Monthly Archives: August 2013

ON VACATION

This may not be an actual picture of what I am doing right now, but hopefully it captures the spirit of my activities this week!

THANK YOU for reading and I will be here with a new blog on Monday.

ORDINARY CHRISTIANITY

The reality that all Christians should see themselves as disciples is generally accepted.  Hopefully anyone within Christianity who dismisses this is seen as being biblically out of touch.

Unfortunately, Christians in general don’t recognize that all true disciples of Christ should see themselves as “disciple-makers”. If we are not seeking to be disciple-makers, we are not practicing biblical discipleship. If you don’t agree, then read Matthew 28:18-20 below and tell me what part of the Great Commission doesn’t apply to you personally?

 Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

As Erik Raymond describes in this article, “Disciple making is ordinary Christianity”.

What I like about Erik’s article are the many simple examples he gives describing how disciple-making can take place in the midst of ordinary life.

A major focus for our church at this time is to help all of us recognize this basic truth and then take steps to participate in it. I hope it is the heart of your church and … well, your heart too.

IT’S ACTUALLY ALL ABOUT JESUS

By Debbie Huber

Did you ever notice in the checkout line at the supermarket, that just about every magazine has a number in large print on the cover?  “365 Ways to Say I Love You”….”Change Your Husband in 24 Hours”…”9 Get Rich Quick Secrets”…”25 Cute Hair Styles”. 

That is because we like to have quick and easy steps to do or change things. If I do 1, 2, and 3, my marriage will be perfect!

We will often choose to read books or listen to speakers that promise easy change by following certain steps or completing a checklist. Not that there is no benefit in some of those things but as Christians we are missing the point if following rules or steps is our goal.

An article by Jen Smidt on this Resurgence blog, “Being a Wife Is All About Jesus” points us to truths of scripture to show us that “God calls us to be his daughters as the core identity of our womanhood. For some, he will call to become wife in addition, but never in competition, to that identity. Being a godly wife flows from being a committed daughter. “

Wives will often look at I Peter 3:1, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands”, then resign ourselves to make the effort to be obedient to God through submission. We forget to look at the Likewise in that verse!  The Likewise is referring to I Peter 2 where Jesus’ mission, life, and death are discussed to show us that He alone is our means, model, and motivation to be a godly wife.

Through Jesus’ example of willing obedience and suffering, and by the fact that our sin was exchanged for His righteousness, we can reflect His love and selflessness in our marriages.

This comes through God’s grace in our lives and by deeply trusting and striving to know our Savior through His Word.

Jen Smidt summarizes this with the following:  “We try to muster up submission, respect, and help for our men without humbly recognizing this thing called wife is made possible by Jesus alone. A marriage license and a sparkling ring do not automatically transform a woman into a wife who honors God. The grace offered and the righteousness bestowed at the cross is what makes you a godly wife who willingly subjects herself to her husband. Dying to yourself because the Savior died for you is the call for the biblical wife. Your marriage will thrive because of life found in Christ; recognizing your daily need for a Savior and dependent upon his righteousness alone.”

OCEAN CITY BIBLE CONFERENCE

The Christian community in our area has been fortunate over the past few years to have the Ocean City Bible Conference in our backyard, or at least in Ocean City which is close to it.

The conference is held at Ocean City Baptist Church located at 10th and Wesley. Pastor Kevin O’Brien has done an exceptional job in bringing some of the best speakers in the church today to this conference. You can pay to be part of the whole conference schedule or just attend the evening sessions which are free (hopefully participating in the offering).

The Conference runs from Sunday night, September 8th to around noon on Wednesday the 11th. Among the speakers this year are two heavy hitters, Al Mohler and Rick Holland.

You can find our more information and register at the conference website. Hope to see some of you there.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 8.19.13

“Care for each other”                 

1 Timothy 5:1-16

Chapter 5 speaks to the church about how we care for each other  

Guiding principles

Each member of our church is part of our forever family (vs1-2)

This is the perspective we should have toward every church member

There will be tensions among us, but we always remain family

The local church has special responsibilities toward the members who are vulnerable (v3)

Widows had little recourse for survival. Who would help them?

The church is to be family for those without family; no one is meant to be on their own

Family responsibility is important to God: this is repeated three times (vs 4, 8, 16)

We cannot fix family members, but ignoring them is unbiblical

When we live to chase after more, we can begin to resent these responsibilities as unwanted intrusions

The church is not a welfare institution; it’s where the kingdom of Christ reigns (v5)

This means our responsibilities to others must represent that kingdom

If we settle on temporal needs rather than eternal needs, we become just another organization

Responsibilities in the church are reciprocal (vs 11-12)

It appears from the passage that these widows had a ministry role in the church; which is why leaving their role as a widow was a serious issue

Not only did these widows who were “enrolled” serve the church, they had to have served beforehand

The principle we should see is that commitment in the church flows both ways

If we are just a receiver from our church, we are in an unbiblical position

How can we put God’s heart into our lives?

1.  Take a step yourself

If we are thinking “the church” should do something, then recognize you are part of the church

The church includes everyone who is a member of it

Many at Greentree are taking these steps, imagine the impact if we all did!

Our emphasis on small groups is not just a call to attend them, but to embrace the purpose of them

Which attitude is ours: to be pleased or to serve?

If our perspective at church is how it should please us, or how something bothers us, we need a new perspective

We cannot follow Christ, if we don’t bow to serve (John 13:1-14)

2.  Be someone God is using

This is where quality of life is truly found!  

