Archive for March, 2010

Mar
31

Enough

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Here’s the graphic for the new series beginning the weekend after Easter at Ashworth Road. I’m very excited about it and can’t wait to begin sharing more about it next week!
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Last week I was honored to speak at a memorial service. The room was full and many offered meaningful words and shared memorable stories. As people processed by the casket, I stood at the door and greeted people as they departed the room. One of those toward the end of the line gripped my hand and whispered, “I don’t know how you do that. That’s got to be the hardest thing anyone could ever do.” While I didn’t take time to respond to those words, I thought about them. My conclusion was that it really depends on the person. You see, I am becoming convinced that you die like you live.

Much of Jesus teaching was devoted to faith. He talked about saving faith with Nicodemus in John chapter three. Many of his conversations with the disciples centered on the subject of faith. And of course, he also talked about dying faith.

I believe that life is God’s gift to us, and its purpose is to take the gift of life and use it to know God, love God, and trust God. It is through our living that we learn day by day that God can be completely trusted. Every day is a fresh opportunity to entrust our lives into the hands of God. If we can’t learn to trust God now, how will we ever face death? Maybe we shouldn’t begrudge our adversities, seeing that they serve a greater purpose. As we learn to trust God in our relationships, finances, employment and physical health we are learning that God can be completely trusted. We die like we live. That’s how Jesus died.

Mar
30

A Word to Those Who Lack Faith

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A study released last week revealed that cancer will likely overtake heart disease as the number one cause of death in the world in 2010. The most complete statistical data on leading causes of death I could find were located at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention web site. According to the CDC, the most recent (2006) final statistics listed heart disease as the leading cause of death, followed by cancer, stroke, chronic respiratory disease, and accidents (or unintentional death).

When people ask “How do you think you will you die?,” we usually take that question to mean, “What will be the cause of your death?” Maybe we should ask a better question, that being, “How will you face death when it comes?” The seventh and final phrase Jesus said on the cross is found in Luke 23:46. For me, this is as good as an explanation I can find in the Bible to shed light on how Jesus himself faced death.

“Then Jesus shouted, ‘Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!’ And with those words, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:46, NLT)

We know the cause of Jesus’ death was crucifixion, and medical doctors have gone to great lengths to explain how crucifixion worked in the first century. These insights from the halls of medicine include detailed analysis of how pain was inflicted and how crucifixion was lethal. None of that should be minimized, for Jesus’ did suffer greatly in his physical body. But I do think that we miss a dimension of the story if we neglect to see the resilience of spirit and declaration of faith from Jesus as he faced physical death. The seventh word was and remains a source of encouragement to those who need a faith lift.

Mar
29

Easter Worship

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Be sure to worship with the people of God this weekend!

Categories : Easter, Worship
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Mar
25

How Will You Die?

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This weekend I’m beginning my talk with a very important question: How will you die?

I assume you will take that question to mean, “What will be the cause of my death?”…as in an accident, disease, or natural causes. But that’s not what I mean. What I mean is, “How will you face death when (not if) it comes?”

Jesus taught us so much about how to live life with fullness and joy. He showed us through his words and his works that we are to be people of passionate worship and uncommon love. He valued compassion and justice, truth and witness, service and devotion. All this and more were part and parcel of his daily comings and goings. Sometimes I think we focus so much on Jesus’ cause of death that we forget how he actually died.

“Then Jesus shouted, ‘Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!’ And with those words, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:46, NLT)

This weekend I’m concluding the last of the series on Words to Live by from a Dying Man. The final word is a word about faith. Jesus taught about saving faith, living faith, and dying faith. I don’t know what my cause of death will be, but I hope to be strong enough in faith to die like Jesus died.

Last weekend I spoke on Jesus’ sixth statement from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). After presenting a bit of word study, I spent the rest of the message focusing on the implications of the finished work of Christ on the cross according to the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossian church. For those who are interested, here are the seven implications from Colossians that I laid out.

