Bi-vocationality

I am a preacher.  I love to prepare messages that touch the heart and help the believer grow in Christ.  I love being in the pulpit sharing what I have been learning and need to express from God’s Word.  I love the church and want it to grow and be faithful and holy and a witness in the community it is in.

I have served 4 churches in my ministry.  With this fourth congregation, I am serving in a bit of a different way for me.  I am a bi-vocational minister.  I work a full-time job at a juvenile detention center as well as serve a small congregation.  It’s what was once called a tent-making ministry.  Working a job to serve a church.

Some people wonder why I do it, why any of us who are bi-vocational do this.  IT’s pretty simple.  Small church, cannot afford a full-time servant so I work a job and preach and minister to my 40 or so people in the congregation.

Under other circumstances, I would be a full-time minister and I do miss that.  There were certain freedoms and bonuses that come with it.  But, I am a servant of Jesus Christ and where he sends me I will go.  So, a small congregation, needing a minister to preach and care for them and a job opportunity that can take the financial burden of a minister off of them so they can relax and concentrate financially on more important things of ministry and outreach is where God wants me and that is where I am at . . .  and I blessed.

My church family provide a house, an office, and  a small compensation for serving and for that I am grateful too, but at the same time, I have been given more than when I served full-time; closer relationships with my church family, more intimate application with God’s Word (and no I don’t pick on them or single people out, but I am able to apply God’s word better to our situations), and I have more interaction with the community.

I thank God that I have been called to serve and to serve at his discretion and I am content and God is working through me and through my congregation.

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Identified by Faith

I took one of our teens to an area youth rally.  He is always excited about youth rallies and church camp.  Chris Wise spoke about two different stones in the Bible; boundary stones and stumbling stones.  On the way home, he told me how he and his new girlfriend had already set boundaries.

I saw the presence of God in that young man.  I saw faith in God in action.

How do we identify God besides in creation, through faith.  Faith that is “active” as the book of James might say.  I’ll  show you my faith by my actions.

How did we know who Jesus was initially? By his deeds.  He helped and healed and cast out demons and just plain showed people goodness and kindness.  They knew he was from God, that God was with him.  They knew that God had sent him.

Look to Jesus to see God, but our examination is about God in us and how faith identifies God.

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Is God in me?

A long time ago, I determined that I wanted people to see the presence of God in me. My desire is that whenever people encounter me, I have placed myself so into God that through the encounter, whether once, or a hundred times, they realized I have been in God’s presence and God is reaching into their life through me.

I have been given a lot of opportunities for God to shine through me.  Countless hours sitting with families as their loved ones go through surgeries.  Endless days staying with hospital patients, holding the hands of several as they died and passed on from this world.  I have been with families when they were suffering from grief when their sons died in tragic vehicle accidents, and preached their funerals and the funerals of murder victims, and the list would seem endless if I continued.

I have been blessed to serve God’s compassion to a lot of people because he has chosen to give me that capability.

How is it that we identify God by our faith?   That is what we will be examining.

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Face-Off

Today I did something I haven’t for a while.  I went for a stiff walk and ran a little bit too.  Working up a good sweat was my intention and I did.  Just after my turn-around point to head back toward home, a dog comes rushing into the road barking with its teeth bared.

I used to run a lot, several miles a day.  There was a time I carried pepper spray to use on dogs that would chase me.  I asked the police in Vinita, Oklahoma one time if I could carry a billy club to ward off dogs.  They said I could and I could even carry a gun if I wanted.  I carried the billy club.

I learned a long time ago and I have had to do this on several occasions over the years, that when  a dog comes rushing at you, barking and baring its teeth, turn and face the dog.  Dog’s almost always stop a little in front of you and bark and growl and be defensive.

When today’s dog came rushing at me, I turned and faced it trotting backwards into the road, shouting, “Whoa!  Whoa!”  I didn’t show any fear, just turned, commanded and backed away.  Now the owner was calling the dog all along andcame out and got their dog and apologized.

After a little while my mind rested on these passages of scripture.  “Submit yourselves then to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you” James 4:7.  And 1 Peter 5:8-9a.  “Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in your faith….”

I faced that dog confident that turning and resisting him by facing him off would result in my escape from his attack.

I can face the devil in the same way.  I resist him, by facing him off with my firm faith in Jesus Christ who has already overpowered the devil at the cross.  I am able to overcome because Christ has.  I will stand firm, stay put in my faith and trust and the devil will back away, not because anything about me, but who is in me.  Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God.

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What Do You Say?

What do you say to young man who learned some disturbing truths about his father whose been dead for over a year?

What do you say to the young lady who is an orphan, whose foster parent was abusive, and being almost 18, nobody wants to take her into their home?

What do you say to the 41-year-old woman with a husband and 3 children who just learned that she has stage 4 cancer?

What do you tell the family whose 90-year-old matriarch dies of cancer and two days later, her grandson is killed in a tragic auto accident?

What do you tell them?

You tell them that someone very close to God died and it was because of sin too?  God knows and understands each predicament because he went through it too.

