Thursday, September 3, 2009

Three Barriers to Faith

Three Barriers to Faith
The Parable of The Sower
Matthew 13

As I was getting ready for my sermon for Wednesday night with the teens I began looking at the Parable of the Sower in a different way. Instead of looking for the surface problems of each of the different types of soils, I wanted to look at the real problems. I also wanted to see what there was about the parable that would affect the way we do church today. Upon studying the text this way I began to see that there were three Barriers that were keeping the seeds that fell on the path, the rocky ground, and the thorny ground from growing. These are the same three Barriers that keep people from living a life of faith in Christ.
1. Lack of Understanding – The path represents those who hear the Gospel message, but do not understand it. It doesn’t say whose fault the lack of understanding was. We often assume it is the hearer’s fault, but I am beginning to wonder if the fault could sometimes fall to the messenger.
2. Lack of Depth – The rocky ground represents those who hear and respond to the Gospel message, but then later fall away because of hard times. The problem for this type of soil is not the tribulations, but rather that their depth is not in the Scriptures, but in someone or something else. When that thing moves (be it a parent, friend, worship style, or church building) their faith begins to waver. We need to be and produce believers who only find their depth in the word of God.
3. Lack of Space – The thorny ground represents those who respond to the Gospel message, but never produce fruit because too many other things get in the way. When someone accepts Christ other things have to leave their life. If this doesn’t happen then fruit is hindered. The person may look like a Christian, and act like a Christian, but based on what God requires of a Christian they are not a Christian because they have no space.
As I think on these three soils I think also of the good soil, and I ask myself the question: “What do we need to do to get more people at Central to be Good Soil.” I haven’t come up with a full answer yet, but I do know it has something to do with these three things.
1. We need to help people understand the message of the Gospel
2. We need to help people find their depth in the Word of God
3. We need to help people have space to be fruitful for Christ
Let’s think on these things as we do ministry together at Central.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Nearly finished

Sorry no pictures today. Our schedule has been crazy, as you can imagine. Yesterday the students spent the day passing out tracts and information about the new church coming to the area. I think this was a great experience for them. They came back with stories about their experiences, good stories, sad stories, and everything in between. These students have had a great servant attitude throughout this whole trip. All the adults that have come in contact with this group have been amazed at how they work, and how they treat each other. I am excited about the work that has been done on this trip, but more excited about the lives that have been changed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pictures from our first day of working











I hope you enjoy some quick pictures. Things are going well, all of the students are working well, and seem to be having a good time while doing it. The pastor of the church here in Battle Creek has been very impressed with our work, so much so that he had us change some of our afternoon plans for fear of running out of work. Thanks for your support and prayers




Sunday, July 26, 2009

Safely in Battle Creek

Just wanted to let everyone know that we arrived safely in Battle Creek this evening. The church service went well, and we had a good time at dinner. We are looking forward to an exciting day tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Teen Retreat/Mission Trip

I wanted to take a moment and post some of the activities that we are looking at doing on this year's retreat to help you all understand what this summer is going to be like.

  • Waterpark
  • Painting
  • Minature Golf
  • Great times with God
  • Go Carts
  • Hiking
  • Learning from the Word
  • Bowling
  • Swimming pool at our hotel
  • Working together as a team
  • Beach
  • Landscaping work

These are all possibilities of what we could do. Our schedule, finances and the weather will determine which of these will actually happen. I also do not want you to forget the main point of this trip is not the fun (but there is going to be lots of fun), the main point is for us to get closer to God and also serve him by helping out with the remodeling of the church. Let me know if you have any questions!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Just One Strike??

I just finished watching one of my favorite tv shows tonight and it got me thinking... In the show there was a former FBI agent who had been forced into retirement after 30 years of exemplary service because of a bad decision. This former FBI agent wanted to be involved in a case that he felt he could help with. He did not want his lone mistake in his FBI career to be the only thing people remembered him for, nor did he want to sit on the sidelines just because of one mistake. Many of the FBI agents gave him the cold shoulder or even suspected him of wrong doing, but there was one agent that extended grace and say the best not the worst in this former agent.

