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God is Greater than our Messes

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I have several close friends who pastor churches much like the one I pastor.  We all love what we do and contribute an incredible amount of time, energy, and passion into it.  One of the major aspects of pastoring is what is called “preaching”.  Preaching, at least in the way my friends and I understand it and describe it simply means that we proclaim what the Bible says to the church when they gather together.  To each of us, this is a huge responsibility and an awe-inspiring task because we are telling people what God is saying and we are ultimately responsible to God for how we handle His Word!  Indeed, preaching the Word of God is a weighty thing.

Because of the weightiness of it, each of us want to do the best we can with the content of the sermon as well as the delivery, so we pour all we have into it every time we preach.  If you approach preaching the way we do, it takes a lot out of you.  It’s been said that preaching a 30 minute sermon as it should be equates to working an 8 hour physical job.  Now I’m not sure if that’s entirely true, but I’ve done both and by in large that’s been my experience.  So when you couple the importance of preaching with the mental and physical aspect of it, the final result can make for some high powered Sunday night and Monday morning preacher talk!

Case in point… every Sunday evening or Monday morning my preacher friends and I take to Facebook Messenger and discuss how our preaching went.  We discuss whether or not our sermon content was true to the text; if our delivery was suitable, etc… Recently it seems we all, at least in our estimation, “failed miserably!”  Normally there’s a couple of us that seemed to do at least “ok”, but that particular Sunday appeared to have been an across the board disaster!  Some of the words and/or phrases we used to describe our sermons were, “I laid an egg…”; “I preached a clunker…”; “It was a real dud…”; “a downright debacle”; and even, “A deluge of garbage!”  One of my friends even threatened to do what I have thought about doing several times in the past, “I’m calling all my church members and apologizing for that sermon!”  It seemed like the loathing of ourselves and our sermons went on for hours.  Maybe it was a case of “misery loves company”; regardless, it was a genuine loser fest for sure!

In one sense, we all felt as if we had let our people down, but more so the very One who had assigned us to the task of preaching, God Himself.  We commiserated with each other for longer than we should have, then we moved on, looking forward to an opportunity to “redeem” ourselves the next Sunday.  It was at that point of our pity party that one of my preacher friends said something that we all knew, but were too busy wallowing in our ineptitude to realize, “I’m thankful that our God is a God that redeems messes.”  It was a sobering moment and a magnificent reminder as well.  It reminded me that God doesn’t need me!  On the other hand, He has chosen me for the task of preaching and privileged me to partake in His mission of redemption.  He will accomplish His will with or without me, but He has highly blessed me in giving me the privilege of proclaiming the “unsearchable riches of Christ” through preaching. It’s certainly not because of my ability, but in spite of my inability.  That’s a wonderful truth in any task we attempt for God!

The apostle Paul put it this way in his letter to the Corinthian church, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. (2) For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (3) And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, (4) and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (5) so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, ESV).

So there you have it; “God redeems our messes” and uses our inabilities and even our flaws for His glory!  So the next time you attempt to serve God but fail because of your inabilities, learn from it, endeavor in the power of the Holy Spirit to improve, and leave it to God.  He will indeed redeem our messes and make diamonds out of coal.
1 Corinthians 10:31

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Categories: bible, God, grace, hampstead, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, mercy, messes, preaching exposition exaltation exultation church, sin | Leave a comment

Proper response to Christian Persecution

On Sunday, June 28th, 2015, I preached a sermon regarding Christian persecution from the book of 1 Peter.  In part the sermon was in response to a ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) which was reported by CNN like this,

In a landmark opinion, a divided Supreme Court on Friday ruled that same-sex couples can marry nationwide, establishing a new civil right and handing gay rights advocates a historic victory.
(http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/26/politics/supreme-court-same-sex-marriage-ruling/)

This ruling sparked what many would consider an avalanche of freedom for people to be vocal, act on, and even celebrate things that beforehand would have been considered immoral, and helped to solidify an anti-Christian sentiment in America.
Many pulpits across America were filled with preachers/pastors decrying the ruling, stating biblical standards for marriage, and generally helping their people understand what Scripture says about marriage.  I also stated what the Bible clearly says about marriage.  From the Old Testament to the New, it’s clear that marriage is between one woman and one man for life, or as John Piper unmistakably says it,

