New Ministry, New Vision

In July I accepted a new ministry. I moved from the church and ministry I was serving at FCC big logothe Lake of the Ozarks, to a ministry with the Forsyth Christian Church.

I could talk about what happened in which God led me away from my previous ministry to this ministry. Let me save that for one of the next posts.

With a change in ministry, location, and even variances in job description, comes new focus, purpose, vision, and goals. Here we have about a 12-year-old congregation whose minister retired and they realize where the direction they need to go. The congregation is mostly older folks, in fact, the town has an average age of 51. They sense the need to reach younger families with children and for several reasons. First, those people need the Lord too. They need to have Jesus offered to them. Second, they realize that young people are the future . . .  of anything. They grow up to be the church and the leaders in the church and the outreach for the church. So we need young families and so we have a vision of a children’s program with a support program to their families.

They want to bring their music into a contemporary model. Add newer songs and do the music in fresh ways. I know some feel this will draw the younger crowd, and it might, but it is a refreshing that can be a game-changer for all the folks in our church.

And, they are looking forward to a Biblical elder-ship to lead the congregation. Godly, Spirit-filled men leading with love and grace.

We are carrying out the great commission and discipleship development. We are seeking the Spirit’s empowering and guidance to fulfill our role and responsibility in the kingdom of God. We will stand faithful and true to Christ and his Word no matter what.

I have a new ministry focus. Pray for me.

bloggingthechurch

Advertisements

Where Does Faith Come From?

Ken was from Connecticut, blind, raised in a foster home with a foster dad who abused his wife. He has lived in poverty most of his life. He always wanted to go to Oklahoma, be a social worker and work with native Americans. He was accepted at a junior college in Oklahoma and one day, in the lunch room, the lunch lady who usually helped Ken get to a table was unable to assist him, so she asked a couple of students to help Ken and they gladly did. They were friendly and a part of a Christian campus ministry. They invited Ken to a pizza party and he agreed to attend.

Ken admits that the only reason he went to the party was for free pizza (he believes it is one of the foods on the basic food group). He made some friends, he played volleyballible, pretty good for a blind guy (you should see him play basketball), and agreed to return for their regular Bible studies. After attending several Bible studies and events with the campus ministry, Ken was invited to a weekend retreat and accepted Christ and was baptized.

Where did Ken’s faith come from? Where does your faith come from? Where does faith come from?

I have read and heard countless stories and every one of them has one element that is the same, the word of God. Ken, and you and I and every person encountered God’s word and it effected our hearts and mind and we believed in and obeyed Jesus.

I found an interesting blog relating many stories of people coming to faith in Jesus, http://tony-tate.com/whats-your-story/. The stories with enough detail show God’s word at work.

The word of God is the common denominator in every conversion. Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” God’s word produces faith.

Remember the Gideon Bibles you were given in fourth grade at school, or were in the drawer in a motel room. A lot of people picked up the Bible and read some of God’s word for the first time and were brought to faith. Remember the campus ministry Ken encountered. Their goodness and kindness was God’s word in action and coupled to some Bible studies, Ken, like many others came to faith through the word he witnesses in their lives.

God’s word is related in so many ways, reading, hearing, and seeing faith in action.

There are times I want a particular food or flavor and only certain foods provide the taste I desire. God’s word is like that too. When a person that actually wants that taste, and is looking for it, the only thing that fulfills the desire is God’s word, and many times, it ultimately leads to that person’s salvation.

The faith that is produced comes from God’s word being read, spoken, shared, exhibited, felt, experienced etc. That is one of the ways that God’s word is living and active Hebrews 4:12). It is not just words on a page. It is truth that is lived.

bloggingthechurch

How the Thieves Shared in the Death of Christ

1What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply?  2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. 5 For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, 7 since a person who has died is freed[e] from sin’s claims.[f] 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, 9 because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him. 10 For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to God. @Romans6.1-10 (HCSB)

After Jesus’ death, in order to access salvation one must by faith be immersed (cf., passage above, Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21, etc). We must share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Immersion (aka baptism) is the moment we share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Bible is very clear about this.

