Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Real Worship

Bruce Chesser is pastor of First Baptist in Hendersonville, TN. He formerly served in Little Rock at Geyer Springs. This is from his morning email today.

Sometimes we talk about going to a 'worship service' but, in truth, what we did was neither worship nor service. Just attending an event in a building called a 'worship center' on a Sunday morning does not make it worship. Worship is not something we attend. Worship is something we do.

Psalm 24 is a great passage that gives us a picture of real worship. It reminds us of the reason for our worship. It is because He is the maker of all that is. Everything belongs to Him. He laid its foundation and established the rivers. The psalmist reminds us of the requirement of worship. We must be willing to come clean with God. He asks the question 'who may stand in His holy place?' He answers by saying he who has clean hands and a pure heart. We must be clean in what we do and we must be clean in who we are. He also tells us what will happen when we worship the Lord, theresult of our worship. When we worship Him we will receive His blessings on our lives. He makes it very clear. 'He will receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation....'

Here is a word from the Word: (Psalm 24)
The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord; for He laid its foundation on the seas and established it on the rivers. Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not set his mind on what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Lift up your heads, you gates! Rise up, ancient doors! Then the King of glory will come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, you gates! Rise up, ancient doors! Then the King of glory will come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of glory.

Hope to see you Sunday ready to worship!

Thank you, Mr. Ford

Monday, July 29, 2013

Witty Sayings vs Good Theology

I like reading church signs as I travel around. One of my favorites came from the Nazarene Church in Russellville, Arkansas many years ago. "Faith is not jumping to conclusions, it's concluding to jump."

The task of putting up these informative, witty sayings falls to me at our church. I've bought books and searched the web looking for good stuff. It's not the easiest thing on my job description.

A fundamental necessity for the sayings is that they are theologically sound. There are lots of pithy quotes to use but some just don't stand the litmus test of good theology.

For example, just down the road a church sign says, "Faith isn't believing God can, it's knowing God will." Maybe the problem is that a church sign just doesn't have enough space (only four lines) to be as clear as we would like. Otherwise, the saying is backwards.

Faith is the confidence that God can do anything and that he will do everything he desires to do. To simply say "it's knowing God will" implies we can use God as an at-will genie who does whatever we want him to do. I don't presume to know what God desires in every situation so I can't say that he will do what I think he should do. He certainly can but may not because my desire may not be his desire.

So if I had to put it on a sign I'd say that faith is believing God can, not knowing he will. Or maybe I'd just say something completely different since there's not enough room to be clear. "Potluck Sunday at 6:00."

Clear theology doesn't have to be a sermon but it often can't be said in four lines or 140 characters.

Thriving Through Adversity

I'll be honest, the last few months have had their share of adversity. Decisions by some have caused others to bear an unexpected load. Lack of information lead some to reach conclusions that miss the mark. Because of conversations I believe I must keep confidential, I can't completely set the record straight and am at the mercy of what others choose to say.

This is not a post to complain but one to celebrate what God is doing.

We've had a great summer at Cross Road (crbclr.org). And it's not over yet. By the end of the week we'll complete out fourth round of Vacation Bible School with the best participation in my tenure as pastor. We just got back from a mission trip where we engaged people who do not have a personal relationship with Christ. And we took three of our members who had not been on a mission trip during the time I've been pastor. Our summer attendance and giving has not dropped like most churches see during the vacation season.

Best of all, God is changing lives. Our people have a hunger for God's word and a desire to reflect his glory. We are thinking more about stuff that takes place when we are not gathered; like impacting the workplace and making a difference among our circles of friends. We are being better stewards of our resources both as a collective group and as individuals. That will translate into more resources for ministry to reach more people.

You may pull up our annual reports and question my contention that God is moving among us. What I am seeing is the early stages of revival among a few of our members. That won't move the needle of measurement very much but it is the start. And I'm celebrating that. I expect more to get involved. I expect more to join the movement. And as they do we'll see measurable growth in the annual statistics. Really, the measurables are indicators of what has already taken place. What we are experiencing today will show up on the reports later.

For now, I'll celebrate because God is moving among us. My prayer is that the adversity is seen for what it is: a distraction from God's mission. Like my friend Wylie Jones says, "Keep your eyes on Jesus and God will take care of everything else!"

Friday, July 19, 2013

Weekly Devotional - July 19, 2013

"...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..."
Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV

My son is attending a baseball camp this week. I took him to the college campus for check-in then stayed around to watch the first workouts. I love baseball and I love teaching/coaching baseball. I'm just not knowledgeable enough to be good at it! But every chance I get, I watch and listen to the guys that do know what they are talking about.

