Thursday, October 8, 2009

We Exist for God

“We exist for God’s pleasure”, there was stunned looks around the table. So was the scene at a class I teach at Life School here in Salem. One student could not help blurting out, what an offensive concept. Yet this is clearly what the Bible teaches. We were created for God and for His glory. The reality of this offends our self-centered perception of reality. We tend to process this with the idea that God must be totally egocentric. Yet we can’t escape the reality that all things exist and are held together by Christ. We find our very existence completely dependent on the good will of God. We are God’s workmanship, yet still His possession.

I believe that as Christians we must come to grips with the fact that our life is not our own. We were bought with a price. God has the right to direct our life. The apostle Paul’s wrote, “has not the potter the right to make out of one part of his earth a vessel for honor, and out of another a vessel for shame?“

The ramifications of this should cause us to seek God, find his plan for our life and give ourselves to it.

Isa 64:8 But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; awe are all the work of your hand.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Driving and Grace

I speak often of the grace of God. It is a subject that thrills me and I always find it a little scandalous that our standing with God is based on who He is and not on what we necessarily do. The word that is translated grace in the New Testament carries the idea of "God's influence on the human heart". I recently had a experience that illustrates this idea. Margi, my wife and I celebrated our 32 wedding anniversary. We spent a couple of days on Whidbey Island. In the course of sight seeing I unwittingly drove through a 35 mph speed zone at 60 mph! Needles to say I was pulled over and faced a very expensive ticket. I was respectful to the officer and offered no excuse. He asked what we were doing in the area and I told him. Off he went to his patrol car and spent what seemed a very long time and then came back to our car. I was sure that I was getting a ticket. Officer Campbell told us that as an anniversary present he wasn't going to give me a 400 dollar ticket. He wished us well and told to me to be careful. As I drove away I could not help but think of the remarkable display of mercy shown. I was guilty of speeding there was no doubt about it yet I wasn't going to pay the price of my guilt. As time has gone on I find my self thinking of this incident and it causes me to be aware of my driving. Officer Campbell influence on my heart is very real! I believe that it is the same way with God. He has shown us mercy and that very act of forgiveness should create in us sensitivity to the Fathers heart. We approach the line of sin and something of God's influence by the Holy Spirit causes us to resist sin, then He leads us into righteousness. King David wrote the the Psalms, "there is forgiveness in you, so that you may be revered." Mercy and grace, I am so thankful for the generosity of our God.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Spirit Life

I believe that many times people get discouraged and lose sight of the Christ’s involvement in our lives. The scripture speaks of Christ as our advocate, our help in times of trouble, the wellspring of life and the one who gives us power. There is a battle to see through the distractions of life and to comprehend how much God is involved with us every day. Jesus spoke to His disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit and he would empower them and comfort them. It is imperative that we are a people of the Spirit. It is when we listen to the Spirit that we gain perspective and insight to the world around us. His role is to lead us into truth and to steer us into the mission that Christ has for us. We become a people of the Spirit when we take on the priorities of the Spirit. George Swinnock, an early American church leader (1623‑1673) wrote, “The main work which God commands and commends to the children of men, is to glorify him upon the earth by exercising themselves to godliness. What is godliness? Godliness is a worshiping the true God in heart and life according to his revealed will.” Worship is more than a song service but how we conduct all of our affairs. Jesus would allude that the father was looking for something more than a religious people when He said, “an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." The way we live and relate to one another is worship. It is the whole of our life.

Paul would make the argument that the Spirit life is to be manifested in serving the common good.

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ." 1 Cor 12:4-7, 11-12 (NIV)

Paul makes the link between loving one another and a walk with the Spirit. The Spirit filled life leads to the fleshly life being freed up to love one another. You can tell a church that is full of the Spirit of God. It is not by flash in the pan revival. It is by the love that is show to each other and to those outside of the faith. Love is the true measure of God’s life flowing through a congregation.

