Friday, April 26, 2013

Weekly Devotional - April 26, 2013

"The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him."
Nahum 1:7 NIV

I remember walking into an empty house. It wasn't unexpected but it was a shock. You can't prepare for brokenness. You can't fully brace yourself for trouble. Life as I had known it was over. A different horizon was before me; one that I had not predicted or planned or wanted.

But the Lord is good. I had told that to others over and over. Now I had to apply it personally. It's easier to tell others how they should react. Sometimes we even become self-righteous in our response when they don't react like we think they should.

Then it was my turn. My friend Kenny Bishop recorded a song a few years ago that came out of his own experiences, similar to mine in some ways. The lyric that runs through my mind says, "When a sister had some trouble I said, 'You're reaping what you sow.' And then I found some trouble of my own."

We aren't immune to troubles. Life's just that way. Count on needing refuge at some point in your life. And when you do, where will you turn? I turned to the Lord and asked him to help me. I decided to trust him even in troubled times. I committed my life anew to him. Even Christians have troubles and the Lord is good. He is our refuge.

I still live with scars from that period of my life. But remember that scars are not jus the signs of trouble but the signs of healing. I thank God that my wounds are healed and not still open. Because I trusted him and sought refuge in him, I found him to be good, to be the healer, to be closer than my closest friend.

And that's who you'll find him to be. God is exactly what you need when you are in trouble. You can try to recover or heal or figure it out on your on. Or you can trust in the Lord. You'll find that he is good and that he cares for you. Pray that God will help you in your times of trouble as you trust in him.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spiritual Growth and Christian Doctrines

I hear it all too often. A Christian claims he's not concerned with "doctrine," he just wants to follow Jesus. Is that possible? Can a Christian really follow Jesus and not give attention to the doctrines of the faith?

"Doctrine" sounds a lot like "indoctrinate" and that almost always brings up negative feelings. Doctrine is simply the teachings. And who wouldn't want to learn?

Thing about this. Jesus said, "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you" (John 14:26). There is nothing wrong with the teachings (doctrines) of the Christian faith. In fact, doctrine is a crucial aspect of spiritual growth.

The research is in. See for yourself. Click HERE for the article from LifeWay Research.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Introverts Reaching Out

"When introverts spend time trying to function like extroverts, they're doing more than just wasting time. They're actually robbing themselves of the very tools God gave them to do His work."

I'm one of those guys who was created (by God) to be an introvert. Sometimes that really frustrates me. At other times I'm really pleased.

When it comes to sharing my faith, I'd like to have that nonstop-talkativeness-never-meet-a-stranger personality some of my friends have. But I don't. And you really can't fake it. You'll be a mess if you try for very long.

The quote above is from an article from On Mission written by Mike Bechtle. Read how introverts like me can be involved in evangelism HERE.

Oh, Bechtle also says, "Introversion isn't something to be cured; it's something to be celebrated!" I like that.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Finding Your Calling

Christians struggle with this idea of calling. Most of us probably learned from an early age that God calls some to be missionaries, some to be pastors, and some to be singers. The rest of us are just...well, the rest of us. I regret that we've done this and applaud the efforts of those who are trying to turn this around.

We are all called to ministry. Some to vocational ministry. Everyone to day-to-day-real-life-where-you-are ministry. And God has equipped us for the task he chosen for us. This equipping is called spiritual gifts and it's an interesting journey finding out what yours may be. And an important part of being a Christian.

God calls each Christian into ministry. God equips each Christian accordingly. And God provides everything else we need to do it. We just have to apply ourselves and follow him.

I came across a good article in my inbox this morning that asks a few questions to help clarify the calling. Take some time to read it and leave comments here. And enjoy serving the Lord!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fathers Believe In Their Children

The Boston Marathon suspected bombers' father says his sons were set up. What father wouldn't want to believe their children did the right thing? I believe that about my boys. I hope my dad believes that about me.

But the truth is the truth. And the truth seems to implicate the two suspects. In spite of what their father thinks, the authorities most likely have the right guys. He's not ready to accept that. And there is nothing he can do about their guilt if they are guilty.

My heavenly Father knows the truth about my sins and yours. He knows we are guilty so he cannot deny it. He knows our sins because each sin is against him. That's what King David said in Psalm 51. It's true.

But my heavenly Father has the power to do something about my guilt. He doesn't look the other way. He doesn't ignore it. Instead, he deals with it.

How does God deal with your sin? God sent his Son - the one he was confident was guiltless - and poured upon him our guilt. Jesus died for our sins so we could be adopted into God's family and become joint-heirs with Jesus.

