Wednesday, July 29, 2009
“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!
“You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both.
“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
Monday, July 27, 2009
“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
“In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.
“When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn’t require attention-getting devices. He won’t overlook what you are doing; he’ll reward you well.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
6 “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.
“When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
COMPLETING GOD’S LAW
“Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures—either God’s Law or the Prophets. I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. God’s Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God’s Law will be alive and working.
“Trivialize even the smallest item in God’s Law and you will only have trivialized yourself. But take it seriously, show the way for others, and you will find honor in the kingdom. Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won’t know the first thing about entering the kingdom.
“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.
“This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
“Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine.
ADULTERY AND DIVORCE
“You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.
“Let’s not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here’s what you have to do: You have to blind your right eye the moment you catch it in a lustful leer. You have to choose to live one-eyed or else be dumped on a moral trash pile. And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly. Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump.
“Remember the Scripture that says, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him do it legally, giving her divorce papers and her legal rights’? Too many of you are using that as a cover for selfishness and whim, pretending to be righteous just because you are ‘legal.’ Please, no more pretending. If you divorce your wife, you’re responsible for making her an adulteress (unless she has already made herself that by sexual promiscuity). And if you marry such a divorced adulteress, you’re automatically an adulterer yourself. You can’t use legal cover to mask a moral failure.
“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.
LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Matthew 5 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘carefull,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
If we will follow Him, our future is brighter than our past!
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, then I will hear from heaven.”
God wants to bless us with exponential growth! But he wants it to come from winning new people to Christ!
Some of us came out of untenable situations in churches to a place of healing and restoration in the place. Calvary Temple is unique in that respect.
It is time for us to “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” He wants to grow us, not just numerically, but spiritually as well!
It is time to move beyond issues over which we have no control and not give Satan a place where he can sow discord and malcontent.
God’s will is to use this place as a “saving station.” We need a revival of such proportions that a place of sinfulness such as the casino would have to close—and we would need their building. Only God can do that—but He can do it!
Eighty years of colorful history. As we move into the fourth or fifth generation of our existence, what kind of history is this generation going to write? Should Jesus come in this generation (and He could!), will we be found watching and waiting? Will we be found doing the “Father’s business?”—Winning souls for His kingdom. “For God so loved Auburn that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him, will not perish, but have everlasting life.”
My belief is that if we are doing what God has called us to do, we will not give Satan a place in our life. We will be so consumed in prayer and obedience to God’s will, that much of what is thrown at us will bounce off the shield of faith.
I want to see revival where the blind see, cancers are healed, the deaf hear, but most of all, where a lost, dying generation can find hope, peace and restoration.
If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, you can make that choice today. You can be a part of what God is going to do.
Understanding this genius, we begin to grasp the importance of the role of membership fidelity in maturing and prospering the church.
b. A building?
“Here’s the church and there’s the steeple, open it up and there’s the people.”
More than perception, rooted in our culture is the idea that the church is a building. “I’m going to church”. We call the building where we worship “the church”.
c. “The people”?
A second common perception is that the church is the people who gather. This is closer to Biblical reality—but what people?
Many view the church as a social club. They join the church in the same way they join a country club, Kiwanis, or Rotary. This view downplays the significance of the church’s importance in a person’s life. It is only there to provide status, programming and services such as weddings and funerals.
Changing churches, then, has to do with keeping up with the Joneses or upholding ethnic and cultural norms rather than being a part of a living reality.
d. A denomination?
Which is the true Christian church, the building or the people—or is it a denomination that holds the right to the title “the church’?
e. The Biblical Model
In the New Testament the term is ekklesia (church or assembly) literally “the called-out ones” It appears 111 times. 73 times it is referring to the gathering of people, but never does it refer to a building.
It is a gathering of God’s people which Ephesians calls the church or the “Body of Christ.” Those that have been born again into a “new and living hope.”
The church as a congregation is first pictured in the Book of Acts 2:42-47 where it tells us that those who responded to Peter’s message of repentance were filled with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and gathered together, meeting from house to house and followed the apostle’s teaching, had fellowship and prayer.
Paul describes the “Body” in Corinthians comparing it to the human body, with the Head of the Body, being Christ. I Cor. 12 14, 18, 25 describes that body has having many different parts and God has “arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”
Thursday, July 9, 2009
(A REFLECTIVE LOOK AT OUR MISSION)
(A Three-Part Blog)
(Observe the title of this post was the former name of our church in Auburn. We are now known as Northwest Family Church. This was a message I preached during a transition period in 2003.)
