Saturday, June 29, 2013

Peace with God--A Flashback

I heard a song at lunch today that gave me a flashback of listening to that same song for the first time while driving down a road in North Dallas.  It took place not long after I had become a Christian, and even though the song was a secular song its theme resonated with what I was feeling in my spirit at the time.  The theme of the song is peacefulness, the peacefulness that you get from sailing, with just you and the wind and the waves.

The reason that song resonated with me so strongly at the time was that at 29 years old I was experiencing real peace for the first time in my life.  I had an inner peace, a peace in my spirit, in the deepest part of me; and this was a peace that I had never experienced before; and it was so different, so unexpected, and so glorious, that I found myself basking in it as I traveled down the road that day....and then the song came on, and I knew I had a peace that was bigger and deeper than what the song could convey; and that this peace took me to a place the song could not; but listening to the song, then and now, reminds me of the reality of the peace I have in Christ.

This is a peace the world cannot know, but a peace for which the world continually searches.  My wife and I occasionally watch International House Hunters on HGTV.  What has struck us so many times while watching the program, is the common theme of the house hunters searching for peaceful surroundings and  peaceful vistas, and looking at temporal peaceful settings to give them peace; and we know that the peace they are looking for will elude them until they look to Him who has made peace with them through the blood of His cross, for the peace which only He can give.

Secular man is without peace within himself because he is alienated from God, and is the very enemy of God. There is an old saying that the heart of man is restless until it finds its rest in God, and how true that is.  Christ  tells us in John that He has left us (believers) His peace.  What was this peace He left to us?  It was/is His peace with God.  He had peace with God because He always did the will of he Father, and, therefore, because He always did what pleased the Father,  He was in total harmony with God and had unity with God.  This harmony and unity with the Father is now ours because we have been placed into Christ, the One who was in harmony with God.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ says, "Blessed are the peacemakers."  And if we really think about it, we are to follow the example of the greatest peacemaker, the Lord Himself, as He made peace with us, His very enemies, and put to death the enmity between Him and us by nailing the indictments against us to the cross of Christ.  You see, man can never be at spiritual peace until he experiences the forgiveness of his sins; and He cannot have forgiveness of his sins until He turns to the One to whom he has sinned against, and trusts in what He has done at the cross to provide for the forgiveness of the sins that stand between Him and man.

What about you today, my friend?  Do you have peace...a real, abiding, peace of the soul...a peace that transcends circumstances...a peace that defies the logic of the world...a peace that is sure and steadfast...a peace that is marvelous and glorious?  If not, look to the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ; and ask Him to give you His peace, the peace of salvation that comes to those who place their faith in Him to be all that He has promised to be.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Milestone VI

Well, it seems hard to believe, but another year has passed in the life of our church. We began Grace Covenant Church in our living room the third Sunday of June, 2007, and here we are six years later continuing to grow in the Lord as a church, and as individuals.  What a blessing it is each week to be part of the body of Christ here in our niche in West Texas.

Of course, each year is eventful, and unique and special in its own way.  This past year has certainly been no exception.  We went through a time of pruning that covered most of 2012, but John 15 tells us that times of pruning are preparation for times of increased fruitfulness, and that is what we have seen the last several months.  Yes, some of the fruitfulness has been increased numbers, but again we are seeing spiritual fruitfulness and growth in Christ in our people, which is the important fruit.  There is a visible love and concern for each other that has grown over the last year, especially the last several months, along with an obvious desire for the Lord to be glorified in our lives.  In thinking about this last year, I am reminded of the story of Gideon and the 10,000 men that had come to fight with him against the enemy. Before the battle the Lord pruned the 10,000 down to 300 so they would not think it was their numbers that gave them the victory, but would know it was the Lord who gave the victory, and therefore it was the Lord who would receive the glory.  That principle holds true for churches and individuals, as well.

Another thing the Lord has done for us this last year is bless us with a worship leader.  We have put  feelers out on a couple of occasions for someone to lead worship, but to no avail.  In December, we felt impressed by the Lord to be very intentional about finding someone, which is no small task since they would have to be bi-vocational.  But sure enough at that same time the Lord was moving in the heart of a young man who was teaching at a Bible College over 800 miles away that it was time to move from ministering at the college to ministering in a church.  Through a series of events only the Lord could orchestrate, the Lord moved him and his family to Midland at the first of April.  From the middle of nowhere Wyoming to the middle of nowhere Texas...the Lord has done a marvelous thing.

We had another baptism this year, recently in fact.  We have two brothers who play the sax in our worship.  I call them the Blues Brothers, and both of them have come to faith in Christ and been baptized since coming to our church.  The second was baptized just a few weeks ago, and I was blessed by his testimony, but both are active and committed to the Lord and their families are a blessing to our church.  In fact, the other Blues Brother and his wife adopted a child in January, and praying for them and rejoicing with them during the process was another blessing for us as a church.