1. Jesus death on the cross rescues us from danger. (Colossians 1:13-14)
2. Jesus death on the cross enables us to stand in the presence of God. (Colossians 1:22)
3. Jesus death on the cross provides explanation of our purpose. (Colossians 1:28)
4. Jesus death on the cross establishes the foundation of our belief. (Colossians 2:6-9)
5. Jesus death on the cross eliminates our guilt. (Colossians 2:13-15)
6. Jesus death on the cross frees us from religious regulations that we use to impress God and one another. (Colossians 2:16-27)
7. Jesus death on the cross defines our lives. (Colossians 3:1-4)

I want to encourage you to check out these passages from Colossians. Paul provides a wonderful explanation of the importance of the cross.

Same song, second verse.

Glenn Beck, FRC Shift Aim From ‘Social Justice’ to Jim Wallis Christianity Today A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Mar
22

Already Gone

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Already Gone: Why You Kids will Quit Church and What You Can Do About It by Ken Ham and Britt Reemer

A recent study was conducted regarding the decline of churches in Great Britain. As of 2003, a mere 2.5% of the population attended an evangelical church. Many of the houses of worship in metropolitan areas have been converted into restaurants, theaters, and pubs. What happened? Is this abandonment we are witnessing in Great Britain a foreshadowing of things to come here in the United States?

Here in America, Barna Research Group has done similar research regarding those who are in their 20’s. Their study revealed that a whopping 61% of those in their 20’s who were involved in church during their teen years are now disengaged from any congregation.

Why?

Answers in Genesis commissioned a study conducted by America’s Research Group to answer that very question. The research sample was 1,000 people between the ages of 20-29 who do not attend church. Of that group, the study discovered that 95% had been regular church attendees during their elementary and middle school years; 55% had been active during their high school years; and 11% had remained involved through college.

Of that same sample, 39.8% admitted to developing doubts about faith in middle school; 43.7% admitted to developing doubts in high school; and 10.6% admitted the same during their collegiate experience. What does that mean? According to Ham, these adults didn’t begin to doubt in college, they simply departed by college. Though they were in church on a regular basis, their hearts and minds were already in the process of checking out.

Admittedly, this is fascinating research, which begs the question, “How did it all unravel?” Ham devotes the lion’s share of the book to the following three observations. These observations are his explanation of what went wrong.

1. Sunday School is the leading source of the failure rate. In fact, according to Ham, Sunday School programs in America are doing more harm than good, actually contributing to the dropout rate. According to the research interviews, those who responded stated that Sunday School had no measureable impact on their beliefs. Sunday School was, in their experience, a place where moral values were taught and inspiring stories were shared, but to the exclusion of Bible teaching that helped equip them to answer the question, “Why?”

2. The second contributor to the failure rate was parents, who delegated spiritual teaching to the volunteers of the church. The respondents to the survey shared that faith was seldom discussed at home, and that the high majority of spiritual influence came from those who instructed them at church.

3. The final source cited was that the Bible was made irrelevant to their lives. In their church experiences, the Bible lessons were disconnected from the real world, lacking any form of integration of faith in life and leading to hypocrisy.

Pretty strong words, to say the least. But Ham doesn’t finish with his evaluation. He concludes the book by sharing two solutions for churches to implement to help reverse the trend in America.

Solution 1: Introducing teaching curricula for children and youth that is heavy in apologetics. Apologetics is basically a defense of a belief. What Ham is suggesting is that churches must move beyond the “what” of the Scripture towards the “why” of the Scripture. It is no longer enough for students to know the point of fact information of the biblical accounts. Teachers must be equipped to help students understand what the real world implications are of the Bible. In the past, we have usually waited until people reached their adult years to delve into these processes, but Ham suggests we must begin early. To his point is the stunning claim from Barna Research Group that by the age of 13, a student’s world view is completely formed and developed (for more information, read Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, by George Barna).

Solution 2: Live the Gospel. Children and teenagers need living models to provide examples as to how one animates the gospel of Jesus. Teaching Bible lessons without the practical application of how the gospel works in real time creates a sense of irrelevance, not unlike the claim of a high school math student who shrugs and says, “I don’t know why I have to learn this…I’ll never use this information again in my life.” Parents and teachers alike must provide practical applications and model those values in a discernable way.

