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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ch1. Am I Really Sick? - pt 1

Is anyone among you sick? (James 5:14)

The text starts with a question, “Is anyone among you sick?” Is anyone weak, feeble, without strength, needy, powerless, or poor?

The problem I see with many physical ailments and the believer is the denial of sickness to prove our faith. Here’s what I mean, in March of this year, we celebrated Tracy’s birthday and invited family and friends over for dinner. One young man who came was sick and you can see it all in his face. He didn’t want anything to eat so he went into one of the rooms to lay down for a while. As we were talking, he came in and the question was asked “Are you sick?” He responds, “I’m not claiming that!” My immediate response to him was: “You don’t have to claim what you already have”. I wasn’t trying to be a jerk but for some strange reason many people think that acknowledging physical sickness is a sign of spiritual weakness and a lack of faith. Not true! The point is this, I’m a Christian who gets sick and my faith is not in question because I’m sick.

What I love about the book of James is the practicality in which spiritual maturity is measured. Your response to trials and how you view God’s blessings in Chapter 1 is a measurement for spiritual maturity. How you treat others in chapter 2 is a measurement for spiritual maturity. Controlling your tongue in Chapter 3 is a measurement for spiritual maturity. Your participation in fights in chapter 4 is a measurement for spiritual maturity. And, your prayer life is a measurement for spiritual maturity. No where in James is the denial of sickness a measurement for spiritual maturity in the life of the believer.

The reality of our existence is that Christians get sick too.

To really understand sickness, I believe there are two (2) categories of sickness: Physical and Spiritual.

Physical Sickness

John McArthur in his bible study lesson on “The Temporary Sign Gifts-Healing, Part A says; “I think we are aware that sickness and disease is the most tragic human reality. Disease is the number one human problem. It is that which hits hardest and hurts the most, especially when it culminates in death”. Many people, Christian and non-Christian, are fearful of getting sick. So we don’t go to the doctor for routine checkups because of the fear of receiving bad news. However, in search for a cure people tend to look in all the wrong places.

Since the Fall of man in the Garden of Eden, disease and death have been a reality. Since that time, the search for cures to alleviate the reality of illness and suffering continues. In the darkest part of an aboriginal society, witch doctors have potions and approaches to curing disease. Even the most sophisticated, complex hospital in the world today is doing the very same think. The primitive beginning of medicine occurred centuries ago in Egypt. Throughout the history of Western civilization, man has continually searched for cures for the terrible reality of illness and disease (The Temporary Sign Gifts-Healing, Part A by John McArthur, p. 2).

The first step to physical healing is acknowledging your sickness not denying your sickness. You can’t pray effectively if you don’t first acknowledge there is a problem or need.

I’m fascinated by Scripture (especially in the Gospels) that people realized their sickness and did not try to down play it as if it didn’t exist.

- The woman with an issue of blood pressed through the crowd
- Jarius went to Jesus so that his daughter could be healed
- The lepers saw Jesus passing and cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us!”
- Friends lowered another friend through a roof who was paralyzed to receiving healing
- Mary and Martha went to Jesus on the behalf of Lazarus who was dying from sickness
- The impotent man laying at Bethseda’s realized his disability but didn’t anything about it for 38 years
- Many people who were sick and diseased were brought to Jesus

As Christians, we may break a leg, have diabetes, cancer, HIV/Aids, ulcers, the flu, etc because it’s the reality of life. People get sick and being a Christian does not exempt you from this reality.

In the context of James writing in the 5th chapter, the believer is not to deny sickness but to pray about the sickness.

“Is anyone suffering? Let him pray.”
“Is anyone sick? Call on the elders and let them pray over him.”
“And the prayer of faith will heal the one who’s sick.”

I don’t want to get ahead of myself and this well be discussed in detail later but allow to state my claim upfront; “Prayer is the medicine for healing”. Why? Because prayer takes your mind of sickness and directs your focus towards God. I know this for a fact. All night I prayed, Tracy and I prayed, and I prayed some more for my son. Soon, I started to focus on God which prepared me for what was about to come.

