Doing God’s Work and Will God’s Way in the Church

March 27, 2012 1 comment

We are living in a time in which some people are saying that we need to re-invent the church.  But I say wait a minute.   I agree with a growing number of pastors who seem to have gotten to the point where “enough is enough”.  I believe we need to get back to God and back to basics in the church. We need to do God’s work and will God’s way which is to follow the biblical foundations for the church Jesus himself modeled.

I believe this church looks like the church in Acts 2:41-47.  A church comprised of authentic believers in Jesus Christ living a disciplined disciples life which God honored by adding to the church daily and where God’s people grew in ever deepening relationship with Him. That is the church that changed and turned its world upside down.  Today I fear that the one being changed is the church as the world brings increasing influence into God’s house and among God’s people.  We are commanded to avoid the ways of the world (1John 2:15-16) and have our minds transformed and not conformed to its ways (Rom 12:1-2).   Some churches seem to walk on the margins in attempting to be relevant to our culture often compromising, albeit it well intentioned, in view of winning some.   Jesus never compromised on the gospel and neither should we.

The solution to our dilemma is to be obedient to the Word of God and endeavor to model ourselves after the original foundation for the church that Jesus himself established and exemplified. The Acts 2 church is God’s original design for the church.  A church where the whole Word of God is taught and believers are proactively discipled, where God’s people pray together, fellowship together, serve together, worship together and go on mission together.  This does not mean we avoid acknowledging and responding to an evolving culture, but we should not compromise in this process and never subordinate God’s ways for our own.

The goal of the church is to join God in His work to redeem a lost world.  Our goal is not bigness, entertainment, seeker friendliness, grand facilities, or providing an unending array of programs and activities.   The goal is to establish a “healthy” church where God’s people grow in their relationship with God and go on mission and serve out of their love and obedience to God’s commands (John 14:15).

My heart as a pastor is focused in two primary areas; the first is the spiritual development of God’s people and secondly winning the lost.  These two key areas live at the intersection of the “Great Commission –Matt 28:19-20” and the “Great Commandment –Matt 22:37-40”.  This is the heart of the mission of a biblically focused church.

Doing God’s work and will God’s way should be our chief pursuit.  The only means for doing this is being deeply grounded in God’s Word and being obedient to all it commands.  I pray the church turns from the influence of the world and humbly returns to its foundation and becomes the influence Jesus intended His church to be on the world.

As for this pastor, I pray that God will provide by His Spirit the wisdom, courage, strength, and grace to stand strong and mirror the biblical foundation of His church.  An Acts 2 church where the power of the church is clearly seen by a lost and watching world through the lives of God’s people and a church exemplified by its love for God and where  God’s people live and serve in unity.


Spiritual Leadership: Urgent need for the resurrection of the small church

January 20, 2012 Leave a comment

The following is a short post on the urgent need for the resurrection of the small church in America.  The premise is that the greatest potential opportunity to grow committed surrendered followers of Christ and unleash the full potential of Christ’s church comes from intimate, intentional, proactive, and loving shepherding of the flock (1 Peter 5:2). This is Spiritual leadership at the heart of the gospel.

With over 70% of churches in the United States represented with memberships of less than 300, you have to ask what role the small church is playing in advancing the kingdom of God.   The reality is some are dynamic while many are a sleep.  According to the Southern Baptist Convention the majority of churches seem to be flat or in decline.  Yet, the small church, I believe has the greatest potential to be the catalyst for revival and advancing the cause of Christ in America.  The movement has begun as you see church planting and new church starts on the increase as a core strategy of many ministries, e.g. Acts 29 Ministries, the NAMB, larger local churches.

Why I believe the small church is the future of the church is because the greatest opportunity to advance the kingdom is for the local church to live at the intersection of the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-40) and the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20).  To do this requires an intentional effort by the local church to focus on the spiritual development of God’s people helping them grow in holiness and an ever deepening relationship with Christ.  This intentionality requires a shepherds heart and continuous influence.  Peter exhorts church leaders to shepherd the flock.