As I sat there watching this, I thought of all the pastors that are treated this way after one mistake. As Christians we have a bad case of selective memory. We (and I include myself) can forget everything good a pastor has done as soon as there is something negative that comes in his life. And even if the pastor is able to get his life back together it seems that we only remember his mistake. My question is this: Should we only be giving one strike?

Maybe some would say "yes, we should only give one strike to pastors."

But let me ask the question differently: Do you only want one strike?

How should grace effect our reaction to these situations?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Fraternity of Suffering

Suffering is not a good word in the English language. It is not something that we long for; it is not something that we want to be a part of our lives. In fact, we have learned that it is not supposed to be part of our life, especially as Christians. But I have found out that I was taught incorrectly! I was lied to, I was tricked, swindled, mislead… Whoever made me believe that Christ would keep me from suffering sold me a bucket of lies.

I have come to understand what many of you already understand, life = suffering. There is not suffering without life, and there is no life without suffering. My wife and I have recently come through the roughest 9 months of our lives! Suffering stopped being an abstract concept and somehow became part of life. Since last August Jill and I have been pregnant 3 times only to lose all three of our children through miscarriages. I thought I had learned what suffering was after the first miscarriage, and definitely after the second. But now after three, I can only hope I understand a portion of what suffering is, this is a hard lesson to understand.

One thing I have noticed about suffering is that there seems to be a fraternity of suffering. It is a somewhat exclusive club of those that have suffered. It’s one of those groups like “Fight Club” that is secret, unless you have been initiated. If you have not joined the “club” then you don’t know the other members, but as soon as you join the Fraternity of Suffering it is easy to pick out the other members of the club. Through the look on their faces, the half hearted smiles, and laughter that is keeping them from crying you see the other members of the club all around you, and you love them. There is a saying “Misery loves company.” I had always heard that, and thought it was a negative thing, but now I have a new understanding of the saying: those in misery love the company of others in misery. We love the fact that there is a Fraternity of Suffering, and we love that we can tell who all the members are.

Through this time one of the biggest changes in my life has been the change in the kind of music speaks to my heart. I do not mean the genre, but rather the message. I no longer identify myself with songs like: Victory in Jesus, He Set Me Free, and Victory Chant; but now I find myself identifying with songs such as: Blessed Be Your Name, He will Come and Save You, Who Can Satisfy, Mighty to Save, and God Will Make a Way. Pride in my current condition does not really ring true (not that it is not true that I have victory, and have been set free), only looking forward to the fact that my God is Mighty to Save. That is what gets me through the day, the week and the year.

Maybe you are part of the Fraternity of Suffering as well, we can relate, we can share communion. The best news about the Fraternity of Suffering is that we get to point each other to a time when our club will no longer be needed, when Christ will wipe the tears from our eyes. Oh, what a day that will be!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Teen Retreat/Mission Trip 2009

Battle Creek!!

Below you will find the first few documents you will need for the teen retreat this July 26th - 31st. The documents are due June 7th 2009 (Anniversary Sunday). The total price for the Teen Retreat/Mission Trip will be $150. The first $40 dollars of that amount will be the non-refundable deposit which will be due on June 7th as well (this $40 cannont be raised through the fundraisers). Just like last year we will have multiple fundraisers to help students raise their money throughout May June and July. The final payment will be due on July 19th.

Please utilize this blog for all of your questions. This is a tool to make the process easier for you as well as for the Youth Team. I look forward to hearing from you.

Links:

Student Health Form

Application

These documents cannot be returned electronically. I must have originals in order to be fully covered.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Clues for Teen Retreat 2009

Last year we had about two months of clues leading up to the revealing of the location of the retreat...this year we will not have that much time. In fact, the location is going to be revealed this Sunday. So instead of giving clues one at a time, I decided to post as many clues as I could at one time so that you could get the answer before Sunday. Remember there is a half price trip riding on this, so the first person to comment on this below with the right answer will win the trip (this means do not call me, or send me an email me, just comment below). I look forward to your answers.