Marriage is created and defined by God in the Scriptures as the sexual and covenantal union of a man and a woman in life-long allegiance to each other alone, as husband and wife, with a view to displaying Christ’s covenant relationship to his blood-bought church.
(http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/let-marriage-be-held-in-honor-thinking-biblically-about-so-called-same-sex-marriage)

I also stated that I respect someone much more if they simply say they disagree with Scripture instead of trying to justify it through Scripture, especially when Scripture is so crystal clear on the matter.  But I was “preaching to the choir”!  The folks I pastor already know what Scripture says regarding marriage and so called, “same sex marriage”.  But there was an overarching issue in the midst of SCOTUS ruling, and all of the reaction that the church in America, at least in my opinion, has not been prepared for; that is the issue of how to respond such rulings, and furthermore, how to respond to persecution in general.

I am convinced that the church has had the reigns in America for so long that the entire idea of persecution is foreign to us.  Sure, we hear about it in other places, in foreign lands, and we pray for those believers as they face incredible obstacles while striving to live out their faith in Jesus, but the idea that American believers will face persecution for their faith is almost more than we can fathom! But more and more, with each passing week and with each passing law that is blatantly contrary to Scripture, Christian persecution (to one degree or another) is an ever developing reality.  Therefore, we as the church must be prepared to respond properly in a post-Christian America that not only disagrees with a Christian worldview but actually celebrates, revels in, and sanctions a thoroughly secular and flesh driven worldview.  So my purpose in this lengthy blog is to point us to Scripture in order for the church to respond properly, or rather “suffer well” for the glory of God. 

1. Don’t be surprised by what is happening.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you
 (1 Peter 4:12).

Why are we shocked when people attack us simply because we profess faith in Jesus? The Bible says repeatedly that believers will be ill-treated:

2 Timothy 3:12; John 15:18; Matthew 5:44; 1 John 3:13; Luke 6:22; Matthew 5:10; 2 Corinthians 4:8-12; Mark 13:13; Matthew 10:22; Mathew 5:11, and the list goes on…

Whether we have watered down the doctrine of Christian persecution in order to make Christianity more palatable, are focused on a so-called prosperity gospel, or any number of other reasons, by in large our churches have not been taught to expect persecution, and now that it has become a reality we are taken aback by it.  Much like the man who decided to become a boxer; he hired a trainer, worked tirelessly in the gym for months, and scheduled his first bout.  When the bell rang, signaling the start of the fight, he ran to the middle of the ring and started dancing around when suddenly his opponent hit him squarely on the nose, nearly knocking him down!  He then ran to his corner where his trainer was coaching him and with great surprise yelled, “He hit me!?!?”  Unfortunately that’s how the church too often responds to persecution!

Bottom line…as a Christian living in what has become a post Christian country, DO NOT be surprised when you are persecuted for/because of your faith in Jesus…rather, expect it!

2.  Rejoice that you are being reviled because of Christ.

Verses 13 and 14 say,

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (14) If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
There is a reason that some people are persecuted… now mind you, this is not the case for everyone, but for those who simply lift up the name of Jesus, you will be persecuted and you are blessed because of it.  Why? Because the Spirit of God rests upon you…and that is a privilege!

3.  Don’t suffer for dumb stuff!

Verse 15,
 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.

There is enough to keep the Christian busy in this world by simply dealing with anti-Christian sentiment produced by our profession of faith in Christ and holy living…suffering well, for the glory of God should be the only thing we suffer for.  Suffering for dumb stuff like sin is a complete waste of time, energy, and testimony. DON’T DO IT!
4.  Don’t be ashamed of suffering, but glorify God during it.

Verse 16,

Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

So, there is a reason you have been reviled, scoffed at, mocked, belittled, etc… It’s an opportunity to glorify God!  You must understand what is happening here.  When persecution comes, step back, put the wide angle lens on, and get the big picture.  God is bringing glory to Himself through our dependence upon Him in the midst of persecution and the spread of the gospel in the midst of persecution. 

5.  Respond to persecution properly.

Verse 19,

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

There are two extremely important truths that we must glean from this passage…The first is, TRUST GOD!  There’s no other way to endure persecution or to suffer well.  When we don’t trust God through it we will become extremely frustrated and even angry, which brings no glory to God or peace to us.  On the other hand, when we trust God in the midst of persecution He is glorified and we are satisfied.

