Living With Gratitude 3-25-19

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

When we speak of whole-life generosity, we are speaking of a life overflowing with Kingdom provisions and released to God for His glory, our blessing, and the benefit of others. Whole-life generosity begins with a right relationship with God based on His unconditional love for us displayed by Christ dying for our sins and being resurrected for our salvation (Rom 4:25). Further, whole-life generosity expresses itself by living with gratitude.

How do we live a life of gratitude?  Joyful gratitude begins by recognizing God’s joy over us. Jesus declared: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). To be in God’s kingdom is to be united with God Himself. When we live in communion with our heavenly Father, His joy over us, fills us, and overflows to those around us.

Joyful gratitude grows as we trustingly walk with Christ instead of worrying about having enough for the future and genuinely grateful for God’s provision for today. Far too many people see gratitude as a transactional practice. In other words, some believe that if they show gratitude to God, then He will be obligated to bless them in the future. This is not trusting God, but attempting to manipulate God. Our gratitude ought to merely show trust and appreciation to God.

Joyful gratitude also grows when we focus on the source of our blessings rather than merely the blessings themselves. Paul writes, “A believer is to give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:20). The power of practicing gratitude is that it transforms greed into gratitude and worry into worship. It can move a heart from a desire to possess to a posture of praise. Gratitude is not to only focus on the blessings we receive from God, but to Him for being our good heavenly Father.

Paul writes to the Thessalonians: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:18).  Gratitude is a spiritual discipline (or practice). When I struggled in school, my parents got me a tutor that taught me practices to help me improve. When I played sports (like football) coaches taught me practices to help me achieve a higher level of play. I was trained and equipped to live differently. Gratitude trains the believer to live differently. I have heard it said that “gratitude allows us to see the light of God in a world often filled with shadows. It trains us to recognize hope amid despair, to smile amid suffering, and to know the reality of God’s presence even when He seems distant.” Joyful gratitude continues to grow as we practice thankfulness. Thus, we learn to walk in faith.

I know some may be thinking, “What about difficulties?” James writes:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Trials are “tests” that challenge faith. When we are confronted with them, we ought to receive them with “complete joy,” not due to the hardship, but due to the opportunity for growing faith as we learn what it means to trust in the Lord. The idea behind the “testing of your faith,” is to make one’s faith genuine. The result is steadfastness, a life of faithful endurance amid troubles. Trials provide the fertile ground where faith grows and therefore ought to be received with gratitude.

Think of gratitude this way. We all realize that a car needs an engine and wheels, but it also requires a transmission that takes the power of the engine and makes it useful to move the wheels. Gratitude is the transmission that connects the engine of God’s power to the tires of our faith. Without practicing gratitude we lose sight of God, and our faith will be like a car with an engine and wheels, but no transmission. A life void of gratitude will never overflow into our world. Perhaps when we question the depth and breadth of our faith, we ought to ask if our “spiritual car” so-to-speak has the transmission of gratitude, allowing the power of God to move us forward in our walk with Him. When we choose to live with gratitude, we are able to live a life of whole-life generosity.

I am so thankful for the privilege of doing life with each of you. Let’s continue to encourage one another to live with gratitude, so that, we can live a life characterized by whole-life generosity. After all, such a life glorifies God, blesses us, and benefits others. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Living With God 3-18-19

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

What do you think of when you hear the word “generosity?” Webster’s 1828 Dictionary (my favorite dictionary) speaks of generosity as “nobleness of soul.” “Nobleness of soul” addresses a soul marked by the very heart of God. As we examine Scripture, we discover that God is lovingly generous. Therefore, it should be of no surprise that God calls us to whole-life generosity where our following Christ and being changed by Him is reflected in the way we love others.

For whole-life generosity to be a reality for any of us we need a proper view of God. Our view of God dramatically determines the quality of life we experience in Him. There are many defective views of God. A faulty view of God leads to a flawed relationship with Him that leads to a life greatly diminished from God’s ideal for us. To experience a life characterized by whole-life generosity we need a proper view of God.