There is one other truth under physical illness and disease that frightens many of us, DEATH. We don’t like death but the truth of the matter is that some sickness and disease does result in death. In Acts, Luke records in chapter 9:32-37 after the conversion of Saul:

Peter traveled from place to place to visit the believers, and in his travels he came to the Lord's people in the town of Lydda. There he met a man named Aeneas, who had been paralyzed and bedridden for eight years. Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up and make your bed!" And he was healed instantly. Then the whole population of Lydda and Sharon turned to the Lord when they saw Aeneas walking around. There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas. She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor. About this time she became ill and died. Her friends prepared her for burial and laid her in an upstairs room (New Living Translation).

These verses show two pictures of sickness: healing and death. Tabitha, according to the text, did no wrong, got sick and died. The question becomes why is that? How could one receive healing and in the very next verse someone dies? This was my struggle with my son’s passing. I could not understand how a life so promising could be taking away before it ever got started. Still to this day I don’t know why. But as I stated earlier, God makes no mistakes, as well as, healing isn’t for everybody. I recognize that this is a harsh statement to make and comprehend but I believe it to be a reality of our Christian faith. Everybody won’t receive healing in this life.

To be continued...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sunday Thoughts - 4/26/09

Good day of worship, yesterday! I didn’t preach…lol

Nah, for real, I took another week off to seek God for direction on our study plan for Wednesday night Bible study and to rest from the pulpit. So my friend, Pastor Anthony Thompson from MT Sinai Church preached for me yesterday from Joshua 1:10-18 “Fight for Possession”. It was a sermon on evangelism…wow! He did an excellent job challenging the members of our church to be mobilized to evangelize. Great exhortation! Thank you, sir.

In our Wednesday Night Bible Study starting May 13th, we will go through a six (6) course entitled; “Becoming a Contagious Christian”. Here’s a brief description of lesson plan:

Freshly revised and updated! Featuring new footage from Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg---with appearances by fellow apologist and best-selling author Lee Strobel---this 6-session course equips you to effectively share the gospel in a way that "fits" the unique personality God gave you. Set includes leader's guide, participant's guide, two DVDs, PowerPoint CD-ROM, and softcover book.

I hope it comes this week so I can start preparing myself with material. I plan to tape it as well and make CDs available for members who don’t and/or cannot attend. However, it is a requirement for our leaders/workers to attend all lessons. No exceptions!

This week (as normal) will be busy with work, family, and church stuff. I have a number of administrative things to do at the church that requires immediate attention. So please pray for me as I try my best to carry out God’s work.

Peace and blessings.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Unresolved Issue, Resolved

It was March 17th, 1998 that Ryan Maurice Smith was born into our family as our second son and third child. He was born in 6 months of the 9 month term which made him a pre-mature baby at 1+ pounds. The road that lied ahead was challenging for him as well as our entire family. It was one challenge after challenge after challenge, yet, he was a fighter and that’s uncommon for pre-mature boys. He had heart surgery, he made it through that. He had water on the brain, it was drying up. He was gaining pounds, a good sign of things getting better.


I was at work and got a call from Tracy telling me that the hospital called wanting us to come there right away. I gathered my things and went to the hospital. The scene was terrible. Because he was pre-mature, his intestines were under-developed and his entire body was infected as well as shutting down. The doctors explained that they could operate but there was no guarantee that he would make it. Tracy and I told them to operate. The operation took somewhere around 4-6 hours. We waited for good news of his survival. My son was a fighter and with all that he endured I just knew he would make it. The operation was a success. The infection was cleaned out of him. He regained his natural color and body size. We took a deep breathe together and went home to rest.

About a week later things took a drastic turn. His body endured all it could endure and his body started shutting down. We rushed to the hospital only to see my son on life support. I started praying for God to heal my son. Due to our nervous tension, Tracy and I went to the Beverly Center to walk around. When we got back, things weren’t any better but worse. We stayed at the hospital all night taken turns going back and forth to his room to see how he was doing. Saturday morning came and we were hit with a major decision to let him go. We loved (and still do love) our son but we didn’t want to see him go through any pain and suffering. So, as hard as it was, we let him go to be with the Lord.

