Saturday, May 21, 2016

Rest stop or Destination

When the faithful saturate their schedules with Christian events at Christian venues with Christian people, the world has a hard time believing we hold the rest of the world in high esteem.
—Gabe Lyons

Ever stopped at a rest stop on a long trip...those are great and peaceful. There’s snacks and picnic tables. They are great, but I’d never want to live there. Why? Because it’s a rest stop, I have a destination.

Have you ever been to a church where you feel like every minute you turn around, you have another meeting to attend? Maybe you've looked at your schedule, and said "Man, I'm at church every other night this week...sometimes, back to back." I know I have.

The writer of Hebrews tells us in places that getting together as a church is important and should have priority. Whether it’s in a Worship Gathering or a Life Group or two Christians having lunch to share life and encourage each other, no doubt it's important. We encourage and are encouraged. Life's hard and God knew that having someone next to us that is going through the same thing is valuable and He created us to respond to that....but....

The church has a mission and a purpose for being here on Earth. There's a reason that we don’t just follow Jesus straight to Heaven immediately. 

We are left to help others understand who Christ is and to honor God with our lives in doing so. Most people who meet together as a church, are Christ followers, so there aren't that many people who don't know Jesus at church meetings. That creates a tension. 

Should we stay or should we go? We should do both. Families who raise their children without a good balance, don't develop a mature understanding of the mission to share Christ because it must both be done through teaching AND in practice. It’s the place we can’t wait to get back to or the place we can’t wait to leave.

Because of the tension, church gatherings must always be rest stops, never destinations. When you are a faithful Christ follower you must remember that you haven’t arrived, you just started the journey. 

Craig Groeschel, a pastor/author, says that if you want to reach the people that no one is reaching you have to go to the places that no one is going...and you can't do that, if all your free time is spent meeting at church.

Holes need to exist in our church schedules for people to be free to go, to know people who don't know Christ but there has to be a balance. You never follow Christ well without a balance of this tension, and that means that sometimes Christians need to evaluate their church schedule and drop something.

At Bay West, we tell people prioritize the worship service, meeting with a small group and then love Jesus by serving the world.  The extra events...take them on a need/can/want basis, in light of the Mission to change the world.  Does that mean that we don't take these events seriously?  Absolutely not... If we plan something, you can make sure it's not a schedule filler, but its' important enough to take time off the field.  Also, for that reason, we have HIGH expectations for the time that you aren't at church...we expect ALL of your life to be spent in line with the mission of God, changing the entire city of Palm Bay, one person, one influence, one story, one heart at a time.

Is there balance with your outside activities and your church activities? Are you approaching your outside activities in light of your mission? Are you just going into autopilot? Consider the mission your destination.

Remember...enjoy the rest stops, but live for the destination.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

To students: The greatest scholastic advice I've ever heard

Students, as you enter the home stretch, getting closer and closer to putting another year of school behind you, I pray that you finish this year strong. As the weather gets warmer and the year seems to have gone on forever, it can be tempting to let up or slow up, and coast on in. Do your best...

In keeping with that tradition, I'm going to give you the greatest piece of scholastic advice that I've ever heard. This piece of advice is one, that if you incorporate it into your life, can make all the difference, not just with your grades, but in your job performance and successes afterwards.

It comes from my mother-in-law. (It's also something my mother practiced in our home as well.) Katye has told me several times that in the later years of high school, when school work started to pile up and their church services met on Sunday evenings, there was always a temptation to put off the paper, or the studying until Sunday night, and use that as an excuse to stay home from church, because "school work" is more important...God will always be there.

But that was never an option...Jon and Marie would have none of that. They would always say that an "A" or a "B" might soon be forgotten, but teaching a child who was most important in their home would never go away, and being consistent with that value was important. Marie would refer to 1 Samuel 2:30, where the Lord spoke to man and said "...But I will honor those who honor me, and I will despise those who think lightly of me." That's the Message Version, but you get the point.

If you put your schoolwork ahead of God and think lightly of Him, that will not have Him on your side when the time of the test or the paper comes....and honestly, if I want ANYONE on my side at that point, it's the Lord.

