Saturday, December 23, 2017

4th Week of Advent - Peace

This week we celebrate the fourth week of advent.  Advent is a season of for many Christians that includes the four weeks prior and culminating with Christmas    The season of Advent is considered the beginning of the church year, primarily because it recounts the beginning chapters and verses in the New Testament.  During Advent, we also look forward and prepare for the second coming of Jesus.  In the Bible, these prophecies are referred to as the “last days”.

Each of the four Sundays in Advent are assigned one special focus or application:  Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.  In this fourth week of advent we look at Peace.  

One of the major Messianic prophecies in the Bible is in the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 9 verse 6.  In these verses we see Jesus as the Prince of Peace.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

While Jesus was the Prince of Peace, we mistakenly think that the peace that He brings is from war or aggression.  We can easily forget that the Peace that Jesus brought was primarily between God and Man.  

We can be the recipients of that peace with God through Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul also talks about this peace impacting both Jews and Gentiles: 

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:13-18 NKJV)

In Jesus we can be complete, we can have peace. The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom which also means completeness and well-being.   Jesus came to save us, to make us complete.  By trusting in Jesus, the Son of God, who died on the cross for our sins, we can experience true peace, or shalom, of God.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Third Week of Advent - Joy

This week we celebrate the third week of advent.  Advent is the time of preparation including the four Sundays and weeks before Christmas.  Interestingly, before there was any celebration of Christmas, Christians would celebrate the Ephany (January 6th) and prior to that feast new believers would prepare falso for four weeks, for Baptism. 

Today in many churches we celebrate Advent.  Each of the four Sundays in Advent are assigned one special focus or application:  Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.  

In this third week of advent we look at Joy.  

One of the very first verses our children learned was Philippians 4:4 which reads. "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice." (ESV)     Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit along with love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness.  The Bible tells us that as Christians we are to automatically produce these fruits.

It may be difficult sometimes to be joyful but every day there are many blessings to be counted.   These difficult days are times when it’s good to remember friends, family, and significant people and events in our lives that gives us great joy.

The Bible tells of the shepherds in the field and the angel that brought good news of great joy.
"And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." - Luke 2:8-10

We have a choice each day to live our life with Joy and happiness or sadness and depression.  Here are some ways to remember to be joyful:
  1. We can trust in God even when we have every reason to doubt.  God is faithful.  The Bible says he is our strong tower, our ever-present hope in time of need. He has promised to never leave us.
  2. Giving to others in their time of need is a sure way to turn your frown into a smile.   The Bible says it’s better to give than receive and this is exactly the point.  Giving releases that gift of joy.
  3. Exercise is great for the body and exercising your faith is great for your spirit.   Pray, spend some time in worship, open the Bible and enjoy time with the Word of the Lord and quickly, the God of hope will fill you with joy and peace as you trust Him  (Romans 15:13.

Advent is a time of preparation.  In this third week we are getting closer to the business of the holiday.  Make sure you spend time to prepare your heart for this wonderful celebration of the coming of the King. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

2nd Week of Advent - Love

This week we celebrate the second week of advent.  Advent is from the Latin word for “coming”, or “to come”  Each of the four Sundays in Advent are assigned one special focus or application:  Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.  In this second week of advent we look at Love.  

The Bible tells us that God is Love.   It isn’t just that He has love or shows us how to love, while this also may be true.   When we say God is love we also acknowledge that it was love that both created the universe, our earth and mankind but also provided the atonement through Christ as God loved us.   While most people immediately recognize John 3:16, here is another verse that tells of the love of God.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:7-12.)

At Christmas we are reminded by the Christ child of how accessible God has made himself to us.  A baby is born in Bethlehem.  This is no ordinary birth nor ordinary child for this is a the promised Messiah, the Emmanuel or “God with us”.

Love was born in Bethlehem.  It is out the capacity of God’s love that mankind is redeemed and set free.   The message of Christmas is love.  In fact, the entire gospel including the prophecies of His birth, to the nativity, to the cross, to the resurrection, to the establishment of the Church and to his second coming is all and entirely about love.

In our ministry as Pastors and Christian leaders, we must continually teach that love is not only the end goal, it is also the very beginning of a relationship with God.  Love is given but at the same time, God receives, deserves and demands our love. 

Sunday, December 03, 2017

1st Week of Advent - Hope

This week, many Christians around the world will be celebrating the first week of advent.  The word “Advent” means coming or arrival.  

