Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Longing For Eternity

As a Christian,  I think there is a natural longing for heaven and for eternity with Christ.  This life seems so long,  especially during times of pain. I remember after my abdominal surgery,  laying in a hospital bed feeling miserable, praying that Jesus would return or just take me home to be with Him.   Even the Apostle Paul said that to die is gain. Eternity with Christ is so much better than anything.

With a glorious afterlife awaiting us,  we have to stop and ask the question about suicide.  If we kill ourselves,  will we be in heaven?  Some churches teach that suicide will cause a soul to go to hell.  I don't agree,  if you are in Christ,  there is no condemnation,  your sins are forgiven,  past present and future. A Christian who takes their own life will enter paradise with Jesus.

Is it a temptation?  I think the Apostle Paul thought so. I think Paul struggled with longing to be with Christ as he suffered through prison,  beatings,  stoning,  ship wrecks and trials of all kinds.   What kept him going forward was those he loved and served.   The churches,  the other disciples and missionaries,  those young in Christ.

We stay on earth after salvation because Christ has good works for us to do. We are the Incarnational representation of Christ as the church.   We are the body of Christ, we are here to do the work of Jesus. If we leave,  there is no one to represent Christ on earth,  to do the good works that He has prepared for us. If we abandon this world,  the darkness will be out of control.  You think it's bad now,  imagine the worst.  It would be reality.

I long for heaven,  I long to be with Jesus. I'm ready for His return,  but I'm not ready to leave my children and my family.   I want them to be with me,  and I want you to be with me. If Jesus comes for if I go,  I will be in heaven for eternity.  The other option is eternity in hell,  seperated from God by sin.   A place for eternal punishment.  Trust Christ,  place your life in Him and look forward to an eternity with Him.

Fellow believer,  hang in there today. When suffering comes and you feel like Paul when he said it would be better to be absent form the body and present with the Lord. Paul remained for the work set before him,  and he finished the race. Let's run hard until we are glorified in Christ Jesus.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Let's Judge Judging

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?
I Corinthians 5:12 ESV

I hear all the time people saying "don't judge".   There is a popular quote that says "don't judge people because they sin different from you".   I want to look at what Paul has to say about that in 1 Corinthians 5.  Paul tells us not to associate with the sexuality immoral,  and he clarifies.   He said "I didn't mean those outside the church who are sinners,  if you couldn't associate with sinners outside the church,  you'd have to leave the world.   It's people in the church that you need to avoid if they live in a sinful mannor".  (Dan's parahrase).

We need to support one another,  and we need to call out one another when we see an issue.   I am so thankful for those in my life who have been willing to call me out for sin. They have been life savers in turning me away from a path of destruction.

We have found ourselves in the age of tolerance,  where whatever you feel is ok. It's not abnormal for couples to live together and be sexuality active before marriage.  It may be common,  but that doesn't make it ok. Sexual activity outside of marriage is not ok in the church.   Paul says we don't need to condemn those outside the church,  but inside the church.  Drinking,  drug use, criminal behavior of those inside the church,  we need to be aware and save our brothers and sisters from themselves.

I hear you asking already,  what about homosexuality marriage.   It's a hot button issue and something we need to deal with. Homosexuality is a sin,  just like hetrosexuality when engaged outside of marriage. Jesus said that marriage in a man and woman coming together,  being one flesh.  A same sex couple cannot be married,  even if they have a state signed document that says they are married. You can call a civil union a marriage,  just like you can call a cardboard box your mansion.   It's still a cardboard box. In God's view, it's not a marriage,  regardless of what the state says.

Inside the church,  sexual immorality needs to be addressed.   Inside the church,  greed and idolatry and selfish pride need to be addressed.  Sin needs to be called sin,  and not in a general way from the pulpit,  but from a brother or sister in love.  It's time that we in the church begin to look out for each other.   Sin brings to death,  and we can do so much good by pulling someone aside and speaking truth in love.

The key to the entire thing is love. We don't condemn people,  we don't tell them they are worthless. We don't tell people with signs and with protest.  We need to stop worrying so much about what is going on in the world,  and begin to focus on what is going on with the church.

We judge those in the church because we love them.  It's not different that telling a child that they are doing something wrong,  because we don't want them hurt.  We love people and we want them to have real life.  Those who are part of a lifestyle of sin won't see it as love. If you tell a practicing homosexuality that they are involved in a sinful lifestyle,  they probably won't see it as love.  If you tell a young couple who is living together that they are in sin,  they may not respond well. If someone in your church has an addiction to drugs,  alcohol or gambling and you take them aside and tell them they are in sin,  they probably won't feel the love.   We must do it from love and judge based on God's Word.

For those who are reading this who call themselves a Christian who are engaged in a sinful lifestyle,  you may be less than happy with me. It's ok,  I can handle you being mad at me,  but I don't want to live my life ignoring the truth of God's word.   His word doesn't change or give way because of society or new definitions or Supreme Court rulings. Let's take the word seriously,  call sin what it is and address in love those who are trapped.

