Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Commitment?



Pastoring is not easy and I have heard many times that if a man can do anything else but be a pastor he should do it, but if not do it with all he has. The Great Preacher Charles Spurgeon said "Do not enter the ministry if you can help it,. If any student in this room could be content to be a newspaper editor, or a grocer, or a farmer, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or a senator, or a king, in the name of heaven and earth let him go his way; he is not the man in whom dwells the Spirit of God in its fullness, for a man so filled with God would utterly weary of any pursuit by that for which his inmost soul pants.

The struggles of pastors are often many but one that I have experienced and heard from many of my shepherding brothers lately is the struggle with our people's commitment to one another. We live in an age were little to no commitment is required of anyone. We see this in our economic structure where companies encourage non-commitment with easy purchasing options with little to no commitment. Things such as phone plans and internet service or even cable TV offer no commitment necessary to obtain what you want. What is worse is we see this bleeding over into the family and even the church. We see little to no commitment to the sanctity of marriage and what it represents. But we also see a decline in self-professing Christians to commit to the church.

Oh we commit to things. It is amazing that many families will commit to hours of baseball or soccer practice and all day Saturdays spent at the ball field or tournaments. They will commit hundreds of dollars to such things that eternally have no benefit but when it comes to the eternal things many are willing to commit even in the smallest amount.  

As I was reading today through the book of Ephesians I was reminded of this very thing. In Chapter 4 Paul urges the people of the Church at Ephesus to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which they have been called and to do this with humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another in love and eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. He then adds that the leaders of the church are to equip the saints to do the work of ministry for the building up of the body, the church.

What Paul is getting at is that all professing church members have a responsibility to one another to be a part of the church. This means commitment. Now many justify their commitment by attendance or maybe even a little service every now and then however there is still a great lack of commitment and it is detrimental to the health and growth of the church. 

I was told by a pastor friend the other day that the average church attendance of a "regular member" is 1.3 times a month. That number is staggering and is heartbreaking to pastors. Here are a few ideas of what it means when you just don't show up. 

  • First of all it means that you are not concerned about your own spiritual growth. Like it or not the Bible is clear that we are to meet together regularly for fellowship and worship. The purpose of this is that we will be challenged and equipped to fulfill the calling that God has called us to and that is to glorify Him. When we break the habit of meeting together we quickly fall into the ways of the world and our spiritual growth slows to a crawl. 
  • Secondly is says the we don't care about the spiritual growth of others. Weather you realize it or not if you are a true believer you have a place and a duty in the church. The Bible tells that the Spirit equips us to do the work of ministry and each believer has different spiritual gifts. When we fail to participate we are quenching that Spirit that God has given us to do His work for His glory. 
  • We don't cherish the Gospel like we should. For the believer the Gospel is as relevant today as it was when God used it to save us. We need the Gospel message to be preached to us because we are easily drawn away form what has saved us. We need a constant reminder of the awesome grace God has shown us through the Gospel message. It is to be celebrated, sung about, prayed about and studied about with our fellow believers. This too is for the glory of God. 
 Commitment to the local body of believers is a command that God gives us because it is there that the Gospel is experienced and lived out and every believer has a place and a duty to take part. And the great thing is we are blessed when we do commit. We grow in our faith. We grow in our relationships and we grow the church.

So I urge you. make a commitment. Commit to show up. Commit to attend that Bible study. Commit to that women's fellowship. Commit to that time of corporate worship. Commit that time to serve missionaly. I have never heard anyone say they have served Christ and His Church too much. 

I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!"
Psalm 122:1

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Minimalist Christian?

Minimalist Christian?

There seems to be a new phenomenon where people are becoming obsessed with being a minimalist. We see this new thing of tiny homes where people see how small a space they can live in with as few amenities as possible. There are smart cars that honestly don’t look that smart. There are minimalist wallets and other things in life that many have gravitated to to be more minimalistic.

Many of these things are great and I always encourage people to be more “minimalistic’ in their lives and my wife and I have worked hard on minimizing the things that we have to maintain because it seems to simplify life. However when it comes to Christianity is there such a thing as a “Minimalist Christian”?

