Surviving the Trials

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On Saturday I got a terrible message from one of my Facebook friends.  In the message she told me of the tragic death of a wonderful lady and her grandson in a traffic accident.  Most of you would not know this family but both generations who suffered loss in this accident were really great godly people who have been a great blessing to my life.  In one moment a wonderful godly man and minister lost his wife and a nine-year-old grandson.  Both of his sons who lost their mother are ministers.  The eldest son’s wife is ordained as well and serves as the Women’s Ministries director for the Arkansas District and it was their son who was killed in the accident with his grandmother. 

I refuse this early in their grief to try and make some sort of sense out of this.  What I do ask that each of you who reads this blog would hold this family up in your prayers.

What I will point out to you is that even the very best and most choice of God’s people suffer.

I will however, draw some conclusions about what will happen to these people that will stand in sharp contrast to those who face these things without the Lord.  These people will survive.  How do I know this, because I know of their faith.  These are not casual believers.  They are not Christians in name only.  They are the real deal.  They have been tried before and while this is undoubtedly the greatest trial yet, they didn’t quit after the smaller trials.  They have stored up in their hearts a faith that will hold them up now.  It might be shaken but it will hold.  The darkness that would overwhelm others will get deep but in the depth of the night when others are alone with their grief, this family will not be alone.  They know a friend that sticks closer than a brother, (Proverbs 18:24) and the brother created for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)  They are in the fire, but there is a fourth man in the fire with them and he is the Son of God!

What about you? Would you survive?  Would you indict God or continue to serve Him in the face of a thousand questions?

It’s about a real faith.

Blessings

Saved from What?

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Here’s another thought from a few years back.

Have you ever thought about what we really mean when we use the word “saved” in the church context?  It seems to me that we have completely forgotten what it is that the word actually means.  When we use it we use it in a sentence that usually sounds something like, “Have you been saved?” or “I wonder if they are saved.”  

What do you think of when you hear that? 

I think most people will think of a person praying the sinner’s prayer or coming to an altar and accepting Jesus as their Savior.  Let me show you something that hit me like a ton of bricks a few years ago.

In Acts 11 Peter is giving a report to church leaders in Jerusalem about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Gentiles that occurred at Cornelius’ house and is recorded in Acts chapter 10.  When Peter relates the story to the leaders in Jerusalem he tells them about the message that an angel gave to Cornelius that prompted Cornelius to send for Peter.  The message that the angel gave to Cornelius was…

Acts 11:13-14 … “Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your    household.” 

My question is this… What was the angel referring to when he said that Peter had a message that would “save” Cornelius and all those in his household? 

Do you suppose that he meant that they needed to pray the sinner’s prayer or come down to an altar call or take part in some sort of religious tradition?  Was the angel saying that they needed to do the things that we think of when we say that a person needs to be “saved”?

Rather than any of these, let me paint a picture that came to my mind the first time I saw this.  In this picture there is a sharp, extremely high, dangerous cliff edge.  Leading up to that edge is a conveyor belt of sorts that is slowly creeping towards the edge of that cliff.  On the conveyor are men, women, boys, and girls who are engaged in life.  By the thousands they come to the edge and fall over to their absolute destruction.  The problem is that from their vantage point they cannot see or perceive the danger until it is too late and they are falling.  High above them there is a lookout.  From his high position above them he not only sees them he can see the edge of the cliff and below.  He is keenly aware of what is transpiring and feels acutely the loss that is constantly occurring. 

This is the reality of the angel and those in Cornelius’ household. 

The angel knows the reality that the members of Cornelius’ household cannot see.  When he proclaims that they need to be “saved” it is “saved” in the sense that we use the word everywhere except church.  You know “saved” as in a burning building, rushing floodwaters or a tyrants evil. 

In fact that is what “saved” has always and will always mean in any context especially the church one.  So great is their need and the need of the Gentile World of salvation that God performs this miracle to accomplish it.  It is greatly necessary, passionately provided, and unmistakably urgent!  

What happens when we redefine the word into a religious tradition?  We lose all sense of urgency.  If it takes a while for a person to pray a prayer or come down to an altar or have some sort of religious experience then what’s the hurry? 

But if people are about to fall over a cliff someone needs to do something quickly.

We are supposed to be the ones who have the greater vantage point.  Where is our sense of urgency?

The angel knew it, and we need to quickly remember it.

