Take a Look in the Mirror

mirror.jpg

There is something that I do every morning before leaving the house that will make or break the day. I eat breakfast, take a shower, spend time with the family before we begin our days. While these are very important, I must make sure to check myself over in the mirror. It’s here that I discover whether or not my hair looks good or whether there’s a piece of food stuck in my teeth. I can take inventory on my appearance simply by gazing into this piece of glass. 

While some people hate looking at themselves in the mirror, I do believe that there are some great benefits to this self-examination. It is through this self-examination that we are reminded of who God has created us to be. But I fear that many of us don’t take this opportunity to understand, appreciate, and value the very person that God has created us to be. My friends, it’s time to take a look in the mirror and see ourselves accurately in the way that God has designed. 

The Apostle Peter wrote his two letters to a church that was scattered everywhere and enduring some terrible persecutions. Because of this, some of the people were forgetting their identity. Peter took the opportunity to hand them a mirror, so they could see and be reminded. God is doing the same for us today—this is who Jesus says you are: 

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10) 

Church family, this is who you are. You have been given an identity in Christ, you have been chosen by God to be His holy people. You are special. You have been created with and for a purpose. We can be sure of that. And if at any time you doubt this, make sure to turn back to His word so that Jesus Himself can hold the mirror while you take a good look at who God has created. 

Summer in the Psalms

I love how each book of the Bible encapsulates an aspect of our walk with Jesus. Some of the books display the stories of how God works in the lives of people. Others display the heroic stories of faith and how God overcomes all things. Others display the doctrine and theology that we need to grasp to understand who God is, all that God has done and promises to do for us. We also see books of Scripture that capture the human condition in our walks with God. 

One such book is the book of Psalms. If you’re not familiar with this book, the book of Psalms is a collection of 150 psalms (songs) that were written by a variety of people, most notably King David. In these psalms we find people singing about a huge range of emotions and circumstances. What is it like to worship God when we feel alone? How do we carry on when everything seems stacked against us? How do we celebrate and worship God? Where do we run when the things of life get hard? How do we face issues of loneliness, pride, self-worth, value, love, and how do these transcend to our relationship with Jesus? The book of Psalms is a treasure-trove of our connection with our Savior. 

Summer in the Psalms. Beginning on Sunday, June 10th, we will look at different psalms and glean from our forefathers the important lessons on how to walk this life of faith. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see God work powerfully in our lives as we learn how to seek Him in and through every circumstance. Make sure to pray about who you will invite to be a part of this series and pray that God would draw you closer to Him through it. You won’t want to miss this Summer in the Psalms. 

Water Your Grass

Water Your Grass Title ppt.jpg

Have you heard the expression, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence?” I would imagine that many of you have. There are times in life when we look at our own lives and for some reason or another conclude that others have it better than we do. They have a better family. A better job. Better cars. A nicer boat. Better relationships. Their “yard” is the picture of what we see on HGTV, while we feel that ours looks like a picture from Kansas during the Dust Bowl from the Great Depression era! So, what do we want? We want green grass! We want their yard! 

There are many lessons to learn from this illustration. The most obvious lesson is the danger of coveting; desiring that which belongs to another. It is very dangerous, and Scripture warns us against this. While this could be an entire letter in itself, I think that there’s another struggle that we face in this illustration. The main issue is that we need to take some time to examine why our grass isn’t quite as green. Friends, if you want green, healthy grass, it needs WATER! You must water your own grass for it to be healthy. 

Our new message series is entitled, “Water Your Grass.” We are going to take the month of May to identify areas in our lives, whether spiritual, physical, or emotional, that need to have care. As believers in Jesus, this needs to be of paramount importance. We must care for that which has been entrusted to us by God, culminating in the response of the psalmist from Psalm 35:9, “Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD, exulting in my salvation.” This verse sums up what a “well-watered lawn” looks like—one that rejoices in God! 

As we look towards this series, I invite you to pray about the areas of your life that need some water. Pay attention to the areas that God shows you and be careful not to reject what He shows you, even if you don’t agree. God longs for soul care. I can’t wait to see what Jesus will do during this next season as we take care of the grass on our side of the fence. 

The Baby With the Bathwater

Do you like to get new things? There is such a thrill whenever we get something new. There’s nothing like slipping on a new pair of shoes for the first time or the smell that comes from the first ride in a new car or experimenting with the amazing things that my new iPhone can do. Adults aren’t the only ones who love new things. My children love new things; their faces completely light up whenever they get a new toy or game or when my daughter gets a new outfit. We all love new things! 

