Thursday, June 5, 2014
I have been blessed, to be in the ministry about sixteen years. I have enjoyed over 10 years in Dodge City. I think it is fair to say I have learned a lot of things about the church and ministry. I have learned some of these lessons the hard way and continue to learn them through the fire. Here is a list of a few items I have learned over the years. For me, this is a short list of the truths I believe should motivate a local church. Here it goes with little or no commentary: 1. It is all about the glory of God and the advancement of God’s Kingdom. 2. The gospel must infuse everything we say and do. 3. This is Jesus’ church and He will build it. 4. There is one God and I am not Him (and I am fairly certain He is not a member of any church I have pastored.) 5. The church is made up of sinful selfish saints. 6. Our natural tendency is always to focus on the inside of the church. We must continually force ourselves out of our comfort zone and look externally to reach others in Jesus’ name. I am reminded of a quote by C.S. Lewis, "In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose" 7. Each one of us must give an account of everything we do and say in this body. Everything will be tested by fire. Therefore, live well. 8. Heaven and Hell are real eternal destinations and must motivate us to communicate the gospel to everyone and with urgency. 9. Our Sunday gathering is our primary time of corporate worship but not our primary area of spiritual transformation. The primary place of transformation must be in self-feeding and small groups. 10. Prayer fuels the work of the church. Prayerlessness is sin. Here is one extra one to consider: 11. We must stop making converts and do what Jesus commanded: Make disciples! What do you think? I would love to hear what motivates you in ministry? If you are a lay person, let me know what you think. This is in no way designed to be an exhaustive list. The focus is more about the church and not ministry as a whole. Let me know what you would add.
Friday, April 4, 2014
If a person would press me to choose one book of the Bible as my favorite, I would have to choose the Gospel of John. I hope you have decided to join me as I read the Gospel of John in 21 days. As you begin reading John’s Gospel, I wanted to give you a few simple insights on this wonderful Gospel. The first thing you will notice is how different John’s Gospel is compared to the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). It is believed John wrote at a time after the other three gospels were being circulated and he wanted to create unique and different gospel. Over 90% of its material is unique. Clement of Alexandria (ca AD 150-215) calls John’s gospel a “Spiritual Gospel” (MacArthur). When you begin to read the gospel, you will notice it is an anonymous gospel. External evidence is one way scholars attempt to authenticate the author. Early church tradition identifies the Apostle John as its creator. Irenaeus (ca AD 130-200) writes “John, the disciple of the Lord, who leaned on his breast, also published the Gospel while living in Ephesus” (Dictionary of Jesus pg 369). Irrenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John and Polycarp testified to the Apostle John as the book’s author. Clement of Alexadria (ca AD 155-220) asserts, “John, perceiving that the bodily facts had been made plain in the Gospels, being urged by his friends, composed a spiritual gospel” (Dictionary of Jesus pg 369). While some have disputed this quote as legendary, there can be no mistake, “Subsequent to Irenaeus, all the church fathers assumed John to be the gospel’s author” (John MacArthur pg 339). We can also examine internal evidence to pinpoint the author. John 21:24 tells us that a disciple testified to the things he wrote down. I find it interesting that the Synoptic Gospels are filled with references to John while the Gospel of John never names him directly. Could it be that John is the “disciple who Jesus loved?” The absence of John’s name in the Gospel is amazing when one considers the prominent role John played in the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples. As John MacArthur writes, “Since the gospel’s author is exacting in mentioning the names of other characters in the book, if the author had been someone other than John the apostle, he would not have omitted John’s name” (MacArthur). While we can’t be completely dogmatic on John as the author, I think the witness of church history and the fact that an unnamed disciple, with apparent knowledge of the “inner circle,” wrote the Gospel point to John the apostle as its author. The timing of the writing of the Gospel is under some debate. Generally, it is accepted that John wrote the Gospel sometime between ca 80-90 AD. This would place the writing after the fall of the Temple, the martyrdom of Paul and Peter, and during the time of Domitian. There are a few noticeable inner verses which may help us date the gospel. The fact that John used the phrase “Sea of Tiberias” referring the Sea of Galilee point to a later date as this phrase was ony widely used toward the end of the first century. Also, John 21:19 says, “He said this to signify by what kind of death he would glorify God.” This statement has a ring of hindsight. It seems to me John is writing this verse with knowledge of the type of martyrdom