Thursday, December 20, 2007
As I think about those early days of going to church and all the things that happened in each worship service I mostly remember 3 things. I remember that each of our pastors were men passionate about the gospel. Every single week they somehow weaved the message of Jesus and the cross into each sermon. Each Sunday Pastor Sam Catoe would leave his other church to rush over to our church in time to preach at the service. Later there was Pastor George Secrist who stirred the church’s emotions and affections for God. I think he cried almost every week as he spoke about the wonderful love that Jesus has for every boy and girl. Following Pastor Secrist was Pastor Mike King. He was our church’s first full-time pastor. I can remember him visiting my parents one weekday evening to talk with me and my sister to see if we were “ready” to be baptized. He wanted to make sure I understood what it meant to repent of my sin believe in Jesus. His question sticks with me until this day, “Why should Jesus let you into heaven?” I wept knowing that I didn’t deserve to go to heaven. Strange isn’t it, that a young boy knows he is guilty for his sinful actions and heart attitudes? Yet, God gave me the understanding that it was not my own works or actions that get me into heaven but that of Jesus. And believing that Jesus paid the penalty for my sin and then rose from the dead that I too could be forgiven and rise from the dead having eternal life (John 3:16). How marvelous!? Well, after Pastor Mike there was Pastor Doug Myers. Until him I did not know that rednecks could be pastors. From him I also learned what it means to truly love God with my whole heart, soul and mind and to have the same compassion for people that Jesus had. He was bold, courageous and fearless in his walk with God. Literally, I am the man of God I am today because of his discipleship invasion into my life.
A second thing that I remember about my early days of church going was the once a month “snack” in church. Typically we did not get out of church until after 12 and like any growing boy I had a growing appetite. And when it came time in the church service that they passed the grape juice cups and bread I really wanted to alleviate my hunger. However, my mom would never let me take of these elements. She said they meant something and until I understood its purpose I had to sit quiet, without taking the “Lord’s Supper.” This too lingered in my heart and mind. I probably cannot count how many times those elements passed me by and how it bugged me that I could not take them. Viewing those elements and hearing the pastor talk about their meaning time after time enlarged my understanding of the cup and bread; and of course about Jesus. It became more than a snack, it became the taste of love and forgiveness understanding the cup and bread represented Jesus’ sacrifice for me. Even today I treasure the opportunity to share in this experience as I continue to grow in understanding the importance of these elements.
A third thing I remember most about going to church is the names Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. It seemed year after year our church always talked about these ladies and people gave money to them. Could we never pay them off or why were they on the church’s payroll if I never saw them around? If you think that is a funny question for only a young child then you may be surprised that even this week an adult asked me, “If I write the check to Lottie Moon will she get it?” All in all, I came to realize Lottie and Annie were both faithful missionaries who lived to share the gospel of Jesus Christ at the cost of personal comfort. The reason our church gave money to Lottie and Annie was so other boys and girls could have some of the similar experiences and opportunities I had to hear the name of Jesus. These mission offerings support thousands of missionaries and ministries around the world so people can know the life-changing love of Jesus Christ and forgiveness of sin. I believe we must continue this legacy in giving to these offerings, otherwise, what is the alternative? Will we not give and go so others may know Jesus? I know I am sure thankful someone gave to the ministry that helped me see Jesus.
Thanks Mom & Dad for ATLEAST those three things I can remember about church and worshiping the Lord Jesus. You set the pattern and rarely compromised and for that I am forever influenced by these three examples.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
In regards to the title, life has been busy. Busyness... it plagues us all, does it not? I don't think it matters whether it is during the holidays or not either. Life is filled with schedules, meetings, events, deadlines, and of course any level of crisis. I am finding that busyness must not become an excuse for distracting my time and priorities. If I am more busy than normal then that means I am either mismanaging my time or God is up to something in my life and I must remember to pause and see what he is saying and where he is leading.
Listen to what Oswald Chambers says, "Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work. Yet we think of prayer as some commonsense exercise of our higher powers that simply prepares us for God’s work."
In other words, I may have dozens of projects that are consuming my time but these must not crowd out prayer, for prayer is the "work". God does nothing apart from prayer... just read the book of Acts!
Thursday, November 15, 2007
- That God will awaken her heart & mind to repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ.
- That she will grow to be a woman of character (truth), making wise choices.
- That she will find friends that will strengthen her committments to walk in Truth.
- That she will date/marry a godly man (dating, yikes!)