 I recently studied through 1 John and a few verses made me consider this. In 1 John 2:2-6 John states “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

What John is saying here is that real, authentic believers are marked by their obedience to the commands of Jesus. If God has truly saved them then their desire is to please God by being obedient to the teachings and commands of Christ. This begs the question, what are the commands of Jesus? Many consider the commands of Jesus being something along the lines of the Ten Commandments. Have no other God’s before Him, have no idols, honor the Sabbath, do not lie or steal or murder or covet or disrespect your parents and so on and I would not disagree with that but think about this. There was a time when Jesus was asked what the greatest Commandment was. His response was to love The Lord your God with all your heart and soul and your mind. He then said the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Now consider how great a command these are. Paul Washer states that at no point in any believer’s life has he ever loved God with all of his heart and soul and mind and I tend to agree with him. I would also add that it is nearly impossible to love your neighbor as yourself. However these are the commands of Jesus and He adds that all of the Law is summed up in these two commands.

In modern day Christianity it seems there is a grave misunderstanding of the commands of Jesus that is spoken of in 1 John. Many in the churched culture seem to have a minimalistic attitude when it comes to somehow qualifying as a follower of Jesus. There are many that only consider the least amount of what they can do in order to somehow qualify or justify in their hearts and minds as being a “Christian”. Maybe they have walked the isle and prayed a prayer and got dunked and have not considered their growth in their faith since. Or they claim to be a church member because they attend once in awhile yet are not connected to and serving in the community of believers in that church. Or they give just enough that they don’t feel guilty but rarely give sacrificially. Maybe they will slap a fish sticker or cross or “I worship at …” on the back of their car and somehow feel ok with rarely or never openly sharing their faith. They will post a need for prayer or complain to others about sufferings but are afraid to publicly approach the Lord in prayer even in the smallest group. They complain that they are not being fed in their church or criticize the ministry yet never volunteer to help facilitate Gospel centered change.

Honestly are these the types of commands that Jesus says are ok for followers of Jesus? It seems to me that when Jesus tells us that we are to pick up our cross and follow Him it means much more than we give it credit. John seems harsh in verse 4 when he says the one that claims to know Him but does not keep His commands is a liar but it is a harsh truth that we would do well to hear. Are we lying to ourselves when we do the minimum when Jesus actually calls us to so much more?

What I see is that Jesus tells us not to strive or be happy with the minimum bet He tells us to strive for so much more. To love God with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves seems to be the impossible but that is the standard that Jesus calls us to strive for.

When we are struggling financially the minimum would be don’t go out and steal and that would be good. However if we take Jesus’ standards we ought to look around for those that are worse off and see how we can serve. If our brother asks us to go a mile with him the minimum is to go that mile without grumbling. Jesus however commands us to go further than just what was asked. When our enemy attacks us the minimum would be not to return with an attack. Jesus says that we are to turn and offer the other cheek.


I pray that we consider these words of John. I pray that we abide in Jesus and our heart’s desire is to keep His commands. There is no such thing as a “Minimalist Christian” according to scripture. May the Spirit help us to see the areas that we are minimal and strive for the maximum. If we KNOW Him we Will KEEP His commandments. Are we walking in the same way in which He walked?

Monday, July 11, 2016

We are at war!

I am a pastor. I am also a 19 year veteran police officer. The events of the past few weeks have weighed on me heavily not only as a cop but also as a pastor. I mourn the loss of my brothers in blue and I hurt for their families who will sit at a dinner table with an empty chair tonight.

Today I attended a memorial service in our city for the fallen officers from Dallas. It was very respectful and an honor however as I listened to the names being called and the prayers offered I could not help but feel uneasy. I was uneasy to the point I was uncomfortable and almost sick. I looked around at all the people and could not help but think this would be the extent of their efforts to cope and deal with the things that have transpired. I thought, is this it? 

Maybe this was compounded by the rage of social media of so many amateur experts offering their sure fire way to solve the problems that plague modern day society. As I read through many I found myself more perplexed, frustrated and heartbroken because none offered any real hope. So in my hypocrisy I took to my computer and this is the result. 

We are at war! Make no mistake about it. The events that have occurred in the past several weeks, even a few years, should be a true wakeup call that there is a horrendous war raging and we are in the middle of it. This war is not one that is cops against the black lives matter movement. This war is not one that is Democrat against Republican. It is not a war for justice in our corrupt government. It is not a war of Americans against radical Islam or ISIS. It is much bigger. This war has just manifested itself in these facets. This war has reared it’s head as racial tension, religious tension and political tension. This war is spiritual. 

