between sinful man and a holy God.  We just do it for brief moments and move on.
Praying was never meant to be an attachment.  God's house is to be a house of prayer.  No wonder Jesus was upset when he encountered people who had turned it into a den of robbers (Matthew 21.13).  As noted, prayer was not to be an attachment, but rather, the primary activity of God's people.

What this might mean for us is a critical question for believers longing to be the people God has called us to be.  Prayer certainly isn't limited to having a room in your church designated for prayer. No, the entire house is to be a house of prayer.  This has to mean that the people who make up the church are people of prayer. 

Jun 19, 2014

What's in Your Mind and what are you doing about it?

Every once in a while I come across a verse in my Bible reading that for some reason "Jumps" out at me.  It causes me to pause long enough to think about a number of ways in which the verse could be applied to my life.

One such verse is 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 which states, ' For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds."

Paul argues in the verse for the idea that as believers, we have a divinely potent strategy when it comes to dealing with strongholds in our lives. In essence, as long as we use the strategy of God in dealing with our problems, there is nothing that can overcome us.  We are more than conquerors in Christ. 

Unfortunately, as human beings we often try to deal with the problems in our lives in the flesh.  That is, in our own strength and by using man-made strategies.  These, however, will always fall short of what God want to accomplish in our lives, and in our churches. 

Paul uses another word in this text that most certainly should catch our attention.  He speaks of weapons and warfare.  Simply put, this is not a game.  It is war.  It is war between the forces of evil and the forces of the kingdom of God.  As long as we use the weapons of God, we are able to deal with anything that comes our way.

Our goal is to take every opposing idea and place it in submission to God.  Our goal is to find out what pleases God the most and live out that truth in full obedience. This must begin at the very first appearance of an opposing thought or behavior.  It's at that point that we take it to God and thus take it captive, preventing it from doing any damage.

My prayer for my life is that I will be able to be obedient in this task.  I do not want any thought or contemplation of sin to enter my mind to the degree that I give it the opportunity to be acted upon.  I want to take every thought captive in order that I may move closer to being obedient in the way that God wants in the first place.  May you experience this as well!

Apr 25, 2014

ARE YOU A JUNKY?

Over the past few months, I have been systematically remodeling my home.  This means that I have been painting, laying new porcelain tile where old carpet had been for years, putting up new light fixtures, laying new tile called Allure in my office and the bathrooms, and much, much more.

Thankfully, my youngest son was there to help as he has a lot of the needed skills to do the job correctly.  Once we make it through the entire house, we will move to painting the exterior of the house and then onto putting a new roof on the house. This has been fun but it has been a great deal of work.  I am looking forward to getting it done and enjoying our new environment.

Oh yeah, I forgot to say that in the midst of all this, I totally cleaned out, painted and reorganized my garage.  I don't know about your garage but ours had become a "catch all" for everything.  The only ones who really liked being out there were our cats.  Now, it's repainted and clean.  It's actually a place where you don't mind going.

During this process, I learned many things.  Perhaps the biggest discovery was just how much JUNK one can accumulate over twenty five years.  It was massive.  Part of my work included the getting rid of all of this junk which meant many trips to the landfill and a lot of garbage being put out by my driveway weekly for a few weeks just to get some breathing room.

Junk is just that, junk!  You think you don't need it but when you think about getting rid of it you begin to think of or make up ideas about how you do need it.  I love the feeling that came over me when we got rid of our junk.  I must say it was and is refreshing.

The other day a thought cam over me which I believe might just serve as a spiritual analogy to the experience we have had of cleaning and remodeling our house.  It occurred to me that we can accumulate a lot of spiritual junk in our lives too.  It is easy to add on many things, even thoughts, that prevent us from doing what God has called us to do.

This idea came to me when I recently reread the mandate from Jesus to his disciples in Matthew 28:16-20 about making disciples.  It seemed all to real to me that we spend a great deal of time (too much) doing things that in essence become junk in our lives preventing us from making the missional mandate of Jesus first in our lives.

I don't know about you but I suspect it is true for you too, that you spend a great deal of your time and energy pursuing things that for all intents and purposes, are junk.  Your schedule is too crammed with meaningless meetings, activities that don't lead toward or at least contribute to the making of disciples, time management issues which make it almost impossible for you to prioritize the building of relationships with lost people or even those you intend to disciple.  In the end, this is junk and it keeps you from doing what Jesus told us to do, make disciples.

