Only God is Great

  • Thursday, December 30, 2010
  • In the days following Christmas, we can easily get caught up in all of the presents (both received and still hoped for, due to all of the sales!) and miss HIS presence! Take time to reflect on the gospel…the "good news"…that was proclaimed to the world…

    The proclamation from the pasture…

    And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10

    This is how God came to save His creation…

    Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, willingly leaves His Father’s majesty by not only taking on human form, but doing so as an infant. The Creator of the entire universe is "reduced" to a helpless baby, totally dependant upon His parents. The angels declared, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." (Luke 2:14) In an intentional inversion, angels (the grandest created beings) declare God’s message to shepherds (the lowest of the low, in that time and place). It is "human nature" for us to make much of our little…to brag and boast about the smallest of thing. It was the making little of His much that revealed most marvelously God’s incomparable glory!

    So what does God’s glory have to do with us?

    First, God saves us for His glory…

    "…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…" Romans 3:23

    Second, God aligns us to His will for His glory…

    "And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one…" John 17:22

    And third, God calls out through us to the lost of the world for His glory…

    "…I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me." John 17:23

    Ascending the throne at the age four, Louis XIV rules as king of France for 72 years, the longest reign in modern European history. Consumed by his own power, he called himself the "Great Monarch" and declared, "I am the State!" But in 1715, King Louis XIV abdicated his throne to death.

    His funeral was nothing short of spectacular. The great cathedral was packed with mourners paying final tribute to their king, who lay in a solid gold coffin. To dramatize the deceased ruler’s greatness, a solitary candle burned above his coffin. Thousands waited in hushed silence as they peered at the exquisite casket that held the mortal remains of their monarch.I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me." John 17:23

    Ascending the throne at the age four, Louis XIV rules as king of France for 72 years, the longest reign in modern European history. Consumed by his own power, he called himself the "Great Monarch" and declared, "I am the State!" But in 1715, King Louis XIV abdicated his throne to death.

    His funeral was nothing short of spectacular. The great cathedral was packed with mourners paying final tribute to their king, who lay in a solid gold coffin. To dramatize the deceased ruler’s greatness, a solitary candle burned above his coffin. Thousands waited in hushed silence as they peered at the exquisite casket that held the mortal remains of their monarch.

    At the appointed time the funeral service began, and Bishop Massillon, who presided over this official act of state, stood to address the mourners, including the assembled clergy of France. When the bishop rose, he did something that stunned the nation. Bending down from the pulpit, he snuffed out the lone candle representing Louis XIV’s greatness. The people gasped. Then in the darkness, came just four words from behind the open Bible:

    "Only God is great!"

    Indescribable Says It All!

  • Thursday, December 23, 2010
  • When you have personally seen and have experienced the awe of firsthand insight, it is a futile effort to try to explain in such clarity that others can grasp the wonder.

    “Nana, is Papa showing pictures of his trip again?” It was the closing program for VBS 2000. The kids had been their predictable “cute”. The songs had been sung with great enthusiasm. The workers had been honored. The missions offering, being typically over and above the goal, had been wildly applauded. There was just five minutes left to go, and then the crowd would have cookies!

    Having been asked to close the celebration with a simple gospel message, and wanting to make it visually clear, I had asked Travis Lockyer to create a few power-point images for me. As I stood to speak, Linda and Deborah rose to go get things moving in the kitchen. On the way from the back row to the Hospitality Center, five-year-old Deb, seeing my slides on the wall, asked, “Nana, is Papa showing pictures of his trip again?”

    When you have personally seen and have experienced the awe of firsthand insight, it is a futile effort to try to explain in such clarity that others can grasp the wonder. That year we had been to Haiti. You cannot show enough portraits of poverty so as to effectively communicate the stench and despair. Nor can you verbally describe, in adequate terms, the experience of worshipping the Lord with those who have nothing, yet having Jesus, have the joy of having everything they need. And we had been to Greece to follow the path of the Apostle Paul; then onto Israel to “walk where Jesus walked”. Journal notes and albums of photos simply could not do justice to what we saw and heard. When you have personally seen and have experienced the awe of firsthand insight, it is a futile effort to try to explain in such clarity that others can grasp the wonder.

    So the perfect description of the Baby of Bethlehem seems almost beyond reach. In fact, the Holy Spirit appears to wrestle with the language, trying to describe the indescribable. He chose at least 256 names for Jesus:
    • “Wonderful”
    • “Counselor”
    • “Mighty God”
    • “Everlasting Father”
    • “Prince of Peace”
    • “Lamb of God”
    • “Savior”
    • “King”
    • “Lord Most High”

    “And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.” Luke 2:20

    “And there was a prophetess, Anna (Grace)…and she was advanced in years…and at that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke 2:36-38

    Yet the Christ Child remains infinitely beyond description. No portrait does Him justice. No title says it all. If you have seen Him, can you explain Him? Indescribable, it seems, says it all. For, when you have personally seen and have experienced the awe of firsthand insight, it is a futile effort to try to explain in such clarity that others can grasp the wonder.

