The Secret

Pastor Rod Pickett at Kingdom Come has a great post on The Secret.

There is a new book out by that title and Oprah has devoted a few shows to it. Rod sums it up this way:

The Secret is both good and bad. Many people could benefit from some of the techniques presented in The Secret. But the underlying philosophy is dangerous. The answer to “all our problems” is not getting what we want. It is rather submitting to the true King who seeks to fulfill the deepest desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). And this submission often feels like moving away from the very things we think we really want. Jesus called it denying ourselves and taking up our cross (Luke 9:23).

I encourage you to check out the rest of the article.

Monday Night Bowling

Our team gathered as usual to bowl tonight, minus one, she was sick and none of our subs was available. We started the night in 15th place. I’m sure by the end of the night, we were in last (or 16th.) Two of us bowled fairly well in the first game. I bowled a 149. It was all downhill from there for the team and me. In game #2 I bowled a 117 and in game #3 I recovered with a 123 for a total set of 389 and an average for the night of 130. I struggled in game 3 except for the 10th frame. I spared and then threw a strike, gaining me 20 pins in the last frame.

I started well and finished well. The middle wasn’t to great. I remember rehearsing choirs, especially on the first and last songs of the concert. People remember the beginning and the ending. This doesn’t discount working strong all the way through, but especially the beginnings and the end. It was a good reminder for me tonight.

Sunday Recap

Wednesday night we began our SpringLife emphasis and today we continued it. We have continued our theme of salvation that we started last Sunday and continued on Wednesday night. We looked at the idea that Anyone Who Calls on the Name of the Lord will Be Saved. We opened the service with a reading from Joel 2. We sang “Come, Now is the Time to Worship,” “We Will Glorify,” and a wonderful new hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.” As part of our worship we also sang “Redeemed” and “Are You Washed In the Blood.” You can see where we were going with all of this. God gave me a great message to preach. Check the previous post for the link to that. Our invitation song was “There Is A Redeemer.” The Spirit was with us as we worshiped this morning.

This evening we continued our study of “There’s No I In Church.” This book is having quite an impact on me. I’m really beginning to understand how important the church is in changing our lives as believers. So far we’ve looked at koinonia, prayer, and are currently looking at scripture in the church. These disciplines work together to change us. Our culture has programmed us that it’s all about me, but when it come to the Bride of Christ — the church, it is about us (the church) being transformed into Christlikeness. I’m looking forward to the next few weeks of study.

1st Sunday of Lent

This Sunday is the 1st Sunday of Lent. As you’ve seen in a previous post, we are calling our emphasis this year SpringLife. During this emphasis, these readings will also serve as a basis for Sunday’s sermon. I selected the Romans passage and finished my message with the Psalm passgage. We sometimes believe that people are beyond salvation or that they can’t be saved. The scriptures make it clear that Anyone Who Calls On the Name of the Lord Will be Saved.

All Who Call On the Lord Will Be Saved

A story is told of a preacher who was called by a church to be their pastor. The preacher came with excellent recommendations from the District Superintendent and the preacher’s professors at seminary. On his first Sunday at the new church, he preached a most wonderful sermon. The accolades for this sermon were piled on to the preacher. The next Sunday the preacher got in the pulpit and preached the same sermon. There were a few less accolades this Sunday. The third Sunday, he again preached the same sermon as the first two weeks. By now, the people couldn’t quite figure it out, but not a word was said to the preacher. The sermon of weeks four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and ten was identical to the sermon of the first three weeks. At this time, the board gathered together to talk with the new preacher. “Is that the only sermon you know?” they inquired. “Didn’t your seminary professors teach you how to preach more than one sermon?” The preacher replied, “I’m glad you noticed. I already have my next ten sermons prepared, but until you get this first sermon, I won’t move onto the next.”

Some of you who have attended the last two services, will think I’m a little like that young preacher. Earlier this year, Cleve preached for me while we were on vacation. That message was on salvation and so was last weeks and Wednesday night’s message. I believe God is trying to open our eyes to something. Cleve’s scripture that morning came from John, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” One of the key words in that passage for us as Wesleyans is the word everyone. We believe that Jesus came so that all people could be saved. Wesleyans truly believe the scriptures when it says that God does not desire that any should perish.
Last week, we pointed out that all of us our sinners, not one of us is good. There’s nothing we can do on our own to be saved. That falls in line with orthodox (or correct belief) Christianity.
We however believe that Jesus came to save all people. As Wesleyans, we do not believe that God has elected some to heaven and some to hell. We believe that every member of the human race has a chance to go to heaven and at some point in his or her life, every human being has the chance to choose.
Last Sunday we took a look at grace. Grace is always part of our life. There is the grace that goes before salvation; we call that prevenient grace. It is the grace that allows us to respond to God when He calls us to salvation through the Holy Spirit.
This is why we believe the words of Paul and Peter when they say, “For ‘anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’” This is a key part of our doctrine. It is a key part of our theology.
In our time together this morning, we want to take a look at this passage and the scripture that surrounds it in Romans 10:8-13