I pray things like this. I've noticed that my prayers more often than not relate to her growing up and things in the future. At this point, as her father, I am not scared of her growing up, maturing and becoming an adult. I think this is a good thing. Some of my observations in parenting is that parents attempt to hold on to children's childhood for as long as they can. This lingers into a child's teen and twenty' years, delaying adulthood and thus creating what one has "adultolescents". I encourage you to read this article and background material on this topic. It's interesting when we consider some of these questions:
- Why are teens graduating from their faith when they graduate high school?
- Why are the twenty somethings missing from churches?
- Why are churches predominantly greying, plateauing and declining?
- What can student pastors do to slow, pray cease, such facts?
What thoughts do you have? What would you add to Piper's list?
This is why I am beginning Family Matters events at our church. The Church has often focused on developing programs, ministries, staff, events to make itself look good. My desire with this kickoff event, and ultimately a ministry vision, is to make families look good. Mark Holmen, in his book Building Faith At Home says, "As the family goes, so goes the church." In other words, if the church desires to be effective and join God at work it must seek to partner with families (of all colors, shapes & sizes, especially in 21st C. culture) in equipping and encouraging them to be who God created them to be.
Some Scriptures that have influenced and impacted me with this vision are
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 God's call to families to nurture faith at home
1 Samuel 2-3 Eli's wicked sons, a profound warning to fathers in ministry
Psalm 78:1-11 God's call for each generation to pass on the faith to the next
Ephesians 5:21-33 God's call to family roles with its overall purpose in glorifying Jesus and what he has done for the Church, his bride
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
As I consider the future years I want my daughter to be prepared for what is to come. I would like to share with you three truths I desire my daughter to know and apply to her life. I pray you will carefully consider the gravity of each truth.
God created you.
Every person is created by with an inherent worth and value because each person is created in the image of God. In fact, God knew you while he formed you in your mother’s womb (Ps 139). In other words, your life is neither an accident nor a mistake. God did not say “oops” on the day you were born. There is a clear and unique purpose for every human being; which, is to know God and serve others. Jesus affirmed this saying the two greatest commands were to love God and love others.
Fathers, your role with your daughter is to help her discover and live out these two great commands. The simplest way I am learning to do that with my daughter is by spending time with her. I believe she will understand God’s love and her purpose to love others by my loving and spending time with her. Daughters spell love T-I-M-E.
A recent example for me is when I went to summer camp as my daughter was less than two months old. The catch was, before I left for camp she had never given me a poopy diaper. Yet, when I came back from camp I got two in one evening. Now, you may say that’s just a simple fact of having an infant. But I know she was telling me, “Dad, here is what you get for not spending time with me!” The real fact of the matter is, the language of love for daughters is by the time you spend with them.
God created sex.
Almost 30 years ago, President Jimmy Carter signed into act The Susan B. Anthony Dollar Act, which made provisions for the United States government to mint dollar coins. The first ones were minted in 1979. It depicts Anthony to honor her and women’s suffrage, for which she stood. Circulation of the coin continued the following two years but because of its similar size and color it was found to be easily mistaken for a lesser value coin, the quarter.
I have been involved in youth ministry for about nine years. Unfortunately, I have seen young ladies trade their God-given value for something of lesser worth – temporary pleasure in giving away their sexual purity.
Just as God created you with a certain purpose he also created sex with a specific intention. God is the author of sex, it was his original idea, not Hollywood or the rest of culture. Therefore, God has the authority to place boundaries around sex for your benefit and protection.
I know, when you hear the words “boundary” and “sex” in the same sentence you begin to cringe. I often did the same as a teenager. The reason was because I did not truly understand the truth that God created sex. Sex does not have to be viewed as an intimidating, dangerous, threatening, dirty experience. It is something God wants you to enjoy – when you are biblically ready through marriage. One prominent theologian reminds us of this profound truth saying:
Christians have no right to be embarrassed when it comes to talking about sex and sexuality. An unhealthy reticence or embarrassment in dealing with these issues is a form of disrespect to God’s creation. Whatever God made is good, and every good thing God made has an intended purpose that ultimately reveals His own glory. When conservative Christians respond to sex with ambivalence or embarrassment, we slander the goodness of God and hide God’s glory which is intended to be revealed in the right use of creation’s gifts.
Fathers can show God created sex by reminding their daughters sex is important. Some of the simple ways you can do this is in the way you treat your wife and in the way you allow your daughter to treat herself (dress, internet, boy selection). All in all, this is a call to elevate our view of sex in a world that continually diminishes its real purpose.
