Monday, August 29, 2016

Go to God with Grunts not Growls

Good morning!

I can't think of many memories that make me happier than seeing my 1 year old daughter reaching up to me begging me to pick her up. 

I loved coming home after work and rounding the corner from the kitchen to the living room and pausing. I would stand there with a smile just waiting for her to notice. Then Meredith says something sweet, like, "Piper... someone's here to see you" in that sing-song mommy voice. 

Then Pipey figures it out and turns. I love that moment of dawning recognition. At first, she's wondering who's in the house, then a moment later that snaggletooth baby smile appears and she races toward me; head down, crawling as fast as she can. She gets to me and awkwardly looks up trying to see my face without tipping over. Then there is that unmistakable little grunt. The "please pick me up because I miss you" grunt. 

Of course, I pick her up. Like I said, there are not many things that make me happier than to see my little girl calling to her daddy.

I can't help but think of God when I think on that story. O how He longs for his children to beg to be picked up by Him! When He appears, we should go to him. Head down, crawling as fast as we can to be with Him. The really good news is that even as we draw near to Him, He draws near to us as well. But when we get there we must make sure we "grunt" the right way to Him.

You see, as happy as I am to hear Piper grunt to me to be picked up, there are times when I do not honor her request. Like most children there are times that she comes to me not because she wants me, but because she wants something from me. I know this because her little grunt becomes a growl. And history has shown that when I pick her up those times, she just wants me to take her somewhere she can get into trouble. 

This happens with us and God as well. Did you know that there are times when it is better NOT to pray? 

If one turns away his ear from hearing the law,
   even his prayer is an abomination.
                                - Proverbs 28:9

We should always pray with God's word in our minds and hearts.

Also, James 4:3 is even more explicit: "You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions."

Nothing makes God happier than for His children to come to Him... FOR Him. God is dishonored when our little grunts become a selfish growl.

I pray that today you will go to Jesus... FOR Jesus. Find your heart satisfied in the fellowship He offers. Be strengthened by His grace, and forge ahead in your day to make His glorious love and forgiveness known.

Pastor Chris

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Jesus in the Old Testament: Psalm 15

Good morning!

Psalm 15
1 O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
    Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
    and speaks truth in his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue
    and does no evil to his neighbor,
    nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
    but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest
    and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.

Verse 1 asks a great question: Who gets to live forever with God?
Verses 2-5 answer the question. 

But be careful how you answer. This psalm is NOT a challenge to you that you do your best to be holy. 

Nope. This psalm is a reminder that we will never be “he who walks blamelessly.”

This psalm is pointing to the only One who ever walked blamelessly and does no evil and does not change and shall never be moved… Jesus! 

This psalm is not a plea for you to generate your own righteousness to please God. It is a promise that Jesus is the only Righteous One. And in the New Testament we learn that God provided the only Way for his people to be with Him forever: Jesus lived a righteous life and died and rose again for those who would believe and trust in Him. His righteous life, sacrificial death and resurrection would count for those who love and follow Him.

So, read Psalm 15 with brokenness over our habitual failure to walk blamelessly. Remember with thanksgiving that Jesus fulfilled all righteousness. Pray that the Spirit would work the righteousness of Christ (displayed in verses 2-5) through your life as you believe and abide in Him moment by moment.

Pastor Chris

Monday, August 8, 2016

Monday Morning Encouragement - 8.8.16

Good morning!

“One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.”
- Psalm 145:4-5 

The summer olympics began this weekend. There have been terribly discouraging stories about the Zika virus, polluted water, and unfinished dorms for the athletes. But there are also some really heartwarming stories as well. Those are my favorite part of the olympics. Of course I want the USA to win all the medals, and I do misty hearing our national anthem at a gold medal presentation. But the thing that keeps me coming back these contests are the stories of the athletes. 

Did you hear about Yusra Mardini, a Syrian refugee who once swam to save her life while fleeing across the Mediterranean Sea? When the boat she was traveling in had problems with the motor, she and a couple of others jumped in the water and basically pulled the boat to safety. How perfect that an olympic hopeful in the sport of swimming would have the opportunity to use her athletic talent to save others! 

She won the opening heat of the women’s 100m butterfly but did not medal. 

But that’s not sad. She won something so much greater than a medal of metal. She won the respect and compassion of millions who heard her story and watched Team Refugee march into olympic stadium during the opening ceremonies. Whatever your politics are, you can certainly appreciate what a momentous occasion this was for these displaced athletes. 

Or what about Cody Miller, the US swimmer who was born with a lung deformity that diminished his lung capacity? He won a bronze medal in the men’s 100m breaststroke and celebrated like he just won the gold! In our “win at all costs” culture, it was definitely refreshing to see an athlete appreciate such an amazing finish to his hard work. Oh, and Cody was the first (and most enthusiastic) to congratulate the first place finisher, Adam Peaty. Great sportsmanship!

