Monday, October 11, 2010

A Belief Despite Doubt (Praising the one we have not seen...)

Does anyone like Zombie movies?  I do.  There is nothing like seeing a zombie movie.  Especially the really cheesy ones.  They are just so…lame!  I mean you don’t go for the plot, you go to have a good time and laugh at the campy-ness of it.

So why do I bring up Zombie movies?  Well, what makes a Zombie a Zombie?  This is something that you need to know in the instance of a Zombie Apocalypse.  To be a zombie means that you were bitten or that you were dead.  Now, I’m not saying that Jesus was a zombie, but what I am wanting to share is an interaction with a disciple after Jesus’ resurrection.   Something that just doesn’t happen.

(John 20:24-29 NIV)  Now Thomas (called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. {25} So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." {26} A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" {27} Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." {28} Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" {29} Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

There are those who are like Thomas.  They seek proof.  Thomas is no different.  He loved Jesus.  He sought after Jesus.  He was with the remnant.  Just like them:

Trying to figure out:

What…

Has…

Just….

Happened…

There were stories about people seeing Jesus.  He had heard what John had said, what Peter and the Mary’s had said.  He had heard the accounts of others who had met and walked with Jesus.  Yet he had missed these opportunities.

He sought proof.

Proof that this was real.

Proof that this was genuine.

Proof that would validate him.  That the commitment he made was worth it. 

Max Lucado, in No Wonder They Call Him The Savior, says the following:

On the one hand, the idea of a resurrected Jesus was too farfetched for dogmatic Thomas.  His limited creativity left little room for magic or razzle dazzle.  Besides, he wasn’t about to set himself up to be disappointed again.  One disappointment was enough, thank you.  Yet, on the other hand, his loyalty made him yearn to believe.  AS long as there was the slimmest thread of hope, he wanted to be counted in.[1]

The same proof that John the Baptist sought.  Matthew 11:1-6 (NIV)
(11:1)  After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. (2)  When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples (3)  to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (4)  Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: (5)  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. (6)  Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
John needed to know that what he was experiencing was true.  That this is genuine and Christ gives him validity of proof.

They both needed validity in what they were experiencing.   When Jesus says to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe.” He is not condemning him or reprimanding him. 

Jesus is giving him proof.  Proof that this is genuine.  Thomas doesn’t just believe based upon what others said.  He bases it on his own experience.  Thomas sought to know that the stories were true The fact that he saw Jesus himself.  So many times we base decisions on what other people tell us to do.

When Jesus says “Blessed are those who believe and have not seen.” It is like he is saying it is harder for those who come later, because they will not have the physical proof.  Their experience will have to come from faith.

So what is the point of this?  Why does this matter?  Maybe for you, you are seeking.  You have been looking for what is real.  A guy by the name of Rob Bell, who is pastor of Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He said this in a lecture:

“What you seek you will find.”[2]

Maybe you are here this morning and you are so like Thomas, you want to believe, but you want to be sure.  You doubt because you don’t want to be let down, the way that everything and everyone has let you down.  So you seek doubt to “protect” you from disappointment.   To you, Jesus is saying, stop doubting and believe.

Thomas did.  Enough so that he couldn’t contain it.  Foxes Book of Martyrs has it like this:
Thomas Called Didymus, preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.[3]



[1] Lucado, Max.  No Wonder They Call Him the Savior.  pg. 99
[2] “Everything is Spiritual” DVD
[3] PocketBible for Windows, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Power of Visions


What is the point of a vision?  You hear a lot about vision, whether it is the President talking about his or her vision for the future to a business man or woman talking about what they want their company to do in the next fiscal year.

But what does it mean to have a vision and what do you do with it?  I hear preachers on TV give a vision for their ministry, followed by a request for money to “sow a seed” for the kingdom to complete this vision.  I’m not trying to question their motives, but I’m often wondering is that what it means to have a vision?