Simply put, God is our Creator, Lord and Heavenly Father who is: good (Lk 18:19), holy (Isa 5:16), just (Deut 32:4), perfect (Matt 5:48), love (1 Jon 4:8), righteous (Ex 9:27), pure (1 Jn 3:3), all-knowing (1 Jn 3:20), all-powerful (Lk 1:37), all-present (Jer 23:23-24), unchangeable (Mal 3:6), eternal (Gen 21:33) and much more. When we wrap our minds around a proper view of God, who He is, it becomes clear that the gulf between who God is and who we are in immense. So immense is the gulf that we have to ask, “What does God really want with us anyway?”

To answer this question, we must first realize that God does not need us (see: Psalm 50:12, Isa 66:1). Second, we need to accept that although God does not need us, He truly does want us. In fact, God desires to live with us, and through us empowering us to reveal His goodness to the world. God created and redeemed us because He wants us to share in his love (see: Jn 17:21). God created us from the overflow of His love. He desires for us to live generously, which is the overflow of the love we experience in our relationship with Him.

Our generosity begins with God’s love. Consider the Father’s love for Jesus. At the moment of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, the Father declared: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). Hearing that the Father loves the Son probably does not surprise any of us, but when He declared it might. The Father said He was pleased with the Son before Jesus ever preached a sermon, ever performed a miracle, ever called a disciple, ever confronted a Pharisee, before He overcame the temptations of the Devil, before He endured the humiliation of suffering on the cross. When the Father had declared His pleasure in the Son, Jesus had not yet completed any of these things. The Father declared Jesus’ identity as His beloved before He had accomplished these things. The Father’s love came first, not the Son’s obedience. Just like Jesus God’s love for us is unconditional. We can’t earn God’s love, and we don’t have to do so. God’s love is a gift. God’s love is generously and lavishly offered to us.

Whole-life generosity begins with a right relationship with God. Our relationship with the Lord is based on His unconditional love for us displayed by Christ dying for our sins and being resurrected for our salvation (Rom 4:25). Our generosity does not flow from needing to find God’s approval. It is actually the opposite. God has already declared His love for us as His beloved children, and when His love saturates us, through Christ, and by the power of His Spirit, it propels us to obey, serve, and give – whole life generosity oozes from our lives.

I am honored to serve alongside each of you. As John writes: “What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God” (1 Jn 3:1)! God calls us to a whole-life generosity, and such a life is rooted in His love as we follow Christ. Let’s encourage each other to bask in His love and generously radiate it to the world around us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Anger 3-11-19

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

Of all the emotions a person can feel anger is among the strongest. Therefore, handling anger is an important skill. If anger is left, untamed, it will lead to shattered communication that will tear apart relationships and darken the spirit of the person consumed by anger’s flames. The good news is that God’s Word is full of wisdom regarding how to handle anger in a way that glorifies God, blesses you, and benefits others.

It is important to understand that anger is not always sin. Some call this righteous anger. God experiences anger. The psalmist writes: “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day” (Psalm 7:11). This verse refers to God’s anger directed against those who threaten His followers. The Scriptures teach of anger that acceptable for believers. Paul writes: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). It is true, not all anger is sin, but the believer should not be consumed by anger. One’s anger should not even be carried over to the next day, as this will give an opportunity for anger to be stoked and lead to it becoming a consuming fire.

There are two Greek words in the New Testament that are translated as “anger.” One refers to “passion and energy.” The other word means, “agitated or boiling.” Godly anger is always anger the Lord allows to grow within believers to help them solve problems. Such anger is not a response of our self-defense mechanism, but in defense of others or of a principle. For instance, since I believe all life is sacred and made in the image of God, I am angered by human trafficking (modern-day slavery) that exist in our world. With this stated it is essential to recognize that anger at an injustice inflicted against oneself is appropriate.

Anger can be a warning bell allowing the individual to know when others have violated healthy boundaries. Victims of abuse and crime have been violated, and it is natural to feel anger. To find healing the trauma has to be accepted for the tragedy it was. Such a realization will often produce anger. However, the endpoint is not anger, but healing and peace. Therefore, the journey many victims go through to find God’s healing leads them to experience anger but when trusting in the Lord, progresses beyond anger to ultimately find hope and divine rest.

