Crossroads Fellowship

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

On The Job Training

Last week I wrote an article about how we need to be less of control freaks, and more of encouragers trusting God to gift people for ministry. Well this week I want to tell you a testimony that confirms that truth. I have a friend who is a recovering alcholic, who sometimes fights with his wife, and often times regrets other actions in his life as well. When Paul said that it was trustworthy and reliable to say that Christ came to save sinners, of whom Paul was the worst, my friend might tell Paul that he wasn't so sure because he was pretty bad himself. This friend of mine became a Christian just a couple of months back, and his life is starting to become more Christ like everyday. He still has problems, he still sins way more than he wants to or should, yet he is trying with all of his heart to follow Christ. So as this man approaches me and asks for ministry in the church "wisdom" would say to tell him no, have him sit back and study the word a while, sit under some solid teaching and preaching, and then at some undetermined point in the future we would plug him into ministry. A lot of people would say that "wisdom" was heavenly wisdom, but I put it in quotes because I think that it is the world's wisdom not God's, and I think I can back that up. Interested? Then read on -

You see this man's name is Kyle Kelley. If you were to look at Kyle you would see a man nearly covered with tattoos who does not look like the "model christian" whatever that looks like. The night Kyle got saved he sat in my home telling me and the rest of a small group of close friends how badly he wanted his mom to come to know Christ as well. God had immediately put a burden for the lost on Kyle's heart. Kyle even drove hundreds of miles to see his mom and tried to share while he was there. He came back and said that it didn't work to well because he didn't have enough answers. I told him I knew what he meant, and then I encouraged him to get in an evangelism class we have at church called the Way of the Master. While he was waiting for that class to start Kyle joined the worship team, and is learning to play hand drums, as well as trying to learn the guitar. Also he comes to small group every week, and he even started helping out in the children's ministry. Yes that is right a couple month old Christian is be given ministry.

So finally a couple weeks ago the evangelism class started, Kyle broke down crying while he was telling everyone why he wanted to take the class. His heart was broken for the lost, by the way he still has some problems and still struggles with his alcoholism. The very first week, it is an intro into the course, however Kyle took what he picked up from the intro and tried to lead his friend Tom Walter to the Lord. Well poor Kyle botched the job and confused Tom, so he told Tom to come to a men's breakfast at the church on the Saturday following his first class. Tom came, sat through a study on Every Man's Battle, and at the end of the study he repented of his sins and became a Christian. It looks like Kyle might not have botched it so bad after all.

Class number two on the Way of the Master happened this past Sunday. It was a class called Discovering Hell's Best Kept Secret. Well Kyle was there, and so was Tom the one day old Christian. Look's like the Lord really did a work in Tom and Kyle both. And this brings us to last night. Kyle has another friend named Robert Oldeck, who was having some marital problems and other issues. Kyle sat him down and took him through the only four of the Ten Commandments he could remember - lying, aldutery, theft, and blasphemy. Just using those four commandments alone Robert was convicted of his sin (which is what the commandments are really for) and asked Kyle how to fix it. Kyle drew upon his small knowledge and told Robert that he needed to repent and trust the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. He even explained to him what repentance was. He went so far as to tell him that he couldn't just keep on doing the same sin over and over again without caring because that wasn't real repentance. He told him he was going to sin again after he got saved, but he had to want to not sin and work to follow Christ. I don't know if you like his definition, but I think it was great.

So here we are, two or three month old Christian, Kyle Kelley, has been an instrument that God has used to bring two people into his grace and mercy. We all know this scripture probably: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 I think that have seen from this testimony that part of presenting yourself approved, and rightly handling the word of truth has some "on the job" training. Pray for Kyle as he seeks more opportunities to minister.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

If we are the body..............?

I know that I have said this before. And I am pretty sure that I have heard at least one other person say it before. And I know for a fact the Bible says it. Well maybe not exactly in these words, but if we are the body..........why? Church planters, pastors, leaders, missions boards, and countless others look at the book of Acts for insights into how to grow the church. We see the Acts of the Apostles (the "full" name of the book) as a blueprint for ministry. We talk about the themes that run throughout the book. And yet I have found that with the people I hang out with we miss the "MAJOR" theme of the first eight chapters (maybe even the whole book) on a regular and consistent basis. How do we overlook it? I am glad you asked, and if you will hang with me for just a moment I will explain.

