Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Fear Factor


I was reading through Acts 9 recently. I tried not to focus on the story or Saul/Paul because I wanted see what other things God’s word reveals in that chapter. Verse 31 caught my attention. It is after Barnabas brings Saul/Paul to the Apostles and then was sent to Tarsus.

Then this is recorded by Luke: “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”

Saul/Paul is gone so there is no one really leading the charge against the church so there was a time of peace. During this time of peace the Holy Spirit did some work on the church. When the church gives room for the Spirit to work three things can happen.

1)      The church is strengthened.

2)      The church is encouraged.

3)      The church grows in numbers.

Why is this a reality in some churches and not in others? I believe because of the last line in this verse, “living in fear of the Lord.” Is it possible that one of the characteristics of disciples in the early church was the “Fear Factor?” After Ananias and Sapphira both dropped dead when they lied to the Spirit it says, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” (Acts 5:11)

Instead of fearing the persecution of the world, the driving force behind allowing the Spirit to lead is fearing God. So the question is “Who do you fear? Man or God?” The answer to this question determines who it is you are going to try to please. If your goal is to try to make everyone happy and please them then you will probably quench the Spirit in the life of the church and your own life.

It you goal is to please God, then you will give room for the Spirit to do its work: to give strength, to encourage and produce growth.

Solomon had it right when he wrote: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.” Proverbs 9:10-12

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Living in the Divine Space

I was in a meeting this week and someone mentioned something about the Divine space. A space where you are alone with God. Just you with the creator and the redeemer.

Since that day I have really been thinking about how often I live in that Divine space.

In Hebrews 10:22 it says, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

The image that comes to mind when I think of drawing near to God is a child who snuggles up close to a parent or grandparent with a book to have them read to them. Or a child that snuggles up close to someone to watch a movie for the 30th time or a television show.

How often do you enter into that Divine space with God?

As I began to think through the Divine space even more I was reminded of one of my favorite professors, Dr. Joe Ellis. He introduced me to a book by Brother Lawrence called “The Practice of the Presence of God.” Brother Lawrence dedicated his life to “practicing the presence of God.” The summary of his principle was, “Live as though God is beside you and with you all the time—as indeed He is.”

Do you live within this Divine space?

My guess is not all the time. However I believe we should, like Brother Lawrence strive to live as though God is beside us all the time.

Brother Lawrence offered this prayer in his writings:
“I here and now submit myself again totally to you, without any reserve, not claiming your   presence as a right but resigning myself completely to your good and perfect will.”


Let’s all strive to live within the Divine space, surrendering ourselves fully to God. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

What is New for 2016?

At 12:01 am January 1st I was with some friends celebrating the coming of the New Year. The year 2015 will never be here again. It's gone. However 2015 went for you, whether it was a good year or a bad year, it is gone. So what is 2016 going to be like?

While there are some unforeseen things that could happen you do have the ability to make 2016 better than 2015. The biggest thing you can do to make 2016 better is to follow the wisdom from Isaiah the prophet.

     "Forget the former things;
          do not dwell in the past." Isaiah 43:18

There is nothing you can do about 2015 so stop dwelling on it! It's gone!

2016 is a "New" year. Look to the future. What changes can you make starting right now that can make 2016 better than 2015? Exercise regularly? Eat more healthy? Work on some of your relationships that have been hard?

Don't dwell on not being healthy, difficult relationships, a difficult work environment or struggling with an addiction. Decide today you are going to develop a plan to make 2016 better than 2015.

Isaiah goes on to write.

     "See, I am doing a New thing!
           Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
      I am making a way in the desert
           and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:19

Do you realize God is all about bringing life to the desert and wasteland? Do you realize he wants to do something "New" in your life?

So focus on what God wants to do with you. Don't dwell on the past, look toward a restoring God who wants 2016 to be better than 2015.

Maybe life has been going the wrong direction because you do not trust God enough to let Him do a New Thing, to restore a little peace to your life.

Maybe for 2016 to be better than 2015 you need to decide to let God do His work in you.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sharper

Sunday I finished up a series called "Present" (you can listen to the messages here). The idea is that we need to be more present in the lives of people. Jesus modeled it by coming to earth to dwell among men. He was "Present" through the discipleship process as he chose 12 guys to do life with. He then tells his disciples to be "Present" in the world connecting people to Jesus as disciple makers.

