Friday, October 3, 2014

Tag der Deutschen Einheit: A Picture of Freedom in Christ & What the Church Should Be

Tag der Deutschen Einheit:
Is a Picture of Freedom in Christ and what the Church Should Be

            We have, as a family, been in Germany for almost two weeks now. Our first German holiday is the German Re-Unification day. It is celebrated on October 3. in the fall of 1989 East Germany and West Germany were Re-Unified after many years of Post World War 2 Communism in the DDR Government. I remember vividly President Reagan saying, "Mr. Gorbachav tear down this wall"! Then on the day when the wall came down, I can remember people standing on top of the wall with sledgehammers swinging with all their might to destroy this wall a symbol of bondage, fear, and control. This had such an impression on me as a teenager. I did not understand the full implications, at the time, But a young man standing on top of the wall trying to destroy the wall was an irrevocable image on me as a teenager...
  
            Later on a short term missions trip to East Germany we took a tour of Leipzig and found out that the freedom movement started with prayer everyday at one of the larger churches in Leipzig. The Deaconesses would meet daily for prayer for the liberation of the East German people and the fall of the DDR. In the weeks to follow the East German people marched for freedom against the borders that the DDR had set up, and the tanks and soldiers that stood against the people were ordered in some confusion from the top level commanders to stand down. Was that confusion from God? Of course! God threw the DDR Army and commanders into confusion so they could not stand against the march for freedom. We know from a thorough study of scripture that God rises and falls dictatorships, governments, and kingdoms (Romans 15). The picture then of German Re-Unification became clearer and clearer to me. Also the picture of our freedom and Re-Unification in Christ becomes clearer with these earthly pictures of peoples and governments Re-Unifying.
            I think today of Galatians 5:1 Where the Apostle Paul says, "It is for Freedom that Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." This is such a great verse in light of such a historic and unpresedented event in human History. I know a pastor that lived and served as a pastor in the DDR and now in East Germany near Leipzig. I asked him if it was a possibility for the DDR to fall a year before it actually happened. He said, "never, it was an impossibility." He also said, "In My mind the DDR would never ever fall like it did. It is truly a miracle from God." This is the same thing we see in Galatians 5:1. Christ has set us free, and it was a practical impossibility that we would have been set free from sin by our own power, thought, ability, or works. This freedom that Christ has given from sin and death is a miracle of impossibility!
            I also think today of the Church, "Tag Der Deutschen Einheit" is a picture of the Church. Our unity in Christ is a picture to the world of the great work of salvation, redemption, and grace to a broken world. In a world that experiences discord, and broken relationships we the Church can relay the message of freedom, hope and unity in Christ. These are values that the world typically is not exposed to. When we as a Church can exhibit these qualities then the world can see and pay attention to the countercultural way of Christ. His way is an impossiby free way. His way is the miracle of impossibility. Let’s celebrate the Re-Unification Day in Germany as a real world example of our impossible Re-Unification in Christ that he has so graciously made for us. Our great hope in him is that in bringing that same message to a world that so desperately needs Christ, the world might also be Unified to a good and loving savior in impossibly miraculous ways.




Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Mysterious Deity of Christ: Christ the Fountainhead of Life week 4

Colossians 2:1-15 Christ the fountainhead of Life: week 4 

As we dig deeper into the Fountainhead of life he becomes richer and greater than we could have ever imagined. He is further described in this classic passage in Colossians 2:1-15 please take a minute to read it...