    See you Christmas Eve, Church!
    Pastor Tom

    "What Kind of Savior?"

  • Tuesday, December 21, 2010
  • Joy to the earth! the Savior reigns;
    Let men their songs employ;
    While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
    Repeat the sounding joy,
    Repeat the sounding joy,
    Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

    So goes the 2nd verse of Joy to the World! For many it is a favorite Christmas carol, and perhaps for most of us, we sing along without any reflection or contemplation… The Savior reigns… Exactly what kind of a Savior are you looking for? From what do you want to be saved? Some want to be saved from illness, from debt, from difficult times… We look for someone to somehow fix our problems, solve our dilemmas, work a minor miracle on our behalf…

    But God desires that we have a much different view of our Savior… God’s present to us is God’s presence with us! Immanuel… God with us…

    “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

    The Christmas story is about a Gift from God, a Gift of God, for the Gift IS God!

    “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

    Christmas is not just about the birth of Jesus… it is the beginning of a story of "good news" that God, the Creator of the Universe, desires to be in a personal relationship with His creation! The perfect God, having a personal relationship with a sinful human could only be accomplished through the cross and the empty tomb.

    “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

    Unto us a child is born! Unto us a son is given!

    (Christ Jesus) "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father". Philippians 2:6-11

    Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns!

    A Gift in the Hand...

  • Thursday, December 16, 2010
  • What do you bring to the child who has everything?

    We blew it big time. Having enjoyed eight day’s free use of a story-book cottage on the famous Cape Cod, we were struggling to figure out what to bring home for each of the grandkids. It had been a financially, as well as emotionally, stressful year so dollars were somewhat limited. But we ALWAYS bring gifts from afar whenever we travel. (Yes, even if our wanderings are only as far away as Omaha or KC). So for the second time in as many days, we found ourselves upstairs in one of those quaint toy-shops on the island, diligently searching for the PERFECT gift for nine different kids. You know, the thing that “makes their day” and brings incredible excitement to their faces at its opening.

    And then the shopkeeper made a suggestion. “Why don’t you buy them each a Webkinz? These are the hottest things out. In the next few months they are going to be the rage all over the country! They each get a pet and then, with it, access to a website. They can play with their pets on the computer, can invite their friends to join them on THEIR computers…it’s going to be the hottest thing ever!”

    Yeah…right. So we picked out nine probably disposable gifts, not one of which was a Webkinz, packed our bags and headed home. We should have bought a Webkinz! That is obvious now…who KNOWS how many Webkinz later.

    So here we are, in another one of those seasons of dilemma. What gift do we bring to the Child that has everything? What gift will we give at His party? After all, it IS His birthday and we don’t want to come with empty hands!

    He has the angels of heaven awaiting His every wish. He has the Father’s approval and the wealth of Eternity as His inheritance. He has the sun, moon and stars as living playthings. He has the command of all creation, the fish in the waters, the animals on the land, the birds in the skies. He lacks for nothing, nothing at all! So what gift will we bring to Him on this, His birthday?

    The perfect gift? Seems so simple. And it costs so little. But it brings Him more joy than any or every elaborate thing. The gift you bring to the Child who has everything? His mother simply gave Him her heart!

    Wonder why we didn’t think of THAT in that toyshop on Cape Cod?

    “And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Luke 2:18-19

    See you Sunday, Church!
    Pastor Tom

    P.S. Don’t forget to bring HIM your gift!


  • Wednesday, December 15, 2010
  • “Grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.”
    Titus 1:4

    “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men…”
    Luke 2:14a

    In the opening of his letter, Paul desires that Titus, his spiritual son, would be the recipient of ‘grace and peace’. Especially this time of year, we read and hear that phrase so often, that perhaps it has lost its true meaning…

    Grace and peace, as Paul writes, is from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. Notice that ‘peace’ follows ‘grace’. It is grace, from God the Father, which provides the context that we, sinful people, though we ought to die because of our sin, are granted unmerited favor…

    God stoops down to help the undeserving and to pardon the helpless sinner.
    1. Grace declares that humans are helpless
    2. Grace declares that God is able and is merciful
    3. Grace declares a God-enabled radical new way of living

    So what is the form of God’s unmerited favor? The better question is ‘who’ is the form of God’s unmerited favor! His only Son Jesus… And it is through the Son that true peace is afforded…

    Peace with God… "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 5:1

    Peace with others… "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord." Hebrews 12:14

    Peace in adversity… “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27

    Peace within… "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7

    The Grace of God is the Peace of Christ!