During this time, we celebrate the arrival of the Christ child, the Nativity of the Son of God, in Bethlehem.  At the same time we are looking forward to His second coming.   Each of the four Sundays in Advent are assigned one special focus or application:  Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

In this first week of advent we look at Hope.  It is very fitting to start with Hope as it was the hope of the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah that filled the hearts of the angels, shepherds and wise men with joy.

Just as importantly, we have what the Bible tells us is the Blessed Hope of the Second Coming of Jesus.   Paul tells us that the grace of God enables us “to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”  (Titus 2:12-13)

The blessed hope of every Christian is the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ, our great God and Savior.  This hope is not uncertain, but an assurance that Jesus will return just has Jesus said he would return.    By the blessed hope we look forward to an event called the rapture.  This word rapture The word “rapture” was from the Latin “rapio” meaning to be “caught up” used in 1st Thessalonians 4:17. 
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (NIV)
 This same event is also described in 1 Corinthians 15:51-58

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
This event called the rapture is eminent, meaning there are no prerequisites before Jesus  is to return.  The ancient church was convinced that Jesus was going to return and I believe it is exactly the way every Christian generation should live.  While there are no prerequisites to the second coming of Jesus, the prophets tell of certain events that will happen including the gathering of the dispersed people of Israel and their return to Jerusalem, the holy city.  Jesus also promised in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

So this week, the First Week of Advent we celebrate Hope. 

There’s a song by Chris Tomlin that speaks of this blessed hope.  It’s called “I will Rise”  

Here’s a portion: 

There's a day that's drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

Friday, November 24, 2017

Are You Still Thankful?

The turkey is stored in plastic,
the gravy gelling on a cold plate.
The dinner was really fantastic
And heads were all bowed for grace.

Are we still thankful
today for family and for friends?
Or do we again become bashful
no remembering God to make amends?

Are we not today still blessed
while out shopping for gifts and clothing?
Is heaven at all impressed
Since hands are no longer folding?

God has given his most precious gift
His son, Jesus has died for you
So remember today to be thankful
For Jesus, our health and family too.

"Are You Still Thankful" © Kenneth A. Behr

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Fool Says, "There is no God"

The Book of Psalms in the Bible is a collection or anthology of 150 individual hymns, laments, warnings and benedictions.   In Psalm 14, there is definition and characterization of the fool that says, ”There Is No God”

Here are the first four verses of Psalm 14:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
    there is none who does good.
The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
    to see if there are any who understand,
    who seek after God.
They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
    there is none who does good,
    not even one.
Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
    who eat up my people as they eat bread
    and do not call upon the LORD?

It has been documented that there are more and more fools today.  Likely more than ever before.  It’s unfortunate but one of the prophesied signs of the end-times.

The Apostle Paul in writing to the Thessalonians about the coming of the Lord states, “Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. (2 Thes 2:3)

This word ‘rebellion’ is often translated ‘turning or falling away’. This is the Greek word “Apostasea' and means a departure from the truth.

While many local churches are growing, there is also a documented wholesale departure here in the United States and throughout the developed world. One way of looking at it is that many are departing from the churches affiliated with mainline denominations that long ago have departed from the truth. I saw this first hand in Europe.  I had the opportunity to travel and work in places like England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Switzerland,  and my interest in the history of Christianity brought me to tour many of the great cathedrals in the capitals and major cities of these countries.  Sadly, most of these once great cathedrals are not much more than museums today.  What was once the center of Christianity and the birthplace of the Reformation nearly 500 years ago has today become cosmopolitan centers not of devoted Christians but of those that say, "there is no God." 

America is also changing. While it remains likely one of the most Christian and devoted groupings of people, there are more and more that identify themselves as having no belief.  These are the ‘nones’ that have been identified and characterized by Christian prognosticators.   Many of the ‘nones’ are young, many have a Christian heritage and all have dismissed Christianity as being irrelevant based on their desire for meaning, success and happiness.   God calls these people fools.

By definition, those that declare there is no God are either atheists or agnostic.  The agnostics are the larger group as they haven’t developed an informed view or philosophy about God and prefer to remain relatively neutral. God calls them fools.

The other type that is becoming more and more common are the theoretical atheists who affirm their non-belief in God often vocally and militantly.  These are those that follow the musings and blogs of people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.  They like to challenge pastors, Christian theologians and teachers by asking them ‘gotcha questions’ just like the Pharisees would try on Jesus.

“Jesus, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?"

“Jesus, is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?”

