Pastor’s Blog: “Ownership”

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth.  Go therefore and make disciples” The words of Jesus, Matthew 28:18-19 

Ownership

Christians are quite familiar with the words of Jesus at the end of Matthew’s gospel.  We have even given the final 5 verses of chapter 28 a name: “The Great Commission”.   In our familiarity, we are not only cognizant of where the words are, and what they mean, but are fairly clear That this is what the church is supposed to do, all the way until Christ returns.

Jesus said that all authority, both in heaven and earth, (i.e. everywhere, for all time) is His.  It is His because the Father (God) has bestowed it upon Him. Subsequently, He then chooses to place a certain amount of authority to His followers.  This “commission” is ours then, bestowed upon us by Christ.  A commission that involves proclaiming the gospel so as to make disciples – true followers – of the one we are commissioned to work for.

This is rather straight forward, isn’t it?  It is not hard to understand this commission.  But, do we also grasp the implications of the Great Commission.  It is something we must OWN.

When I worked in corporate America for a rather large consumer packaged goods company I was trained that as an account manager I “owned” the results.  I was given resources both financial and human to achieve set dollar sales goals.  I was a manager and owned the outcome.  Success or failure was, quite literally, on my shoulders.  And I must admit I experienced both successes and failures.  I had to own the outcome rather desirable or undesirable.

I think this concept of personal ownership of something plays in other arenas of our lives.  Do we own the success or failure of friendships and even our marriages?  Do we own the responsibility of raising Godly children?  Equally as important, do we OWN the ministry outcome of our church?

I heard it said one time that nobody every washes a rental car.  But, everyone will attend their own wedding.  What is the difference?  The difference is what you have at stake.  The difference is ownership.  A rental car is somebody else’s.  Why put such care into something you are just renting? At your wedding you have, as it is often put, “skin in the game”.  There is something great at stake.  You are making a commitment for life. Marriage is between two people. But, each person must own what they are pledging to on their wedding day.  Ownership is a big deal.

Members of churches, do you have the same level of ownership in the outcome of your church as you do in other areas of your life?   It is a great thing to be a member of a local church.  But, membership is more than a name on a role.  It means you have a stake in the game.  You have a real part to play in the ministry outcome of the church.  Own it.  Cherish it.  Polish, it.  Care for it. Serve it. Give to it.  Make sure that nothing will stand in the way for your church to have the greatest impact in the community, region, and the world.

Pastor’s Blog: The Danger of Unbelief

The Danger of Unbelief
Matthew 13:58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

“Believe it or not” is a phrase used by the Ripley organization in their presentation of the weird, strange, and unimaginable. Driven by showcasing what was once themed in a side show circus, the organization has been wowing audiences for years with things that often defy explanation.

Jesus came back to his hometown. He had been in surrounding areas ministering through the teaching of parables and performing miracles. One would expect a warm reception in their hometown. Such was not the case in Nazareth. Instead, he discovered that even though he had taught with authority in their synagogues, the people just couldn’t believe that he, one of their own, a son of a simple carpenter, could be the true Messiah.

Ripley’s makes it a point for its audiences to see the strange and unimaginable for themselves, then make the call “Believe it or not”. The rather tongue-in-cheek phrase is meant to push you to the obvious. You see it, seeing is believing, therefore believe. This may not fit your reality, but believe it, this strange thing you are seeing is very much a reality.

In a similar vein Jesus was there, in the flesh, his teaching authority, backed up by the miracles he was performing elsewhere (verifiable by eye witnesses), should have been enough even for his own people, from the village of his youth, to believe that He was who he said he was. But, they chose not to believe. Unbelief is skepticism taken to its logical conclusion. Skepticism left alone long enough will lead to unbelief. And that, my friend, is not a safe, but, rather, a very dangerous place to be.

Not believing the doctor when they say you need serious treatment for an ailment immediately, will speed up your demise. Not believing the accountant that you owe the government a great deal of money will not get you a reprieve by the IRS. Not believing you have just flunked out of college will not ensure the people who manage the scholarship money promised to you will keep sending you the money.

For Jesus’ people, those in his own hometown, not believing in Him t meant that he would not perform many miracles there. It also meant he would not linger there. Unbelief, locks out the good work of the Lord in the hearts, and lives of people.

Maybe you are reading this and you don’t believe at all. You are convinced there is no God, that Jesus was a myth, and there is nothing true at all. Yet, you still look both ways when you cross the street, for you know it’s either that car your you. You still check the weather before locking in your outside plans, for you believe that weather happens and can ruin your plans. You don’t steal from your coworkers because you believe that stealing is wrong. In reality you believe many things because they conform to reality. You are not as much of an unbeliever after all.

Yet, when it comes to matters of the heart and soul you choose not to believe in Jesus Christ. But, there are nagging questions you have not found an answer for. Big questions like “What is the ultimate reality?” “Why am I even here?” “What do I do with guilt that I know I feel, even if people push we to accept that it’s all relative.”

I have yet to meet a person that does not struggle with existential questions such as these. These are the ultimate issues. Issues of the heart. Issues of reality. Issues the person of Jesus Christ dealt with. His miracles were verifiable. His teaching was without flaw. His life was without compromise. His death was complete. His resurrection a reality.

Believe it or not. That is the question. Jesus says the same thing to all of us. Either he is the savior of the world, or he is a charlatan. He cannot be both. Unbelief will keep you for entering to a relationship with him that will guarantee your future. A future where our faith becomes sight. Heaven. Belief is the necessary step only you can take. Believe it or not, this is crucial. Don’t be like Jesus’ home town. Rather, believe in Christ and you will find salvation.