God created forgiveness.
Reality tells us that our daughters (and our sons) are having sex outside of marriage. Nearly 30% of teens are sexually active and the statistics rise the older teens get. Reality also tells us there are fathers who have failed in the purity arena as well as having shortcomings in leading their families the way they should. The point of this is not to condemn those who have fallen but to remind those that God’s grace extends to every individual who has sinned. There is not a sin or sinner who is beyond the reach of God’s love and forgiveness.
The way God provides forgiveness is through the death of his Son, Jesus Christ. For those who confess their sin, turn away from it and receive Jesus’ payment for sin into their life will be free from punishment and eternal condemnation of sin. It sounds simple and to some degree it is. Yet, one should never forget the tremendous price Jesus paid on the cross.
So, for the young girl who has compromised her purity; or perhaps even had an abortion; or for the father who may be addicted to pornography or committed adultery or even simply is failing to lead and love his family as Christ – there is hope! God will grant you forgiveness through repentance and give you strength to make wiser decisions.
In closing, I want you to know that fathers cannot be the fathers they dream of becoming, or their daughter’s dream of them being, by themselves. Likewise, daughters cannot keep their purity without the help of others. I give you two challenges:
1) Look to Jesus. Only God can give you true and lasting strength and wisdom to become who he created you to be. Pursue him with all your heart
2) Look to Others. God created you to live in community with others. Gain wisdom from those older and wiser than you. Lean on those who have traveled the path ahead.
 R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage,” available online at www.sbts.edu/docs/Mohler/EyeCovenant.pdf
 Many stats from article dating January 31, 2005, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6839072
Monday, November 5, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Monday, October 8, 2007
What's my point? Glad you asked. The point is, I'm not a "believer" in the Yankees although I find myself rooting for them. My question is, do non-believers root for believers in the spiritual realm too? Are they desiring Christians to be a part of the worlds greatest problems (spiritual emptiness, corrupt leadership, poverty, diseases, and illiteracy - see http://www.thepeaceplan.com/)
I think unbelievers are rooting for believers; even if it is secretly. The reason is I think they see the rich history of God working throughout the world. I think they have some sense that there have been some great leaders and world movements that happened through the lives of well-known Christians. I also think they see that God has given His people limitless resources (His Spirit, the Word, prayer, the monster Church, etc.). AND I think they are rooting for Christians to go for it, to win it and win it BIG.
So, why is the Church 'losing its series'? I'm not sure I have all the answers, in fact I know I don't. But perhaps its because we are playing/living like we're already defeated when in fact we should live knowing victory has already been achieved through the great power of the gospel.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
As you know, every car has dashboard gauges that tell your vital signs – speed, gas, mileage, temperature and even oil pressure. These gauges inform and warn. They inform of how you are progressing during your journey. They also warn of problems that occur during the journey. You can do one of two things with your dashboard – 1) You can pull out a hammer and smash your dashboard, essentially ignoring its vital signs. OR 2) You can choose to evaluate your dashboard and respond appropriately.
My desire is to allow God's Spirit, His Word, and His people be as a dashboard in my life. Here are some things that are on my dashboard:
God Time: My personal devotion time with God is a reflection of who I am and what I do. I must realize God is not a crutch/cane to support my life and ministry but is a complete stretcher in which I am laid out and completely dependent on him. Currently I am reading through 1 & 2 Samuel in my personal devotions. I am studying how God calls and uses leaders. I believe the most important character of a leader is integrity. Certainly this can be seen in the life of king David, though even he was not perfect.
John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Family Time: My family is important to me, but this is not always shown in the time I devote to them (both quantity & quality). I must realize God has given me a gift in which I must be a good steward of (as son, husband, father). My personal goal is to be home at least three nights a week.
1 Timothy 5:8 “If anyone does not care for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Fellowship Time: Many pastors say the find it difficult to have close friendships. I can somewhat understand their dilemma yet understand Jesus calls us to close community. I am blessed to be slowly developing close friendships in my ministry as well as with those God has placed around me. I am praying that my friendships are Christ-centered in the sense that our conversations & actions toward each other are reflections of his grace as we become more like him.