This idea of new is better isn’t simply left to our society, but the Church seems to buy into this as well. We love new ways of doing things, singing new worship songs, new dress styles, and involving technology into our worship services. It is good to do new things! The church should like things that are new and fresh. In fact, the Psalmist writes in Psalm 96:1 that we should, “sing to the LORD a new song.” New is good. 

While new is good, when did we come to the thought that the old is bad or inferior? When did modern methodology replace ancient theology? One of our problems is that we tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Friends, just because something is old doesn’t mean it is bad. Yes, we need new ideas and songs and methods, but that doesn’t mean we abandon the things that still work and are still relevant. We need to strive for growth, and that growth requires a foundation that was laid by the generations before. 

So how can we make this dichotomy work? Let me give you 3 suggestions. 

  • Read books by Dead People. I know what you’re thinking. I probably had the same thoughts the first time I heard this statement. But the truth in it is amazing. The generations before us had the same issues and struggles in their walks with God. When we read through how they handled these issues, we gain such a wealth of wisdom. Read books by St. Augustine, the Westminster Catechism, Martin Luther, D.L. Moody, A.B. Simpson, etc. 
  • Be Open to New Ideas. When was the last time you prayed for a new passion or vision or desire? When was the last time you sang a new song or experienced something out of your spiritual comfort zone? Realize that by being open to new ideas, you don’t have to abandon the old. Simply build on the foundation that God is laying for you. 
  • Choose What Benefits. There’s really good old things, but also old things that should be left. There are great new songs, but some that should be left alone. Make sure that everything lines up with Scripture and is profitable. 

I pray these will be helpful to you. 

I find that the quote attributed to St. Augustine is very applicable to our discussion of old v. new. He writes, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things charity.” May God bless us as we continue to seek after Him! 

Preparation for Easter

lent.jpg

Lent is the time of preparation and reflection before Easter. During this time, we take time to draw near to Jesus and contemplate the incredible love, grace, and hope displayed on the cross of Calvary and through the Resurrection the following Sunday! This year, we were challenged to prepare and reflect on the message of Easter as we took the 45-Day Challenge through the Gospels. I am absolutely loving this journey and pray that Jesus would show you more and more about who He is as we undertake this journey together. 

We are now just about half-way through this challenge. I trust that you’re finding this experience rewarding. Reading Scripture never disappoints. The Bible is God’s Holy Word written directly to us. In it He speaks of great truths, messages of encouragement, and hope for a life spent with Him. While reading Scripture to know God more is a good idea, it’s not the real purpose of reading Scripture. I want to give you 3 things that take place when we read Scripture that go far above simple knowledge. 

  • We Read Scripture so that Jesus Can Transform Us. Simple knowledge isn’t good enough. If we were after knowledge, the Bible would be a textbook. But in fact, we see that the Word of God is used to make us into a new being; one that has encountered the True God and is being made like Him.
  • We Read Scripture so that Jesus Can Equip Us. The purpose of the message series, Knowing Jesus, is taking the opportunity for Scripture to impart life lessons on how Jesus would handle the situations in life so that our attitudes and actions glorify Jesus and draw others closer as well. May we be thoroughly equipped (2 Tim. 3:16-17) 
  • We Read Scripture so that We Can Be Encouraged. We all need encouragement. We all face difficult situations in life that cause us to question whether following Jesus is worth the trouble. But when we look to Scripture, we see the testimony of God’s faithfulness. He was faithful to believers of the past—ministering in times of distress and oppression. He is faithful to believers now and will continue to be in the future. One of the most encouraging things we see in Scripture is that Jesus tells us how everything ends—He wins. Sin is defeated, and an eternity awaits us. What can be more encouraging to our perseverance than knowing it all works out! 

This is what Scripture does. 

I want to encourage you to continue in seeking Jesus through the Scriptures. If you’ve fallen off the wagon of the 45-Day Challenge, let me encourage you to get back into Scripture. It’s never too late. God longs to transform you through the Word. 

Time to Celebrate “Love”

The month of February elicits strong, emotional responses out of many people. Not only is it the month of the Super Bowl (and this game always seems to bring about passion from even the most uninterested people), but it is also the month where we celebrate “love”. Some people absolutely love to celebrate Valentine’s Day. They will wear pink or red all day, send flowers or cards to their special valentines, head to the store to make sure they pick up the heart-shaped Russell Stover box of chocolates, and express love in countless other ways. While some people are very excited about celebrating Valentine’s Day, others come together and celebrate their disdain for the holiday. Regardless of which side of the debate you’re on, we in fact do celebrate love. 