Anger that is sin often is motivated by pride and fueled by growing pride. James is referring to this anger when he writes: “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). This anger is unproductive, distorts God’s purposes, and lingers. Such anger leads to bitterness.

Handling anger biblically begins by seeking God’s wisdom and the counsel of godly believers. Sometimes we need help determining if we are experiencing righteous anger and further if we are handling it in a Christ-like manner. The Lord and Christ followers can help us recognize if our anger is sinful and encourage and equip us to bring it to Him (to God) so that it can be quenched.

The Bible has much more to say about anger. I would encourage each of us to study God’s Word and seek wisdom and God’s leading in dealing with anger when it rises in us. Only when we surrender to the Lord will He bring us to a place that allows righteous anger to lead to godly actions. Only through submitting to God will He empower us to combat ungodly anger and rest in His peace.

I count it as a real blessing to serve alongside each of you in the Lord’s service. I pray we will honestly surrender everything to the Lord, especially our anger. As we surrender God will lead us to action, healing, and divine rest. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Shame 3-4-19

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

We have been created in God’s likeness, and God’s emotions are revealed in the Scriptures; therefore, God created us emotional beings. Sometimes our emotions are pleasant to experience and sometimes not. In either case, emotions can be helpful indicators of what is going on in our hearts. This is never truer than when we feel sadness and shame.

Both sadness and shame are strong emotions. Throughout the Bible, we discover many examples of both. We also find in Scripture that both are a result of the Fall. The Fall speaks of the tragic event of Adam and Eve’s sin that has devastating consequences on all humanity. Instead of trusting God, they chose out of selfish pride to rebel against God. The result of the Fall was universal: a corrupt nature, guilt before God, interpersonal conflict and separation from God. These results were transmitted to all humanity after Adam and Eve. It is due to this crushing reality, which all of us face that God sent His Son to die for our sin and be resurrected for our salvation. Those in Christ have been rescued – redeemed. However, this side of paradise we still wrestle with being in Christ, while living in a fallen world.

The psalmist proclaims: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). This verse gives an “ordinary” life span; many live fewer years (due to violence, accident, and disease), and some live longer. The real point is that our lives as quite brief compared to eternity. Due to living in a fallen world we all experience toil (or pain) and trouble during our brief span of life.

Both sorrow and shame are the result of sin either directly (sin we have committed) or indirectly (the result of the sin or others or the state of this fallen world). Therefore, it is important to remember that not all sin is caused by the sin we commit. Sometimes it’s living in a sin-cursed world.  For instance look at Job. Job (a man whose account is found in the Old Testament book bearing his name) was one who experienced great sorrow and sadness, through no fault of his own. He even had to endure three friends who accused him of bringing this hardship upon himself. However, God reveals to Job that even though he might not understand why God allowed what He did He (God) is trustworthy. This is true for all of us. The psalmist declares: “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30). Since God’s ways are “perfect,” we can trust Him no matter the circumstances.

We also discover in God’s Word that sorrow and shame, not brought to the Lord, will devastate a person. King David writes in the Psalms about the guilt and shame he felt due to some grievous sins he had committed. He also writes about the deliverance he received from the Lord. “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2). Sorrow and shame are real emotions, but so too is the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord.

Brené Brown in her book, Daring Greatly, writes: “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” As we place our trust in the Lord, sharing our sorrow and shame, He will lead us to rest in His peace. As we enter into trusting relationships with trustworthy believers God will use these relationships to bring about His healing and joy. The real question is how will each of us choose to deal with sorrow and shame. I hope we will bring both to the Lord to find true healing and His peace.

It is a privilege to serve with each of you. Although the topics of sorrow and shame deserve more than a short writing, I do believe even a brief overview leads us to the reality that to find healing and peace we must trust in God’s faithfulness. We may not understand the what and why of life’s various circumstances, but we can be sure of the who. God loves each of us and desires to saturate us with His love and peace. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Fear 2-25-19

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

God created each of us with the capacity to feel a variety of emotions. Some people see emotions as a negative part of who they are and try to avoid them, while others see them as a driving force in their life. The truth is that we can’t flee from our emotions and shouldn’t try. Nor should we allow our emotions to rule over us.