So what is a vision?   And how much does God place on visions and to what extent does he use visions?  I have come to realize several things.  One being that Visions are a call to action for a change in direction and attitude.  A second is that visions are

Visions are a call to action for a change in direction and attitude.

Listen to the story
Matthew 1:18-20 (NIV)
[18]  This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. [19]  Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
[20]  But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Here we have Joseph who was about to divorce Mary as it was allowed to him where it says in Deuteronomy 24:1 about when a man can divorce his wife for infidelity.  He didn’t get what was happening because, well probably because he is a man and most men don’t listen-at least that is what I’ve heard.  (Grin) But that is for a discussion later on.

God informs him in a dream (visions in the OT and NT are often through the appearance dreams) that this is a good thing and to not go through with his plans.  Joseph listens, marries Mary and goes to Bethlehem (which becomes a fulfillment of prophesy for it is there that Christ is born).

Acts 10:9-22 says this:

Acts 10:9-22 (TNIV)  (9)  About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. (10)  He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. (11)  He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. (12)  It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. (13)  Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” (14)  “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” (15)  The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (16)  This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. (17)  While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon's house was and stopped at the gate. (18)  They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. (19)  While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. (20)  So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” (21)  Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?” (22)  The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.”
Peter has this vision of all types of animals to eat and he refused because they were considered unclean according to the law.  God tells him that it is okay for him to eat of it.  God was using this sheet to inform Peter that it is no longer just the people of Israel that God cared about-it was everybody.  Peter, recognizing this as a God thing, goes and talks with Cornelius and builds a relationship that ends up for Cornelius a deeper and closer walk with God.
What the lasting result is with Peter is that he begins to understand that God is for all people.  To the point where he went to Rome and ministered there to the point of death. 
Listen to what Foxe’s Book of Martyrs says about Peter:
IX. Peter Among many other saints, the blessed apostle Peter was condemned to death, and crucified, as some do write, at Rome; albeit some others, and not without cause, do doubt thereof. Hegesippus saith that Nero sought matter against Peter to put him to death; which, when the people perceived, they entreated Peter with much ado that he would fly the city. Peter, through their importunity at length persuaded, prepared himself to avoid. But, coming to the gate, he saw the Lord Christ come to meet him, to whom he, worshipping, said, "Lord, whither dost Thou go?" To whom He answered and said, "I am come again to be crucified." By this, Peter, perceiving his suffering to be understood, returned into the city. Jerome saith that he was crucified, his head being down and his feet upward, himself so requiring, because he was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the Lord was.
God uses dreams and visions sometimes to get our attention, to cause us to change direction, and to cause us to change our attitudes.  Not only does God gives us a vision when He wants change, he also gives us a vision of what is to come.
God Gives Us A Vision of What is to Come
The job of the prophets, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, etc.  was to relay the vision that God had for what was to come for the people of Israel and the world.  They were the mouthpiece of God.
Then say: The Prophets were to tell the people of Israel three basic things:
1.      You have forgotten your fist love.
2.      You are being punished
3.      There is coming a day of hope.
You can almost boil the message of the prophets into those three things.  What is interesting is that a lot of them would receive this message in a dream or vision, and it would always be about what is to come.
For instance, turn to Zechariah 9:9
Zechariah 9:9 (TNIV) (9)Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah sees this vision of someone coming.  Riding on a donkey, Jerusalem’s King.  Who is that?  Jesus.  This is a vision about the future.

It almost begs the question, why would God do that?  Why would he want to give us a vision of what is to come?

Well let’s look at Proverbs for an answer:
Proverbs 29:18 (NIV)
[18]  Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.

The reason is that when there is no vision, the people fail.  When there is nothing to hope in, there is no point of change.

Without vision-
We
Are
Blind.
Have you ever walked around in the dark?  What does it feel like?
Talk about Ethan and the dark.  He doesn’t like it.  If he can’t turn on the light somewhere he will NOT go in.

We don’t like not being able to see.  It is confusing and often times it leads to disasterous results. 