 1 Peter 5:2
2Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;

What flock?  The flock that is among them!  This means that the primary focus of the pastor is to shepherd the flock God has given and from faithful commitment to this end God will advance His kingdom through the development of committed surrendered followers of Christ.   A healthy church is not necessarily based on its size or the number of new members, but the faithful shepherding of God’s people.  How then do you measure a healthy church?  Some elements include:

  • Marriages restored
  • Broken lives restored
  • Increase in faithful surrendered disciples –growing in holiness
  • Increase in the number of core members serving, going, telling
  • Increase in biblical literacy
  • Passion for prayer
  • Reverent worship
  • Intimate and frequent fellowship of the body

Collectively these areas bring into perspective a view of the apostolic church which grew exponentially through discipleship, prayer, fellowship, ministry, evangelism, and worship (Acts 2:38-47).  These are the basic fundamentals of the Christian walk.  Oh how we need to return to these core fundamentals today.  Not just in activity and by  name but out of the overflow of our love for Christ obediently following His commands (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:14) and by faithfully employing core Christian disciplines to deepen our relationship with God, becoming more conformed to Christ so we are most usable for the kingdom (Eph. 4:13;Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor.  3:18).

To accomplish the above requires intentional, proactive, relentless, and loving shepherding of the flock God has given His shepherd.  It can be argued that the small church has a great potential to model the apostolic church led by spiritual leaders (shepherds) intent on the spiritual development of his people, growing them in holiness and Christlikeness where revival can be ignited and spread.

Today, given technology, communications, and many available ministry tools the small church can play much larger than it may be represented in numbers of members.  The avenues God may choose to lead a small church may come in many different flavors, many we readily know and employ today (internet, alliances, satellites, etc.).  However, most importantly we know that God’s ways are not our ways (Is 55:8-9).  So, if we really desire to join God in His work it is not our ways that we seek it is His revealing of His ways we desire.  How exciting to know that He has so much more for us than we can conceive and that as we remain faithful we can enjoy the potential privilege of having God reveal God sized activities we can join Him in where He can receive all the glory.  After all with God all things are possible (Luke 1:37).  Our job is to trust Him, be faithful in what He has given, and not put any limits on what He might desire to accomplish through us.  Consequently we much keep in perspective that small churches have no less potential to impact the kingdom of God than the large mega church!

Shepherding of Christ’s church is vital to the cause of Christ and is the key ingredient for the spiritual leadership of God’s people.  The small church is extraordinarily vital to God’s mission to redeem a lost world given the call to “shepherd the flock which has been given”.  Yes, I believe that the resurrection of the small church is crucial and urgently needed for bringing revival in the hearts of God’s people, His church, and our nation.  It starts with committed and surrendered shepherds – spiritual leaders on fire for advancing the kingdom through the shepherding of the God given body of believer’s he has been entrusted with.

Pray for God to raise up spiritual leaders to join Him in breathing new life into the small church, shepherding the flock for advancing the gospel and the kingdom of God.

Much more to come on this vital topic.

Walking the Walk – What are the big rocks in your life?

January 16, 2012 Leave a comment

In Philippians 3:14 Paul says, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus …”

He introduced that statement in v.13 with “but this one thing I do.” Obviously Paul did more than one thing!   He made tents … He preached sermons. He planted churches … He wrote books … Paul did a lot of things! But what he is telling us is that his top priority in life was to “press toward the mark of the upward call…”Paul is saying, “I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus.”

In other words, Paul’s number one priority was the Kingdom of Heaven! He was running straight toward that goal; he wasn’t going to let anything distract him from it!

What is your focus/priorities for the coming year?  Let’s learn from a pickled egg jar!

 A while back an expert on the subject of time management was speaking to a group of business students!    After speaking to them for a while, he said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” He set a two-gallon, wide mouthed Mason jar on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen tennis-ball-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, inside the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

 Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”  “Really?” he said.

