Monthly Archives: March 2012
The apostle Paul was able to list his priorities on one finger, “One thing I do”. What was his one thing? Christ Jesus. It was Paul’s clarity of purpose and passion in pursuing that purpose that allowed him to fulfill all that God planned for him. This focus is not only critical for Christ-followers, but also for churches to fulfill God’s plan for them in their generation.
At VALLEY Christian Church, here’s our one thing – Jesus! That’s what we really care about. At the end of the day, we want people to meet Jesus, grow in Jesus, be like Jesus, worship Jesus, follow Jesus, obey Jesus, when they die be with Jesus, resurrect with Jesus and live forever with Jesus. That’s what we’re into. Everything else is secondary. Our mission (“Transforming our world through Christ-centered living”), is Jesus and people. If at any point we lose sight of that, we’ll have division, lose sight of our purpose and fail to fulfill God’s plan for us.
As a Christ-follower, what’s your “one thing”? If your a pastor, what’s your church’s “one thing”? How clearly do those in your church understand the priority of your “one thing” above all else? How does your church calendar, budget and ministries reflect your “one thing”?
Sometimes, as a pastor, I’m asked if the Bible has anything to say about some current cultural issues or practice. There are some practices in our society that may seem to be “gray” areas in the Bible when wondering if Christians should involve themselves with them. When it comes to the issue of Astrology (fortune telling, palm reading, consulting psychics, etc), however, the Bible makes it crystal clear that such practices are forbidden for a Christian to engage in. These practices are far from “new” in fact they’ve been around for thousands of years! Check out just a select few of the many references to such wrong practices in Scripture:
The Bible tells us how God viewed the activities of the evil King Manasseh:
2 Kings 21:6 – And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. (ESV)
The Bible warns us not to put our trust in the stars. Whatever or whoever we place our trust in, in reality, becomes what we worship (God or an idol).
Deuteronomy 4:19 – “And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. (NIV)
The Bible clearly explains God’s purpose for creating the sun, moon and stars. God’s purpose for creating these has nothing to do with predicting future personal events.
Genesis 1:16-17 – And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, (ESV)
The prophet Isaiah called out astrologers as powerless phonies unable to save anyone from any crisis or event, even themselves.
Isaiah 47:13 – “All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you. Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame. Here are no coals to warm anyone; here is no fire to sit by.” (NIV)
The Bible states in Deuteronomy that divination or consulting with enchanters or witches is an abomination to God. In the Book of Acts (Acts 16:16-18), Paul encountered a girl who had a spirit of divination in her. She was telling people’s future for money until Paul cast out the evil spirit in the name of Jesus Christ.
Although, many Christians feel that it’s acceptable to read one’s future as long as the motive is pure, the Bible clearly prohibits the act regardless if the motivation is for entertainment or real decision making purposes. Ultimately, as followers of Christ, we are to put our trust in Jesus and look to the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us. Jesus promised his followers they would receive the Holy Spirit after his ascension and the Holy Spirit would guide those who put their faith in Jesus:
John 16:13 – “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
Holy Week will soon be upon us and churches will gear up for the big crowd and look forward to setting a higher attendance record than Easter ’11. With all of the preparations, I find myself wondering if Easter really is the most important Sunday of the year.
I’m deeply challenged to present the Gospel as the heart of every message I preach and every opportunity that I have to teach, no matter what the subject is or what day of the year I’m preaching. Seriously, do I really have the right to teach or preach anything if it does not contain the Gospel at its core? I’ve concluded that I don’t! Think about the following list of words that are all great concepts found in the Scripture (The Bible) and at the heart of the Gospel:
Salvation, sanctification, righteousness, remission, sin, judgement, discipleship, sacrifice, perseverance, transformation, repentance, obedience.
Do we really believe in the power of The Gospel? Why are so many shying away from speaking of the Gospel or describing the Gospel in their preaching and teaching? As I find myself preparing for Good Friday and Easter weekend (as well as every other Sunday of the year), reminding myself of the words of Romans 1:16 has become almost like a pregame ritual:
16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about relevant teaching and preaching. The truth is, I don’t know any pastor more committed to that than me, that’s why I believe the Gospel MUST be at the core of all content I preach. Nothing is more relevant for any time, any place, any people or any culture than the Gospel; “It is the power of God for salvation”. Creativity, media, lighting, you name it, none of those things can really improve or make the Gospel any more powerful than it already is!
Pastors, let’s check our hearts and see if we really do have conviction that Romans 1:16 is what we believe. If we do believe it, then we’ll live it and preach it, not just during Holy Week, but every opportunity we have to proclaim the Good News to all those who are listening to us.
You work, you sweat, you sacrifice and then the day arrives. It all pays off and you know that despite all that you put into it, the sum is so much greater than the total of the parts. That’s what’s on my mind lately. At VALLEY Christian Church, we have a dream that God put in our hearts and we’ve been planning and preparing behind the scenes for it for months.
The dream that God has placed in our hearts is “to do all we can to change the divorce rate in our community“. Just like the community you live in, and everywhere across our country, the divorce rate in our community is about 51%. We want to do something about that. As a church, we believe, we have to do something about that! We want to put a significant dent in that number! So we’ve got big plans, months of preparation, weeks of prayer and high expectations as we set out to change marriages in our community.
All of the planning, preparing and praying will culminate over ten weeks as we launch a Sunday message series running from April 15th – June 17th. For ten weeks, what the Bible says about men, women and marriage will be central to everything going on in our church, as we engage family, friends and neighbors to lend a hand to help their marriages go from good to great. This series will also be incredibly helpful for singles as well. We’re going to discover not only practical things to look for in a future spouse, but also how to improve yourself to become that man or woman someone else is looking for.
One thing is for sure, this won’t be your average sermon series on marriage! We won’t give you five steps to happiness. We won’t talk about sex in code. We won’t talk about how you can fix your marriage. No, this is a sermon series about Jesus—and what he has to say about marriage through the Bible. This isn’t to say it won’t be practical. It will. We’ll cover important topics like friendship, the role of men and women in marriage, how to fight to the glory of God, past sin and present—and yes, sex. But the basis for all these topics will be the gospel, as it is for all of life.
So join us, as we pray that this God-sized dream that’s been given to us, and all of our planning and preparation (we’ve only got 5 more weeks to kick-off), will be met with expectations fulfilled as we stop trying to fix our marriages and start understanding how Jesus can!
“God commands you to serve. This is your 24/7/365 card-carrying-follower-of-Jesus-Christ-member-of-the-family-of-God duty. Don’t say, “We should serve. Let’s pray about it.” Don’t pray about it—just do it. Find a job. Roll up your sleeves. Do it forever!
If your kids haven’t risen up and called you blessed yet, if nobody’s figured out the kind of sacrifice that you’ve been putting into your labor, it’s not over. Don’t be impatient. And don’t quit serving, just because you don’t feel appreciated. Serving God is hard work.”
Make sure to check out the rest of James MacDonald’s comments in this clip HERE
Perhaps it’s the fact that this weekend we change our clocks to “spring ahead” for Daylight Savings Time or just the fact that things are really popping for us at VALLEY Christian Church right now; either way, I’ve been thinking a lot about timing recently. We all know that God’s timing and our timing are not at all the same, so things always work out best when we remain patient and trust God’s “proper time”. Take a look at these verses that talk about God’s “proper time”:
Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way. Ecclesiastes 8:5
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.1 Timothy 2:5-6
I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time . . . 1 Timothy 6:13-15
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
When all of these verses are put together, it reminds me that patience on my part allows for God to do some really awesome things on his part, at the proper time! So here’s to waiting for God’s best and not settling for less!