From the moment you repent of your sins and turn in faith to Jesus, God sees you as guiltless. Jesus has taken the punishment for your sins. You are robed in his righteousness.

Have you trusted Jesus for your salvation? Send me a message if you would like to know more.

Weekly Devotional - April 19, 2013

"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."
John 17:3 NIV

We've experienced another act of terrorism this week. Near the finish line of the Boston Marathon two bombs exploded killing three and injuring dozens. As I write this my Twitter feed is full of breaking news about the pursuit of the one suspect who remains alive and on the run.

Other terrorists have claimed a radical allegiance to someone or something that compelled them to act as they did. The details of the current situation are still coming out so we don't know what motivated these brothers to do what they did. I suspect they had a radical allegiance to someone or something. Perhaps time will allow us to know this.

I have no problem with radical allegiance. As a Christian, I am called by my Lord to have radical allegiance to him. Jesus Christ expects this of those who claim to be his followers. When you read the words of Jesus, don't you hear his call? "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23)." "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62)." "Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:27)."

I understand radical allegiance. What I don't understand or agree with is why anyone would have radical allegiance to anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ calls us to love God and love others. He calls us to tell everyone about the Good News of salvation. Anyone who acts in the name of the Lord but is not fulfilling these calls is not acting Christ-like. Anyone who acts in the name of any other god is not Christian. There is only one true God.

Our faith compels us to radically obey Jesus Christ's commands. Doing so results in loving acts the point people to Jesus. Pray that God will help you live out your faith with radical allegiance.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Day After

You know that feeling the day after you took a chance? You're kinda waiting for the results to come in. It would be like waking up the day after the election to see who won. Well, back before the day of the 24-hour news channels.

Or like getting up on the second day of the MLB draft if you are a reasonably good baseball player. "Will some team pick me today?" Or the question most of might ask is, "Why didn't a team pick me yesterday?"

Mondays are like that for me sometimes. I preach on Sunday. Ask for a response. And then wait. I am hopeful that someone will get the point of the message. I expect the Lord to move: it's his message, after all.

I wonder what would happen if I put myself in front of the message? What if the congregation walked away with more of a sense of me than of the Lord? That scares me. Some preachers say, "Hide me behind the cross" so that the cross is seen before the preacher. Another has said, "Put me in a hole beneath the cross" so the preacher is not seen at all.

I don't want to obscure the message. I don't want to taint the message. I want to present a clear message that I feel the Lord has prompted me to give. Based on his word. Centered on Christ. Then the Holy Spirit will do the rest. And receptive hearts will respond.

The Holy Spirit always does his part. Sometimes even in spite of the preacher. So the responsibility then lies with the preacher and the hearers. The preacher must be the right conduit. The hearers must be the right receptors.

So I believe the message yesterday was from the Lord. It was hard to preach and I guess hard to hear. Some of the hearers have responded. I'm waiting for more to respond. Revival hangs in the balance.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Weekly Devotional - April 12, 2013

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in
a worthy manner of the gospel of Christ."
Philippians 1:27 NIV
I spent six years working in a call center. I've heard my share of irate customers. Most of the time they had a legitimate reason to be concerned. I don't like it when my supper is interrupted or my business isn't handled properly.
I used to be like those irate callers. Until I started taking those calls. I'm still not as polite as I ought to be sometimes. I am better than I was, though.
Christians are supposed to act and react in ways that are different than the ways non-Christians do. Imagine the impact we could have on the world if we acted and reacted like Jesus rather than like the world. Instead, we often do exactly what the world does and so we don't show that Christianity makes much difference in our character.
What a shame! Haven't you heard (or said) that our best witness is the way we live? I hear it all the time. Honestly, I think it's often an excuse to not speak up and tell others about Jesus. Even so, people claim that they'll witness by their actions yet they act like people who have no relationship with Jesus Christ and don't have the Holy Spirit within them to change and empower them.
"What does it matter?" you say. It matters because the gospel of Christ is at stake. There is no other way that God has told us by which lost people can be saved except through Jesus. And the only way God has told us that this can happen is through the witness of Christians. When our actions deny the power of the gospel, lost people don't hear or see the gospel. And without the gospel they have no hope.
Don't let your circumstances determine your actions and reactions. Instead, let the transforming power of the gospel of Christ dictate how you act and react. This way you are useful to the Lord and to the lost people you will meet today. Pray that God will help you conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

A Blessing and a Test

When we gathered at the parsonage Sunday night for Bible study we watched the first episode of The Bible mini-series and then discussed some of the issues presented there. We didn't talk about the production value or the creative license although some of us could have gone on too long about that. Instead we used the scenes to draw our attention to spiritual truths. Any time you watch a movie, mini-series, or show with biblical themes, focus on the themes and not on the details. Remember, Hollywood is trying to get people to watch so they might change or embellish a little. But the truths are there so find them a talk about them.