My fear is that we have been oblivious to it. The enemy has done well to trick us into fighting it wrong. We take to social media and rant. We march or block roadways. We wave signs with intent to “bring awareness”, whatever that means. We have vigils or rallies or simply just sit on the porch and complain all the while our anger and frustration builds. None of this does much good if any at all. It is because we fight this war wrong. And it is because we do not understand the war we are in.

Ephesians 6:12 says “ For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” 

This war is spiritual and the enemy wants to keep us off the spiritual battlefield and distracted on the battlefield of flesh and blood where we have no hope of victory. Instead the Apostle Paul says to take up the armor of God which are elements of our spiritual defense so that we may withstand in the evil day. Our problem is we exchanged the armor of truth for lies, righteousness for pride, faith for anger, salvation for destruction, the Word of God for our own agenda and the greatest one of all the Gospel is nowhere.

It is time we pull our heads out of the sand of the physical battleground and get our hearts into the spiritual realm. We need to pray, and I don’t mean simply for protection and safety. We need to pray for boldness to confront our enemies with truth. We need to hold fast to our faith knowing that whatever comes our way we have the glory of God to look forward to. We honestly need to open our Bibles and see the God of the Bible and obey His commands and stand on His promises and not some short tweet or Facebook share and be blessed tidbit of misused scripture. 

Lastly we need to be about the Gospel. We call ourselves a “Christian” nation then we need to prove it by being about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is how we fight and win the war we are in. Share the Gospel and live the Gospel. We must stop looking to destroy those that hate us and seek to rescue them from the wrath of God with the Gospel. After all Jesus came to seek and save the lost, Jew and Gentile.


So my encouragement and challenge is to get off the couch or porch, turn off the social media, stop ranting and go to those around you and give them Jesus. Just give them the Gospel, that which the gates of hell will not overcome. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Giving Thanks to The Father

I opened the church at around 6am as I do every Sunday morning. I spend my time unlocking doors and turning the AC on and other things to have the building ready for when everyone arrives. I am usually alone in this until around 8am. However this morning just after 7am I heard the front door open and my son Garrett walks in. This is odd for him because he rarely gets out of bed that early. He walks up and gives me a hug and tells me "Happy Father's Day dad." I then ask why he is up so early and he informs me that he is headed to Dallas to lead worship at another church.......on father's Day. I tell him to be careful and have a good time and I watch him walk out the door and drive off.

As He drove away my heart swelled and I just realized I had received a wonderful Father's Day gift not only from my son but from my Heavenly Father. Most dads would be upset that their child was choosing to spend the day apart from them on this day. After all it is Father's Day right? Not me. I was over joyed. 

This was a wonderful choice my son has made and I owe it all to my Heavenly Father. See my son had chosen to serve our Heavenly Father on this day over me and I am so thankful. My son sees the importance of serving The Lord over man and he knows that I love him dearly however he also knows that it is only a fraction of the Love God has for Him. For a dad that is what I want my kids to know. I do want them to know that I love them but I want them to know that The Lord loves them immeasurably more. 

I also want my children to know the value in serving their Heavenly Father as well. As dads we should desire this for our children. It shows our care for our kids when we desire for them to serve in worshiping The Lord. This is the greatest thing we could desire for our children that they know, love and serve The Lord. And this is a gift from our Heavenly Father. He has made Himself known to my children. He has shown them their sinful nature but also shown them His redemption and glory through Jesus. Thank you Father for this great gift on this day.

As my son drove away I could not help but think of the words in 1 John 4 "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." My heart is overjoyed today. 

Happy Father's Day. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Something to Remember When Defending Your Christian Faith

   As believers in Christ Jesus as our Savior we are called to share our faith with others. We are not to be ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes as the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1. However, how we treat those that do not agree with us says a lot about how we view our own position and how much we value the grace and mercy of God. 

   Being in the south and in the preverbal center of the buckle of the Bible belt we are proud Americans and more proud Christians. We will defend our guns, our flag, our children and our freedom ferociously and if anyone says or does the slightest thing to encroach upon those sacred values, we bare our teeth and are ready to strike back with ten times the force. And maybe rightly so. I do agree that there are many things in this world that are well worth entering the octagon and fighting MMA style for but our Faith is one I believe we should handle differently. I am not saying that we should not defend our faith but what I am saying is we need to go about it the right way with the right understanding and in a way that is most advantageous and honoring to God. To do so there are a couple of things we need to remember when defending our faith. 

