Happy Birthday James!

Today, James’ 10th birthday. James is the only member of our family not born in PA. We have called him our little Hoosier because he was born in Indiana. James has recently started playing the bongos in our worship services and has received several compliments on his playing.

Monday Night Bowling – Jan 29

Tonight was an interesting night to say the least. I started with a 98 in the first game and followed that up with a 134 and then a 150. At least I got better as the night went on. Over all we lost 5 points and won 2. I managed over three games to bowl my average, which I will take.

I love bowling with our church team. We have a great time and great fellowship. I really think that our team has the best time of all the teams in the league. There is a sense of camaraderie on our team. We tend to have fun and a good time whether we win or lose. We also support each other well as we bowl and it makes it fun.

Hope all is going well at FLAME! I really miss being there.

Sunday Night Thoughts – Jan 28

I led worship again today on both guitar and piano, (but not at the same time.) I’m not that talented. Our pianist should be back next week. We started reading in unison Acts 1:3-11 and then sang “Onward Christian Soldiers,” “We Want to See Jesus Lifted High,” and “Yes, Lord, Yes.” My son James is doing a great job playing the bongos. We are currently working on a series titled, “Love is Always Worth the Risk.” We are looking at the topic of evangelism and missions. I challenged us to love our community and be involved in compassionate evangelism.

This evening we started a new study based on a book by Keith Drury, called “There’s No I In Church.” We are going to look the corporate disciplines. Last year we looked the personal disciplines. I’m looking forward to this study on Sunday nights.

On a personal note, Pam is doing better. She was able to attend both our morning and evening sessions today. Thank you for all your prayers. Not everything is back to normal, but it is much better. We have a follow up visit with the doctor next week.

Love is Always Worth the Risk – Judea

Compassionate Evangelism in Our Community

Today, we consider Christ’s call for us to reach out to people in our own community. You may ask, “What does being a disciple of Christ have to do with loving our community?” One of the “new” phrases coined in recent years is compassionate ministries. Compassionate ministry is nothing new. A sister organization to our denomination is The Salvation Army. They were founded on compassionate evangelism. In addition to The Salvation Army in our community, we have several organizations right here in Martinsville/Henry County that are based on this principle. One of the newest is Grace Network. These organizations are serious about compassionate ministry and evangelism. Christ’s call to reach our communities and further is interwoven in every aspect of the commissioning that He gives us to be His disciples. Let’s consider these words again found in the first chapter of Acts:

8 But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

If you were here last week, we briefly looked at this passage as it underlines our entire series that love is always worth the risk. What does loving our communities look like as it relates to the Kingdom of God? One phrase that you’ve heard me mention several times is the building the Kingdom. That is why God put us on this earth. Christ used that phrase close to ninety times. What does it mean to follow Christ’s call to build the Kingdom and how is that related to loving our community?

First, Christ’s call to service in His Kingdom is a call to live life with an eternal purpose. Why did Christ call us into his Kingdom? What purpose do we have as His disciples? Christ gave us the “Great Commission” which is:

“19…Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This commission was born out of His teachings about the eternal Kingdom of God. Acts 1:3 says, “3 During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time and proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. On these occasions he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.” As I just mentioned, this phrase, “Kingdom of God” or Heaven is used over 90 times in the New Testament and Jesus was the primary teacher of things of the Kingdom. Before Jesus ascended back to heaven the disciples were concerned about when the “Kingdom” was going to be restored to Jerusalem. Jesus told them it was none of their business. He told them what was really important and that was to be His witnesses through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is in this that Jesus is our example. Christ was involved in compassionate evangelism in his community and He calls us to follow His example:

• Connecting to people and giving them dignity
• Feeding the hungry
• Clothing the naked
• Healing the sick

In the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus teaches us that one of the main things that separates the sheep from the goats is not their religiosity, but in their compassion for helping others. For when you’ve done it to the least, you’ve done it to Jesus, whether you were compassionate and helped or you just ignored them.Reaching out and ministering in our communities connects us with Christ’s passions and agenda.

In what ways are you connecting…In what ways is our church connecting with the reality of Christ’s coming Kingdom? Christ did not call us to watch how the current events fulfill prophecy, but for us to actively get involved in building the Kingdom. That is how it will be ushered in.

Christ’s call to service in His Kingdom is a call to live life with His chosen people. Jesus told His disciples “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you what he promised… When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power..” Jesus told his disciples to wait together in Jerusalem. His power is promised to all of them as a body…not as individuals. We often forget that in our highly Americanized individualistic, western mindset. Church was to be done together. We are going to be looking at that topic on Sunday evenings for about 10 weeks beginning tonight. The “you” here is plural, not singular.