"Jesus, and who is my neighbor?"

Jesus was able to easily answer these ‘gotcha’ questions.   After all, these people were fools.

As believers, our mission is not only to develop a personal and relevant faith.  I believe that our mission is also to reach those that have legitimate questions and to have the wisdom to be able to answer those with the ‘gotcha’ questions.

The Bible gives us our marching orders:

The Apostle Peter commanded Christians: ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.’ (1 Peter 3:15)

Jude’s inspired epistle said: ‘I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.’ (Jude v. 3)

The Apostle Paul said: ‘We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

This branch of theology or the science of answering questions about the faith is called Christian Apologetics.

The term ‘Christian apologetics’ doesn’t refer to apologizing (or saying ‘sorry’) for being a Christian. It comes from the Greek word “apologia” meaning defense. 

For those of us that know we should be ‘always prepared’ and for those that are willing to ‘demolish arguments’ there are a few well known and capable Chrisian apologists that have made their teachings widely available on the web including many videos on Youtube.  Here are three to get started

ALWAYSBEREADY.COM (Charlie Campbell)
RZIM.ORG (Ravi Zacharis)

You'll find by watching these learned Christian Apologists that most of the challenges to a belief in God in general and Christianity specifically fall into just a few categories.  Knowing how to answer and being prepared can quickly turn the conversation around, provide an opportunity to articulate a witness to the truth and sow the seeds of the Gospel. 

Be prepared.  Be willing to share, and always be kind. 

Monday, October 02, 2017

Hiring The Right Person

I think perhaps there has been too much emphasis on hiring the right person for the job.   From my perspective, the problem hasn’t been on being too intentional about the hiring process; intentionality is good.  However, the problem started with an over emphasis on creating detailed job descriptions for candidates, likely a result of new electronic career sites that instantly bombard the company with hundreds if not thousands of applicants. 

These very detailed job descriptions had two unintended consequences.  The first unintended consequence was that they immediately disqualified someone who easily had the capacity to learn the job but lacked the actual experience.   The second unintended consequence was that this over emphasis on matching the job description point-by-point led to hiring candidates based on their ‘past experience’ rather than their “future potential.”

My recommendation may seem a bit unorthodox but I’d recommend that we shouldn’t be hiring the right person for the job but simply hiring the right person.   If we focus on the person, we’ll build the organization.  By focusing on the job, we can often fill the job but miss out on bringing in the best people for the future.

Here are four things to look for in hiring the right person

1. Look for Cultural Fit

Cultural is not just important in a healthy organization, it’s ALL important.  The company culture is defined by the people not by a corporate document or advertising.  Culture is not what you do but how you do it.  It’s the glue that holds the organization together.   Leaders that seek to create a culture in their organizations that inspires, motivates and perpetuates their values and core principles need to hire people that have the same cultural fit.

2. Focus on soft skills.

Although the right skills are definitely an important factor in hiring the right person, particularly for high-skilled jobs, the truth is that all skills are acquired and most on-the-job skills are learned on-the-job.  Soft skills are ‘people skills’ like communication and organizational skills, empathy, diplomacy and creativity.  The right people have the soft skills that make them useful for the present and for the future. Technical skills can be acquired but personalities cannot.

3. Integrity matters

Warren Buffet was quoted as saying, “When looking for someone to hire, look for these qualities: Integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you”.  Integrity in the workplace can be described as behavior that is fully consistent with stated company policies, principles, desired outcomes and values.  Integrity isn’t just a matter of checking a box on the application form that states there are no warrants outstanding.  It has more to do with attitudes than background checks.   Integrity means doing the right thing even when no one is watching.  Hiring managers often put integrity as one of the most desirable characteristics.  Ask open-ended questions about success and failures as well as challenges and keep an ear open for ‘doing the right thing.’   Integrity will keep your company out of the newspapers and encourage clients to come back and recommend you to others.

4. Hire Natural Leaders

In the world of venture capital, it’s often said that a venture capitalist is much more likely to invest in a company based on their leadership team than their business plan.  The reason is simple, business plans often need to be overhauled and great leaders can and will make the necessary adjustments.

Natural leaders are flexible; they know how to adjust to situations, market conditions and challenges when necessary.  Natural leaders are continually investing in people around them. They understand that that training and empowerment creates more leaders and a company can never have too many leaders.   Natural leaders also have tenacity, they know how to persevere and put in the additional effort when necessary.  Finally, natural leaders are servant leaders.  They serve their company and those around them and are not aloof or indifferent to the concerns of those around them and particularly the people that work for them.

