Sunday, September 23, 2012

MAYBE A LITTLE SENSITVE

MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE I WENT TO SEE A THEATRICAL PRODUCTION of C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, produced by the Fellowship for the Performing Arts, or maybe it's because of some weird dreams I have been having as of late, or maybe it's because of an increased number of troubled marriages in our church, or maybe it's because pastors in my community seem to be under attack physically, emotionally and spiritually. Maybe it's because an malady that I thought I had a handle on has returned, or that I my sermon study time was questioned. Maybe it's because the church's income is low, or that there are individuals I have been praying for and over who seem to be no closer to the Lord than before we started praying.  Dare I go on?

Maybe I am just being to sensitive, and sending a daughter off to college (Go Biola!), and soon I will be "giving away" another daughter to a young Bolivian gentleman. Maybe it's a malaise of having a vision statement, without a sense of true direction. Do I sound like I am whining? I suppose so. Does it sound like I am in the depths of depression? It might, but I'm not. What is it, then?

I believe it's spiritual attack. Screwtape and his junior tempter nephew, Wormwood, seem to be taking aim upon us (I include many of those listed above in the "us.") Some would tell me, "Come now, Pastor Randy, look at all the good things that God is doing!" Yes, God is at work, there's no doubting that! God is moving! God is good! But that doesn't lessen that fact that these "coincidences" of life seem too many, too focused, to be mere coincidences.

There are times I feel like we must be headed in the right direction because we seem to be meeting the evil one head-on. And then there are times, like in this moment, that I wonder if I am truly not self-deceived. 

The reality is I want to be 110% sold-out (souled-out) to the work of God and His glory. I do not want to pastor a church that is, as in the words of Screwtape, "moderate." He states that having people in moderate (ineffective, half-hearted) churches is better than having them in no church at all. Better the guise of religion than the depth of relationship with the King of kings and Lord of lords. But it is this depth that I desire for self and for those I serve.

This morning in the sermon I mentioned the importance of living in the wilderness, as John the Baptist did. (Matthew 3:1-12) The wilderness can be a place of decision as it was for Israel (See the Book of Exodus). It can be a place of testing, as it was for Jesus (See John 4). It can be a place where God can speak because all things seemed to be striped away. In this I will trust.

I guess I too must welcome the wilderness. To seek the silence where God's voice alone is heard. Speak, O Lord, speak.

MY DIFFICULT DECISION


THE TRUTH IS, THE LONGER WE PUT OFF something the harder it is to follow through on that which we should have done. Believe it or not, baptism was one of those “something’s” that I put off for a long time. How long you ask? Well, I am still somewhat embarrassed to say that it was after I was a Senior Pastor!  Yes, there is the ugly truth; I had been baptizing people, while I still needed to follow through on the example set and the command given, by our Lord.
The above statement, in reality, is actually only partly true, the partly true part was my excuse for not being baptized. You see, I was baptized as an infant. Don’t remember a single part of that day and I have never even seen a picture, though I do have a yellowing certificate stuffed in an album somewhere that say that the event took place. I am not saying that infant baptisms are wrong (I have performed a few myself), but I also believe that a follower of Christ needs to make a public profession of faith and to be involved in that initiatory rite within the community of faith.
What changed for me is that I heard, while attending the Billy Graham School of Evangelism, the clear voice of the Holy Spirit tell me that I needed to put my pride and fear of what people would think aside and humbly and obediently and publically follow my Lord through the waters of baptism.
Therefore, I contacted my friend who pastored the Baptist church in town (who better to baptize you than a Baptist!) and told him my story. The quick story is that we did a combined service of our two churches where he baptized me, and I baptized some from our church fellowship. It was an incredible service of Christian unity, love an celebration.
So, there you have it, my little “secret,” but how glad I am that I put fear aside and obediently followed the Spirit’s call. My question for you today is; has the Holy Spirit called you to some form of action for the Kingdom, but you are hesitant to respond because of fear, or because of pride? If there is, I strongly to promptly obey the Spirit’s prompting and know the blessing that comes from obeying the Word of the Lord.

Monday, September 17, 2012

SEEKING JESUS?

