THAT Kind Of Church

The book of James is written to a bunch of Christians. James knew his audience was the Church (see James 1:1).

Keep that firmly in mind when you read these words from James 3:2—

We all stumble in many ways. (New International Version)

For we all often stumble and fall and offend in many things. (Amplified Bible)

Indeed, we all make many mistakes. (New Living Translation)

I hate to break the news to you, but that means:

  • Your pastor’s not perfect
  • Your church isn’t perfect
  • You’re not perfect

You attend a church with people who stumble, and offend, and mess it up. Your pastor stumbles, and offends, and messes up. And so do you!

Isn’t that wonderful?! We all make mistakes! So we all need to give and receive the same forgiveness. We all need to extend grace to others, and receive grace from others. You need to help others back up when they stumble, and you need to admit when you’ve stumbled, and let others help you get back up.

Abraham Kuyper wrote—

“Sin is a destroyer that creeps in everywhere. Therefore we must expect an imperfect church. In fact, we church members carry the sin of the world with us into the church, too often hiding it under a veil of spirituality. If the church were not the Bride of His Son, surely God would in holy wrath destroy not first of all the church, but rather first of all the wretched sin-ridden church.”

To these beautifully imperfect Christians, James concludes his teaching with these words:

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:16, 19-20)

Yeah, let’s be THAT kind of church!!

Next Level: James

It was a time of explosive growth. And with that growth came challenges, questions, problems… and opportunities! I’m talking about the Church in its earliest days in Jerusalem.

The Bible tells us that God prepares people in advance (Colossians 2:10) to do the works that He has equipped them to do. Into this environment of rapid growth and previously unheard of opportunities stepped a man named James. His leadership and wisdom were just what the church needed then.

And his leadership and wisdom are just what the church needs now.

That’s why I’m leading our Next Level study group into an in-depth look at the book James wrote. The wisdom that is found in the Book of James has been called “the proverbs of the New Testament,” and we’ll be learning how to apply those proverbs to our lives and our church.

Please join me for this fascinating and informative study at 5pm each Sunday afternoon.

Thursdays With Oswald—Two Dangerous Extremes

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.

Two Dangerous Extremes 

     Possibly the best illustration we can use is that of a lamp. A lamp unlighted will illustrate individuality; a lighted lamp will illustrate personality. The lighted lamp takes up no more room, but the light permeates far and wide; so the influence of personality goes beyond that of individuality. “You are the light of the world” said our Lord. Individually we do not take up much room, but our influence is far beyond our calculation…. 

     Individuality, then, is a smaller term than personality. Personality means that peculiar, incalculable being that is meant when you speak of “you” as distinct from everybody else. People say, “Oh, I cannot understand myself”; of course you can’t! “Nobody can understand me”; of course they don’t! There is only one Being Who understand us, and that is our Creator…. 

     There are possibilities below the threshold of our lives which no one but God knows…. God makes a man know that He is searching him…. 

     Introspection without God leads to insanity. …The people with no tendency to introspect are those described in the New Testament as “dead in trespasses and sins,” they are quite happy, quite contented, quite moral, all they want is easily within their grasp, everything is all right with them; but they are dead to the world to which Jesus Christ belongs, and it takes His voice and His Spirt to awaken them….

     The path of peace is for us to hand ourselves over to God and ask Him to search us, not what we think we are, or what other people think we are, or what we persuade ourselves we are or would like to be, but, “Search me out, O God, explore me as I really am in Thy sight.” 

From Biblical Psychology (emphasis mine)

There are two dangerous extremes: Never looking within ourselves, and looking within ourselves without God’s help.

If you want your personality to shine far and wide, you must pray regularly as David did: “O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. Now search me again, and reveal to me anything that is offensive or displeasing to You, and then help me to change those things.”

Prayer For Israel

In addition to praying for the elections in the United States, the Bible also encourages us to pray for the peace of Israel—

Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper. O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “May you have peace.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem. (Psalm 122:6-9 NLT)

Sunday, October 7, has been designated as a day of prayer for Israel. We will be praying at Calvary Assembly of God, and I hope you and your church will join us in praying this very God-honoring prayer.

You can get more information and sign a prayer resolution by clicking here.

40 Days Of Prayer For The USA

There has always been something special in the Bible about:

  • 40 days of prayer
  • The hunger of God’s people for Him to move
  • God’s miraculous, powerful response

Elections in the United States are always a pivotal time. The Bible makes it clear that God sets people in positions of authority in our governments, but His Word also makes it clear that it is the responsibility of Christians to pray for their leaders.

The presidential election takes place on November 6, 2012. That means that September 28 marks the 40-day point. Will you please join me in prayer beginning September 28 and continuing for the next 40 days?