Hiring the right person is extremely important.  It’s important for the company as well as the employee.  Hiring mistakes cost the company money.  Beyond the obvious costs of the time in interviewing, relocating and training there are also the ancillary costs of how the bad hire will impact the rest of the employees.   The wrong hires that are eventually weeded out and either quit or are terminated are expensive but not as expensive as those that stay for the long-term.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Get into the boat

Many have read these account in all four gospels of Jesus feeing the 5,000.   For the benefit of our more contemporary culture, the 5,000 count was of the men.  Many theologians and theologians would guess that there were 13,000 to 15,000 including women and children. 

In three of the gospels, the account that immediately follows the feeding of the 5,000 is the disciples in the storm.   Here is the account in the Gospel of John, Chapter 6 verses 16-21.
"When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going."
These two gospel accounts, the feeding of the 5,000 and the disciples in the storm are connected, not just by proximity but also in purpose.     This same account in Matthew gives us a connection.
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. (Matthew 14:22) 
I had read this verse a number of times before but I finally I understood the
connection.  Note that it is Jesus that told the disciples to go into the boat and push off into what was going to be a storm.  The Bible describes the storm as being “contrary.”    Contrary would be one way to describe the storm, the other way would be huge, gale force winds, being buffeted and battered.  The disciples would be rowing against it and doing everything in their power but would be helpless and be making no progress. 
Yet it was Jesus that told them to get into the boat.   
Let that sink in for a moment because this connection between these accounts in the Bible and the application for our life can be huge. 
Likely, you have faced a similar storm.  It may not involve a boat or water but the feeling would be the same.   The storm would be ‘contrary.”   Life sometimes pushes and batters us into submission.  We strain to do everything we can to make some progress to no avail.
During these times, we often wonder where God is.  We wonder if he sees us in the storm. We are often told by well-meaning friends that the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.   The only problem with this saying is that it doesn’t feel during the storm to be true. 
Note however in the account given in Mark that Jesus does indeed see.  

Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Mark" and he, saw them.  (Mark 6:47&48)
The disciples felt alone, they thought Jesus should have come but they didn’t see him, didn’t see anything because of the darkness BUT JESUS SAW THEM,  but the reality was they were never alone.
Let this illustration encourage you.  Regardless of your circumstances or difficulties in your particular storm,  Jesus sees you.   In addition, when you feel God calling you, leading you, speaking to you through the scriptures or through other means, be sure to get into the boat.
Being in the boat, in the center of God’s will may not be the safest place, but it is the right place.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

A Time of Trouble

Every person ultimately faces a time of trouble. Many of us watch as loved ones, family members, and friends face sickness and death.  Often, we see those that are treated poorly or accused unfairly. The causes and times of trouble are numerous.  It’s unfortunate that when catastrophe occurs they are often called “acts of God.” 

These times are rarely 'acts of God." Birth, aging, sickness and death are the natural process of life.  Victims of discrimination, false accusations, unjust treatment and harassment are typically the targets of people motivated by sin and have no idea of what it means to be a good neighbor.

However, there will be a time when God initiates the “Time of Trouble”  

At that time Michael shall stand up,
The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people;
And there shall be a time of trouble,
Such as never was since there was a nation,
Even to that time. (Daniel 12:1)

The Old Testament prophets saw this coming time.  Jeremiah calls it the time of “Jacobs trouble” (Jeremiah 30:4-6).  Ezekiel wrote about it in Ezekiel 22 and 26 as a time when Israel is “refined like gold.”  Isaiah speaks of a time when God turns against His enemies and redeems Israel. (Isaiah 1:24-27)  Zechariah compares this time as a ‘refiners fire’ that purifies the remnant of Israel.  (Zechariah 13:9)

There will be a time of trouble unlike any that has happened before or ever will be in the future.   This time of judgement, refining, purging, and redemption precedes the establishment of God’s Kingdom and the fulfillment of prophecy.   

This is why we work while there is still time to work.  We are called to bring the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ to all people.   Knowing that the time is short and that judgement awaits, we should feel a sense of urgency.    The time will come when only judgement remains.  For the believer it will be a time of rejoicing.  For the unbeliever however, it will be a time of dismay.   The day of judgement is when idle talk and speculation ceases and Biblical truth becomes the ultimate reality. 