When we look at the gifts of the Spirit and how they operate we see that they are serving gifts. The enduing of power that the Spirit gives is for the encouraging of our brethren. Real fellowship and sense of community is the fruit of life lived by the Spirit of God. Interdependence is an out working of Christ’s nature in us. All the fruits of the Spirit are manifested in the way we relate and walk with each other. It is in the context of fellowship that we are a Spirit filled people. I believe that is vital we develop real and meaningful relationships with those whom God has called us to. George Swinnock also said, "Satan watches for those vessels that sail without convoy." It is important to belong to a home group where you can bring your spiritual gifts to encourage others and others can encourage you. It is when we walk together that we experience God helping and using us. God wants to help His people through you!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Confidence to Approach

I am moved when I see how Jesus responded to people that others would withdraw from. His compassion and willingness to associate with sinners and outcasts stands out like a beacon in a self-serving world. I was reading in Luke…

Luke 7:36-39
36 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. 37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is-that she is a sinner."

Imagine with me the scene

Jesus and the others are reclining at their meals, on their left side, and their feet, therefore, were extended from the table, so that persons could easily approach them. Jesus was becoming quite a celebrity and there were probably many guests. Simon the Pharisee most likely is well-to-do, he may have had a servant as a porter to check visitors at the door; but religious people often opened their homes for the poor, and the woman manages to get in. In banquets where uninvited people could enter, they were to remain quiet and away from the couches, observing the discussions of host and guests. Yet the must have been quite a stir as this worldly women comes in. The text describes this woman is a "sinner" and may imply that she is a prostitute, or at least a woman known to be morally loose. Every thing about her, her cloths, the way she wore her hair would point to her being a loose woman. She comes in to a hostile environment, one that would be filled with judgment. She approaches Jesus, and standing at his feet behind Him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and then takes out an alabaster box. The box of ointment must have been very valuable, and was possibly the proceeds of her trade. The guests would react to this, even though Jewish people did not consider perfume sinful, but because this woman is a "sinner" and uses the perfume as a tool of her trade, Jesus' acceptance of the gift of perfuming would offend religious sensitivities. Yet Jesus submits to her devotion. She humbles her self in the most dramatic way to show her love for the Savior, and at the same time her humility and repenitence, by pouring forth a flood of tears, and washing his feet in the manner of a servant.

  • Albert Barnes wrote…“In kissing His feet she testified her love for the Lord Jesus, and at the same time her humility and sense of sin. There could be few expressions of repentance more deep and tender than were these. A sense of all her sins rushed over her mind; her heart burst at the remembrance of them, and at the presence of the pure Redeemer; with deep sorrow she humbled herself and sought forgiveness. She showed her love for him by a kiss of affection; her humility, by bathing his feet; her devotion, by breaking a costly box-perhaps procured by a guilty life-and anointing his feet. In this way we should all come, embracing him as the loved Redeemer, humbled at his feet, and offering all we have-all that we have gained in lives of sin, in our professions, by merchandise and toil, while we were sinners-offering "all" to his service. Thus shall we show the sincerity of our repentance, and thus shall we hear his gracious voice pronounce our sins forgiven.“

The thing that stirs my heart is that Jesus was willing to be touch and adored in this manner. To let a prostitute caress your feet, to kiss them in a very religious setting was an amazing act of acceptance. Many times we feel unworthy to approach the savior but he is willing, no, even eager to have us come and humble ourselves before him. I want to have the same revelation of Christ and His nature that this woman had. She saw something in Jesus that gave her the boldness to approach. Maybe she heard the story of the woman caught in adultery and how Jesus responded to her. There was a brokenness because she understood her need for Christ. In the same way, even though our sins may be of a different nature they are significant nonetheless. Jesus offer of forgiveness should stir in our hearts love. Love leads to passion and passion devotion. Love is kindled by rehearsing the giving of the other person. Consider when we remember and value the things our spouse does for us, the kind words, the service they give, it stirs gratitude, with which in turn strengthens love. In the same way we grow in love when we acknowledge our need and think of God’s great kindness toward us.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Catching up

Life, has been active at Journey the last few weeks. We just finished the Marriage Alpha Course, had a team out ministering and feeding the homeless and another team going in and serving the library staff at the school where we meet.