But think about this, there were two criminals, specifically thieves that were crucified with Jesus, one on each side of him. One of those thief’s had a change of heart and with a heart of sorrow and repentance and believed in Jesus. He asked Jesus to remember him in his glory and Jesus promised him he would be there with him.  The other thief died scorning Jesus, ridiculing him like the Jewish leaders taunting and belittling him on the cross. He died without repentance and was not given a promise of hope by Jesus.

Both of the thieves died, when Jesus died. I don’t mean they died at the very same instant, but they died on those crosses together. The one in the middle, the Savior for those who have faith in him, one died without faith, and the other died believing. The thieves literally shared in the death of Christ, but only one was given the promise of eternal life, @Luke23.39-43.

In other words, the thief that expressed his belief will awaken to eternal life.

When a person believes and repents, they are baptized. It is in that moment that we experience what the thief that Jesus promised Paradise too, salvation. We experience death and resurrection in the activity of baptism. Dead in sin, we are buried under the water and we rise out of the water alive in Christ. It is there that God applies salvation to our lives.

It is in death that Jesus forgave the repentant thief and it is in death that God forgives the repentant sinner.

bloggingthechurch

Which Thief (on the cross) Are You?

There’s a cross for you. I mean, the three crosses raised that day in A.D. 29 were our crosses. Our sin, our affront to God with our sin shows we are guilty and deserved death.

Three people died that day; Jesus in the middle, and two criminals on the left and right side of Jesus. When Jesus said “it is finished,” the fate of the two thieves was set. One would suffer in hell, the other, would join Jesus in “paradise.”

Sin destroys! Think about it. Sin doesn’t do good at all. The ultimate purpose of sin is to destroy the sinner. Lying destroys trust. Hate and murder destroys lives. Adultery destroys relationships and families. Sin destroys.

The reason for sin’s destruction is to hurt God. The devil, in the Garden of Eden, in the form of a serpent wanted to convince Adam and Eve to sin. He worked his deceit through Eve and Adam fell in with her in the sin.

The devil wants to hurt God, and what hurts the most, a severely broken relationship. Sin is the break-point and separation and punishment is the consequence, because, we have not obeyed the Father.

The thieves had separate attitudes about Jesus. One taunted Jesus to save himself. The crowds watching the spectacle were taunting Jesus in the same way. The other thief, realized that Jesus was without sin and that he did not deserve punishment. He even scolded the other thief. We deserve this punishment, but this man has done no wrong.

“For all have sinned” Romans3.23; and “the wages of sin is death” @Romans6.23. We are sinners, we deserved the death that Jesus died. But Jesus death was for sin. He was on the cross receiving the penalty for our sin, therefore he became sin for us.

Because the one thief was repentant, when he asked Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom, Jesus told him that he would be in paradise with him that very day. He was forgiven. He was given freedom from the spiritual penalty of his sin.

Have you repented of your sin against God? Have you asked forgiveness for your sinfulness? Have you confessed Jesus as the risen Son of God because you believe in him? Have you been immersed for your salvation?

Which thief are you?

bloggingthechurch

Gut Wrenching Prayer (Jesus Praying in the Garden)

When Jesus was praying in the Garden, “My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me,” (@Mt. 26:39, NASB) he was asking the Father for another way. Jesus knew the extent of the horror he was going to experience. He knew how he would die and what it would cost him to go through that experience.

I’ve heard it said that Jesus wasn’t afraid of the physical pain. I can’t believe that to be true. But I do believe the physical pain was minor compared to the pain of feeling forsaken and separated from God when he would become sin for us.

Jesus comes to the Father, alone, with his friends a short distance away and he pleads with God, with his sweat becoming like drops of blood. He knows what is about to happen. He knows the terror his soul and his flesh will feel. He does not want to be separated in his loving, unified fellowship with God the Father. That separation will tear at his heart and soul. It will be the worst thing that can happen.

Jesus will know what it is like for people to be far away from God. What kind of hell their souls are in and will be in if they continue in sin with the consequence of punishment in hell.

Is there another way? Can we accomplish this in a different way some way where we will not be separated by sin?