In Revelation 22, we are told that Jesus is coming soon.  Both His reward and His judgement will be accomplished.  

Amen, come Lord Jesus

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Bless the Lord

I was ready my Bible this morning and came across Psalm 34:1

         I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

What an interesting thought to bless the Lord.  We say “God bless you” when someone sneezes. 

John Piper has an interesting comment on this concepts
When God "blesses" men they are thereby helped and strengthened and made better off than they were before, but when men "bless" God he is not helped or strengthened or made better off. Rather man's blessing God is an "expression of praising Thankfulness"

                                                                                               -John Piper

Giving praise to God is understandable.  There are blessings daily that we receive and our very lives are in the hand of God.  The Psalmist is telling us however “I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth. 

It’s easy to be discouraged but our discouragement should turn to praise for God is our hope and our strength is in the Lord.  Our tendency to assume that all movement is progress and all setbacks results in a setup for future victory can be a source of frustration as well as just bad theology.  

God’s promises in Jesus are yes and Amen.  Jesus is the fulfillment of very promise and our hope in victory need to be in Him and not temporal success.

Today, I will bless the Lord.  Today, His praise will be in my mouth!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Time Is Short

One of the simplest and at the same time, one of the most profound songs we can sing is “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”

The love of God is this, God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, will not perish but will have everlasting life.  The truth of this statement, found in John 3:16 is well known.   However, many do not understand that the time is short.  The Bible makes it clear that today is the day of salvation, however there will be a time when judgement will begin. 

Judgement begins at what is described by the prophets as the ‘Last Days’, or “the time of Jacobs Trouble” and also “The Tribulation.”  The Apostle Peter, wrote that there would be scoffers even within the church that denied that this day would come.  “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts,  and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3&4)

People have been hoping that the Lord would be returning soon for almost 2,000 years.   Likely the reason for the hope is the feeling that we are close, but have not yet arrived at the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.  The Jews had trouble understanding that Jesus was the Messiah because he didn’t fit their mold.  They were looking for a political leader, someone that could overthrow the tyranny of the Romans.  The Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes were looking for someone like them, someone that would use the law as a measuring rod rather than Jesus who demonstrated the love and mercy of God. 

It is very similar today even in the church.   For many, the love of God has grown cold.  Many that consider themselves to be Christians no longer hope in the second coming but scoff at those who believe that all of the prophecies will be fulfilled, Jesus will return and will reign for 1,000 years. 

I believe the Apostle Peter mentions this time as well, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”  (1 Peter 4:17) 

There will be a time when judgement will come.  For some, it will be too late.  The Bible tells us that we who are His are not appointed to His wrath.  When the wrath of God is manifest, there will be many that will literally be left behind.   We are in a period today called the “Age of Grace” when the grace of God is readily available, and the coming judgment is still at some point in the future.  When Jesus was handed the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah, he found where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the favor of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19)

 That year started when Jesus announced it, and that year continues to this day. The year of the favor of the Lord however will soon come to an end.   Judgement will begin in the house of the Lord with true believers being raptured, taken up into heaven and ‘Kept from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth’ (Revelation 3:10)

 Finally, we know that God’s favor is still here because it is still ‘today’ “For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Ultimate and Final Evil

We hear every week of Christians killed in Muslim majority countries.  Often the police in these countries will stand by as Christians are dragged out of their houses, churches are burned and property destroyed.  According to Open Doors, a worldwide ministry that serves the persecuted church, each month more than 300 Christians are killed because of their faith and over 200 churches are destroyed.  While there have been times when persecution has strengthened the church, persecution has also at times completely wiped out Christianity in large areas and left completely absent any witness for Jesus Christ.  

We should be concerned because these are our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are reminded that the human rights to life and liberty are inalienable and need to be safeguarded regardless of the political divide.  We also care about persecution because we are told that we are one body.  In 1 Corinthians 12:26, the Apostle Paul said, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

For the first five centuries, Christianity flourished in the Middle East. Modern day Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt and Turkey were known as the cradle of Christianity.  Three of the five Patriarchs (ruling Bishops) were those Bishops of Alexandria, Jerusalem and Antioch which were major centers and Christian philosophy and teaching.  However, by 641, followers of Muhammad conquered much of Egypt and destroyed the Library of Alexandria dating back to Alexander the Great.   Syria had fallen to the same Muslim armies a few years before and all the Middle East and North Africa were controlled by Muslim armies within 60 years.