We look at the Acts of the Apostles and say, "What can we glean from these men and their ministry? What great miracles did they do, what mighty sermons did they preach, what great prayer warriors were they?" And I think it is right that we do so, but, and it is a big but, aren't we missing the more subtle message here? Jesus taught in parables so that those who were "blind" and "hard-hearted" might not see or hear. In our blindness and hard heartedness are we not seeing and hearing? Did Luke, inspired by the Spirit of God, put a subtle message into the book of Acts that the blind and hard of heart (that would be us) miss? I think he did - and I think we are all missing it. Now everyone back away from the stones, you can stone me to death when this is over.

Jesus said that we would have power when the Spirit came upon us, and that we would be his witnesses all the way to the ends of the earth. When he said we would have power, he wasn't just talking to the Pastors, Elders, and Deacons. He was talking to every believer. Now everyone is saying, "Yes - yes, we know this all." But knowing it in our heads, and actually believing it and acting it out are two COMPLETELY different things. I can believe in my head that the Holy Spirit is available for every person in the church, but I actually have to let these folks, the lay people, start ministering the way that God has gifted them. And I know that everyone is saying that they are willing to let lay people minister, but they can never get them to step up to the plate and do it. Yet what we should really be saying is that we can never get them to step up to the plate and do it OUR WAY!

Ok.....that hurt......that really hurt me.....because that is exactly my problem. I don't want to let people minister to others their way, I want them to do it my way, and if they don't do it my way - well they just need to sit there in the pew until they will! Isn't this a horribly sinful attitude to have? Yet Pastors, Youth Pastors, Elders, Deacons, and Sunday School Super-Intendents (to name a few), isn't this exactly the attitude of our heart? Do it my way or not at all!

So what is the theme we are missing in Acts? It is something Gary Benedict has said about a bajillion times. Unleash the laity! You see in Acts 5 the Apostles were doing some great things. Yet in verses 12-13 it says this: Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people but the hands of the aposltes. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. (emphasis added) I sat and read this, and prayed, and read, and prayed, and kept asking myself and God this question. Who are the "none of the rest" that dared not join them. As I looked at this I saw where people were coming to the apostles and complaining because their widows were being neglected. Did the apostles go take care of them? Nope! As a matter of fact they called the whole church together (that is what it means in Acts 6:2 when it says the called the full number of the disciples together) and told them that they already had a ministry of teaching and preaching, and that someone needed to get to work. Now they did not give them a plan on how to hand out the food, they just told them to pick out from themselves some men of good reputation, full of the Spirit, and full of the wisdom of God, and take care of it.

You see, the "none of the rest" were the laity I think. They were scared, numb, indifferent, or whatever, and they would not do the ministry. But, and it is another big but, when the apostles gave them the ministry, they handed it over without giving them detailed instructions, and just trusted that God would guide, empower, and equip them, we see in Acts 6:7 the results. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the preists became obedient to the faith. But this wasn't enough yet, the theme goes on.

In Acts 7 we see Stephen get killed preaching his first sermon! Then in Acts 8 we read these words. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, EXCEPT THE APOSTLES. Acts 8:1b (emphasis added). Then throughout the rest of the book we keep seeing the apostles showing up to different places where people had already heard the gospel and been saved, yet were oblivious to baptism of the Spirit, and I don't mean speaking in tongues, I mean the empowerment of God's Spirit as he gifts them. So they would pray for them, lay hands on them, and then turn them loose into ministry after they recieved the Spirit. The apostles would give them general oversight in their ministry, but they would let them handle the details. They would make sure they were preaching and teaching sound doctrine, but they didn't tell them which lesson to teach in Children's church on which day. They let Spirit Empowered believers minister as the Spirit of God enabled them.

I think today that we are so conceited that we believe that we are so Spirit Empowered that we can empower people to minister and do it our way. I hope God fixes us in that area starting with me. Because personally I am the biggest control freak I know, and I hope that if I can admit that then you can admit where you are at fault and together we can repent before a holy God!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

More Than A Prisoner!