1) For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2) that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3) in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge 4) I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5) For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. 6) Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7) rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8) See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9) For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10) and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11) In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12) having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13) And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14) by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15) He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:1-15 ESV)

We can draw close to Christ as fountainhead of life because of the three aspects of His rich character and accomplishments

1. The Mysterious Christ
If you are all into the Greek thing here is the word for "Mystery" from this passage... 
G3466    μυστήριον
Pronounced moos-tay'-ree-on
from a derivative of μύω (to shut the mouth); a secret or "mystery" (through the idea of silence imposed by initiation into religious rites):--mystery.
Used in Colossians 1:26;27; 2:2 & 4:3 this is a great theme in Colossians that the deep and utterly Mysterious Christ is now made known "we have beheld His glory the glory of the one and only as from the Father full of grace and truth." Paul here struggles for the mystery he struggles to make the deep mystery of Christ known to Laodicea and those he hasn't even met yet! The love of Christ truly does compel him and it works a deep affection for all who do not yet know this mystery. Christ is mysterious and also not mysterious. This word is used for secret religions usually those who wanted to become part of a secret society like we have now "the skulls" the "free masons" "illuminati", etc on the other hand Christ himself not a society is deeply mysterious, but he has made that mystery plain to the world! And we can shout it from the rooftops there are no insiders, there are no secret handshakes there are no rituals only freedom and acceptance for those who embrace the master. He has made himself known, and we will never know him completely until we have seen Him face to face, but we can come to fullness of him. If we know Him we know all we need, and "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" are found in Him. Nothing escapes Him! The deep mysterion of God is revealed to all the world in His infinitely loved son hanging on a cross. 

1) For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2) that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3) in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 

Have you ever walked out of a room into another room to get something and in the time it took you to walk into that room you forgot what you walked there to get? I have done this so many times lately either I am getting old or I am just too distracted. Jesus here is neither too old, slow, or distracted. because we see that ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in him! ALL nothing escapes Him! NOTHING!

2. The Deity of Christ

More Greek for you Greek loving peoples...Deity...
G2320    θεότης
Pronounced theh-ot'-ace
from 2316; divinity (abstractly):--godhead.
This word only occurs in this reference "divinity" the one God to whom all deity belongs, has given this fullness of deity to the incarnate Christ. 

Bodily...
G4985    σωματικῶς
Pronounced so-mat-ee-koce'
adverb from 4984; corporeally or physically:--bodily.

All philosophies are answered in the physical, bodily, humanly, incarnate, and resurrected God-man who is Christ. He is everything and then more than you could ever believe or imagine. watch this video to get a better picture of all that Christ is...



4) I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5) For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. 6) Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7) rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8) See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9) For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10) and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

3. The Resurrection of Christ

11) In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12) having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13) And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14) by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15) He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

In his resurrection five things happened...
1) we were circumcised by Christ himself
2) we were buried with him in baptism (you were then raised with him into a new nature)
3) made alive together with him and forgiven ALL our trespasses (past, present, and future)
4) canceling the record of legal demands
5) disarmed rulers and authorities putting them to public shame

This is just a small picture of what the the mysterious Christ has done for us and all He asks for in return is our worship. and all we can say sometimes is Hallelujah!!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Church Should Be Like the NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs last night for a third straight game totally dismantled the Miami Heat. It was a very impressive display of basketball wizardry! As a basketball fan and player myself I was totally impressed at this team concept and how efficiently they passed the ball and not one player shined greater than another. The player with the highest point average on the team this year was 17 the lowest of a player on a winning team in the finals in the modern shot clock era. This proves the team concept that the San Antonio Spurs have been playing with for the last 15 years.

However I was not as impressed with the excellent basketball and team play as I was with several other aspects that I think make them great. I also wonder if the church might have a look at these areas I noticed last night. As I watched them as a team receive the trophy I thought "the church should be like this!"

1. They are Humble Team Players: 
The first thing that occurred to me while watching the spurs last night was that there is not one single ego on the team. Tim Duncan will be in the Basketball hall of fame one day (and maybe a few other players too), but his Jersey is the 14th Highest selling Jersey in the NBA. Do you think he cares? NO He cares about team, and family, and those around him. I have to say I am actually struggling with this lately. I am struggling with the need to prove myself to everybody. Why do I do that? Why can't I be completely satisfied in My Savior? What if I was a person that was actually completely satisfied in my savior? What if the Church was completely satisfied in Jesus? What if the church was a little more like this? Like Christ actually?
This team is full of unselfish basketball players, they are totally unselfish. They pass the ball better than any other team in the league. Every time I counted the passes in a possession it was always over five passes and when I counted the Heat's passing it was always under 5 usually 2-3 passes per possession. This can only be attributed to team leadership that is also unselfish. From the top down Greg Popovich their coach deflects accolades better than anyone in the NBA. He usually doesn't like to say much to the media, but to his players he demands excellence, humility, and the team concept. What if the Church looked like this? Unselfish, humble, team players?