Proverbs 17:7a “A friend loves at all times…”
Proverbs 27:17 "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
On a side note, Maina gave us cassette tapes... yes, they apparently still have these although I haven't made a mix tape since middle school crush days. Anyways, the tapes represented the fact that our lives are being recorded by others every minute. I have been reminded of this fact through connecting back with Tommy. Tommy was a youth at my home church when I was a volunteer youth pastor for about 5 years. He is now 22 and pursuing God's call to serve in some type of pastoral ministry. He subtly reminds me of things I said and did 10 years ago as his youth pastor and it shocks me. My life was being recorded then and it certainly is now. My words and actions will make impressions upon future generations. Perhaps there will be others who will be influenced by things I say to be missionaries, pastors, youth workers... God only knows. The thing that strikes me most is that if I am not in a walking relationship with Jesus, being filled with His Word and Spirit then I have nothing to give those under my influence. I must always be sensitive to understand my weaknesses and strive for God's wisdom, so God can bring about great things in others. This is not to say God will not do it if I am not walking with him. BUT, it is saying that I will miss the opportunity to be a part of his work, and I don't want to miss it. So go ahead, hit record... are you ready?
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
As I reflect about my experience and where our ministry is together, I cannot help but think about the students in our children & youth ministry. Will they grow up to become pastors? Will they cross the ocean to share God’s Word with someone who has never heard of Jesus? Will they become teachers, leaders and use their giftedness in & outside their church? I sure hope so! What you are doing now will impact the lives of children in five, ten and even twenty years from now. You do not have to wait until eternity to hear the words of Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” God is whispering these words to you every week when you see those children staring back at you. You can see them… their eyes gleam with eager attention, their heads tilt back examining every word and movement you make. And for some reason, they can’t stop smiling. I pray you keep them smiling as you realize the impact you make every week as you teach God’s Word and invest in the next generation.
If you are not involved somewhere in our student ministries (infant – high school) would you please consider how you can? We are always looking for help, in big ways and in small.
“so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.” Psalm 78:6
Monday, February 26, 2007
Here are some more specific principles I learned:
Churches that excel have a clearly communicated and unifying vision.
These churches do not wander with aimless direction; nor do they allow individual members or subgroups to create their own agendas. Their vision is well defined and permeates throughout every member and ministry. The vision and mission of the church is stated often from the pastor, printed visually on banners and brochures and engrained the hearts of the people. In fact, the leadership maintains their vision by recruiting and training based upon agreement with their vision. (i.e. see Simple Church by Rainer & Geiger, 7 practices of effective ministry by Stanley)
Churches that excel genuinely care about the people in their community.
These churches value biblical fellowship. They involve themselves in others lives and live out the “one another” passages of Scripture. Small group community life is the DNA of these churches. This is not to say that small group ministries are more biblical or superior to other ministries (traditional Sunday School or Bible Classes) but it is saying that these churches genuinely know and support each other through group life. In addition, they reach out to their community by being a gospel witness along with participation in various social ministries.
Churches that excel value excellence & creativity in ministry.
These churches aim for excellence in everything; from buildings to brochures to discipling believers. They have a “whatever it takes attitude”; they dream big and they live in the details of ministry. This does not mean every excelling church has the biggest building or unlimited resources at their fingertips. But it does mean they value excellence and creativity because they both flow from the character of God. God is worth every bit of energy that we pour into ministry, and so these churches use what they have but with excellence & creativity.
Churches that excel utilize their best marketing tool – people.
When the leaders of these churches were asked, “what are you doing to reach your community?”, the response was unexpectedly the same – people reaching people. Some said, “word of mouth” or “members repeating the gospel story” but the principle was the same. It is not advertising or special marketing but changed lives that were the supreme influence for reaching others. The church that takes its mission to reach the world for Christ seriously is the church that is receiving blessing from God and is thriving! Acts 1:8 is being lived out in these churches.
Churches that excel have a vested interest in reaching the next generation.
If you can excuse the phrase, these churches are putting their money where their mouth is. They do not just talk about valuing children and youth but they prove it in both the budget and in adult participation. An entire generation of young people is not being reached because churches are either apathetic or tied to traditionalism (Note: there is a difference between tradition and traditionalism. Tradition is the living faith of the dead whereas traditionalism is the dead faith of the living). Volunteers keep coming back year after year not only because they see the need but because they receive more through investing in the lives of young people than they ever would by sitting in a class amassing information about the Christian life.
ABOVE ALL, my prayer is personally that I would not settle for a status-quo relationship with Jesus Christ or mediocre ministry. I want to passionately pursue Jesus every day, I cannot live or be the husband or future father that God wants me to be without him in my life (John 15:5). Nor can I serve and do ministry without the Holy Spirit breathing life in my efforts. I pray that, as I continue to grow in these principles, SCBC will likewise grow and multiply into the type of church that excels for the glory of God.