Jesus never once wanted to abandon humanity to sin. He wasn’t betraying our faith and trust. He knew what was coming and what it meant and asked for something different.

But, because his relationship with the Father was one of love and unity and obedience, Jesus willingly submitted himself to the will and vision of God the Father. His words, “Yet not as I will, but as you will,” (Mt. 26:39, NASB) tell of his love for the Father and his love for humanity which bears the image of God.

This was a huge sacrifice for Jesus. He would be beaten and ripped to pieces and then crucified until he died, but his sacrifice was his fellowship with God is so pure and holy, he cannot associate with sin.  And if Jesus was experiencing pain from separation anxiety, consider what God the Father would experience.

Because Jesus willingly died for our sin, through our faith in him, our sins are forgiven. When Jesus died with our sins placed on him, the eternal power of sin was put to death. When Jesus rose from the dead, he came to life without sin because sin was defeated. Sin, the power of sin, and sin’s leader the devil were all done in.

To deal with sin, it gut wrenching. It is for us now, it was for Jesus then. But that is what he came to do, deal with sin by putting sin to death. And the Father’s will was accomplished when Jesus died on the cross for me and for you.

bloggingthechurch

Awe

One of contemporary Christian music’s early stars, Barry McGuire told the following story on his 1975 album To the Bride. One day, while touring northern California, one of the members was reading the Bible and getting all excited. “Ohhh! Man!” Barry asked, “what’s going on there?” He replied, “Oh, oh, look, look here man.” Barry asked, “what are you reading?” He replied, “Oh, Genesis.” Barry asked, what’s happening?” Well God just created the world, that’s what’ happening!” I thought of this story the other day when my oldest son told me he read Psalm 22 and then Isaiah 53 that afternoon. He said, “it was cool!” I was thrilled to know that my son had the same type of awe for God that guy did almost 30 years ago.

The Bible records several circumstances when someone is in extreme awe of God; Abraham after God supplied the ram as a substitute sacrifice for his son Issac; Moses, when God told him to remove his shoes because he was standing on holy ground (in other words, he was in the very presence of God); The Israelites after God led them across the Red Sea and destroyed the Egyptian army; and God’s people when God sent fire to consume the sacrifice, the altar, and the water on and around the altar when Elijah asked God to prove he was indeed God and that the gods Baal and Asherah did not exist. how about Peter, James, and John when they witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration; the two on the road to Emmaus when they realized Jesus had been with them and he was alive, again; John when he witnessed the revelation Jesus gave him to show the followers of Christ that God is in control and that they should simply remain faithful to the end, no matter what.

I sometimes wonder if every person should have what I call a “mountain top experience” with God where they come into his presence in the same ways that we read about in Scripture. It would be cool, yes, but it is unnecessary. God has given us his revelation. He has given us everything he intends to until he gives the final revelation, the return of Jesus. It is all found in the Bible. Our awe for God is found in his creation and in his revelation. Creation points to the maker. In the Bible, which is God’s full revelation, he reveals himself to us. The most vivid picture, the most perfect presentation is found in Jesus. “For he is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation” Colossians 1:15. There have been many beautiful songs which approach God with a sense of awe, like my son and the dude from 30 years ago, God of WondersLIke God Above, and others. Do you stand in awe of God? All of creation and all of Scripture declare his glory.

This first appeared in the May 15, 2002 LaPlata Home Press

bloggingthechurch

The Cultural Christian (Casual Christian Part 3)

Jennifer Hua identifies herself as a Christian. A 35-year-old former attorney studying Christian counseling at the Wheaton College Graduate School, she has gone to church all her life and is a lay leader in her suburban Chicago congregation. She furthers her spiritual development by daily Bible reading, prayer, listening to and singing worship songs, and interacting with other Christians. And every few months, she carves out time for a silent retreat.  She says, “I do all of these things because I know from past experience I need to recalibrate my mind and my heart to be in tune with God.”

