Thursday, July 16, 2009

Milestone II

Last month we passed our second anniversary as a church. In reflecting on this last year and then over the last two years I am filled with a sense of awe, thankfulness, and appreciation. The Lord has continued to bless us and confirm to us that this indeed has been His calling to us. My wife, Angie, teaches the children during the church time and so she wants to listen to my sermons later in the week, and likes for me to listen with her. I can tell you from listening to myself, that it is obviously the Holy Spirit at work, because it sure isn't my preaching; and despite my preaching people are faithful and we have continued to grow. But in thinking about it, that is the way it should be because, ultimately, it is the Lord who promised to build His church; and from I Corinthians we know that the Spirit gives the gift, the Lord gives the ministry, and God causes the effects. All of us are just vessels of clay that the Lord has graciously let participate in the accomplishment of His great eternal purpose.

We have continued to add families to the church, not in a great amount, but steadily as we have been adding a new family about every three months. In April we moved out of our house and are meeting in the Young Life building. The Young Life staff were very supportive and gracious in letting us use their building and we are only paying them $300 per month for the use of their facility. It is a perfect fit for us, at this point in time, and allows us some room for growth.

Spiritually, people are growing in their faith and in their knowledge of God and of His Son. Many have shared with me what the Lord is doing in their life; and one lady, who doesn't like to talk in front of people, shared with the entire church what the Lord has been doing in her life over the last year and half she has been coming to our church. Along with this we are having our first baptismal service next month. What a joy to be a part of this, and it has been one of the confirmations that we are doing what the Lord has called us to do.

One of the highlights of the last year was taking two of our men to the Shepherd's conference, along with my friend Ron from Dallas. This was their first real exposure to ministry of that quality and spiritual power, and it made quite an impact on them. Both are looking forward to returning next spring. This was the third year for me to attend, and each year a question I have had concerning ministry has been answered as a result of the conference.

I finished Colossians last fall, then preached through Jonah (personally convicting), then followed Jonah up with a topical series on love, then started preaching through the Gospel of John (what a delight). After finishing the prologue of John (first 18 verses), I am taking a break from John and preaching a series on the church which covers the function of the church in its outward expression toward God (I Peter 2:4-12), in its inward expression towards the members (Ephesians 4:7-16), God's gifts of enablement (I Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, I Peter 4), church leadership (I Timothy 3, Titus 1), and the ordinances of the church (their role in the life of the church). Once I finish the church series it's back to John.

There are unique challenges to being a bi-vocational pastor and church planter, but the Lord's grace is always sufficient. With that being said, we are looking forward to this next year and seeing all that the Lord has in store for us at Grace Covenant Church.

Thought for the Day

Truth is only rightly believed
to the extent that it is embodied in life.
Iain Murray
July 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Way to Heaven

Matthew 7:13-14
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide
 and the way is broad that leads to destruction,
 and there are many who enter through it.
 For the gate is small and the way is narrow
 that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

GPS units are great gadgets to have. You can be anywhere at anytime and they can tell you the best way to get to your destination, guide you at every turn, and tell you how long it will take you to get there. Why, some can even guide you around construction or traffic jams. They are great for the directionally challenged, to look up addresses, or to guide you in unfamiliar surroundings. Most people trust them implicitly, and they are a great tool to get you to your destination.

For all men, for all time, there is an ultimate destination. In fact, I believe that all men want to arrive at the same place, and that place is heaven; and we all start from the same place, lost in the darkness of our sin.

In the middle of that darkness, in that state of lostness, God has given a GPS to direct us to heaven, and that is the Bible. It shows us the way, it explains to us the journey, it tells us the smoothest path to take, it tells us how others before us have made the trip, it tells us what is required to get to our destination, and best of all, it tells us what God has done in Christ to not just make our final destination possible, but certain. It tells us that Jesus has gone before us as our forerunner to prepare a place for us, and is coming back for us so that we can be with Him where He is. Jesus, Himself, tells us that he is the way so that we will follow Him; and tells us that He is the gate so that we will enter through Him. So even though the path is narrow, it is not hard to find nor is it unmarked, as God has shown all men where it is by raising Christ from the dead.