  • In the Midwest
  • There is a Free Will Baptist Church planter in the city (check here)
  • The city is the best known city of its size in the world.
  • The city got its name because of a skirmish between a land surveyor and two Indians
  • The town was originally known as Milton
  • Training Ground for US soldiers in WWI and WWII
  • POW internment camp for Germans during WWII
  • 3rd largest city in its state
  • First city in America to install wheel chair ramps in sidewalks.

That does it, you should be able to get the answer from these clues. Good hunting!!!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Teen Retreat 2009

Teens, and Parents:

I am excited to be able to inform you about the Teen Retreat for 2009. This year we are having a Mission trip/Teen Retreat. We are going to be helping a church planter with their ministry as well as having fun and growing as a group. The dates for this years retreat are July 26th through 31st. The retreat will begin on Sunday afternoon, and we will be back on Friday afternoon. The cost is yet to be determined, but I wanted to let you know the dates so you could clear the calendar for this wonderful event.

The reason I am not announcing the location of the retreat is simple. The teens didn't want me to. We will be playing a similar game as we did last year for them to be able to ascertain the location of our Mission trip/Retreat. And once again the one who gets the answer right will get to go for half price as last year!

This will be your home for any information regarding the Mission trip/Retreat. I will post all new information here, and I will post all forms that need to be filled out here as well. Also, while we are gone we will be posting pictures from the trip on this site. I would suggest visiting this blog at least once a week to make sure that you stay up to date on all new information that comes out regarding the trip. Let me know if you have any questions regarding the trip, and I look forward to giving more information in the coming weeks!!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Sad Day for Denominations...


internetmonk.com has just posted an assessment of the Southern Baptist Convention's current situation regarding youth, evangelism, missions etc. Based on what he writes here It seems that this is a very sad day for denominations. If the Southern Baptist are sliding into Oblivion what does this mean for other denominations that pattern themselves after and gain much from the SBC?

Many people from my denomination (Free Will Baptist) would say that we do not pattern ourselves the SBC, but the fact is there is a lot of copy cat going on (not that it is all bad by any means, I think it is great that we learn from one another). In fact one could say that we are the red headed step brother of the SBC that is always a day late and a dollar short. I am sure the same could be said of many other small Baptist denominations within America. The question is now, where do we go for leadership, where do we go for ideas? (In the article refrenced earlier, Michael Spencer points to the large non denominational churches as the ones who will give this leadership.)
The real question to be answered is if the SBC starts a decline (this actually may have already started) are Free Will Baptist and other denominations strong and independent enough to do it on our own. Will Free Will Baptist step up to the plate keeping a strong community, that is committed to the Kingdom, or will Free Will Baptist follow the SBC in decline. I pray that God is not done with Free Will Baptist!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

You Alone Can Satisfy

You Alone Can Satisfy
Ross King
Verse 1
I have bowed at the altar
Of the world and its lies
Now I long to return to You
You alone can satisfy
I have wasted affections
On the things You despise
Now I long to return to You
You alone can satisfy
Chorus 1
My bread of life
You're my provider
You fill my soul with living water
Beneath Your wing
There is a shelter where I hide
You alone can satisfy
Verse 2
There's no fortune or pleasure
That this world can provide
They have failed and they always will
You alone can satisfy
You're the Treasure that I've found
You're the meaning of life
You're my deepest desires fulfilled
You alone can satisfy

This song just played on my computer as I was listening to worship music on shuffle mode. As this song played I was thinking: Why do we struggle so much with sin? As I listen it makes perfect sense:
I have wasted affections
On the things You despise
Now I long to return to You
You alone can satisfy
But the fact that it makes sense, has not made it true in my life. I know that God is the only one that can satisfy. But I don't know how to stop seeking satisfaction else where. I know this is an age old question, but I really wonder why do we look other places for satisfaction. How can we know everything theologically, but it not play out the right way in reality.