I know it's not exactly the same but let me leave you with this thought.  I don't miss all that stuff that I got rid of.  It was actually fun dumping it in the garbage.  There was a time when I probably thought I needed it, but I really don't.  Having done this, I do have more time to do the things God has placed on my plate to do.  I am quite certain that it would be true for you too.

It's not my place to tell you what to do but could I ask you a question?  Is it time for some remodeling?  Is it time to get rid of some stuff or better known as junk?  If so, I am confident that you too will be healthier once it's gone.

Jan 22, 2014

BEAUTIFUL FEET!

Recently, I was taking part in a conversation about the need for more young people to hear and respond to the call of God on their lives and this call is not only to be a believer in whatever vocation they choose. But, in particular, to respond to a call upon their lives into full time Christian service.

As I grew up, it was not uncommon for pastors and even missionaries to spend time in our home.  My dad, being the local pastor, was often entertaining with my mom those who came to speak at our church. This gave me many opportunities to listen and learn about the process of being called by God into ministry.

Today, things have changed as I see it. No longer is there an emphasis in our churches upon challenging young men and women to consider God's specific call into ministry.  No longer are we praying that God would raise another Billy Graham.  We are content to simply ask people to trust God and serve him in any way that they want to go.

This discussion raises a very fundamental question for all of us who want to see the Kingdom of God grow. Do we believe that God is still in the business of calling young men and women to serve him in specific ways?  And, if we do, what has happened or is not happening in the world of the church to to take young men and women away from believing this too?

When's the last time you heard a pastor or leader in the church challenging young people to consider a call into the pastoral ministry or to serve the Lord on a foreign land?  For me, it's been way too long.  Now is the time for us to rethink our strategy when it comes to thinking about what someone will do when they grow up.

The apostle Paul strikes me as someone who unashamedly spoke of his calling to serve the Lord and was eager to exhort others to do the same.  To his young apostolic delegate Timothy he wrote these powerful words:

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began..." (2 Timothy 1:8-9).

To the believers in Ephesus Paul declared, "I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called..." (Ephesians 4:1).

This, of course, was for all believers in Ephesus, but it is also true for anyone hearing and responding to a call of full time christian service.  People who believe that God is calling them into this type of ministry can be certain that it is the highest of callings.  Somehow, we have come to believe that this specific call is not that important.  We have been told or it has been implied that we can serve God more effectively by being in the marketplace somewhere else.  The truth is that we can serve God in any arena but nothing higher than to be called to be one who proclaims the gospel as a lifestyle.

Sadly, in the church, we have become satisfied to become participants only and mistakenly thinking that there will always be those who are called to preach.  But, is that true?  It seems that God has always been in the habit of raising up people to serve him but he has also used others to make that distinctive call for him.  Without the preachers of today challenging others to consider the call of God to do the same, will the well soon run dry?

Perhaps this is what Paul was alluding to when he gave the following message to the Christians in Rome, "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news! (Romans 10:14-15).

If we don't get this answer right, there are dark days ahead.  However, I for one, believe that God is still calling people to preach and to share the good news as missionaries.  I also believe that everyone else is to live our their callings in a worthy manner as well.  The really important question is this, are you?


Sep 12, 2013

Well, I Declare!

I love to tell stories about days gone by.  There have been times in my life and sometimes regularly that I have set around with friends and talked about the good ole days.  I know what you're thinking.  Those kind of stories seem to get better or should I say bigger, every time the stories are told.

For the most part, these stories are harmless.  It is a lot of fun to reflect on "Do you remember when?" Today, I have been reflecting on the many wonderful acts of God historically that are quite significant and worth remembering, especially when we think about where God might be leading us.

King David also felt this way. Hear the words of the Lord (Psalm 145:1-4):

I will extol you, my God and King, 
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever
and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, 
and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall commend your works to another, 
and shall declare your mighty acts.

Notice how David is committed to declaring  the goodness of the Lord to the next generation. Specifically, he wanted to tell the next generation all about not only the goodness of the Lord but do so by talking about specific  acts.

God has been so good to me and my family, my church and every other aspect of my life. I want to be faithful in sharing this with anyone that I am in relationship with on a daily basis.

Over the years many of my friends have often greeted my by asking"What's the good word?" Well, that's easy, it's the good word about the goodness and acts of the Lord. May it be said of all of us that which was stated by David at the conclusion of this Psalm (Psalm 145:21):

My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever!"

How about you? Can you remember all of the ways in which God has been good to you? Think about it and then share it with someone.  I know this will bless the Lord