Thanks for taking some time with me today.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Self on the Shelf

Have you ever felt like you've been put on the shelf? Like something that was needed and used,  but now you are just sitting,  waiting to be used again. This sometimes happens to those who serve God.  You may have been there,  you may be there.

The book of Daniel tells us about Daniel being put on the shelf.   Don't remember than part?  It's not in the text,  it's actually in the spaces.   Daniel interpreted a dream for King Nebuchadnessar,  and he subsequently went mad for 7 years.   We turn the page to King Belshazzar having the party. Well,  it may just be the next chapter,  but we missed 3 or 4 kings in the passage.  Nebuchadnessar is his "father" in the text,  but it's like the Jews calling Abraham their father.   He was more likely his Great Grandfather,  and Belshazzar's father,  who was actually the king,  was out at war,  leaving his son in charge,  a sort of temporary stand in King.   This was a big chunk of time between assignments for Daniel. During the time where there is no text and just space,  what is Daniel doing?   We have no idea,  it doesn't say.  

We know he is remembered for what he has done,  and I assume he was faithful in his job,  since he is still around.   There is no assignment given to Daniel that was written in the book that bears his name. It seems that Daniel was on the shelf. So what do we do during these times? It would be nice to have some instruction,  but during these times,  there aren't notes given.  

Like the time between Jesus at age 12 and age 30.  Paul during the time between his conversion and his missionary travels. What was John doing those years on Patmos when he wasn't writing Revelation?  We don't know.

I'm in a shelf time myself.  I haven't been at my last church for about 3 years. In my down time,  I'm trying to write,  obviously, doesn't always go as smoothly as I'd like.   I have found myself with a pretty decent job with the opportunity to share,  disciple and teach.  I am surrounded by a good mix of believers and non-believers and have a good relationship with them all. I long to be back in vocational ministry,  even part time or volunteer ministry.   I do what I can,  but I work rotating 12 hour shifts that go from nights to days every month.   It can't be at anything on a weekly basis,  so I can't teach a class or a Bible study every week.   I can set it up that I can meet after work,  but that only works until I switch from days to nights or vice versa.  With this job,  which was a gift from God,  I am effectively on the shelf.

I'm praying that I will be useful again some day in ministry.   I pray that I can go back into the calling that I love so much.   In the mean time,  I'll just stay on this shelf,  waiting for the time that The Father reaches for me and it's my time to serve Him in vocational ministry. Blessings,  thanks for spending some time with me today.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Does God Want You to Be Cold?

In Revelation chapter 3, Jesus addressed the church of Laodicea, and it's not a good report.   Jesus tells them that He wishes they were either hot or cold,  but they are lukewarm.   I don't want to address the lukewarm part,  I think Francis Chan handled that beautifully,  you can find his comments on YouTube.   Instead I want to address the hot/cold thing.

The general interpretation is that Jesus wants the church to be either hot,  on fire for Him,  or cold,  not wanting anything to do with Him.  I don't think this is a position that we have fully thought through. Does God really want us to be indifferent towards Him?

I read through quite a few commentaries and studies which agreed with this view,  but it didn't make sense to me that Jesus would wish for His church to out right reject Him.   I understand that being lukewarm is bad,  they will be spewed from His mouth,  but Jesus encourages them to be cold?   I think there is something missing.

What I have found is what happens often.   We are looking at this verse from a strictly textual interpretation and superimposed our meaning on it.   There are geographical implications to consider.  Where is Laodicea,  what is happening around it,  why would Jesus use these terms?   What is the deal with being hot or cold?

I found some help online,  I came across this from March 5 2013 Sparking Gem From the Greek by Rick Renner:

The city of Laodicea was built in a region that was full of seismic activity and had experienced many earthquakes. As often happens in a seismic area, vents came up from the depths of the earth, allowing boiling hot water to reach the surface. In the nearby city of Hierapolis, these hot springs were famous. People came from great distances to bathe in those waters, believing they had medicinal powers. An experience in those waters was viewed to be therapeutic and effective in improving one's health.

Another city named Colosse was not too far away. As Hierapolis was known for its hot springs, Colosse was known for its cold waters. Just as people journeyed to Hierapolis to bathe in the hot springs for health purposes, people would travel great distances to vacation in Colosse, where they could invigorate themselves by taking frequent dips into the famous, refreshing, cool-to-freezing waters of that city.

Laodicea may have been the biggest and richest city in the area, but it had neither hot nor cold water. Therefore, the people of Laodicea had to leave their luxurious homes and travel to Colosse if they wanted to enjoy fresh, cool water. On the other hand, those who desired to soak in the hot springs had to travel six miles to Hierapolis.