    “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men…looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” – Titus 2:11,13


  • Friday, December 10, 2010
  • The sign of Peace is everywhere…

    I caught a glimpse of the silver car rapidly approaching in my side-mirror…it went past us like it was on a time-intensive mission. I was doing 75 miles per hour. Them? A whole lot more than that! But in spite of its passing speed, I could not help but notice the large decals on the car windows. The “peace symbol” was boldly displayed. And, being a fan of “personalized plates” (some call them prestige plates…whatever. We actually claim three…the VW reads THE NANA, the Odyssey is tagged 21 REV 4 in remembrance of Dawn-Marie, and the mother-in-law’s Miata bears the plate HER MOMS J)…I digress. Being a fan of “prestige plates” I glanced on the rear bumper and it read PEAC PLZ. The sign of Peace is everywhere…

    The classic “chicken foot surrounded by the ring” is on most all of Lucky Brand’s jewelry. Tie-died t-shirts sporting the symbol are reminding us of those hazy days of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Almost expect to see a “Jesus Bus” careening round the next corner as the classic VW transport of choice finds revival! “Peace” is showing up everywhere these days. As Linda headed downstairs for her daily morning workout, I noticed her t-shirt read, “Dream Peace”!

    The sign of Peace is everywhere…or is it?

    Monday provided a delayed opportunity for some serious Christmas gift pursuit as we headed up to Omaha for shopping and some PF Chang’s. Around 2:00, we were in the checkout line at TJ Maxx (“cashier # 3, please”) when it was announced that there had just been a shooting in the parking lot. We had waited for our spot in line and weren’t about to surrender it for such unconfirmed danger. So we waited, we paid, and we headed to the van. And sure enough…there WAS a shooting in the parking lot! Yards and yards of yellow police tape cordoned off the major portion of the east side of the parking slab. Flashing lights on a dozen or so official vehicles marked the scene. Uniforms seemed to be everywhere. We quickly slid into our Odyssey and drove away as rapidly as possible. Peace is everywhere…or is it?

    “Peace on earth”…the mantra of the season. Yet so few have peace. Internal? Their souls are deeply troubled and anxiety dominates the thought life. Horizontal? Peace with those round about is fragile at best. So many relationships discover in this season of celebration just how deeply fractured those trusted commitments have become. Vertical? “They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying ‘Peace, peace.’ But there is no peace.” Jeremiah 6:14 “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” Isaiah 58:21

    The speeding silver car with the decals and the personal plates spoke volumes in those minutes immediately following the parking lot shooting on Monday. PEAC PLZ. I wonder if that driver knows that God answered the longing of their restless souls. That He HAS sent the One who is our peace.

    “He will be called…Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace…” Isaiah 9:6-7

    See you Sunday, Church!

    Grace and Peace,
    Pastor Tom

    The Uncommon ‘Common Faith’

  • Wednesday, December 8, 2010
  • Titus 1:1-3 "Paul, a bond-servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ,

    Titus 1:1-3 Paul, a bond-servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ,

    for the faith of those chosen of God
    … and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart
    and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness
    …and with all your mind,
    in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,
    …and with all your soul,
    but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior;
    …and with all your strength

     "…to Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior." Titus 1:4

    “…my true child in a common faith…”
    Paul was the ‘Jew’s Jew’… a man whose pedigree and lineage was from Abraham himself, devoted to being a scholar of the law as well as a self-appointed enforcer of the same. His early passion to the law drove him to persecute the ‘cult’ that he saw as following this Jesus…
    Titus was a Greek, a Gentile. A lineage that was deemed as not part of the promise of the Old Testament law. He wasn’t even circumcised so how could he even hope to find favor with God??
    And yet, working together in ministry, the ‘spiritual father’ Paul pens this personal letter to Titus, whom he calls his ‘true child’… Paul declares a special relationship with Titus all because of ‘a common faith’… God has shared His gift of salvation with all peoples… including Gentiles!
    "…remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." Eph. 2:12-13
    A Jew and a Greek… One whose early hope was solely with the law, and one who seemed to have no hope at all…

    No one is so near to God as to not need the gospel. And no one is so far from God so as to be beyond the reach of the power of the gospel.
    United by the gospel through the person of Jesus Christ!
    "But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:4-7
    "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Gal. 3:28

    No matter who you are, where you’ve been, or what you’ve done—you can be reconciled to God by faith alone plus nothing!

    Arise, Shine

  • Friday, December 3, 2010
  • The sun will rise because He died.

    “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” Isaiah 9:2

    I have my Husker-red shirt on as I study here in my church office today. Pastor Troy has also worn his “red”…but, as I pointed out to him, his is dangerously close to SOONER red. It’s big-game weekend once again! And with each of these major athletic challenges comes the echo of Coach T.O.’s infamous statement in the immediate aftermath of painful disappointment, “The sun will still come up in the morning.”

    Last evening my grandson, Tate, asked me to sit with him and watch the most recent DVD he had checked out at Gere Library. It was a documentary on the weather. (Probably normal fare for a scientifically wired adult…not typical selection for a six year-old-boy, unless of course, there is an adult mind living in that-six-year-old body…and there is!) And the show opens with the Aztec Indians’ story of the origin of the sun.

    Their explanation? Major gods willingly died to cause the sun to exist. But the gods must be pacified, so every evening it was considered necessary for a human life to be offered as a sacrifice to the god of the sun in hopes that satisfaction over the offering would cause the sun to rise the next morning. The sun will rise because they died.

