Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

5-27-07-- Evangelistic Message and a Phone Book

This week at UBC the message was a little different. First, I was assisted by our Student Minister, Patrick—though in the future, I would encourage recruiting others to participate as well.

It started with a disclaimer on our projection screen—All names and streets are real. All descriptions are hypothetical and are not representative of the person’s character, motives, or church attendance.

After that was shown, the screen showed

Romans 10:14-15—“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"”

From there, I walked in with a phone book and turned to the A’s. I had chosen names and streets already and typed them on a small piece of paper. I then began the message by sitting down in an open spot and saying to someone nearby,

“Hi, my name is Don Allison and I live on E 1300th St. I would have been here today, but I didn’t know what time services started—can you tell me?”

I then taped that card onto the pew in that spot.

Across the room, my accomplice sat down next to someone and said, “Hi my name is Kevin Bussey (or something like that ;-)), I live on E. Jackson and this was going to be my seat today but have you seen the weather outside? It’s beautiful golfing weather. Church isn’t better than golfing is it?”

We then proceeded through the alphabet.

I split the message into 3 sections with songs highlighting our evangelism mandates in between each section.

The next section showed 2 Corinthians 5:19b-20—“And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

The third section started with showing Matthew 28:18-20—“Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

I sat down read the verse in character then introduced myself, my street and asked something along the lines of—that sounds important, like something we should be doing. Can you tell me what it means?”

From A to Z—26 names and cards were put into the empty pews.

I then asked if anyone had recognized any names or if they lived on those streets. Several raised their hands. I asked them to come forward and take a look at the congregation imagining there were people in all those spots. How much fuller would we be? How much stronger could our singing be? How many gifts could be serving the body of Christ?

I then read and expanded on Matthew 9:35-38--Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

An invitation was given, to come and pray for these people if anyone knew them. And to cry out to God for our community and how we can be used of God to reach them with the Gospel of Christ. A time of prayer ensued.

Our invitation was also a reminder of God’s Call—hymn 486 in the Baptist Hymnal “Lord, Here Am I”

It was a fun service as several people played along and bantered back with all the excuses given as to why “I wasn’t in church that morning.”

That’s why I asked the question the other day. Here’s some of the ones I used, though I changed some during the service because they were so similar to Patrick’s own list.

1. I would have been here today, but I didn’t know what time services started—can you tell me?
2. I would have been in this seat, but last time I tried to find the church, I missed it. I ended up going home—where is your church anyway?
3. I would have been in this seat, but the only church I’ve ever been to was so boring it put me to sleep—it’s not boring is it?
4. I would have been in this seat, but it’s such a beautiful day, how could you expect me to stay inside? Is God really better than golfing?
5. I would have been in this seat, but I’m uncomfortable going when I’m not sure if I’ll know anyone—will I still be welcome?
6. I would have been in this seat, but I don’t think I have nice enough clothes to wear—what do you wear anyway?
7. I would have been in this seat, but I need someone to give me a ride
8. I would have been in this seat, but I’m at work getting ready for you and the church crowd to come eat—is there any other time?
9. I would have been here with you today, but no one has ever told me why church is so important—do I really get anything out of being there?
10. I would have been here with you today, but I went forward at church when I was a kid, so I’ve got that covered—I’m OK right?
11. I would have been here with you today, but I didn’t know if you had anything for my kids—do you?
12. I would have been here with you today, but the last church I went to was mean and judgmental—I didn’t know if yours would be any different—is it?
13. I would have been here with you today, but I’ve never heard a good reason to believe in God, Jesus or the Bible—do you have one?

Any other suggested excuses?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sermon 5/20/07-- Faith's Call to the Spiritual Battle-- 1 Peter 5:6-11

Faith’s Call to the Spiritual Battle

One of the more disturbing movies I remember growing up was the 1960 version of The Time Machine—where the peaceful, fruit munching Eloi were harvested by the underground Morlocks for food. The one group—the Eloi—were willing to put up with the occasional raids and kidnapping of their fellows because they had no other concerns—their food was provided, their survival ensured.

How could someone live so content, that they did nothing to protect themselves from a dangerous hunter? If you knew that a pride of lions was hanging around outside for church to be out, would you do anything different? If you knew that you there was a good chance for you to be taken down between the door and your car, would you try to change your odds or would you be content with the thought that hopefully, they’ll just get someone else.