The second truth is, CONTINUE TO DO THE RIGHT THING! When we as believers are in the midst of persecution it’s easy to become side-tracked… But we simply cannot afford to do that! Keep your eyes on the crucified Christ and continue to live a life that is surrendered to him.

Finally:
Here are a few things that we can expect to see when the church is persecuted:

·        – Regardless of how great America was/is, our faith is not in a nation, but in God alone.

·         –Expect to see theologically shallow churches scatter.

·         –Expect to see gospel-centered churches rise to the top.

·         –Expect to experience God’s grace, mercy, and glory more than ever before.

·         –All of this gives us a great hunger for Heaven and Jesus.

·         –Use this as a divine opportunity to make Jesus known

Categories: 1 Peter, bible, cross, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, persecution, same sex, suffer well, supreme court, trust God | Leave a comment

Biblical Friendship

Biblical Friendship

I seriously believe that if people, especially men, understood biblical friendship, you would see a marked difference in our churches.  I believe the benefits of men understanding and practicing biblical friendship would manifest itself in the church in several ways, including:

·         Koinonia (κοινωνία) Fellowship.  Of course koinonia fellowship can be described as, “fellowship, sharing in common, communion.” The first occurrence of koinonia is Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  In other words, koinonia fellowship is Christ centered fellowship.  This is priceless to the church!

·         Stability:  Along with the koinonia fellowship produced by biblical friendship, comes stability in the church.  When Jesus is the heart of a local body of believers, stability is a natural outflow.  In other words, there’s no “backbiting”, gossip, etc., rather love, concern, and the like…

·         Ministry:  When Christ is the center of our friendships, ministry will be the norm.

So, to say the least, biblical friendship has tremendous benefits, not only to the church but to us as individuals…for these same benefits apply to us individually!

We Need Friendship


“Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find.”
― William Shakespeare

Today friendship has fallen on hard times. Few men have good friends, much less deep friendships. Individualism, autonomy, privatization, and isolation are culturally cachet, but deep, devoted, vulnerable friendship is not. This is a great tragedy for self, family, and the Church, because it is in relationships that we develop into what God wants us to be… Friendships…are there to be made if we value them as we ought – and if we practice some simple disciplines of friendship.
 (Kent Hughes)

Not only these benefits, but more…especially as men.  Men treat friendship differently than women. If we ever speak about the new shoes we got it’s normally something like,

“Dude…got new boots…steel toes…yeah.”  “Cool…”

But fact is we need friendship as much as women…it simply manifests itself differently.  Most of us just want someone to be friend enough to understand what’s going on in our life.  We don’t necessarily need someone to share long conversations, just to know that someone genuinely understands our plight and shows concern.  If you deny this, you’re just dumb…
But that’s a difficult thing to find in our narcissistic society.  Just knowing that someone understands our plight, even if they do nothing about but understand, will often give us the energy to continue on… 

It was C. S. Lewis who said,

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

Again, there are huge benefits to true friendship… –But the greatest benefit of biblical friendship is that it glorifies God!  You remember, I’m sure, the answer to the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism which is,

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”.

This is what we are to be about!  This is the reason we exist and the reason we are given life…to glorify God and enjoy Him forever!  It’s what I call the spiritual circle of life…we glorify God, He is exalted, we rest in Him, He is glorified, etc…what a glorious picture!  This is true in true friendship as well. Hear this statement, Biblical friendship is a God created thing, created and given to bring glory to God. God is glorified in the things He has created, things such as marriage, the church, even friendship.  Marriage is indeed a picture of the godhead and is intended to point people to the godhead, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Think of it this way, in marriage you have two individual persons, both equal to each other, yet one willingly submits to the other for the glory of God.

The church likewise…  The people that make up the church are equal with those who are called to shepherd the church, its leaders, but they willingly submit to their servant leadership.
These two God created institutions were not designed and created by accident…no, not at all!  They were designed and created to point people to God!  By the way, that’s another reason both should be practiced properly/biblically.  That’s why we go to Scripture to understand marriage and church…so we can do them properly and point people to God through Jesus! I believe everything was created to point to a holy, awesome God! 

The same holds true for biblical friendship!  It has a unique design and creation in order for people to see Jesus in the midst of it!  So it’s clear that we should want to understand and practice biblical friendship, because it glories God and benefits us. So how do we do that? By examining passages regarding Christ-centered friendship…

What is Biblical Friendship?