Already Gone is a fairly quick read. I think it serves its intended purpose of providing a wake-up call to parents and church leaders who wonder why those in their 20’s no longer participate in the life of the church. I agree with Ham’s broad brush strokes, but struggle with some of the particulars he presents. For example, Ham hinges all of the doubts the departed possess on the failure of the church to regularly teach a literal seven day creation. All things hinge on this one thing. So if you can push past the soap box and the subtle marketing for Answers in Genesis, you will find this a useful resource.

Categories : Already Gone, Books
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At the conclusion of six grueling hours of suffering on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). At first glance it would appear that the Son of Man had failed to accomplish his mission. Jesus came to establish his kingdom on earth where God’s will is done as it is in heaven. But as the leader of this movement, he wound up captured, tried, convicted, and executed. Those on the outside looking in could have easily assumed that Jesus wasn’t who they thought he was. Perhaps many felt what the two on the road to Emmaus felt when they said, “We were hoping he was the one who would deliver Israel” (Luke 24:21).

But the cross must be understood as the victory of God, not the defeat of Jesus. Jesus declaration, “It is finished,” was a pronouncement of victory, not an admission of failure. After all, he didn’t say, “I am finished.” The word “finished” is tetelestai, a word that comes from accounting that means “paid in full.”

What looked like failure was in reality victory. The cross was not a defeat reversed by the resurrection. The cross was the victory of God revealed by the resurrection!

Mar
18

A Word to those Who are Empty

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Have you ever been thirsty? When I was in high school I spent many a summer day working for farmers in the hay fields putting up hay. My fellow workers and I would trudge up and down the pastures with our hay hooks, throwing as many bales of hay as possible onto the wagon. When the wagon was finally loaded we’d climb on top and ride to the barn. After all of the hay was unloaded and stacked in the hay loft, we’d pause for a drink before heading back to the pasture to repeat the process. I remember drinking long and deep from those plastic milk jugs, listening to the farmer’s warning to not over do it. The promise of water somehow made the journey bearable.

At the conclusion of the longest six hours any person has ever endured, Jesus said, “I thirst.” Christ has been on the cross nearly 6 hours. The work has been completed. The end is near. Jesus had, in every possible way, given everything he had to give. He is exhausted and physically depleted. One can only imagine the sense of thirst. As he exclaims that he’s thirsty, a solder takes a hysso, a javelin, and extends a sponge filled with “sour wine.” Sour wine was a Roman forerunner to our modern day Gatorade. It’s not to be confused with the drink offered in Mark 15:23, a wine drugged with myrrh, which was sometimes offered to those crucified. Jesus refused that drink, opting to experience the depths of suffering to its fullest.

Jesus was parched. Famished. Empty.

As I thought about Jesus total and complete gift, I thought of another Bible character that extended himself in ministry to the point of emptiness and depletion: Elijah.

Elijah, who was Israel’s most celebrated prophet, reached a point during his career that left him totally exhausted. You can read his story in the Old Testament beginning in 1 Kings 17:1. After his famous “Mt. Carmel Showdown,” (1 Kings 18:1-46) Elijah experienced the “Mt. Carmel Meltdown” (1 Kings 19:1-4). Racked with fear and paranoia, he runs and hides from the threats of Queen Jezebel.

What does God prescribe when we are empty? What does God provide when we’ve given until there’s no more left to give? What do we do when we teeter on the brink of burnout?

1. God prescribed rest and food (1 Kings 19:5-8)
2. He led Elijah back to his spiritual roots (1 Kings 19:8b)
3. God allowed Elijah to express his feelings. (1 Kings 19:9-10)
4. God revealed himself to Elijah in a new way (1 Kings 19:11-13)
5. God told Elijah to get back to work. (1 Kings 19:15-18)
6. God provided a partner to minister to Elijah. (1 Kings 19:19-21)

Why do we run ourselves to the point of exhaustion? Perhaps we need to refocus on Jesus words in Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (NLT).

Sometimes we’re exhausted because we carry the right things. But more often than not, we’re exhausted because we carry the right things the wrong way. Or we carry too many things. Sometimes we pick up things to carry that are not for us to carry. Or we try to carry them alone. Before you pick up that next burden, pray and ask God if its yours to carry. If it is, ask God to help you, and look for a partner to handle the other end of the load.