I See You, But Do You See ME?

An incredible post by my precious wife. Read this today! If you love it, drop by her site http://www.jodiaiken.com and tell her!

Jodi Aiken

i-see-you-but-can-you-see-meHave you ever had life circumstances hit you hard? I have. A while back I was blindsided by some circumstances causing me to become emotionally unstable, stressed, and weary. My thoughts were confusing and irrational. The more I tried to think clearly, the more deeply I fell into despair. I prayed, journaled, spoke with others, cried, and exercised hoping for a reprieve. I believed Isaiah 26:3 to be true so I pressed in and rolled the words over and over in my mind, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” But instead, my thoughts were inconsistent. I felt like my world was falling apart.

Can you relate?

Have you ever been desperate for God to speak, “Peace, be still,” so that your circumstances would miraculously change for the better?

During one of those trying days, God used a simple penny and a…

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From and To…

Bible, study (2)“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we had redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14).

“Praise God…I’m not what I used to be,” declared the excited old Christian man. What a beautiful, accurate, yet incomplete truth of the Christian transformation.

As a pastor for a while now and as a disciple of Jesus for a while longer, I get the sentiment of the statement. When a person is saved…when he truly realizes the scope of His depravity and the depths of Christ’s forgiveness, it is easy to give thanks that we are not the same wicked people we once were before Christ. This certainly does not imply that we have arrived…as if we have somehow achieved righteousness. In no way can a genuine understanding of the Christian life conclude that anyone we know has achieved righteousness. Even the most saintly senior adult grandmother (who no one would dare charge with a sin) has a heart so desperately wicked that even she cannot comprehend it!

Our nature is rebellious at its core and desperately resists the goodness of God, AND (not but) He rescued us from the domain of darkness…redeeming us through His Son Jesus.WE ARE NOT WHAT WE USED TO BE!

Beautiful and INCOMPLETE

If that were the story, it would be akin to being a murderer who is released from prison. Still a convicted murderer…just free to walk around town and live among a group of people who are afraid they are “next.” Our relationship with Christ is far more though as the verse I shared reminds us. We WERE rescued from the domain of darkness AND transferred to the Kingdom of Christ Jesus! This truth is theologically pregnant with meaning.

Our identity is not so much what we are NO LONGER…but in whose Kingdom we now reside. We were transferred to the Kingdom of Christ. This Kingdom has a King (obviously) and we are not Him (not always so obvious). We are not “freed” prisoners but are now Kingdom citizens! Our new lives are identified with who (and whose) we are rather than what we have done and been forgiven for.

Often I talk with believers who struggle with this. I STRUGGLE WITH THIS OCCASIONALLY! My mind will drift back to the rebellious, self-willed person who ruined his life. If I am not careful, I will linger there too long and lose sight of the truth that Christ found me in my desperation and delivered me into His Kingdom where I gained a new identity. I am not a former rebel…I am a redeemed citizen!

I wonder if today we need to be reminded that we are not struggling to be victorious over our rebellion. Surely we must strive to live up to the name of the Kingdom and its King…we must wage war against the propensity to continue in rebellion (including the latent rebellion of identifying with our past more than our present). We also should be confidently humbled by the fact that He rescued us in our rebellion and, knowing our struggle, He stamped our citizenship paper with a blood-red stamp that said “CITIZENSHIP GRANTED: KINGDOM OF CHRIST.”

Go ahead and Make Up the Guest Room

Bible, study (2)“The kids are coming!” These words were spoken recently in our home in anticipation of Dillon and Jenn’s arrival for Christmas. That meant getting rid of boxes hidden just out of sight in the guest room. The closet needed to be reorganized. Clean sheets? Check. Fluffed pillows? Check. Dust, sweep…you know the drill. They were not even on the road for two more days but the expectation was certain in our minds as Jodi prepared the guest room.