As I listen to the chorus I see a piece of what is missing in my life. It seems like I live such a comfortable life that I do not need God. Of course I need him for spiritual things, and even for long term direction. But I don't feel like I need him for: bread, provision, water, shelter.... But the fact is I do. If I fully realized how much I needed God I would not be tempted to sin as much. I would realize that he is what I need, not sin.

Lord help me to realize that I need you supremely for every part of my life so that I may find my satisfaction only in YOU!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The End of Evangelicals


I just received an email with a link to an essay by Michael Spencer about the death of the Evangelical church in America. He expects the Evangelical church to follow the Mainline denominations that have all but disappeared in any contributing form in the past few years. He is expecting the Evangelical church to all but disappear in 10 years. Yes 10 years!!! I do not know what to think about his article (which you can read here in essay format or here on his blog), but some of what he said stirred my soul and made me feel very uneasy. Here are some of the highlights/lowlights


  • "We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith." speaking of the fact that more Christians can articulate their Biblical stance against abortion and gay marriage, than they can articulate the Gospel to a non believer.

  • "This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good."

  • "We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we've spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it." Not much to say about this, it just makes me step back and say hmm.?!

  • "Evangelicalism doesn't need a bailout. Much of it needs a funeral." when answering the question if this is a good or bad thing. His stance is not that it is good, but then again he sees some things that will only change when the churches fail.

  • "We need new evangelicalism that learns from the past and listens more carefully to what God says about being His people in the midst of a powerful, idolatrous culture."

Once again, I have not fully processed what I have just read, but I know this should shake us a little. Even if Spencer is not accurate in what he is saying he is accurate in some of the problems he is seeing. As long as Evangelicals are joined at the hip with political conservatism in a world turning away from political conservatism Evangelicalism will not flourish. We need a movement that is not focused on politics, but rather on winning souls. A movement that is more focused about the kingdom we will live in than the one we do live in.


I am afraid that Spencer that the best way to reach the world in the future may be through another medium than the Evangelical church.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Two key things...

I always try to have a few thoughts that guide my life. Whenever I am having a tough time figuring out a situation I break the problem down as much as possible so I can answer questions as easily as possible. For instance, when I was getting close to finishing college with my major in missions everyone thought (as did I for a while) that I would go right to the mission field. The problem was I couldn't get peace about it. So I spent about a year considering what God had gifted me with and what He wanted me to do with that gifting (interestingly enough that year was when I lived in Russia). I came up with several key areas that I knew God had gifted me in, areas I knew had to be involved in whatever I decided to do with my life. The four things were: leadership, teaching, missions, and preaching. The list may not seem like much to you but to me it helped me make good decisions, and helped me end up where I am now. I would love to go into what these four areas mean to me (and I may do so some time soon), but I was writing all this just to illustrate how I like to break things down in order to solve problems easier.

For the six months or so I have been thinking about the church, and its job in the world. My purpose in thinking about the church is to be able to explain the church better to those around me, help them understand their place in the church so we can do more for the cause of Christ together. At Central Church we have broken down the job of the Church (and believers) to a three fold vision:
  1. Worshiping God
  2. Loving You
  3. Reaching the World

We are attempting to make this more and more a part of our church thought process, and infrastructure. We want to be able to say to our people: "There are three things we want you to do as a believer: worship God (attend corporate worship on Sunday mornings), love each other (be a part of a small group to love and be loved), and do your part to reach the world (be involved in service and evangelism inside the church and out). This three fold emphasis makes life easier, makes vision easy to explain, streamlines efforts, and hopefully adds glory and souls to the kingdom. I love this, and am a big supporter of it...but my question is this: "Is our job even more simple than this?"