Christ invites us to be a part of a growing community of believers. On another occasion, Jesus told them: 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice; and there will be one flock with one shepherd. (John 10:16) Loving our community in Christ’s name brings us into relationship with all of God’s children. One of my prayers is that somehow Preston Wesleyan Church can be an example of what it means to love our community, including other flocks of believers and their shepherds. I think for far too long there has been a spirit of competition for sheep rather than a working together for the greater Kingdom of God. There are many different families in the world. There are many different families in the Kingdom. If we can’t get along on planet earth, what are we going to do in heaven? Not only are we called to love other believers in other folds, but we are called to love those not even in the fold yet. By reaching out together in our communities (That’s one of the reasons I love Salvation Army and Grace Network)

Christ is able to transform us to reflect His image.

• As we look at the 2nd chapter of Acts in the 42nd verse we see that…”42 They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer.” There is a commonality…there is true fellowship when we get together in the name of Jesus.

• In Revelation 7:1-10 we are given a great picture of what worship in heaven will be like:

Then I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds from blowing upon the earth. Not a leaf rustled in the trees, and the sea became as smooth as glass. And I saw another angel coming from the east, carrying the seal of the living God. And he shouted out to those four angels who had been given power to injure land and sea, “Wait! Don’t hurt the land or the sea or the trees until we have placed the seal of God on the foreheads of his servants.”

And I heard how many were marked with the seal of God. There were 144,000 who were sealed from all the tribes of Israel: from Judah, 12,000; from Reuben, 12,000; from Gad, 12,000; from Asher, 12,000; from Naphtali, 12,000; from Manasseh, 12,000; from Simeon, 12,000; from Levi, 12,000; from Issachar, 12,000; from Zebulun, 12,000; from Joseph, 12,000; from Benjamin, 12,000.

9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a mighty shout, “Salvation comes from our God on the throne and from the Lamb!”

The body of Christ needs to start celebrating the unity that comes from our diversity instead of letting it divide us. Then many who are outside the fold might take us more seriously when they see our love for them and each other.

In what ways are you allowing Christ to transform your Body Life, that is, your interpersonal attitudes, preferences, and patterns, through the power of His Holy Spirit?

Christ’s call to service is a call to live life with divine power.

8 But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

When we reach out to love our community, we demonstrate

• Our willingness to be identified with Christ purposes in the world.
• Our desire to allow Him to work through us, and
• Our confidence in His presence and power.

In what ways does your involvement in your community allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through you to accomplish great things for Christ?

Christ’s call to service in His Kingdom is a call to live life with a heavenly profession.

Christ told us we would be his witnesses. What did Jesus have in mind when He commissioned us to be His witnesses? It’s about both being and doing at the same time—a complete way of life: Giving verbal testimony that He is the Christ AND living out the Good News He proclaimed.

• Hope for the poor
• Freedom for the prisoners
• Recovery of sight for the blind
• Release for the oppressed

By loving our community in tangible ways, we become a powerful witness of God’s Good News. Paul says that, as Christ’s ambassadors, we have the ministry and mess of reconciliation.

In what ways are you serving as Christ’s ambassador, as His hands and feet in a hurting world?

Christ’s call to service in His Kingdom is a call to live life with a comprehensive plan. We will be His witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Reaching into our communities engages us with the historic pattern for establishing Christ’s Kingdom through the Church. We are called to reach across all boundaries, geographic, cultural, linguistic and ethnic—beginning across the street, then across town, and then into other communities

In what ways are you engaging in God’s plan of salvation through the church?

What does loving our community have to do with being a disciple of Jesus Christ? How we respond to this question will determine the difference between life and death—as individuals, as families, as local congregations, and as a denomination! The question raised by the expert in the law to test Jesus still calls for a response today: “Who is my neighbor?” By reaching out in compassionate evangelism, we fulfill our calling—our lifetime profession—to be Christ’s hands and feet in a lost and hurting world, because loving our community is always worth the risk.

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Here are the readings for this week.

Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; I Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30

The two Old Testament passages are a great comfort to me today. They both reminded me with these words, “Yes, you have been with me from birth; from my mother’s womb you have cared for me.” God loves us and cares about us, no matter what we are going through. It also reminded me that God calls us. God called Jeremiah to be His spokesperson. Jeremiah thought he was to young to be God’s prophet, but God reminded Jeremiah that he didn’t need to worry about what to speak, because the Lord was going to speak through Jeremiah. This is a great comfort. If we have been called by God and we are obeying His commands and following Him, we have no need to worry about what to speak, God will provide. God is our rock. In the words of Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Here is a great arrangement performed by the Indiana Wesleyan University Chorale.

In addition to God being our Rock and our Fortress, He cares about us. God tells Jeremiah that He knew Jeremiah before he was even born. David writes a similar thought. God knows all about us and He knows each one of us by name even in our mother’s womb. What a paradox; we have a God who is our mighty fortress and yet he cares and knows us. I love the song “He Knows My Name” by Tommy Walker. There is a great story behind the song and I encourage you to click the link above. Remember, God cares for you and knows all about you.