Now think about that on a spiritual or a faith level.  If we have no sense of guidance in from God.  No sense of vision-it is confusing and it leads to failure.  But what causes this to happen?

Remember the last part of the proverb.  It says, “…but blessed is he who keeps the law.”
If you look at that and you look at the examples we’ve talked about tonight, the people received the vision based upon their devotion and their dependence on God.

So what does this mean for you?   What is the Gospel for you?

Maybe you are here today, and God has given you a vision to help the homeless or the less fortunate in your community, but you have been fighting it because you have no idea where to begin.  Ask God where to go.  It can be something as simple as a canned food drive at your church or a clothing sale in which the proceeds are donated to a local charity.  It can be something as easy as going to the Compassion Center and making a food plate, or simply going and talking to them, sharing a meal with them.

Students, maybe you have a vision to bring the community together for Christ.  Maybe God ahs been giving you a vision to witness to your friends who so desparately need for someone to be the prescence of Christ in their lives.  They seen the bad side of religion, but they have not seen the sweet face of Jesus.  One excuse is always I don’t know how.  This is what you can do:  Bring your Bible to school you want to get a conversation going, that is a good way to start.   When I was in high school, I was challenged to bring my Bible to school because there was no law saying that I could not.  So I did.  Immediately, I was asked why and it opened up a door of conversation about my faith.  Another excuse is I’m not smart enough.  Or another excuse is they know me to well.   To that I say, you have a story, and it is yours.  People just want to know what makes your life different compared to theirs.  They are dying to know.  You don’t have to know everything or be a preacher.  You just have to be willing.

This is the Gospel for you today.  I believe it is this-that as you seek God in your days, God will give you the vision that He has for you.  That may mean he shows you a vision that will require you to change direction or to change an attitude as He leads you to a new “day.”  However, God does not do anything that comes back null and void.  The amazing thing about following God’s vision is that Godly change happens when God’s people follow God’s vision.  Lives are impacted in a way that impacts the Kingdom.  And this is what he asks:  All He asks for you is to be obedient to the vision He has given you.

This is the Word of the Lord.

Social Justice Revolution


One of the things that we are constantly hearing about is change.  We always hear about change.  We hear about Political Change, Health Change, Technology Change, etc.  All types of change.  All claiming that the change they have is the answer to what we need.  That change is real change.  Pure change.  Now what they offering is not necessarily bad, but is it what really matters? 

The sixties were a time of great change.  A lot of people were tired of how things were, everyone was wanting change.  A revolution of change.  Have  you ever heard of the song Revolution by the Beatles?  The song has appeared on several of the Beatles albums.  Initially it was on the White Album and then on the B-side of the Hey Jude Album.  Here are some of the lyrics:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out
Don't you know it's gonna be all right
all right, all right
[1]

Here are some things that I would like to share with you.
Arkansas unfortunately falls into the top ten states with the highest poverty rates. It is currently ranked at the 8th highest poverty rate in the United States, with a poverty rate of 15.6%.
This is just slightly better than the poverty rate of Alabama, and just slightly higher than the poverty rates of Tennessee and South Carolina.

Where the Worst Poverty in Arkansas Occurs

The most critical levels of poverty in Arkansas occur mainly along the southeast border on the bank of the Mississippi River (see map below article).
Nine of the 13 major cities in Arkansas also have a poverty rate above the state average, showing the poverty is in both urban and more rural regions of Arkansas.
Two of those nine cities experience critical levels of poverty, meaning that the poverty rate is at least 50% above the state average. These two cities are Pine Bluff with a poverty rate of 25.5% and West Memphis with a poverty rate of 28.3%.[2]
Here are some stats for the criminal population in Arkansas:
In the year ending June 30, 2004, 13 states reported an increase of at least 5 percent, led by Minnesota (13.2 percent), Montana (10.5 percent), and Arkansas (8.9 percent). Twelve states reported decreases in the number of prisoners, including Alabama (6.7 percent), Connecticut (2.5 percent) and Ohio (2.3 percent).[3]