That was one of the hardest times in my life and even today my family and I struggle with his passing.

I had another struggle with the situation that made me bitter towards God. I’m a child of God, I prayed for God to heal my son and nothing happened. Was God listening? Did God allow this to happen to get back at me? Was my faith strong enough to get a prayer through? Is God’s word true when it says; “Ask and it shall be given”? Why did this happen? He heals others, why not my son?

Is God really a healer?

I had questions with not many answers.

I watch the guys on TV (TBN, the Word Network, BET, etc) and it seems like everybody is getting healed today or are they? Miracles are no longer miracles but a service of performance that people attend with the expectation of receiving healing from sickness, disease, deformities, and/or whatever is wrong with them.

I never wanted to teach on or hear about healing because of my unresolved issues with God about not healing my son until we completed our study of the Epistle of James.

I want to share my understanding of healing based on the Word of God and coupled with my own personal experience. I will answer the question upfront that I struggled with in 1998 and on, “Is God a healer?” My answer: YES, He is! Here’s why; “He healed my unresolved issues with healing.”

Before I was able to say; “God is a healer”, I had to come to a clear understanding of God’s Sovereignty. It took years to understand God’s control of everything. I often times thought God only controlled a few things and the rest was in our control even with sickness. But the truth of the matter is God is actively participating in our lives all the time, good and bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, in life and death. I had to come to grips with God’s control of every event in my life. I now understand as well that God doesn’t make any mistakes. He’s perfect in His decision making whether we believe it or not! Understanding the power of God in His Sovereignty and Wisdom is the first step to understanding God’s participation in all of life’s events.

As I share my thoughts of God has a healer I want you to understand that this is not an attack on a person’s ministry, denominational teaching, beliefs, or anything. I want to share my understanding of healing from a biblical perspective with a personal life experience that has shaped my understanding of God as our Healer.

I will use the epistle of James chapter 5:13-20 has my spring board text to understanding healing:

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

To be continued…

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Evangelism Emphasis Service

Evangelism Emphasis Service

We held our first evangelism emphasis service last night in an effort to increase the importance of local and universal missions. My friend, pastor Barry Wilson was our speaker and preached “A Ready Christian” – 1 Peter 3:15: “but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Good challenging message, thanks Pastor Wilson.

I scheduled a lecturer before the sermon but he didn’t show up so I lectured for about 15 minutes on the question; “Why Evangelism Is Important?” My confident reasons are:

Evangelism is a Command (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15) – Both of these verses from Christ are not suggestions to evangelize but a command to evangelize. A Christian who’s not evangelizing is a Christian who is disobeying the command of God. I tried to press as best as I could that we do not have an option in this matter. Excuses are unacceptable for not carrying out this command. After a funeral service this past Saturday, I had a conversation with one of our members about the growth of church through conversion growth and not transfer growth. In that conversation, they explained that everyone they knew already attends church and is actively committed to they’re church. My response, “So are you telling me that you don’t meet any new people in a day, week, or month?” They’re response; “Yes!” I then reminded them of their participation with the American Cancer Society and asked “Is everyone in that society saved?” The accurately assumed answer is “NO!” Then you have opportunity there. The point is that evangelism is a command.

Evangelism is about Change (Matthew 9:27-31; John 4) – In both of these recorded miracles (as well as others), after having contact with Jesus, word spread across the country of how Jesus changed their lives. Evangelism is about seeing lives changed for God. What a testimony to the church of Jesus Christ. I read somewhere that the best advertisement for the church is changed lives. I’ve read excerpts of a book (of which I plan to purchase real soon) by William Chadwick entitled “Stealing Sheep”. He deals with our modern day tendency to focus more on transfer growth rather than conversion growth. Transfer growth is easy. Just put together a few good slogans, have good music, tell a lot of jokes from the pulpit, be hip using all the latest slang, whoop for 45 minutes, have a big name, rap in church (gospel/secular it doesn’t matter now days), and your church will grow. It doesn’t take much in this religious grass-hopper day to grow with transfer membership. But what and who does it benefit outside of having unconverted bodies in our buildings as well as the ability to pontificate, embellish, lie, and boast about the number of people who attend our services on Sunday mornings. Conversion growth is a slow process winning one person at a time. My prayer for First Goodwill is that we persevere through the process of winning one person at time. It’s going to take some time but it will be beneficial for the kingdom of God in the end.