    The gods of man’s creation can never be satisfied. They demand full allegiance, sacrifice and unending, exhausting, costly service. A life sacrificed on their altar tonight simply reminds their worshippers that another life must be placed on that same altar tomorrow. They believe that the sun will rise ONLY because they died.

    Into the darkness of a world where futile sacrifices brought no lasting relief, no peace and no hope, Jesus came as the Light of the World. And He gave Himself to the altar so that all who turn in faith to Him alone, might discover the hope of eternal life. They will live because He died. The sun will rise because HE died!

    It’s only Friday afternoon and far too early to know how the game this weekend is going to turn out. We know for certain that someone wearing “red” will be euphoric over victory. And that someone else wearing “red” will be deeply disappointed. But whichever way the final scoreboard reads, Coach T.O. would rightly remind us, “The sun will still come up in the morning.”

    And of far more serious consequence, the blessed hope of those who have ceased from their futile efforts at pacifying their self-made gods and have turned in faith to the Light of the World, the sun will rise because HE died.

    “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you. And the nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” Isaiah 60:1-3

    See you Sunday Church! (Win OR Lose)
    Pastor Tom

    Know Your Audience, Stick To Your Message

  • Tuesday, November 30, 2010
  • One of the first things you do when you prepare a speech or a presentation is to do an analysis of your audience. Whether it’s to a capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden or a small group fishing along the coast of Crete, you want your speech to relate to their situation, their needs, their interests and understanding.

    When Titus went to Crete, there were already groups of Christians scattered across the island. Most likely, they were located in the dozens of communities along the coast of Crete. Undoubtedly, they were struggling to survive in a culture that was full of liars, pirates and thieves. The island was part of the Roman Empire, but due to it’s separation from the mainland, the people of Crete were very independent and argumentative. The early Christians on Crete were living in the land which was the mythological birthplace of the Greek god Zeus. He was believed to be the father of gods and of men, the king of heaven and the king of the gods.

    The transformational message which Paul outlines in his letter to Titus is to preach to the people of Crete that there is one true God who is the creator of the universe. That He is true to His Word. That He foretold of the battle between good and evil. That He provided for the salvation of all people through His Son Jesus Christ. That His church is called to reach out to the people that surround them.

    The message that Titus took to the early Christians in Crete was that there are three foundational characteristics of their gatherings, their churches. The first is evangelism. The Christians of Crete had faith in God. Their faith was in the saving sacrifice of His Son Jesus which had been foretold from the beginning.

    "Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect." Titus 2:9,10

    The second foundational stone of the Christian church is education. By seeking to understand God’s plan, by searching for deeper knowledge of His provision, by desiring to live lives pleasing to Him, the church would glorify God.

    "Hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict." Titus 1:9

    And the third characteristic of the church is that it’s built on expectation. God has provided a plan, and His plan is built on the saving grace provided by Christ. He promised salvation from the beginning and He is true to His word.

    "In the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago." Titus 1:2

    Evangelize, educate, expect. These are key to a strong church, one built on the promise and provision of God. The message was true in the first century, and it’s been true throughout the ages. Whether to the people on the island of Crete or the people in the city of Lincoln, build His church through evangelization, education, expectation.

    "Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen." Romans 16:25-27

    “In everything give thanks…”

  • Wednesday, November 24, 2010
  • Thanksgiving: An attitude and act of humility confessing personal need, personal inadequacy, and unmerited favor. Giving thanks in EVERYTHING honors God and recognizes Him as Sovereign Lord in ALL things.

    A fraternity of common sufferers: (Luke 17)

    · Ten men with a shared affliction.
    · Ten facing a gruesome death.
    · Ten incurables.
    · Ten dealing with the sorrow of relational isolation and social rejection.
    · Ten with a desperate plea. Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!
    · Ten with an unexplainable visitation of grace. “And as they were going…they were cleansed!”

    Can you imagine? “Hey, look at you! Your hand is clean. Your ear is a healthy pink. You look normal again!” “Yah, and look at YOU! You are well! You are healed. WE are healed!” What emotion must have flooded those ten outcasts. What wonder and confusion and excitement and joy and…by dinner tonight they would be home! They would feel the warmth of a family hug. They would be so close to those they loved that they could see their eyes and hear their whispers of wonder. They would walk the crowded streets and no one would flee their presence. They would return to their jobs and everyone would welcome them back. They would be in Synagogue come Saturday, and they would listen like they had never listened before. Life was good. They had received mercy! Ten had been made whole by the word of the miracle worker from Nazareth.

    Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.

    But only one remembered to go back and say, “Thank you.” Only one. Only ONE. ONLY one! And the one was a double outcast. For not only was he a member of the fraternity of lepers, but he was also born a Samaritan, a racial outcast who no longer had a common bond with those nine Jews. But he recognized the source of his incredible blessing…a Jewish teacher from Nazareth…and the Living God, the God of Israel.

    Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”

    Arrogance: The unwillingness to admit that I was once an outcast leper.
    Self-sufficiency: The delusion that I am adequate for all things, a self-made man.
    Entitlement: The self-centered attitude that I deserve only good things in life.
    Arrogance…Self-sufficiency…Entitlement…Three attitudes squelching a thankful heart and silencing words of gratitude.