 Then he reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of small gravel.

 He dumped some gravel into the jar and shook it , causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”

 By this time the class was starting to catch on … “Probably not,” one of them said. “Good!” he replied. * Then he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it filled all the spaces between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked, “Is this jar full?”

 “No!” the class shouted. * Again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.

 Then he looked back at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

 One eager student raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really heard, you can always fit something more in!”

 “No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point…The truth is illustration teaches us is this:  IF YOU DON’T PUT THE BIG ROCKS IN FIRST, YOU’LL NEVER GET THEM IN AT ALL.”

 What are the big rocks in your life?  As you look ahead over this year, what are your priorities?

Jesus had a lot to say about our priorities.

 Jesus said in Matthew 6:33

33But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

 Matthew 22:37-39  – Great Commandment

37Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

38This is the first and great commandment.

39And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Matthew 28:19-20 – Great Commission

19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 Are you living at the intersection of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment?

Are your big rocks Christ centered and kingdom focused? Worship, prayer, Bible reading and study, family, fellowship, missions, ministry, evangelism. These should be among the big rocks in your jar.

It’s  heartbreaking, but a true fact, that many Christians do not make God’s Kingdom a priority in life!   Where do you find yourself at the beginning of this New Year?   Won’t you make this year a time for reigniting your walk with God and reaffirm or re-establish your priorities in a manner pleasing to God as Jesus commands – be Christ-centered and kingdom focused.  Amen.

The Survival Zone: Can ALL be good in the midst of difficult trials?

January 11, 2012 1 comment

How do you respond to the events which happen in your life?  Do you see them as good or bad depending on the situation?  We are often faced with tragedy, hurts, disappointments and the like in the midst of many positive circumstances in our life.  Are life events all good independent of their nature?  God’s Word tells us in…

1 Thessalonians 5:18
18in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

And in,

Romans 8:28
28And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

So, are bad trials, really bad trials, in our lives good?

The following story (source: Open Doors Ministry) helps give an interesting perspective for how we should endeavor to look at life’s circumstances and appropriately respond.

A tribal king in Africa had a close friend with whom he grew up. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) as well as the lives of others and remarking, “This is good!” He based it on our two Scriptures above.  The king loved his friend’s positive outlook and took him with him wherever he went.

One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. As the king fired his gun at a pheasant that flew up from the long grass, the rifle backfired and blew off his right thumb. Looking at the king’s bleeding hand, his friend remarked as usual, “This is good!”

The king was angry and replied, “No, this is NOT good!” and proceeded to send his friend to jail for his insensitivity.

About a year later, the king was hunting all alone in an area that he should have known to stay clear of.  Cannibals captured him and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, and were going to cook him in a big pot. As they set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb on his right hand. Being very superstitious, cannibals never eat anyone who is less than perfect. So they released the king.

Walking home he kept staring at his right hand without a thumb. “This IS good!” he said out loud. He was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his shabby treatment of his friend. So he went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend.

“You were right,” he said, “it was good that my thumb was blown off.” And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened. “And so, I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this.”

“No,” his friend replied as usual, “This is good!”

“What do you mean, ‘This is good?’ How could it be good that I put my friend in jail for over a year?”

“Well,” replied his friend, “if I had not been here in jail, I would have been out there with you!”

Survival Points:  God is sovereign and desires His people to draw near to Him, trust Him, and be totally dependent on Him.  As He crafts our character through our trials in this life He uses the circumstances of life to accomplish His purpose in growing us toward Christ-likeness.   Even in the negative things He is sovereign and has purposed all we experience for our good and His glory.  Our response should be to focus on the “what” of our trial – what do You wish me to learn from this Lord; how can I serve You more fully; how can I become more like Your Son?  Let the negative challenges of your life circumstances, small or great, draw out the positive of God through your testimony!