I CAN REMEMBER PLAYING hide-and-seek with my kids when they were young. I always knew where they were hiding (giggling usually gave them away), but I would pretend to not know, and walk right by them. Some may call it dishonesty, I call it making the game fun for my kids. I would call out, “Now where could they be?” knowing they were right in front of me hiding in the closet. All good fun, that’s for sure.
I have sometimes seen people seeking for Jesus in much the same way I was seeking for my kids. He is right in front of them and for some reason, fear, lack of faith, disobedience, or true lack of desire, they seem to look right at Him and then walk past. They call out His Name, they may even hear a still small voice giving away the truth of His presence, but they ignore the signs and simply walk away. So close and yet so far away.
What’s the key for finding Jesus? Well, the Old Testament gives us a starting point. In Jeremiah 29:13 the LORD says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  The first step to finding Jesus is to make our search the deep-longing of our heart; more than money, or a good life, or even eternal life for that matter, but to seek God with ALL our heart. In the New Testament, Jesus tells His followers, “But seek first the Kingdom of God…” (Matthew 6:33). Therein lies the crux for many; it is seeking God’s kingdom first. And what is that Kingdom? Well, it is more than just a location in space and time. Rather it is the full submission (surrender) to the rule of God in our lives.
 I think this is what hinders so many from truly finding Jesus. They seek Him for salvation, for healing, for belonging, for comfort, all good things mind you, but the call is to seek Jesus with ALL our heart and for HIS rule in all our life.  These two elements are key to “finding Jesus.”
For what do you seek today? Are you seeking for Jesus? Then dear friend,  may you do so with ALL your HEART and for HIS COMPLETE RULE in your life. Then you will truly find Him, and what a great discovery that will be!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

FLUID DISCIPLE-MAKING

WELL, WE'RE OFF on a new sermon series for the fall. We're taking a walk through Matthew's Gospel, with an end toward hearing Jesus a fresh for the first-time or for the umpteenth-time. Our prayer is that we will see Him and hear Him and to the point that we can touch Him, bit more importantly, to be touched by Him so that we can continue in the great work to which he has called us. The work of making disciples of all nations! (Matthew 28:19-20)

With our new journey in mind, here's the Shepherd's Staff article I wrote for this past kick-off Sunday (sorry, couldn't miss the shameless plug for football season.)


OVER THE PAST FEW WEEKS I have had the opportunity to be discipled in two water sports that were brand new to me. One opportunity was provided to me as a gracious gift of Noel and Jennifer (Jennifer is our office manager). The gift, at least I thought it was a gift, was for Noel to take me surfing off of Cowell’s beach. In the number of hours we were there in that somewhat chilly water, Noel patiently explained and demonstrated and helped me to catch a wave. He even gave up his own surfboard and took the “beginners” board for himself. Though I never got up and surfed the encouragement from Noel never stopped, and truth be known, I had a blast even though I never really surfed. Noel’s patient, gracious and helpful manner gave me hope that someday I may, “catch a wave and be sitting on top of the world.”
     A couple of weeks later I had another opportunity to try a new water sport, wake-boarding. My brother-in-law, Scott, gave me all the on-board pointers he could and then it was into the water for me. I’ll save you the suspense…I never got up on that board either, but it wasn’t for want of trying. Each time I crashed on take-off, Scott would race the boat back around give me some more ideas, get the rope back in my hands, and we would try again. We kept trying until I didn’t have the strength to go any farther, but during all those failed attempts never once did I hear frustration or ridicule in Scott’s voice. Rather, there was always another idea that might help me get up behind his boat. Well, there’s always next year.
     I tell you these two stories because we are starting a new series of sermons today from the Gospel of Matthew, a series that is focusing upon two big pictures. The first picture is to see Jesus, to listen to Him, to learn from Him. The second is discovering what it means to respond to Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples”  Both Noel and Scott illustrated part of what that means; to impart to others that which has been imparted to us so that we can be well-equipped and even enjoy the journey of following Jesus Christ, and to do so with great patience, great grace, and a deep desire to see another succeed. That is what good disciple-makers do.