    Thanksgiving: An attitude and act of humility confessing personal need, personal inadequacy, and unmerited favor. Giving thanks in EVERYTHING honors God and recognizes Him as Sovereign Lord in ALL things.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Church!
    Pastor Tom

    NeXt Generation Leadership

  • Tuesday, November 23, 2010

  • Just imagine being the traveling and ministering companion of Paul. You walk along as he travels from community to community telling people about Jesus Christ. You ride in the ships that take him from continent to continent. You and Barnabas are with Paul at Antioch. You take part in the ministry at Corinth, Ephesus, and the very important Council of Jerusalem. Finally, you settle on the island of Crete, in the Mediterranean off the coast of Greece.

    Once on the island of Crete, you travel from town to town sharing the news of Jesus Christ. You celebrate with the early believers in Agios Nikolaos and move along to Irakleion. Many come to believe in Christ. But, you’re called to move along to Hania, and again your efforts see many come to Christ. In each community, there are new Christians who need guidance and leadership. There’s just too much for any single man to handle. Then, a letter arrives from Paul. In this letter, Paul shares instructions about establishing leadership in the various churches.

    "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you." Titus 1:5

    The letter from Paul to Titus, while written centuries ago, is just as valuable and helpful today as it was to Titus as he sought to help the early Christians bring order to their churches and families. As we begin our study of Titus together, we’ll explore three major themes from this letter. First, we’ll consider the qualifications and duties of Christian leaders, elders in the church. Then we’ll explore what Paul shared as it relates to our families and homes as we outline principles for family life. Finally, as we dig even deeper into Titus, we’ll discover some nuggets of knowledge to help us in our Christian relationships.

    There are three common characteristics of the people of God. First is our shared faith in Jesus Christ, his life and sacrifice for us. As we begin to grow in our knowledge of the truth, we gain intellectual insight and experiential understanding. Ultimately, we begin to grasp the hope of the Gospel, the promise of God that gives us comfort in our lives and calls us to reach out to those around us.

    Take a few moments each day this week to read Paul’s letter to Titus. Picture yourself on the island of Crete, moving from town to town sharing and ministering, applying the guidelines from Paul’s letter. Then, begin to apply Paul’s words to your own life and to Faith Bible Church. As we study this letter, it’s Pastor Tom’s prayer that it will ignite great things for Faith Bible Church and the body of believers who make up our church.

    NeXt Generation Leaders

  • Friday, November 19, 2010
  • “To Titus, my true child in a common faith…”

    One of the great responsibilities of the Church is the effective preparation of their NeXt Generation leaders. And the passing of the baton of responsibility, privilege and authority is often a turbulent and trying season of life.

    “I heard your first sermon…and I just heard your last one. I have to say, you have come a long way!”

    Was in G-burg last week to minister the gospel at the memorial service for a dear, dear friend of mine who was suddenly called home to be with the Lord. It was a journey back into my past as I stood before hundreds of friends from the early season of my pastoral ministry. As I told them last Thursday, it was 6:00 Christmas morning in 1977 when I preached my first sermon from the pulpit at which I was standing. The previous year, First Baptist Church had extended an invitation to me to become their pastor. I was the ripe, old, know-it-all age of 26 years.

    So the brother who made the comment on my preaching certainly did have a good, historical perspective on my progress. I arrived as a rookie preacher with an attitude. Driving around those streets last Thursday morning was a reminder of how gracious God has been to me and also a bit “humbling” as I was brought to recall how little I really knew and how far from mature I really was. Embarrassing might be the proper word. I could only hope that the memory of those friends we would soon see again was less clear than my own recollections of all the foolish and stupid things I had done and said in that first decade of my being a “paid professional holy man”. They had kindly and MOSTLY patiently allowed a neXt generation preacher to find his fit!

    One of my most vivid memories of those years is the number of cups of coffee I consumed at the Daylight Donut Shop and at the Swede CafĂ© as I listened and gave advice (Can you believe that?!? 26-35 years old telling retiring gentlemen?!?) on how to effectively hand their life’s work to their sons, daughters and grandchildren. And then to return to that place 25 years after leaving and be able to see how those transitions had or had not effectively worked out.

    One of the great responsibilities of life is the effective preparation of the NeXt Generation of leaders. And the passing of the baton of responsibility, privilege and authority is often a turbulent and trying season of life.

    The First Baptist Church extended the “call” to this 26-year-old ‘know-it-all’ and God showed up in unbelievable ways! It was the power and presence of HIS grace that allowed a most unusual decade of service to bear some delightful, abiding fruit for eternity. Last week, I was embraced by many individuals and couples who continue to walk faithfully with the Lord and who had been a part of my life in those transitional seasons. And one of the most delightful of all was a 92-year-old friend, who had someone come pick her up at the retirement center and drive her to the church so that she could see Tom and Linda once again. This dear lady had joined with two other friends every Tuesday morning beginning in 1968 simply to pray that God would take hold of our lives and lead us to Bible college so that He could prepare us for ministry. It was a long time after that before we became aware of their selfless and faithful investment in our lives. She came to tell us how much she loved us.

