Light The Night

Today is Halloween, and Calvary Assembly of God is going to be fully engaged with our city.

In Cedar Springs, the downtown businesses encourage families to come walk up and down Main Street, collect candy, and have fun. I know there are some who think Christians should have nothing to do with Halloween, or they come up with alternative activities for that evening.

I want us to be salt and light in our community. And we cannot do that from a distance.

So we’ll be right in the middle of it lighting the night with the love of Jesus for our neighbors. For the second year, we will have a huge inflatable slide, some carnival games, and lots and lots of candy. We want Cedar Springs to know that we love them.

I read an interesting article “What Christians Should Know About Halloween” (you can read the article by clicking here). I love the closing paragraph:

“For those who are still bothered by Halloween’s historical association with evil spirits, Martin Luther has some advice on how to respond to the devil: “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him for he cannot bear scorn.” Perhaps instead of fleeing the darkness in fear, we should view Halloween as an opportunity to mock the enemy whose power over us has been broken.”

The light of Jesus within us is so much greater than the darkness the devil may try to produce around us. Please pray for us as we let that light shine tonight.

Thursdays With Oswald—Not To Tell Us, But To Make Us

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.

Not To Tell Us, But To Make Us

     Our righteousness has to be in excess of the righteousness of the man whose external conduct is blameless according to the law—what does that produce? despair straightaway. When we hear Jesus say “Blessed are the pure in heart,” our answer, if we are awake is, “My God, how am I going to be pure in heart? If ever I am to be blameless down to the deepest recesses of my intentions, You must do something mighty in me.” That is exactly what Jesus Christ came to do. He did not come to tell us to be holy, but to make us holy.

From Biblical Ethics

Does it ever bother you that Jesus tells us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”? It bothers me, because it sounds too hard, even unrealistic. Okay, let’s be honest: It sounds impossible!

It is impossible if I try to be perfectly righteous on my own. But the death and resurrection of Jesus paid for my atonement—my “at one-ment” with God. And Jesus has also asked the Father to send me the Holy Spirit. He is sanctifying me — making me into a holy, perfectly righteous saint in the eyes of my Heavenly Father.

I can’t do it.

But I can surrender and let Him do it.

The Next Christians (book review)

If you’re anything like me, you might feel that a lot of recently-released books and the current research results seem to paint a rather bleak picture of the church. Reading these works makes it sound like the church is in decline, it has lost its authority in the community, and people are finding Christianity less and less relevant in their lives. But Gabe Lyons has “the good news about the end of Christian America” in his book The Next Christians.

Where many Christians are either withdrawing from mainstream society, or are selling-out to it in an attempt to be accepted (Gabe calls these the Separatists or Culturals, respectively), Gabe happily points out that the next Christians coming to the forefront are Restorers. These Christians are not running away from culture, but are running to it in a way that makes the Gospel both relevant and appealing.

Gabe points out that the Restorers are defined by six descriptive phrases:

  • Provoked, not offended when they confront the unbiblical in culture
  • Creators, not critics of what mainstream culture is producing
  • Called, not just employed in “a job”
  • Grounded in Christian disciplines, not distracted by the tasks around them
  • Committed to their community, not isolating themselves from it
  • Countercultural, without attempting to become “relevant”

The Next Christians made me stand up and cheer, “Yes! This is how I want to live!” I could hardly put this book down. Now that I’ve finished reading it, I’ll be referring to these concepts again and again, both in my personal life, and in my calling as a pastor.

If you are ready to see Christians reassume their place in society like the Bible describes it, you will love reading The Next Christians.

I am a Doubleday book reviewer.

Blocks

When I was a kid, I had a set of big cardboard blocks that looked like bricks. I built all sorts of cool things out of these blocks, and had hours of fun! Today my sons have the same kind of fun with Legos. They build really cool things for hours on end.

But occasionally, as I’m tip-toeing through the dark in bare feet, I step on a stray Lego. That is—to put it mildly—not so much fun. In fact, it’s almost crippling!

The Apostle Paul said, “Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

None of my interactions with people today will be neutral. I’m either a building block, or I’m a stumbling block.

Paul says it quite simply: Make up your mind to build up, never to trip up.

What are you going to do with this thought?

Was Your Church Successful?

These thoughts are especially for my fellow pastors (although I think they pertain to anyone who attended a church service recently).

So… how successful was your church gathering this weekend?

Was it successful because lots of people were there? Or because the pastor preached a good sermon? Or maybe the offering was better than usual? Or because you could feel something special as the worship team sang and played their instruments?

How about these measurements:

“The great business of the church is not our number by addition, but by grace, by growing up in Christ.” (John Owen)

“The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of. Our attention would have been on God.” (C.S. Lewis)

“Revival is the church getting back to ‘normal.’” (A.W. Tozer)

I hope these quotes have you thinking about church “success” as much as they are working on me!

UPDATE: This post was one of the seed thoughts that went into fashioning my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter.

What Do You Owe Jesus?

Charles Spurgeon was called “the prince of preachers” because of how he could use words so eloquently. This is an excerpt from his outstanding devotional Morning And Evening that got me fired up this morning:

“How much do you owe my Lord? Has He ever done anything for you? Has He forgiven your sins? Has He covered you with a robe of righteousness? Has He set your feet upon a rock? Has He established your goings? Has He prepared Heaven for you? Has He prepared you for Heaven? Has He written your name in His book of life? Has He given you countless blessings? Has He laid up for you a store of mercies, which eye has not seen nor ear heard? Then do something for Jesus worthy of His love.