1. Don't get angry. I see on social media all the time where a "Christian" posts something about daring other "Christians" to post pictures of burning a Koran or killing Muslims or hate talk about atheists. Many "Christians turn to anger when there is the slightest talk infringing upon Christianity. The result  that I see is name calling and demeaning of the one disagreeing. That is not the way to handle things and to my knowledge has never made a non-believer come to faith or even begin to understand the Gospel. What it does is confirm the non-believers convictions that Christians are foolish and arrogant.

   I don't understand why "christians" get so angry when our faith is disagreed with or when we are attacked because of what we believe. It only takes a little reading of the Bible that says that there are those that will disagree. Jesus tells us in Luke 6 that we are to rejoice when people hate us or revile us on account of our faith. He says again in Mark 13 that we will be hated for His name sake. But never once does the Bible tell us to respond in anger. In fact the Bible encourages us to respond in compassion towards the unbeliever. Jesus tells us over and over to love our enemies and those who persecute us. This is a difficult thing to do because so much of our flesh wants to respond in anger when we feel attacked because of our faith.  

   I am reminded of Romans 5:10 that says For while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.  Let that verse sink in. What Paul is saying is we too were enemies or hostile against faith and Christianity and God would be just to respond in anger because of our rebellion, but He doesn't. Instead He responds in great compassion. So much so that He willingly laid down His life so that you might be saved from your rebellion. See you, oh believer, were no different than that one that confronts you and disagrees with you. How you respond, in either anger or compassion, says a lot about how much you value who you are now from what you were and what Christ has done for you.

2. We must remember that we save no one. I firmly believe, and scripture supports that God is sovereign in all things, including salvation. This is clear in John 6:44 that says No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws Him. It is God who opens eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to receive  the truth of the Gospel. We are just called to share it and share it relentlessly. We are often frustrated and angered when people do not see the truth of the Gospel. They are still blinded by the god of this world and it is the God of all things that enables them and us to see. But He does this through believers sharing the Gospel. I tell people all the time that the Christian duty is to continue the unfinished work of Jesus by proclaiming the finished work of Jesus on the Cross. In other words we are to be the mouthpiece of the Gospel and trust in the Holy Spirit to convict, cut to the heart and bring about true belief. Salvation is not our job. It is God's job. Ours is to proclaim what God has done. This takes time and understanding and patience. We are called to make disciples, not converts. Disciple making takes time and commitment. It takes effort to listen and understand and share with others. It takes grace on your part and knowing that God is working in and through you. 

   So what should we do? How should we respond? We are to respond the same way Christ does. With compassion and not anger. With love not violence. With humility and not prideful rebellion. Be firm in your faith but also understanding. Not compromising the truth of the Gospel but open to dialogue. And pray. Pray hard that you would be gracefully firm and pray that their eyes would be opened to see, ears hear and hearts cut with the truth of the Gospel. Remember you were once in their same shoes, hostile toward God but yet He saved even you. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Consecration

Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow The Lord will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5

Easter is just a few days away and is arguably the most prominent Christian day of the year. A day of rejoicing, of reassurance of hope and celebration that we worship a living God. A day that we celebrate the very foundation of our faith and that is that Jesus, The Son of God, took upon Himself the wrath of God for sin, which is death due every saint and He put that death to death forever that we may never taste one drop. A day that we celebrate the Good News that He is Risen! This news, The Gospel, has the power to set people free from the bondage of sin. This Gospel does not make bad people good but make dead men alive. The Gospel is not just good news for the lost to be found but is certainly good news for the believer to live a life worthy of being set free and made alive. But a question looms as we approach Easter. Are you ready? Are you prepared for Easter?

All throughout the Old Testament we see a repetitive command for God’s people in preparation to receive from The Lord. Consecrate yourselves! Prior to the people receiving the Ten Commandments in exodus God ordered that they “Consecrate themselves”. In Joshua as the Israelites prepare to cross the Jordan to take possession of the Promised Land God commanded that they wash and consecrate themselves. These are just a few of the many times that God commanded that His people consecrate themselves prior to Him doing something for or through them.

So what does it mean to consecrate? Simply put it means the setting apart of people, things, times or places as sacred for God to use. To consecrate means to separate yourself from the things that would make you unclean or contaminate your relationship with God. As believers we constantly ask and plead with God to work in our lives and lead and guide and direct us in the path that is not only pleasing to God but also good for us. But so often we do not prepare ourselves for this. We expect God to work yet we are not prepared possibly miss the blessing. So as we approach Easter and are in the midst of Holy Week may we Consecrate Ourselves in preparation for experiencing the wonders of God. Here are a few ways we can do this.