Tommy Walker wrote the song “He Knows My Name.”

Monday Night Bowling League

I do have good news to report tonight. While as a team we didn’t do so good, I did much better than my last few outings. I rolled a season high 172 with a 145 and 120. The last game wasn’t much until about the last 4 frames. I finished with a 437 set, which is a 146 average for the night. My season average is 126, so not too bad. I did manage to strike out (which is a good thing in bowling) in the tenth frame of the first game and rolled a strike and spare in the tenth frame of the last two games. I think we lost 5 points and gained two, but we bowled one of the top teams in the league. This keeps our team near the bottom of the standings.

Sunday Night Thoughts

Well, today was interesting to say the least. It was one of those bad weather days. They were calling for freezing rain starting after noon. Unfortunately it didn’t hang on that long and started about 9 this morning. Our van had already gone out so we had a good attendance for Sunday School. We took the students back home after that. We only had 13 for worship. I led worship from the piano this morning for a change.

Pam came to church for the first time in three weeks (the first week we were on vacation.) It was good to have her back. Last week while she was in the hospital, she said the song “The Love of God” ran through her mind quite a bit, so we sang that to begin our worship time. I’ve included a clip from the Billy Graham Homecoming Tribute.

It is one of my favorite gospel songs. Then we sang a group of older praise and worship songs; I Will Sing of the Mercies, I Will Serve Thee, Make Me a Servant, and People Need the Lord. For the offering we sang We Are an Offering. Then we sang I Love to Tell the Story. We looked at how love is always worth the risk and how we can show love to those around us. I challenged all of us to invest in the lives of those who are outside a relationship with God. It’s important for all of us to do. We finished the service with the hymn, Jesus Saves. It was a nice service.

The weather got worse this afternoon, so we canceled the rest of the activities today. I’m enjoying relaxing and resting, it’s been a hectic week. I’m looking forward to things getting back to “normal” this week.

Thank you for your continued prayers for Pam. She is doing much better, but still gets tired easily. Have a blessed week.

Love Is Always Worth the Risk – Jerusalem

Over the last two weeks, we have looked at the amazing, extravagant love of God. We even sang about God’s love this morning. Last week, I mentioned that we want to begin this week looking at our response to God’s love. How do we respond to such a love? John 3:16-17 says, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but the save the world through him.” God sent Jesus into the world to save us from ourselves and we took a look at that over the past few weeks. So, what are we to do?

Before Jesus left this world, he gave us this commandment; “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to then end of the earth.” You’ve heard me say this before. Not only is this The Great Commission, it is the Ultimate Commission. It is the work that Christ has given us to do. We are to build the Kingdom of God. Is it risky business to build the Kingdom of God? Absolutely. I remember a song years ago that talked about living dangerously in the hands of God. I’m beginning to understand what that means. Sometimes, it is scary. But even in those times we have a promise. Christ promises that he will be with us, all the way to the end of time. Kingdom building involves making disciples. Christ didn’t say to make Christians but disciples. It involves loving people that are hard to love. Love is risky, but over the next few weeks we want to discover that Love is always worth the risk.

Before Jesus was taken up to heaven, he was talking and commanding his disciples. He told them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Just a few statements later Christ tells his disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Christ promised us the power that we need to be witnesses for him. He came to us. He risked his life for our sake. In Christ’s example we see that love is always worth the risk. This series will take four weeks, and we want to break down what love is always worth the risk. Let’s take Jesus’ statement of where we are to be witnesses. He said we would be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Love is always worth the risk to develop potentially life-changing relationships with those outside a relationship with God.

Jesus heart was constantly bent toward those outside a relationship with the Father. In fact, Jesus had so much love for those with broken relationships with God; he was called a friend of sinners. Let’s look at Matthew 11:18 and 19. “For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man on the other hand feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” Jesus took a risk in loving. So much so that the religious thought that he was a sinner because he spent so much time around them. Jesus told us in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” This is Jesus’ one line mission statement. As we have already looked before Jesus returned to heaven, he challenged us to keep our focus toward those outside a relationship with God.

I know that when I say the phrase personal evangelism some of you will get nervous. The thought of evangelism sometimes terrifies us. Our culture has taught us that it is wrong to force our beliefs on someone else. When it comes to evangelism, it is not forcing our beliefs on someone else it is simply one sinner telling another sinner how to restore their broken relationship with God. I typically don’t use step-by-step lists. I’ve gotten frustrated by them in the past myself, but if we are going to make a difference in our Jerusalem, what do we need to do.

INVEST in relationships with those outside a relationship with God.

Let’s take a look at Matthew 9:9-13.