“…Who will accept a love so weak that it does not motivate you to a single deed of self-denial, of generosity, of heroism, or zeal! Think how He has loved you, and given Himself for you! Do you know the power of that love? Then let it be like a rushing mighty wind to your soul to sweep out the clouds of your worldliness, and clear away the mists of sin.

“…Love should give wings to the feet of service, and strength to the arms of labor. Fixed on God with a constancy that is not to be shaken, resolute to honor Him with a determination that is not to be turned aside, and pressing on with an zeal never to be wearied, let us manifest the constraints of love to Jesus.”

How much has Jesus done for you? Then do something today worthy of His love!

Community Involvement

Have I mentioned lately that I Cedar Springs? I do love my city! So I’m thrilled whenever I can be involved in things happening around our town. I hope you can join me in some of these great events.

Night Of Worship / CD Release Party—I’m so happy to introduce Dilip to our community! This anointed musician is truly gifted. We get to share his amazing music with our community on Friday, October 28, in a FREE concert at Calvary Assembly of God.

Light The Night / Spooktacular—This is the fifth year that the businesses on Main Street have provided a great night for families on Halloween. This will be the second year that Calvary has joined in to help light the night. If you would like to help us be salt and light on October 31, we are still in need of smiling volunteers in our carnival, those who will cover us in prayer, and those who can donate some candy for us to pass out to the kids.

Courageous—I am so thankful to Dan at the Kent Theatre who is going to hold Courageous over for an extra day! On Monday, November 7, there will be a special showing of the amazing movie Courageous for our area churches. And tickets are only $3 each!

Veteran’s Day Ceremony—Thanks to the tireless efforts of my neighbor Jack Price, we have a huge twin-rotor Chinook helicopter flying into town at 11am on November 11. Then we will have a Veteran’s Day memorial in our memorial park at 1pm. I am honored to have been asked to close this ceremony in prayer.

In Visible Fellowship (book review)

This is the second book that Jon Walker has written as a modern-day commentary of a classic Dietrich Bonhoeffer work. This time around Jon takes a look at Bonhoeffer’s Life Together in his book called In Visible Fellowship. (Jon’s first book is Costly Grace, looking at Bonhoeffer’s The Cost Of Discipleship. You can read my review of that book by clicking here.)

In visible fellowship is a phrase that Dietrich Bonhoeffer used to describe the importance of how Christians interact with each other. To Bonhoeffer, it wasn’t so much how Christians behaved in church on Sundays, but how they interacted with each other the other six days of the week. He wanted those outside of the Christian community to see something so attractive and appealing about the way the Christian community operated “in visible fellowship” with each other.

In Visible Fellowship is an excellent companion piece to Life Together. Whereas Costly Grace could almost stand on its own, In Visible Fellowship is probably best read in conjunction with Life Together. In other words, I would highly recommend that both be read at the same time.

Since Jon notes, “There is no such thing as independent study in the curriculum of Christ,” I would further recommend that In Visible Fellowship and Life Together be read with other Christians. A small group could read Life Together, and then use In Visible Fellowship as their study guide as they gather together. Toward this end, each chapter has some excellent questions that should really stimulate lively conversations.

I’m a huge fan of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Jon Walker has done an excellent job in bringing some thought-provoking contemporary views to these classic works. I recommend In Visible Fellowship (especially when read with Life Together).

I am an ACU Press book reviewer.

Thursdays With Oswald—You Must Say, “You Must”

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.

You Must Say, “You Must”

     If we do not fit ourselves by practice when there is no crisis, we shall find that our nature will fail us when the crisis comes. The grace of God never fails, but we may fail the grace of God. Unless our nervous system is made the ally of the new life from God it becomes a humiliation to us, and we sit down under a tyranny of nerves. Once we receive the Holy Spirit we must sit down to nothing. … When your nervous system, which has been ruled by the wrong disposition, is inclined to say “I can’t,” you must say, “You must,” and to your amazement you find you can!

From Biblical Ethics

The time to learn how to do the God-honoring thing is when there is no crisis in my life. That’s my training time, to prepare me for when the heat is on. The apostle Paul learned this too. As a result of his training, he learned to tell himself, “You must,” in every circumstance:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can [I must!] do everything through Him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)

Don’t waste your non-crisis times. Learn from them how God wants to help you in the midst of your crisis.

Crumbs

When you’re starving, a crumb doesn’t seem to satisfy you.

When you’d like a special dessert, a crumb seems so unfulfilling.

What about when you are asking God for something big? Will a crumb satisfy you?

A Canaanite woman came to Jesus with a pressing need. Her daughter was possessed by a demon and was absolutely miserable. It looked as though nothing short of a major outpouring from Jesus could help this woman.

But she said, “Just a crumb from the Master’s table is enough for me.”

A crumb?!? The smallest of pieces, yet this woman knew that Christ’s power was so sufficient, that just a crumb would be more than enough!

How many times do I wait around for a feast? I say, “God, do something huge!” How small is my faith that I think God has to do something earth-shaking to answer me.

I want to be at the point where I know that just a crumb is more than enough. Just one word—one crumb—from His mouth can meet my every need.

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