Tuesday, February 28, 2017

More Life

How can you have more life?  I don't mean to ask, how can you live longer.  But how can you have more life from God?  Look at 1 Thessalonians four verse three and then verse seven.  "It is God's will that you should be sanctified..." and "God did not call us to be impure..."  Paul goes on in the next paragraph to stress that we should grow in love for brothers and sisters more and more.  Finally in the next paragraph, he stresses that we should work with out hands and abilities so that we are not dependent on anybody.  You can grow in purity, in love and in the work and service you give with your hands.

Jesus said in John chapter ten, that he came to give us life, abundant life, life to the full.  When you were saved, you were given new life.  But what if there is more life to receive from God!  As I grow in the Lord, as he sanctifies my heart, mind, emotions and responses, I gain more life!  As I grow in love for people, in purity of heart and willingness to serve, I gain more life.  As I work with my hands and talents, I am not dependent on others, the government, my church, my family, I gain more life!

I recently did a funeral for a wonderful believer.  The family asked me to read from her journal.  I found a 20 year old entry titled, "Things I am Thankful For."  This dear saint wrote this at seventy-two years of age.  Item one said, "I am thankful for my job so that I am not dependent on anybody."  She nearly quotes the scripture in her thanks.  She was living a full life!

I encourage you today from Hebrews twelve, "...throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."  As a follower and believer in Jesus, you have life, but there is more to have as we walk closer to him.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What I am Reading

My sister texted me and my brother.  She and her husband are planting a church in Oneonta, NY.  My brother is a campus/teaching/worship pastor at a church in Iowa.  My sister started a conversation about some things that she is reading that she wanted to share with us.  It was a really great conversation.

Usually, I feel like a real bum when someone asks what I am reading.  Most successful pastors can always tell you what they are reading.  That question usually makes my mind go blank and I cannot remember what I am even reading at the time.  I usually assume that others read so much more than me.  I am a slow reader.  Today I realized that maybe I am not such a bum.  I am actually reading a ton when you consider what I have been reading to be prepared to preach.  So, here is what I have been reading.

One, I just finished Born Again by Chuck Colson.  Lance Langenberg loaned it to me.
Two, for fun I am reading The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gains
Three, for Wednesday Bible study I am in the middle of reading three commentaries on 1 Corinthians.  Authors are Hammar, then Fee, then The Complete Biblical Library.
Four, for my small group on Friday nights I am on chapter seven of a commentary on the book of Isaiah.  It is a volume also from, The Complete Biblical Library.
Five, I am slowly reading through a book on church health from a Baptist Pastor in Washington D.C.
Lastly, I am reading through my Bible in a year as I do every year.  It is a Bile reading plan on YouVersion called Eat This Book.

After the conversation with my brother and sister, I think I have all the rest of the books that I could possibly read this year!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Make Questionable Investments

Think about the inner circle of disciples that Jesus kept close to him.  These three disciples seemed to have a little greater investment from Jesus.  These were invited to special moments in Jesus life.  They were invited to an inner room to see a girl raised to life, invited to the mount of transfiguration and invited to a closer location to Jesus at Gethsemane to name a few.

Very active in the book of Acts.
A leader in the early church.
Assisted Mark in his gospel.
Wrote two epistles.

The disciple Jesus loved.
Active in the book of  Acts.
Wrote one gospel, three epistles and Revelation.

Listed as a disciple in Acts 1.
Killed by Herod in Acts 12.

If Jesus knew James' end, why did he invest so much in a disciple who would be martyred so early in the spreading of the church and is not mentioned often?  What was God's plan for James?  What kinds of things did he accomplish in the life of his brother John that we can only infer?  What was the purpose of his close connection to Jesus in the inner circle of the twelve if his life was snuffed out in a surprisingly premature way.  We may never know this side of heaven.

