It’s Time To Be Courageous

Courageous opens today. I cannot urge you strongly enough to go see this film this weekend.

Leaders in every sphere — political, medical, educational — have acknowledged that the breakdown of the family is one of the leading factors in the breakdowns in government, physical and emotional health, and in our schools. This movie deals with our family situations head-on. More to the point, this movie calls on men to make a bold, courageous stand for their families.

I had a chance to view this movie several months ago, and I still can’t wait to go see it again. You will be challenged and energized by this film. Find showing times near you by clicking here.

Thursdays With Oswald #53

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Judging A Life

God holds us responsible for the way we judge a young [Christian] life; if we judge it by the standards by which we would judge a mature life, we will be grossly unjust. …Be as merciless as God can make you towards the vices of a mature life, but be very gentle and patient with the defects of a growing life.

From Biblical Ethics

It’s a delicate balance that requires true discernment from the Holy Spirit. The ‘defects’ that we see in those who are new in the Christian walk need gentle correction, but the ‘vices’ of those who should know better by now need to be dealt with forcefully.

I see both the gentle and forceful in Paul’s words to the Corinthian church —

Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

My prayer: God, help me to be perfectly balanced and directed by You. I don’t want to be too forceful with the young, nor too gentle with the mature. I want to see everyone growing in their relationship with You.

A Pastor’s Work

I have blogged before about how heavy I feel the responsibility of being a pastor. When I think of the awesome responsibility God has given me as His under-shepherd to His precious people, I am humbled.

Humility is a good thing.

Since the pastor is “out in front” at every gathering, speaking to the people, leading the church in a particular direction, people tend to view their pastor as their leader. And without humility, the people’s esteem can “puff up” a pastor. Unfortunately, I’ve been around pastors who have gotten a little too “puffy.”

So this dose of godly wisdom from J.C. Ryle is just the preventative medicine I need —

We should beware of resting our claim to the people’s attention on our outward [pastoral] call only. It will never do to tell our people, “We are your ordained ministers, and therefore you must believe and follow whatever we tell you.” On the contrary, we must tell them to prove our teaching by Scripture, and not to receive it unless it is scriptural. That man has no right to expect the attention of his people, who does not preach the Gospel and live the Gospel. The rule of Paul is clear on this point. He told the Thessalonians to esteem their ministers very highly ‘for their work’s sake’ (1 Thess. 5:13). When there is no ‘work’ done, it is vain to expect the people’s esteem.

Pastors, do the work of humbly working as God’s servant to His people. Use your position to serve, not to presume upon others.

Church attendees, make us “prove our teaching by Scripture.” We don’t get to say, “Because I’m the pastor and I say so!”

Reach Out

Lepers were the most shunned of all Israelites in the Bible. It didn’t matter how much you used to love them, once they were diagnosed with leprosy, they were the untouchable. The unapproachable. The unlovable.

So here is an absolutely remarkable verse: Jesus reached out His hand and TOUCHED the leper.

There is such a power in the human touch! This unclean, despised, outcast, friendless leper simply asked Jesus to heal him. But Jesus went farther. Jesus replied, “I am willing,” and then He touched him.

The Greek word for reach implies that the leper remained a good distance away. Even though he longed for the restoration that the touch of Jesus could bring him, he kept a barrier between them. Jesus transcended his barrier.

Then the Greek word for touched is an intense word. It means to cling to someone. Jesus didn’t just lightly touch this hurting man, He threw His arms around him and CLUNG to him!! He didn’t just heal this man physically, but restored him emotionally as well.

Who are the outcasts around you?

Who seems to be unlovable, untouchable, or even unapproachable?

Friend, you just might be the touch of Jesus for them that brings healing, wholeness, and restoration. Will you let Jesus CLING to them — and heal them through you? Will you reach out like Jesus reached out?

Oh to be His hand extended
Reaching out to the oppressed
Let me touch Him
Let me touch Jesus
So that others may know
And be blessed

What Is/Isn’t “Christian” Music?

On Sunday I was answering questions that our congregation submitted, but we ran out of time. So I’m attempting to answer all of the questions (you can see more questions/answers by clicking here). I thought this one might be worthy of some further conversation. Read this and comment below.

Another question that we didn’t get to in Sunday’s Q SeriesDoes it matter the genre of Christian music to be considered glorifying God?

I think music has been one of the most dividing factors in our churches. I think this is so because satan knows the power of music. (I believe that lucifer may have been the “worship leader” in Heaven before he rebelled and was cast out [but that’s a topic to cover another time].)

We don’t really know what the music in the Bible sounded like. We don’t have any of David’s musical scores, but we do have his lyrics preserved for us in the Psalms. And what heart-moving, God-focusing lyrics they are!

The bottom line is that musical notes or musical instruments are not “Christian” or “non-Christian.” They are tools. And those tools can be used to either glorify God or detract from God. The lyrics, on the other hand, are easy to hold up to a biblical standard. So although a style/genre of music may not be my favorite, I need to look through that to two things: (1) the lyrics – do they glorify God? and (2) the attitude of the singers/musicians – are they merely performing or are they exalting God?

