Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Preparing to Launch

There has been a great deal said about males who are between 20 and 40 years old and are still playing video games in their parents basement, refusing to grow up. Paul has reminded us that when we become men we are to put away childish things. Now, that is not to say we can never play a video game, or throw the ball, but it is making sure we understand that we are to focus on things that matter. We are to take responsibility. My boys and I talk a great deal about what biblical manhood looks like...there are times I give them a living illustration of what manhood is and there are times I give them a living illustration of what it means to avoid biblical manhood. At TBC we have spent a great deal of time discussing what biblical manhood is supposed to be, what the expectations of God are for us and how that plays out in our work, home and personal life. I thank God for each man who has gone through our Men’s Fraternity classes and it is always a joy to see how God has used that teaching to sanctify all of us. When men fail to launch out into their biblical roles, it leaves homes in shambles and society in a mess. Sadly, the same can be said about our churches. God has given us a calling to “GO” make disciples. Most of our work, especially in the Bible belt, consists of getting people to come to us rather than us going to them. At Trinity we are at the cross-roads of making a decision to launch into an area that is very different not only for us as a church body, but for most churches that we are familiar with. While we have a nice amount of money in the bank, we had to make a decision of whether we wanted to spend it on a nice building a new area (which we pondered), to get a place temporarily and then decide what area of town we wanted to move into (which we actually voted on), or to move to an area in our community that has fewer churches, in a community but not in a major intersection. At this time we are still waiting to see what God does, but it looks like we are going to go into a neighborhood filled with people - the high majority (over 85%) of which is unchurched. As I have been praying about this, I have come to the conclusion that the only thing more tragic than a young man who will never launch out and be what God has called him to be, is a church that fails to launch. A church that is safe, a church that lives its life with people that never stretch them to be more open, accepting, generous, dedicated...a church that spends all of its time with people who look, talk and act just like they do. A church that resembles The Stepford Wives more than it resembles a missionary launching pad. I am excited about what God has in store for TBC and I am excited that we are faced with doing something that actually will cost us something…something more valuable than money, even more valuable than will cost me my comfort.  In truth I think I speak for the majority of us, we are comfort creatures. So, I am asking our TBC family and those who follow this blog to please pray for wisdom and God’s grace in the venture. This Sunday night I will begin a new series that I hope will prepare us to “Go” to “Launch,” into our community penetrating it with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We will examine the things that keep us as believers from doing this, and what will allow our hearts to burn with the Gospel message and bring it to the world around us. I have never been more excited to be Pastor of anywhere, and I stand with expectation to see what God has in store for His Body at TBC. See you Sunday! 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Needy People

We are in a strange time as a TBC Church Family.  While it is exciting, it is also stressful and a myriad of other emotions, all rolled up into one. God has blessed us as a body in abundance. There are so many changes in front of us...and even today we will have a meeting with group to possibly negotiate with in regard to a new facility.  We have had changes in our schedule, in the way we conduct our events and, this Sunday we will vote to approve our new statement of faith (1833 New Hampshire Baptist Confession)  along with our new church covenant. 

Change can be exciting but it can also make us feel uneasy at best, or down right terrified at worse. Many people are more panicked over change in their daily lives than over life ending!  Over the last year - actually over the last 3 years I,  as well as most of the people in our church, have run the course of all of these emotions. In the midst of this we have met, searched, prayed, talked, stayed awake at night and a whole of lot of other things... but in the midst of this, here is what I realized:   the fear or anxiety I feel can serve as a portal to a wonderful spiritual reality. The reality is that I was never intended to be self-reliant. By design we are all needy. The idea of me being "independent" is foreign to the Word, in fact real maturity is becoming MORE DEPENDENT on Christ and less independent. Independence only works during good and peaceful times and it falls apart when “life” hits. The reality is that tough times and bad things are going to happen. Things that I dread may actually be a reality for me, my family and this church body... even as I write this, a knot has formed in my stomach. In his book Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest, Dr. Ed Welch says,
“Another way of expressing our personal vulnerability is through our experience of need. There is a close connection between what we fear and what we think we need. If we need comfort, we will fear physical pain. If we need approval from others, we will fear being criticized. If we need love we will fear rejection….Whatever your need is a mere stone’s throw from what you fear.”

The bottom line is I have watched our fear and faith grow at TBC. During this time we have even watched some people leave, and much of that was admitting that it was just being unsure of what would happen. We all value security. What I value I love, and what I love I have a tendency to put my hope in. Some of our greatest problems are when we put our hope in the wrong things and it can cause fear to override all other voices, even the voice of truth. Sometimes fear is good, it can actually keep me from danger. When I see a 200 pound dog coming at me when I am on jog, it is natural to fear and even healthy for me to fear. It can lead me to protect myself.  But when fear grips me over “what could be” or “what might be,”  I must learn how to stop and figure out what issue of the heart my fear is displaying. When I see the dog, the truth is that dogs can bite and one that size could kill me so I better do something. However, when I fear something that could happen, I need to ask myself two questions: (1) What do these fears say I trust in?  (2) What do these fears say I really love?  Sometimes those questions reveal that my trust is not in Christ who is really my only help in my time of need, and it displays that I love me more than anything. I love my comfort, I love my way of doing things, I love the way I see church more than I love anything else. It may reveal the heart of sin, which will work in my sanctification. After all, when I look back at the things that have kept me up at night and all the predictions I have taken - when I think of all the horrible things that could happen in certain scenarios, I realize that my track record of correctly guessing the outcome of situations is pretty poor. My reasoning ability fails me and my power of logical conclusions often isn’t logical at all - but in truth even these are dictated by fear and doubt. In truth, I must understand that I have to go outside myself for an answer and seek the God who is in control. This doesn’t mean than everything will turn out perfect, but it does mean that I can trust the God who IS perfect and will never leave, forsake, or fail me. And that is a truth I can rest in... even when the situation doesn’t feel very restful.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

When We Worship the Wrong Things...