Evangelism is celebrative (Luke 15) - I love Luke 15!!!!! At the end of 2008, I preached a series in this chapter and plan on doing it again this year. After the recovery of the lost sheep, coin, and son the response was celebration. They called friends, servants, and neighbors together for celebration. Effective evangelism brings joyous life to a church and members. I get excited just thinking about the lives that will be changed as a result of our commitment to conversion growth. If I can touch somebody then I know my living will not be in vain.

Good service and I’m looking for the fruit from our labor as we commit to sharing our faith with others.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

All I Want To Do

Since the start of my preaching ministry 27 years ago, all I ever wanted to do is my best to build the kingdom of God for His glory. I was called to preach at age 13 sitting at the table doing my ABCs and 123s when the voice of the Lord pulled on my heart to preach. I went to my pastor at the time, Pastor James H Mims, to talk to him about my calling. In his office he said something to me that I guess blew me away, he said, “I’m not surprised! I saw it long before you but you needed to know it for yourself”.

Over the years, I’ve been granted many opportunities to minister in local churches across Southern California and Texas as youth pastor, assistant pastor, musician, singer, administrator, janitor, gardener, sound technician, Christian Ed Director, or whatever I was called on to do, I did to the best of my spiritual capabilities. My inspiration in every opportunity was and is “all I ever wanted to do is build the kingdom of God in any capacity possible”.

There were and are some who took my passion for ministry the wrong way. I am self-motivated, I am very ambitious, I can be extremely stubborn when in believe in something, I can (do) get frustrated quickly with people who don’t do their best for God, I get frustrated when I don’t understand something or it’s not explained in detail, I am passionate about the Lord’s work, I don’t give up easy, I give the best I have to give, because all I want to do is build the kingdom of God for His glory.

I’ve made mistakes, some of my mistakes have cost me dearly (financially, relationally, spiritually, and emotionally). But all I ever wanted was to build the kingdom of God for His glory alone.

I’ve lost friends and been judged by those closest to me. Yet I gave my best in being a good friend and supporter. Because all I want to do is build the kingdom of God for His glory alone.

This may sound like a blog of confession and maybe to some degree it is. But more than a confession it is a written statement to express my motive for ministry work and life. Yes, I am trying to sell you on the fact that I am man of passion for God’s work, because;

“All I want to do is build the kingdom of God for His glory alone”

I think about what I would do if my season for pastoral ministry was to change to being a pew member or working alongside another pastor helping them build the kingdom of God or entering into pastoral ministry at another church. The transition would not be easy. It would not be easy because I love preaching the word of God to God’s people. I love nurturing God’s people as the under-shepherd. I love seeing lives changed to the good. I love First Goodwill Church. I do believe God has given me much to say to build His people and the church. The transition would not be easy to being a pew member or an associate but my final resolve is:

“All I want to do is build the kingdom of God for His glory alone”

As a Christian, all I want to do is glorify God in all that I say and do. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17)”.

As a Husband, all I want to do is be the best husband I can be. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body (Ephesians 5:25-30)

As a Father, all I want to do is be there for my children in everyway. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4)”.

As a Preacher, all I want to do is handle God’s Word without compromise. “Work hard so God can approve you. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)”.

As a Pastor, all I want to do is serve God’s people. “Care for the flock of God entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly--not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don't lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your good example. And when the head Shepherd comes, your reward will be a never-ending share in his glory and honor (1 Peter 5:2-4)”.