So, we have to ask ourselves…What is friendship?  What does the Bible says about friendship?  I believe the best definition is found in the Bible…and it’s found in Proverbs 18:24…you know it well…
A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
(Proverbs 18:24 ESV)
What do we have in this verse? 

1.  Masses of acquaintances don’t equate to friends…
-We have so many ideas of what makes a “friend”.  But this is for sure…lots of people around you do not friends make.  Facebook cracks me up at times; people brag when they have 1000 “friends”; chances are they are only genuine friends with a handful, if even that!  I really think we need to clarify by calling them “Facebook friends”… Truth is, you may have many people surrounding you and have no friends at all…

Here’s the second truth in this verse…
2.  One who sticks closer than a brother…
-Herein lies the biblical definition for true friendship… I think you can define it just as the verse does,
“…a friend that sticks closer than a brother.”

This is indeed the Old Testament (OT), but unlike what many believe, the OT is not a Jesus-less volume.  The OT is but a trajectory toward Jesus and the cross, and Jesus is all over this proverb!! It was Spurgeon who, when speaking of preaching said,

I take my text and make a bee-line to the cross…

That included the OT.  The same thought is true in this OT proverb; Jesus is all over it!  So we can also say that Jesus is the subject of this verse…and of friendship!  Here’s my declaration, there is no true friendship without Jesus!  Now if we had more time I could share with you what a Jesus-less friendship looks like.  But I will say that God’s grace rains on the just and the unjust and even those outside of Christ can experience and even enjoy bits of true friendship, but not nearly the full benefits of a truly Christ-centered friendship.

Friendship is the grace of God, centered in Jesus Christ.  Many will tell you that family is as close as anyone could get, but to be close to someone in Christ is an entirely different realm; it transcends earthly or natural family…it is indeed supernatural! 

Many think of John 15 when friendship is discussed. There are some key truths in this passage about friendship:

 1.   Biblical Friendship for the Believer is Imperative.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)

If indeed friendship is a God created thing, created and given in order to bring glory to God, then it can be considered Christian fruit.  If we are dwelling in Christ, if you are alive in Christ, if you are a Christian, then you will produce fruit.  If you don’t produce fruit, as the passage says, there are severe consequences!  So friendship is a God created thing that is created and given to bring glory to God…therefore we should produce friendship…YOU ARE NOT AN ISLAND!

2.  Biblical Friendship for the Believer can only be done through Christ!

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)


Trying to be a true or biblical friend on your own strength is impossible!!  It simply cannot be done the way God intended it to be done.  It’s just like anything else a Christian strives to do, whether it’s pray, minister, give, encourage, read and understand the Bible, so forth and so on… If Christ is not the power behind it, it will fail!!  Some of us have made a mess of our friendships because we’ve struggled under our own power to be a friend.  You will do well tonight to understand this very elementary Christian truth; you can do nothing without Christ!!  
If any good work is done in me, it is not I Lord but Thee…

Think again about the quote from the Westminster Catechism,

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”.

If man could do anything under our own power, then we would get the glory…but God will not share His glory with any man!!  But man cannot do anything in his own strength, including friendship, because Jesus is the Vine. We are but the branch that the Vine supports and sustains!

3.  Biblical Friendship for the Believer has Major Consequences. 

 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:6-11)

To sum Biblical Friendship up:
A.      Not abiding in Christ (for friendship or anything else) results in rubbish.
B.      Abiding in Christ (for friendship or anything else) has fruitful results.
C.      Abiding in Christ (for friendship or anything else) glorifies God and accomplishes our purpose for existing.
D.     Jesus is the Perfect Model of True Friendship

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
Wanting true, biblical friendship?  LOOK UNTO JESUS!!

Categories: bible, Brother, Friend, Friendship, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Jesus, John, John 15, Wilmington | Leave a comment

Proper remembering of sin

“And Saul approved of his execution…” From Acts 8:1, speaking of the stoning of one of the first deacons and the first martyr, Stephen… Can you imagine how the apostle Paul (formerly known as Saul) must have struggled with the fact that he was responsible for the torture, imprisonment, and even death of Christians!  No doubt those words, “And Saul approved of his execution…” must have haunted him and lived in the forefront of Paul’s mind consistently.  If Paul was like most of us, the thought of his former self, his former sin, probably consumed his thoughts and brought him much agony.  But we must remember that this was before God breathed spiritual life into him, made his heart of stone a heart of flesh, forgave his sins, and imputed the righteousness of Christ upon him!  Let that sink in for a moment… This was the same man whose life seemed to be devoted to extinguishing Christianity and anything to do with it!