Have you ever been faced with a hard decision in life, where if you choose to do the right thing before God you might be punished or persecuted among men? I know that many of us face those kind of dilemas daily. Take for instance the many Pastors all over the world who are called to preach a message of repentance to their congregation for a particular sin, but know full well from past experiences and watching others that it just might cost them the loss of the job of pastoring that congregation. Or take the Christians in China who just by sharing their faith might be thrown in prison or even killed. The examples can go on and on, and I am sure you can find one in your own life where you have been faced with this dilema. When you are faced with these hard decisions I want you to remember that you are not the first of God's children to have to go through this.

We all like to remember Joseph, Israel's favorite son, fondly and with much honor. But as we remember him let us not forget that his brothers hated him, so much so that when he was obedient to God by speaking forth his dreams they threw him in a pit, and then drew him out and sold him into slavery. Yet because Joseph obeyed the voice of the Lord he was more than a slave - he was in charge of everything in Potiphar's home. Yet again he was faced with another decision as Potiphar's wife wanted to have sexual intercourse with him, but he was obedient and did not sin against the Lord. Even to the point that when he refused her she manipulated her husband and had him thrown in prison.

It is there in that prison that many of us would have found ourselves in our most desperate hour. Yet Joseph remained calm, cool, and in charge. Yes I said in charge! Let's read what the scriptures say about it. As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, "This is the way your servant treated me," his anger was kindled. And Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph's charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed. Genesis 39:19-23

The rest of the world saw Joseph suffering for doing the right thing locked in a prison. Yet God was showing his favor to Joseph. For Joseph was more than a prisoner, he was a trustee, and more than a trustee, he was practically the assistant warden. What Joseph's brothers meant for harm, and what Potiphar's wife meant for harm we all know later worked out to save not only Joseph, but all of God's people. Each of us needs remember that as we obey God we might go through some trials, but on the other side of that trial is God's glorious purpose and plan for us. If we find ourselves as slaves and prisoners let us always declare that we are more than prisoners, we are God's people.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I Think I'll Go For A Walk....

I have enjoyed working through the book of Romans with so many people who have been following this blog. But is it ok for me to say I'm tired now? I think I am going to go for about a two week walk, clear my head, focus on some reading, sermon preperation, and maybe - just maybe - I might come back and we can start working through another book together. Maybe a short book like Philemon, and I can make it last two years (just kidding). In the mean time while I am walking around clearing my head I am gonna read some more of "Sketches of Early Jewish Social Life." This is a really good book, and I know that some of you might have read this and are scratching your heads right now, but you have to remember that I am a nerd and like nerdy type books. So if you have been following our blog make sure that you start checking back in two weeks and we will start the next study, devotional, or butchering of God's word (it all depends on your viewpoint what you want to call it).

Friday, January 12, 2007

Closing The Epistle (Part 2)

The first sixteen verses of chapter sixteen of the book of Romans is a series of greetings and recommendations. Paul commends to them fellow laborers for the Kingdom, as well as asking them to greet some of the men and women who are there. This is an important list that Paul is making for them here. One of the biggest challenges in the church is knowing who can be entrusted to teach and who can not. Many young Pastors, myself included, have made the mistake of letting “just anyone” fill the pulpit in their church when they were out of town. Even worse many churches have called a Pastor to be their leader and shepherd that they have only heard preach a couple of sermons. However if we all were to do as Paul does here and commend workers one to another we might just avoid some of the deadly pitfalls of calling unqualified leaders to the church. This is what I love about the C&MA is that our District Superintendents assist the church in these very matters, and help them (most of the time) to avoid problems such as calling unqualified leaders. Hear how Paul speaks so candidly of these fellow workers.

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. Romans 16:1-16

In verses 17 – 27 Paul closes the letter to the church at Rome. He starts in verses 17 – 20 by warning them to watch out for trouble makers who will cause division in the church by teaching false doctrines. Here is what he says: I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Romans 16:17-20 Paul in effect here is saying that the Devil wants to come into the church by any means possible and destroy what is going on. However, he knows that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under their feet, but until then be on watchful alert.