The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) reports the following:
The data for 2008 are in and the numbers tell a troubling story: 44 percent of American children grow up in families that face serious struggles to make ends meet. Parental employment, parental education, family structure and other variables each play an important role in predicting the likelihood that a child will endure economic hardship. We break down the facts and figures into five age groups of children: Under Age 3, Under Age 6, Ages 6 to 11, Ages 12 to 17, and Children Under 18.[4]
Here are some more stats:
·         Arkansas' childhood poverty rate is 24.3% compared to the national average of 18.3%. - ACS Survey
·         Over 345,000 of our elderly citizens lives below the poverty line and has to choose between food and medicine. - ACS Survey
·         Arkansas is ranked in the top 8 of most food insecure states.
·         The regions in our state with the greatest prosperity will experience the greatest increase in poverty by 2010.[5]
This morning I would like to invite you to the Gospel of Matthew, and we will be looking at Matthew 25:31-46
(31)  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. (32)  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (33)  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. (34)  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. (35)  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, (36)  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
(37)  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? (38)  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? (39)  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
(40)  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (41)  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (42)  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, (43)  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ (44)  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
(45)  “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (46)  “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Wow.   Has anyone ever heard of the saying, "You're so earthly minded that you are no heavenly good?"  What does that mean?  When someone is saying it to someone else, it means that they are so caught up in the ways of this world.  They are consumed by how the world thinks, and works, that they don't focus on the prize ahead.  They don't look to the things of God.   The things that are important.


