Month: October 2011

Halloween on Mission

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Ran Across this Blog Post by David Mathis and wanted to share it with you…

What if a crisp October wind blew through “the way we’ve always done things” at Halloween? What if the Spirit stirred in us a new perspective on October 31? What if dads led their households in a fresh approach to Halloween as Christians on mission?

What if spreading a passion for God’s supremacy in all things included Halloween—that amalgamation of wickedness now the second-largest commercial holiday in the West?

Loving Others and Extending Grace

What if we didn’t think of ourselves as “in the world, but not of it,” but rather, as Jesus says in John 17, “not of the world, but sent into it”?

And what if that led us to move beyond our squabbles about whether or not we’re free to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve, and the main issue became whether our enjoyment of Jesus and his victory over Satan and the powers of darkness might incline us to think less about our private enjoyments and more about how we might love others? What if we took Halloween captive—along with “every thought” (2 Corinthians 10:5)—as an opportunity for gospel advance and bringing true joy to the unbelieving?

And what if those of us taking this fresh approach to Halloween recognized that Christians hold a variety of views about Halloween, and we gave grace to those who see the day differently than we do?

Without Naiveté or Retreat

What if we didn’t merely go with the societal flow and unwittingly float with the cultural tide into and out of yet another Halloween? What if we didn’t observe the day with the same naïveté as our unbelieving neighbors and coworkers?

And what if we didn’t overreact to such nonchalance by simply withdrawing? What if Halloween wasn’t a night when Christians retreated in disapproval, but an occasion for storming the gates of hell?

The Gospel Trick

What if we ran Halloween through the grid of the gospel and pondered whether there might be a third path beyond naïveté and retreat? What if we took the perspective that all of life, Halloween included, is an opportunity for gospel advance? What if we saw Halloween not as a retreat but as a kind of gospel trick—an occasion to extend Christ’s cause on precisely the night when Satan may feel his strongest?

What if we took to the offensive on Halloween? Isn’t this how our God loves to show himself mighty? Just when the devil has a good head of steam, God, like a skilled ninja, uses the adversary’s body weight against him. It’s Satan’s own inertia that drives the stake into his heart. Just like the cross. It’s a kind of divine “trick”: Precisely when the demonic community thinks for sure they have Jesus cornered, he delivers the deathblow. Wasn’t it a Halloween-like gathering of darkness and demonic festival at Golgotha, the place of the Skull, when the God-man “disarmed the powers and authorities [and] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them” at the cross (Colossians 2:15)?

Marching on Hell

What if we were reminded that Jesus, our invincible hero, will soon crush Satan under our feet (Romans 16:20)? What if we really believed deep down that our Jesus has promised with absolute certainty, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). What if we realized that the gates-of-hell thing isn’t a picture of a defensive church straining to hold back the progressing Satanic legions, but rather an offensive church, on the move, advancing against the cowering, cornered kingdom of darkness? What if the church is the side building the siegeworks? What if the church is marching forward, and Jesus is leading his church on an aggressive campaign against the stationary and soon-to-collapse gates of hell? What if we didn’t let Halloween convince us for a minute that it’s otherwise?

What if Ephesians 6:12 reminded us that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic power over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”? What if we remembered that it’s not our increasingly post-Christian society’s Halloween revelers who are our enemies, but that our real adversary is the one who has blinded them, and that we spite Satan as we rescue unbelievers with the word of the cross?

Resisting the Devil

What posture would Jesus have us take when we are told that our “adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8)? Naïveté? Retreat? Rather: “Resist him, firm in your faith” (verse 9). What if we had the gospel gall to trust Jesus for this promise: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)? And what if resistance meant not only holding our ground, but taking his?

What if we hallowed Jesus at Halloween by pursuing gospel advance and going lovingly on the attack? What if, like Martin Luther, we didn’t cower in fear, but saw October 31 as a chance to serve notice to the threshold of evil? What if we didn’t turn out our lights as if hiding, but went pumpkin-smashing on the very doorstep of the King of Darkness himself?

Orienting on Others

What if we saw October 31 not merely as an occasion for asking self-oriented questions about our participation (whether we should or shouldn’t dress the kids up or carve pumpkins), but for pursuing others-oriented acts of love? What if we capitalized on the opportunity to take a step forward in an ongoing process of witnessing to our neighbors, co-workers, and extended families about who Jesus is and what he accomplished at Calvary for the wicked like us?

What if we resolved not to join the darkness by keeping our porch lights off? What if we didn’t deadbolt our doors, but handed out the best treats in the neighborhood as a faint echo of the kind of grace our Father extends to us sinners?