Yes, all is good even in our really difficult trials and circumstances (while in many instances we may not see this at the time);  we are even given the privilege through our trials to experience the joy of Christ as never before as we learn to see our trials for their designed purposes.  The Apostle Paul’s Christian life seemed to be one difficult trial after another, yet he was always positive, on mission, and an encouragement to others independent of his circumstances (read Acts 16).  Which is in essence the definition of joy (a feeling of peace beyond our understanding independent of our most challenging circumstances – Phil 4:6-7)!  His secret was to always have the mind of Christ (Phil 2:5) and be focused on the future and the upward calling of the kingdom of God (Phil 3:13-14).

Our prayer should be for God to help us always see the positive in ALL our circumstances (Romans 8:28); trusting in His sovereignty; acknowledging He always knows what is best and good for us; and in all things give thanks (1 Thess. 5:18) for we have a strong Advocate to cast all our cares upon for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  We are not alone, ever, He has promised to never leave us or forsake us, that means especially in our difficult trials (Heb 13:5). Remember God’s ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts or timing (Is 55:8-9).  We should ask God to help us always elevate our thoughts upward toward Him, seeing His purposes of goodness in them!

Lord help us always to be Christ-centered and Kingdom-focused seeing beyond ourselves toward Your higher purposes all for Your honor and glory.  Amen.

3 Practical Steps to a Good Conscience

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment

3 Practical Steps to a Good Conscience

Paul says I always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. Acts 24:16 Having a good conscience before God is living the Great Commandment (Matt 22:37-39) believing and acting on all He has spoken out of our love for Him (John 14:15).  Having no offence toward men we should live our lives in obedience to God as salt and light with grace in our speech (Col 4:5-6) with the love of Christ in our hearts (1 John 4:7).

The following daily practices are practical steps for never having to look over the shoulder of your conscience:

1.  Always do the right thing (Col 3:17)

2.  Always do the best you can (Col 3:23-24)

3.  Always treat people the way you want to be treated (Matt 7:12)

Having a good conscience before God and man is an intentional choice.  Praise God He has given us His Word to guide our hearts and direct our steps (Ps  119:11, 133)

Moments of Decision – Longing for the Good Old Days

December 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Ecclesiastes 7:10
10    Do not say,     “Why were the former days better than these?”     For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.

We often find ourselves reflecting back and saying, “I really long for the good old days when..”.  It seems that this thinking often comes in times of nostalgia, difficult trials, or when things around us seem hopeless.  Are the “good ole days” really better than today and our hope for the future?

According to Solomon, the preacher in Ecclesiastes, the answer to this question is; not really.  In fact this saying, while very common, indicates there is no biblical truth in our attachment to this notion about former days.  In fact, when we reflect on the former days we often are using it to excuse current circumstances around us and even our own behavior.  We might say that in former times, men were more religious, have a deeper sense and longing for God, experience more self-denial, lived holier lives, and were more exemplary in all their conduct in the world.  This is false thinking.

In former times men were wicked as they are now, and religion just as mixed with its share of hypocrisy, saintly saints, and lostness.  God is the same now as He was then; as loving, as just, as merciful, as ready to save, as ready to help.  So you may say that we live in a corrupt age – and you would be right even as prior ages where corrupt.  The thought here is that it is not the age that is corrupt, but the men of the age.    We only have to look at ourselves; our hearts, our attitudes/motives, and our obedience to determine the why and how our thoughts may race to the “good old days”.

Solomon proclaims in Ecclesiastes chapter 1 verse nine that there is “nothing new under the sun”.

Ecclesiastes 1:9
9    That which has been is what will be,      That which is done is what will be done,     And there is nothing new under the sun.

Man continues in his sinful fallen state and God continues in His goodness and has ordained the means through His Son to redeem a lost world from its fallen condition and restore a right relationship with Him.  This has not changed since the garden and each generation experiences the grace, mercy and love of God, His offer of salvation, and the hope of eternity.

I will acknowledge that nostalgia plays a role in our feelings about the good old days.  Memories are often found there to refresh the soul and give peace in our hearts.  Past times seem to have their medicinal qualities to refresh by their positive and comfortable thoughts like hot chocolate on a cold winter night remembered.   Praise God we are creatures with a memory and can enjoy these thoughts.