We are more like the Eloi than we realize. We casually go about our daily lives as if there is not threat to our lives or our souls. But there is one, and our enemy is one that those of us in this room rarely see face to face—he is so well camouflaged and hidden that we could walk right by it and never see it.

Know Your Enemy—1 Peter 5:8

The Nature of Our Enemy

Ø Enemy—you adversary in a lawsuit—the one that wants to find you guilty, the one who wants to see you punished, the one that takes joy in your defeat.

Ø Lion—not something tame, not something harmless, but something that is dangerous and menacing.

Ø Prowling—searching & hunting—not a passive, lie in wait and hope you foolishly stumble into it’s mouth—but one that ambushes, one that seeks out it’s prey, one that is hunting with the intent to kill—stalking, observing, finding weaknesses and weaker targets.

Leaders, many times you are given special attention—your weaknesses are examined so that this adversary can exploit them and accuse you. And what’s worse—this is not an ethical enemy that targets only combatants. There is no distinction in Satan’s mind—to get to you, he will target those closest to you that will have weaknesses of their own.

There is only one letter difference between the words “Pray” and “Prey”—they phonetically sound the same, but they have remarkably different meanings. However, in this context, they are linked by the fact that if you are one who does not Pray, you will easily become Prey.

Ø Roaring—when a lion is trying to make a show of himself, he makes a lot of noise—there are times when Satan likes to draw attention to himself—when he’s trying to impress some gullible person to follow him. Similarly, lions likes to scare and unnerve from a distance. A roaring lion is announcing ownership—this is my territory. I’m not sure it is still believed to be such among lions, but the belief used to be that the roaring was also a way of gathering the troops for a hunting party. At these moments, announcing ownership—scaring off rivals, making others nervous and gathering the pride for a hunt—noise is good—but during the hunt itself, there is very little noise—you very rarely hear a hungry lion announce her presence when she’s just about to pounce on you.

Ø Devouring—desiring to steal, kill and destroy—there is nothing for those who turn away from God. Satan has nothing to get from you than to nourish his own appetites—he will never share any perks with those who follow him. there is no truth to the phrase “Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven”?

Ø It is said by Satan in Milton’s classic “Paradise Lost” but I’ve heard people parrot that statement as if it would apply to them.

Ø If you accept the premise that Satan is in charge of Hell—which he is not, God is—He’s the one who Created it for Satan and His angels, and He’s the one who will put Satan there—but if you believe that Satan is in charge, then you must realize that Satan will never share his toys with the likes of you, because you are the toys.

Notice who’s not on this list. Not people, not places that your enemy is, not listed as the world, as unbelievers, criminals, your neighbors, your parents, your siblings, the police, the government—all of these may at times act and behave like your enemy, but ultimately your enemy is Satan. He despises you and the God you serve.

Facing Your Enemy—5:6, 9

Remember this is coming on the heels of talking about and to leaders. As shepherds and leaders, we must remember that our sheep have many enemies and predators. It is part of our role to protect and recognize those threats.

Ø Humility—under God’s Hand—

o place yourself under His protection and leadership—

o accept Him as your commanding officer—the one who will lead you into battle—

o one definition implies that you should--to assign a lower rank or place to yourself—

o place yourself under God’s command and He will lift you up—he will promote you in due time.

Ø Casting Anxieties--to separate into parts, cut into pieces--to divide into parties, i.e. be split into factions—Casting means to deliberately throw something at your object, your target—you are throwing it and you don’t want it back. This is not a game of catch—you throw and you expect God to keep them—but not just keep them, but do something about them.

Ø Self-Controlled & Alert—just as Satan is active, we are not to be inactive and passive, just letting our enemy control the battle—we are to be self-controlled(disciplined)& Alert.

o Guard on Guard Duty—is not allowed to fall asleep at their post.

o Alertness & Awareness--to take heed lest through remission and indolence some destructive calamity suddenly overtake one—to awaken from sleep

Victory over the Enemy—6b,

Resistance—James tells us that we must resist the devil and he will flee

Standing Firm--to set one's self against, to withstand, resist, oppose—firm--strong, firm, immovable, solid, hard, rigid

Not Alone

God will restore, God will make strong firm and steadfast.