When I find a nugget like this in the Bible, I always ask, "How do I apply the principals of this situation in the Bible to my life?"  Here are some possible answers.  One, investment in people is not based on what they will produce later.  People matter, because people matter.  Two, investment in people has a depth factor that may not be noticed in the big public events and news items.  Depth of impact and affect matters.  Three, there are a lot of people in your life that need your investment regardless of their potential to produce statistically noticeable fruit.  Four, invest in people because the Father leads you to do it.  Leave all the results up to God and know that you obeyed his call to serve.  Only God knows the depth of impact you will make, and you will not face the future regret of "what if I had done something?"  Someone will always question the wisdom of your investment when it does not produce according to their assumptions.  Lastly, Always learn from the examples of how Jesus made disciples.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Worship the Lord.

I was praying this morning for all kinds of requests.  I prayed for people, their problems, people in the hospital, people with family problems.  After a while, it gets a little heavy.  I try not to carry worry for others, that is unhealthy.  I do my best to pray hard, trust God and move on.  I can not be mentally bogged down into negativity by others problems and often, bad choices.

Then, I remembered to worship the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is Lord.  Not the elected leader, but my king and the King of Kings.  He is also first among many brothers and that makes me his peer in another sense.  He is fully man and I feel his desire to be connected to me in his humanity.  Jesus is my Lord and I daily make him my master, but his is also my friend.

When we worship the Lord Jesus Christ, we are lifted from the weight of our troubles into the glory of his presence.  We enter his majestic court with praise, where he is seated on the throne.  When I worship him, I am reminded that he is my foundation, my corner stone, my provider, and the giver of the Holy Spirit!

I worship the Lord because he is worthy.  But when I worship the Lord, I often receive so much more from him than I could give back to him in worship.

See these: Mathew 6:25-34; 1 Timothy 2:1; Revelation 19:16; Romans 8:29; Philippians 2:6; James 2:23; Psalm 100:4; Matthew 7:24; Psalm 118:22; Philemon 1:6; Matthew 3;11

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What is Truth?

“'What is truth?' retorted Pilate."

John 18:38 records the statement of Pilate to Jesus Christ.  Think about it.  Pilate asks this snippy question to the only person in all of history who claimed to be, "the truth and the life..."

NPR reported on December 2nd that the Oxford Dictionary chose “post-truth” as the 2016 word of the year.  In a year where “post-truth” is the word of the year, we sure seem to be hearing a lot of cries for the truth!

In recent years, we have seen the disintegration of truth.  “Truth is relative.”  Relative truth has been the cry of liberal thinking people for the last 20 years.  Everyone has their perspective.  All perspectives are valid.  Those who reject the concept of a God who is absolute would say, “there is no absolute truth.”

If one thing has emerged through our difficult election cycle this year, it is the necessity of truth.  Suddenly, we are furious about “Fake news.”  I am not writing to defend fake news.  We need a fair, unbiased, and free press to help inform the public.  While thinking about this saga of fake news and all the commentary following it, I am hearing some news outlets suddenly backing off of relative truth.

We cannot consider truth as relative one moment and then absolute the next.  We are crying for absolute truth when considering intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  We want absolute truth about Russia and our elections.  But, we want relative truth when we are faced with the proof that Jesus rose from the grave.  I guess we prefer relative truth when we don’t receive the truth standing right before us.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Passed Over

Have you ever been the last one picked for a team at recess?  Have you ever been invited to an event at the last moment, like they forgot you or you were the last choice to fill a empty seat?  If you are like me and most people, you know what it feels like to be passed over.  You know what it is like to not be picked for the team.

Many times we miss God's direction for our life.  In big things and in everyday little things.  Most of the time, when we miss those moments they are gone forever.  We can not turn back time and re-make decisions and opportunities.

Maybe you feel passed over today.  I want to encourage you.  You have not been passed over.  God still has a plan for you.  His favor and presence are still offered to you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Valuable Questions

John 16:19 says, "Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’?"  Focus in on these words, "Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him..."

There are times when a speech is necessary.  There are times when a press conference is necessary.  A speech is important because there are times when all the thoughts need to be expressed and defined before unnecessary questions side track a clear and efficient presentation of information.   But even after a clear presentation, questions may be very important in good communication and learning.

As Jesus taught his disciples, he noticed when they wanted to ask him something.  Maybe they were timid to ask.  Maybe they were embarrassed to ask.  They wanted to ask, but were not asking him directly.