God is ready to use you (it may not be in dramatic ways, but it will be powerful)

People around you need God’s touch through you 

Some of these people are obvious to us, some are a bit hidden, but they are near

So let’s watch out for common obstacles

Too busy to stop and serve people

Too oblivious to notice people in need    

Too self-centered to be motivated

3.  Keep connected

We cannot fulfill God’s heart for each other without being connected

The New Testament is loaded with “one another” statements for the church such as:

“Love one another”, “comfort one another”, “bear with one another”, “encourage one another”, “build one another” and “pray for one another”

These things will not happen if we are not connected

It requires friendship that goes beyond just being friendly

4.  Keep reaching a little further 

If we are to reach people around us:

We need clarity with the gospel

We need the care of the gospel

Just as with care within the church, outreach by the church is something for each of us personally

To be a more evangelistic church, we need to be more evangelistic people

God wants to accomplish all these things through us: are we willing?

Look for marginalized people and pay attention to hurting people

Be a friend, be a listener, be biblical

May we all pray that God will increase our heart for it, and give us eyes to see

JESUS CANCELLED YOUR MOMMY GUILT TRIP

This article “Jesus Cancelled You Mommy Guilt Trip” was written by Gloria Furman and appeared on the Gospel Coalition website.

CONTENTMENT

My favorite puritan is Jeremiah Burroughs.  In his classic book “The Jewel of Christian Contentment“, he offers the following quote:  

“If I should have a (Christian) brother . . whom I saw discontented for the want of a comfort, I would rather pray, ‘Lord, keep this thing from them, till you shall be pleased to humble their hearts for their discontent; let not them have the mercy till they come to be humbled for their discontent over the want of it, for if they have it before that time they will have it without any blessing’”

His words are  challenging to say the least.  In fact you are probably debating whether or not he is being too harsh.  That is because we do not realize how contentment or lack of it, is a reflection on God’s place in our hearts.  This is especially true in our modern culture, where advertising trains us to be discontent with what we have.   To help make this point I offer a story out of the book “Worldliness” by C. J. Mahaney: 

Many years ago a major American company had trouble keeping employees working in their assembly plant in Panama. The laborers lived in a generally agrarian, barter economy, but the company paid them in cash. Since the average employee had more cash after a week’s work than he had ever seen, he would periodically quit working, satisfied with what he had made. What was the solution? Company executives gave all their employees a Sears catalog. No one quit then, because they all wanted the previously undreamed-of things they saw in that book.

So where is your contentment?  Is it in the person of Christ and the wondrously full gospel he has brought to us?  Or are we trying to find contentment in the same means as the world around us? 

Originally posted 2.24.11

WISDOM FOR LIFE

These four verses in Proverbs chapter 3 contain one of the most significant concentrations of practical wisdom ever written.

Read the words slowly. Chew on these thoughts and the implications in them. Consider what it would look like to embrace them wholeheartedly.

 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment to your bones.

                                                Proverbs 3:5-8

GUATEMALA JOURNAL 8.10.13

My past two trips to Guatemala have featured a significant amount of time spent meeting one on one with pastors and ASELSI students. I have enjoyed this relaxed time of conversation and counsel. 

Miguel Angel is a pastor in a nearby town who is full of wisdom and has a ministry of helping other churches develop discipleship programs. Miguel and I discussed the weaknesses in the Mayan churches. Miguel said pastors preach in a confident way, but they are ignorant in biblical theology and how to form a sermon. 

This weakness leads to a shallow and legalistic approach to preaching that gives little attention to the gospel and its implications for life. As Miguel said, people don’t understand their biblical identity so they don’t have much affect on the surrounding culture. 

In Belarus SEE Global has been seeking to battle similar challenges by helping churches gain a greater focus on the gospel. A gospel / cross-centered church does not just present Christ to unbelievers, it keeps drinking from the well of gospel truth for all areas of life. 

Through my discussions with Miguel and also Eman and Carlos of ASELSI I have gained a clearer sense of what I need to be bringing in my teaching here. Increasingly in Guatemala and Belarus my visits involve speaking to groups of pastors and church leaders. I am deeply grateful for these opportunities because I love spending time with pastors and I have a heart for the Church.

Please pray that God will give increased wisdom, opportunity and fruitfulness in how I respond to the needs of pastors and churches in Guatemala. 

May we all as those who love God, drink daily from gospel truths so that our lives truly reflect gospel character and gospel fruitfulness. In all our responsibilities consider how the purposes of the gospel should shape and lead us. In each of our burdens consider how being people of the gospel should cause us to respond to and walk through our difficulties. 

It is another beautiful day in Chichicastenango!

 

SNEAKERS IN THE DRYER

Picture in your mind a pair of sneakers in a dryer.  They are continually hurled about being smacked by each turn of the dryer fins.  Does that picture sound a lot like your life?  Always spinning, always painful, and always banging into situations as well as other people.

Now what happens when you place an armful of clothes in the same dryer?  The world is still spinning, but there is less abuse and damage during the process.  This analogy may seem like a stretch, but when we face life on our own, we are like those sneakers being thrown about in the dryer.  The Bible tells us that in this world – yes, we will have tribulations.  However God has given us His people, to be with us in that often challenging process.

When we commit ourselves to a local church (which by definition means the people in it), we share the crazy ride of life with them.  The more our experience  with life is bound up with them, the less we are thrown about.  And the hurling about that does take place is buffered by their care, prayer and presence with us.  God’s people are meant to be a cushion to the abuses of this topsy turvy world.

The question is not simple do you attend church, or know the people in your church. Are you engaged in their lives and they with you?  God has designed the church to be a source of blessing and care for you.  Yet, we must never lose sight of the fact that God has meant for us to be that same blessing to them.  We do not come to our church family as if we are the beggared one who needs them to always do for us.  Rather as we share life together in meaningful ways, we are always there to be the blessing that God intended. And of course we will also be blessed.

 

first posted 3.17.11