Giving the Good Candy

What if thinking evangelistically about Halloween didn’t mean just dropping tracts into children’s bags, but the good candy—and seeing the evening as an opportunity to cultivate relationships with the unbelieving as part of an ongoing process in which we plainly identify with Jesus, get to know them well, and personally speak the good news of our Savior into their lives?

And what if we made sure to keep reminding ourselves that our supreme treasure isn’t our subjective zeal for the mission, but our Jesus and his objective accomplishment for us?

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
– Jesus in Matthew 9:37–38

There I was

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There I was..

looking over at my Niece, in the kitchen as she ate her apple sauce.

There I was

watching my wife clean the counter with a damp rag.

There I was…

listening to my son and my nephew play with “Thomas”

cho cho

There I was…

watching my daughter get tape for her dragon picture… the mascot of Hanes.

There I was…

looking out the window wondering why it always seems to rain when I have time to paint.

There I was…

listening to october music – only 3 and 1/2 days left to listen to it.

There I was…

thinking…

time quickly passes…

Thanks giving music begins on Tuesday…

seems like just yesterday…

we were in the month of January…

and there I was.

I will be here


I have been a part of more weddings than I can even keep track of. Today, I am working on one for a couple in our church. It is one where not only am I the minister but will also be singing a duet with my wife. It is an old wedding favorite, “I will be here” by Steven Curtis Chapman.

Here is a line in the song that struck a cord within me yesterday…

“If in the dark we lose sight of love, hold my hand and have no fear ’cause I will be here”

Profound.

It reminds me of those times Nicole and I have experienced, where we argued, got upset at each other, misunderstood something the other had done and things got dark.

In fact, we have had a few times that were really dark.

And when things are dark you tend to lose your sight, and you lose the “feeling of love” you had before the dark times.

You “lose sight of love”

When that happens what do you do?

Well, you reach out to each other. You walk hand in hand through the darkness… as long as it might last. Until you are through it.

I wish that we could say that we have never had dark times in our marriage… after all that would be more “pastoral”. But here is what I can say, when it was hard to see why we fell in love in the first place, when we asked the question, Why did I marry this person? By God’s grace, mercy and strength we stuck to our commitment to Him and each other. And even though it was a mess, and not anything we would ever want anyone to know about, we held on to each other, hand in hand and walked through the darkness to the other side…

where we could see love again.

And it’s the commitment to each other and to God (not the feeling of love) that got us there.

It is more than worth it to stay with it.

PS…

To Nicole…
“I will be true to the promise I have made, to you and to the One who gave you to me” yes…”seasons are made for change but our lifetimes are made for years… so I will be here.”

I love you Nicole!

Issue Christians

Here is a post that was on Ed Stetzer’s Blog… its good. Thanks Ed for being this bold!

From Ed Stetzer
“Yesterday, I had an “encounter” in the line where I shake hands after the Grace Church worship service. A well-dressed man came up to me after church, shook my hand, and immediately started a conversation about prophecy.

I listened initially, but within a couple of minutes he had quoted one passage he feels is related to the founding of Israel in 1948 and another about Israel occupying Jerusalem in 1967. “Why don’t churches talk more about prophecy?” he asked.

At that point, I could have redirected our conversation and tried to persuade him that we believe in biblical prophecy and will teach on it another time (both of which are true). Or, since he approvingly referenced both Jack Van Impe and John Hagee, I could have found some ways of positively connecting with each of these men.

In most cases, I’ve decided that “this is not the church for you” is actually the right response for “issue Christians” who are visiting the church.

Honestly, if this person were unchurched and told me they thought highly of Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer, I would have sought a point of contact and encouraged further discussion. I probably would have tried to get together– if they were open– to see what the Bible says about the kinds of things that Wayne Dyer talks about. I would have used the bridge to talk about Jesus.

However, in this case, I simply said something like, “We are not one of those churches that you would think talks about prophecy enough– this would not be the right church for you, but I do hope your search for a church home goes well.”

You see, I don’t spend a lot of time with “issue Christians.”

It’s not just the issue of prophecy either. I’ve had similar conversations with “issue Calvinists,” “issue political Christians,” “issue charismatics,” “issue homeschoolers,” and many others. These are often good people and those are important issues, but when these are the primary defining issues in the first (and every other) conversation, the correct response is help them move on and do so quickly.