If you read a bit farther into the Acts 8 you will find these words, “But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (ESV).  Say what you want, but this is a clear case of human depravity manifesting itself.  This was a self-righteous human doing what self-righteous humans do… Saul, in one sense was the worst of the worst; the epitome of ungodliness; a picture of evil!  He hated the thought of Jesus and Christianity; so much so that he practiced what could be called an inverse Holocaust.  Saul simply wanted to rid the world of what was known as “The Way”, or what we know as Christianity, and he was passionate and good at it! He continued that endeavor until God rocked his world!!

There he was, on his way to Damascus, no doubt thinking he was in control and would soon put an end to this nonsense they call Christianity; when Jesus appeared to him, blinded him with his glory, and breathed life into his wretchedly dead self!  This is when the Christian killer Saul became the Christ exalting Paul and his purpose and desire in life was to bring glory to Christ and to take the gospel of Jesus to the entire world!!

So what’s my point?  My point is God’s grace is more amazing than any human can fathom and, because of the sacrifice of Jesus, can cover the most wretched of sins.  A.W. Pink described Grace like this,

“…grace is something more than “unmerited favor.” To feed a tramp who calls on me is “unmerited favor,” but it is scarcely grace. But suppose that after robbing me I should feed this starving tramp—that would be “grace.” Grace, then, is favor shown where there is positive de-merit in the one receiving it.”

This definition describes the apostle Paul perfectly.  It also describes the remainder of humanity!  All of humanity has sinned against the Holy God, not only in our actions but with our nature as well.  Our sin is sickening to the holy God and He has every right to pour out his wrath on the whole of us!  But for those who have been redeemed, bought with and by the blood of Christ, that sin is a thing of the past, never to be held against us!  The amazingly gracious God has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103)!  In other words, there’s no sin so large that the sacrifice of the righteous Jesus can’t cover!

If we say our sins are too large or horrible to be forgiven, we are doing nothing less than cheapening the sacrifice of Christ, watering down God’s grace, and making a mockery of the gospel. So, as a Christian, when we think about our sin before Jesus made us alive; when we have those, “And Saul approved of his execution…” moments; remember that we have been redeemed from that sin and that the remembrance of them should only be used to remind of of God’s grace, mercy, love, and glory!! 

Rest in God’s grace…
Categories: grace, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, remember, sin, the apostle paul, wrath | Leave a comment

Dangerous Theological Assumtions

During my tenure as a pastor/shepherd I’ve seen theological heresies come and go, some causing major strife before they are squelched while others seemingly fizzle before they get started. But it’s been my experience that these heresies, as damaging as they are, have been outdone in a sense by something much more common and ostensibly benign; I call it “common theological assumptions”. It indeed has been my experience that these “assumptions” have caused incredible damage and have been extremely difficult to stamp out.

These theological assumptions take on many forms but are most often manifested in quaint, folksy sayings that have been passed down for generations, sometimes from well-meaning family members or friends who simply want to help. The problem is that these assumptions are just that…assumptions, and have never been substantiated by Scripture! I believe the greatest culprit is this assumption, most often voiced like this, “God has promised that He will never place more on you than you can stand!” We’ve all heard it; some of you have even said it, thinking that it will bring comfort to someone who is in the midst of great difficulties, believing invaluable biblical advice is being offered up. But there’s a massive problem, it’s not found in the Bible!! As a matter of fact, the principle behind that advice is actually foreign to Scripture, even the antithesis of it!