    And the dear friend who gave me a job when I had walked away from “ministry” in 1976 smiled and said, “I heard your first sermon…and I just heard your last one. I have to say, you have come a long way!” Because he too, as a leader in that church, had endured that uncomfortable transition to the NeXt Generation leader, I laughed and thanked him. Then he added, “But you still have a long way to go!”

    One of the great responsibilities of the Church is the effective preparation of their NeXt Generation leaders. And the passing of the baton of responsibility, privilege and authority is often a turbulent and trying season of life.

    See you Sunday, Church!
    Pastor Tom (The guy who STILL has a long way to go!)

    Life Lessons from Moses

  • Tuesday, November 16, 2010
  • There’s a college football hall of fame located in South Bend, Indiana. Baseball greats are remembered in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. If you’re into rock and roll, Cleveland’s the place you’ll want to visit. And Hebrews Chapter 11 is known as the Hall of Faith, where many of the greats in the Bible are remembered. One of those greats is a man called Moses. Read what’s said about him in Hebrews.

    "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasurers of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the first-born might not touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when the attempted, were drowned." Hebrews 11:24-29

    Moses was indeed a great man of faith. However, how many of us are called to confront the Pharaoh? How many have had the Lord speak to us from a burning bush? How many of us have stood at the shores of the Red Sea and told to walk into the waters and they will open up to reveal a dry passage? On Sunday, Frank Cirone of Ravencrest Bible School reminded us that even if there are no pharaohs, burning bushes, or seas in our lives, there are three lessons we all can learn from Moses.

    "Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand." Exodus 2:11,12

    Clearly, Moses wasn’t seeking guidance from the Lord, instead, he was looking around for guidance. How often have you done the same thing? Often, our first reaction is to try to fix things on our own by seeking advice from those around us. As we reflect on this, the first life lesson from Moses becomes clear.

    1. Don’t seek guidance from those around us, seek it from the Lord.

    "Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt. But Moses said to God, Who am I, that I should go to the Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt." Exodus 3:10,11

    Can you believe it? Moses is getting clear instructions from the Lord and he’s thinking only of his capabilities. “Who am I, that I should go . . .” Think back to a time when you felt you had a call from the Lord, but you resisted because you didn’t think you were able. The second lesson is this:

    2. Looking only at our capabilities, we’ll always be fearful. When God gives you instructions, He’ll also give you the power.

    "Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, O Lord, why hast Thou brought harm to this people? Why didst Thou ever send me?" Exodus 5:22

    Have you ever questioned the Lord? Have you ever been despondent even after you started to follow His instructions. Imagine Moses, confronted with Pharaoh and his armies, called to gather the Israelites and head for the Red Sea. There they were, on the beach with the sea in one direction and the army in the other. Therein lies our third lesson.

    3. When we say “I can’t,” the Lord replies “I never said you could.” Instead, step forward and let Him do His work through you.

    As you reflect on these three lessons from Moses, take some time to seek a little additional inspiration by reading the story of Ravencrest Chalet. Then, look to the Lord for His direction for you in this life, seek the power He’ll provide, and then step forward and be prepared to be amazed.

    Paul's Letter to the Philippians

  • Tuesday, November 9, 2010
  • What do you do when you receive a hand-written letter? If you’re like me, you sit down and read every word, thinking of the person who wrote it as you read. Letter writing is a lost art these days, what with e-mail, texting, tweeting, and all. It was a developing art in the time after Christ when the church was just starting to grow and spread. So, just imagine how the people in the church at Philippi must have felt when they got a letter from Paul. They read it, re-read it, then read it again. Some folks probably memorized it. And, it’s for sure they discussed what Paul said in the letter. And, most certainly they did their best to follow the guidelines outlined in the letter.
    In our study on Sunday, Pastor Robb unrolled Paul’s letter to the Philippians and pulled a key point from each major section of the letter. (Today those sections are called chapters) Let’s reflect on the lessons.

    "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excell ent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ." Philippians 1:9,10

    Paul’s guidelines to the Philippians in this section of his letter can be summed up in three words, love, knowledge, discernment. We’ve highlighted them in the passage above. Today, spend a few minutes considering your love and the knowledge you have of God. Does your love abound in knowledge? Take the time today to cross reference a few passages on love. A few to start include 1 Corinthians 13, John 3:16, and 1 John 4:8. Then focus on knowledge. Just how much do you know about God? Do you pray to get to know Him better? Finally, Paul urges the people of Philippi to have discernment as they encounter different arguments or challenges to God’s plan. Love, knowledge, discernment . . . pretty challenging concepts, and that’s just the beginning.

    "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."
    Philippians 2:12,13

    Robb focused primarily on four words in this passage, “Work out your salvation.” Now, we are assured that salvation is a free gift from God so that means working out your salvation isn’t about doing something to earn it. Rather, it’s a call for us to live our lives according to His plan, to bring glory to Him. What have you done today to bring glory to Him?