Blessings!

Feed My Lambs… AND My Sheep

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I was going back through some thoughts that I had made some notes on over the past few years and I thought that a couple of them would make good topics for our blog.  The first one goes right back to our discussion about what kind of music God likes and takes it a step further, considering what kind of music we should do as a church.

There is perhaps no issue more historically divisive in the church than the issue of music styles.  It’s in no way a new issue and you would think that by now we would have figured it out, but alas we digress.

Anyway, I think that I’ve absolutely figured this one out. 

In fact I’ll even go so far as to say that the Lord told me!  My guidance on this issue came one day as I was wrestling with how to lead a church to resolve this issue and how to perhaps write a book that would assist the Body of Christ to resolve this issue on a much larger scale.

While praying for and searching the Bible for guidance the Holy Spirit led me to John 21:15-17.  In this passage Jesus asks Peter if he loves him.  Peter quickly answers strongly in the affirmative to which Jesus tells Peter to “Feed his lambs”.  Then Jesus asks Peter the question a second time and Peter answers even more strongly that he indeed loves the Lord and Jesus replies “Tend my sheep”.  A third round takes place where Jesus once again asks Peter if he loves him and in understandable frustration Peter emphatically states his love for the Lord and Jesus replies “Feed my sheep”.

Did you catch it?  I didn’t for years.  Jesus instructs Peter to:

  • Feed my LAMBS

  • Tend my SHEEP

  • Feed my SHEEP

In the original Greek in these verses there are different words used for lambs and sheep.  Jesus is not saying the same thing three times.  He instructs Peter to feed both the lambs and the sheep.

I realize that the context of these verses has nothing to do with church music, but it does have to do with the mandate given to those who would care for the people of God.  What is that mandate?  Care for both the Lambs and the Sheep.  I interpret that to mean the young or immature and the older or mature members of the flock.

So many ministries have determined that they will set their sights on a particular demographic to the exclusion stylistically of all the other demographics of people around them.  They quote statistics about the age at which people get saved as the permission slip for this action and believe that they are cutting edge for their efforts.  I have a question for those ministries.  What are you going to do ten years from now when the lambs that you are winning today are the sheep of tomorrow and they, like all people, want to do the music that touched them when they were new in Christ? That style will now be ten years old, no longer cutting edge, and they will only have delayed this challenge by ten years.  In the process they will have left behind a lot of good sheep in the pursuit of more lambs and will have forsaken what I believe to be one of the fundamental values of the scriptures. 

That being the family nature of the Body of Christ with members on both ends of the age spectrum both benefiting from involvement in each other’s lives.

What do we therefore do?  We feed all ages every time.  Our teams of musicians work diligently to touch everybody every time.  Is it hard?  It’s very hard!  But everything great always is!  In the process, both ends of that age spectrum learn to love the other end of that spectrum and the Body of Christ grows strong.

Targeting a single demographic of people is easier.  Personally, I’m done with easier.  I’ve spent enough years doing easy things.  How about you?

Blessings!

Serving God

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In Ecclesiastes 9:10 we read…
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…

That verse came to me as I was thinking about the preaching /teaching that I do at the church.  Currently I am preaching on Sunday morning and on Wednesday morning as well as teaching in the new verse by verse study that has started on Wednesday evenings.  These take up quite a bit of time to prepare for, but there are two others that I really need to do.  We desperately need to get one-on-one discipleship started and I need to lead the first group of people through our process so that they will have a good understanding of what the process is all about.  Also, I feel strongly that I need to craft some sort of unique group for the college age young adults of our church.  Something that digs deep and challenges them on every level.  I believe that I have some experiences to share with them that could really draw some of them closer to the Lord.

The question that all of this brings to my mind is when? 

I want to do all of these and feel that all of these really need to be done, but I’m not sure that I can do all of these with “might”.  Do you ever feel caught between having to choose between two equally worthwhile endeavors?  Ever been pulled in multiple directions but not between good things and bad things but between good things and other good things?

First let me say that this is where you should be living. 

Not fighting the battle to live for Christ, but rather fighting the battle of what area that God is opening up for me and I am going to step into today.  It is an exciting and rewarding thing to see and feel the opportunity of God. 

Where is God calling you to be used?  You were not created, saved and gifted to sit on the sides only using your gifts for the world’s profit, rather you were made to benefit your heavenly father.  The church abounds in opportunities for ministry. 