In the Bible, we discover God manifests a rich emotionality. The believer has been given the Holy Spirit as the great Helper who, in part, profoundly influences our emotional life. We discover in Scripture that as we cooperate with the Spirit and sound biblical principals, we experience an increasingly vibrant and healthy emotional life.

One emotion the Bible addresses over and over again is fear. Over three hundred times in the Bible, God’s Word instructs us to “fear not.” This leads me to conclude that the Lord desires for us to live fearless and faith-filled lives. This is not to say that all fear is bad.

The Scriptures teach that there is healthy fear and unhealthy fear. Often our embracing of healthy fear and rejection of unhealthy fear are the only things standing between the life you’re enduring and the abundant life God has destined for you to live. What we do with fear matters.

An unhealthy fear can be understood as any fear that keeps you from reaching your full kingdom potential and the fullness of life God has planned for you. It is a fear that causes you to retreat or cower from the purpose and plan of God for your life. Such fear causes you to run away from the love of God.

Healthy fear in the Bible is described as fear of the Lord, which is not terror, but reverence and awe of God’s great power and love for us. Such fear is motivated by God’s awesome power and justice. When we grasp the extent of God’s mercy towards us, we begin to understand how deeply God loves us. When we see God for who He is, full of awesome power as well as love for us, our unhealthy fear of what He might do to us is transformed into reverence and awe before His great mercy. The fear of the Lord is to recognize God for who He is: holy, almighty, righteous, pure, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-wise. When we rightly recognize God, we will choose His way. In a profound sense fearing God leads us to know Him more fully. God wants us to follow Him out of love rather than unhealthy fear and for our own good.

We overcome unhealthy fears as we think more about God and His love, remember His promises, and focus on His faithfulness. Fear and faith cannot coexist in equal measure. Where fear increase faith diminishes and where faith increase fear diminishes. The key is to choose faith.

It is a privilege to be on journey with each of you. Let’s encourage one another to overcome unhealthy fear by choosing to fear the Lord. When we grow in our faith, unhealthy fear is vanquished. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Embarking on Crosswinds’ Discipleship Pathway 2-18-19

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

When we talk about God’s call on His Church we are speaking of believers since God’s Church is the sum total of every one of His followers. God’s first word to man was: “Be fruitful and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28). After the flood, God’s first command to Noah was: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 9:7). Among the last words, Christ spoke to His followers was: “Go and make disciples” (Matt 28:19). God’s call on His Church is to be fruitful and multiply or otherwise stated the Church is called to make disciples and go.

Disciple making is the core purpose of the Church. Just like the multiplication of a biological family provides a new context for the addition of individuals, each multiplication of a church provides a new context for addition via disciple making at the local level. This is God’s call on each and every one of us.

We can understand God’s call in two tiers that we need to keep in alignment. We have our primary call or common calling. We are to be disciples, who make disciples, wherever we are (see: Matt 28:18-20). Then, we have our secondary calling. Paul writes, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). A believer must keep his or her unique secondary calling aligned to his or her primary calling to make disciples who make disciples. (2 Tim 2:2) This is true whether we are pastors, teachers, students, clerks, moms, and dads…you get the picture. Every believer in a church has the capacity and call to participate in the multiplication movement of God.

Jesus modeled this call by first, investing time alone with the Father. Then He poured into a few of His closest followers in transparent relationship. Jesus developed the twelve apostles in the context of personal relationship. He also invested in seventy followers in a social relationship. Lastly, he ministered to the crowds in public relationship. We discover that Jesus invested in His own relationship with the Father and had a multifaceted discipleship strategy that moved from greater intimacy and more profound impact to a broader capacity of each. Unfortunately, the problem is that many churches and believers are trying to grow in Christ using Christ’s model inverted expecting weekend worship experiences to do the lion’s share of disciple making. Although the public worship serve is an important spiritual practice, it is not the most effective form of discipleship, and this does not even take into account that approximately 60% of those who consider themselves regular attenders in American churches attend only once or twice a month. Of those who consider themselves regular attenders, only 16% participate in a small group, and less than 20% spend time alone with God on a regular basis. No wonder the church in America is suffering from spiritual anemia and impotence.