We need to humble ourselves to ask for for God’s help (we can’t make productive change happen on our own), and to ask God to give His wisdom to those who will be elected on that day (they can’t make productive change happen on their own).

You can find some prayer resources from Max Lucado by clicking here.

God answers the prayer of humble, hungry people. Let’s be that praying people!

10 Quotes From “Grace”

Max Lucado’s newest book Grace is a wonderful reminder of how extravagant God is toward us (you can read my full review by clicking here). Here are 10 of my favorite quotes from Grace

“God’s guilt brings enough regret to change us. satan’s guilt, on the other hand, brings enough to enslave us. …It boils down to this choice: Do you trust your Advocate or your accuser?”

“Sin is not a regrettable lapse or an occasional stumble. Sin stages a coup against God’s regime. Sin storms the castle, lays claim to God’s throne, and defies His authority. Sin shouts, ‘I want to run my own life, thank you very much!’ Sin tells God to get out, get lost, and not come back. Sin is insurrection of the highest order, and you are an insurrectionist. So am I. So is every single person who has taken a breath. …God didn’t overlook your sins, lest He endorse them. He didn’t punish you, lest He destroy you. He instead found a way to punish the sin and preserve the sinner. Jesus took your punishment, and God gave you the credit for Jesus’ perfection.”

“Grace-a-lots believe in grace, a lot. Jesus almost finished the work of salvation, they argue. In a rowboat named Heaven Bound, Jesus paddles most of the time. But every so often He needs our help. So we give it. We accumulate good works the way Boy Scouts accumulate merit badges on a sash. …We find it easier to trust the miracle of resurrection than the miracle of grace. We so fear failure that we create the image of perfection, lest Heaven be even more disappointed in us than we are. The result? The weariest people on earth. Attempts at self-salvation guarantee nothing but exhaustion. We scamper and scurry, trying to please God, collecting merit badges and brownie points, and scowling at anyone who questions our accomplishments. Call us the church of hound-dog faces and slumped shoulders. Stop it! Once and for all, enough of this frenzy. ‘Your hearts should be strengthened by God’s grace, not by obeying rules’ (Heb. 13:9 NCV). Jesus does not say, ‘Come to Me, all you who are perfect and sinless.’ Just the opposite. ‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matt. 11:28 NASB).”

“Give the grace you’ve been given. You don’t endorse the deeds of your offender when you do. Jesus didn’t endorse your sins by forgiving you. Grace doesn’t tell the daughter to like the father who molested her. It doesn’t tell the oppressed to wink at injustice. The grace-defined person still sends thieves to jail and expects and ex to pay child support. Grace is not blind. It sees the hurt full well. But grace chooses to see God’s forgiveness even more. It refuses to let hurts poison the heart. ‘See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many’ (Heb. 12:15 NIV). Where grace is lacking, bitterness abounds. Where grace abounds, forgiveness grows.

“Find a congregation that believes in confession. Avoid a fellowship of perfect people (you won’t fit in), but seek one where members confess their sins and show humility, where the price of admission is simply the admission of guilt. Healing happens in a church like this.”

“Plunge a sponge into Lake Erie. Did you absorb every drop? Take a deep breath. Did you suck the oxygen out of the atmosphere? Pluck a needle from a tree in Yosemite. Did you deplete the forest of foliage? Watch an ocean wave crash against the beach. Will there never be another one? Of course there will. No sooner will one wave crash into the sand than another appears. Then another, then another. This is a picture of God’s sufficient grace. Grace is simply another word for God’s tumbling, rumbling reservoir of strength and protection. It comes at us not occasionally or miserly but constantly and aggressively, wave upon wave. We’ve barely regained our balance from one breaker, and then, bam, here comes another. ‘Grace upon grace’ (John 1:16 NASB). We dare to hang our hat and stake our hope on the gladdest news of all: if God permits the challenge, He will provide the grace to meet it. We never exhaust His supply. ‘Stop asking so much! My grace reservoir is running dry.’ Heaven knows no such words. God has enough grace to solve every dilemma you face, wipe every tear you cry, and answer every question you ask.”

“How long has it been since your generosity stunned someone? Since someone objected, ‘No, really, this is too generous’? If it has been awhile, reconsider God’s extravagant grace. ‘Forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity’ (Ps. 103:2-3 RSV).”

“Your identity is not in your possessions, talents, tattoos, kudos, or accomplishments. Nor are you defined by your divorce, deficiencies, debt, or dumb choices. You are God’s child. You get to call Him ‘Papa.’ You ‘may approach God with freedom and confidence’ (Eph. 3:12 NIV). You receive the blessings of His special love (1 John 4:9-11) and provision (Luke 11:11-13). And you will inherit the riches of Christ and reign with Him forever (Rom. 8:17).”