The apostle then brings the letter to a close, sending greetings from his fellow workers who are with him. Even his secretary, Tertius, who Paul dictated the letter to sends his greetings. Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord. Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you. Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith-- to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. Romans 16:21-27 But more importantly than all of these greetings is glory to Christ, who is able to strengthen us and bring us into faith and obedience to the eternal and glorious God. May God be glorified and worshipped in spirit and in truth.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Closing The Epistle (Part 1)

As the apostle Paul begins to draw his epistle to the Romans to a close his closing remarks reiterate his purpose in writing to them at all. Let us read what Paul writes, and then we will discuss it. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience--by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God--so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, "Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand."

This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ. I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen. Romans 15:13-33

Paul here let’s the church at Rome know that he has written all this to them not because he thinks that they are not capable of studying the Word, and of teaching the Word. Rather he wrote to them very boldly as a way of reminder. This is Paul’s ministry to them, to encourage them to walk properly as saints that are called by God to live holy and pleasing lives in the sight of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Paul has written some hard truths to them, challenging their very faith, never once apologizing. I too have written and expounded upon these truths to you. I have done these things for the very same reasons that Paul has. I love each of you that have read these words, and I want to remind you of conduct and a life that is holy in the sight of God. Simply put Paul wrote, and I write, because we all need reminders. As I have encouraged you by these words, I ask that you encourage me in the same manner. I know that you are all very capable men and women at reading the word, studying to show yourselves approved, and that many of you are gifted in the area of teaching. I pray that my service in the study of this epistle has been as encouraging for you as it has been for me. May our Lord and Savior continue to bless us all.

Tomorrow will be the final lesson on the book of Romans. Make sure you hang with me for one more day.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Love - The Overriding Principle (Part 2)

I can not say enough how important love, as an overriding principle to all we do, is so important to us as we seek to walk as Christians. Many times throughout history God’s people have done things motivated by other factors rather than love. Each time the results are almost always disastrous. Take for instance the Jews and how they lived around the time that Christ walked the earth. The Talmud records that if a Jew were to have a Gentile to their home for dinner it was ok, but if they left the Gentile in the room alone with the food then everything was to be considered unclean. I know it sounds preposterous, but it is true none the less. (For further discussion see Sketches of Early Jewish Social Life by Alfred Edersheim) Obviously this is not what God had in mind, and the results were strained relationships with Gentiles, a very self righteous attitude towards themselves as a people and nation, and a lack of true faith and worship of God. The results of this type of attitude were so disastrous that when Jesus came to the Jews he condemned Judaism and its practices as being false religion. God, Jesus, openly and a publicly rebuked his “chosen people” because love was not guiding all they did. Paul even uses the strained relationships between Jews and Gentiles to strengthen his stance on love controlling all we do.

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me." For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name." And again it is said, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people." And again, "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him." And again Isaiah says, "The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope." Romans 15:1-12

We have an obligation to bear with others in their weaknesses and struggles. We are not to condemn them, which is really hard for me not to do, but to bear with them and encourage them and love them. For Christ himself, out of love, chose to bear with us in our weaknesses, failings, sin, and rebellion – and are we better than the Master? I personally struggle with standing by men and women who are mature in the Lord when they are in error and sin. I want to bonk them on the head and tell them, “C’mon – you know better than this!” But I am sure that there are a lot of folks who say the same things about me. Where would we be if Jesus reacted the way that I do, if he ostracized me every time I sinned? But he does not because love is the overriding principle for all that he did to redeem me. So I have to let love be my overriding principle, get over my pig headedness, and love those around me. And if they don’t understand the scriptures I bear with them through it for their sake, the sake of the testimony of the Church, and for mine.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Love - The Overriding Principle

What is our duty and our obligation to our brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we “owe” them anything, or are they merely just fellow pilgrims on this road into God’s glorious and everlasting Kingdom? We had talked about why we serve the Lord, whether from love or from obedience, but is there yet another reason to serve him, or reasons to serve him another way? These many questions are answered by the apostle Paul in a very straightforward manner. I shall share the scriptures first, then I will explain.