“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Wow! I think that left its mark on the Pharisees. It should leave a mark on us as well. Jesus was investing in people’s lives. Tax collectors were not the most spiritual bunch. Jesus hung around weddings and hung around other places that the so called religious wouldn’t. Many of the people that Jesus invested in were not particularly spiritual at all when He walked into their life.

This is probably one of the most important steps in personal evangelism. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I know for me I have to struggle staying connected with those who are outside a relationship with Christ. At times it’s even uncomfortable. At times, we will get accused as Jesus was and even accused by the religious. This is one of those places where it is risky to love. There is a risk of rejection. There is a risk that people will question your motives, but that’s ok, the Pharisees questioned Jesus’ motives. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. It is easy to hang around Christians. I’m taking this challenge personally. As a pastor it is tough to keep those doors open. Up in New York, you had to prove yourself to be trustworthy. Here, simply say that you’re a pastor and people change the way they act. I challenge you and I accept my own challenge to invest in the lives of people who do not have a relationship with Christ.

INVITE your friend to a place where they can here the Gospel presented.

1st Peter 3:15 says, “…you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. Luke writes in Acts 8:26-27; 26 “As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he did, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship.”

When we have developed an invested in that relationship and we have developed a trust factor with that person, we need to share the gospel with them. You don’t even have to do that. You can even invite them to our church. That’s why we have specific events throughout the year focused on sharing the gospel. Look for these opportunities.

Also look for those divine appointments – we are not ultimately responsible for another person’s salvation, what we are responsible for is following the promptings from the Holy Spirit to share what God has done in our lives and in the lives of other Christians we know.

INSTRUCT your friend on the basics of Christianity

Acts 11:25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to find Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching great numbers of people. (It was there at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)

Once a person has begun a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, don’t leave them stranded. Help them in their first steps of faith. Help them pick out a Bible and know where to read. Begin helping them incorporate their faith with their everyday life.

INCLUDE your friend in small group relationships

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life—the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals.”

Genesis 2:18 And the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion who will help him.”

There’s nothing that can be more encouraging to a new Christian than to be surrounded by other Christians who can cheer them on in their faith. Often you are the “doorkeeper” – open the door for them for these kinds of relationships. Our Sunday School classes are great opportunities for this, or perhaps our Sunday evening discipleship.

INVOLVE them in meaningful ministry.

1 Corinthians 12:7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.

Help them get involved in a ministry that matches who they are, what they enjoy and what they have been gifted to do.

My challenge for you today, is to INVEST in relationships with those outside a relationship with God. Here’s how we are going to do this.

I am handing out 3 x 5 cards. We’ll call it a top ten list. Who are those that you know of right now outside a relationship with God? As we sing this final song, I encourage you to write those names down and then bring them to the altar. In addition, I want us as a church to begin praying for them and to ask God to give us the opportunities to share the gospel with them.

Thursday Night Family Movie Night…

Last night, I watched the Cars DVD with my children. We had watched it at my mom’s, but tonight I got a chance to really watch it. We have a nice 5.1 surround system so we got to experience it in all of its glory. I enjoyed the story once again.

This morning I was thinking about the story and realized that it really is a story of transformation. The lead character, Lightning McQueen, undergoes quite a transformation from a obnoxious, rookie full of himself to someone who cares about more than himself.

I typically don’t spiritualize every movie I watch, but I pulled several points out of this movie.

  • Mater was willing take McQueen in as his friend. It didn’t matter who McQueen was. Wouldn’t it be great if our churches could do this with everyone who comes in our doors.
  • I am amazed at the transformation of Lightning in his experience at Radiator Springs. He comes there with great pride. When he is finally found, he is sad that he is leaving. At first he can’t wait to get out. In the end, he decides to put roots down and invest in the community.
  • Not only is Lightning McQueen transformed, but so are several others including Doc Hudson and the entire town of Radiator Springs.

Transformation is important in the life of the Christian. We are called to change from our proud, obnoxious, selfish selves into humble servants of Christ. In order to do this we must submit ourselves to Christ and let Him work in us.

I was thinking about our youth group today. My prayer is that we can affect that kind of change in the students that God has given us. In the process, even though it’s difficult, even for me, we need to love and accept those whom God has given us. I would love to see our group transformed by the power of Christ.

Slowly Getting Back to "Normal"

I know. It’s been several days since I posted anything, but it’s been a little crazy around here as you can imagine. I’m looking forward to things getting back to normal this next week.

Pam is doing better and is on the road to recovery. Thanks for all your prayers and continue to remember us in your prayers. The doctor continues to be impressed with her recovery and she is looking forward to being back in church on Sunday. She even helped me with a few administrative tasks today. It looks like she’s starting to get cabin fever. We took her out to eat tonight and had a great time as a family.