Luke 10:17-20

Ephesians 6:10—18—God supplies the Armor

God Supplies the Spirit

God Supplies the Wounds

You may have an enemy looking to devour you, but you have a Savior looking to defend you.

You may have a lion chasing after you, but you have the Lion of Judah to rescue you

You may have all kinds of fiery arrows shot in your direction, but you have a Defender who provides all the armor you need.

WE have the Victory of the enemy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Common Excuses for NOT Going to Church?

I need your experience and creativity here.

What are the reasons you know or have heard for people not attending church?

There are many reasons why people may not be joining us to worship on Sunday mornings--what are some possibilities?

What is your reason?

Common Excuses appeared in this sermon.

Pursuing Him,


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lifeway Research--Alcohol & Tongues

I just received a phone call from Lifeway Research and decided to participate. I'm glad I did, but I'm sure I confused the pollster a bit.

The two major topics he asked about were Tongues/Private Prayer Language and Alcohol.

With all the debate about these issues the last year or so in the SBC, I was glad to finally be able to contribute a bit of an opinion. Of course, I may now be forever labeled as one of those "young pastors". --Sigh--

It's a sad fact, but I have to start with a disclaimer as many others feel the need to do when talking about these issues in order to avoid being automatically lumped into the heretic or liberal camp.

I don't drink alcohol. Neither do I speak in tongues, nor do I forsee allowing it to occur in a corporate worship setting at my church. There, that out of the way...

Again, I don't drink alcohol and have not since college (and even then never to drunkenness now driving). This is part of the commitment I made for going into the ministry. When I talk to people about alcohol, I stress that abstaining is the best model for a Christian to follow. However, in order to be faithful to the biblical witness, I tell them (when invariably they ask) that no where does the Bible condemn alcohol itself as a sin. It condemns drunkenness. Now, you can't get drunk if you never take a drink--but you can also not be sinning if you don't get drunk.

Alcohol is a substance which can have devastating and destructive effects on people's lives and their families. Alcohol can destroy your witness especially in our culture which sees drinking primarily as a means to get drunk. Alcohol can hurt a weaker brother who is struggling with patterns of sin and addictions. There are many reasons to abstain from alcohol. And yet, we are told to "not let anyone judge you for what you eat or drink."--Colossians 2:16. Alcohol abstention is not the defining mark of a "true believer" and all others are spiritual failures. My walk with Christ is not defined by that issue (though it may be for some) nor is it an absolute rule that must dictate the conscience of every believer.

Alcohol is a Matter of Conviction and should never be a Matter of Mandate--all must obey this rule. Then it becomes a law, which becomes a burden, which actually increases sin in the life of the believer. It becomes legalistic which is just as great a sin as over-indulgence.

To me, it relates to the old axiom about helping people and fish. Give a man a fish and he’ll be fed for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

You could easily turn the axiom into a similar statement for the believer.

Teach a Christian to live by a Rule and he'll walk the Way for a day and stay an immature believer.

Teach a Christian to live by Faith and he'll walk the Way for a Lifetime and become a mature disciple

That whole line of “everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial” rings true. I have the freedom to drink alcohol, but that doesn’t mean that I should. But just because I don’t, doesn’t make me better before Christ. What makes me in good standing before God is the Blood of Christ and nothing else.

I see Jesus turning water into wine and see troubles for a "total-abstinence for all people, all the time position". It compromises Jesus' sinlessness. If alcohol was a sin in itself, then Jesus was making sin and contributing to sin in others. If it wasn't really alcohol (a great stretch) then He's walking a fine line and giving the impression of compromise. Both bother me. The closest many Baptists have ever come to dancing are the various steps they are willing to take in order to explain away the clear meaning of "wine". In my mind, this passage (John 2) is forever the Baptist 2-Step or Baptist Tango. But if wine is not a sin in itself, only the sin of the one getting drunk, then Jesus is not compromised either way.

Abstinence from Alcohol, it is my conviction, is the best policy for a believer to take in the American culture. It is a position that most Southern Baptists have held to. However, I believe it resulted more from being swept away in the Prohibitionist movement than in actual biblical evidence. Now that we are several generations away from the Prohibitionist fervor, we are once again, looking to Scripture to define our positions and not popular movements. Abstinence is still the best policy, however, I refuse to judge my brothers and sisters in Christ who do drink alcohol appropriately; neither will I break fellowship with them or deem them unfit for service in the Kingdom of God.

