Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bring It!

As you know, I'm pretty stoked about snowstorms and winter weather. As long as no one gets hurt, I think that the inconvenience of it all is kind of fun. This storm that's coming tomorrow looks like a good one. They are saying that we could get around 10 inches of snow here in good old Enid, America! I say awesome, bring it on!

Tonight starts the first night of me not teaching during our regular church hour. I've taught for a long time from 6:30-7:30 every Wednesday for about 18 months now. Now I'm doing something a little different and I'm pretty jazzed about it. During the church hour I'm going to float and do some checking in on groups, classes, children's ministry, and youth ministry. After that I start my new Catalyst Men's group tonight. It's a men's group that's focused on leadership development in men for the Kingdom. I'm pretty excited about how many of our younger men have stepped up to the HUGE commitment to be in this group. I'm excited to see how God is going to stir in these men's hearts the passion for spiritual leadership in their families and in this church.

Praise God for all of the awesome things that he's doing in and amongst us. To Him be all praise, honor, glory and power.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What's Bad About Bitterness

More great thoughts from Greg. He makes a great point about trying to focus on the sins and lives of others instead of focusing on ourselves. This is so true and a struggle for many people, even Christians. Let us all lay our hearts open before God and let Him "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me...." Psalm 139: 23-24

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you."
Ephesians 4:31–32

Augustine reportedly had a sign on his wall that read, "He who speaks evil of an absent man or woman is not welcome at this table." That would have ended a lot of conversations, wouldn't it?

The Bible tells us to "get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior" (Ephesians 4:31). Slander speaks of saying evil things about others behind their backs.

Bitterness, which is an embittered and resentful spirit that refuses to be reconciled, makes the Holy Spirit sad and sorrowful. Yet some people like to be mad. They live for conflict. They live for arguments. They live for fighting. They seem to actually like it.

Then there are the people who avoid conflicts, and I will admit that I am one of them. I don't like conflict. I dread it in fact. But some people are just looking for something to fight about, and they seem to go from conflict to conflict. You probably know people like this. They are always mad at someone. They always have their nemesis, the one person who is the source of all their misery, and they are always talking about him or her. And they often are very critical, constantly nitpicking and trying to uncover things in other people's lives.

Yet I have made an interesting discovery: the person who has been covering up sin in his or her life typically is always trying to uncover sin in the lives of others. It never surprises me when I find that the most critical people are guilty of something far worse themselves.

So don't live that way. It grieves the Holy Spirit. If you let bitterness go unchecked, it could lead you to take the next step—and to something even worse.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Yes, I Like You

Being a youth ministry for over 10 years myself, I have a great appreciation for who they are and what they mean to the church now and the future. So, I say yes to this comic. I like you a lot!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lying About Wives & Grabbing Thighs

I don't know how many in our church have started reading through the entire Bible this year, but I've already found this a very rewarding task in my personal life. We've made it through about half of Genesis and it's amazing to go back and read again all that happened in that book of beginnings. I've been especially blessed to refresh myself through the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. To see God's faithfulness even amongst our unfaithfulness is unreal! And I caught something that I've never caught before. (Those of you who are reading through the Bible probably caught this too.) What's up with Abraham calling Sarah his sister a couple of times, to keep himself from trouble? (Genesis 12:10-20 & Genesis 20) Then Isaac turns around and does the same thing with Rebekah! (Genesis 26:1-11) (Did you catch that?) I'm reading that and I'm thinking, "Trust God, you idiots!" He will protect you! Abimelech must have been wondering, what's wrong with these guys?!

I also chuckled when Abraham was sending out the chief servant of his household to find Isaac a wife and made him promise he wouldn't find a woman from the Canaanites and he sealed the deal by grabbing his thigh. That's got to be awkward! (Read it in Genesis 24:1-9 esp. verse 2 & 9) Anyway, it's sure interesting to read these stories of the patriarchs again and be blessed by all God is and by all He promises! I'm reminded what a mighty and gracious God we serve!

Reaching Today's Culture

These are excellent thoughts from Greg Laurie. I couldn't agree more. We cannot lower God's standards to extend our reach.

Greg writes:
It's a real challenge to reach our culture today. In my 35 years of ministry, I have never seen greater Bible illiteracy.

There was a time when you could assume most people had a general idea of the Bible. If you were talking with someone and made a reference to Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, Noah and his ark, or even Jesus Christ, they would have a sense of what or who you were referring to.

Not anymore. People are largely oblivious to the Bible, not only as God's Word but even as great literature. The obsession of some to implement the "separation of church and state" has contributed to this illiteracy concerning God's Word.