As a parent, teacher, leader of a Bible class or small group leader, you need to lead like Jesus.  Look for times when those you lead want to ask a question.  The best moments for learning are usually when the student has a question.  Don't just wait for the question, anticipate it and promote the question when people are timid to ask.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Back to the blog.

The last blog entry was in June of 2016.  I stopped writing for several reasons.  One was lack of readership.  After praying about it for several months, I feel like I need to start again.  Why start again?  Here's the list.

1.  I have many thoughts I want to share with everyone at Life Stream Church, but don't have time to share in the two sermons I preach each week.  Sermons would be way to long.
2.  Sharing these thoughts and writing them down is a form of Spiritual renewal for me personally.
3.  Social connection sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram did not give me the ability to post things in a context that will be taken seriously.

I hope that you will consider following the blog and share it with your friends.  I hope this will be a blessing to you.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Your Most Important Ministry Gift

In the last few months, I have had the opportunity to help with some ministry training of new ministers.  It has given me time to think about what might be most important.  Obviously, the most important thing for a minister is a strong spiritual foundation.  Your relationship to Jesus is really your only asset.  Everything else rests on your spiritual foundation.

But, what is the most important gift in ministry?  What one thing does every minister have to work on, keep sharp, and improve continually?  No matter what your ministry, communication is your most important gift.  You have to communicate well to share vision, passion, directions, structure, worship, prayer, financial needs, and the gospel message.

If you are going into ministry, I strongly urge you to take a public speaking class.  Get your hands on anything that teaches you about public speaking in every type of venue.  Work on pronunciation.  Start now and remove all unnecessary stuff from your casual conversation.  You can become a great public speaker by practicing these in your everyday conversations.

Here are some things to eliminate.
Well, you know...
The thing of it is...
The funny thing is...
Blah, blah, blah...
You know...
So, I'm like...
And uh...

Next, get rid of all mumbling.  Study the mispronunciation of words so you pronounce words correctly.  Don't use a word if you don't say it right.  Don't use a word until you are sure what it means.  Learn to pronounce your consonants with strength so that you sound confident.  Learn to look people in the eye in conversation and then make eye contact in your public speaking.  Eliminate large and awkward silent spaces in your speaking.

So far, I have focused on things to eliminate.  Remember that the Bible says even a fool who keeps his mouth shut will be considered wise.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Young Violence

We are all shocked by the violence in our world today.  A young man enters a school building and begins shooting kindergarten children and teachers.  A young man plants a bomb at the finish line of a world class marathon.  A young man enters a movie theatre and begins randomly shooting those watching the movie.

In the 20th century we were shocked by the gangsters of the depression, atheist despots like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and serial killers who roamed our cities.  In the 21st century, we are being shocked, but does it seem to anyone that the perpetrators are getting younger and younger?  Are the victims getting younger and younger too?

I have a theory that needs some testing.  Could it be that our entertainment is driving our troubles.  The movies and music that interest kids today increasingly have kids killing kids.  Consider The Hunger Games.  Did not one of our most horrific school shootings follow that movie by just a few months?  A movie about young adults killing helpless middle school kids preceded a young adult killing children.  How many new programs directed toward millennials' and our youth have youth killing youth?

It is true that for centuries we have had youth killing youth in wars.  The average age of a Vietnam soldier was 19.  In World War II many youthful Germans and Japanese were killed by 18 and 19 year old boys in the allied forces.  But is war different?  They are under layers of military law and can be convicted of murder for indiscriminate killing, though that conviction happens rarely as far as I can tell.  Even war is messy and creates ethical and psychological questions about the health of those who are involved in the defense of their country or people.  We spend millions to treat PTSD and reduce the rate of suicide in our veterans, and they need even more support than ever.  And the most important point, no body goes to war for entertainment.  This little post is about what entertains us, not what we have to do.