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Romans 14:1-23

In this lengthy passage of scripture Paul is dealing with some very delicate issues in the church. The Jews had very strict dietary laws that restricted them from many foods. Pork for instance was an unclean meat to the Jew. The Jews also regarded the Sabbath, Saturday, as a holy day – more holy and important than any other day of the week. Yet these men and women of a Jewish Christians were worshiping in the same church as Gentile converts who held none of these regulations as sacred. On the contrary the Gentiles held that pork was not only acceptable to eat, but had been taught from the beginning that they merely needed to abstain from food sacrificed to idols and what had been strangled. (Acts 15) And it seems from all accounts that the Gentiles and even the apostles in the early church held that all days were equal, and it was equally important to serve God on those days.

As we note these things, we see some very major differences in some of the members of the church. These would seem to be major core doctrinal issues that would divide the church into factions, yet Paul encourages love and acceptance. Paul tells the church that if one person holds to abstaining from a certain food that we should accept them and love them for if they are a Christian that is abstaining from that food they are doing it out of love and honor of God. Likewise if one is eating everything because they have the faith that all foods are clean we should love and accept them because they are doing it out of honor of God. We should also do likewise with the Sabbath.

At this point Paul asks the stronger brother in the faith to not judge or condemn the other brother. Going so far as to encourage that if the weaker brother is the one who does not eat all foods, then we should abstain from that food for his sake while he is with us. He does not tell us we can not eat it, but merely that we should abstain during the time that we are with the other brother. The overriding principle in all of this is to love our neighbors as ourselves. You see we can obey and serve God because we love him, or for simple obedience’s sake, but we can also serve God by loving our brothers, and not causing them to stumble. For if we eat, and the brother eats with us but holds doubts inside verse 23 makes it clear that we have caused the brother to sin when it says that whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. These issues were not reasons to split the church, they are reasons for the church to be bound together even stronger, for love must always be the overriding principle that controls all that we do.

Monday, January 08, 2007


We have talked about doing the “do” and living a life that is holy and acceptable to the Lord. And as if living for the Lord because we love him was not incentive enough for us the apostle Paul almost casually says the following words: Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 13:11-14

It’s almost funny how he says it, almost like he is saying live a life of loving God and loving your neighbors, besides the “party” is almost over, the end is almost here and you wouldn’t want to be caught asleep! Brethren the day is nearly dawning when the Lord Jesus Christ will make his return to the earth to gather the church together. We should live for the Lord out of love for him, but if doing the do of love is not reason enough then cast off the darkness and put on the armor of light because the master will be here soon to check on the servants. To live for God out of love for him is better, but it is ok to live for him out of obedience, even if we struggle with obeying it is acceptable. I would be a liar if I said that I never did things out of simple obedience rather than wanting to. Visiting the sick and shut-ins for instance is very hard for me, I love those people, but my love for them is not strong enough to compel me to go and see them. So I go and see them because God has asked me to, and so in obedience I follow his commands.

It would certainly be better for me to visit them out of love for them. It would certainly be better if my visitation skills in general welled up out of love. But this is a place in my Christian walk that I need to grow, and while I grow there I still will strive to obey for obedience’s sake. Besides the hour has come for me and you to wake from sleep, for salvation is nearer now that when we first believed. So let us put on the full armor of God, obey, and make no provision for the flesh.

You know my heart and you know that love does not compell me to do all that is right, and holy, and true to you. So first I ask you to help me to obey you even for the sake of obedience. Then I ask that you would change me, remake me, and shape me that love would be the motivation for all that I do. Do this for me for the sake of Jesus and his holy name.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Doing the Do!

It is so amazing and refreshing as we read the pages of scripture to find out how truly easy it is to not sin. Now I am getting ready to contradict myself, it is very VERY difficult to not sin, but at the same time it can be so easy. Ok now that we are all scratching our heads let me explain. Each of us struggles daily to “crucify our flesh” and “walk according to the Spirit,” yet I think we struggle harder than we have to because we, as hard headed humans, tend to try to be legalistic. We focus so hard on NOT doing the things we are told are sin such as when the Bible tells us that drunkenness, orgies, lying, stealing, etc. are all sins and we work hard NOT to do those things. But is this scriptures’ real approach to living a holy life?