Have you found your place of service yet?

Hey if nothing else, I could use a little help!  Won’t you pray about what God would have you do?  I’ll be praying that you do!

Blessings!

What Music Does God Like?

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I was listening to the radio on the way to drop off Jack for school and then on to the church.  I am always tuned into the local Christian radio station and I was enjoying a song by a popular artist when a thought popped into my head “What kind of music does God like?”  Let me give you my best opinion.

I believe that music, while greatly enjoyed by people, was created, as was everything to give praise and glory to God.  Now remember that I believe that EVERYTHING was created to give praise and glory to God.  Don’t isolate music as the only thing that has worth when it is overtly worship or church music.  And what is it that makes music worship music anyway?

Let me propose an experiment.  Let’s take a recording of the vilest music that exists.  I’m not sure what piece of music that is, but somewhere it exists.  Now let’s take that music and play it on some sort of music player with an amplifier and speakers.  But here’s the catch, lets place that player in the middle of the Sahara Desert in a place hundreds of miles from anyone.  Can you picture it?  There’s nothing but sand, weeds, and lizards.  In that setting, how does God feel about that music?  My opinion is that in that setting, He doesn’t care about it at all.  Why?  Because I believe that music is nothing separate from people to hear it.  It is a vehicle designed to solicit a response in humans. 

It is the human, emotional response to the melody, tone, tempo, rhythm, and lyrics of the music that is significant, apart from that response, music is just intervals and numbers.

Back to our original question, “What music does God like?”  I believe that God likes any music that causes people to experience emotions that push them closer to Him.  Music that lifts Him up and creates an atmosphere in the hearts and minds of people that the Holy Spirit can inhabit. 

What music does God like?  I think it’s the music that makes us think about Him.

Blessings!

Our Father

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I was reminded of a powerful memory this morning.

When Jack was first born Leighanne and I were overjoyed to have a little boy.  We were and still are crazy about our girls but the male addition to our family brought great joy.

One pre-dawn morning found me crawling out of bed to tend to the cries coming from our nursery across the hall.   After the diaper change, a bottle, and a few moments in a rocker Jack was asleep in my arms.  It was a magical moment.  For years I had known the love that a father has for a daughter but not until that moment had I felt the love of a father toward a son.  It’s not that it’s a greater love or even a different love.  The profound sense that flooded my mind is that I had never been a daughter but I had always been a son.  As a great sense of God’s presence filled the room I realized for the first time the love of a father for a son or more directly the Father’s love for me.

This morning as I was driving Jack to school I reflected on how much I love him and instantly the Lord spoke,

“Remember, that’s how I feel about you!”

…as I was once again in that nursery rocking Jack to sleep. 

Please remember that you have a heavenly father who cares for you deeply. 

He’s not angry, or spiteful but is as 1 John 3:1 describes him when John wrote…

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

Can you picture yourself in his arms as he lovingly holds you and radiates his love and affection for you?  He absolutely feels it, can you?

Blessings!

Inspiration

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Have you ever thought about where inspiration comes from?  As I was getting ready to writes this morning’s blog I began to think about it.  The reason that I was thinking about it was that it seemed to me that I didn’t have any.

Some days it’s very easy to write.  Things just come together and what I call inspiration seems to be around every corner.  Other days, like today, it’s hard to find something that I think will speak some measure of hope or encouragement into your life.  I bet you know exactly how that feels.  You know when the day-to-day cares of life overwhelm the sense of God’s presence.  This week I’ve got a couple of extra things on my plate.  My youngest daughter is getting married this weekend.  In case you haven’t done that recently or ever, it can get a little crazy.

Some of you are aware of the really big fire that occurred in downtown Alton on Saturday.  One of the businesses that was completely destroyed was the baker that was making the wedding cake.  Cake paid for, one week out, no cake, wife and daughter flipping out… you get the picture.  The list that my wife gave me of things that I need to get done before Sunday has 11 items on it plus preaching Wednesday and Sunday.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m having a blast and the wedding will be awesome, but sometimes life gets busy and if I’m not careful, God’s presence can be number 12 on the list.

Yep, it even happens to me.  I’m reminded, once again of Psalm 46:10…

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Hey, maybe inspiration did come!  Maybe it, just like the Lord was there all the time.

Blessings