8 Salvation that comes from trusting Christ—which is the message we preach—is already within easy reach. In fact, the Scriptures say, “The message is close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.”
9 For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They all have the same Lord, who generously gives his riches to all who ask for them. 13 For “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” — NLT

The scripture here really speaks for itself. As we look at verse 8, this is why we believe that God desires to save all men. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 30:14 when God is speaking to the Israelites, “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.” God has placed a desire in each person’s heart to know the things of God. Some are very sensitive to it and respond easily. Others do everything they can to avoid the message. I’ve heard it put this way, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in each person’s heart.” We don’t have to go very far to see that people are reaching out for things spiritual. Many times they don’t express it in the right way. Paul was preaching in Athens and noticed the many statues set up by the Greeks to their gods. They even included one more “to an Unknown God,” in case them missed one. Paul tells the Greeks, “you have been worshiping him without knowing who he is, and now I wish tell you about him.” False religion is nothing new. People are seeking spirituality, but often times they look in the wrong place instead of looking to Jesus.
God has placed His salvation within easy reach – because it is in our heart. Paul reminds us that, “if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” I say this carefully; in a way salvation is easy. There are not many demands. The way Paul describes it, we almost think it too easy; confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. Is that all there is to it? In a word, yes. Here is where we can quickly cheapen grace. This is where many people are today. They decided that they wanted to become a Christian, so they said the “magic words,” and poof they became a Christian. Some even go so far as to get baptized and take communion, but that’s as far as they ever take their salvation.

Is that all God asked for is easy believism salvation? I don’t think so. This is where we spent a good portion on Wednesday evening. In his letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul tells them to be ambassadors of Christ; to be Christ’s representative. As I said, we should reflect Christ in everything we do. In verse 10 it says, “For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” In my study notes it reads, “Salvation involves inward belief as well as outward confession.”

This is why true belief in Christ involves transformation. Our Wesleyan doctrine is heavy in the area of transformation. Those who place their trust in Christ should be transformed. It’s one thing to say that I am Christian. The scriptures tell us that in order to be a Christian, we must confess it. We can do that not only with our mouth (and we must,) but we also confess or witness through our actions. Our actions must reflect Christ at all times. This is our confession that we belong to Christ. If someone’s actions don’t reflect Christ, I find it very hard to believe that person is a Christian. What does a Christian look like? Paul says, “We have proved ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, our sincere love, and the power of the Holy Spirit.” Over the years, we have tried to quantify what that looks like. If you wanted to be a Wesleyan, you had to follow certain rules and look a certain way. Unfortunately, we were known more by what we didn’t do than by the things we did. Paul puts together a good list of a reflection of Christ; purity, understanding, patience, kindness, sincere love, and the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. That’s a better list than any list of regulations.

But back to the text, Paul goes on to say, “Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed.” This morning I can say that with absolute certainty. It is difficult to be disappointed in Christ. We may get disappointed with church, or the pastor, or the people of the church, or other Christians, or with the way our circumstances have turned out. I’ve heard it too many times, just trust in Jesus and everything will work itself out. No wonder we have so many Christians disappointed with Christ. The scriptures tell us the rain falls on the just and the unjust. If the rain falls on the just and the unjust, so does the drought. Just because we placed our trust in Jesus, does not mean we will live happily ever after; that would be a fairy tale. Thursday morning, I told Pam that we were going visiting to members of the congregation. I even jokingly said to her, I’m in need of encouragement; so let’s go visit people. What I said in jest, became very true. Every person we visited that day has been through some major trials in the past few months. Over and over again, I heard the testimonies of how the trials only made them stronger. During one particularly touching testimony I began to weep to see how God had worked in their life through the difficulties. We serve an amazing and awesome God.

Christians should never be disappointed with Christ. The world is the way it is because it is fallen. Adam sinned. If we were Adam, we would have done the same thing. Churches will disappoint us. Pastors will disappoint us. Other Christians will disappoint us. Fellow churchgoers will disappoint us. This is a result of the fall. Christ came to reverse the effects. Paul refers to Christ as the second Adam. But as long as we live in the here and now there will be disappointment. Christ “generously gives his riches to all who ask for them. For anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Salvation is for everyone. Christ came to save those who are lost in sin. Listen to this promise from the Psalms.

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare of the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I am trusting him.
The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them.
I will satisfy them with a long life and give them my salvation.”
(Psalm 91:1-2; 14-16, NLT)

This morning can make all the difference to you. You can be saved this morning. You can have the assurance, because Jesus generously gives His riches to those who ask for them.

To Obey is Better than Sacrifice

As I was driving to my bi-vocational job, I got to thinking about this song by Keith Green. It comes from the album No Compromise.