I believe a healthy discipleship pathway will encourage believers to spend time alone with God (TAWG) daily. Such a path will also encourage one-on-one discipleship as well as small groups participation. Then, there is serving inside and outside the church and participation in a weekly weekend worship experience. This may seem like a heavy investment, but of the 168 hours each of us get a week we are only talking about five to six hours a week or about three to four percent of a believers week to grow as a disciple an help others do the same. Our going occurs as we ordinary people live sent lives as everyday missionaries used by God in extraordinary ways on the everyday mission fields of our home, neighborhood, workplace, school, and community.

How does this discipleship pathway practically look? Well, Every believer ought to have a person pouring into his or her life. Also, every believer ought to have someone they are pouring into.  Then, every believer ought to have someone they are sharing the love and message of Christ with the hope they will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This leads us to two crucial questions. First, as a disciple multiplier, what is your next step on your discipleship journey? Second, as a disciple multiplier who is your one (who is pouring into you…who are you pouring into…who are you reaching out to with the love and message of Christ)? These three crucial relationships will change your life and bear the transformational power of God on our society.

It is a privilege doing life with each of you. Let us encourage one another to make disciples and go as we continue to embark of the discipleship pathway where we truly know God and make Him known. Let us each live sent lives as everyday missionaries on our everyday mission fields. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Become 2-11-19

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

As we take the step to believe we enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship brings a believer into a position of belonging to God and His Church (God’s forever family). This relationship with God also leads a believer down a path of becoming the person they have been created to be in Christ. This is why it is so important to raise believers to follow Christ as they discover what it means to become.

The Bible describes believers (Christians) as a new creation. Paul writes to the believers in Corinth: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). The word “therefore” refers back to verses 14-16 were Paul writes:

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer” (2 Cor 5:14-16).

Paul informs us that all believers have died with Christ and no longer live for themselves. Our “death” is that of the flesh (our old sin nature) that was nailed to the cross with Christ. It was buried with Him, and just as the Father raised him up, so are we raised in Him.

Our being raised in Him empowers us to walk differently, as Paul writes: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). A believer, in Christ, becomes a new person, raised in Christ or as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 – a new creation.

The believer being a new creation means, in fact, something created by God (see: John 1:13). The new birth (salvation) was brought about by the very will of God. God created something completely new that is entirely fresh and unique to what we were apart from Christ. Only our Creator could bring something new from nothing.

Being a new creation means the “old” is no more. The old things are gone. The “old” refers to everything that was part of our old self apart from Christ that was a result of the flesh (our sinful nature), such as, pride, love of sin, reliance on works and the sort. Self-righteousness, self-promotion, and self-justification have been put to death. The new creation looks towards Christ instead of self. The old things died, being nailed to the cross.

Being a new creation means the old is replaced with the new, full of life and for the glory of God. What this practically means is that a believer takes pleasure in the things God takes pleasure in and displeasure in those things God abhors. A believer as a new creation has a growing love for God and others put on display by living for God’s glory and a desire to see others believe in Christ for their salvation. The sin we once held onto, we now desire to put away forever. Paul explained it this way in Colossians and Ephesians: “Put off the old self with its practices” (Col 3:9b) and “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24).

Let me say a word about sin. There is often a question about a believer who continues to sin. It is important to understand that there is a difference between continuing to sin and continuing to live in sin. As believers, we are being perfected, but not yet fully what we will be in Christ. We desire to sin less and less and do so less frequently as we mature in Christ. The believer is empowered by the Holy Spirit to live in righteousness. Believers have the power to choose to not sin and live rightly in Christ by the power of His Spirit that reigns in us. Our becoming is made a reality by who we are as a new creation, formed in the mind of God and created by His power and for His glory. Our perfection is found in Christ, and our journey is to become more like Him by the power and leading of His Spirit. It is a journey with God through a continual process of learning, practicing, and maturing, as well as failing, recovering, adjusting, enduring, and overcoming.

My prayer is that you will partner with God, being dependent on His Spirit, as you mature in Him. If you are not a new creation in Christ, receive God’s gift of salvation and accept Christ as your Lord and Savior. If you are a new creation (a believer) take the next step God is calling you to take in becoming the person you have been created to be in Christ and help others do the same.