As for tongues--I do not believe that gift was limited to the apostolic time or to the completion of the New Testament (such an argument would imply that only Apostles or NT writers would have had the gift at all--which is not the case). With that said, I believe the majority of tongues expressions in today's churches are bogus and certainly not in line with the restrictions Paul gives in 1 Corinthians. Can it happen, yes--does it happen to this extent, no--and the church is not following it's own guidelines in Scripture. It is a gift that is often misunderstood, misused and abused--just like any other gift or issue--just like sex, food, or alcohol.

Tongues is not the sign for salvation—i.e. if you don’t have tongues, you’re not really saved. It is not a sign that you are a more mature or better Christian. It has always baffled me that someone could have the gift of tongues, but not exhibit any of the Fruit of the Spirit otherwise—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I believe such gifts are dispersed among the Body of Christ for the strengthening and edification of the individual and us all—implying that most of us will not have the gift as we all don’t have the gift of preaching or teaching or serving.

I believe some missionaries today have experienced the gift when language is the only barrier to receiving the Gospel. I believe someone can privately speak in tongues without it defining their corporate worship expectations, nor compromise their solid doctrine, nor exclude them from missions service.

I trust that most of the expressions of tongues in today’s church which are disingenuous or out of biblical order will be dealt with by God Himself.

Just like with the issue of alcohol, I am unwilling to take a matter of conviction—e.g. a cessasionist position—and make it a matter of mandate that everyone must adhere to. Those leading such efforts to enforce such a conviction on a 3rd Tier/minor doctrinal issue are overstepping/overstating the biblical witness and will be held to a higher standard—not everyone should presume to be teachers—if you do presume to be, then how you teach, not just what you teach will be the standard.

A cessationist position is well within the orthodox Christian belief, but it is not the only orthodox Christian belief, nor is it the only position within SBC life. Being a cessationist doesn’t make you more a Southern Baptist than a non-cessationist.

I would liken this type of mandate on alcohol or tongues to be like trying to enforce a Southern Baptist doctrinal position on End Times. If you are not a Dispensationalist and don’t ascribe to the Left Behind model, then you aren’t a real Southern Baptist, nor are you eligible to be a missionary. However, I have seen some evidence, talking to some pastors and others, that this position is held under the table—after all if you don’t believe dispensationalism, you must not really believe the Bible—therefore, you are not qualified to minister for us.

I don’t appreciate this top-down enforcement of doctrinal issues. I hope this all makes sense, I’m typing fast because it’s time to go home for lunch and see my wife and kids (who love me despite my grammatical and spelling mistakes).

Thank you, Lifeway Research for making your call this morning.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

P.S.--Sorry, due to meaningless and questionable comments, I've had to turn comment moderation on.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Caution vs. Mercy

There are some parts of dealing with people that are difficult. Sometimes you hear bad things about someone that you’re not sure whether it’s true or not and it causes you to pause and doubt—your friendship, their reliability & trustworthiness, their word. This is especially true when someone has a past, that perhaps in Christ they have sought forgiveness for. How do we respond? How should the Church respond? What if there is money/stewardship involved?

They could be guilty; it could be a misunderstanding or other circumstances. How do you know for sure? What do you do, especially if you don’t know for sure?

Option 1—Err on the side of Caution—assume the concerns are true, that you should doubt until proven otherwise. One of the motivators for this option is that you don’t want to be had—that you don’t want to contribute to someone getting away with something, especially at your expense.

Option 2—Err on the side of Mercy—this gives the person the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. You put yourself at risk of being had and let down… and you accept that as a possibility.

Compare it to Pascal’s Wager—

Under Option 1—if you’re right and they are guilty, then you have protected yourself while seeing to it they are held accountable. The only real loss is for the one in the wrong. You even feel good about yourself because you haven’t fallen for it.

If, however, you are wrong and they are not guilty—you have protected yourself but probably lost a friend or a relationship. The loss is for all involved—and you appear unforgiving and judgmental.