2. They are Diverse: 
One of the reasons that you have never heard of any of the players on the Spurs is because they are humble team players, and also because they are very diverse. Most of their roster are not Americans. There are only seven Americans on the roster for the Spurs.
There are Italians, Australians, French, Canadians, New Zealanders,  Argentinians, Brazilians and one from St. Croix of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Americans are outnumbered by the international players for the Spurs. Greg Popovich has found a winning formula with this international community and great diversity. Jesus has also found a winning formula in seeking and redeeming those from every tribe and nation under the sun. As I watched the Spurs celebrate Their win, the flags of all these countries came out. It was a great sight to see all these various countries represented on the platform. I can remember a missions conference in Germany that I attended in which our worship rose to the Lord in many different languages, and then the flags were flying of every European country. It was AWESOME! There were about 30 countries represented. It was almost like the Holy roar that will rise before the throne of God, everyone singing in Heaven one day in their own language (Revelation 7:9). How can we as a church reflect the diversity that will one day encamp around the throne of God worshiping the lamb? Well maybe we could take a lesson from the Spurs and seek to reflect that diversity now.

3. They are Relentless for the Team and Goal:
Since the Spurs should have won the NBA championship last year and were robbed (I guess you can assume how I feel about last year) they have worked tirelessly and gotten better. I would never have been able to believe that from last year when they played
awesome basketball. Somehow they really got better as a basketball team. They truly pounded a great Miami team. How could we as a Church learn from their example? If a bunch of guys can work tirelessly for sport, something that will ultimately fade away, couldn't we as a Church tirelessly put our efforts to work in this world for Christ and His kingdom? I was reminded recently of a poem written by a hero of the faith named C.T. Studd. this is the last stanza of the poem...

Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last. 
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, 
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”

Paul also wrote about giving everything for Christ...

"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

These San Antonio Spurs give everything for the goal, the prize, the trophy that will one day not be shiny,
one day not be made of gold, one day not even be there. However, the crown of righteousness will be awarded one day, and if we have lived a humble, faithful, Christ honoring life then the Church will receive that prize that will never fade away!

Church how can we refocus and realign our hearts with the heart of Christ in Humility, embracing Diversity, and being Relentless for Christ? I pray that this emboldens the Church to be what Christ had envisioned for His bride form the beginning. Let us seek Him in these ways so that we can be a most beautiful, appealing, and effective Bride.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Christ is the Riches of God

Colossians 1:24-29 Christ the fountainhead of Life: week 3
"Christ; the Riches of God"

24) Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25) of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26) the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27) To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28) Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29) For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:24-29 ESV)

Objective Statement: The Church is Fully Complete in Christ by Receiving the Stewardship of His Ministry in Three Areas.
1. We Receive the Stewardship of Sufferings for the Church