Peter received. Finally, Thomas’ great confession “My Lord and my God” could be a statement against emperor worship during Domitian’s reign. Furthermore, the lack of reference to the Sadducees which ceased to be a Jewish religious group after AD 70 supports a later date for the gospel. As you study the book this month, here are a few other notable helps: Purpose: John 20:31 “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The gospel is both evangelistic and apologetic. Its primary purpose was to identify Jesus as the Son of God and that by doing so people would believe in Him and turn to faith and eternal life. It is the most theological of the gospels. He goes to great lengths to show the deity of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, and importance of personal belief. Seven Signs: the Gospel of John revolves around 7 signs before His crucifixion to “display His glory” and to make sure “His disciples believed in Him” (John 2:11). Take a moment to look up the seven signs: Water into wine (2:1-2), Healing a nobleman’s son (4:46-54), Healing of a lame man (5:1-17), Feeds 5000 (6:1-14), Walks on water (6:15-21), Heals a blind man (9:1-14), Raises Lazarus from the dead (11:17-45). I am Statements: John also confirms Jesus’ deity through 7 “I am” statements. In Greek, it is ego eimi or literally “self-identify in self-sufficiency.” In a phrase Jesus proclaims his pre-existence and his deity. You can see for instance the Jew’s reaction to Jesus when he said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). They picked up stones to kill him because of blaspheme. Take a look at the seven “I am” statements: (I am the bread of life (6:35, 41, 48, 51), I am the light of the world (8:12), I am the Door (10:7,9), I am the Good Shepherd (10:11,14), I am the Resurrection and the Life (11:25), I am the way, the truth, and the life (14:6), I am the true vine (15:1,5). Key Words: Believe, Word, Eternal life, Lamb of God, born again My favorite verse: This changes year by year. Currently I pray John 3:30 for myself every day. I realize John said these profound words and then received a beheading. Amazing! He prayed to decrease and Herod cut his head off. Probably not the way I want to decrease but an amazing statement of John’s faithfulness to God and His Kingdom. What have you lost for the sake of the Kingdom? What are you losing? Is there really any way to follow Christ without losing or without decreasing? Names of Christ in John 1: I know most of you have already read chapter 1. It might be worth reading again. As you do, try and find the different names or descriptions of Christ. Here is my list (Don’t look yet. Compare to what you have. If you find others, let me know): Word, God, Life, Light, One and Only, full of grace and truth, Jesus, Christ (Messiah), Lord, Lamb of God, Son of God, Rabbi, one Moses wrote about, Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph, King of Israel, Son of man. The gospel of John is so very rich. It’s depth cannot be fully mined in years of reading much less in one reading. Venture into the deep end as you examine the riches of the Gospel. Each day read the corresponding chapter and post the verse God uses in your life for that day. Write a short commentary to bless your reader. Here is list of great questions to ask yourself as you read: Operation Lydia Plan 1. What did you like about the passage you read? 2. What did you no like about it? What bothered you? 3. What did you not understand about it? (Email me if you have questions) 4. What did you learn about God from it? 5. What do you personally need to do about it? 6. What phrase or sentence from this passage would you like to think about this week? As you dive into the Gospel of John, here is something very simple to remember: Years of Jesus’ Ministry: 3-3.5 years Period 1: Baptism – John’s Imprisonment – The Synoptic Gospels spend very little time in this period. John spends the first five chapters in the time period. Period 2: John’s Imprisonment – Peter’s Confession – This is the bulk of information in the Synoptic Gospels and only chapter 6 in the Gospel of John. Period 3: Peter’s Confession – Jesus’ Ascension – All Gospels have much to say about this period of Jesus’ life. In John, this last period begins in chapter 7. After Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ, it was time for Jesus to teach them more about His death and resurrection and move toward Jerusalem and his impending death. I pray you will be blessed as you read the Gospel of John. Enjoy your time in scripture. Don’t worry about read too fast. Slow down. Enjoy the Gospel at the same speed of drinking a wonderful cup of coffee instead of drinking in the word as one would drink out of a fire hydrant. If you have questions about the gospel, please contact me. If I don’t know the answer, I will do some research and get back with you. Remember, we read not to get something from the Father, but we read because it is the Father. Short Bibliography The MacArthur Bible Handbook Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels Holman Bible Atlas Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts Jesus and the Gospels Craig Blomberg
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