    "Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14

    Let’s put this in perspective. Here’s Paul telling the Philippians he is pressing on, that he hasn’t achieved all he was put here to achieve. Remember Paul’s history? He was a well educated man who was very much against Christ. But, God’s plans can’t be changed. Paul was to play a key role in getting the early church established. Paul experienced a dramatic event which brought him to Christ. Then, he spent the rest of his life traveling to plant and nourish churches. God used his education and personality to help others believe, then to help them grow in Christ. And, he says he’s not done! So, no matter where you are in life, there’s no doubt you could be doing more to glorify God and to serve him here on earth.

    "Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."  Philippians 4:8

    What’s captured your thoughts so far today? Has someone at work gotten under your skin? Is there a neighbor who just seems to rub you the wrong way? Have your kids been extra noisy and disobedient today? Was there something the doctor told you that has you worried? Go back and read Philippians 4:8. In fact, it might be worth your effort to memorize this passage. It’s a good one to always keep you focused on praising God.

    Love, knowledge, discernment, work out your salvation, press on toward the goal, let your mind dwell on anything worthy of praise. All excellent suggestions for us as long as the Lord leaves us here on earth. Take just 10 minutes today and read through all four chapters of Philippians. Then reflect on how the people in that early church must have felt when they received this letter from Paul. Share in that excitement as you go about your day.

    The Long Way Home

  • Tuesday, November 2, 2010
  • "As you sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world." John 17:18

    Our study of John 17 draws to a close with a challenge to the church. We’ve considered THE Lord’s prayer as Christ prayed for Himself, for the Disciples, and now for His church. Wait...that’s you and me! Let’s examine just what He prayed for us.

    1. That we all may be one

    2. That through being one, as Christ, the Father, and the Spirit are one, the world will believe that Christ was sent by God

    3. That we have been given the glory which God gave to Christ

    4. That we will be perfected in unity so the world will know

    5. That the love with which God loved Christ will be in us

    Do you sense common themes in all of this? Look again. The themes are unity , love, and getting the message to the world. If we focus on getting the message to the world, a number of additional references come to mind.

    "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." Matthew 28:19

    "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." Acts 1:8

    "And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith." Acts 6:7

    "And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.'” Mark 16:15

    "O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." John 17:25,26

    In unity and love, go and share the message in all you say and do.

    "The Long Way Home"

  • Friday, October 29, 2010
  • “…that they may be perfected in unity…” John 17:23

    We borrowed the expression from our own servant to the lepers in Southeast Asia, Denise Jasmer. It became a frequent expression from the lips of my grandson, Tate. “Perfecto!” And as the evening grew rapidly dark on that Monday two weeks back, it seemed to be the proper word to sum it all up.

    You know the scene. Just east of the offices of State Farm, a cultural phenomenon is played out. Just try finding a place to park the family bus! YMCA soccer for six-year-olds; eight small children, four in each jersey color, running wildly and randomly around the field, followed by two dads who pretend to be “coaches” calling out instructions and encouragement. Somewhere in the midst of that mob there bounces a hapless ball. Legs are flailing in the air, occasionally making contact, but rarely actually directed. And then, ever so often, that ball discovers the back of the net. Goal! And wild celebration spontaneously breaks out.

    Now, that sort of describes the action on the field. Lining that arena of play is another crowd. Dads risking early-life strokes over missed opportunities or failed attempts appear dangerously close to going “postal”. And moms far too often make the “Texas Cheerleader Mom” look more like a gentle and kind Sunday School teacher. Lots of energy. Lots of excitement. And occasionally, “Goal! Perfecto!”

    Tate’s first game? Total unorganized chaos! Lots of running and pushing and falling and misdirection and… But suddenly, from the edge of the crowd in front of the net, he kicks a ball that bounces off an opponent’s ankle and settles into the net. “Goal! Perfecto!” A wild celebration (notice, they learn how to celebrate long before they learn how to actually play the game?)!
    That was the beginning of a long season of Monday evening events. But amazingly, due to a great, kind and patient “coach”, those six-year-old boys began to come together as a team. They were dribbling, passing, blocking, and, once in a while, scoring. They were actually learning to do it well…together.

    So Jesus prays, “The glory which You have given Me I have given them, that they may be one…that they may be perfected in unity…” Perfected, to be made complete, to mature, to reach the goal; a process of molding His team into gospelizers, so that together they could celebrate the success of the goal.

    Early sunset shortened the final game. No practice period this time. Just line them up and kick the hapless ball. And as the second half began, I did it. God did it. Tate did it. And I almost hesitate to say what it is I did. Most of you will once again conclude that I am crazy. And a couple of you might take a misguided theological detour. However, I did it. God did it. And Tate did it.

    It had been a long season since Tate’s first goal. And he had really, really worked hard as a part of his team. So, without making any scene or whatever, as the second and final half of the last game of his season began, I simply prayed, “Lord, would You be so gracious as to let Tate score just one more goal?”