This was a big problem with the religious establishment in the time of Christ.  The leaders only cared about themselves.  They wouldn’t say it out loud, they would demonstrate it with their actions.  Standing on street corners saying how much better they are than someone else.  They would not associate with the unclean because it was the “law.”  They expected people to clean up before they could be involved with them. 
Christians are so guilty of this.  There are ministers out there who have multi-million dollar houses because they only care about you if you give lots of money to them.  Some of the most selfish people I have come into contact are church people.  Fused with change for themselves. 
It was Gandhi who said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."[6]  Desmond Tutu said, “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”[7]  I know people who have left the church because they have been so burned.   They look at church people as only caring about themselves and nothing else. 
The church is not only looked at as self gratifying, they are looked at as hateful people.  As a group of people who will only accept someone if they believe exactly like we do, and only as we do.  Judgmental hate mongers.  Unforgiving. 
And while that happens,
The
World
Dies
When we are consumed with our self, we are the ones who don’t care about those around us.  We are the goats.  When we care more about religion, we are the goats.  I think that what Christ is saying to us today, is that we need to focus less on ourselves and more on others.  Remember the poverty rates that I just shared with you?  The hunger rates?
Brenan Manning once said that the leading cause of Chrisitianity is Christians.  Those who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door with their lifestyles.  It is time for that to end.   It is time that we as follower’s of Christ stop being goats and start being the sheep that we are called to be.  
You want a revolution?  Serve those who no one cares about.  Love those who are unloved.  Care for the sick.  You want revolution?  Care for those in prison, or sick, or outcasted.
Remember what Christ said about the least of these?  When we care for others, we see God at work in our lives.  It is when we do that, that we truly show how much we love God.  When we do that, we move from a cold religion to a relationship.
You maybe here this morning and have no idea what to do.  You know that God is calling you to help those who cannot help themselves.  It can be something as simple as helping a family that you know in need.  Is there a family that the church knows in need? 
Maybe you know that God is calling you to be involved with one of CBFs many mission organizations.  Maybe you have been putting it off until now.  Today is the day.  Listen to this story from the All Church Challenge web site: 
When I met Catherine and Mollie at Student.Go orientation they told us more information than I could ever remember in a very short amount of time because we didn’t have much time together and they wanted to get us ready for what we were going to be doing this summer. One thing that stuck out to me was something they described as a Blessings Ministry that would go on during the All Church Challenge weeks. They said that a group of people would go to different places in the community to give back such as the nursing home to visit, homeless shelter, food pantry, or the battered women’s shelter. I was imminently interested and excited to be involved in that particular part of the All Church Challenge because I enjoy doing those kinds of things and I thought that doing it in a community such as Helena, Arkansas would be different than the other experiences I have had. The day I got to Helena on the way home from the airport Mollie told me that she and Catherine had talked and they wanted to try to start getting a group of youth together once a week to go to different places in the community to serve and bless individuals instead of just during the All Church Challenge. I was so excited and I thought it was a great idea. I got a whole list of people and places in the community that needed and deserved blessings and I started making calls. I was pleasantly surprised by how interested and eager for us to come most of the people I talked to were. We decided to go on Mondays and that same day I got the next two Mondays scheduled at different places in the community. Monday morning I went to several houses to pick up youth that were from Helena and West Helena that were volunteering their time to go to Grace Food Pantry to help unload a giant eighteen wheeler full of food in extremely hot weather.  We got there and things were hectic. I had never in my entire life seen that much food in one place. It was our first time being there so we were not sure where we could help the most. After about ten minutes of standing there in shock we all realized we just needed to start asking who needed help and start moving the food wherever we were told to move it. It was incredibly hot but everyone jumped right in and was willing to do whatever they were asked. I was surprised at how quickly the unbelievable amount of food disappeared. All of it either got loaded into cars to take to other, smaller food pantries or it got organized in the right places in the Grace Food Pantry. Doing community service projects such as this always leaves you feeling good but when I left that day the only thing I could think about was how helpful the youth that came were and how many of them that actually showed up. Most of the youth that were with us on Monday were people I had met that day for the first time therefore I don’t know anything about their past, their family, or their friends but what I do know is they were some of the most caring, respectful, enthusiastic people I have ever met and I cannot wait to work with them again. When I was 16 or 17 and in high school I can’t honestly say that I would have woken up early on a Monday morning to go unload a giant eighteen wheeler truck full of food in the blazing hot sun just to volunteer and that makes me admire the youth more than they will probably ever know. I hope they realize the difference they made on Monday morning and the difference they can continue to make in this community, this state, this country and maybe even one day the world. Being in Helena Arkansas and working with all the wonderful people in the community has already been a treat and a wonderful experience. I know this is going to be a summer I’ll never forget and I’ve only been here a little over a week. We are going to the Angel’s of Grace Battered Women’s shelter Monday and I can’t wait to see the youth that live in this community going out of their way to give back[8].
When we do what God calls us to do, we are changing the world.  We are bringing real revolution.  We are bringing real change, change that is lasting.  Change that is tangible.  Imagine what this world will be when we all do that…


[1] “Revolution” By Paul McCartney and John Lennon
[2] David Boston, Stats taken from US Census.
[3] Charles Montaldo, About.com
[4] NCCP
[5] Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, stats taken from the US Census.
[6] Gandhi, Famouse Quotes.com
[7] Quoted by Chris Ellis
[8] http://acc2010.wordpress.com/acc-stories/

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

God's Call On My Life


I went to school to become a Youth Minister.  Graduated in 5 years from Ouachita Baptist with a degree in Biblical Studies.  Through the years of college, I had steadily been involved in various church activities and held all sorts of church titles, thinking that I was building experience.

I leave the church where I was at doing all sorts of things because I moved to Little Rock and married the most beautiful girl in the world.  She was about to take a job at a school and shortly thereafter, I got a job teaching in the same school.  I had thought that God had called me to bi-vocational ministry, because the church where I was at didn’t pay because they couldn’t.  All the while I still felt God calling me to church ministry.   I was gonna have it all.