“Restore us again, O God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us. 5 Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations? 6 Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? 7 Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation” (Psalm 85:4-7) Southern Baptists are never sure what they should do with the Lenten Season. As they look into the foreheads of many of their friends, they wonder why, they too, do not have the sign of the cross in ashes upon their heads. Most Baptists simply believe it is an antiquated religious act with little or no meaning. However, for the true worshiper, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a deeply reflective period of renewal and worship. It is a time to prepare their heart, soul and mind to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The sign of the cross is a symbolic reminder of their own mortality, their heart of repentance toward God, and their heart’s mourning on the reality of the cost of sin. Do not throw away this tradition without prayerfully considering how you might be able to grow spiritually this Lent. Should Southern Baptists observe lent? There is absolutely nothing unscriptural about observing a time of reflection and renewal. In fact, we can see it modeled in many ways in scripture and in historic Christianity. Like anything, what is your motive in observing Lent? Do you fast to forsake unrighteousness and aid in your transformational journey or do you fast to earn the favor of God and the praise of men? Performing righteous deeds to gain favor of God or praise of men is a complete waste of your time. Doing acts of righteousness as an aid in your godliness, can be both beautiful and beneficial. You must humble yourself before the Creator of the Universe and long to know Him more. Be intentional during this time leading up to Easter. Take a second to prayerful consider implementing the following five exercises into your life this Lenten season. Be careful, they are habit forming. 1. Simplify Your Life – During this time leading up to Easter, consider fasting from something that creates and chaos in your life. This would be a wonderful way to figure out what you might fast from during Lent. Ask yourself a couple of questions: a. What worldly possessions most come between you and God? b. If a person could spend a normal week with you, what would they say you loved most of all? Anything but God is a wrong answer. C. Will you be bold enough to ask God to search you, and know your heart; test you and know your anxious thoughts (see Psalm 139:23-24). Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Be honest and humble before him. Write down all He shows you; “Repent therefore and turn, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). 2. Sanctify Your Time – Schedule a focused period of daily prayer, Bible Study, and meditation. Remember, everyone has time for what is most important to them. What would happen if you gave God your first 30 minutes of everyday during Lent? You may have to get off Facebook, turn off your TV, or even put down your favorite fiction novel to sanctify your time. 3. Honor a Sabbath’s rest. God gave us the model and mandate to rest. Our full rest is found in Christ. However, we still need to lighten up! It’s ok to take a day off to renew your batteries. 4. Silence and Solitude – During Lent, find at least 3 times to have an extended period with God. Turn off all technology. Spend at least an hour in silence and solitude before God. If you really feel adventurous, dedicate a four hour extended period with God. Bring music, devotions, Bible, journal and let the Holy Spirit lead your time. 5. Saturate your world with kindness and grace – Christians should be the most kind and gracious people on the face of the earth. Find ways to be kind. Show people grace. Get creative with various ways to show others kindness and grace. There are myriad of ways to express God’s kindness and grace to others. As you spread kindness and grace, begin to invest in lives and impacting them for eternity; invite them to your Easter celebration. Awe-inspiring. Overwhelming. Intense. Marvelous. Life changing. Amazing. Extraordinary. If these words better describe your supper last night and not your journey with God, it might be time for your to set apart time to renew your spiritual walk with God, to refresh your spiritual battery and to reflect upon the sacrifice of our Passover Lamb. The Lenten season may be a perfect time for you to renew and refresh your walk. For some, you may have to make drastic cuts in your life to afford the opportunity to put God first in your life and seek Him above all else. For others, you may simply need to realign your life to create an environment of transformation. For many it is more about placing good things in their proper order so you are able to place God things in their rightful place. Remember the general rule of spiritual growth: You will never drift toward God. If you do nothing, you will always drift away from God. Use this time to transform your life. Lent can be a perfect occasion to create new habits and to cut away damaging or wasteful habits. In April, I will encourage our church to a 21 Day Journey in the Gospel of John. This will be one tool we will use to draw closer to God and prepare for our Easter celebration. What will you use? If I would have used the calendar better, I would have given up business meetings for Lent. Maybe next year! For His glory!