I can speak personally for the worship team at Calvary Assembly of God. These talented musicians and singers truly have a heart for God. They only want Jesus to be seen every single time they are on the platform. So we carefully pick our music with the goal of only exalting our King. Sometimes they are modern choruses, sometimes they are traditional hymns, sometimes they are hymns slightly rearranged with a more modern feel. Whatever the genre, we only want God to be seen and heard and exalted in our musical selections.

Blessings,

Craig

Get Moving

I noticed the other day how Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew responded when Jesus called them to follow Him. With all of these guys, Jesus simply said, “Follow Me.” And here’s how they responded —

  • At once (Matthew 4:20)
  • Immediately (4:22)
  • Got up and followed (9:9)

They were all busy with their own lives, working on their agendas for their day. But when they heard Jesus say, “Follow Me,” they got moving.

They didn’t delay.

Make other plans.

Ask someone to take over for them.

They simply got up, left what they were doing, and followed Jesus.

They didn’t explain to their family.

Check in with their friends.

Ask Jesus for clarification.

They just followed. At once. Immediately.

Do I follow Jesus like this?

Do I get moving at once when He calls me?

Do I start immediately when He directs me?

Do I follow without explanation when He prompts me?

I’m working on it!

How about you?

Tough Choices

Sometimes my kids say, “We’re starving!!” To which I want to say, “Really? Starving? I don’t even think you know what that means.”

Especially when I consider these stats from a report called Hunger In America. We are in the midst of a county-wide food drive to support our local food banks, and among the clientele the food bank serves…

  • 42% have had to decide between buying groceries for their family or paying the electric bill.
  • 32% have been forced to decide between eating or paying the rent.
  • 26% have had to weigh buying food or buying needed prescriptions or medical care.

I’ve faced some tough financial decisions before, but never to this extreme. How about you?

Can you help with some groceries? I filled up a grocery bag for less than $25, and bought enough food to provide a family of four breakfast for a week, three days of lunches, and two dinners.

Please donate some needed food items (you can find a list of grocery needs by clicking here) by this Saturday, October 8, 2011. This is an easy way to show the love of God to people in need.

Preaching At God’s Command

This post is specifically for my pastor friends. As you are finishing up your sermon prep for this week, here are some good words from Charles Spurgeon for us to keep in mind —

We preach, at God’s command, the way of salvation by mercy, not by merit; by faith, not by works; by grace, not by the efforts of men. May God help us so to set forth that principle, that many may accept it. I do not care one snap of my finger about preaching so that the style shall please the ear, but I long to reach your hearts. I want you to receive the only sure method of salvation, and I pray the Holy Spirit to baptize my words in His own mighty fire, and make them to burn their way into your hearts, and subdue you to the obedience of faith.

Pastor, I’m praying for you that the Holy Spirit will baptize your words. God said, “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it,” and I am believing that for you this week!

Thursdays With Oswald #52

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Unblameable In The Sight Of God

     If the “Oughts” of the Old Testament were difficult to obey, Our Lord’s teaching is unfathomably more difficult. …Jesus Christ does not simply say, “Thou shalt not do certain things”; He demands that we have such a condition of the heart that we never even think of doing them, every thought and imagination of heart and mind is to be unblameable in the sight of God.

     …The purity God demands is impossible unless we can be re-made from within, and that is what Jesus Christ undertakes to do through the Atonement. …It is not a question of applying Jesus Christ’s principles to our actual life first of all, but of applying them to our relationship to Himself, then as we keep our souls open in relation to Him our conscience will decide how we are to act of that relationship.

From Biblical Ethics

I want every part of my life to be unblameable in the sight of God. I have to keep the eyes of my heart fixed on Jesus.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Lousy {churches} and the rare search for wonder

Seth Godin wrote a blog post entitled “Lousy tomatoes and the rare search for wonder.” I tweaked it just a bit in looking at the typical local church. You can see the parts I’ve modified as marked by {brackets}.

Lousy {churches} and the rare search for wonder

My local {church does things the way they’ve always done things}. They even do this {even when church attendance is declining}, when a {church service should be one of the most anticipated events of the week}.

Are they clueless, evil or incompetent?

Perhaps none of these. This {church}, like most {churches}, is a checklist institution, one that is in the business of providing good enough, in quantity, {in a format} that’s both cheap and profitable. You need a staple, they have it. They have {coffee} and {songs} and {an offering} and {a sermon}. They’ve trained their {attendees} to see them as an invisible vendor, as an organization that satisfices demand. It’s too much work, too demanding and too risky to do the alternative…

They could {add the wow factor to} the {church service} instead.

{Add} it the way a great theater programs the stage. No one goes to the theatre two or three times a week, expecting a good enough show. No, we only go when we hear there’s something magical or terrific happening.

Over time, as institutions create habits and earn subscribers, they often switch, gradually making the move from  magical (worth a trip, worth a conversation) to good (there when you need it). Most TV is just good. Magazines, too. When was the last time {your church} did something that made you sit up and say, “wow!”? Of course, you could argue that they’re not in the wow business, and you might be right.

One of the disrupting forces of the new media is that it makes harder and harder to succeed without wow. Since you have to earn the conversation regularly, phone it in too often and, in fact, attention disappears.

What do you think?

Since Jesus is the ultimate “wow factor,” I think the church should be the most exciting, innovative, conversation-starting, heart-healing, mind-expanding, life-changing force in any community because it makes Jesus real for all who attend.

Why isn’t it?

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