At the prayer meeting last Monday night Larry Purdy had a vision that we believe is significant and follows a theme of blessing and promise that prophetically has been spoken about Journey.

During the Journey Church prayer meeting on 06/15/2009, the Lord gave Larry the following vision/revelation:

When a family moves into a wilderness/frontier land to settle it, the first thing they do is dig a well. As they come together and begin to dig, the topsoil is dry and hard. As they continue to dig and press in to the well, they go deeper and deeper, and finally the soil begins to grow moist. As they continue, pressing in and digging, water begins to seep out of the soil and puddle on the floor of the well. As they continue, working together, digging and going deeper, the water begins to burst forth and flow freely, filling the well and bursting over the top, flowing out onto the dry land and providing life-giving water to all it touches. As other families see the life-giving water and the effect it has, they move into the area and join the pioneers as they also settle into the land that was once a wilderness.

This is Journey Church – As we join together as a family of believers, we are like the pioneers. We planted Journey Church in the spiritual wilderness of Salem, and joined together to dig the well. As we join in fellowship and press in to the Lord and dig deeper in the well, we go deeper into His presence. As we have continued to pray and press in to Him, we have reached the point that the soil is moist and the Spirit, the true life-giving water, has seeped through the soil and poured out upon us in small measure. As we continue to press in and dig deeper, we will see the Spirit begin to flow more and more. As we continue, working together, we will see the Spirit fill the well to overflowing, pouring out His life-giving Spirit beyond the constraints of the well and into the surrounding areas. Others will see what is happening and will be drawn to Journey Church to join in, settle with us, and take part in what is occurring.

“Oh taste and see that the Lord is good”!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Martha Syndrome

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have a hard time slowing down to listen to the Lord. Life gets so busy with so many different commitments. Leading a church plant, raising a family and trying to affirm precious friendships all press for my time. Yet I know deep in my heart that spending time to reflect and wait on God is of central importance. I am a doer and troubleshooter at heart and it is difficult to shift gears some times. Even reading the scriptures can become an exercise in gleaning information verses listening for God to speak. Luke in chapter 10 of his gospel records the events at a dinner gathering. Martha invited Jesus and His followers into her home, and proceeded to prepare a meal for the whole company. Mary her sister sat in rapt attention listening to Jesus as he taught. Of course Martha felt slighted and went to Jesus to complain about Mary’s unwillingness to help her. Jesus knowing what is in her heart, tells her not to let worry and distraction cause her to miss what was important. How easy it is to be overly occupied and too busy to sit at Jesus feet. It is interaction with Jesus that fuels passion and mission. Duty can only take us so far. How different life is when we are hearing God clearly and revelation is flowing to us! Springs of living water become a reality!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Faith and Grace

I have been thinking a lot about grace and faith. As a young Christian I was taught that faith was a means to move God. We were taught that there are principles of faith that God would not ignore. If we only believed, confessed and acted we could get what ever we had set our faith toward. As I have walked with God I find that I don't believe that God is so easily manipulated. Don't misunderstand me, faith sits central to our life in God. I do believe that we are to confess God's Word and put into practice, but in a response to a relationship and revelation from God. My view of 'faith principles' has been shaped by the message of grace. Grace in the Greek carries the idea of God's influence on our hearts. God speaks to us by His Spirit; we are designed to be a people of revelation. Faith is the response to an encounter with God. Consider Gideon, frightened, hiding in a wine press. An angel appears and makes a declaration that Gideon is a mighty man of God. It was that revelation that propels him into the destiny that God had for him. To some Gideon’s ongoing conversation and request for confirmation was a lack of faith on Gideon’s part. Yet it speaks to a remarkable act of grace and revelation. It was in that encounter that dynamic faith is fostered and released. As a Bible teacher it is easier to contextualize Gideon’s request as unbelief and to discourage people to look to an encounter with God, than to set them up to the possibility of God not responding to their request. We some times dumb down the mystic nature of Christianity to avoid any need to wrestle with God. Jacob wrestled with God and carried the reminder for the rest of his life. We need more divine encounters. Another truth that has come as I consider grace is that life is more about God and less about us. We were created for His pleasure, yet some how we can lose that perspective and shift to ‘my happiness, my dreams, and my fulfillment’. In all the heroes of faith we see recorded in the book of Hebrews, it was more about how they responded to God and His purposes for their life. Life is complex; God’s ways are far above our own, He moves according to His own sovereignty. We are called to a living and dynamic relationship with God let us seek him and avoid resorting to formulas to find our way. When we “hear” God, then let us believe, confess and act with confidence.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Simple Expressions of Love