There are many other great stories like this that would never get told if not for the olympic games. We need to hear stories like this. We need to make sure that the most important truths of life get passed on to others. This is what Christianity should do. It is a faith that speaks. It spreads news to others that they may be encouraged. 

One generation of believers making sure another generation of believers hears of the great works of God and meditates on his beauty and majesty.

We have a great story to tell. And we don’t need to wait for a big event to tell it. Let’s be about telling the story of Jesus every change we get!

Pastor Chris

Monday, August 1, 2016

Monday Morning Encouragement - 8.1.16

Good morning!

Some of my favorite verses on evangelism are Colossians 4:5-6…

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

I think there are five encouragements here that are extremely helpful in guiding us in giving the Good News of Jesus to those in our daily spheres of life.

1. Be wise toward outsiders. Wisdom basically means knowing how to act in any situation. We need to know how to interact with people who are not yet a part of the Christian faith. We should no longer regard people from a worldly point of view (2 Corinthians 5:16) but rather as God sees them: sinners like us who need to be saved! Part of this wisdom means being proactive. We need a plan of action. We should approach each day asking God to create opportunities for us to share the gospel like Paul prayed just a few verses before (Colossians 4:3). Be intentional about sharing the gospel with those you interact with today.

2. Be a good steward of your time. When these opportunities come (and they will!), use your time well. Whether it is 5 minutes with someone you run into at the store or 5 decades with the person you married, invest your time wisely. If you have one shot, then your conversation will be different than if it is someone you see every day, but use the opportunity well. This is not to put pressure on us, but rather keep us focused on the fact that none of us are guaranteed our tomorrow. We should invest our time wisely. And spending 5 minutes or 5 decades talking about Jesus is a good investment.

3. Be gracious. This line, “Let your speech always be gracious,” is one of my favorites in the Bible. There two things that get my attention immediately. One, this verse is about our speech. We live in a time of the church when “servant evangelism” is all the rage. And while it is very important for us to humbly serve and meet the physical needs of others, it is truly more important that we speak truth to them. Faith comes from hearing the word of Christ, not from receiving a bottle of water from a smiling person. So, let’s make sure that our actions are accompanied by gracious words of truth. The second thing is “always.” This is an impossibly high standard that we cannot meet. Which is why we need the gospel for ourselves every day! Our speech to others should be gracious, but so should our speech to ourselves! We need to preach the gospel to ourselves everyday and remind ourselves that it is Christ who lives in us to will and to act according to his purpose. Our only hope in obeying is that we faithfully rely on Christ to do it. 

4. Be salty. There were a lot of uses for salt that could be in view here: a preservative, a seasoning, for purity. But I think there is something more basic about what salt does that is helpful for us. Salt makes you thirsty! We should be speaking the truth of the gospel in such a passionate, compelling way, that people thirst and long for the Living Water we have in Jesus. People are desperately trying to meet their needs with all the world can offer, and they need to know, see, and hear that Jesus is what they truly need. When we season our speech with the gracious, saltiness of Jesus, they will wonder how we can remain joyful in the midst of trials or why we bless those who curse us.

Which leads us to the last point…

5. Be relevant. Now I do not mean wearing skinny jeans, sculpting your purple hair, and getting a tattoo of some Chinese character. Those things aren’t what make us relevant. What I mean is that we must “know how you ought to answer each person” Make the gospel relevant to each person you are talking to where they are in life. If we are wise and discerning, looking for opportunities, and being graciously salty with the gospel, then people will wonder how this Jesus might help them. And they will have a specific problem in mind. So, be ready (1 Peter 3:15) to tell them about the hope of forgiveness, the comfort of grace, and the acceptance of adoption. 

All this means that evangelism has to be more than a church program, more than a memorized presentation. It needs to be relational and conversational. Sharing Jesus needs to be a living part of our faith.

And we Christians need to practice. Practice talking about Jesus with your church friends and family. Then you will be ready to go into the world and have the grace of the gospel flow from you.

Pastor Chris

Monday, July 25, 2016

Monday Morning Encouragement - 7.25.16

Good morning!

One of the best gifts I have received was a gallon of Dale’s Seasoning. (Bless you, Vicki Gurley!)  I will not cook a steak without marinading it in Dale’s for at least a few hours. I know the directions say 20 minutes, but… come on! 20 minutes? That’s not long enough for me to get my yearly dose of sodium. When I eat my steak, I don’t want to taste beef; I want to taste Dale’s! 

Vicki learned of my love for Dale’s when I was preaching on Colossians 3:16 which has my favorite image of our relationship to the word of God, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” Allowing the word to dwell in us richly is like marinating your life in the truth and grace of God. Sure, you can soak your life in the Bible for 20 minutes or so and you will surely receive some benefit from it. But if you want your life to “taste” more like Jesus than yourself, then you need to let the word dwell in you richly. 