We were created to be worshippers....the problem is we often, in our flesh, worship the wrong things.  We take the things in our life that are good, wholesome, beneficial and, because of our sinful natures we turn them into idols of our worship and dedication.  Instead of keeping Christ preeminent in our lives and allowing Him to order all of our steps each day, we allow those things that we see as most precious to us to dictate our path and Christ can come along as long as He falls in line with our plans.  While none of us would admit that outwardly, we show this subtle shift in thinking through our actions everyday.  

So, what is it that becomes more precious to you than Christ?  Again, many times it is something that is meant to be good and a blessing to us.  For some....could it be your job?  Your church service or ministry area?  Could it be your kids or family?  In the blog below from Gospel Coalition, Jason Helopoulos did a great job of looking at how to tell if our families have taken the subtle and deceptive shift from blessing to idol in our lives.

I love my family. I love being a husband. We celebrate sixteen years of marriage this week and I can’t imagine living life with anyone else. I love being a father. I have two kids that delight my soul. I can’t wait to see them in the morning before I head off to the church and I am always anxious to see them in the evening when I return. There are few things I enjoy  more in this life than being a father. I love my family. However, having said that, I want to be on guard against loving them inordinately.
I am thankful for the growing emphasis upon the Christian family in evangelical circles. Our two children are home schooled, so I am in no way opposed to homeschooling. We attempt to practice family worship each night of the week, so I am not opposed to family worship. For goodness sakes, I wrote on a book on the subject. I am passionate about it. We have attempted to have our children in corporate worship with us since they were babies. I am working on a book on that subject as well, so I am not opposed to children in worship. However, there does seem to be a tendency with the home school/family worship/children in worship emphasis that can turn this good thing upon its head. If we aren’t careful, instead of encouraging worshipping families, we become family worshippers. The following are possible signs that we have begun worshipping the family rather than encouraging our family to be worshippers:
We Seldom Host Others:  If our home is seen primarily as a citadel set against the world, there is a problem. A home centered upon Christ will be marked by growing hospitality. It is a way station of truth and worship. We gladly invite others into it for rest, encouragement, and strengthening.
We Seldom Reach Out to Others:  If our family is so insular that others don’t know us, there is a problem. A Christian family filled with love and worship should overflow to those around them. Neighbors and co-workers can’t help but be touched by the love that permeates in and cascades from our family.
We Seldom Serve in the Church: If our family is so focused on just being a family that we can’t attend  mid-week bible studies or are so intent on being together Sunday morning that the parents can’t teach Sunday School or assist in the nursery, there is a problem. As a Christian family we are to see ourselves as part of the community. Not separate from it. Not more important than it. But essential to it.
We Seldom Have Time: If our family is always busy with its own activities, whether soccer, piano, ballet, family vacations, or even family worship to the point that we have little time for others, there is a problem. The enrichment and growth of our children, even in spiritual things, is not to pull us away from people but towards them. Yes, we only have so many years to train and teach our children while they are at home. But are we teaching them that they and their activities are the center of life or worshipping Christ and loving others is what is most important?
We Seldom Sacrifice: If our family is reluctant to give generously, because of what it costs our family, there is a problem. We hesitate to give above our tithe to missionaries, the local church, the building fund, or the homeless shelter because our children’s college education comes first. We neglect supporting the church member headed out on a short-term mission’s trip, because our family “educational trip” is more important. We always have an excuse. And it is always our family’s need that provides the ground for that excuse. Rather, the Christian family should be generous in giving—generous to the point of giving sacrificially.
We Seldom Have Flexibility: If others feel like they are always interrupting our family by calling, visiting, or proposing a time to get-together, there is a problem. Others will notice it before us. They begin to feel like our family’s routine cannot be interrupted under any circumstances. We convey this consciously or even subconsciously and others pickup on it. Rather, our family should be noted by its flexibility and joy when others stop by, friendliness when called, and availability when needed.
We Seldom Speak Well of Others: If our family tends to have an arrogant air about it, there is a problem. We have it together. Others don’t quite understand the importance of the family, worship, and our calling as parents. Our conversations are too often critical and judgmental. If only others understood as we do. May it never be! Our families should be filled with thanking God for others. Our children should hear us commending and promoting others. People should find that we are refreshing to their souls, rather than critical of their practices.
By all means, let us enjoy and treasure our families. Let us celebrate the gift they are. Let us pour out our lives and hearts into ministering to our spouse, rearing our children in Christ, and filling our homes with the love and truth of Christ. However, in so doing, let us also be worshippers of the Christ we are seeking to honor. Let us worship Him in our worshipping families, rather than worship our families in the name of worshipping Him.