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In the Image

It is very curious that the one need, our basic need as humans, is that people cannot find God.  He is everywhere, not like the pantheist who believe that he is in the trees, the water, the sky, that every object is the embodiment of god ( go to this link for a full definition, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pantheism/ ).  I wonder if this is where the idolatrous concept of “Mother Nature” comes from.

We need God.  We’re searching for him in the creation (rocks, plants, trees, clouds, etc.) but we deny that he is God.  There may be intelligent design, but many like atheist Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said in Ben Stein’s movie, Expelled, the idea that there is a God or gods whoever they are is unacceptable.  If a being of intelligence created the world, the only, the only logical conclusion about who it is is that intelligent designer is a god, or the God.

Paul wrote in Romans 1:19, “that which is known about God is evident within them, for God made it evident to them” (from the New American Standard Version of the Bible).

What was it Pascal said?  We were created with a God-shaped vacuum (hole) that only God can fill.  How is that?

Paul wrote that God made it evident that there is a God and we human beings know it.  We know it because we were created in God’s image.

And people like Richard Dawkins deny there is the possibility of God.  As Vizzini said in the movie The Princess Bride, “Inconceivable!

It’s totally conceivable because it is in me to know God.  And when I finally learn and accept that there is a God, I find that he has revealed himself to me.

He has shown himself to me in love as I first received it from my mother and many, many others.   He has shown himself to me in Jesus because he is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and all things were created by him, through him, and for him (Col. 1:16).  I look at Jesus and I see God.  He has shown himself to me through his revealed scriptures, the Bible.

If God had left it up to we see God in creation without an explanation, I wouldn’t know who he is.  He identified himself by telling me about himself.  I wonder what the interview would be like.

Science is probing further into our world and farther outside of our world, and most of us have never dreamed we could reach that far or that it all goes that far, but what we will discover is an endless line of discovery which will lead to research and what the scientists will learn, if they will open their minds is that not only is there a god, they will learn who God is, because he has identified himself.  He is a personal God and we mean by that, that he didn’t just make things and leave us as the Deist believe (such as Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein believed), but that he continues to be involved in this here world and everything that he creates.

“Since the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” Romans 1:20.  It’s all there.  it’s all right there in the natural world that God is and that he is divine and powerful.

I get it because I have the image of God impressed in me and I fill that impression with God.

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The Weekend is About Jesus

This weekend is the anniversary date of when Jesus was arrested, tried, crucified and died, buried, and rose again.  I call it Resurrection Sunday.  A lot of people call it Easter.

There are folks who look at similar pagan practices and assume that the Christian way of celebrating Easter is because we  borrowed and changed or Christianized their Easter practices.  To learn the truth about this, go to http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/bytopic/holidays/easterborrowedholiday.html.  It explains the actual origins.

Now, I don’t have a problem with taking something pagan and converting it and reconciling it through Christ (cf. https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/09/30/wallys-restoration/ and https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/03/06/regeneration/ ). Isn’t that what has happened in our lives.  We were far from God, and Christ died for our sins and through Jesus we are reconciled to God.  We who were pagan* have been saved and changed through our faith in Jesus who died on the cross.

So even if we have taken a pagan holiday, or any number of pagan holidays and converted them to Christianity, how different is that from what God has done in our lives through Christ.

This weekend is about Jesus.  Unlike the celebration of Christmas, this is the actual anniversary date of the Passover night when Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested by the Romans on behalf of the Jewish leaders.  When Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin, Herod and Pilate.  When the crowds wanted him crucified and Pilate on behalf of the Jewish leaders condemned Jesus to death and he was nailed to a cross and died 6 hours later.

This is the weekend that Jesus was taken down from the cross and buried in a tomb, and three days later, on Sunday morning, Jesus rose from the dead, came out of the tomb and began to show people that he was alive and that death had no power over him, that in fact his death was necessary to bring victory over Satan, sin, and death.

Jesus lives!  And the evidence is beyond a shadow of a doubt that he came back to life.  This weekend is about Jesus, but isn’t every weekend about Jesus?

We celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week, every week like the early church did because it is about what Jesus did on the cross.  We gather on the first day of the week because the early church did so in honor of Jesus rising from the dead on Sunday.

The Barna Research Group put out a study recently that shows that most Americans recognize that Easter is a religious holiday but few recognize its real meaning ( http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/13-culture/356-most-americans-consider-easter-a-religious-holiday-but-fewer-correctly-identify-its-meaning).

And baptism, according to Romans 6 particularly, we learn that immersion is about Jesus’ death and resurrection as well as our own.  It is in baptism that we come into contact with his death, burial, and resurrection.

I am baptized because of Jesus.  I worship on the first day of the week with God’s people because of Jesus.  I share in the Lord’s Supper, Communion every week because of Jesus.  I live life now because of Jesus.

It’s the regular Sunday School answer, “Jesus.”  It’s all about Jesus.  Let us celebrate the real thing for the real reason and honor the real Lord.

“I believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God and he is my Lord and my God.”

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* Pagan in this sense is that we were not in Christ, but outside of Christ, alienated from God.