Shortly after taking my job at the school with my lovely wife, I discover that there is a church opening for a Youth Pastor.  Thinking that this was the hand of God, I immediately threw my name in the ring.   And I got the job!  Things were amazing!  So, I thought.  What followed was a 9 month period of fighting, defending my job, pain, and heartache.  Every two weeks I was defending my job and every other month I was having to deal with issues that were already dealt with in the previous month.  I was lied about, undermined, and literally ambushed.  One time I went to meet a parent and a couple of kids to discuss some of their concerns.  I walked into the room to find that there were about three deacons and 8 parents with the entire youth all looking at me, voicing their “concerns.”  I felt like I was about to be shot.   Then the church ran into some financial problems and stated that me, and the children’s minister could no longer be paid.  The constant lack of leadership and in-fighting in the church which seemed to be directed constantly at me began to take its toll, and in June of that year, I left the church.  Crushed, feeling that God is not calling me to ministry in a traditional church.

A year or so later, I become Chapel Pastor at my school.  Finally, I thought, this is what God wanted me to do.  To be a non-traditional pastor, and for 3 years, I was doing what I felt God calling me to do.  This was the beginning of new things.  But, after 3 years, it was time for me to step down.  And it seemed that God was silent.  I would pray for what to do next, and he would not respond.   But then he started guiding me to something that I felt He was not calling me to do.  Over this past year, I have gotten to do pulpit supply (fill in for a vacant preacher) and speak at a revival.  I’ve gotten to be involved in some amazing ministries (creating a CBF of Arkansas group page making connections), as well as give help to a new pastor, and wanting to work with him to help grow his church.  But through it all, God has shown me that He is directing me back to pastoral ministry. 

And this is where it gets kind of frustrating.  I don’t really know where to begin.  I’m looking at schools to pursue graduate work, but I don’t know where to connect to get my name out there to churches.  At times I feel that God is holding back and I feel that I’m ready.  But I don’t want to rush it, but I want to know!   So this is where I’m at-God calling me to be a pastor but not knowing where to go or what to do.

Have you ever felt God call you to do something specific, and you’re not sure where to begin?  Do you ever get frustrated with God?  Impatient?   If you don’t mind, leave a comment and let me know whether I’m crazy, or that I’m not the only one who feels this way sometimes.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Current reads

Hey everyone, among the many thoughts, here are the books that I am currently reading:

  1. Jesus Wants to Save Christians
  2. They Like Jesus But Not the Church
  3. Transforming the Church in Rural America
  4. After You Believe
  5. Everything Must Change
Will post reviews as soon as possible.

Here is your question of the day:

What are you reading?

Oh yeah, one more thing:

Happy Mother's Day

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jennifer Knapp comes out to a deeper discussion hopefully.

One of my favorite artists as a twenty year old was Jennifer Knapp. I loved her deep, thought provoking lyrics and her amazing guitar ability. In the early 2000s she announced that she was leaving the music biz for awhile. That is when the rumors came out about her being gay. Yet, no statement came out from her about it. Then she announced that she was writing music again.

I was saddened when I read the Christianity Today interview a couple of weeks ago, and revealed that she was gay. I recently read the Relevant Magazine post (which you can read by clicking on the title of my blog post). A lot of comments were that she said a lot of nothing. That she avoided the questions and she didn't go into too much depth about her beliefs and what made her choose this life.

In regards to the "saying nothing by saying a lot" mentality that a lot of the posts point to is a judgment that came too quick. Josh (who conducted the interview) did a great job on the interview, and that Jennifer is sort of coming at this as something she has accepted in her life, but is still trying to figure out what to do next.

Even though I still believe that Homosexuality is a sin, I am reminded of my own sins. Just like I believe lying is a sin or stealing or neglecting someone who is not like you or me is a sin. There are no categories of sin, which one is worse than the other. As a follower of Christ, it is not my place to judge, only to guide and direct them to the Savior, and then to walking beside them every step of the way. To love those like Christ loves us is what we are commanded to do (for those who are followers of Christ) as brothers and sisters. No matter what their station in life may be. Even if they live a lifestyle that is contrary to what I believe.