James Smith also identifies himself as a Christian. He attended church as a child, but his attendance was minimal as a young adult. He believes in God, he occasionally attends church (Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan) when his time-consuming job in the finance district allows, but he doesn’t participate very often in other activities to further his spiritual life. He has a Bible but he rarely opens it and what leisure time he has he spends with friends, most of whom are of different faiths, and he doesn’t necessarily believe that his God is any different from the one his Muslim friend worships.  He says, “I don’t think that God would be a God who would shut others out of heaven because they don’t use the word ‘Christian’ to describe themselves.”

The United States is described in the mainstream media as largely Christian (between 70 and 80 percent, identify themselves as “Christian”) and compared to the rest of the world, this is certainly the case, but, not everyone within this vast group of Christians are alike.

To understand the range and differences among American Christians, Christianity Today International partnered with Zondervan Publishers to have Knowledge Networks conduct attitudinal and behavioral research of U.S. Christians. In September 2006, more than 1,000 self-identified Christians 18 years of age and older were surveyed on their religious beliefs and practices. The results reveal a number of significant differences, illustrated by the examples of Jennifer and James. In fact, portraits of five distinct segments emerged from the study. They are called . . .

  • Active Christians,
  • Professing Christians,
  • Liturgical Christians,
  • Private Christians, and
  • Cultural Christians.

Each group represents about one-fifth of those identifying themselves as Christian, with Active Christians (such as Miss Hua) most likely to have a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that affects their beliefs and inspires an active church life.  Cultural Christians (such as Mr. Smith) are least likely to align their beliefs or practices with biblical teachings, or even attend church. And between the two is a range of beliefs, different commitment levels, and varying public practice of the faith.

Simply put, there are those who let the culture determine what Christian values are.  Those people are in the world and they are of the world.  Are they participating in sin?  Maybe; maybe not!  But, their values are guided by what is popular, or what is politically correct, or what is considered valid at the time, or by what makes them feel good.

Romans 12:2

1)    The “Cultural Christian” is one who is conformed to the world.

There are four key words in this verse.  Look at them.

  1. Conformed
  2. The World or the Age
  3. Transformed
  4. Renewing

Conform means “to make like.”  When I pour Jell-o into a Jell-o mold and it forms to the shape of the mold, it is conforming.  When I wear a hat, I get a hat hair.  My hair conforms to the shape of the hat.  In this world and the age I live in, I make myself just like it and I have conformed myself to it.

  • My values will be guided by the thinking of the age I live in (which is constantly changing)
  • My purpose and goals will be formed according to the way of thinking I follow
  • My thoughts and actions will be determined by conforming to the modern age

I may get my way of thinking from CNN or MSN, or the NY Times, or from Oprah or Montel, and the movies, or friends, or books, or the Internet, or any number of sources that are worldly and conformed to the world themselves.

The World/the age in which you live, the popular or current values of the rest of the world press every person to conform to the values that the world holds.

  • The past 40-50 years the world’s values have been about tolerance, self-reliance, humanism, evolutionary thinking, and political correctness.
  • The world is trying to force its values on us through media, through legislations, and through education and at every level, especially higher education.

I used to be on the board of a Campus Christian Fellowship at Truman State University.  The campus minister, Joe Belzer informed us one time that the prevailing philosophies and teachings in the universities, within ten years become the mainstream beliefs and practices in America

I have noticed a broader application to the principle Joe shared with us 15 years ago.  It really begins in the universities on the east and west coasts where America is more liberal politically and religiously.  That becomes mainstream in public life in about ten years time.  The universities in middle America grasp the teachings and philosophies in the following years and that becomes mainstream in the middle America about ten years later, so we see what is happening in universities on the coasts and 15-25 years later, it is a part of the life patterns of America.

Conforming to the ways of the world is how that looks.

But the apostle Paul indicates we are to not to conform to the world, don’t conform to this age.

This is where being transformed comes in. Transformation is changing from one thing to another.  The actor on the stage transforms as they change costumes for each part they play.  Mixing cake ingredients like flour, eggs, milk, chocolate and whatever other ingredients are required together and then when it is baked it transforms and becomes a cake.  The caterpillar balls up into a cocoon and eventually becomes a butterfly.