Under Option 2—if you’re wrong and they are guilty, then whatever aid, encouragement, support you have given has proven untrustworthy and you’ve been let down. You may even look bad for supporting them—guilt by association. There is loss by both but of a different kind—you look like a sap for trusting them again. You take the loss and hope they will be held accountable.

If you’re right and they are not guilty, then whatever aid, encouragement, support you have given will be greatly appreciated. You have ministered to someone in their time of need and false accusation and they will probably never forget you for it. A relationship is strengthened through adversity.

Children tend to be Option 2 until they grow up and learn otherwise. I believe Option 1 is our more natural adult tendency. Should it be for believers? How are we to be wise as serpents yet gentle as doves?

How does Christ change us? How should we as Christians respond? How should the Church respond? When money gets involved… what do we do?


I tend to lean more to Option 2—I’d rather risk looking like a sap and take the loss. I believe they will be accountable. I lean this way especially when I consider how much I’ve made God look like a sap for wanting anything to do with me.

What are your thoughts? Which option do you trend to?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sermon--Faith's Call of Leadership--1 Peter 5:1-5

Faith’s Call of Leadership—1 Peter 5:1-5

This was a difficult passage to develop into a sermon as it was speaking to “elders” which is primarily understood to be pastors. However, there were several principles of leadership & motivation that were spoken of in the passage that are helpful for our churches.

Leadership is a vital part of the success or growth of any organization be it a nation, a business.

Can you imagine England surviving WWII without the leadership of Churchill? Or America surviving without the leadership of Washington during the Revolution or Lincoln during the Civil War. Great Leadership often manifests itself during times of great turmoil or conflict.

It’s even necessary in the church. The Kingdom of Light is setting up battle fronts in the Kingdom of Darkness. Each outpost must be manned and prepared for an enemy that is ruthless and cruel and wants nothing more than to “Steal, Kill and Destroy” Leadership within the Church is Vital—that’s why Paul spent so much time identifying and setting up leadership for the churches he established and visited.

In many ways, this was a section of 1 Peter directed to me. The elder of a congregation or Presbyter, as an office we typically understand as a pastor. However, since the word is plural, it also means that it was written either with several pastors in mind, either multiple congregations reading the letter or each congregation that will have several who hold places of leadership within the fellowship.

READ 5:1-5

Elders—Pastor—I am an elder or leader not by age, but by calling—we both felt God’s leadership

Pastor to Students, Deacons, Trustees, Council Members

A Call of Maturity

A Call of Responsibility

A Call of Privilege

A Call of Example

1. Elder

Witness of Christ’s Sufferings—Peter was an eyewitness in the literal sense. But we have not been an eyewitness, but it must still apply to us. We must have witnessed and called upon and depended upon Christ’s suffering in our own lives. You and I must have seen Christ suffering in our heart and spirit and applied its power to our lives—as a result of doing this, we share in the glory to be revealed.

IOW, we must be saved. Leadership in the church must have a genuine, authentic, sincere faith that has had time to grow and mature. Leadership is a Call of Maturity.

Maturity—is not perfectly dependent on age—but it often is related to it. Maturity as a Christian has to do with understanding the faith, with wisdom, with humility, not insisting that you’re always right, willingness to forgive and not strike back at someone who has offended or hurt.

Scripture teaches more about the Qualifications for someone serving as a leader than it does explaining what that leader is supposed to do.

Titus 1:6-9—Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he “must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

1TI 5:17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching

James—says there is a ministry of prayer for an elder as well. “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

2. Beware of Wrong Motives for Church Leaders

Greedy for Money—Gain, Compensations, Gifts, Benefits or Perks

In this you are banking or taking advantage of the generosity of others.

Money is a powerful motivator and can ruin lives and ministries.

Lording It Over—controlling, power hungry, manipulative, superiority complex

If you enjoy being the boss and telling other people what to do. If you had to take orders for a long time and struggled through it, now it’s your turn to make someone else squirm. Don’t get involved in ministry or service to others in the church just to boost your own ego

Don’t let me come across as power hungry—

3. Be Shepherds—gentle and firm Guides

This title is personal for Peter, for it is the language that Jesus used while reinstating Peter to the ministry of the Kingdom after Peter’s denials. “Do you love Me?... Feed my Sheep” In other words be their shepherd. It is a Call of Responsibility

Its meaning embraces on who:
Feeds—when they are hungry—you see to it that they have their need met—spiritually speaking, you have a responsibility to help nourish their spiritual hunger.
Guides (sheep and keeps them from going astray or necessarily their own way
Guards (against wolves—THOSE people, those teachings that are dangerous to the sheep)
Heals (the wounds of injured)
Protecting, leading, guiding, feeding.