One of the drills the boys participated in was running to first base. Seems pretty simple, doesn't it? It reminded me of Riley's first day of T-ball. The boys all stood around home plate with the coach. He asked them, "Where is first base?" Riley pointed to third. He has since figured it out!

The coach taught these 12-year-old boys how to run to first. None of them did it right, at first. They looked at the ground or they looked at the sky or they closed their eyes. The end result was that they ran a crooked line to the base and were much slower.

By keeping their eyes on the bag - "Point your nose at the bag," the coach said - they ran straighter and faster. That's the difference between being safe or being out.

We are told to fix our eyes on Jesus as we persevere through life. It makes all the difference in the world! Pray that God will help you stay focused on Jesus today.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Vision Correction

It's about time for another eye exam. Usually, I can't really tell if I'll need a new prescription or not when I go in. This year, though, I'm pretty sure I'll need an adjustment.

I need correction for my far vision. And I need correction for reading. Bifocals aren't so bad except for that tilting-your-head-up-and-down thing. But without correction I wouldn't see clearly except for a few feet. Basically, I can see to play piano without my glasses. Anything more near or more far requires a corrective lens.

That got me thinking about a church's vision. Some churches see their mission field to be the area near their churches. Others see their mission field to be areas farther away. Focus on either near or far leads to a distorted view of the other.

Do you know a church that has great local ministry but not much else? They say that they just need to focus on helping people at home. They may send a nice offering to missionaries who serve in other places or have special times of pray for them, but they don't do much to connect personally. What might happen if they saw the nation and world like they see their neighborhoods? They could make a huge impact on spiritual and social needs.

Then there are some churches who have a huge presence outside their own communities but do little to reach their neighbors. Their members get in the van or on the airplane and take the gospel to the nations. They partner with missionaries for ministries of evangelism, discipleship, encouragement, construction, etc. They do block parties across the state or nation. But they don't do much at home. A food pantry and clothes closet might help the locals but it's not there. Neighborhood canvasing could uncover many lost and unchurched families but they won't go.

Does your church need a corrective lens to help them have impactful vision both near and far? The Bible is that lens! The Bible teaches about local ministry and going to the nations. We might miss parts of what it says because we always stick to our favorite parts. If you are a "go to the nations" kind of Christian, then you might focus on passages that teach this and miss the others. Or you may like the "love your neighbor" parts because it validates your desire to do local ministry.

A full view of scripture leads to a clear vision of ministry. Load up with God's word to have a balanced mission. You'll be amazed at how well you'll see God at work at home, around the world, and all points in between. That's good vision!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013


Not many things stand the test of time. Google images of the ruins of the Roman and Greek empires. They are called ruins for a reason.

Sometimes our relationships end up in ruins. Dilapidated friendships. Broken marriages. Burned bridges.

I had a great experience last weekend. You probably know that I'm a baseball fanatic. I especially love the Cincinnati Reds. And since the Texas Rangers are the closest MLB team, we love them, too. Just not as much as the Reds!

Last year, the Reds and Rangers both made the post-season. I got a Facebook message from Derek Dishner saying that if both teams made the World Series he would buy us tickets and we'd go. Unfortunately, both teams were knocked out early and the dream match-up never happened.

Then the 2013 schedule came out and the Reds were headed to Arlington for three games. That was last weekend. A couple of months ago Derek messaged me again inviting us to come to the games. So we did.

I'm pretty excited about getting to see the Reds. I've been a fan since the days of the Big Red Machine when I was just a kid. Back then we only had one game on the TV each week. NBC carried the Game of the Week and I never missed it. Because the Reds were so good, they were often part of the match-up. But I had only seen the Reds in person three times. Once was in St. Louis and yes I wore my Reds hat. And then our family went to Cincinnati two years ago and saw the Reds play the Giants twice.

This past weekend I saw them play twice against the Rangers. I was in heaven.

Derek and I have been friends for a long, long time. When I was a music minister and he was a piano salesman, our church bought a piano from him. A couple of years later he opened a music store and I was an ad salesman. Then I needed a job and he gave me one. Our last face-to-face contact was over 15 years ago. And we've talked only a couple of times. Until the baseball stuff came up.

Riley, Deana, and I spent a great weekend with Derek and Janice. The baseball was wonderful and I appreciate the opportunity to see the Reds. But the friendship with Derek seemed like it hadn't lost a thing over the years apart. Deana had never met Derek and we had never met Janice. Life changes and sometimes those changes allow people to drift apart. It's amazing how well we all clicked.

That's the beauty of friendships. And that's why friendships are valuable. It's easy to let friendships fall into ruins but it's worth making the effort to keep up with your friends.