All I want to do is build the kingdom of God for His glory alone

Monday, April 13, 2009

40 Day Fast Recap

For the first in my life, ministry, and the church, we tried something different this year, A 40 Day Fast. We started on Feb 25th. We didn’t do the normal water only fast. I borrowed the idea from one of my favorite preachers Pastor John Guns. At the beginning of 2009 his church did a 30 Day Fast with a theme, weekly scheduled meals, prayer times, and scripture readings. I used his concept but extended it to 40 days (Monday thru Friday). I tell you it was hard being committed to the fast.

I remember the day we started the fast. I got up to go to work and as a normal routine, I stopped for a cup of coffee at my favorite donut shop. As my flesh would have it, I was hungry and purchased a glazed donut to go with my coffee. When I got into the office and turned on my computer, I started reading emails and before long was eating the donut with my coffee. Half way thru my breakfast it dawned on me you suppose to be fasting. The 1st week was fruits/vegetables with one meat portion per day. I blew it big time! I gathered myself by praying for forgiveness for my lack of discipline and started over. The rest of the week I stayed with the scheduled fast.

I did pretty good the next couple of weeks but I think it was around week 5 our scheduled fast was fruits and vegetables (only) with natural juices/water. This was a trying week. On that Wednesday, I asked Cheyanne; “How’s it going for the week?” And she said; “Man, it’s been hard this week!” I said to her; “Yes, it has”. I explained to her that it was hard for me because financially I was strapped. I wasn’t able to go to the store and get all I needed to be faithful to the fast. She echoed the same sentiments and asked “what should we do?” I told her, “Do the best you can to remain faithful to the schedule”. She looked at me as if she wanted to say; “Man, can we just forget about it this week?”

My children loved to hold me and Tracy accountable to the fast yet they fought us tooth and nail to not participate. There were times when I got home for work and Tracy would cook one of the best meals only to hear me say; “Remember the fast.”

My Scripture reading went pretty good. I scheduled readings on my task manager in Microsoft Outlook so when I got into work I was alerted to read the chapter for the week (daily). Funny thing, it seemed like every morning I was called into a special meeting. I tried to set my alarm clock to rise 15 minutes earlier to get my read in but kept loosing to the battle of sleep. I then started reading where I could get it in.

My prayer time was real good because I prayed @ 5:30 am while driving to work. I got this idea from Chuck Swindoll. That’s Pastor Swindoll.

Overall, I think I did pretty good but what did I learn from this 40 Day Fast?

- I’ve learned that comfort zones can be dangerous. Many of us are creatures of habit (at least I know I am) and we don’t want nothing to disrupt what we got going on a daily basis. I believe a fast is good to break some of those daily routines. Think about it for a moment, some of our daily routines are unhealthy spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. So to fast helps cleanse us from that which is unhealthy in our lives. The weeks of fruits/vegetable fast were some of my best weeks. I didn’t feel sluggish. I had energy. I rested well. And my face didn’t break out because of all the impurities of some meats, candy, and sodas.

- I acknowledge my weakness. In Matthew 4, Jesus fasted for 40 days/nights without eating anything and before I got started I broke a scheduled fast as soon as I woke up on the first day. Wow! A fast will expose your weaknesses and struggles not matter how long the fast maybe or how strong you think you are.

- It re-affirmed that endurance is a key element to your success. Our fast officially ends on April 21st. And while along the way I may have fell of the wagon, I was determined (am determined) to finish what I started.

- I’ve learned to thank God for small victories or I guess I should say I’m learning to thank God for small victories. I wasn’t a total failure in my efforts in these 40 days. There have been some good changes in my life and ministry due to this fast.

- The struggle is inevitable with the flesh. I don’t eat a lot of sweets nor do I drink a lot of sodas but man, those weeks I couldn’t have it everything lookeded (spelling on purpose for looked) good. I could smell the chocolate, caramel, nuts, and that little creamy stuff in a Snickers bar. I wanted it bad. Be ready for the struggle!

The goal for our fast was to “encourage a greater level of spiritual disciplines as disciples of Jesus Christ”. In many ways I believe that was accomplished in this fast. If for nobody else, I know for me.