The apostle Paul reaffirms that it is not scriptures’ approach to holy and effective living. Just like Jesus he tells us that living a holy life is done another way. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:6-10

Paul takes the list of the commandments, albeit not a full list, and does exactly the same thing that Jesus did. He summed them up by saying to love our neighbor as ourselves, because when we are doing things out of true love we do not wrong anyone. When we put our energy into loving others with the love of Christ, and doing as Jesus said, loving God with all of our being, then we often times find we don’t really have the time to sin. I am not saying that we are sin free at this point, but that we sin a whole let less. Living a holy life becomes so much easier for us when we focus on doing the “do” rather than not doing the “don’ts.”

Lord God,
May you guide me a direct in paths of righteousness as I seek to love you and love others. Father may I walk upright and blamesless as I let love be my guiding principle in all that I do.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Rebelling Against Authority

What is the role of different governments in the world? Are we as Christians to obey those governments? Does God really use non-Christian governments to do his will? These are but a few of the questions we can ask in response to reading Romans 13:1-5. The apostle Paul seems to be putting high regard into obeying the authorities that are placed over us. Let’s take a look briefly at what the scriptures say. Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. Romans 13:1-5

Paul is saying here that the authorities that are in place are God appointed. This is a really hard truth to swallow when we see so many authorities that are unrighteous. However Paul is not saying this merely from some special revelation he received, but he is saying it because he knows what the word of God says. Many times throughout the Old Testament God brings unrighteous kingdoms against the nation of Israel, and puts the nation in subjection to them as a part of his divine plan. As they are carried away into captivity they are to obey that government and live by its rules. Those authorities are, as Paul says, not a terror to good behavior – but rather are a terror to bad behavior. The authorities are God’s servants, even if they are not worshippers of God. Again I say that one only needs read the Old Testament to see how God uses non-believing kings from other nations as authorities in the lives of the Jews.

Many times we as Christians try to use the excuse that a government official, or a boss at work, or some other such authority is not a godly authority and therefore we do not have to obey him/her. If only that were the real case, then we would not be guilty of so much sin in this area of our lives. The scriptures above plainly say that the authorities are from God, it does not say anything about those authorities having to be worshippers of God. Paul is telling the church at Rome to obey the Roman government, who definitely condoned the worship of many false gods, and had its own imperial worship system. Yet they were told to obey this government not only to avoid God’s wrath, but for the sake of their conscience. The truth is this – it is not because the authorities are not godly that we don’t want to obey, it is because deep inside of us we do not want to have an authority placed over us. In the next few paragraphs I want to go over just a few examples of what I am talking about.

Let’s look at the “authority issues” that are so common among believers in the church of God. First we rebel against our government almost on a daily basis when we are in our cars. How do we do this one might say? By speeding, we rebel by speeding. This seems like such a trivial matter that we are speeders, but look at it from this angle. If everyone in the country drove whatever speed they wanted on the streets and roadways what would result? You might have someone doing 55mph down your neighborhood streets, kids would be run over, accidents would happen, and chaos would ensue. Yet God in his perfect wisdom has set up governments that will enforce speeding laws to keep God’s children safe from harm and living decently and in good order.

Next we rebel against the authorities at work so often. When we take long breaks, or we are goofing off at work when we should be working we are in rebellion to the God given authorities. First the authority is God given because God provided that job for you to work at right? Second if everyone at your work could work at their own pace, take as long of breaks as they wanted, and do whatever then how long would the company stay in business? Not very long! Yet again God in his infinite wisdom has set up authority at our work places so that we may have jobs that provide food and shelter for our families.

Lastly we rebel against authority at church. Many times pastors and preachers bring God given sermons preaching on living a godly life. Yet we sit in the pew unaffected, and walk out the door and continue in the course of sin that we have chosen. We disobey what God would have us to do, and then we find dissension in the church, and ultimately the church splits into two congregations. Or people get mad and leave the church, yet has God not placed the Pastors, and Elders in the church as a form of spiritual authority? I have seen many churches call a new Pastor only to fire him after a few months. They were certain that he was God’s man for the job, but then he preached some sermons they didn’t like so they let him go. Are we really submitting to authority when we do these things? I think the answer is obvious. These are but a few examples of how we deal with authority in a bad manner, when we should obey those authorities instead. I am just as guilty as the next guy in all of these areas, but none the less I leading a call for repentance!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Outdo One Another In Showing Honor