The history of this local assembly runs deep and is very colorful. From humble beginnings in storefronts and various gathering places until the building we are in which was built in the l970’s.
When this congregation was formed in 1923, Ruth Stewart was seven years of age and her little brother, Arthur, was around 5 years of age. He’s the one we call “Doc.”
As a congregation, we have witnessed many changes in our history. Some have been welcome, some not so welcome. Our growth has been consistent and solid, with some variations over the years. Our pulpit has hosted many shepherds-pastors. Each has contributed to who and what we are as a body of Christian believers.
Where do we go from here? Where will our future growth come from? Are we destined to join other movements and churches, which refused to honestly examine their purpose and mission and to adjust their methods for growth?
In the church world, at large, there is a huge paradigm-shift in philosophy, in doctrine. In many metropolitan cities, expansive, mega-churches have sprouted with 15—even 20, 000 attendees. One such church has two Saturday evening worship services and five Sunday worship services, each one filled to capacity.
When I was a teenager in the 50’s, the largest Pentecostal churches were around 200 in attendance. In my lifetime, I have witnessed an explosion of growth in many, non-traditional, non-denominational churches. It is common for many of our Assembly of God churches to have 2-3000 in attendance.
God has placed Calvary Temple in this exciting period of history. We will either adapt or catch a vision for what God wants to do, or we could fade off into oblivion like many denominational churches. Go into many of the major cities of the East and Northeast. There you will see great edifices, which no longer have services and have been closed or taken over by aggressive, evangelistic churches that are reaching communities that, have long been abandoned by other churches.
1. TAKING A LOOK AT GROWTH
In the past;
Our church has witnessed remarkable growth in attendance in the 14 years that Milbre and I have attended here.Some stayed, others exited out the back door.
There are different measures of growth.
For Pastors and church leaders, numerical growth is a powerfully, intoxicating justification. It can impair sound judgment and make you vulnerable to just about anything that will help you achieve your success.
Author, William Chadwick, has written a book entitled, “Stealing Sheep, the church’s hidden problems with transfer growth”
He relates the time as a child, he stole a penny piece of bubble gum and after being caught, his mother made him pay restitution by finding bottles he could redeem and pay the store for the gum. He said the next time he stole; he was an Ordained Christian minister. His treasure was no longer penny bubblegum, but was “sheep”, active members of the body of Christ in another congregation that were the objects of his attention.
Some were spiritually fat sheep, so well fed that they hated the same old meals that had brought them health and prosperity thus far. They were in search of some new and exciting dimension in church life, an unidentified something more. Usually bored, these gross underachievers were not often praised and could be easily enticed to transfer their membership by the promise of a new, fulfilling and invigorating experience.
Others were thin, starving animals—members of a church whose pastor preached the same old message every week and offered no spiritual food to the congregation. They were easily wooed away by offers to address the most basic of spiritual needs.
Then there were the black sheep: consummate malcontents who were always testing and challenging pastoral decisions, points of theology or any other topic that could elicit controversy. Perpetually ready to escape form their current shepherd, they lived lives of seeking, church hopping and wanderlust.
Last, there were the dumb sheep, the easily influenced that simply followed the flock. Many were mesmerized by the opinions and actions of others. He goes on to say that these, never really having an opinion of their own, they sought security in keeping in line with the latest trends of the majority. They would leave their church, just because others were doing so.
Our culture’s influence on the church has generally been underestimated. No longer are many people loyal to the church of their historic roots. He points out that, for many, the church has changed from a place where one serves to where one seeks services. The important question they ask, “Does this church meet our needs?” Needs can be confused with wants, and wants can be subjective. This can lead us to a continuous cycle to church shopping.
The chapter ends with the sad news after years of tremendous growth of this sort, the foundations of his church began to crack, when those same folks continued their quest for the “perfect” church. And they witnessed a dramatic drop in their attendance. It was a depressing and an awakening experience.
Growth from within
Planned, calculated growth that comes from birth of new Christians in the local assembly that are trained to reproduce themselves in others is God’s plan! He wants us to be evangelistic, passionate about Missions and passionate about this city where he has planted this church.
To understand this concept, I want to first address the question in the next post—“What Is The Church?”.