We, however, need to be cautious to check our motives for reflecting on prior days that they are not fueling ungodly attitudes and behaviors.  This could be discontent, anger, bitterness, grudges, acting on ungodly memories of many sorts.  The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked and needs to be checked at all times for its motives.  This is true for individuals and applies equally as well to churches.

Husbands, wives, families are often “historical” in their relating to current events of life.  This can bring up many hurts, frustrations, unforgiveness, bitterness, and put a wet blanket on God’s current work in their lives.  My wife and I have an agreement that we cannot bring anything up which is greater than thirty days past.  This has worked wonders for keeping focused on God’s activity in our lives today seeking His will and being thankful for all He has and is providing.  Never looking back in an attitude of ungratefulness with the ” would of, should of, could of” syndrome should be our heart attitude.  Paul gave an admonition to the believers in Philippi which reflects an attitude of forward thinking and not looking back.

Philippians 3:13-14
13Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
14I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The truth of these verses might be summarized as follows – In Jesus, your days ahead are greater than your days gone by.  Hands down, without doubt, with hope and expectation the future in Christ promises to bring you deeper and closer in your relationship with Him and the resulting joy and abundant life only He can give.

Paul says to forget those things which are behind (don’t dwell on past failures, poor decisions, sinful behavior no matter how grievous, disappointments, bitterness, hurts, should of’s, etc.).  He could speak with authority given the weight of his past which included broad persecution of Christs’ church and being complicit in murder.  Paul knew that it was not wise to dwell on the past but to keep his priorities focused on the prize of the higher calling in Christ Jesus.   Oh, how we need to take these words in and embrace them in our daily walk giving our lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ and allowing Him to direct our hearts and minds toward the upward call.  There is no greater source of peace, fulfillment, and contentment in life.  You will never have to look over your shoulder if you keep your eyes on Jesus.

Thoughts of the past and yearning for the “good old days” in itself is not the issue Solomon is addressing; it is the foolishness in making the distinction, because in truth every age (stages of life) has its bright and its dark sides.  It is for us to look forward with thanksgiving and anticipation at what God is doing today in our lives and strive to seek His will as we progress toward spiritual maturity.  Our aim is not to be detoured reflecting on the past but be purposed in Christ Jesus toward the future.  It is a high calling. A calling requiring intentionality, forward momentum, and the acknowledgement of an  eternal purpose which is greater than ourselves.

In the end it is foolish to complain about present times and longing for the good old days when the real issue much of the time is dealing with the current state of our own hearts.  When our hearts are right with God our lives are right with Him and others.  This provides the spiritual state of mind which equips us for coping with the world around us which seems to relentlessly tempt us, discourage us, and give us a sense of defeat.  This often draws us back to times we perceive were more in keeping with a better state than what we are experiencing at the present.  That is exactly what the enemy wants us to think.  To discourage, deceive, and derail what God has in store for us up the road.   It is our task to recognize our need to stay focused on our highest priority, as Paul exhorts us to do, the goal of our upward calling.

The chief subject of the book of Ecclesiastes is the folly of all man’s efforts in seeking happiness here below, and that the wisdom which judges all this only renders man still unhappy.   One way man seeks to reconcile his state is to look backward and long for perceived better times, which we are told is unwise.   What then are we to do?  The preacher of Ecclesiastes gives us the conclusion of the whole matter.

Ecclesiastes 12:13
13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:      Fear God and keep His commandments,     For this is man’s all.

Moments of Decision – longing for the good old days:  Reflect on the good old days without comparison, enjoy the thoughts of pleasant times, enjoy  the memory of fond smells and bright sunny days, while making the decision of always being steadfastly focused on the prize of the upward calling, being content and grateful for where God has you today, fearing God with reverence and awe and obeying all His commandments while resting in the blessed hope of glory and eternity to come.