Verse 24-26
24) Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25) of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26) the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 
This word that Paul uses here in verse 24 has stumped Biblical scholars probably since the letter was written. He says He "fills up what was Lacking": So I wanted to look at that word for a moment. The Greek word is
G5303 ὑστέρημα
Pronounced hoos-ter'-ay-mah
from 5302; a deficit; specially, poverty:--that which is behind, (that which was) lack(-ing), penury, want.
By his sufferings Paul enters into the sufferings of Christ, who is now exalted above earthly sufferings as the head of the church (kittle) 'what is lacking' or 'what is wanting'.  
The wanting that Paul is referring to here is that he enters into Christ sufferings and becomes a fellow partaker in the suffering. For us the same when we enter into sufferings we are entering into the full measure of what it is to know Christ. We have never before seen Him in His suffering so as we and Paul suffer as a follower of Christ we "fill up what was lacking". By way of suffering Paul fulfills the suffering that Jesus went thought and presents that suffering to the church, so that they can also see and enter into the sufferings of Christ and thus "fill it up". He does this so that the church can know better their great suffering head. And be in true communion with him as suffering head. As Paul also said in Philippians, "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:10, 11 ESV). Paul was glad to receive the stewardship of suffering from Christ to display to the church. And they were many sufferings indeed. His stewardship of sufferings for the church is best expressed in 2 Corinthians 11:24-33
"Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands." (2 Corinthians 11:24-33 ESV)
If you are interested here is info on the greek word also used here for Sufferings:
G2347 θλῖψις
Pronounced thlip'-sis
from 2346; pressure (literally or figuratively):--afflicted(-tion), anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble.
The Greatness of this message is that we can enter in to what our savior experienced and as Paul did He was a steward of the great sufferings that he experienced for His name. How a bout you? do you complain, moan, or resent your sufferings. We can leverage, and steward them for Christ and His glory in the Church?

2. We Receive Stewardship of the Riches of Gods Glory as Revealed in Christ (to the Gentiles)

We as modern day Christians have such an insiders, consumer, entitlement mentality. But what Paul says here is that we are the outsiders! God made His mystery that had been hidden forever, namely Christ, known to Jews first then to Gentiles (outsiders). And His mystery in Christ are the riches of God. God's riches; let's meditate on that for a while. God is the best thing in all the universe! He is also the most wealthy, because not only does he own all things, he is the inventor, creator, and manufacturer of everything in all of the entire universe! All that we see and know, and all that we cannot see and will never know in a thousand lifetimes belongs ultimately to him! So he is the wealthiest individual in all the universe. He makes the top ten wealthiest individuals put together look like they are running a lemonade stand. Let's have a look...
#1 Bill Gates $77.1 B 
#2 Carlos Slim Helu & family. $71.5 B 
#3 Warren Buffett $64.6 B
#4 Amancio Ortega $63.3 B
#5 Larry Ellison $50.6 B
#6 Charles Koch $41.2 B
#6 David Koch $41.2 B
#8 Sheldon Adelson $38.7 B
#9 Christy Walton & family $38.6 B
#10 Jim Walton $36.2 B
------------------------------------------------
With a grand total of. $736.2 Billion in net worth...
Their wealth is as a drop in the bucket compared to His. If His wealth is so immeasurable it must be great to experience His wealth and receive it. Guess What...YOU HAVE! Jesus is his wealth! Jesus is his greatest prize to you! The most valuable thing God could give you is 'Christ in you the hope of glory.' Not only do you have God's wealth in Christ, but you also have a fast and sure hope of glory! An immovable mountain as steadfast as God himself that one day you will experience glory with Christ in heaven, as co-heirs of Jesus himself, he is our brother! And we His! And not to mention that...Heaven is a wonderful place (Revelation 21), I wanna go there! 
You see his riches revealed in Jesus in Vs. 27
27) To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
-God's glory now extends outside the bounds of Israel and now can be entered through Christ by anyone! 
-All nations
-all tribes
-all people groups
-all languages
And he will be The Lord and king of them all