In looking forward to this upcoming year, we are at a point where we need a youth pastor.  Again, he will have to be bi-vocational, but we know that the Lord will provide in His time, and in His way.

Apart from my own family, there is no where I would rather be than with our people each week. Being a pastor has its challenges and its joys, but I consider myself blessed to be the pastor of this flock of God known as Grace Covenant Church of Midland, Texas.  Thank You, Lord!

Another milestone is that this is the 500th post since this blog started.  I never thought I would have this much to say.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Beautiful to the Lord

...for God sees not as man sees, 
for man looks at the outward
appearance, but the Lord
looks at the heart.
I Samuel 16:7b

The Lord is not concerned with the beauty
of our outward appearance, but His concern
is for the beauty of our heart.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Grace in Christ

...the grace we need to live the Christian
life is "in Christ Jesus."

Jerry Bridges
The Bookends of the Christian Life
Page 99

Indeed, all things are from Him,
through Him, and to Him!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

If You Don't have a Philosophy of Ministry, Get One

Everyone who has been in ministry for any length of time has a philosophy of ministry, whether they have thought through it thoroughly, or articulated it fully, they still have one.  A philosophy of ministry is what you believe ministry is about, what you believe ministry is to accomplish, in essence it is your raison d'etre (reason for being), the mind set behind why you do what you do.

A philosophy of ministry is your guiding light, and will inform and be the foundation of all that you do.  It will guide you in how you do church, from choosing curriculum and staff members, to structuring worship.  It will influence every decision you make. It is your vision of what you want to accomplish in your ministry.

That is why it is important to take the time to think through what you believe and why, and then write it down. Tinker with it and adjust, make sure it reflects what you really believe.  Of course, when related to the church, it needs to be based on biblical principles, and reflect biblical values.  When we started Grace Covenant Church we put down what our philosophy ministry was, and it is what guides all that we do; and I thought I would share it.  This is on our website, and is made available to all who come to our church, so that they will know exactly what we are about.

Philosophy of Ministry

We want our people to:

     Know God  (Jeremiah 9:23-24, I John 4:16)
            So that they will be secure in their faith  (Isaiah 43:10, I Peter 1:2, John 4:42)

     Love God  (II Corinthians 5:14-15, Deuteronomy 11:13)
            So that they will be sincere in their faith  (I Timothy 1:5, Hebrews 10:22)

     Glorify God  (Matthew 5:16, Romans 15:6)
            By being steadfast in their faith  (Psalm 112:7, I Corinthians 15:58)

     Know and Understand the Word  (Psalm 119:11, 27; I Peter 2:2)
            So that we can learn to think with the word (Romans 12:2, Psalm 119:24)
            So that we can view life through the word  (Psalm 119:14-15, 24)
            So that we can live life by the word  (Psalm 119:32, 59, 105)

We believe this is best accomplished by expositional preaching and teaching

We want our people to corporately participate in and experience:

     Fellowship--which is the body sharing in the things of Christ, the work of Christ, the
     love of Christ, and ministering to one another to build each other up in love.
     I Thessalonians 4:9, II Thessalonians 1:3, Hebrews 13:1, I Peter 1:22-23, Psalm 55:14,
     Acts 2:42, I Corinthians 1:9,  12:12-14, 18, 25-26, II Corinthians 13:14,   
     I John 1:3, 3:14

     Praise and Worship—which is the exaltation of God alone, and is a witness to the
     believer and non-believer of all that God is through Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
     Deuteronomy 11:16, I Chronicles 16:29, Psalms 2:11, 21:13, 22:22-23, 29:2, 30:4, 12,
     Psalms 33:10, 66:4, 95:6, 99:5, John 4:23, Exodus 15:2, Deuteronomy 10:21,
     I Chronicles 23:5, 29:13, II Chronicles 5:13, Nehemiah 12:46, Hebrews 2:12, 13:15

     Prayer—which we believe is one of the great callings of the church.  It is corporate
     prayer, not only when the church is gathered together, but also when the church
     members pray individually for a common concern and for kingdom issues that the
     church is the most unified and spiritually effective.
     Matthew 6:9, 19:13, 21:13, 22, Mark 11:17, Luke 1:10, 18:1, 10, Acts 1:14, 2:42, 3:1,
     Acts 12:5, 16:13, 16, Romans 12:12, Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 1:19, 4:6,
     Colossians 4:2, I Thessalonians 5:17, 25, II Thessalonians 3:1, I Timothy 2:1-4,
     James 5:16, I Peter 3:12, 4:7, Revelation 5:8, 8:3-4

We want to provide our people with:

     Spiritual Leadership—which should guide, guard, and feed the flock, and also be     
     an example to the flock.  Leadership should also be concerned with the spiritual
     development and training of younger men to provide continuity in church leadership.
     I Timothy 1:11, 18; 3:1-7, 6:20, II Timothy 1:14, 2:2, Titus 1:3, 7-9, Acts 14:23: 15:2,
     Galatians 2:7, I Thessalonians 2:3-12, I Peter 5:1-3