What if they did not come? What if something went wrong and the Army cancelled leave? What if their truck had mechanical problems? (I know that is far-fetched since it is a Ford and not a Chevy). Sure, any of these things could happen but we had a strong sense that the visit was as good as done even though it was days away on the calendar.

Were we confident? Absolutely. That’s why Jodi prepared the room.

Now hear this nugget I saw this morning in my quiet time.

“Prepare me a lodging, for I hope that through your prayers I will be given to you.” Philemon 22.

Paul is sitting in prison and tells Philemon, “I am certain that your prayers will be heard and I will be with you soon, since you are praying for me.

What confidence on display! Confidence in Philemon and confidence in God! He knew Philemon was praying and He knew God was able.

Here are the thoughts:

  • Do others have confidence in your prayer life? Do they know you are praying simply because they asked you to?
  • Do you believe (truly believe) that God is stronger than your circumstances? Strong enough to overwhelm reason and logic and cause you to make travel plans while you’re sitting in a jail cell?

Honestly, my prayers are sometimes too tame. They are respectable. I wonder, at times, what it would be like if I prayed boldly like this more consistently.

A pastor serving in a city with a drought called his church to gather and pray for rain. The time of the meeting arrived and the people gathered into the church. And there was one boy who straggled in and sat in the back. He was the only one who brought an umbrella.

Do you carry an umbrella when you pray for rain? May it always be said that we do. Go spread the fame of God today everywhere you go.

Blessings,

Pastor Chris

3 Strikes…and I’m Out

strike-3Everyone has one. It may be your wife’s brother who knows you are not good enough for her. It may be the best friend who knew you when you did every goofy thing of questionable legality that you cannot talk about due to a statute of limitations. It may be the neighbor who always wants to remind you that his grass is greener and his truck is newer. I am speaking of the person you want to share the gospel with and he will simply not accept it. You package the gospel story in pretty paper with bows on it and he can find three reasons why it is not true. Perhaps the problem is you. Perhaps they’ve not seen enough life change yet to realize that you really have been changed. Perhaps your change reminds them of their moral ineptness and they are not ready to face it yet. What should you do? Keep sharing with humble and gentle hearts…over and over and over again. This is how God pursued you.

The Scriptures give different counsel about another type of person. This one is a professing believer. He is in your small group. He always speaks up at a business meeting. He comes up after the sermon or lesson and explains what he read on the internet that contradicts you or how Andy Stanley did it better. He attends your discipleship class and pushes back on the truth because he sees it differently. He is not trying to learn or gain understanding, but to keep you “humble.” What do you do with him?

First, a teachable spirit, the lovechild of hunger and humility, is a key characteristic of the disciple. Not everyone who SAYS he is a disciple or who attends your church has one of these teachable spirits. What do you do with this guy? Do you continue to repackage the teaching in paper and bows trying to win him over? Do you chase him down to get his blessing?

Sometimes you do. A shepherd is told to be patient and to correct wrong doctrine. But, as Paul instructs Titus, there is a time when the guy who always resists must be corrected. Titus 1:13 says when his actions bring discredit on Christ, rebuke him severely. When he is a danger to others by drawing them astray, shut him down. See, leadership requires movement and change in people. The man who is factious and refuses to move cannot be waited on indefinitely. You, as a leader, must move past him.

“Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” Titus 3:10.

“He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer or he will hate you, reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.” Proverb 9:7-9.

As one old preacher said, “Don’t jump down in the mud to wrestle a pig. Both of you will end up muddy but the pig likes it.” Sometimes you have to simply nod, turn your head, and move forward. Some will follow. Some will not. Let that be God’s business. Know what He called you to do and do it. You may be surprised what happens next.

 

the danger of “people-pleasing”…

Bible, study (2)This morning in my quiet time, I began thinking about the weight I have often given to the opinions of others. Certainly, we should care that we are correctly understood and that we accurately reflect our values in all aspects of our lives; but, I am speaking of the POWER I have ceded to others because I hoped they would “approve of” or “like” me. Like most things, taken to the extreme, this can become an unhealthy concern.