3. We Receive the Stewardship of Proclamation (warning, teaching, and wisdom): that makes us mature in Christ

We receive warnings daily...do not touch, do not eat, speed limit 55, weather warnings, Danger signs, caution, speed bumps ahead. These warnings are loving! Sometimes we hear the word warning and do not see it as loving, but it is. Warning us of danger is a loving thing. Usually the warning comes from a person wanting our good and not our destruction. As we traveled from California to South Carolina we saw some pretty interesting things, but I loved the signs the most...
1) Do not pick up hitch hikers, prison near by!
2) Gusty winds may exist!
3) Drive safely
4) Drive carefully
5) Would u trust Indian food at a truck stop in Texas? (Literally that was a real sign!)
6) Drive friendly the Texas way
7) Road construction sign: "be caution"
8) Aircraft used! (I guess this sign is true aircraft is often times used)
Some of these signs make no sense at all. Some of these warnings were not very thought through...or passed by an English teacher, or anyone who speaks English for that matter. But the signs and warnings that Paul proclaims are the only pertinent and meaningful signs ever. Him (Jesus) we proclaim. The end game of the proclamation and warning is that he could and would present everyone "mature in Christ". How does Paul do this continually? How does he endure his trials? With "His energy that so powerfully works within me." Are you toiling on this earth in some meaningless task, something altogether unimportant? Or are you toiling, warning, teaching, proclaiming Christ? If not why not? And if so do you lean completely on Him struggling with all His energy?
Vs. 28
28) Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29) For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:24-29 ESV)

Close: the church needs proclamation and maybe it even needs people to suffer in that proclamation that Paul goes through. Lydia my five year old asked me when she was four, "where is Jesus' church"? I said, "Jesus church is everywhere all over the world in America, Germany, China, Pakistan, and lots of other countries." I said, "why do you ask." She said, "because I love Jesus." I said, "but there are lots of people who have not heard about Jesus yet, and so we have to go and tell them about him." She responded, "they need Jesus in their heart too, it's only fair." It is only fair and our stewardship of his message is of utmost importance. He has given us everything we need to make Christ known His sufferings, His riches and His message to proclaim faithfully. So let's proclaim Him and the riches found in Him! 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The most un-Reached people group in America!

One of the largest un-reached people groups in the United States is the disability community. Over one-fifth of all Americans are affected by permanent disability, according to the most recent Census Bureau numbers. They're un-reached because of the isolation, pain, difficulty, and degree to which people affected by disability are ostracized in our culture.
 
Our daughter Ana has Down syndrome. I've had a lot of exposure and contact with the world of Down syndrome as a result. As I look back on my life experiences, I see how God was preparing me for life with Ana. I have been in youth ministry for 20 years, and in every one of my ministries there have been many students with disabilities, including Down syndrome. God has been so kind and gracious to expose me to the world of disabilities before I was graciously pulled into it on a deeper level with Ana. 
 
When she was 10 months old, we noticed strange things were happening to her. She would lose control of her body, especially her head and arms. We quickly called the doctor and got an EEG test that showed a thing called Hypsarrhythmia. Our neurologist gave us a diagnosis of infantile spasms. We were devastated. It was a difficult and tiring journey to her being fully cleared of all seizures. Her seizures were most often in the middle of the night; I would get up and hold her during the seizures, and sometimes there were episodes of 40-50 in a row.
 
I remember a night about 7 years ago very vividly. I felt completely helpless, and all I could do was cry out to Jesus through the tears. "Help me. Please help me, Jesus."
 
This is just a glimpse into life for people in the disability community. To face these struggles is exhausting spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.  One amazing way God has refreshed my family is through the ministry of Joni and Friends, especially the ministry's "Family Retreat." Most families facing disability struggle with endless demands on their time, energy, emotions, mental capacity, and spiritual life. I've been in support group, after support group, where people were completely overwhelmed. These families rarely have time to feed their own souls in substantial ways. Yes, we really are committed to the Lord daily, we believe in the importance of personal and corporate time with him, but practically how does this work out?
 
When my family attended the family retreat for the first time five years ago, this renewal happened for us. When we drove up to the camp, we wept as counselors and staff held up signs with our children's names on them. We were being celebrated for the first time, and it was completely disarming. As a result of the disarming power of celebration, we were able to have complete respite and be rejuvenated through corporate worship with like-minded people in the disability community. We also had the opportunity to be blessed by those facing the same struggles. "Short term missionaries" served the families, each one assigned to our individual children. My wife and I even had the chance to talk to each other about goals for our family and the deep, hard things we were dealing with, without interruption! We even went on a date! Every year on "date night," we find there are couples who haven't been out for a date since the birth of their child with disabilities, and for some this is 10-15 years prior.
 