The truth is that most of the time it isn't really schoolwork that nudges God out at all. We prioritize our activities on Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, a couple of hours of sleep and a myriad of other things that we are actually putting ahead of God...we just find it easier to justify in our own minds by saying it's "school work". If you really want to look for the priority, skip the soccer game or the afternoon at the lake, or leave an hour early, and study on the way home. It's VERY easy to find the hour and a half of travel-time and worship that we think is impossible to overcome, when we get real with ourselves and put priorities in order.

Don't forget Proverbs 21:2 which reminds us of our own "endless capacity to justify" our actions, but how God is never fooled for a millisecond by things that we even try to fool ourselves with.

How did that strategy fair? Shouldn't Katye and I have failed out and been last in our class, underachieved and such, because of the 2 hours of Sunday night church (that most people don't even have anymore)...actually we both had full ride academic scholarships to head into college with. I don't trot that out to brag, but to say that it is important to honor the Lord and those lessons are still teaching me long after the grades from Calculus are long gone.

I don't know if that's how it will show up for you, but it will always be more beneficial than establishing any sort of home system that puts God second or third. When your very home system is setup to fail at honoring the Lord, you just preach hypocrisy when you try to sing about how there's no one greater than God in your life to your children...believe you me, their "genuine" meter is on wide open in the teenage years looking for things to challenge, whether they tell you or not. Consistency and integrity on your part is huge, Christian parents. "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will NOT depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6)...because if there is one thing you do want, it is the Lord in your corner to honor you, because you are honoring Him.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"God bless ________"

"God bless _________"  That's a common phrase in our church culture.  It might come in the form of a prayer asking God to bless the efforts of...the results of... protection of actions...whatever.  A thought here...

When you ask for God's blessing, you should probably take a moment and see you are even asking something that God might do.  Is that program/project/person/organization in line with God, recognizing God's authority and trying to glorify God with all efforts of everyday decisions?

If may have wasted your time asking, because God isn't blessing that.

Tweet: God blessings come when there is recognition, submission and alignment with His Word and direction, not just because we ask for them.God blessings come when there is recognition, submission and alignment with His Word and direction, not just because we ask for them.

It's not because He just was amicable today or you "caught Him at a good time".  God tries to tell us this when we are instructed to ask for anything "in My name" and you will have it. 

Sometimes, I wonder if we think asking for God's blessing on something goes like this.  We just do what we want to do, then submit a request to God like a purchase order and cross our fingers hoping that God will benevolently and, in some cases, arbitrarily grant success to whatever we ask Him to get behind, because He likes us and we asked for it.It doesn't work that way.

When God blesses something, it means that God approves of it and the direction of it.   He wants it to move forward because it will bring glory and praise to His name, making disciples who follow Jesus back to Him.   It's not the ask or simply the faith, but why are you asking and what are you asking God to put His "stamp of approval" on.

God's blessing is not always in numerical success.  In fact, sometimes, God will allow temporary success to expose the true purpose of the thing, ultimately leading to its downfall or a clear delineation from His direction to be seen, so that those who follow Him won't be a part of it.  I don't think that it's clearly done to humiliate or to weaken, but to stay on the task of His mission to make disciples and bring glory and praise to Himself.

The next time you feel impressed to ask for God's blessing on some event or organization or person...ask these questions.

Is what I am asking for blessing on, something that God would approve of?
Is what I am asking for blessing on, something that recognizes God in its direction and actions?
Is what I am asking for blessing on, something that is submitting to God's authority or is it trying to act on its own authority?

If the Holy Spirit doesn't move your heart to answer these in the affirmative by giving you peace, then THESE are the very areas that you need to focus your prayer on, BEFORE you pray for God's blessing.

If God would not approve, pray for them to submit to His will.
If they don't recognize God's direction, pray for a change of heart to follow Him.
If they do not submit to God's authority, then pray for them to humble themselves, recognize their position relative to God, begin to ask God for what they should do and to obey the direction.

If people will do that, God's blessing will surely follow. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I'm kind of ________, it's time for a new church

Every now and then, we get a guest form from someone who is a member of another local church.  I usually email guests, but if someone is a member of another local church, I respond differently.  I thank them for coming and being a guest with us, and wish them well as they return to their church, hoping that we have in some way, been used of God to help them be energized and inspired to carry on their valuable and important place in their church family.