I was drawn to this text which speaks of the danger of living for the approval of others. Jesus is speaking to a crowd of thousands and one of the things that these people were consciously aware of (and driven by) was the approval of the Pharisees. Notice His statement:

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His audience desired for the religious leaders of the day to approve of them, so they ordered the steps of their lives in such a way as to accomplish that approval. Some failed in their pursuit and were overwhelmed with shame and felt guilt that stifled their pursuit of righteousness. They GAVE UP! Others kept the rules and then became pretty good at keeping the rules…and they KNEW IT!

Still others aspired to one day be as the rule-makers…when they could be looked to for their opinion.

Here is the point of Jesus’ admonition:

If you are going to climb a ladder, make sure it is leaning against the right wall.

  • So what if others approve? Will you stand before them and give an account for your life?
  • Did others give you life?
  • Can the opinion of others bring you closer to a righteous goal for your life?

I listen to politicians trying to curry favor with the media, Congress, and the darling retweeters on the planet. So what? Do you really think that any of those people would stand by your hospital bed one day?

I watch “tweens and teens” live for likes, loves, and Instagram accolades on social media…yet I have never seen one thing about twitter followers written on an epitaph.

Honestly, we never grow so old that this has no bearing. Grown men strive to get a better job and a nicer truck so others will respect them. Ever had a friend offer to wash your nice truck that he admires and you sought to impress him with? I did not think so…

Women are no better…seeking purses with certain initials and clothes with particular labels. And for what?

Truthfully- If the person you are trying to impress cannot help you become what God has called you to be, why do you let them live in your head rent free? 

I am not saying I have this all figured out. If that disappoints you…well, I am sorry. Maybe one day who I am will match up to your expectations of me…or better, perhaps one day your expectations will match who I am.

What to do with this? 

Will I be remembered for fulfilling the purpose of God in my life or for having a lot of friends?

  • If that person/groups approval did not happen, what difference would it make in one year or five years?
  • What if you were always the popular person but God judged you unfaithful with His purpose for your life? Could you live with that for eternity?

Life is a choice.

#ChooseToLiveBetter

Love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The isis “grinch” and Christmas

2015-05-09 13.19.57Today I had the opportunity to do an on camera interview with the local ABC affiliate and Mrs. Jackalyn Kovac (the reporter) who happens to call me pastor. Today (Friday 12-23-16) the FBI and DHS issued an advisory of sorts regarding threats against some Christian churches in the US during the Christmas holidays.

The presenting question is “Will you meet for worship on Christmas, and will you do anything differently?” The real question, I believe. is slightly deeper: “Should Christians avoid worship out of fear?”

Let me preface the next few remarks by stating that I am by no means being cavalier in my response here. I have a military and law enforcement background…meaning I always look in the shadows and keep my head on a swivel. So when I say that Christians should not fear…that statement feels odd in my flesh…but it is still accurate. Christians SHOULD worship together this and every Christmas!

So, how should Christians think of threats against churches in some isis memo?

  • Globally, Christians face threats like this one every day. In Nigeria and surrounding countries, Boko Haram has killed thousands of Christian and millions are displaced. Persecution and suffering for believers in the Sudan are unconscionable. In India, churches are burned, pastors arrested and beaten and their families abused over the gospel.In the first century, Jesus Himself was arrested and crucified, all the while being told by the authorities that did it…that he was not guilty of any crime.
  • None of this “danger” and persecution surprised God. It was into this hostile world that He sent His Son, who’s birth we celebrate during this special time of year.
  • Jesus offered His followers this as encouragement. He said, “A disciple is not above His teacher. It is enough that a disciple be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40) ” What was Jesus “like?” In the face of persecution and suffering, Jesus manifested the love of God toward people that were unloving toward Him.
  • Frankly, Jesus never promised Christians safety, only peace in the midst of the storms of life. He said in John 16:33 that in Him we would have peace. “In the world we would have tribulation but that we could take courage because He had overcome the world.”