As a leader in our church, in some way, God has given you a Call of Responsibility for which you must show care—concern, devotion and responsibility.

We are to organize around each other—so we may encourage one another, so we may help one another, so we may give us a sense of family when all other family has abandoned us.

If you are a part of University Baptist Church, then you need to look at who your leaders are—you need to look for those you can go to in time of need.

Flip Side—if you are not an elder—and even if you are, b/c you need people to minister to you.

Then God has placed you under someone’s spiritual care and responsibility. Live in that—do not resent it or spurn it. Do not take advantage of it either.

4. There is a Call of Privilege Must vs. Willingness—--Quote from “Disappointment With God”—We who live now are not disadvantaged, but wonderfully Privileged, for God has chosen to rely primarily on us to carry out His will on earth.”

We are privileged. Embrace this calling—take joy and satisfaction at seeing those you care for are growing, are involved and have their family and spiritual needs met. This doesn’t mean that you enjoy everything you do—but your attitude going in will many times shape the outcome and the blessing you receive.

Flip Side—be willing to live under their care— vs. 5—Young men—submissive to those who are older—show respect—hear their wisdom—be willing to bring your concerns, questions and needs—willingness is key for you to get the most out of your elders. They are there for your benefit and support. They can be a great asset to you, your family, your future, your walk with Christ—They can be a mentor for you.

When you have questions, needs, concerns—don’t do it all by yourself. Willingness isn’t about gritting your teeth, either when it comes to living under the guidance and leadership of the elders. Too many times, you hear talk about the Problematic Sheep than the Helpful Sheep.

Don’t be the sheep that is constantly wandering off—constantly lagging behind or dragging your feet or the one that needs the most prodding. Then you become a burden when you should be a source of joy and strength.

Peter also told “all of you” to Clothe yourselves with Humility—Peter knew what this looked like. The tendency of Leadership is to see people as serving you, but Peter remembered just the opposite and he saw it in Jesus. Upper room experience—seeing Jesus strip down to just a towel and wash feet. Leadership and maturity in the faith is not about

A Call of Example--Set an example in Service & Humility

Leaders—lead by setting an example—others see your actions, hear your voices, notice how you live and behave

Leaders--Don’t expect anyone else to grow if you are not growing. Don’t expect anyone else to attend our activities or services if you are not willing to attend. Don’t expect commitment, don’t expect time, don’t expect giving, if you are not willing to do those things.

Think of Attendance--In many ways, the health of a church’s attendance is not measured by Sunday Morning numbers or even whether giving makes the budget or not. Rather, a truer measure of a growing and mature church is the attendance on those other days when there isn’t such a perceived obligation.

Sunday Nights or on Wednesday Nights—when prayer is a greater emphasis—when growth in the word is done.

That health starts by a good example—from the Top-Down. If attendance and growth is not important to the leaders, why would anyone else need to be there?

What are other signs of living by examples?

True Leadership and willingness begins and ends in Trust. It’s not that your leaders are perfect—it’s not that I will ever be perfect or the best at everything—but do you trust—is relationship established enough that I won’t take advantage of you—I won’t look down on you

5. Remember that You Too are Under A Shepherd—vs. 4

He is the Good Shepherd—He willingly lays down His life for His sheep.

He will hold accountable—parable of talents or cities in Matthew 25 or Luke 19

He Greatly desires to Bless—blessing for faithful leadership—i.e. reward

Thursday, May 03, 2007

National Day of Prayer--Crying out to God

Today is the National Day of Prayer. I will be participating in events at the courthouse today at 12 PM. I hope that our hearts will truly be turned to God for a nation that truly needs His intervention on many levels. Is the turnout today in any way reflective of our spiritual hunger and urgency? It may be.

Why aren’t we crying out to God more?