“To live as God’s child is to know, at this very instant, that you are loved by your Maker not because you try to please Him and succeed, or fail to please Him and apologize, but because He wants to be your Father. Nothing more. All your efforts to win His affections are unnecessary. All your fears of losing His affection are needless. You can no more make Him want you than you can convince Him to abandon you. The adoption is irreversible. You have a place at His table.”

“Where there is no assurance of salvation, there is no peace. No peace means no joy. No joy results in fear-based lives. Is this the life God creates? No. Grace creates a confident soul who declares, ‘I know Whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day’ (2 Tim. 1:12 NIV). …Trust God’s hold on you more than your hold on God. His faithfulness does not depend on Yours. His performance is not predicated on yours. His love is not contingent on your own.”

Intercession

Intercession is prayer for others. How it must please our Heavenly Father when we long for—and pray for—the advancement of others.

Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. (Colossians 1:19)

The Apostle Paul prayed that the Colossians would grow in the knowledge of God’s will, in spiritual wisdom, and in godly understanding. He knew that with these tools they would be able to live a life worthy of the Lord and [be able to] please Him in every way. The outward signs of this worthy life, Paul explains, are:

  • Doing good works
  • Knowing God more intimately
  • Developing greater endurance, patience, and empathy
  • Overflowing in thankfulness
  • Building up other saints

Did you catch that last point: building up other saints. One of the “other saints” would be Paul himself!

So when our prayers shift from petition (praying for what I need) to intercession (praying for what others need), as other people grow in God, they build me up!

What an amazing thought:

The way I get what I need from God is to stop thinking about myself and praying for myself, and to start interceding for others.

That’s the power and the blessing of intercessory prayer!

Grace (book review)

There’s something special about Max Lucado’s writing style. He is so gifted at making stories in the Bible so real and applicable for the times in which we live. I remember when Fearless released, it was just at the time our nation seemed gripped by anxiety. Now his latest book—Grace: More than we deserve; greater than we imagine—releases just when our nation seems so lacking in grace.

We all know the word grace. We may say grace before a meal. We may sing about amazing grace. But Max Lucado has a great question:

But do we really understand it?

Here’s my hunch: we’ve settled for wimpy grace. It politely occupies a phrase in a hymn, fits nicely on a church sign. Never causes trouble or demands a response. When asked, “Do you believe in grace?” who could say no?

This book asks a deeper question: Have you been changed by grace? Shaped by grace? Strengthened by grace? Emboldened by grace? Softened by grace?

Then in 11 compelling chapters, Max answers these questions: telling us why grace should change us, shape us, strengthen us, embolden us, and soften us. Combining personal stories from his own life with a fresh look at well-known biblical accounts, he calls us to a deeper understanding of what grace really is.

I enjoyed the Reader’s Guide at the book of the book. This is a great companion for each chapter, giving us plenty of questions to stimulate thoughts and conversation about what grace is, and how it should be exhibited in our lives.

If you are a Max Lucado fan, this book won’t disappoint you at all. If you’ve never read anything by him yet, Grace is an excellent starting point. Go get this book! 

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer.

Don’t Play The Fool

You probably know this already: Once you get boiling mad, it’s hard to see things objectively any more. You get steamed up—ticked off!—and you are on a no-detours course to “make things right.”

You might say things like…

  • “They need to know what they did wrong!”
  • “He’s got this coming to him!”
  • “She needs to get a taste of her own medicine!”

The unspoken completion of all of those phrases is the dangerous part. What we’re really saying is, “He need to know what he did wrong, and I’m just the one to tell him!” Or, “She needs to get a taste of her own medicine, and I’m just the one to dispense that prescription to her!

It’s been said that action has killed its thousands; reaction its tens of thousands.

Did he hurt you? Yes!

Is he a jerk for doing so? Absolutely!

Should he get punished for it? Probably!

Are you the one to do it? No. No! NO!

He played the fool… Don’t sink to his level and play the fool yourself! 

Wise King Solomon said:

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. (Proverbs 26:4)

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. (Proverbs 29:11)

So what can you do to the one who injured you?

The best thing you can do is to FORGIVE HIM!

That’s right: leave him in God’s hands. Let the All-Righteous Judge deal with him. Don’t stay wounded, because you are continuing to allow your injurer to keep you trapped, to keep you wounded. Leave him in God’s hands by taking your hands off of him!

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. (Romans 12:17-19)

Don’t play the fool! Forgive him and let God take it from there.

God Takes The Burden Of Suffering

It’s always been a difficult verse for me. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds (James 1:2).

I am still wrestling with this verse, and probably will be for as long as there is suffering. But I trust God. I believe He is working out something which will bring Him full glory. I know, as the Apostle Paul said, that I only see through a dim glass now. But what I see of God’s love and goodness is more than enough for me to continue to trust Him.

This video is an amazing story of how suffering and disability actually brought a family to Christ… and glory to God.

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