Honestly, as a church, we are not foolish. We have security procedures and processes in place. Every responsible church does. We are vigilant out of an understanding of our responsibility, not as a response to fear. If fear could stop the work of God’s Kingdom, the expansion of His message, it would have done so several times over the last 2,000 years.

The story of Christmas is that God sent His Son into the world so that the world could know love and a relationship with God and peace that surpasses understanding. So, we worship. We will do so Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and to God be the glory!

Should “normal people” study theology?

Bible, study (2)A former professor of mine once said, “If churches did a better job at teaching the Bible, I’d have much less to do here at Bible College.” Now before you discount the statement as some flippant remark or a veiled complaint about working conditions, hear how he defined it.

Many churches have professionally trained ministers and leaders who pour over the Scriptures to prepare well crafted lessons ready for application in a person’s life. This is not bad; rather, it is a key element of the homiletic process…in other words, we teach pastors to do this very thing in preaching.

But, as I am suggesting in the article, there is there a need for the “people” to wrestle with the difficulties and work toward their own convictions on theological truths.

What I Am Not Saying

  • I am not advocating that every believer become an expert on Ancient Near East literature or the fine tenets of every facet of theological musing.
  • I am not advocating that every believer become an expert on the top five non-Christian world religions.
  • I am not advocating a dismissal of pastoral ministry and teaching. We have and need pastors who are well trained and able to guard the congregation from error while leading them to maturity in the faith, which necessarily includes teaching the church to think for itself on theological matters.

As an example, we are not all medically trained. When something is amiss in the body, we seek out a doctor (hopefully) who has given her life to medical studies. We SHOULD though…have a working knowledge of how the heart and lungs work and be able to recognize that a persistent cough or headache is not the body’s original design.

What I Am Advocating…and Why

To credit the man who first planted the thought in my mind, what Dr. Wilbanks was saying was that many churches failed to promote or expect the “people” to study and know the basics of core doctrine and a general framework of our faith.

Yesterday, I promoted a particular book on a specific theological truth in my message on the Incarnation. Bruce Ware’s book, The Man Christ Jesus, was a particularly helpful resource in the discussion on the Incarnation of Christ. The Incarnation itself is a “big deal” and a distinguishing doctrine in the cacophony of religious traditions. Even if the “people” are not experts in the doctrine, there is an implicit and practical need to become conversant with the main points. Why? So that you can speak of it to others, be encouraged in your faith, and recognize error when presented by others.

The example of the Bereans comes to mind from Acts 17:10-12 where we are told that the church (1) heard the teaching, (2) and examined the Scriptures daily, (3) to see if the teachings were true.

What Tools are ESSENTIAL for our Preparation? 

This is the subject of another posting, but in general, for the person setting out on the journey for the first time here are six tools:

  • Regular attendance in congregational and small-group teaching. (You cannot grow apart from exposure to truth). I cannot overemphasize this!
  • A good Study Bible. These resources typically have introductory material that helps set the stage for understanding.
  • Supplemental reading from a good Introduction to Doctrine resource like Grudem’s Introduction to Systematic Theology.
  • A survey resource on the Old and New Testament. (more on that later).
  • Some select charts and maps (a timeline of biblical history and a map of the biblical lands is very helpful for understanding.
  • A general word study resource. These are readily available online. A good resource is the Word Study Bible.

Again, more on these in another post but a couple of thoughts for reflection:

  • Are you a student of God’s Word and biblical  doctrine?
  • When is the last time you chased down a biblical truth for yourself, apart from a Sunday School lesson you were teaching?
  • Do you know more about your favorite sport or sports team, political party, or “Brad and Jen’s life” than you do God’s instructions?

If you have thoughts on the subject or particular tools you use and recommend, share them in the comments and thanks for dropping by.