When I present the gospel today—especially to young people—I can no longer assume that they understand what I mean when I say something along the lines of, "You need to repent of your sin and put your faith in Jesus and become His disciple!" They might wonder what it means to repent, or even what sin is.

Our challenge as believers in reaching this post-modern generation is to make sense without compromising our message.

By the way, I think way too much is made of the whole modern/post-modern generational issue. There are some valid things to know about each group, but let's not forget that the essential gospel message does not change. The gospel that the apostles delivered in the first century still resonates with the twenty-first century.

But we still need to adapt and become, as Paul said, "all things to all men." Paul said:
"I have become a servant of everyone so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Jews, I became one of them so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Gentiles who do not have the Jewish law, I fit in with them as much as I can. In this way I gain their confidence and bring them to Christ. Yes , I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ." (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

Note that Paul says, "I fit in with them as much as I can." There is a place to draw the line when you are around nonbelievers. We want to be careful to try to influence them more than they are influencing us. Sometimes, in an attempt to "relate" to nonbelievers, Christians will make unnecessary compromises. Listen, if you become too much like them, they will never want to become like you. Let's reach people, but let's also stand our ground and hold to our principles as followers of Jesus.

Some may want to rationalize compromise in their life as a Christian by protesting, "Well, Jesus hung around sinners!" That is not really true. Jesus did not "hang around sinners," for the most part. Actually, He "hung around" his disciples when He was not teaching. When Jesus was with sinners who were separated from God, they did not stay that way for long. He confronted the woman at the well about her sin. Sure, He loved her, but he pointed out she was living in sin with a man at present. She also came to faith after that.

Yes, Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, but it was only after she called Him "Lord." Even then, He said to her, "Go, and sin no more. . . "

When he went into the home of a notorious sinner named Zacchaeus, the little guy emerged transformed.

So, let's work on building a bridge to our lost world, not burning one. At the same time, let's not lower our standards in order to extend our reach.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pray and Don't Lose Heart

"Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart." Luke 18:1

Jesus was talking to His disciples, His closest followers. He was in a stage of the ministry where He was teaching them many lessons. He had begun to reveal to them what would be happening in the future. He is about to teach them another parable and we see this verse, "Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart."

The principle from this verse is a treasure to all who will grasp it. We ought to pray and not lose heart, at all times and in all circumstances.

Prayer is simply communication with God. When we communicate with a friend or loved one, we are closer to them. We know more about them. We are more intimate with them. When we pray to God we are closer to Him and begin to understand and trust Him more.

Many times this life is filled with disappointments. We don't always enjoy every circumstance that comes our way. Perhaps we've lost a job or a loved one. Maybe we are stricken with some ailment or out of finances to pay bills. Maybe we are depressed and lonely. Here, Jesus is saying to pray and not lose heart. This translates to ALL areas of our lives. We are called to focus on our relationship with the Lord and communicate to Him, even our needs or questions. We are then called to have faith and trust in the one that holds all outcomes and to not lose heart.

How would your life be if you put this into practice? We see Jesus as our example even in this. Before he would address the crowds, He would often times pull away and pray and seek God. As I read scripture, I see that Jesus never lost heart. He was always praying to God. Before He fed the 5,000 we read that He looked to heaven and asked for God's blessing. If Jesus practiced this praying and not losing heart in His own life and ministry, how much more should we practice it in these last days?

There's an old hymn that says, "Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey!" Trust God and let His Spirit work in you this day!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

So Cold Yet So Warm

The temperature outside my window when I got up this morning was a balmy 10 degrees. The high today is 15 degrees. The wind chill right now is minus 2 to minus 4. They are saying 0 for the low tonight and wind chills as much as minus 20. That's crazy cold! Last night as people were coming to church it was just starting to get cold. As we left church last night it was freezing drizzle and a strong wind. It's cold! (So be careful out there, especially those who are elderly.)

Last night kicked off our Wednesday nights again. It had been 2 Wednesdays since we had met. It was great to be back and see people again. We had a really good group despite the weather. Though it was cold outside, the fellowship happening inside was very warm. It's good to have a warm place to meet as well as a warm church family to learn with, pray with, and just share life with. Praise God for the blessing of each other.

I'm praying that Wednesdays would continue to grow and amp up again. I think that every person, no matter where they spiritually, will benefit from being involved in a group or class on Wednesday nights. It's a time to get to know one another better and form closer relationships. It's a safe place to learn and ask questions. I will continue to pray for everyone to have those type of relationships in their life, whether it's built through Wednesday nights, Sunday School classes, or small groups.

May 2010 be the year of HUGE spiritual growth in all of us at Oakwood! Bring it on, Lord!

Stay warm out there!