My prayer is that we who are Christians will take this opportunity and be an encouragement to Jennifer and to pray for her in her seeking the truth. To lift her up in prayer, is that what we are all called to do for each other?

I would love for this discussion to continue, so what do you think about this issue? Do you struggle with it being a sin? How do you attempt to understand it? How do you love the sinner and not the sin? Can you do that?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Suffering

This is a message from where I had spent sometime preaching at.


What would life be like if we never had to deal with any hardships? You ever watched Full House? What about Family Matters? During the 80s and 90s, sitcoms followed the following plot line. A character would face a difficult issue, but by the end of the show, it is all worked out and wasn't really that big deal to begin with. Usually a misunderstanding, that was nice and neatly tied up at the end.

What if the life would be like normal, except everything would work out in the end. Of course life is not like that. Because of the fall of man, we have a life that is full of suffering.

Listen to what Paul says in Romans 5:
Rom 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Rom 5:2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Rom 5:3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; Rom 5:4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. Rom 5:5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (NIV)

Rejoice in our suffering. Perseverance. Character. Hope. Rejoice in our sufferings? Suffering produces perseverance? Perseverance leads to character? And out of all this-we get hope? What does this have to do with the cross?

Paul starts out saying that we have been justified through faith. In other words, we are declared innocent of the sin in us as a result in our faith in God through Jesus Christ. So when Paul says that we can rejoice in our suffering, he is not saying that suffering does not exists. He is not saying that our problems will fade away or that they will simply cease to exist.

So many times, whether through bad theology or through bad teaching people get the suspicion that once you become a believer, everything is going to be okay. There are preachers out there who thrive on a "Health and Wealth Gospel" except they call it living in the abundance and fullness of God's blessing. If you believe hard enough for something to happen that it will. If you have faith in God, you will not suffer. Where do we get that? Where in the Bible does it say that when we become a follower of the Way, that everything will be all peachy keen great? If that is true, then maybe we are all just screwed up. And maybe that is where the sermon should end…

But I don’t think so. I don’t buy into that, and this is why:

Mat 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.(NIV)

Mark 13:13 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.(NIV)

Luke 6:22 Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.(NIV)

Luke 6:27 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, Luke 6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.(NIV)

What are these passages about? They are about suffering. They are about going through hard times. Think about it. Nowhere in what we just read, does Jesus say everything will work out. He doesn't say to live like you want while you follow me. He doesn't say that men will love you because of Jesus. Nor does he say that you will not have enemies. NO! We are going to know suffering. To carry your cross isn't some easy burden because what Jesus is referring to inn Matthew 16:24 is echoed in Romans when Paul says to offer your body as a living sacrifice.

Being a believer means that you are going to suffer. That you will suffer. You will be hated, despised, rejected, abused, shunned, made fun of, etc. Jesus doesn't promise a rainbow in life-He promises that he will see us through the storms of life. In Romans 5:1-5, Paul is saying that even in the midst of the trials that we go through we can have peace and rejoice inspite it. This is reflected in the song "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus."
Let's go back to the chorus of that song....
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace. (
Helen H. Lemmel)
When we "look" with our lives upon Jesus-depending on him, totally focused on him for everything. Our sufferings don't look the same. We see things differently. They don't go away necessarily, but we are able to go through them, and as we do-they grow dim for we are allowing Jesus to guide us through them.

Can he do it? Yes, and this is why:
Rom 5:6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Rom 5:7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Rom 5:9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! Rom 5:10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Rom 5:11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.(NIV)

If you believe that Christ can save, then why not believe that he has the power to see you through. I want to invite you, to encourage you to take this in and put it in the front of your mind this week. How can you rejoice in your suffering and it lead to perseverance, character, and then hope? What is one tangible way you can do that to your enemies? Friends? How can you reflect the words of Paul in your life?

All it takes is for you to turn your eyes and look full in his face. Now may you be blessed to experience suffering that enables you to have hope.

So what do you think?