Why is it that we only seem to cry out to the LORD in times of trouble? Why are we so hard hearted that we are unwilling to Call on His Name without some kind of kick in the pants? Here's a case in point.

Exodus 3:7-8a--"The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey--"

There is great news in the passage--

  • God Sees
  • God Hears our Cries
  • God is Concerned
  • God Will Come Down to Rescue
  • God Will Bring Us Up & Out

But don't you think that God would be willing to see our situations, hear our cries, be concerned for our lives, come down to us, and bring us to a better place without all of the calamity and suffering?

I think He would much rather have us do all that without the struggle and suffering involved. In many ways, He waits for us to cry out to Him. In the good times, we don't, myself especially included. When we're comfortable, we don't pray with as much energy, as much passion, as much desperation, as much time, as much heart-felt conviction and dependence. He longs to gather us in under His wings, but we are not willing unless there is a hawk flying over, about to strike.

It's like he's waiting for the phone to ring, but we treat His number more like 911. No one calls 911 unless there’s an emergency. I hope and pray we will have the desire, the hunger, the urgency to call upon Him—for His sake—because He alone is worth it—and not because we must be prodded into the action.

What kind of prods has God used in your life? What kinds of prods has He used in getting America to cry out to Him?

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sermon Extras

The sermon below details persecution and suffering for the name of Christ. One element I did not mention in it all is our employment. Sometimes we're too afraid of losing our jobs than to do what is right in Christ's eyes. As you read below, keep that in mind.

But also, have you ever struggled with the choice of your faith impacting your employment? If so, how?


Sermon 4-29-07--Faith's Call to Endure Persecution for the Right Reasons

Being a Christian in American History usually meant--(until recently)

· Fine upstanding citizen

· Difficult get elected without claiming faith in God

· Good morals

· Strong family values

· Respectable

· Mainstream or Normative faith

· Good relationship with God—God pleased with

· Government gives tax exempt status and sees the benefit of churches on community

It wasn’t always this way…

Being a Christian in Early Church History

Abnormal faith

· Bad citizen to the Empire—
refusing to sacrifice to the Emperor

· Bad morals—
potential cannibals (misunderstanding of the Lord’s Supper)

· Against the family—
as wives became believers without husband’s “approval”
as outcast from family for choosing Christ over them

· Bad relationship with the gods—
refusing to worship them, only one God—danger of angering them and bringing their wrath down on everyone else.

· Not respected—
many came from the lower classes, the slaves, the military

· Government mistrusted and arrested and accused believers --
put in jail, tortured, beaten, open persecution, fire of Rome, Coliseum,

It was much more embarrassing to be a Christian in those days. So much so that Peter felt the need to address it.

1 Peter 4:12-19

No Surprise at Trials—12

1 Peter 1—Peter is writing to those who have been scattered—

· scattered either in the vents surrounding the day of Pentecost, or

· Acts 8—where many were driven out of Jerusalem by persecution initially led by Paul or

· believed to be scattered by official condemnation by Roman government. All Christians and Jews were forced to leave Rome under Caligula in —later Nero blamed for setting fire to Rome.

Many believers, including the leadership were accustomed to trials and persecutions. They knew what if felt like to uproot their family and flee—they knew what it felt like to bear the stigma of fighting the law and the law losing. “I Fought the Law and the Law Won” could have been an early church song.

No Surprise—

Jesus Himself said—John 16:33--“In this world you will have trouble.”

You Were Chosen by God—1 Peter 2:9

Rejected by Men—2:4

Jesus was rejected--4:13--—so will you be --John 15:18-- "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”

Rejoice that you are being persecuted and suffering for the same reasons that Jesus suffered. Your service, your love for one another, whatever gift you have been given—as we talked about last week—when done and lived with authenticity, you will bring difficulty and hardship down..

Christ received greater glory through Suffering—Hebrews 2:10—“In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, would make the Author of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

The captain of our salvation

Resurrection greater than any miracle

Qualified Him to enter the Most Holy Place

Blessing for Suffering as He suffered—vs. 14

It may feel like you should be ashamed, it may feel like you are being punished but the reverse is actually true—you are blessed—it is not darkness but light you are feeling—Instead the Spirit of Glory rests on you.