I suppose this thought derived from a verse of Scripture that has nothing to do with trials, but with temptations, No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV)

This is indeed a wonderful promise, God will never allow you to be tempted more than you can bear, which is a liberating thought… but the subject is “temptation”, not “Trials” or “hard times”! Nowhere in the Bible does God ever promise that He will not place more (difficulties) on us than we can bear! Fact is, time after time in the Bible you see God doing just the opposite; He gives people far more than they can handle, He puts them in proverbial pressure cookers and turns up the heat, sometimes for long periods of time! Why would He do such? So we will trust and rest in Him! We are weak and frail creatures and cannot handle trials on our own…we must depend on and rest in the Almighty God. When we depend on and rest in Him through Christ, He is glorified and we are filled with joy, even in the midst of trials and difficulties! This is God’s plan! He places more on us than we can bear so we will turn to Him as our burden bearer through Christ! So…when we tell someone that “God will never place more on us than we can bear”, we are doing great damage and stealing God’s glory…so don’t do it!! When someone is bearing the overwhelming weight of difficulties, point them to Jesus!! Tell them that He alone can bear their burdens… that way God is glorified and those who turn to Christ are at peace even in the midst of those hard times! That’s God’s plan…

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”

Categories: false assumptions, false doctrine, heresies, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Scripture | 1 Comment

Looking beyond the physical crucifixion

Once again we approach the day designated to celebrate the sacrificial death of Jesus on a cross.  Obviously, and with great reason there is much anticipation, joy, sorrow, and a plethora of other emotions around the thought of the crucifixion of the Christ.  These emotions run the gamut, from disgust at the thought of the bloodshed and carnage of the actual process of crucifixion and the assertion that God the Father not only allowed this to happen, but willed it and took pleasure/delight in it, to feelings of glorious and overwhelming heights of humbleness that the King of glory would take the wrath of His Father in our place.
My purpose today is not focused on debating my way into the hearts and minds of non-believers, that’s God’s place; rather I simply desire to cause believers to delve into the crucifixion of Jesus a bit further, beyond the physical into the spiritual.

Many pastors, including myself have spent many pulpit hours striving to describe the horror of the crucifixion, at least from a physical standpoint.  Most of us do that so our hearers will better understand the suffering that our Lord endured to please His Father and redeem his church.  I certainly do not regret those many hours proclaiming the great physical price of Christ’s suffering, but my desire is that the church will look even further into His death.  What really happened during those six hours?  Was the suffering physical alone and was the physical aspect of His death the crux of the sacrifice?

Everything about crucifixion was designed for maximum pain and each step leading up to the cross was designed to build on the previous steps.  It was so gruesome the Bible says it was difficult to recognize Jesus as a human,
As many were astonished at you—
chis appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
(Isaiah 52:14, ESV)

Could there be anything worse than this?  What, if anything could trump his physical suffering?  I believe the “spiritual” suffering of Jesus, leading up to and while on the cross was even grimmer than his physical suffering.  Consider these two things, while on the cross Jesus endured the weight of the sin of the world, and in some super-natural fashion God the Son and God the Father were separated.
First, strive to imagine the weight of the sin of the world,
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:6, ESV)

I can’t even bear the weight of my own individual sin!  One sin weighs upon me in unspeakable ways!  That’s ONE sin at ONE time!  Try to conceive all of your sin, the guilt and shame from it being placed upon you at one time!  As difficult as that is, think about Jesus on the cross…He bore the sins of us all…at one time, those before us, those living now, and those in the future.  This is mind-boggling!  How could He do it?  We cannot fathom this, for it is indeed super-natural.   Yes, it is super-natural but it is real!  But it gets even more mind-boggling!

Scripture quotes Jesus from the cross,

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
(Matthew 27:46, ESV)

What on Earth, or should I say in Heaven is going on here?  How could the Father “forsake” the Son?  There’s never been and there never will be a more intimate relationship than the one between God the Father and God the Son.  That relationship is on display throughout Scripture, but I think especially in John 17.  So how/why would the Father “forsake” His Son?  I believe it’s because of our sin which was placed upon him,

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

This had to happen in order for those who would believe to be justified and made righteous, for the Father cannot entertain sin.  So when Jesus “became sin” his Father had to, in some way that is beyond us, turn His back on His Son!  This is nothing short of astonishing!   What could cause more suffering to God the Son than God the Father turning His back on him?!?!?  
Ponder on these things as we once again mourn and celebrate this most startling day…Good Friday!  Soli Deo Gloria!

Categories: bible, crucifixion, good friday, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Jesus | Leave a comment

Church plant!!!!

Many of you know that I have not pastored a church since September of 2010. During that period God has taken me and my family down some very difficult and challenging paths. We understand that our circumstances may not improve anytime in the near future, maybe not while we are on this earth as we know it, but after spending much time in the New Testament book of 1 Peter we recognize that God uses trials to drive us to rest in His sovereignty, which allows Him to be glorified. These indeed have not been easy trials but fruitful, in that they have begun the process of breaking and molding us and giving us the mind of Christ.

