Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Forgotten Mission

…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Acts 1:8

Commissioned for Action

Just prior to Jesus’ ascension, he explains to the disciples what they can expect. He tells them that they will soon be baptized with the Holy Spirit (1:5) which leads them to begin to asking questions about the kingdom of Israel. In other words, he is speaking to them about eternal issues and they are focused on the issues of the moment. He is speaking of an eternal kingdom and they are speaking of an earthly kingdom.

Jesus then tells them that they do not need to concern themselves with such things. He says, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (1:7). Instead, he makes it clear what they should be concerned about. Jesus tells them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (1:8).

In looking at verse eight, something stands out. Not once, but twice, Jesus says, “You will.” This is a definitive statement. He does not say, “you might.” Nor does he say, “you ought.” He says, “You will.” The first time he says this he is speaking of receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” This is to serve as an encouragement to you and me. We have a power that exceeds our own power. We have a means to the same power that raise Jesus from the dead.

The second time Jesus says, “you will,” he is giving us a command. He says, “You will be my witnesses.” You and I, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are to give a bold testimony of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. This command does not leave room for us to decide whether or not we will obey. We are told by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ what we are to do.

Unfortunately, I think we are sometimes like the disciples. We are more concerned with temporal issues, like “are you going to restore the kingdom of Israel?” than we are eternal issues. We get distracted by the momentary matters of this life and forget to give real attention to the eternal matters.

I wonder what life would look like, both as individuals and as a church, if we made fulfilling Jesus’ command our top priority. What if we gave this command as much energy as we do to taking care of our personal business or priorities? What if we were as passionate about the call of Christ as we are our own preferences? All this would radically increase the impact we have on the world around us.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Pastor's Heart: How do we define the win?

Over the next few weeks, I will write a series of blog posts with the intent of inviting you into the heart and mind of a pastor. These posts will explore the very questions that constantly echo in a pastor’s head, at least in this pastor’s head. Together we will examine God’s call for the church, how success is defined, and what things ought to get the greatest amount of attention. Many of these questions are currently amplified in my mind as we are reassembling our staff and looking to the future.

Question One: How do we define the win?

If we want to be successful, we must know what success looks like. Is success rooted in the number of programs we have? Is success maintaining what our ministries have looked like in the past? Is success me getting the programs and events that I enjoy? Is success defined by the number of people in the pews? Is success defined by a growing budget? What is success?

In order to define success for the church, we must look to the Bible. In the scriptures, I see one overwhelming call that is supported again and again by follow up texts. That one call, “Go…and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). No where in scripture are programs mentioned. No where in scripture are we told to maintain traditions. No where in scripture are we told to make sure everyone is having a good time. We are not even told in scripture to be the sort of a church everyone loves coming to. We are simply told to make disciples. Then, the rest of the New Testament speaks to the how and why of that command.

Here is the challenge. It is human nature to maintain what we are comfortable with. It is human nature to preserve those things we enjoy and find pleasing. However, we must make a choice. Are we more concerned with our comfort level or with obedience? If we are simply concerned with our own enjoyment, then let the debate begin as to what is most enjoyable. However, if obedience is our greatest concern, then we must begin to pray, have honest discussions, and put everything on the table. We must understand that this will likely mean some programs or events will go away and others will be born. The focus will then become what most expediently gets us to the goal of “making disciples.”

For a pastor, the challenge rest in this: I want the church to be happy. I want people to be fulfilled and experience enjoyment when they are here. However, I also deeply desire, and am compelled, to be obedient to the Lord’s call. Ninety-five percent of the time these two will not collide, but occasionally they do. The question then becomes, what is a pastor to do? I think the deep desire and prayer of every pastor is that his church will understand and join in the pursuit of the church being exactly what God has called it to be.

So, what can we do:

First of all, pray. Yes, it sounds simplistic, but it is a first step. Pray that God would make His will clear. Pray that God would maintain a spirit of peace and unity within the church. Pray that God would make a way forward.

Second, keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing is not a program or an event. The main thing is not keeping people happy or excited. The main thing is not being the attractional church in town. The main thing is to be obedient to the call of Christ to “make disciples.”

Third, be humble. Humility says, “I don’t have to have it my way.” Humility says, “I will put others first.” Humility says, “It is more important to be obedient than to be happy.” Humility says, “We will reach people for Christ, and disciple them, regardless of the cost.”

Finally, be optimistic. Here is a little fact we forget…WE WIN! I now this is so because I have read the end of The Book. The rest of this is just details. There is no need for a defeatist, pessimistic attitude. There is no reason for believers to get cross with each other. We simply need to partner together, seek God’s face, and enjoy the process. Yes, I said enjoy it. This really is supposed to be fun.

So, join me as we seek God. Join me as we pray, as we seek to be obedient, and as we look to make Northside all she can be for the Lord. Join me as we “Journey Together” to “finish the race.”

Honored to be your pastor,

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Don't Look Back

Probably most of us have committed John 14:35 to memory. I mean, we know that hiding scripture in our heart is of great value. So, why not start simply; “Jesus wept.” Well, this morning in my daily reading, I discovered another verse that can easily be committed to memory. Luke 17:32 simply reads, “Remember Lot’s wife.” This is not a call to memorialize someone, but a call to learn from another’s failures.

The story is recorded for us in Genesis 19. God had graciously told Lot that He was about to destroy Sodom. Lot was given the opportunity to take his family and escape from the coming destruction. However, there was one instruction that they were to follow. They were told, “Escape for our life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away” (v. 17). As they escaped, Lot’s wife did the very thing she was told not to do. We are told in verse 26, “But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”

That seems like a pretty severe punishment for a simple glance. I mean, after all, the city behind her was being destroyed with fire that was raining down from heaven. Who wouldn’t have looked? The truth is, it was not the glance that got her in trouble. Her “look back,” was not to see what was happening. Her look back was a longing for what was. She had become accustom to, even enjoying, the sinful city that she lived in. Now that God has asked her to leave behind that sin, her affection for it was on full display.

So, when scripture says, “Remember Lot’s wife,” we know that it is not to memorialize her, but a strong warning not to look back at what God has called us away from. We are to look ahead to what God is doing. We are to press forward to our new life in Christ. We are to look forward to new adventures and new revelations of who God is in our lives. So, remember Lot’s wife. Don’t look back at what was, but look ahead to what God has for you.

Honored to be your pastor,