It is an honor journeying in Christ with each of you. Let us grow in our becoming and help others do the same. It is a remarkable work of God and a real blessing to be a new creation in Him. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Bless 2-4-19

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

As we take the step to believe we enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship brings a believer into a position of belonging to God and His Church (God’s forever family). This relationship with God also leads a believer down a path of becoming the person they have been created to be in Christ. The result is a flourishing life in Christ were belonging and becoming are embraced, and the Christ follower understands that they have been blessed so that they can bless others. This is why it is so important to release Christ followers to partner with God to bless others by advancing His Kingdom.

When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray part of that prayer was that “God’s kingdom would come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). Believers are invited to pray for and called to partner with God for the continual advancement of God’s kingdom on earth. The presence of God’s kingdom today refers to the reign of Christ in the hearts and lives of believers. It also refers to the reigning of Christ in His church. Both produce a growing reflection of the love of Christ and His message being shared in the hope others will receive salvation in Him. This is the very will of God.

The blessings God gives us are intended to be shared with all, beginning with the inestimable blessing of salvation and including all the other good things the Lord has given to the believer. In Genesis, we discover a conversation between God and Abraham where the Lord tells Abraham that he is blessed in order to bless others (see: Gen 12:2-3). God’s blessing to Abraham is just the first step in a much bigger plan to extend that blessing through Abraham to all the peoples of the earth.

We discover in the New Testament that the promises made in the Old Testament, including those made to Abraham, ultimately point to Jesus Christ and find their fulfillment in Him. We read: “Now, the promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant. You will observe that Scripture, in the careful language of a legal document, does not say ‘to descendants,’ referring to everybody in general, but ‘to your descendant’ (the noun, note, is singular), referring to Christ” (Gal 3:16, The Mess). Further, Paul explains in Galatians: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” Gal 3:29). Since believers are identified with Christ, we are heirs to the promise as well as the divine calling to bless others with the blessing we have received in Christ. Believers are blessed to be a blessing. We are released in the name of Christ and empowered by His Spirit to partner with God to bless others to advance God’s Kingdom.

Let’s encourage one another to live sent (released) lives, blessing others to advance God’s Kingdom. We are called to be everyday missionaries in our everyday mission fields (home, neighborhood, school, workplace, community). Let’s encouraged and equip one another to live with our divine blessings in a way that blesses others. As Christ has brought us the joy of abundant living as His followers, let us share this good news with others in the hope that they too will be blessed to bless others. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Belong 1-28-19

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

As we take the step to believe we enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship brings a believer into a position of belonging to God and His Church. God has hardwired the need to belong into our DNA.

When we come to Christ, we are redeemed, made a new creation, adopted as children of God, and heirs to God’s Kingdom and Kingdom resources. This new position in Christ is something that ought to draw us to Christ and cause us to embrace our belonging to Him. But, what does it mean to belong to Him? It means we are in a loving relationship with our eternal, loving, heavenly Father. However, what I find interesting is that one of the primary images we find of belonging to God in Scripture is that of a slave. Now honestly most of us resist the concept of slavery. Our own nation’s history makes this word stick in our throat. This is a reasonable response. The thought of one person being owned by another person against his will is abhorrent. That is why it’s fascinating that it’s absolutely appropriate for each of us to choose to be slaves of God, whom we live in a loving relationship with and long to serve with our lives.

We find in the book of Exodus an interesting offer. If someone wanted to be a slave by choice, they could choose to be a bond slave (Exo 21:2-6). A bond slave did not sign up for limited servitude but would make a lifetime commitment of service. A bond slave surrendered himself and gave up all his rights – permanently – to his master. The nature of the servant’s new relationship to the master would be no secret. The transaction was made in a public ceremony where a sharp instrument would pierce a hole in the servant’s ear, signifying obedience to the voice of the master. This decision was irreversible. Once the servant had gone through the ear-piercing ceremony, he would always be branded as a bond slave. He would always have a hole in his ear to remind him that he was not his own. Now, certainly, God placed this practical scenario in Scripture to describe the process of voluntary slavery, but I believe in a greater sense it points us to Christ and to depict our relationship with Him.