God has given man a clear map to his final destination replete with warnings not to take the wrong path. So how come the Scriptures tell us that many will follow the wrong path and that many will enter the wrong gate? It is man's sinful pride and arrogance that keeps him lost and on the wrong path. You see, even though all men want to go to heaven, whatever their version of that is, they all want to get there by their own way, through their own means, in accordance with their own desires. This is the broad path that leads to destruction. Christ is the Light, but men won't come to him because of their sin. The Word is a lamp unto their feet and light unto their path, but because of their sin they either won't read it or they scoff at it.

Man wants heaven on his terms not God's. Proverbs 14:12 tells us, "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." Man's way is broad because it encompasses anything and everything that makes man feel good about himself. Man's way is the Villa del Muerte, the road of death and destruction of the soul.

God in His grace and mercy has not only provided the way for us to go to heaven, but has communicated to us through His Son the way of life so that we would find life, life everlasting. Jesus has said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."

If you are not following Christ, come to Him today. Turn from your own path, the path of folly, and follow Him. He will not lead you astray, but will guide you safely away from destruction and on to the narrow path that leads to life. Remember, both paths have the same sign posted, "This Way to Heaven" but only one will take you there. Choose the path of life today, forsake your way and follow His.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A False Notion of Children's Ministry

This is the first part of a two part post. Really, it is the preamble to the post to follow, and they both deal with false notions. Satan is a deceiver and the father of lies and I believe he has foisted a lie into the minds of parents concerning church for their children.

Have you ever sat and listened to parents as they pick up their children from church? What do you think is the first question most parents ask? Is it. "What did you learn about the Bible today?" Is it, "What did you learn about God or about Christ today?" Are they checking to be sure their children are learning correct doctrine, or about the great men and women of faith in the Bible, or having the gospel presented to them? No, the question most often asked is....."Did you have fun?", followed by... Did you enjoy it?". For so many, their main concern is not the quality of the biblical content and teaching their children are getting, but the amount of enjoyment or entertainment they are getting. Instead of hearing from the parents about the ability of the teachers to communicate spiritual truth, the joy of the Lord, and the love of the Lord, or their care and concern for the spiritual formation and welfare of their children; you hear comments regarding how playful the teachers are or how they get down on the children's level (whatever that means).

Don't get me wrong, I don't think church should be a dour and sour place where your children are screaming not to go back, like they do when you take them to the doctor's office; but the church has bought into and is selling and the parents have bought into and are buying, the false notion that church is all about fun, games, and excitement for their children. And, honestly, many parents expect it to be the same for themselves, as well. So many churches market themselves through the children's programs knowing that if they make and keep the children happy they will keep the parents coming.

For your children the church should be a training ground, laying the foundation of spiritual truth that will give your children the wisdom that leads to salvation. It should supplement and support what you are giving them at home in preparation for a life on their own. There should be the joy and love of the Lord present. It should be enjoyable, but there still must be the goal of the bigger picture of spiritual preparation and spiritual formation. As a parent, your criteria for judging the value and quality of a church for your children, should be based upon what I have just mentioned, not upon the emotional whims of your children or which church is the most Disney-like in its facilities and programs. In fact, this concern about your children having fun communicates to them the church is all about having fun; and this is the false notion that is built into their minds so that the minute it isn't all fun and games, they lose interest.

Step back and analyze what your church is really doing to your children in and through their children's ministry. Look past the all the hoopla, facilities, and hype. Can you discern the eternal values that are intentionally being built into your children, or is the emphasis on the temporal, shallow fun of the world. What do you want them to have? Are things of eternal value what they are really receiving, or have you and your church been deceived by the schemes of Satan to be enamored with fun and entertainment so that you trade the truth for a lie.