Through all of the testing I have never lost the desire to shepherd God’s people; my heart is filled with that desire. I have had serious discussions with several established churches concerning becoming their pastor but God has simply not allowed it to happen. With that being said, I have tossed around the idea of planting a church for a long time. I had presented the idea to the churches I previously pastored but I didn’t detect enough interest and desire to pursue it. As many of you know there must be a clear call and strong desire to take part in planting a church. Although that desire has been within me for a long time, God had not freed me up to pursue it until recently. Therefore I and several others have started the process of planting a church in the Wilmington area.

Of course, there are many reasons to NOT plant a church; I’ve heard and thought through most them if not all of them. As a matter of fact, these reasons kept me from pursuing church planting for a long time. While there are many reasons to NOT plant a church, there are a plethora of reasons TO start one! But the one constant that is driving me to partake in church planting is God’s call. Simply put, I have a strong call to participate in planting a church in Wilmington.

I am not alone in this endeavor; there are several who have been meeting for months, praying, planning, and seeking God’s will in this matter. They include Chris Canuel, Allen Murray, Blair Canady, and others. In recent weeks Allen has returned to school in Hendersonville, NC but he will still be involved where and when he is able.
We had initial meeting with some who have been involved with my ministry in the past and who are interested in a church plant. Our next step, while we are finalizing many other details, is to have a public meeting to share our vision with anyone interested. That meeting will take place on November 13th at the Best Western conference room at Monkey Junction in Wilmington, the address is 5600 Carolina Beach Rd. at 6:00 PM.

If you are seriously interested in a God centered, Bible based community of believers, then please consider joining us as we share our vision for God’s glory!

Categories: bible, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Wilmington | 2 Comments

Thankful for everything?!?!?

It’s the Thanksgiving season; along with the assumption that we will eat massive amounts of turkey and dressing comes the assumption that we will unashamedly and publicly give thanks.

Thanksgiving is based on the Bible; that’s why the first Thanksgiving was established. The Pilgrims, who were steeped in Scripture wanted to make sure God was glorified for the blessings that He lavished on His people. Remember, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever!” One of the ways to glorify God is to be thankful for His blessing and provision. I want to follow the example of the Pilgrims and unashamedly give thanks. I want the world to know where my dependence lies and as Ephesians 5:20 says,

“…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This verse says to give “thanks for everything…” So, here are some things, large and small, that I am extremely thankful for; not necessarily in order of priority:

Shelter, cars (with or without Air Conditioning), the Bible, dog leashes, friends, chicken, pickles, Doppler radar, microphones, greeting cards, banjos, banjo picks, raincoats, toothpicks (especially the cinnamon flavored ones) , water heaters, taste buds, God-centered theologians, trash trucks, family (especially mine), grace, math, forks, snakes that eat other snakes, fire alarms, Mop and Glo, mirrors, really loud fireworks, the letter “J” (my name would sound like someone got hurt without it), people who can really play the fiddle, encouragers, Trumpet valve oil, popcorn salt, bones, shoes, strawberry syrup at Ihop, Tilex Mold and Mildew remover, airplanes, soldiers, band directors, dedicated church members (you know who you are), waiters and waitresses, locks, nose hair trimmers, insulated underwear, mercy, boats, bookmarks, Interstate rest areas, hammocks, cameras, wisdom, doorknobs, the Gospel, harmony, deodorant, teachers, dogs, USB ports, scoreboards, fish hooks, banana peels, the Sun, ear buds, Tabasco and Texas Pete, the chain they measure first downs with, eyelids, instant replay, old hymns, people who read blogs, cups, gas powered leaf blowers, waders, WD-40, peanut oil, the reformation, windshields, rain, electricity, memory, sight, Ibuprofen, gates, mentors, septic tanks, birthdays, ABC’s 25 days of Christmas, Minimum speed limits, common sense, freedom, mailboxes, yearbooks, wheels, fire, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, faith, God’s sovereignty, sleep, sneezes, remote controls, socks that don’t droop, liberty, prayer, legal pads, religious freedom, pencil sharpeners, chain linked fences, the word “honorificabilitudinitatibus”, false teeth, missionaries, people that are thankful, and…well, you get the picture.

So, let’s join the Psalmist as he declared,

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Categories: http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post | 4 Comments

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