Thursday, January 9, 2014
Here are some Old Testament Prophecies that help prove Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God: Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God: (read on) Even my friend in whom I trusted, one who ate my bread, as lifted his heel against me (Ps 41:9) Strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered (Zch 13:7) I gave my back to those who beat me, and my cheeks to those who tore out My beard. I did not hide My face from scorn and spitting (Is 50:6) They pierced my hands and my feet (Ps 22:16) Everyone who see me mocks me; they sneer and shake their heads; He relies on the Lord; let Him rescue; let the Lord deliver him, since He takes pleasure in him (PS 22:7-8) They gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink (Ps 69:21) I am poured out like water, and all my bones are disjointed; my heart is like wax, melting within me (Ps 22:14) Yet He Himself bore our sickness, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded HIm stricken, struck down by God and afflicted (Isa 53:4) He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth (Is 53:7) They divided my garments among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing (Ps 22:18) He submitted Himself to death (Isa 53:12) You may not break any of its bones (Ex 12:46) He protects all his bones; not one of them is broken (Ps 34:20) They will look at me whom they pierced (Zch 12:10) For you will not abandon me to Sheol; You will not follow Your Faithful One to see the Pit (Ps 16:10) You ascended to the heights, taking away captives; You received gifts from people, even from the rebellious so that the Lord God might live there (Ps 68:18) The Lord declared to my Lord; Sit at my right hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool (Ps 110:1) Peter affirms this in his first sermon when he writes: Acts 2:22-25 22 "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. Acts 2:36 36 "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." What will you do with this information? Acts 3:19-20 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. The amazing grace and love of God are both incomprehensible. Thank you God!!
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Like it or not, October 31st comes around every year. For many Christians, it is a day they dread. They can’t wait to go home, turn off their porch light, lock up their doors, revel in their personal holiness while watching an unchurched world walk past our doors. They get some sort of satisfaction believing they are standing strong in their faith while criticizing three year olds dressed up like Willie on “Duck Dynasty.” But are they really missing one of the best opportunities to show a lost world the love of our Savior? How can a Christian redeem the holiday? Halloween has become big business. I heard this week Halloween is the second largest holiday behind Christmas. The candy sales on Halloween are second only to Easter and quickly catching up. The church has an amazing opportunity to be a light in a lost world. We must remember going door-to-door with our children dressed in a costume asking for candy doesn’t cause us to worship Satan any more than when a family opens Christmas presents, attends church for the only time of the year, and eats too much for lunch worships Christ. Worship is a matter of the heart. Remember, “this is the day (yes even October 31) the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). How can a Christian redeem the day for the glory of God? The world is coming to you. Be missional!! For 364 days you have been thinking of how you can reach your neighbors with the love of Jesus. Tonight your neighbors come to you! Halloween is the one day of the year the world comes to you. Welcome them. Be inviting. Be positive. Smile!! By all means don’t be cheap. Give quality candy (and you know if you hand out cheap candy). If you hand out a tract, please give them candy too. Create an environment where the children want to come back. Don’t criticize the young boy dressed as a zombie. Instead, have fun with him. Enjoy seeing his smile. Step back as if you were scared and help make a memory for the little child. Too often, Christians spend Halloween shouting to a lost world the 101 things we hate about Halloween. It is a little ironic, Christians talk more about Satan and bring more attention to him, than the average American celebrating Halloween. Allow Halloween to be a day we let people know what we are for. We are for families. We are for moms and dads spending quality time with their children. We are for families creating life-long memories. We love families and love seeing families laughing and playing together. For 99% of the people who take part in Halloween, the night means nothing more than an evening of family fun, fellowship, tons of candy, and a few upset stomachs. Redeem the day. Be prayerful. As families come to your home, pray for them. Ask the Spirit of God to work in them and love on them. Pray for God’s blessing upon their family and home. Ask God to open a door of opportunity. Ask Him for a chance to tell someone about the supremacy of the gospel. Once again, they are coming to you. Why in the world would we not take advantage of this opportunity? What would happen if you made some hot cider and/or coffee and offered it to the parents? What would happen if they would stay and talk with you for even a few seconds? Be kind tonight. Use Halloween as an opportunity to enjoy your family, spread the light of Christ, and impact and influence a very dark world. Have fun and be a blessing tonight to someone. Get creative. Be prayerful and missional! For the glory of God!