Sunday Thoughts - 4/12/09

Sermon Topic: “The Wonder of Salvation”
Sermon Text: Ephesians 2:1-7

In 1982, ABC Evening News” reported on an unusual work of modern art, a chair attached to a shotgun. It was to be viewed by sitting in the chair in the chair and looking directly into the gun barrel. The gun was loaded and set on a timer to fire at an undetermined moment within the next hundred years.

The amazing thing was that people waited in lines to sit and stare into the shell’s path! They all knew that the gun could go off at point blank range at any moment, but they were gambling that the fatal blast wouldn’t happen during their minute in the chair.

Yes, it was reckless, yet many people who wouldn’t dream of sitting in that chair live a lifetime gambling that they can get away with sin. Foolishly they ignore the risk until the inevitable self-destruction.

How many of us today live our lives looking down the barrel of a gun, not literally but figuratively. Many lives are lived suicidal in a since that our concern is not in developing a meaningful relationship with God and God’s people. Instead, they would rather live life playing the field, looking over the fence, and playing the lottery with their lives not realizing that at the end of the day we all have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give account for every deed done in this body.

But lest I be too long let’s make something very clear upfront before I loose you and we all can be honest in church today:

- SIN IS FUN (at least until you get caught)
- It’s hard to let go of certain sin
- Everyone makes mistakes
- Sin can lead to your destruction

But the good news of the day is there is a cure for sin, the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

Paul writes this letter to encourage the church then and church now that we are blessed people who serve the Risen Savior. And in chapter 1 verse 3 we are told:

Blessed be the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

People of God let me declare before God and all these witness that we are blessed in Jesus Christ. If you have Jesus then you are blessed, today.

Chapter 1 calls us into worship. We can worship because:

- God planned our salvation – 1:4-6
- Jesus provided our salvation – 1:7-12
- The Holy Spirit protects our salvation – 1:13-14

In chapter 2 the celebration continues and in verses 1-7 we can celebrate not for who we were but for we are in Christ. In other words, life without Christ is like a body without air, you can’t make it without Him.

Let’s look at the principles of this text so we can celebrate our before and after salvation experience:

I. Humanities Condition Before Salvation – v. 1-3

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, [2] in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, [3] among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

In order to appreciate where you are sometimes you need to know where you’ve come from. This text can be viewed in what I want to call the good, bad, and ugly of our human condition before salvation.

The Good – “And you He made alive”

Many translations omit “And you He made alive” and go straight into “you were once dead in trespasses and sins. However, I think its important to not look past the opening statements in this text because it’s the beginning of the end resolve, “Only Christ can bring life to a dead man. (Illustration: Raising of Lazarus – John 11).

The Bad – “who were dead in trespasses and sins”

We were dead in trespasses and sins. Trespasses meaning to fall of course and sins meaning to missing the mark. The text says apart from Christ we are dead in our failures and horrible mistakes.

The Ugly - in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, [3] among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others

If sin brings death, why do we sin? Verses 2-3 explains:

- The World – The world does not refer to the physical earth. It refers to the system of values that governs this world

- The Devil – “the prince of the power of the air” and “the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience”

- The Flesh – refers to our sinful nature..

II. Humanities Change In Salvation – v. 4-5

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, [5] even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

- The Source for Change – “But God” –

- The Sufficiency of Change – “Who is rich in mercy” -

- The Supremacy in Change – “because of His great love with which He loved us” -

- The Strength of Change – “even when we were dead in trespasses and sins made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)

We are saved by the act of God and God alone.

III. Humanities Purpose After Salvation – v. 6-7

and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Through the richness of God’s grace and kindness:

- He can save anybody – “And raised up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus

- He’s still changing lives today – “that in the ages to come…”

- He never runs short of grace – “He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Resurrection Day!