Pastor’s Blog: Christmas in October

Christmas in October
Luke 2:10 . . . Good tidings of great Joy

There is a popular song at Christmas time that states “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”
Starting about 2 weeks ago (maybe sooner in some places) the Christmas merchandise was moving to the floor at retail outlets. Columbus Day is still a few days away, Thanksgiving a month and a half, Christmas a solid 3 months, but it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

We all know that the early push for Christmas is because it is the make or break holiday for the American retailer. Personal spending spikes during the Christmas season. Any self-respecting merchant needs to capitalize on the season, making sure consumer spending dollars are funneled into their accounts receivable.

When the angels came to the shepherds on the night Jesus the Christ was born they had to calm their fears. After saying to them “fear not!” they explained the reason their fear should be swept away. They were there to let the shepherds know that they were announcing Good tidings (literally good news or gospel), that was full of great joy. And not only that, it was for the shepherds and everyone else – every nation and peoples on the earth.

We are all well acquainted with the story. We understand that the joy was enshrined in a savior. The savior which was Christ the Lord. The promised Messiah had arrived.

Humans are pretty good at manufacturing joy. Manufactured joy is part and parcel of what retailers are counting on. The joy of presents. The joy of finding the right gift for somebody. The joy (albeit fleeting) of that new material thing to play with, use, treasure, and ultimately, watch wear out.

Fleeting joy is not something experienced only at Christmas time. On the contrary, we can witness it every day. The new car gets a scratch, it’s not so new anymore. A loved one does something that displeases us, the happiness in that relationship waivers a bit. The new job with the new salary, is exciting, but then the reality sets in, you will have to put in 60 hours a week to even keep your head above the flood waters called a work load. You were feeling really heathy, but a recent blood test reveals a serious ailment in your body.

Joy, it can be fleeting. However, we must remember it not only is beginning to look a lot like Christmas in our stores, in terms of the message of the angels, it is Christmas every day. Yes, that same joy announced to those lowly shepherds is the same gospel message to every human being: True Joy came down, lived, died, and rose again to solidify joy in the hearts and souls of people.

This joy, is the greatest of all. It is the joy of knowing that no matter what you have done, no matter where you have been, no matter where you are right now in terms of your own soul, you can experience the joy of knowing your sins are forgiven, you can be sure you are on your way to a promised place called heaven. By putting your complete trust in what Jesus did for you in dying on the cross to pay for your sins, and rising again from the dead, you are ensuring eternal life with Him. Moreover, you know have a genuine relationship with your creator. A constant friend that sticks closer than a brother.

Christ follower, is it beginning to look a lot like Christmas in your life and walk with the Lord? That is to say, is this message of “Great Joy!” the one you are most anxious to share with another? As one pastor put it. “We are on earth to share the gospel, not for our own comfort, convenience, self-satisfaction, and peace.” That is because, like the angels, we have a singular focus: Inform people of glad tidings of great joy. So, let’s ensure it is not only beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but indeed, the message is 24/7 and 365.

Pastor’s Blog: The Worth of the Individual

John 3:16 and the worth of an individual.

One of the benefits of technology is the ability for many jobs and professions to be executed from just about any place. At least any place that has an internet connection.

This was true of my previous “full time” position. It is equally true of my “present” full time vocation. Because of this I try to “get out of the office” and make the office portable. Being one that enjoys the wonderful God created gift called coffee, the local coffee establishment is a great place to be portable.

Sometimes coffee shops are not as busy as early a.m. When the establishment is not that busy it is quiet. At least quiet enough so that it is difficult not to eves drop in on the conversations going on around you. Listening to the friendly banter opens you up to what people really think about matters of life, living, and other wonderful mysteries of the human condition.

Recently I, (unintentionally) overheard a conversation about what the person wanted to happen if they were no longer able to enjoy the same level what is called the “quality of life”. Basically, the comment was once I turn to such and such of an age, and I’m no longer able to care for myself, then just help me end my life.

Needless to say, as a minister of the gospel, and as one coming from a Christ centered world view, I was taken back a bit. While this was banter, the concepts shared revealed a world view that is contrary to truth. The truth is, all humanity is of inestimable worth. The worth is bound to us, indeed attached to us, because humans are created in the very image of God.

But, alas, in this ever increasing Godless culture, the nonchalant statement that it would be better not to live, if one was dependent on another is really not so nonchalant after all. The person who uttered these words certainly has thought about life, what it means to be human, and outside of a biblical world view has bought into what culture has offered, life not lived on your own terms, with a body that allows you to do what you want when you want is simply not a life worth living at all.

John 3:16 is well known. Indeed, it is the very heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, it also reminds us that it was God’s love for people that brought about the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The “so” in this verse is not a statement of how much God loved us. It, means God “demonstrated” His love, and by that demonstration we see His understanding of the of human beings. They are worth saving no matter what their lot in life is. Humans are the highest form of creation. God did not send Jesus for plants or animals. He sent Jesus to humanity. Humanity is valuable and its value is because it is humanity and humanity bears the image of God. It is not a matter of function or contribution.

As Christians we have our work cut out for us. Let us listen to the conversations that are in earshot of us. It will give us a starting place for presenting the most amazing piece of news imaginable. Jesus died for sinners. And as Paul stated, (and I identify) and am chief among them. And because of Jesus a new life, yes even a new world view, becomes not only a potential, but a reality.