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Thursday, February 21, 2013
As I am sitting here and contemplating the blizzard of 2013, I can’t help but think about how much like church growth a blizzard is. I am thinking about all the driveways and sidewalks I hope to dig out for people. For many months, we have prayed earnestly for snow. We know the harvest in June is dependent about the winter snow. It is always interesting to hear people complain about how God answers our prayers. I hope most of my church genuinely desires church growth. If it comes like a blizzard, are we willing to work through the inconvenience and headaches growth will, not might, cause our church. Is the promise of a future harvest worth the pain and hassle today? • We pray for snow but don’t like a blizzard. We pray for our church to grow but don’t like a lot of growth. • We like snow in amounts that are helpful for our farmers but do not inconvenience us too much. We honestly desire our church to grow. We just want the growth to be at a pace that doesn’t inconvenience us. Blizzards are amazingly inconvenient. Church growth is amazingly inconvenient. • Many of those who pray for snow are the first and loudest to complain about a blizzard. Many of those who pray for the church to grow are the first to complain about not having their “reserved” pew on Sunday morning. • At the harvest, some will rejoice and remember the blizzard with fondness and gratefulness to our God. Some will think they are amazing farmers because of the huge harvest. Most won’t think about the harvest at all. When our church sees a great harvest, some will look back on fondness and gratefulness at how great God’s grace is. Some will think about how special they are and how great our church has become to see such amazing growth. Most won’t consider the spiritual harvest at all. • In a blizzard, we see the family work together to dig out, to get through, and enjoy the inconvenience of the blizzard. In church growth, we will see the family of God come together to dig out, get through and enjoy the inconvenience of church growth. It will be different in a larger church, but you don’t have to get lost in a larger church (if we do things well, your needs will be met. We will use our deacon ministry, small groups, fellowship, discipleship classes etc to make sure you are not lost in our church) • As you dig out of the blizzard, don’t focus on the snow, but rejoice in the coming harvest. When our church explodes in growth, don’t focus on the growth, focus on the coming harvest. • During a blizzard, though it only affects my life in physical ways, I know the farmer is rejoicing in ways I can’t even imagine. As I dig out today, tomorrow, and Saturday, I will be thinking and rejoicing with the farmer. The blizzard of 2013 is not about me. As our church grows, it will affect most of you in physical ways. But the lost that are found, the blind that will see, the prodigal who comes home, the husband and wife who recommit their marriage to God will be rejoicing in ways you can’t even imagine. Church growth is not about you and me and it about “them.” I could go on and on. Needless to say, the blizzard of 2013 changes everything for a season. The pain and mess will be worth it in June. As our church grows, I can assure everyone it will get messy and will change everything. But if God is faithful to His Word, it will also mean an amazing harvest will be realized. Doesn’t that sound exciting and fun? It will be the most amazing adventure you have ever been on. Focus on the harvest! Focus on the people we will reach. Focus on our Savior saying to us, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” May our church grow for His glory not our comfort; for His Kingdom to advance not for our agenda to prosper; for heaven to be populated with souls God used us to reach. Dig out… the harvest is coming! 35 Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.(John 4:35).