Happy Resurrection Day! Remember life without Christ is like a body with air, you can't make it without it. Receive Christ today in your life. He'll make a tremedous difference.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Waste Of Time

I had an experience in recent days that seems to confirm the trend of modern day pulpits. I went to a service wanting, needing, and longing to hear the word of God for myself. When I walked into the service I knew I was in trouble. There was a lot of singing going on in the service and I felt like I was on the set of “Sunday’s Best”. The service had to consist of approx an hour and thirty minutes of singing. I still sat in the service wanting to hear a word from the Lord.

I didn’t know who was preaching in the service (which is not unusual) but generally it’s someone who can say a word. After all the singing, it came time for the word of God. I perked up, grabbed my bible, pulled out my pen, and my notepad……..……for what! I cannot tell you to this day what had been said and from the look of others they can’t tell you what was said either.

I walked out of the service frustrated, mad, and angry. Paul says in Romans chapter 10:15; “And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!"” If the preacher’s feet are beautiful from preaching the good news, then there are some preachers with some UGLY feet.

As I drove home from church that night I was burning because as far as I was concerned that was a waste of time.

It appears to me that the pulpit, no matter how big or small the church, has become more of a spectator sport filled with ball hogs who are more concerned with looking good for the people rather than smelling good under the nostrils of God.

The next morning driving into work a deep appreciation for preaching and being in pastoral ministry filled my heart. Not just the act of preaching but knowing what I’ve been called to do. There is no doubt in my mind that God called me into ministry (1 Timothy 1:12), both preaching and pastoral ministry. Some may agree and/or may not agree but I believe pastoral ministry is a special call as Ephesians 4:11 states so eloquently; “And He gave some to be….pastors and teachers”. I don’t believe everybody is called to pastor/teach. It requires a special ability to shepherd God’s flock. And that is to feed the sheep with a solid dose of the gospel. Our ability to feed a solid dose of the gospel goes not just in what we preach but also in who we allow to preach. If not careful, you can spend the next several weeks cleaning up what some one has said in 45 minutes. Let me caution you, people pay more attention to the message than we give them credit for.

Here are a few suggestions:

- Know their doctrinal position: Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions (1 Timothy 1:3-7). There are a many people (men and women) who do not have a sound theological foundation and therefore choose to go with the flow of whatever works. So, clich├ęs are used more than scripture or they will share their conviction about an issue that is in total contradiction of scripture. It can hurt you rather than helping if what they’re teaching doesn’t match what you teach. They don’t have to say it like you but the interpretation should be the same but just said differently through personality of the one preaching.

- Preaching starts before the pulpit: I’ve been in services with guys that if the people knew half the conversation in the office before the service they would walk out. I’ve been to places to preach and the pastor wanted to hang out in the office cussing, talking about everything other than church all before I have to preach. Recently, I told a pastor I wanted to go into church and worship with the members before standing up to preach to them. He responds; “I was waiting for the offering and plus there’s not much going out there.” Thanks, pastor! I didn’t come to sit in the office. I came to worship with you and your church. The sermon starts as soon as you and/or who you invite enter the door. People see our lateness, talking in pulpit, flashy clothes, big jewelry, and they pay close attention to our reputation. I know a many of people in our city who can preach the roof off but my church don’t want to hear them because of their reputation in the city.

- Opening Remarks and Introductions: I preached earlier this year in a service with other local pastors and the opening comments sound like we were at the comedy store with no God in sight. I also remember a time I went to preach for a pastor’s anniversary and my opening comments killed me before I got started. It took the work of the Holy Spirit to pull me out of that one. Some introductions sound like a long resume list. In my opinion, how we introduce those who come to preach at our church can kill them before they get started. My opening remarks and introductions are brief now. One guy got mad at me because I didn’t go through a long drawn out introduction. I explained why I did what I did and he said he understood but I don’t think so. Pastors and preachers should not get upset with brief introductions. The spotlight is not about you, it’s about God and His word getting the glory. Make opening remarks short and the point. You’re communication efforts should be sharing the Word of God. You’re opening remarks shouldn’t be longer than your sermon either. Know the person to be introduced or ask someone who does. No sense in lying in pulpit when you’re not sure of what’s being said. Don’t embellish the introduction to make yourself look good. You’re not preaching. Say what you got to say and sit down!