A group from Journey and the Year Team from Silver Creek Fellowship met and provided lunch to approximately 70 homeless man and women beneath the Center Street Bridge. It has been rewarding to see building friendships with these folks and to see a growing sense of community among them. A couple from YWAM came out and played music while our team set up tables and chairs and then served as waiters and waitress to the folks. Piping hot spaghetti and fresh hot coffee hit the spot. One fellow said "We were treated with dignity and respect, thank you", and he went on to say how he appreciated how people served him and his friends. When it was time to pack and clean up it was wonderful to see so many pitch in to help. After it was all done we realized that this would be the last time the Year Team would serve with us as their terms are ending and they will be returning home, home to England, France and Missouri. We all gathered for a group picture and then everyone was on his or her way. It was a great day to show the love of Jesus in a practical way.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Foundations of Leadership

The question of identity is huge, who am I in God? I'm I important? Does God accept me? What is the proof of that? I think every leader must go through this struggle. Through the years I have watched young men who believed that if they were an elder or a teacher then God must be pleased with them. They would sacrifice time, energy to pursue the gold ring of position only to find that it does not meet the need in their heart. It is through our personal relationship with God that we see our value. It is not based on what we have done or what we bring to the relationship but on His generosity toward us. Moses went through 40 years of obscurity to discover that God was for him. It prepared im to stand firm in the face of tremendous difficulty. Think of Joseph, Elijah or David, or even Paul. They all had a great sense of call and promise, but needed to see deeply that God's call was not a sign of affirmation but all call to sacrifice. Consider John the Baptist; he was called to lead a nation to repentance. He had a huge following, both religious and secular. Crowds would search him out in droves, kings took note, and he was center stage. Then the cumulating event of his life call took place, Jesus came. Even though John knew in his heart this day would come he was deeply distressed when he was thrown in prison. Shaken he saw his disciples leaving to follow Christ. As he sat in prison he sent a delegation to Jesus to ask if He truly was the one that was sent. Jesus asked John not to lose faith, to remember the call, to remember that it was not about ‘John’s ministry’ but the purposes of God. God was pleased with him; he had fulfilled his mission. The circumstances of His surroundings had nothing to do with God’s perception of him; he still was God’s man.

I have seen so many that have washed out of ministry. The rigors of ministry life are difficult. People question your motives; friends get offended and leave. What looks from the outside, as a life of honor and appreciation, is really a life of sacrifice. Many come to the conclusion that it is just not worth it. They become embittered, as they feel unappreciated. The bitterness descends into anger toward God. The seeds of pride come to full fruit.

Jesus said that the greatest would be the servant of all. It is not a means to greatness, but the fruit of a soul who knows their God and senses His approval. To young leaders, get the foundations right, check your hearts often. To seasoned leaders, remember that your position is temporal; things can change in a minute. The real pay off is in eternity.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Church Built on Grace