We are to change away from the ways of the world; the values that guide people away from God, the worldly philosophies and worldly religions and worldly values.  We are to be renewed in our mind, transformed, changed from what we were which was worldly, sinful, and far away from God.

Jesus reminds us that we do not belong to the world.  We belong to God and the things of the world, the ways of the world are not our ways; they are not to be a part of our lives.

@John 15:19

And John warns us not to love the world or the things of the world.  If we do God’s love doesn’t live in us.

@1 John 2:15

The Bible warns us, Christian leaders warn us.  They even teach this to us.

Biblical Christianity versus Cultural Christianity

Biblical Christianity means being joined to Jesus Christ through faith in what he did for us at the cross then allowing him to live through us so that others might know him and see his love.

 Cultural Christianity follows the changes from culture to culture.  They imagine their god fits their new cultural wants and values.

Some of the differences between Biblical faith and today’s cultural deviations. Follow the link to this chart prepared by Dennis Monroe for a comparison of Biblical and Cultural Christianity: http://www.crossroad.to/charts/cultural-Christianity.html

Cultural Christianity is why the church has had little impact on our society.

2)    We should think in terms of Biblical Christians and Cultural Christians should be Transformed

Biblical Christians are those who seek to live by believing, obeying, understanding and applying Biblical teachings and principles, with God’s Spirit in our lives.

Cultural Christians are defeated, they’ve given up and they’ve been drawn into the secular mold and live a form of counterfeit Christianity.  Their Christianity is a matter of convenience rather than of conscience or obedience.

Which world-view is yours?  Is it guided by the Bible?  Many cultural Christians think they are guided by the Bible but if they accurately study and apply scripture, they’ll find they have a form of Christianity without the reality of Christianity.

Therefore transformation begins with a total and accurate Biblical viewpoint and obedience to the God’s word and this is much more than simply asking “What Would Jesus Do?”

  • Do you have a point of view about something?  Examine the scripture to see where it stands in relation to God’s point of view.
  • If you are honest about it, humble toward God, and obedient to Christ, when your view differs with God’s, even if it is close but not quite right, then you will accept God’s view and change your heart, your mind, and your actions to match it.

A second means by which transformation takes place is that we become spiritual people, true spiritual people and that means that we have the mind of Christ.  @1 Corinthians 2:15-16

  • We all have the Word of God
  • Christians have the Spirit of God
  • But do we have the mind of Christ?

There was a book published about 20 years ago in tribute to Seth Wilson, long-time professor at Ozark Christian College (Joplin, MO) who died last year.  It was called “The Mind of Christ.”  His focus was having the mind of Christ.  That is why he spent hours every day pouring over the Bible, studying, learning and investing years teaching the Bible to willing minds who were seeking to serve God as ministers and missionaries and servants in the church.

The mind of Christ comes from the Spirit of God who makes it possible for us to understand spiritual things.  The worldly mind cannot understand spiritual things.  The world can’t even accept the things of Christ.

The mind of Christ as Paul applies it here in Corinthians has to do with correcting the sin and division in the church.  Because they were mixing the ways of the world with their faith in Christ!  It sounds like a lot of the modern church.  Living by means of the world, but belieiving and claiming to be Christian.

I want to use the term “the mind of Christ” to make us think about who Christ was on earth and what his focus was on.

  • Pleasing God, obeying God, honoring God
  • Drawing people to God for salvation
  • He did this in a number of ways: Preaching, teaching, caring, helping, obeying God’s commands, staying true to God’s word.

The Cultural Christian varies from the mind of Christ.  They have accepted Christ.  They are professing to be Christian.  But their values differ from the churches values, from what the Bible says.  It could be:

  • Church attendance is an optional thing
  • Or that we should tolerate other religions as if they were true or equal to Christianity
  • Or the homosexuality is ok with God
  • Sex is ok in any situation
  • Or any number of Biblical things that have been interpreted through the lens of worldliness or even rejected because it is different than the world.

We need to continue to be transformed by letting God’s Spirit renew our minds through our faith in God and our reliance upon the Bible, developing the mind of Christ and become Biblical Christians.

bloggingthechurch