- Final Remarks: All can go well in the service and then the final remarks ruin everything. I remember during one of my pastoral anniversary celebrations, I gave final remarks and it turned into a commercial for a Christian business I was trying to start up for cable television. When I finished and sat down, I felt weird because that was not the place for it. I also remember, a church wanted me as their pastor (before going to First Goodwill) and I preached a Friday night service for them. All went well until the final remarks. I basically told them thank you but no thank you. My explanation was that many of them came out of our home church, a good friend just left, and I had concerns. Wrong place to voice my concerns. Some of the people took offense and they forgot about the Gospel and started to gossip in the service. Unfortunately, we don’t have control over opening and closing remarks of our guest preachers/pastors. Then again maybe we do. Follow God’s direction is my only advice.

- Shake Peoples Hand: Is it typical for preachers/pastors to run straight to the office after preaching? It sure does seem like it. I think its bad practice to finish preaching for 45 minutes to an hour but can’t shake the peoples hand when you’re done. I find that it places a stamp of approval with the people to know that this guy who just preached is hanging out in front of the sanctuary to shake hands. One pastor was shocked when I finished preaching and he wanted to take me straight to his office and told him wait a minute; “Let me shake your peoples hand first.” When we got into the office he expressed that not many preachers do that.

- Send a “Letter of Thanks”: This is something I started doing this year. I send the pastor and church a letter of thanks for the opportunity of preaching at the church. I don’t know why I started it, outside of the fact that I recognize that I’m not worthy of the opportunity. I don’t know how they respond but it’s my way of saying thank you. In addition, if an honorarium was given I send 10% back with the letter. Most of the time I don’t take one but if they insist, I sow back into their ministry.

For the most part, I think many preachers and pastors have forgotten the sacredness of what we do. My desire is to please God with my preaching in and out of the pulpit. I hope yours is too.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sunday Thoughts - 4/5/09

I’ve been wrestling with Isaiah 40:31 since our church anniversary. “But they that wait on the Lord, He shall renew their strength, He shall mount them up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not get weary, and they shall walk and not faint.” This verse has become my verse for 2009. And on last week we preached “Trusting God Who Controls Everything” – Genesis 14 as well as in our Wednesday Night Bible Study we studied James 5:7-11 of which I title How to be Patient. And so yesterday, I preached James 5:7-11;

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.
also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Topic: Trusting God’s Perfect Timing

Thesis Statement: You can handle life’s difficulties when you trust that God’s timing is perfect.

Here are three (3) ways you can trust God’s perfect timing when life deals you a bad hand:

I. Focus On The Return Of Christ – v. 7a

Point: The time will come when all suffering and injustice will soon be over.

* The Return of Christ provides hope for the Believer
* The Return of Christ encourages the believer that trouble don’t last always

II. Focus On Your Work – v. 7b–9

Point: Wait patiently on God with great expectations.

How should we wait patiently on God?

* Persevere in hard times – v. 7b-8
* Stop complaining – v. 9

III. Focus On The Faithfulness of God – v. 10-11

Two examples are given of people who waited patiently on God.

- The Prophets
- Job

What does the example of the prophets and Job teach us?

- Blessing don’t come easy all the time
- Because blessings don’t come easy doesn’t mean you’re not blessed
- God blesses a persons endurance with divine favor

Final analysis: God will not let you down!

I pray the members of FGMBC were blessed yesterday by the message. I am confident that these messages over the recent weeks have been needed encouragement for our church.

Two Hispanic men came to our church yesterday and one expressed a desire to be saved. Many Hispanics are not used to our way of doing church so rather than coming up he blurted out, “I want to be delivered from smoking.” I quickly asked him to come up for prayer and told him I wanted to talk to him after service. Thank God for planted seed!

I went to a service for one of the sons of the church who celebrated 3 years of pastoral ministry. One word, interesting! I don’t know how to explain it.

This week will be pretty busy getting ready for Resurrection Sunday, bible study, work, Aysia’s track meets, and so forth and so on. God give me strength.