Using the spiritual gifts that God gives to us is not the only thing that is important as a Christian. Modern Pentecostalism, or Charismatic movement, often times teaches that the most important aspect of Christianity is exercising the use of our spiritual gifts. To understand what I mean one only needs to think of the church groups that teach evidence based doctrine of the baptism of the Spirit. They say that speaking in tongues has to be done, or the modern faith healers teach that the gifts of healing are present in their ministry (even if it is often times fake), and so their ministry is valid. The question is what does the Bible have to say on the subject? Does the Bible say that using the Spiritual gifts is the most important thing a Christian does? I would like to assert that the Bible does not say that. The Bible does say that we should use our Spiritual gifts to build up the church, each one using the gifts God has given them as they have the faith, but it says that other things are more important than that. Take this passage of scripture in Romans for example.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-21

You see this passage of scripture is actually the continuation of where the apostle Paul tells us to use our Spiritual gifts. But then it is as if to say that more importantly we need to let our love be genuine, abhorring what is evil, and loving each other so well that we work to out do one another showing honor to each other. Then Paul tells us how to do that. We are to work hard serving the Lord. We are to work hard by praying constantly, helping those in need, and walking with those who are in a trial. We are to love the lowly, those that the world deems untouchable, never to curse, always giving thought to what is honorable and acting upon it. Lastly as far as it is possible we are supposed to live in peace with everyone around us, even those we would consider our enemies. These are the true marks of the Christian faith that we should strive towards. We should use the Spiritual gifts that God has given us as he gives us the faith, but each of us should walk by the Spirit as God is leading in our lives. What would the church look like if we all sought to love each other the way Paul describes here?

Heavenly Father,
I admit that I am not always the best at loving others and showing honor to them. I need your help in doing this especially when I have been hurt by the person in the past. I ask that you would heal my past hurts so that I may love others the way you want me to love them. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Ordinary People - Exraordinary God (Spiritual Gifts Part 3)

One of the things that I love about planting a church is the time that I get to spend leading worship. If I wasn't a church planter, a person who starts new churches, I think that I could really find fulfillment in a ministry that revolved around leading worship and evangelism. Leading worship is one of the most fulfilling activities during a Sunday service for me. It is especially good when you have a great team to work with. Musically speaking our band is well above average, not good enough for a record deal, but good enough that I would play with them anytime, anywhere, in front of any crowd - and that is awesome! But when it comes to worship I believe that the band at Crossroads is one of the best I have ever seen, and definitely the best I have ever been a part of. The band at Crossroads is made up of ordinary people, serving an extraordinary God!

Take Chris and Melissa Leccese for instance. Here is a couple that live an average American life. Chris is retired military, Melissa is still serving in the Army. Yet every weekend they take time to come together with the rest of the band to practice and learn new songs so that they can lead the congregation before the throne of grace. Or take Jennifer Noennig, a single parent of three kids, who makes a living working in retail sales. Being up in front of people is not Jennifer's style, but God has called her to this ministry, and he has enabled her to answer the call by his grace and power. You might even look at Tia Hurt, a recent college graduate turned school teacher, who learned how to play the bass guitar for no other reason than to be a part of the worship team at Crossroads so that she could glorify God through it. Tia's husband Mike even serves as a sound man for the band.

Lastly you could look at my family. Sara runs a daycare out of our home, works tirelessly as a mother raising our three kids. Add to that a little boy David that is living with us while his real mother is in drug rehab, a husband like me who drives her nuts, yet every time she sings her heart out, plays the tambourine, and runs the powerpoint. You might even look at me. A young man, only 31, who never finished his college degree. I served in the Army doing satellite communications, learned to play the guitar as a hobby, and even worked as an industrial maintenance man for a while.

The whole band is pretty normal people, but the God that empowers us is so awesome that he can take this band of average brothers and sisters and use us for his glory and honor. I am so proud to serve the Lord with these folks that I just can't put it into words. May God grant you spiritual gifts, and wisdom to use them in service to him as he has done for us. This is what the apostle Paul means when he says, "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness." Romans 12:6-8