I met with three groups this past week where we discussed Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." 

This verse means you need people in your life who are authentic, real and you trust enough to speak into your heart to make you a better person. While most agree that we need others to help us do life better we often forget this is not always a pleasant process.

In order for a knife, sword or tool to be sharpened there mus be some tension. There is a chipping away at the old in order to get a new, sharper edge. The problem is we don't liked to be stretched. We don't like the friction and tension. But this is what is necessary in order to be sharpened and get better. If we don't let others sharpen us then we can get pretty dull.

So there are a couple questions to consider:

1) Who do you let sharpen you  . . .

           . . . in your faith?
           . . . to be a better spouse?
           . . . to be a better parent?
           . . . to be a better friend?

2) Who are you sharpening?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Am I a Disciple?

In John 8:31 Jesus makes this statement, "If you hold to my teaching, you will really be my disciples."

Disciples are not defined by church attendance. They are not defined by self-proclamation. They are not defined by how many Bible verses memorized or if you carry a Bible. They are not defined by praying before a meal, in the morning or in the evening. They are not defined by how much you give in an offering.

Disciples do all the stuff mentioned above, but there is one defining thing according to Jesus that "really" qualifies someone one of His disciples. Do you hold to Jesus' teachings? Do you imitate Him?

Do people know you are a follower because you say you are a follower or because you live as a follower?

Our challenge is to live a little more like Jesus today than we did yesterday.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Church Marketing

Recently, I have heard people talk about how we need to do more advertising in the newspapers, radio or on our sign. The argument is that the way to get more people to come to the church is to market the church better.

I agree we need to do a better job in marketing the church, I just don't agree with the method or the message.

The method of advertising in the media is expensive and it does not produce great results. I understand the argument that people need to know who we are in the community, but what does an advertisement do other than giving the time we meet, where we are located and how to contact the church.

Important stuff, but that doesn't make people stay. They may come one time, staying for a few weeks, but whether they stay long term depends on so much more. We can say we have great music (which we do), a children's program and biblical teaching, but if we are not helping people connect with Jesus we are missing the mark.

If the church would become intentional on reflecting the image of Jesus in our community people would know who are and find out where we worship. When we live out the message people take notice. People become interested. People give of their time and resources at a higher level. An impact is made on the lives of those around us and on those who live out the mission of the church.

When we do a great day of service and people are serving in the community those they are serving or serving with begin to inquire about the church. They want to know why you would give up time on a weekend to serve people you don't even know. And the answer is not, "So you will come to our church." The answer is, "Jesus wants us to be the servant of all. And I have made the choice I am going to serve others the way Jesus served us all."

The method becomes taking the church to the world instead of hoping the world comes to the church. Kind of the way Jesus marketed the church, wouldn't you say?


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Charlie's Oak

When we read through the gospels there will be times Jesus will say "the kingdom of God is like . . ." right before he illustrates the kingdom with a story. If we are looking to become more like Jesus maybe it would be wise to read through the gospels making note of the time Jesus illustrates the kingdom. 

In Mark 4:30-32 Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is like . . . a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade." 

What is Jesus trying to say to us about the kingdom? I think he is trying to say, focus on the small things and let God make it something big!

Look, I am all for Big Hairy Audacious Goals, but if that is all you focus on you can really miss some of the greater things of God. 

Sometimes it is the little things that have the greatest impact because God is in the little things also. 

On one of my relatives farms in West Virginia there is this enormous oak tree. It is called Charlie's oak. I don't know why other than I have a great uncle named Charlie and somehow his name is attached to this tree. I am sure there is a story attached to it--but I don't know what it is and it really doesn't matter today. 


So this big oak, started from an acorn that fell from another tree, a tree that does not exist. I wonder how far it's roots extend. I wonder how many oaks around it have started from an acorn that fell from it's branches. I wonder how many birds or squirrels have made their temporary home in Charlie's Oak. 

Isn't it amazing God can take a small acorn and make such a difference within this small portion of space on earth. 

Can you imagine what God can do if we learn to live in the small stuff, letting God make it grow? Can you imagine what God can do through you if you let Him do his work?

What small thing can you do today, that God can use to make a big impact?