I like to celebrate on Valentine’s Day. But one thing I know and long to impart to my family and loved ones is that we need to have an accurate view of love to fully appreciate and celebrate love. There is no better place than Scripture to find the definition of love, and today I want to take you to 1 Corinthians 13: The Love Chapter. In here we see Paul give an amazing discourse on love. Most of us know the passage: love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, and the list continues. This is what love is! As we celebrate true love this year, let me draw you to a couple of points about celebrating Love. 

  • True Love Originates in Jesus Christ—1 John 4:19 states that “we love because He first loved us.” All love begins with God. He’s the source of love. He’s love perfected. He loves perfectly. There is no way that we can be loved any more than what He already pours out on us. We celebrate love because we are loved by Jesus Christ. This love then pours out of us onto others. This is real love. 
  • Jesus’ Love is Described in 1 Corinthians 13. Instead of simply hearing that love is patient and kind, instead hear it as Jesus’ love is patient, kind, doesn’t envy or boast, isn’t proud or rude, isn’t self-seeking, doesn’t keep records of wrongs, always hopes, perseveres, never fails. And these words don’t fully encapsulate Jesus’ love for us—it is much greater! 
  • Love is a Choice—will you choose to allow the love of Jesus to flow from you to those around you? Will you choose to love your spouse with Jesus’ love? Your children? Your church family? Your coworkers? Your classmates? There are times when people around us will seem unlovable. If we try to love on our own, it will be an impossible task to love them. But with the love of Jesus, all things are possible. We must love. 

What an amazing display of love we see! 

My prayer and encouragement for you is that you would celebrate “love”. Celebrate Jesus’ love for you. Celebrate the love He gives you to pour into others. Don’t withhold the celebration—love is worth it! 

Do You Know WWJD?

wwjd?.jpeg

Every generation has some sort of fad (or even multiple fads) that are expressed in the social culture. The 70s had bell bottoms. The 50s saw the beginning of the mobile culture and now drive ins and juke boxes were prevalent. When I was in high school in the 90s, there was another fad that was popular—WWJD. If you’re not familiar, WWJD is an acronym for “what would Jesus do.” People would have bracelets, pencils, T-shirts, and anything else that could be stamped with this incredible message. The whole premise would be to look at those letters and stop and think whether the behavior that you’re about to do would be something that Jesus would do.

This really is a good fad, and to be honest, one that the church of today needs as a guiding force in our walk with Jesus. But there was an issue back then as well as today. While people longed to act and think like Jesus, they didn’t understand how Jesus would act or think! They were simply taking best guesses instead of acting in a full knowledge of how Scripture shows us we are to act if we’re going to be like Jesus. 

Because of this, we are going to begin a new message series entitled “Knowing Jesus”. We’re going to look at the 4 books of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and see different stories of Jesus’ interactions with people, lessons taught, and situations encountered so that we can see how Jesus really did life and how we can model our lives after His. While I know we’ll never be perfect, may the beginning of 2018 be a time where we simply know Jesus better, so we can better follow Him. 

Have a very happy and blessed New Year! 

 

Catching the Vision

For over 130 years the Christian and Missionary Alliance has been taking the gospel message of Jesus Christ to the nations. This passion for reaching lost people with the gospel still resonates passionately among The Alliance family to this day. I firmly believe that our calling here at Circle Drive Alliance still beats with the passion of our founder Dr. Simpson as we seek to make disciples of Jesus here in our local community, there among our region, and everywhere, even to the ends of the earth. This is who we are.

Germany-&-Bosnia.jpg

I want to ask you to stop and think about whether or not you are as passionate for global missions as our founder was or as our Lord Jesus is? I think that if we honestly assess our hearts, we would have to answer that we probably aren’t as passionate for missions as we’d like to be. We often get distracted by the things that we feel in our own lives and forget about missions or put the nations on the back burner. 

To make sure that Jesus’ command to preach the gospel to the nations is constantly before us, we often need a refreshing of the vision. I want to inform you of a wonderful opportunity that I have. I have been approached by the District to be a part of a pastoral vision team that will gain a fresh perspective on what God is doing in the lives of the people of Bosnia and Germany. I am a part of a team of 4 lead pastors from around the district, and we will be there from November 7th-17th.