In our involvement with Joni and Friends ministry over the years, I've met so many people neglected by their own church. One such woman was a single mother with a 21-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy.  As soon as her child was born, her husband left her. This is actually, sadly, a common occurrence; some figures reflect the divorce rate is as high as 80 percent (http://drgrcevich.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/special-needs-and-divorce-what-does-the-data-say/). Her husband couldn't handle the shame he felt, so he left.
 
She would often seek out other people to connect with in her church, but nothing materialized. One day, her pastor preached on the passage in Luke where Jesus says to invite the poor and disabled in to your homes, the people who can't repay you.  "He (Jesus) said also to the man who had invited him, 'When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just'” (Luke 14:12-14).
 
As she tells the story, she became so excited when she heard the passage and her pastor's teaching. "This is finally the day; now someone will invite us over!" she thought. So she rolled her daughter's wheelchair out to the foyer, turned it around and parked it so people would have to walk by them. Yet the people filed by; not one single invitation was extended to this very tired single mother. This is unfortunately an all too familiar scene for many in the disability community.
 
As we partner with ministries like Joni and Friends, however, we can make it more of a priority to serve families in our community affected by disability, and we can learn the best ways to meet their needs. For my family, the retreat has been crucial. Our heart has grown for the most unreached, un-evangelized, hurting, and isolated people group in the country. Let us with fresh vision obey the words of Jesus to "invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed."
 
I believe Joni Eareckson Tada is the most influential Christian leader of this generation. See her testimony below. And here are a few links to information about ministries the church can take advantage of:











Friday, May 23, 2014

Cultivating Curiosity in the Name of Christ

Pastoral ministry requires a person to be curious and genuinely curious about other people. Over the years, I’ve found that ministry required me to be curious about people, and early on in my ministry, I noticed I was genuinely uncurious, arrogant and proud.
A mentor pointed this out to me. It was hard to hear, but it was the best thing he could’ve done for me at the time. I went with him on a weekend retreat where he was the speaker. On our way there, he said to me, "You interrupt people all the time."
I was shocked. He said I had interrupted his wife at dinner at least a dozen times. They were looking at each other, thinking, “Who is this guy; what is he doing?” He offered to observe me over the weekend and let me know what he noticed by the end of our time ministering together. 
At the end of the weekend, he told me he felt I cared more about myself, and what I wanted to say, than about other people and what was on their minds.
This hurt to hear, but it was so eye opening. I realized I needed to overhaul my pride, and my lack of curiosity. I needed to flex my selflessness muscles and genuinely begin caring about people’s souls, interests, passions and needs. James, the brother of Jesus, has this wise advice for us: When we’re tempted to speak first in any situation, we need to choose first to listen, understand and ask questions.
Are you curious, or are you self-important, arrogant, and proud? Here are a few ways to discern where you need to grow:
1.       Do you come into groups of people and begin immediately to talk about yourself or what's happening to you?
2.       Do you, like me, interrupt people when they’re in the middle of a sentence or thought? Do you rush to interject your opinion, tell a story about yourself, or somehow promote yourself?
3.       Do you ask questions of people? Do you seek to get to know people beyond surface level?
4.       Have people ever made these types of comments to you: “you talk too much,” “you interrupted me,” or “you’re not listening”?
5.       Do people seem to pull away from you after a while, even people you had considered a friend?
In order to become deeply caring and curious people, we need to be transformed by Jesus. For me it is happening as I submit myself to the direction of the Holy Spirit. My wife has also sharpened me; she knows my struggles and challenges me. "You aren't listening," "you’re interrupting," she will graciously point out.  
We can also grow by asking other people who are close to us: "Do you feel listened to by me?" "Do I have any blind spots in my character?" Our culture is head over heels for celebrities, starved for information about the rich and the famous, but our Christ call us to minister to the poor, marginalized, hurting, unpopular, and unfamous. Christ is calling his church to be genuinely curious about those that cannot repay you or return the favor:
“(Jesus) said also to the man who had invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just’” (Luke 14:12-14).
Let us with fresh vision obey the words of Jesus, and with great curiosity, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, “and you will be blessed.”