“No Compromise is what the whole Gospel of Jesus is all about… ‘For I tell you…no man can serve two masters…’ (Matt. 6:24). In a day when believers seem to be trying to please both the world and the Lord (which is an impossible thing), when people are far more concerned about offending their friends than offending God, there is only one answer…Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him!” — Keith Green, No Compromise album, 1978.
I remember how this album (Yes, a real record album) affected my thinking in my teen years. I remember our youth group well. We had a great youth group at church. After my parents, it was responsible for much of my Christian formation. My prayer is that our student could be part of a dynamic group like ours was. My heart aches for them. They want to come to church and yet keep their feet in the world. These words by Keith Green hit me hard as I remembered them this morning.
To obey is better than sacrifice. I want more than Sunday and Wednesday nights. Cause if you can’t come to Me every day, then don’t bother coming at all. To obey is better than sacrifice, I want hearts of fire not your prayers of ice.
This got me thinking about the church in Laodicea. Jesus said they were neither hot or cold. They were lukewarm and he wanted to spit them out of his mouth.
Lord, I pray today that we can have hearts set on fire for You. Keep us from lukewarmness. We want to serve You everyday and not just when we are at church. Keep us from compromise and help us serve You with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, and with all of our minds. Amen.

SpringLife

Yesterday, our church commemorated Ash Wednesday. This service began our SpringLife emphasis this year. Over the past few years, we in the Wesleyan Church have known this as 40 Days of Prayer and Fasting, which in effect is what Lent is. Lent means “spring” in Latin. It begins on Ash Wednesday. Excluding Sundays, which are days of celebration and joy, there are forty days between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday. Many churches will find this to be a natural and convenient time to focus the hearts of their members on spiritual deepening and faith-sharing. That is our focus at Preston Wesleyan Church over the next forty days; to prepare our hearts for the coming celebration of Easter and the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ.

10 Commandments for Music in Worship

Pastor and theologian Jim Shaddix challenged participants at a worship conference with his suggested “10 Commandments for Music in Worship.”

  1. Thou shalt worship God, not worship worship. — Focus on the object of our worship, God rather than on the style.
  2. Thou shalt worship as a lifestyle not as a music style. — If there is a disconnect in what is happening at the church event and what is happening in people’s daily lives, there is a problem.
  3. Thou shalt make the Divine Seeker comfortable first and formost. — If the presence of God is thick in a place and His Word is communicated clearly, seekers will be transformed.
  4. Thou shalt use music as a sacrifice of praise, not as a synonym for worship. — Worship should included preaching and not be limited to music alone.
  5. Thou shalt be theologically equipped. — Worship leaders should pursue the study of theology in addition to technical skills.
  6. Thou shalt reflect a holistic theology in worship content. — Celebration is not the only kind of worship…The Bible speaks of worship involving all seasons of life. Is there a place in our worship for saying, “God, I don’t understand?”
  7. Thou shalt worship in a rhythm of revelation and response. — We can’t separate the music from the preaching event.
  8. Thou shalt employ lyrics that reflect communal identity. — Incorporate songs that include “we” in lyrics rather than “me.”
  9. Thou shalt use technology with theological and pastoral sensitivity. — Hearing others sing encourages worship.
  10. Thou shalt foster worship that reflects the diversity and unity of heaven. — God is honored in worship when we strive to accomplish ethnic diversity and congregational unity.

–Excerpted from “Pastor List Music’s 10 Commandments,” by Jenny Rice in Pulpit Helps

I liked that the author approached all the commandments from the positive side; what we should do, not what we shouldn’t do. From my point of view, these commandments work whether you are traditional, blended, or contemporary. I’ve seen people post these to try to get people to see it “their” way; and I’ve seen it from all three camps. These are good to remember as we prepare for worship each week.

Our Ash Wednesday Service

My first thought would be to say that the service that I had spent a couple hours planning didn’t go any where near the way it was planned. But God had another plan and the service actually turned out well.

I had really been praying about the message that God would have me bring tonight. I knew we would have a heavy ratio of students to adults and I was concerned that the message wasn’t what it needed to be. That all changed as the service began. I had a chance to start preaching early. Here is what I originally wrote, but there was much more in the sermon I preached.

After the sermon, I had each person take a piece of paper and place a confession on it. “If we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” We collected them and then burned them. I wasn’t quite prepared for what happened next. I had more flame and heat than I was expecting. I was concerned about the heat on the altar cloth and wooden altar table. Pam tried to blow the flame out (bad idea). I finally ended up covering the bowl with the communion tray lid, which put out the flames. The picture above is the remains of the ashes that Pam blew. While I wasn’t planning on having anyone receive ashes, Pam and I inadvertently received them as they floated back down to the altar table. After that we read Psalm 51 responsively and then I pronounced the congregations sins forgiven. I then issued a challenge to the congregation that had gathered. I opened the altar to anyone who wanted to serve God with all of their heart, all of their mind, and all of their soul; and that their soul desire was to reflect Christ. About 8 students and leaders responded and warmed my heart. I prayed for them that Christ would work in their hearts. Like I said, not what I planned but God had a greater plan in mind and I liked His. Please pray for those who made commitments this evening. I really believe this was a milestone moment for our church.