Our team will interact with international workers in their fields, participate in their work, meet the people whose lives have been touched by the gospel, and to prayerfully consider how we can better engage our churches and district in partnering with these workers and churches to take the gospel to the nations. I firmly believe that through this trip God will give voice to this incredible work and allow me to communicate His heart for the nations to you through this trip. 

Friends, this trip is all about how we can have greater engagement with the mission and our workers. I long for you to join me in prayer over the next months so that I will be able to hear from God in powerful ways. Also pray about how Jesus would have you participate with Him and us as we preach the gospel to the nations. I look forward to all that Jesus will do through this incredible time in our church. May God receive all glory, honor, and praise. 

Together

Together.jpg

Have you ever had a time in your life (I would imagine that you have if you think about it for a little while) where it seems that everywhere you look or the thoughts that you think revolve around a single theme? I’m experiencing one of those times in my life right now. It doesn’t matter what I read, what message I listen to, or how God whispers in my prayer and devotional life, there is a single theme that God is communicating to me. While these times are a little daunting and sometimes even unnerving, God usually uses these times as an incredible growth period for me. The topic that God is speaking to me about right now is a very simple one, yet is at the very core of our walk with Jesus—He’s talking to me about living our life of faith together. 

The notion of being together is one that is growing more complex as time passes by. If we look back 30 years ago, together meant face to face contact, living near family and friends, people knowing your face, personality, and makeup. But with the progression of technology, together in 2017 looks a lot different. We live in a transient society where people don’t plant roots in a specific place. We rely on social media to be connected with loved ones. I can’t even imagine how technology will evolve in the upcoming years and how community and togetherness will be impacted by it. 

There is one sure fact—we need to be together. Humans were wired by God for community, family, togetherness. Scripture addresses this all over, informing us of the necessity to community. “Don’t give up meeting together” is written in Hebrews. We see how the early church had everything in common and believers in Jesus were never seen alone—they had everything in common (not a plug for socialism, but rather a family). In fact, as Jesus was preparing to ascend to heaven after His resurrection, His priority was to commission the church—a place to live life together with the faithful. 

We need to be together. God knows this. We cannot hope to be successful followers of Jesus on our own. But what does this look like? How can we live our life of faith together? Our message series for the month of September is called “Together.” We’re going to examine 4 areas where we, as the church need to live life together—Our Purpose, Our Passion, Our Provision, Our Personalities. 

As we head into this new series, I want to ask you to enter into a season of prayer and seek God. Seek Him for His leading as you hear and respond to these messages. Seek Him for conviction if you’ve been neglecting the community. I know that Jesus longs to work as we come even closer together as His body. 

Difficult Questions

The Bible is an amazing book! It is God’s divine, written word to us. The Bible has the power to give life through the power of the gospel that covers its pages. The Bible is full of hope, able to penetrate to our very souls so that it can surgically excise our sinful character. The Bible is inerrant and is without contradictions. It is completely and absolutely true. There is no other book given to men that is as powerful. God is to be praised for giving us His word so that we can know Him more! 

While Scripture accomplishes these things—and even much more than I have listed—it is also full of statements, teachings, doctrines, and messages that are really difficult for us to hear. It seems hard to believe that one of the identifying marks of a believer is that we will suffer, just like our Master. It seems difficult to realize that Scripture calls a believer to live a countercultural life while here on this earth. The very things that are totally acceptable and even popular within a culture are rejected by Scripture. While I totally believe Scripture, these hard truths often collide with our society and now leave us as believers with some difficult questions that we need answered. 

Even though we have difficult questions that we desire answers to, we can rest assured that the same Scripture that declares these hard truths also gives us the answers to these questions. Jesus longs for us to know Him and to know the answers, and we can get them directly from Him. To help our church find these answers to these difficult questions, I am going to lead a 4-week study on answering these difficult questions directly from Scripture.

We will begin on Sunday, July 30th at 10am in the Sanctuary. But before we get there, I’m asking you to submit a difficult question you’d like to discuss. You can submit them by emailing me, filling out a Connect Card, or put your question on the index card and place it into the box in the foyer. I’m trusting that this will be a great discussion and blessed time. Life is difficult. Faith can seem difficult. Let’s turn together to God’s Word and see these difficulties dealt with by Jesus Himself.