Friday, July 30, 2010

Hope and Activity in Christ Jesus alone!

This past week, the five pastor's of Grace Church started meeting on Tuesday mornings for a time of studying and hopefully applying the Bible to our lives. After a recent conversation with some mentor's in Canada, they reminded me of my need to walk in faithfulness and godliness. As I spent a bit of time looking over these words in the New Testament, the concept of godliness is addressed prominently in the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus). Thus, as ironic as it may seen, the pastoral team will be spending some time in the pastoral epistles for the next few months together.

As I started reading 1 Timothy 1:1, I couldn't get past the following phrase "and of Christ Jesus our hope..." This little phrase really struck a chord as a number of months ago I came to the real conclusion that I had hit a point in my life where many pastor's end up whereby I was beginning to place my hope in religious productivity (what I was doing for Jesus) rather than in a growing love relationship with Jesus.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly we (Christ followers and the church) begin to place our "hope" in good persons, activities, policies and even accomplishments rather than in Jesus alone. For some reason, we find it easier to mark spirituality by what we do (I believe the Pharisees were guilty of this) rather than by who we are in Christ which will then produce a spiritual outflow of godly fruit.

"But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:4-8

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A $40 Funeral

Last week our church family received news that the pastor of a church/school we support in the Central African Republic suddenly died. This in and of itself caused me to pause, pray and think about the impact this man's death will have upon his family, church and orphans.

But God wasn't done rocking my world with this news. Shortly after news of his death, I received an email asking if Grace Church would be willing to cover the funeral costs for this very poor family. Without hesitation it was a resounding yes and then it hit me... The cost for this man's funeral was a mere $40. That's all it would take for this North American church with an almost $5 million budget to bless a family and a church half way around the world.

Now I am not suggesting we all take a vow of poverty and try to live on the streets for $40 but I will suggest that it is time once again for each of us here in North America to contemplate how God can use each of us to be a blessing towards someone else. It is the least we can do in God's kingdom for King Jesus and in the name of King Jesus.

One of the practical ways I am determined to keep this in the forefront of my mind (because I lose sight of this stuff) is to give pause on a monthly basis as I write the support check for our sponsored child. Far too often I just simply write the check and feel good about helping a needy child out. But I am ready to at least monthly ask God to reveal to me (and my family) what it is He is calling us to do in order to be a blessing to someone else. It may not be $40 but rather 40 minutes of my time. Whatever it is, may God help each of us to regularly put aside our selfish desires, live on mission for Him by practically fulfilling His call to Love Him and others.

If every Christ follower would commit to something as simple as $40 per month to bless someone in need, imagine the impact we could have for Christ. It was a good $40 lesson...

Friday, July 16, 2010

He is jealous for me...

Over the past few weeks I've found myself returning to a song in my itunes library over and over again. It is "How He Loves" sung by the David Crowder Band from the Passion: Awakening recording.

He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am the tree bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me. And oh, how He loves us oh, Oh how He loves us, How He loves us all."

So often, the word jealous carries a negative connotation, but how wonderful to know that the Sovereign God of the universe is intimately jealous for me. His love runs so deep that He is willing to do anything to be in relationship with me. In my humanness, I cannot even begin to wrap my head around the depth of His love towards me.

As I was reading Scripture related to this, I came across Hosea 11:8a where I read "How can I give you up Ephraim? How can I hand you over Israel?" Within the context of this passage, God is dealing with the rebellious nation that so deserves to be cut loose. Yet He is jealous for the nation of Israel and wants them to walk into and remain in a loving relationship with Him.

I then proceeded to do a little exercise. I replaced the word "Ephraim" with "Tim" so it just simply read "How can I give you up Tim?" That little exercise moved me greatly and helped me understand a little bit more this week that there is a jealous God pursuing me and He refuses to give up doing so.

The next time you begin to wonder whether or not the God of the universe even wants to be in relationship with you, just simply remind yourself that God is jealous for you and repeat the words of Hosea 11:8a and add your name to it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Been Thinking about... Building Community Life

This past week, I received my quarterly PBU (Philadelphia Biblical University) publication. I have fond memories of my time there and give thanks for the impact that experience had upon my life over my four years there.

In this most recent issue, they took time to speak into how they have sought to build authentic community life amongst all the participants of the institution (students and staff alike). Although it is an institution of higher learning, the need for authentic Biblical community was also important especially as their on campus students grew. With that context set, here are just a few of the items I've been thinking about as it relates to church ministry...

How can we continue to develop and implement something along the lines of a Community Life Covenant? There is little doubt that the Bible states very clearly that we as Christ followers have certain Biblical obligations towards one another. So how do we make sure we have a discipleship process that moves people towards the commitments the Bible asks for? Membership must be more than just people receiving benefits. It must include people fulfilling Biblical obligations to one another and the Lord not out of compulsion but out of a genuine desire to fulfill God's call within His word to practice/live out the one another's of Scripture.

At PBU when they were putting together their calendar of events, they challenged the students to "BE A PART OF IT." I like that! Like it or not, those who are genuine followers of Christ belong to the Body of Christ. We are a part of it whether we like it or not, so we should be committed to doing our part as a part of the larger whole.

Here was a great quote that I think translates into the church. "Design community life that takes what is being taught and provide opportunities to live it out." It's one of the things I love about our Pastor of Connections here at Grace. He takes that call seriously and is seeking to equip small groups to live it out in genuine Biblical community. But it also speaks again to a leaderships need to equip/disciple Christ followers towards this ultimate goal which means great intentionality must be given to what is being taught.

That's what I've been thinking about...

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Poor Trade... Integrity for Image

I heard a speaker this week use the following phrase... "Men are trading integrity for image..." I believe this statement is very true as the pressure to portray a certain image often leaves integrity taking the back seat as success in certain man made arenas (wealth, career, status, title etc...) is deemed as the pathway to significance.

In my opinion, the Bible speaks clearly to the type of "image" we should portray. What the world really needs to see in us is Jesus which will only come if we are serious about walking in integrity and growing in our Christ like character. I believe this is very counter cultural and is a challenge to Christ followers, but we must strive towards such a goal.

I believe the need to strive towards this goal is firmly rooted in the truth that "image" is only skin deep with no deeply planted roots solidly grounded in the person and work of Jesus. Image is like a balloon. We can fill it for a while and it looks good when puffed up, but at some point it pops and there is nothing left.

I am convinced that Christ followers must return to being a people who walk in Biblical integrity for this is what will bring about true significance in life... a significance that is firmly rooted in Jesus bringing Him the glory.

To hit home this point, I was with a group of guys this week and the following verses were shared from Psalm 78:70-72; "He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them."