Most non-Muslims don’t understand that Islam is not a religion, but as Dr. Peter Hammond, author of “Slavery, Terrorism and Islam,” noted in his book, “Islam has religious, legal, political, economic, social, and military components. The religious component is a beard for all of the other components.”

While Christianity has always and will always face persecution, the threat to Christianity and much of Western Civilization from Islamic religious, political and cultural demands is by far the greatest evil we have ever faced.   It is likely the Islam is the ultimate and final evil that will be brought to a conclusion by nothing less than the return of the King of Kings.

Friday, May 19, 2017

What is the Gospel

The gospel is the Good News that Jesus Christ, the son of God, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life and was crucified for our sins.  He was raised from the dead on the third day and will come again.

The Bible tells us that if we believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord and confess with our mouth that God raised him from the dead we will be saved.

The early church believed this gospel.   All of our rich traditions and theology are great but they add nothing to this simple Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The body of Christ is comprised of everyone who believes this essential Gospel and has embraced Jesus Christ at their savior, their messiah. 

It is the gospel the brings us together, it is the essential gospel that brings unity of the faith and revival in the hearts of all in the boy of Christ.

The Apostle Paul was passionate about unity in the church. Listen to his prayer in the book of Romans, chapter 15

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of UNITY among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Changing Church Culture

Over the past 2,000 years the world has certainly been changed by the presence of the Church.  From the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended and Peter stood up with the eleven Apostles, preached the first sermon and three thousand in Israel believed, the Church has been on the move and literally has gone into all of the world.

Over the same time the Church has also changed.  While the teachings of Jesus remain the cornerstone, the culture has changed.   While many of us hope that our local church looks something like the early church, a reading of the Book of Acts in chapter 4 beginning with verse 32 tells us what the early church culture was like:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. A sense of awe came over everyone, and the apostles performed many wonders and signs 

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they shared with anyone who was in need. 

With one accord they continued to meet daily in the temple courts and to break bread from house to house, sharing their meals with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. 

Some of the words in these five verses should give us pause: teaching, fellowship, break-bread, prayer, selling possessions, meeting daily, house-to-house, sincerity-of-heart, Lord-added-daily-those-being saved.

I embrace the local church.  Like Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, I believe that the local church is hope of the world.   Together, we cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit to bring people to the cross, to share the gospel of reconciliation and to wait for the coming restoration when the Lord returns for His Bride. 

We are more successful in this mission when we return to that early church culture of a devotion to teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer.   When we do, truly a sense of awe will come over everyone.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Make your first Church hire the Volunteer Coordinator

As organizations grow, they begin to hire employees.   

Churches are often started with a minimum of employees and rely heavily on volunteers to handle most of the assignments and responsibilities.

As churches begin to grow, the pastor looks forward to the time that he or she may begin to hire staff to help in the ministry.  Worship leaders, youth leaders, an office assistant or Children’s coordinator are often likely first hires.   While this has often worked well in many of our churches, I think we have missed a great opportunity.

Make your first hire, a volunteer coordinator.

Churches have an amazing source of talent in the pews.  Most of us know that getting the people that are simply attending church to being the church is one huge and clear illustration of discipleship in action.  People grow in their faith walk as they exercise their gifts by serving. 

Active involvement in church ministry in various volunteer capacities is not only healthy for church members, it also fulfills one of the primary missions of the church, to make disciples.  What could be better than to also learn to be a servant, like Jesus? 

While church leaders intuitively realize they need volunteers, they often begin to dream of the time that they will be able to get 'real' staff.  Church leaders also dream about become one of those growing, healthy churches that have conferences and have pastors that write books about how to do “it.”

Growing, healthy churches that have conferences also have figured out how to create and maintain a healthy culture of volunteerism.   They recognize the importance of having a staff person that is 100% focused on volunteers.  

Churches have found amazing volunteer teachers, leaders, worship leaders, children's ministry coordinators, business administrators, computer experts and gardeners.  Getting new people engaged in some volunteer activity, coordinating schedules so that volunteers know where and when they are to serve, ensuring adequate depth in volunteer roles so that volunteers get vacations and regular opportunities for respite, and creating a culture where volunteers are regularly recognized, trained, and thanked are great bullet points on a volunteer coordinators job description. 

Hire the Volunteer Coordinator and empower the people to be the church, utilize their God-given talents and grow in their faith.  

The Real Virus Is Fear

There is a virus that is attacking and ravaging this country but it is not Covid-19.   It is fear.  This fear is being spread by people ...