Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Get Stronger: Here are some exercises

We are one-third of the way through 2016. This year in our church we have been focusing on being stronger spiritually as individuals and as a church family. For our church family, I pray that you have been seeing some growth. And for those of you everywhere else, I pray you also will know spiritual health and strength in your life. Over these four months we have been seeking to be stronger in prayer, stronger in discipleship, and stronger in faith. These journeys of growth are ongoing. In this life we are never finished growing. So let’s do some exercises. Spend time today praying. Use Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 6 and Luke 11 as your guide to pray about the things of God first, then for what you and others need after that. Make a decision to be a Jesus follower. Our decision to follow Jesus has to be more than just lip service. We must show that we are Jesus followers with our hands and feet, with our words and our attitudes. We live in a world that desperately needs to see and know genuine Jesus followers – not just “church-goers,” not just a demographic called “evangelicals,” but genuine Jesus followers whose actions and attitudes are in line with the Scriptures. If we will follow, Jesus has promised that He will help us. In Matthew 4:19 Jesus says, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” One of the greatest thoughts in that sentence is “I will make you.” If you will make the decision to be a Jesus follower, Jesus promises to make you into who He wants you to be. Choose to follow and He will teach you how. Trust Him. He will show you how to follow day by day.
To grow stronger requires discipline and commitment. It’s not easy, but it is simple. (I think we have often made things too complicated in church.) 

We encourage three simple things that will help you grow stronger as a Jesus follower:
  • Large group/small group – make a commitment to be in worship and Bible study each week.
    • Worship and Scripture are at the heart of all we do as children of God. Without worship and Bible study we will never grow stronger spiritually.
  • Mentoring – Seek someone to help you grow spiritually and, in turn, help someone to grow spiritually.
    • We are not made to go on this journey alone. We need each other.
  • Talk about it – Have a meaningful spiritual conversation with an unbeliever each week.
    • Develop the “habit” of including your faith in everyday conversations. Let’s learn to include Jesus in everyday conversations. And remember to have conversations, not just declarations. Engage people in conversation. Ask them what they think and talk with them. Don’t just unload what you think.

These are not easy things to do, but they are worth the discipline and effort to be on a path to growth and spiritual strength. As the year progresses, I look forward to hearing back from you about how you are growing stronger.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Signs of a Healthy Church

Signs of a Healthy Church
Philippians 1:1-11

One of my goals for us at Marshfield First Baptist is that we are a spiritually healthy church. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we see signs of a healthy church. They certainly weren’t perfect – no congregation is. But in Paul's opening words to this group of Jesus followers we find some signs of spiritual health which can help us in our own spiritual check-up.

Joy. Paul’s letter is clearly a joyful letter. Joy in serving the Lord is both a sign of spiritual health and a result of spiritual health. Paul rejoiced in what God was doing among these Gentile followers of Jesus. Paul said he prayed for them with thanksgiving and joy. This theme of joy resonates throughout this brief letter to these believers in Philippi.

Partnership. Paul said he prayed with joy because of their partnership in the gospel. A healthy church is marked by partnership – people worshiping, growing, and serving in community. We need each other. God doesn’t want us to serve him all alone. He calls us to serve him alongside other people.

Confidence. Paul expressed his confidence in what God was doing among them. Philippians 1:6 is a Scripture verse that has been a huge encouragement to me throughout my whole ministry career. At age 17, when I shared with my church that God was calling me into the ministry, my youth pastor shared this verse with me. It stuck in my mind and heart permanently. “Being confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in you will continue to perform it until the day Christ Jesus.” The Apostle Paul knew that God had begun his work among these believers and God would never give up on them. God had begun his work in me, and He would never give up on me. The same is true for you when you trust God and follow Jesus.

Grace. In verse 7 Paul writes, “…all of you share in God’s grace with me.” Grace – God’s unmerited favor – is an incredible thing. The Jewish disciples of Jesus were witnessing the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham: that all the world would be blessed through Israel. The good news of Jesus was going out to all nations. All who come to faith in the Messiah would share in God’s grace. A healthy church is a beacon of God’s grace, His unmerited favor toward us. We realize we don’t deserve God’s favor, but we don’t “wallow” in that undeserving state. Instead we humbly accept God’s grace and join the mission to proclaim God’s grace for the nations.

Love. One more marker of spiritual health here. Paul prayed that their love would abound. And it wasn’t ooey, gooey, touchy, feely love either. Look at the kind of love Paul prayed that the Philippian believers would have (verses 9-11). It was a love filled to overflowing with knowledge and insight that resulted in discernment, righteousness, and praise to God. The popular notion is that love is blind. God calls us to a love with eyes wide open that causes us and others to give glory to God!

Are these markers of spiritual health visible in in our lives?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The worship of "outsiders"

Advent Conspiracy (www.adventconspiracy.org) is at its heart a call to worship. Mary worshiped, even as she struggled to comprehend what was happening as God announced that she would be the mother of the Son of God. The shepherds worshiped and couldn’t contain the wonder of that night in Bethlehem. Another group worshiped when they discovered the birth of Jesus. In the second chapter of Matthew we are introduced to a group of men who traveled a great distance to find the king of the Jews. Mary and the shepherds were Israelites. They knew the prophesies of a messiah who was to come one day. But these men we could call “outsiders.” They were Gentiles known as magi, wise men, or scholars. Some would even call them magicians. They came out of the pagan nations of Babylon and Persia east of Israel.

They seemed to be men of some influence. Contrary to the popular thought that there were three of them, very possibly there were more. It seems they had quite the entourage as they entered Jerusalem and caused a stir in the whole city (Matthew 2:3). They didn’t seem to fear King Herod as they openly desired to worship this new king. King Herod was known to kill anyone he perceived as a threat, even his own family members. He even ordered the execution of all babies age two and under in and around Bethlehem in an attempt to eliminate this new king of the Jews.

These magi – these outsiders with some influence – were willing to pay a price to come and worship Jesus. They risked their very lives by declaring allegiance to a king other than Herod. They were willing to give their time and effort to study, to travel great distances, and to search and find Jesus. And certainly their gifts were costly. Some have suggested that these gifts could have been valued at more than one million dollars by today’s standards. Whatever the monetary value of these gifts, their greatest gift was their worship. I love the picture of Matthew 2:11 which says, “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.” These wealthy travelers fell before this baby and worshiped him.

This Christmas will you seek to fully worship Jesus our Messiah? Mary was poor and powerless, yet she broke out singing in worship before God. The shepherds were the undesirables of society, but they dropped what they were doing to worship Jesus. The magi weren’t even Jews; they were the Gentile pagans – outsiders – yet they sought to worship Jesus no matter the cost. The simple question to us at Christmastime is this: Will we worship King Jesus? No matter our status in life, no matter where we have been or how far away from God we may have wandered, no matter our background, will we worship Him fully?