Here's the reality...
Jesus' church, THE church, doesn't grow by people running from one church to the next.  It grows by people who didn't know Him being introduced to Him by caring friends and neighbors and co-workers who love them enough to live Jesus in front of them.
Another truth is true as well...
His children don't grow by using cosmetic factors to attempt to solve problems that exist within.  Most of the time, blaming external preferences for issues that exist internally, only mask the issue and delay healing.

From time to time, people leave one local church for another local church.  Sometimes, it's a good reason, but a lot of the time, it's not.  When I get that guest form above, could God be sending help to accomplish our mission or bringing someone to the next step in their journey?  Could God give the "holy transfer" to someone from our church to go somewhere else?  Of course...but it needs to be obedience, not avoidance.

If you are thinking about leaving your church, read this article below and if one of these reasons is the reason that you are considering a new place, rethink and examine yourself.  If you don't, you might end up finding the same problems at the new place, because you brought them with you.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Verses from the talk on "Words"

At Church at the Park today, we talked about the words we use, their importance in our lives and what the Bible has to say about them.

Facts about words
20,000 words a day spoken for the average woman
7,000 words a day spoken for the average man 

When you think about the words you read , the words you hear, words we think, words we hear, and you realize that words are a huge part of our lives.

Words are powerful.
Good ones are valuable.
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
Proverbs 25:11 ESV

They can start or stop a fight.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1 ESV

They can bring healing or hurt.
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 12:18 ESV

They have the power of death or life.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Proverbs 18:21 ESV

Words tell who you are.
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.
Matthew 15:18 ESV

God cares about what you say.
He commands what words we are to use.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 
Ephesians? ?4?:?29? (ESV)

He has a standard for our words.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians? ?3?:?17? (ESV)
Every word you say should fit under the umbrella of representing Christ and should be a testament to thanking God for who He is in your life.
God created words for us to use to tell about Him.  Your words are what you are to use to share truth of Christ with others.

He holds us accountable for our words.
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,
Matthew 12:36 ESV

It's not just the words that you say, but other words as well.
The words you read...
The words you think...
The words you write...
The words you post...
The words you cheer...
The words you give value to that others say...

What kind of words should we say?
THINK - 5 questions to evaluate the next words I am about to say.
True - Will it be the truth? - Psalm 5:6, Ephesians 4:15, Proverbs 12:19
Helpful - Will it be helpful? - Phil 2:3-4 
Inspiring - Will it inspire them to be better? - Hebrews 10:24-25
Necessary - Will it be worth being said? - Proverbs 10:19
Kind - Will it be kind?  - Ephesians 4:32
Kind is not just smoothing things over and avoiding's saying the truth in a kind manner.
If it doesn't pass all of these questions, then don't say it.
If the message is important enough to be said, then find a way to say it that it fits all of these categories.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:14 ESV

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Scripture list from "Triumph of the Cross" message last week

Here's the Scripture that I went through on Sunday that you might have missed.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,
14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Colossians 2:13-15 (NIV)

20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
Romans 3:20 (NIV)

7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."
Romans 7:7 (NIV)

But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
Isaiah 59:2 (NIV)

20 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
James 1:20 (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

23 For the wages of sin is death,A)" data-cr="#cen-NIV-28092A">  but the gift of God is eternal lifeB)" data-cr="#cen-NIV-28092B">  ina]">  Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23 (NIV)

9 In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.
Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

2…For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.
3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.
4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Hebrews 10:2-4 (NIV)

Jesus as the one sacrifice for all sins...
12  But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
Hebrews 10:12 (NIV)

12  Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned--
Romans 5:12 (NIV)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Who are you bringing?

This time of year is awesome, especially in Florida! Sports leagues are in swing, March Madness watch parties are coming to a head. We are out and about gearing up for all the spring things. This weekend, we'll gather together to celebrate the Triumph of Christ's resurrection. The reality is that EVERYONE wants to experience winning in their life, but most people are still trying to figure out what that really looks like. Success in life is one of the greatest gifts that Jesus gives us.

Eight out of every ten people will accept an invitation to church on Easter. As you are out watching the Final Four or at a school award ceremony or at a company barbecue, remember that people are searching for what Jesus can give them and extend an invitation to them to come with you this weekend to our service at 11am at The Mission.

We'll be offering free family pics before the service starting at 10:30am and having an Easter Egg hunt for the kids after the service. We'll be sharing what the Triumph of Christ's Resurrection means for us every day...I guarantee you don't want to miss it.