I have been pondering why so many are discouraged regarding church life. A friend of mine once said “the answer to bad leadership is good leadership, not no leadership”. I believe the same can be said of church life. I believe church can be a place where we celebrate the grace of God in our daily lives and in our corporate life together. Individuals recognizing that we have nothing to offer God except our hearts. Our serving God springs from the well- spring of thankfulness for what he has done for us. We love Him because He first loved us. We were God’s enemy, yet He searched for us and made a way for us. Everything we do should be springing from this root of right relationship with God. Grace sits central in our relationship with God. In the Greek the word translated as grace carries the idea of God’s influence on the human heart and its reflection in the life; including gratitude (Strongs) A grace based people hear God and at its root is a charismatic people, we hear His voice, He speaks to us, and we follow Him not from the root of trying to earn God’s favor, we have that, but over flowing with gratitude that we have been drawn into right relationship with Christ. When we have been captured by His love and grace, church can be a people united by mission, committed to loving God, to be known by our love for others, and to be a voice of hope. These are values that endure the test of time and lead to a productive life and productive church. These values are overarching themes of the New Testament. These values are inferred as well as plainly taught. I believe that becoming a Christian is not the end of the story but the beginning of a whole new life with a new set of challenges and victories to be had. At the church I am a part of we have a saying, “Christianity is a journey not a destination.” I believe that Christianity is about loving Christ and learning to be like him and to love his church. Grace leads me to the conclusion that I am to glorify God, to bring him joy and pleasure. As I look in the New Testament God reveals three great themes of what it means to journey with God. I am to be like Christ, to take on His character and to reflect His nature. I am called to community and to give myself to building up of the church. All the exhortations to godly character are worked out in the context of a local church. Unity is held up as the sure mark of Christian maturity. As believers we are called to live a missional life, Jesus has called us to co-labor with him in reaching every tribe and tongue. These are the things the Apostles believed and gave their lives for. This is foundation that the Church is to be built on. After 32 years of serving God these values still stir my soul, they still capture my imagination. I am thrilled to be in the game.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Death, Faith and Hope

It has been a very busy time and I have been under the weather so to speak. This last week I officiated two funerals and was struck how life is so short. One was for a 27 year old lady who lost her battle with diabetes and a 39 year old man whose heart just quit. I understand why the scripture describes death as an adversary. I sat with the extended family of the 39 year old for 12 hours in the ICU waiting room as events marched to the finial decision to end life support. It was clear that some had a quite confidence of faith and others could only see loss. The parents who have now seen the early death of two of their children sat in shock and quiet strength. There is a real and tangible pain in these moments. It is where the reality of faith is demonstrated. As I preformed the first service it was clear that some of the family had faith in Christ and that tempered their sorrow with very real hope. Their conversations were not filled with platitudes but with a strong conviction that the grace of God would prevail in the deceased life. Others struggled with the reality of death and the finality of it all. The same was true of the second funeral, the family took great comfort in the diaries of their daughter where she wrote of facing death with a brutal honesty and some times dark humor, but in it all there was a deep conviction that she would see Christ her savior. Through all of this the apostle Paul’s writing took on greater significance. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
(Rom 5:1-5 from New International Version)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Birds and Vision

I have been connecting with some old friends lately. I am so thankful for the foundations that many sowed in my life. It is a little disconcerting to see so many lose their sense of mission and love for the Church. When I am in the presence of God I sense His heart and love for the Church. It is like I can hear all of heaven cheering for God's people. When I study God's Word, I see the passion and commitment of the early church to planting and reaching out. How is it that so many become so discouraged and disconnected? The platitudes we so often use don't answer the question for me. These are good people who love Jesus, yet seem to be defined by disillusionment versus vision. I am more convinced of the call to build up the Church now than I have ever been. I remember Jim Durkin Sr. who in my opinion was a great man of God to restore and energize a generation told a story. He said, "if you want to grow in the purpose and vision of God then you must feed it. It is like a bird that sits on your front porch. You feed it when you go out and come in, day after day, week after week, year after year. One day you go out on your porch and the bird has grown large and swallows you." That is the story of my life. My early years in ministry were always viewed through the lens of how I personally felt about MY ministry. As I have served Christ these last 30 years I see that most of the disillusionment that I have experienced is because of a wrong focus. I remember a quote from a dear friend, Rob Barnes, "the answer to bad leadership, is good leadership, not no leadership." The failures of the Church or leaders are just that, failures of people, me included. I'm convinced that it is the Lord's heart for us to be part of the solution. It takes no skill or commitment to identify problems, but it takes great faith to love God's people who gather together in what is called the church. It is my conviction that God loves the Church in all its local expressions. It is an over arching theme of the Scripture. I can only hope that many who have become discouraged will find a renewed love for the purposes of God and shed the bonds of personal discouragement.