This is really the only way for us to become like Jesus Christ. It takes time for us to be transformed into his image. And the transformative agent is God’s word. The longer we submerse ourselves in Christ, the more the grace and truth of God will flavor our lives. 

This is also the only way we can be effective at discipleship. The next phrase of Colossians 3:16 tells us what to do with our Word-saturated lives, “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…” All Christians have a responsibility and obligation to help one another know God and walk in His ways. The flow of teaching and influence is not only from the top down, but also from one “average” Christian to another. 

All of us should be making disciple-making disciples. In order to do that, we need God’s word to dwell in us richly, transforming and flavoring our lives with the tastiness of the gospel. 

So, go get you a big dose of the saltiness of Jesus! Meditate on the word and marinate your heart in it. Take your time. Let it sink in deep. Then go be salt in your world for the glory of God and the gospel! 

Pastor Chris

Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday Morning Encouragement - 7.18.16

Good morning!

‘Active listening’ is a counseling technique where you listen to someone and repeat to them what he/she said in your own words. It is meant as an exercise to improve communication since many conflicts arise in relationships because of misunderstanding or bad communication.

A wife says, “Please take out the garbage” but her husband hears, “When it is convenient, please take the garbage out.” So, she walks back in the room an hour later to see the garbage still in the house, and the battle is on! 

Prayer is ‘active listening’ with God. He speaks perfectly and with power, and we should respond in faith by praying for His will to be done. Much of our frustration in our prayer lives comes, I think, because we have not really been listening to God and we end up praying for results that He does not want for us. 

But He does give us a marvelous promise about having our prayers answered!

John 15:7
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

The beauty of the promise here is that we can receive whatever we ask for. This is truly one of the most amazing promises in the Bible! It is nearly beyond belief. But…

There is a condition to the promise. The condition is that we must abide in Him and His words in us.

By faith we dwell in Christ. And because of this relationship, we devour God’s word as the food for our spiritual life. When the word of God is in us, it will continually transform us; changing our desires, hopes, and plans.  The result of this transformation by the Word is that our prayers will line up with God’s character and revealed will for us. So, of course God will grant you whatever you wish since your wishes will be for His will to be done. 

The lesson here is that a key ingredient to having your prayers answered is to have the word of God dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16). Prayer and the Word should always be together in the Christian’s life. God speaks through His word. We listen, allowing the Spirit to transform our hearts into Christ’s likeness. Then, we respond in prayer asking God to do the very things He already wants to do. He will then do whatever we want. 

Abide in Christ today. By faith, keep going back to that fountain of Living Water and nourish your soul with the Word. As your heart is transformed, ask God to great and mighty things for your eternal good and for His glory! 

Pastor Chris

Monday, July 11, 2016

Monday Morning Encouragement - 7.11.16

Good morning!  

“Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.” The disciples may have wished they knew this little saying before they asked Jesus their question in Matthew 24. 

As the time for Jesus’ crucifixion draws near, He is teaching his disciples on the Mount of Olives. He is encouraging them with the promise that though He is about to depart, He will return and take them to be with Him forever. That is certainly good news! 

But that promise did not seem to be enough for the twelve, so they pulled Him aside and asked what signs should they be looking for before He returns. 

Jesus’ answer was probably not what they expected. Basically, He says that MANY false teachers will lead MANY astray; there will be MANY natural disasters and wars; they will be persecuted and put to death for Jesus’ name; MANY will fall away and betray and hate each other; and  ‘because lawlessness will be increased, the love of MANY will grow cold.’ (Matthew 24:12)

Wow… That sounds bleak. And frankly, that sounds familiar! 

It is a chilling reality to think that MANY will fall away and have their love grow cold. I certainly don’t want to speculate as to the eternal spiritual condition of those who grow cold or who they might be, but I do know that we don’t have to be among that number! 

The hopeful promise Jesus gives at the end of that list of ‘signs’ is “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). He doesn’t explain what that endurance means, but in the context I think He is reminding us that we must stoke the fires of our hearts through the power of the Spirit to produce a love for God that is ‘hot’ and will not be extinguished by the coldhearted secularism that closes in around us. 

This is why the warning of Revelation 3:14-22 about lukewarm hearts is so necessary for Christians. We must not wait until our love is cold before we sound the alarm of our faith. We must be vigilant for even slightly tepid hearts so that we once again return to our first Love and allow the white-hot glory of his holiness and grace cleanse our hearts, fanning into flame the Love we knew at first. 

Don’t be offended at the suggestion you might be lukewarm (For we ALL are lukewarm in some regard). Instead, be terrified that your heart may be cooling even one degree from your previous love for God. Those who endure to the end will be saved. And enduring in this day will require a mighty work of God to inflame our affections for Him alone. 

Be on the lookout for the sin that abides so nearly, that pours cold water on your life promising refreshment only to have you find later that it was extinguishing your passion for Christ. He is the only source of the life-giving refreshment you seek. Go hard after Him today and He will faithfully lead you to the end where He will save you ultimately.

Pastor Chris