Can you imagine that? The amazing, blazing, awe-inspiring Glory of God is a part of your suffering when you do on behalf of or in response to your faith in Christ. Even when you are merely insulted

Why Trials & Persecutions & Insults

The world does not understand our faith

The World is Given Over according to Romans 1 and they live in spiritual darkness

Their Minds are Blinded

They Don’t Like being Reminded

Satan is our enemy

Glory can come from Suffering and Persecution. But Peter gives a word of warning

No Glory for Just Suffering—vs. 15—

Trials and persecution can come to our lives because we no longer belong to this world, because of who we are as believers. But that fact is not the only way trials and suffering can come.

It is possible to suffer trials and persecution with reason. Peter had already introduced the concept in ch. 2:20—“how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?” For that culture, a beating was justice being served for disobedience.

We should not suffer justly because that will be further justification for persecution and because it’s not just our name we are tearing down, it is the name of Christ. We carry & Embody His name with us wherever we go.

Peter mentions Murder, Stealing, any other type of Criminal. The first three mentioned are somewhat obvious—deliberate, premeditated breaking of the law—bringing the standards and punishment arm of the society down upon you.

But then Peter also lists that we should not endure suffering as a Meddler—What is a Meddler? Someone who sticks their nose into other people’s business, who tries to twist or manipulate things for their benefit.

Why would Peter mention meddling?

I’ve always thought it strange. Is Meddling illegal? NO, so again, why mention it?

I believe he’s talking about more than just Meddling – I believe he’s referring to those things that may not be against the law, but they’re still wrong for you or other Christians to be known for. There are many things that are not illegal, but can seriously malign the name of Christ and look very bad in society’s eyes. Things do not have to be illegal to be wrong. No one else may get hurt, but it can still be wrong. Even if no one gets hurt, even if you don’t get caught.

For example, Is internet pornography illegal—sadly no—but it is still wrong for you. Is gambling or the lottery illegal—sadly no—but you should not be identified with them.

What if Drugs, Prostitution or Polygamy become legalized—does that mean it’s then OK for you to go out and do them too?


This verse does not mean that if you have done something wrong, against the law or been in jail or anything else then you are now worthless in the Kingdom of God. God is about Forgiveness, He is about Restoration, He is about Hope—He takes the broken things, the discarded things, the useless things, the unwanted & rejected things and He uses them for His glory.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11—“ Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

They were those things but are them no longer. As a believer, you are not living just for yourself any more. Suffering becomes blessing only through faithfulness—only if it comes as a result of Standing for Christ.

If you are unfaithful, you will not receive the great blessing that awaits you

READ vs. 16—

There is no shame in suffering for the right reasons.

If or when you suffer for being a Christian, there is great blessing—many of Peter’s readers had been accused, scattered—forced to leave or move somewhere else, arrested, beaten because they claimed the name of Christ. Peter himself was one of those.

There are things that Society may one day deem illegal and immoral. In some countries, it is illegal to own a copy of the Bible. In some countries it is illegal for Christians to be meeting like we are meeting. In some countries it is illegal to evangelize and tell people about Christ. In some countries it is illegal to convert from one faith to another. In some countries it is illegal to identify another religion as false or call certain behaviors sin.

And if our own society one day deems that those behaviors are illegal—know that you have the opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ—know that the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

1st Amendment Freedom of Association—Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

If you've ever wondered why all of these subjects were listed together under the first amendment, it's because each them have to do with Establishment and Free Exercise. Ever thing listed after the ; are examples of how governments tried to limit religious expressions.

Speech (preaching) unapproved doctrines,

Press--distributing leaflets and flyers or tracts explaining beliefs or promoting a meeting,

peaceably assemble--like a church gathering without state sanction

Petition--something many believers and congregations were denied

How comfortable would you be going to a church where you know the pastor, assoc. pastor & several other leaders have all served time in jail? Would you hesitate?

That could have described the Church at Jerusalem with Peter and the other apostles—or the church at Ephesus while Paul was there.

Be Strong in the Lord and be willing to endure the accusations. Be willing to associate with those who endure such accusations as Paul mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:8—“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel”

Praise God that you bear that name.

Vs. 17

But Peter is telling them that the only One who’s opinion of you that matters is God’s—not your family’s, not society’s, not pop culture, not friends. Only God’s opinion truly matters. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but if you are torn between the two, realize there’s no real contest.