Read! Read the story of the Gospel. Read with the family the crucifixion and death of Jesus and how he willingly went to the Cross on our behalf. Read how he died and was placed in the tomb and rose on the third day. There is no substitute for reading in the Word of God how Jesus was obedient to the point of death on a Cross and overcame for the sake of the elect. For whatever is written in the former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

Pray! Especially this week pray that God would open eyes to see and ears to hear the Gospel for the first time of people and that he would save them. Also pray that as you read and worship that the Holy Spirit would allow you to experience the Gospel in a new way and that the love of Christ would grow richer in you. Pray that the Spirit would stir your affections for Jesus even more and equip you to be who God has called you to be. Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, Ephesians 6:18

Fast! Take time this week to fast in some way. This is a very biblical way to consecrate yourself. When we fast it is a time of setting something aside in order to focus on a deeper relationship with The Lord. Fasting can be from many things such as food, television, media, even sleep. Take time this week to skip a meal and read and pray and meditate on God’s Word. Turn the television off and read and pray and fellowship with the family about the Gospel. Turn off the media that distracts you and robs you of time in prayer and the Word and enjoy just being with The Lord. So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty, Ezra 8:23

Come with eager expectation! Come expecting to receive from The Lord His blessings. We often don’t do this. We should come to Him with humble and honest hearts desiring to experience His grace and mercy in a new light. Expect God to reveal to you something new about His character and His love for you. Commit your way to The Lord; trust in Him and He will act. Psalm 37:5

 As Easter quickly approaches I pray that we are prepared and eagerly await God to move in a mighty way. Consecrate us Lord and may we find more joy in Your salvation!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pastor Appreciation

October is Pastor Appreciation Month and I am not sure where that came from but it is not a bad idea to be reminded that we should be grateful for those “keeping watch over our souls” as it says in Hebrews 13:17. 

As a custom many people give gifts to their pastors to show their appreciation and some are good gifts and some are well, ok I guess. Most of us have plenty of Bibles. Coffee mugs and gift cards and plaques and cards are all good things to show your pastor that you care but are they the best gift you can give your pastor? Being a Pastor myself I began to think of truly great ways to show a pastor how much he is appreciated for his laboring. Here are, in no particular order, four easy but really meaningful ways someone can show a Pastor that he is loved and appreciated.

1. Pray for your pastor. This is probably the most important one on the list. Your Pastor NEEDS your prayers. Many people have no idea the stress that pastors endure. From preaching prep to counseling to dealing with church issues, it is stressful. Your Pastor needs you to go to the Throne of God on his behalf and plead with God to strengthen and uphold him as he leads you. Pray also for his family. Your pastor’s family also needs your prayers because they too deal with the stresses of his role. And let him know that you are praying for him. This is great encouragement. I have men in my church that constantly let me know that they are praying for me. What a blessing. 2 Cor. 1:11

2. Tell him thank you. Most pastors work extremely hard to prepare sermons each week. They are also pretty much on call 24-7 to go to the hospital when you are sick or answer that phone call late at night. Many that I know also do things that others never know about, like emptying the trash that was forgotten or changing the bulb that was out or unlocking and ensuring that the church is comfortable for everyone’s worship. Although your pastor would probably never ask for it, it is encouraging to hear a thank you. This goes a long way of lifting the spirits of a pastor.  1 Cor. 1:4-9

3. Give feedback. Believe it or not most pastors love to have some feedback from members. Sometimes we wonder if people are really listening because we hear little from members about what we teach or preach about. Now we also know that we are not that great expositors of the Word where all of our listeners questions are answered before they are asked so ask questions. Most true loving pastors love to hear from members about what they teach and preach on. It shows a true interest in the Word of God and the direction of the church. We are not perfect and we do make mistakes and it is the church that is to hold us accountable that we preach and teach correctly. If you have questions, email or call. We don’t mind. Psalm 1:1-2

4. Tell others about what God is doing in and through your church. What pastors love most is when the members of their church get involved in making Jesus famous. Nothing is more encouraging to pastors like seeing the fruit of their teaching and leading through members. We love partners in the Gospel and to partner with us is to just talk about not what your pastor is doing but what God has, is and will do in and through your church. Eph. 4:11-12


Material gifts are great and pastors love them but I bet your pastor would really cherish one of the four mentioned things or something very similar as well. And this just doesn’t have to be in October.