In Scripture, we discover that Jesus Christ offered Himself as a bond slave to God the Father for His glory and our salvation (Psalm 40:6, 8; Phil 2:7). We also find in the New Testament that the apostles Peter and Paul, along with James and Jude, followed in the steps of the Great Bond Slave when each identified himself as a bond slave of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1). These early followers of Christ provide a pattern for every believer who wants to be like their Lord. We are all to offer ourselves as bond slaves of the Lord. Belonging to God means, in part, being marked as His slave.

When I believe in Christ for my salvation, I not only belong to Him, but to His church. Believers are to be raised in understanding what this means. The Lord desires His Church to be a place of belonging. God’s Church is a place where those far from Christ can find salvation and loving acceptance – a place they were created to belong. As God’s Church, we are invited to live the abundant life found in Christ. This abundant life speaks of spiritual abundance which focuses not on duration but of a relationship with God where a follower of Christ continues to journey with Him through a continual process of learning, practicing, and maturing, as well as failing, recovering, adjusting, enduring, and overcoming.  Such a community not only glorifies God and is blessed, but also is a real benefit to others. Believers are blessed in our belonging to God and belonging to one another as His Church, and it is through our oneness (our loving belonging) that we are a witness to others so they too may choose to believe (John 17:20-21).

I wonder if I act more like a temporary servant of God or like one who belongs to Him and is willing to be His permanent slave (a bond slave)? I belong to Him! I belong to His Church! I am a slave of God! How about you? Believers belong to God and His Church.

It is a privilege to do life with each of you. Let us be committed to grow and help others grow in understanding and walking in our belonging to God and His Church. Let us live as slaves of our Lord. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Reflect God’s Love 1-21-19

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

When we look at our journey with God, taking the steps of a disciple, it is essential to keep in mind God’s motivation as well as ours. God’s motivation is love. John writes: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God offers us salvation and abundant living because He is good and He loves us.

God does not love us because we have done something right, but because He is righteous. God loves us just because He loves us. Paul describes this truth in Romans: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). The love of God is profound. Christ did not die for the righteous (morally perfect and good) but for sinners (ungodly or unrighteous people) who are living in rebellion against God. Christ died for people like you and me. He died for you and me and everyone else. God’s love is shown in the death of Christ, who died that we might live. While God’s righteousness and justice led to His plan of salvation through the death of Christ (see: Rom 3:25-26), it was His love that motivated this plan.

It is biblically clear that God’s motivation for saving us and inviting us to experience abundant living is love; therefore it ought to also be clear that our motivation for receiving Christ as Lord and Savior and walking with Him as His disciple is love. That is why John records these words of Christ: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Love is a distinguishing mark of a follower of Christ. A believer is to love God with everything and others as themselves. The very love God has for us, and by His Spirit has poured into our very lives, is to flow through us to the world around us. It is to saturate every part of us, being the source of our motivation. We come to Christ and continue in Him out of love.

Love being our motivation makes sense when we explore God’s Word but can be difficult as we practically live our ordinary every day lives. Since God is perfect and we are not, it does not take long to discover that other motivations can seep into our daily walk with Him. Things such as acceptance, fear, and even what we can get from God can become our motivation if we take our eyes off Christ and the truth of His Word. We may begin to operate out of a feeling of condemnation, which is fear of punishment. This is not a healthy motivation, and such fear is unwarranted for a believer (see: Rom 8:1). No, as God is motivated by love, we too ought to be motivated by love. For this reason, John’s words are crucial to understand: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Christian love is a gift from God, demonstrated by Christ on the cross (see: Rom 5:8). God’s love always takes the initiative, and the love found in Christ’s followers is a response to His love.

In order for a believer to share in God’s motivation of love, we must first receive His love and continue to believe He does indeed love us as truly today as He did yesterday and will into the unforeseeable future. God’s love is constant and complete. As we rest in the reality of God’s love for us we are empowered by His Spirit to live motivated by love. Such love glorifies God, blesses us, and benefits others.

Let’s encourage one another to embrace and reflect God’s love as we journey with Christ and take the steps to believe, belong, become, and bless. It is such a blessing to know God and make Him known. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!