So, here is the final thought.  I don't have all the answers or statistics.  However, it seems to me that the tension and thrill of violence we find entertaining one month becomes our reality the next.  Is there a link?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

10 Works of the Holy Spirit

1.  The Holy Spirit exalts Jesus. John 15:26 and John 16:14
2.  The Holy Spirit convicts us of what is wrong and what is right.  John 16:8-11
3.  The Holy Spirit regenerates us to life.  John 3:5 and 20:22
4.  The Holy Spirit lives in believers.  1 Corinthians 3:16
5.  The Holy Spirit seals believers.  Ephesians 1:13-14 and 4;30
6.  The Holy Spirit guides believers.  Romans 8
7.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to share our faith.  Acts 1:8 and Luke 24:45-49
8.  The Holy Spirit enables us to understand Scripture.  2 Timothy 3:16
9.  The Holy Spirit gives and will give life to our bodies.  Romans 8:11
10.  The Holy Spirit prompts us to worship.  John 4:24

The Holy Spirit does many things.  This is a list of ten of the things that he is busy doing today.

Monday, April 20, 2015

10 Works of the Spirit

There is so much more information in the notes of the sermon from Sunday.  I am posting the notes here.  This outline is from the AD series and this sermon is by George Wood with a few additions from me.  To listen to this sermon click on the LSC media page.

Acts 2:1-4
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

For most of my upbringing as a kid in Missouri who carried the title Christian, the Holy Spirit was just a line in the liturgy.
“We believe in the Holy Spirit.”
For many who believe that the work of the Holy Spirit changed after the first century, the Holy Spirit is a purposeless theological mystery.

But the Holy Spirit is not just a mystery or idea.  The Holy Spirit is a person who is  and has been working practically and purposefully.
-From the beginning, Scripture says, “The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:2).
-In the Old Testament, we frequently read about the actions of the Holy Spirit. He would come upon people, such as judges, kings, and prophets.
-In the New Testament, the Spirit of God conceived Jesus in the womb of Mary (Luke 1:35).
-He descended upon Jesus bodily as a dove at His baptism (Luke 3:22).
-He anointed His preaching ministry (Luke 4:16).
-And the Holy Spirit gave Jesus supernatural power to perform signs and wonders (Matthew 12:28).

Monday, March 9, 2015

All Authority

Every sermon seems to have one extra special nugget of truth for me.  Yesterday there was one.

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples..."  Why is his statement of all authority so important?
1.  Jesus has the authority to give us a command to action.  Jesus can tell you what to do.
2.  Jesus has authority to tell us to get involved in others' lives.  Today in our overly tolerant world, Christians are often told, "Stay out of my life."  Jesus says, go get in.
3.  Jesus has authority to tell the Jewish disciples to break their old traditions which limited their contact with other types of people.  Jesus has authority to break the Old Testament regulations and traditions that limited contact and involvement with non-Jews.  Break the racial and political boundaries of our world to share Jesus.
4.  Jesus has authority to tell his disciples to break through geographical boundaries to carry the good news to people.  What if a nation says that it is illegal to share information about Jesus in their land?  They have some authority.  Jesus has all authority and says go.

Let's be under the authority of Jesus who said "go," rather than the authority of culture and the world that says, "be quiet."

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Missions Giving Saves Lives!

Last week, our missionary to Papua New Guinea gave me a native arrow.  Because it was long, narrow, wood tipped and seemingly light I asked, "Is it for shooting birds?"

"No, its for shooting people." he replied.  The owner/creator did not need it anymore and sold it for some quick cash.

When we give to missions, we are sometimes giving to those who are preaching the gospel in places where people are killing each other.  The gospel can turn people killing each other into people who are saving each other.  This is true of our missionaries serving in Ukraine today too!  They are in serious peril this year and have had to relocate their home four times in 12 months due to the war with Russian fighters there.  In the worst of times and in times of peace, missionaries save souls, but they also save lives.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Worship Today

We recently finished a short series of messages on worship.  As a follow-up, let me encourage you to worship God today.  Find reasons to give God thanks or praise for what he has done for you.  Point your mind toward God and consider all the reasons that you love him.  Even when your day is going the wrong way and you may be receiving bad news, worship God.  Your perspective on your trouble changes toward optimism and faith when you worship God.  If your day is going just fine, enjoy it with God.  "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."  James 1:17 (NIV).