Monday, May 5, 2014

Christ the Fountainhead of Life: Week 2 "What Does Jesus Control?"

Colossians 1:15-23 Christ the fountainhead of Life: Week 2 "What Does Jesus Control?"

I don't pretend to understand Quantum Mechanics but I do know from middle school science that protons have a positive charge and electrons have a negative charge. This makes them attracted to each other. You should thank them for that attraction because I guess if they all of a sudden lost their attractional force one to another we would quickly cease to exist. I guess it would kind of be like the Arnold Schwarzenegger  film The Eraser.
Did you ever see that movie it was pretty terrible, but that ray gun was pretty awesome at making people disappear. I would posit that we are held together by the great loving kindness and mercy of Christ. As we see in our next section of Colossians. "And in him all things hold together". We see today from this passage that Christ is totally supreme over all things down to the very basic building blocks of your life even your protons and electrons. There is not one thing that is out of His ultimate control, careful, and kind watch. 

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister." (Colossians 1:15-23 ESV)

Christ is completely supreme for our good and his own glory in three areas. 

1. He is completely supreme over all Created Things 

-all things we see and even those things and powers that we cannot see are under his careful purview

"15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16) For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17) And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together."
All these things were created through him and they are for him."
-What could these things possibly "do" for Jesus that would do anything for Him?

Psalm 19 
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat." (Psalm 19:1-6 ESV)
And what does creation say day after day? It says to everyone everywhere, "I am here look at me, see me, I am God! 
This creation cries to us all that there is a great and wonderful creator that cannot be ignored. You can try to ignore him and fill your life with distractions but he has made everything 'ex nihilo' (from nothing) and we must pay attention! Not only did he create all things but all things will eventually one day return to him for his glory. One day at the end "every knee will bow" either bow voluntarily or involuntarily! This is the length and breadth or his supremacy! 

2. He is also completely supreme over His Church

"18) And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19) For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20) and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross."

Whatever your view of Jesus was before now, it was too small. Your view of Him was too small before you read this today! And hopefully after you read this, it will continue to grow! Ekklesia is the Greek word here that Paul uses to describe the assembly or church. And also likewise whatever your view of the church was when you read this today it was too small. The greatness of Jesus Church should continually be growing in your mind! Acts 20:28 says that the Ekklesia is the people whom The Lord has "bought with his own blood". It is all people who belong to him from every tribe, and nation, from all people, from all time! 
And he is the head and Lord of that Ekklesia! 
He is firstborn with preeminence because of his resurrection. 
He is also preeminent because of all fullness of God resting on him. 
He is also preeminent Lord of the Church because he has made peace with everything by his blood
And His Church will grow, until the gospel of Jesus Christ has reached every language, and tribe, and nation

3. He is completely supreme over you and me through the Gospel 

21) And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22) he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23) if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

-we were aliens and completely foreign but now we have victory!!!

-he presents you holy and blameless. Who does he present you to? God himself!

"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)
Because of Christ's gracious sacrifice for you and I, we can boldly approach His throne, where Christ lives to make intercession for us. At His throne we will receive Mercy and Grace, no longer Judgement and Condemnation. He has the authority to give it, because of His supremacy in Redemption and His authority in the gospel.

Close: Our views of Jesus will always be too small until the day we see him face to face. Until then how are you seeking to worship and make much of Christ? Let your view of Him be always growing! As the famous Dutch Reformer Abraham Kuyper said, "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'"

Watch this sermon jam from John Piper, and let it help you worship the supreme Christ!