Here are four reasons why I have no difficulty helping “issue Christians” to move on:

1. Some “issue Christians” get stuck on specific ideas–you don’t have time to persuade them.
It is simply not a good use of your time and energy to debate with “issue Christians.” Instead, reach your community, pastor your people, and get on mission. Focus on reaching the unreached, not debating church members about eschatology or pneumatology. If they know Christ, but are stuck on an issue, they will be just fine without you. Generally, you can’t “fix” them anyway and they will (eventually) come out of it on their own.

2. Some “issue Christians” have divisive views–you don’t need them to fit in at your church’s expense.

You can disagree in our church (to a reasonable degree) and still be a part–I’ve pastored cessationists, charismatics, Calvinists, and Arminians all in the same church. The issues are not the issue, it is that this person wants to make them an issue. Simply, “issue Christians” generally do not fit in well in a mission-focused congregation. They don’t want to.

3. Some “issue Christians” drift from church to church looking for willing ears–you do not need to let that in your church.

“Issue Christians” love to debate and display their knowledge. It is not good stewardship of your time to have these debates and you are not being a good steward of your church to let them loose inside.

4. Some “issue Christians” will talk forever if you do not cut them off–you will probably offended them less than you think.

For many, listening for hours is the Christian thing to do. Many pastors listen, set up appointments, then seek to reason and redirect the confused. That’s not a good plan if it is obvious that this person has dwelt in and studied on an issue.

My experience is that people like this get “cut off” all the time. So, I say, “Thanks Joe, but that’s not what we are passionate about here–I do encourage you to find a church that is passionate about what your issues.” Surprisingly, that does not generally offend–people like that have been cut off many times before this time.

So, let me encourage you to thank “issue Christians” for their passion and time, and encourage them to find a church home that fits their values. Of course, I should say, this is different if someone comes to me confused on an issue. In that case, we can counsel and provide more information.

In conclusion, we should always provide guidance, but we should not always provide a platform. “Issue Christians” want a platform with you and your church because they are passionate about an issue–don’t let that distract you or your church from being and doing all that God has in store. Move on… and move them on.”

So what do you think?

Forgiveness

This post originally appeared as “De-Friended”. Today it is reposted as a promise I made while preaching Sunday’s message called Adversary, you can download that Sermon Here

I think sometimes forgiveness is hard.

In fact it is easier to want it than give it.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean a blank slate and its not forgetting. Things that happen are there, they are done… part of the past. God doesn’t forget those things and neither do we.

Forgiveness is not forgetting, but it is about not holding something against someone.

In fact it is easier to hold a grudge than it is to forgive.

Forgiveness is not avoiding conversations about what has happened and it’s results. Forgiveness opens the door to handle the wrong that has occurred. It allows us to deal with things without hurting each other… again. It allows conviction to take hold and opens the door for heart change.

Forgiveness is not the same thing as trust. Trust takes time to rebuild. Forgiveness sets up boundaries that enable that to happen.

I have never de-friended anyone on Facebook… never. But sometimes people get upset when it comes to the Bible and its instructions on how to live. Forgiveness is saying I am still your friend, can’t support what you are doing but still friends.

Forgiveness prevents us from looking down on the person that isn’t living right. Forgiveness is a reminder that you an I do not live right all the time. We need forgiveness just as much as the next person.

It is easier to de-freind someone than it is to deal with the issue.

Forgiveness opens the door to freedom… the freedom that happens when some one says “I was wrong”… this is a freedom that is seldom experienced but is always available.

There are some that will never deal with the issues they have created in their lives. I’ve been a pastor long enough to know that. If someone will not change… forgiveness sets up boundaries until they do. People that refuse to repent are dangerous to be around. Forgiveness is not the absence of protection. You do not have to be buddy buddy with the people you have forgiven. Forgiveness is remembering what has happened without holding it against the person. It allows us to use wisdom concerning how we will approach them in the future. There are some people that are poison… forgiveness responds to that.

Jesus opened the door of forgiveness to everyone, but not everyone took Him up on His offer. Some even fought Him after His resurrection. The comments above are rooted in the life He lived for us. The resurrection was proceeded by people who were friends with Him at the beginning of the week and three days later de-freinded Him and put Him on the cross. Even with that He forgave them, though He did not condone what they were doing, and He left the door of forgiveness open to them so they would have a way to make things right… to say they were wrong…

He does the same for us… because He loves us.

He loves us.

After all…

Forgiveness is rooted in love… and love never fails.

A Pastor’s Lament

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The day is young

The week is younger

and even though you try and try again

push and push

talk, hoping to convince

pray and pray some more

somethings are still set in motion

because the path was already being taken

before they came to you.

The best that can be done at this point is

to work to stall

what is coming to pass

with the fool-hearted hope

that change will occur

and turn to the direction

God desires.

Author “unknown”