In my thinking I have taken this three fold approach down to a two sided approach. As believers we should be:

  1. Worshiping God
  2. Pushing others toward God

Whenever I share this I feel like there is so much left to explain, but then I remember that there will always be much more to explain. I like this approach for a couple of reasons: 1) This approach mirrors the Great Commandment of Mark 12:28-31. In the Great Commandment there are two sides: God and others, this lets me know that our ministry philosophies should fit into that same vein. We should not have a ministry philosophy that emphasises the human side more than the God side, we should follow the Biblical model and have a two fold model. 2) Encouraging our people to "Push others toward God" is much more general but much more descriptive than other models. As Christians we should push everyone we meet towards God; if we have a conversation with a fellow believer they should be closer to God because of it, if we meet up with a non-believer they should be a step closer to calling on the name of Christ as Savior. We can push others toward God in everything we do, whether it be at church or at work, this can be life! 3) The language used does not intimidate. Most people feel like they can worship God, and most people feel like they can push others a little closer to God, on the other hand they get a little overwhelmed with the thought of reaching the world or even loving everyone. This gives the average Christian something they can hold on to and strive for as they push on toward maturity. If Christians will do these two things on a daily basis the Kingdom will grow exponentially. 4) It is much easier for me to remember 2 points rather than three, though we could just go with the Westminster Catechism which has one point for this....

There are also two things I don't necessarily like about this phraseology: 1) it doesn't necessarily flow off the tongue (not that important I know) and 2) it doesn't mention the name of Christ. I don't ever want to be accused of getting away from a Christ centered Gospel (that is an oxymoron), so I want to use the name of Christ in this, but to this point I haven't.

Here is the point. As Christians we have a job to do. Whether we break it down to three points or two, or even fifty: we have to be obeying the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission. This is the job of the church. As leaders we must streamline our churches so that our people can concentrate on these main things, as Christians we must streamline our lives, getting rid of what is in the way so that we can concentrate on what Christ told us is most important: 1)worship God, and 2) push others toward Christ.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sanctity of Human Life

Sanctity of Human Life
A Reading of Responsibility

Sanctity of human life started back in the beginning. God created all, but he created man and woman a little different. The Bible says in Genesis that they were created in the image of God, set apart from the rest of creation for a special relationship with God. We continue to see the sanctity of human life throughout the Bible: Jesus reminds us of the value of children, James reminds us to take care of the widows and orphans; The Law demands that we make provisions for the poor and for foreigners. And Paul warns us against racism and against looking down on those in different social strata than us. From beginning to end we see that God values human life and considers it sacred.
Our temptation now is to concentrate on one part of the greater problem of the sanctity of human life. Reminding ourselves and each other that life starts in the womb and that any baby that dies – whether pre-birth, during birth, or after birth should be mourned is a good thing. But we cannot stop there. As Christians we must stand for the sanctity of human life from the womb to the nursing home, from our doorstep to the backwater tribes of Africa. We cannot fight for the sanctity of human life on the topic of abortion while at the same time we say nothing about the slaughtering of that sanctity on the islands of Asia.
As Christians we must stand beside the persecuted and forgotten; the fetus and the sex slave; the orphan and the aged; the battered woman and the starving child. We must link arms against abortion, the AIDS epidemic, genocide, and exploitation. We need to be the leading voices in reminding the world that every life matters.
This is not a government project or a political platform: this is a relational requirement. God began human history by setting mankind apart. His expectations and viewpoint have not changed. He is a God who cares for all, who cares for you. He even knows the number of hairs on our head. Let us not forget He even cared enough for mankind that he sent a savior to give us life to the fullest.
Let us pray.
O God, our help, please remind us of our responsibilities as humans to one another. We as Christians are your ambassadors here on earth; please show us what you want us to be involved in. Please show us what should be important to us. O God our creator let us not forget those that are hurting, and unable to help themselves. Let us remember that true religion, according to James, is just that, helping those who cannot help themselves. O God our potter, help us to remember that we are clay in your hands, but that you have not thrown us away, but have molded us as vessels of honor – more and more into your image every day. O God our Savior, let us tell of your salvation to all, that all may know that you have made a way for us. O God our Father, we thank you for adoption, that we are no longer orphans without a home, but that we are now sons, daughters and heirs. We pray these things in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Amen
First read at Central Free Will Baptist Church in Royal Oak Michigan on January 25th 2009.