That's what we did Sunday night. Even if you've already seen the mini-series, join us next time because we don't just watch, we dialogue with the story - with the Bible.

The first episode covered from the Beginning to the beginning of Egyptian slavery. When the scene focused on Abraham's almost-sacrifice of Isaac, the narrator said, "To be chosen by God is both a blessing and a test. He [Abraham] must prove his faith again and again." That is a striking statement that might cause recoil at first. One might reject the idea of proving his faith. And some might think God does not test his people.

God will and does test us. He will not tempt us but he will test us. Just like a metal worker tests the material he works with to see if it is strong and pure so God tests his people. To be chosen by God is a great honor. What has he chosen you for? Are you the encourager your co-worker needs? Are you the wise voice among all the confusion your family hears? Are you the helper assisting the down-trodden person? God has chosen you for some ministry. It might not be in an organized setting of the church's meeting times, but then again it might! Listen for God's call and look for ways to move into action.

To prepare you God may test you. And this call to action may be a test to prepare you for the next call. Imagine if Abraham and Sarah had had a son twenty-five or forty years earlier. Would Abraham's faith be strong enough then to obey God's command to sacrifice his son? Probably not, we can't really know. But the years of barrenness were full of faith-tests that seem to have prepared Abraham for this test. Abraham's faith grew stronger through the years so that he was able to take his promised son to the mountaintop and risk losing the only fulfillment of God's Promise that he could see. Even if Isaac was gone, Abraham believed God's Promise from years ago. He knew God would fulfill that promise somehow.

The tests God gives are not to see what you don't know or cannot handle but to see what you do know and can handle. Really, God doesn't need a test in order to know this; he knows all things at all times. But you and I need to know that God is strong and able and loving and protective and present and... So the test of our faith helps us stand more firmly on his faithfulness. And our faith grows with each test - well, if we stand firmly in this test our faith grows and we are prepared for the next test.

The idea that this happens again and again is full of hope! Don't think that you will one day arrive at the highest level of faithfulness you will ever need. Don't think that you may get to a point in life that your faith won't be challenged. When Jesus said that to whom much is given much is required, one thing I hear him saying is that those with strong faith will need it because a situation is coming that will require strong faith.

Whenever you face something that does not stretch your faith you are coasting. Ultimately, something that is coasting slows down and stops. That's a bad situation when talking about walking by faith. Instead of coasting we should want to have the throttle wide open. That will test your faith but it will keep you growing and going.

You can read the story of Abraham (Abram) beginning in Genesis 11:26 through Genesis 25:10. His family's story extends much further. The specific test of sacrificing Isaac is related in Genesis 22.

Ultimately, Abraham had great faith that God would keep his promise of blessing Abraham, his family, and the world. That promise finds complete fulfillment in Jesus Christ who is the perfect lamb of God - the substitutionary sacrifice for your sins and mine. When God provided the lamb Isaac was free. When God provided The Lamb (Jesus) we all can go free.

Have you turned from living a world-centered life toward a Christ-centered life? That's what it means to repent. So if you repent and believe that Jesus is God's son and that his death on the cross is the only remedy for your sin problem, you will be saved. Will you call upon the name of Jesus today for salvation, forgiveness, and redemption? Let me know how I can help you.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Equipping Volunteers

I was recently challenged by a friend to consider team building in the church. His point - well taken - is that churches often have the people they need to carry out the ministries the church feels led to do but they may not be as organized as they could be. I began to think about our church and I believe that is true of us. We have wonderful people with great ideas and abilities. They desire to serve the Lord, the church, and the community.

I also began to evaluate how we might better approach ministry and the first thing that comes to mind is how do you recruit, prepare, and maintain volunteers in church ministry. Ours is a small church but that's no excuse for not having active ministry participation. I've always believed and taught that God equips each local congregation with people who are equipped to do the ministry he wants the church to do. As members come and go, you might consider this God's way of re-tooling the church for other ministry.

When the makeup of our membership changes I always look forward to what God intends to accomplish through those changes. Of course, this assumes that people move from church to church for valid, spiritual reasons following the Lord's leading. I hope that's not too much of an assumption to make!

Anyway, I've started browsing for articles to help me lead the church in this way. I would appreciate your input and recommendations. Here's an article written by Thom Rainer that I read this morning that convicted and challenged me. Volunteers are both a blessing and a challenge, Rainer say. I believe it! I hope to be a better leader of the volunteers at Cross Road. Take a look and see if it will help you, too.