Once in an attempt to bring the hot water from Hierapolis to Laodicea, a huge construction project was commenced. The goal of those who initiated the project was to build pipes that would channel the hot water six miles from Hierapolis to the city of Laodicea. The pipes effectively delivered the water - a real feat of construction at that time. Sadly, however, the water lost its heat along the way. By the time the water reached Laodicea, it was not only lukewarm, but it had developed a sickening, nauseating taste. The taste was so revolting that no one wanted to drink it!

It's so awesome how the Bible uses real places to give illustrations.   The people of Laodicea would understand this analogy because they lived right in the middle of it.   They understood how the hot water relaxed people and the cold water refreshed people and the lukewarm water repulsed people.  

Jesus wants you to serve Him and to be relaxing or refreshing,  notnot revolting. Have you ever met a self-righteous and arrogant Christian? Someone who wears you out and brings you down?   Don't be that guy,  be refreshing or relaxing,  soothe and encourage people.   Hot is useful,  cold is useful,  lukewarm is just disgusting.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Why Do I Want to Plant a Church?

I got a message from an old friend the other day who is a passionate leader and church planter.   He saw a post of mine about wanting to plant a church and wrote to encourage me. He also wrote to challenge me,  to check myself.   As a facilitator of church planting,  he saw lots of guys who planted out of a bad motive. Often guys who have been hurt in a church go and plant a church with an attitude of "I can do it better"  and he wanted to ensure I wasn't motivated by bitterness.   He knows that I have had some difficult times in the past in local church work,  and it was a fair challenge he gave me. I wanted to check my heart and part of the reason I have been out of ministry for a few years without jumping in and starting a new ministry is to check my heart and heal from some hurts.

It's been a few years,  and my heart continues to yearn to plant a church.   This desire started long before I knew anything about church planting.   In high school I was part of a small group of about 5 students who worked with a student teacher to start an FCA Huddle at our school.   As I went on to Junior College,  I worked with our Director of Missions to start a Baptist Student Union or BSU.   (They have some some name changes,  BSU in some places,  Baptist Collegiate Ministries or BCM in some places,  and Christian Challenge in other places).   When I got to the University,  I worked with our local BSU,  but got to know my first church planter.

When in Arizona,  I met a number of church planters and was introduced more to the house church model and some material by Charles Brock on house church planting. It was a great time of learning and I had the opportunity to help out with some house church plants. I started one of the first junior college BSUs in the state,  and I hoped to plant a church on that college campus,  but God had other plans.

While in Seminary,  a good friend and I started a coffee house church service,  it met on Saturday nights at first and later Sunday Nights.   It wasn't a church plant, it was a "church service plant"  I suppose.  We were able to reach new and different people,  and do some fun and exciting things in that atmosphere. I became a staff member at a very young church,  and it was exciting to be in the early stages.  

Once I got to Iowa,  I served again in a young church and saw the need and desire to plant churches grow.   I was blessed to go to the Exponental Conference in 07, and it added fuel to the fire of my desire to church plant.

God has put in me a desire to see new things,  new ideas and fresh starts.  A church plant is a dream I've had for many years,  and I get excited every time I think about the idea. It hasn't been the right time,  but it seems that doors are opening and I may have an opportunity.   I am not sure what the shape will be,  how it will work. It may be a church plant,  it may be a service,  God may lead me to start a ministry instead of a church. I would love if God called me to work with Church planters,  I don't know what is in the future. I am excited about the future and what God is going to call me to do.

I have shared some of my vision for what my church plant would look like, using house church models and some other ideas I've had.  I hope to share more in the future,  and I invite your input and ideas.   Thanks for your prayers and encouragement.

What About the Kids, A Review of Their Name is Today

While I didn't 100% agree with everything, the main premises are right on. Great book, great read. I would recommend it.  I have agreed with the premise that we have found ways to abandon children without actually physically leaving.   We have outsourced our children,  asking the school,  the church,  the daycare and society to raise them,  teach them and lead them.

It's a travesty that children have become so busy that they no longer have time to be kids.   We have filled every moment with activities and stuff.   Jo-Ann Christoph is right on the money in many areas.   I read this book in one sitting,  it was a great read.   Check it out!

Quack Quack, a Review of the Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible

Unless you've been under a rock for the last few years,  you have heard about Duck Dynasty,  the family who began a company making duck calls,  have a reality TV show and are outspoken about their faith.   They are a fun family,  the men having beards,  wearing camo,  hunting and fishing.   Sounds like I would fit right in.   They are also very outspoken about their faith.

The Faith and Family Bible is a resource created by Phil,  the father of the family and his son Al,  who isn't on the show and Pastors a church. Together they have written devotional material that is down to earth and great for individual or family devotions.

If you are looking for something to use for Family devotion time around the dinner table,  this is a great resource.  If you are looking for some material to use in a small group,  this would probably make a good ice breaker type devotion.   It's very practical and real life. It's not a study Bible,  it doesn't have deep and heavy theology or study material.   It's exactly what is says it is,  a family Bible.   If you are looking for something to use around the dinner table,  I would recommend it.   A solid resource.