    And not 30 seconds later, out of the crowd of little bodies near mid-field, Tate came with the ball. And with a random swing of his left leg, it found the back of the net some 25 feet away. And the coach, and that team of six-year-old boys wildly celebrated TOGETHER. Formerly total strangers had, in one season, become a team. “Goal! Perfecto!”

    “That they may be perfected in unity, so that the World may know…”

    Goal? “Perfecto!”

    See you Sunday, Church!
    Pastor Tom

    P.S. We just MIGHT have the World Games covered in 20 years J.

    He Sent Him from Heaven to Earth: AMAZING Grace!

  • Tuesday, October 26, 2010

  • As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”  John 17:17
    As we near the end of our study of Jesus’ prayer for Himself, His disciples, and for us, we focus on the method that God has chosen to spread His word…

    Jesus’ Mission was to…
    ·          save them out of the world – While I was with them, I was keeping them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me; and I guarded them, and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.  John 17:12
    ·          preserve them in the world "I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” John 17:15
    ·          send them to the world – “As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. John 17:18

    Jesus’ Method was
    ·          Incarnational – He took on human form so as to go TO the world
    ·          Intentional – He sought out those who were lost
    ·          Incidental – He was aware of those hurting and seeking and in need of Him.
    ·          Individual – He loves the lost
    ·          Indispensable – He is THE way, THE truth, and THE life!

    Jesus’ Message was and is that man is
    ·          separated – we have broken fellowship with God through our sin
    ·          condemned – we are all guilty and deserve shame and death
    ·          redeemed – God sent HIM to save us… this is the unfolding drama of the gospel
    ·          justified – in the eyes of God, Jesus has taken care of our debt – it is PAID IN FULL!
    ·          transformed – we are a new creation
    ·          restored – the sin that separated us, that has been dealt with by Jesus will return us to Eden’s fellowship!

    Jesus has prayed that we be in the world, but NOT of the world… How can this be possible?
    1.       Have a passion for the Word  (John 17:17) - Only the Word keeps us from loving the World
    2.       Partner with the Body – we are to be ONE even as He and the Father and the Spirit are ONE!
    3.       Be in Prayer and depend upon prayer

    Just be Jesus in your square mile” – Stuart Briscoe

    “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world." John 17:17

    “He sent Him from Heaven to Earth: Amazing Grace!”

  • Friday, October 22, 2010
  • Lets humble ourselves for a moment and tone down our defensive posture long enough to simply marvel.

    The Oldest Object Ever Seen in the Universe, reads today’s headline. And for clarification, they are NOT writing about my dear brother, Dr. Tom!

    The article goes on to say, “An ancient galaxy has broken the record for the most distant point in the sky known to date, with its light taking 13.1 billion years to reach Earth—also making it the oldest thing in the universe.”

    Reading these reports immediately took my mind back to the hymn of praise recorded in Psalm 8. I have this mental picture of a teen-aged shepherd sprawled out on a grassy knoll, his sheep quietly resting around him, his ankles crossed under his cloak and his fingers locked behind his head, propping it up in a comfortable position, his eyes fixed on the dark canopy above it all. A planet brightly glitters over there, just beneath the moon…the big dipper here, the little dipper over there. The longer his eyes focus on the sky, the more stars seem to occupy its space. No telescope, no Hubble lens, no magnification; simply thousands of glittering stars observable to his naked eye. Our shepherd takes it all in and contemplates what he is seeing.

    Then suddenly, he sits up, grabs his backpack, pulls out his iPad and begins feverishly tapping the screen, O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens…when I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

    Thought much about that lately? Paused to stand in your driveway, tip your head back and soak it all in? Have you moved the kids’ bedtime a half an hour later so that you can sit in the backyard and study the sky together? RECENTLY? Have you taken the risk of feeling, for a moment at least, totally lost, small, and insignificant in the massive space of the Universe? Are you humble enough to marvel at the enormity of space and the incomparable grace that stirs the heart of its Creator to even know you are sitting out in your backyard tonight? Or that He would even CARE that you are sitting outside with your kids tonight? Have you recently heard yourself humming that tune, O Lord, OUR Lord, How majestic is YOUR name in all the earth…? Or swallowed your self-adoring pride long enough to ask, What IS man that You take thought of him?

    The temptation of this new “discovery” (Take heart, God knew all along that it was out there. He even gave each of its stars its own name!) will be to immediately begin arguing about that “13.1 billion years” date and miss the message God has imbedded there. Let’s humble ourselves for a moment and tone down our defensive posture long enough to simply marvel.

    What IS man that you take thought of him? Out of the thousands of planets He has cast out into His Universe, and all the galaxies and the stars of which they are comprised, think on this amazing thing. It was to OUR world that God sent His very own Son, our Creator and Sustainer! And to OUR world He was sent as a Savior!

    Now…move the kids’ bedtime back half an hour or so tonight. Play the role of the Hebrew shepherd boy for a few slow minutes. Wrap a blanket around yourself; lay back with your fingers laced behind your head. Stare long and hard at the canopy of stars that covers you. Humble yourself for a moment and tone down your defensive posture long enough to simply marvel. And teach the kids to say, O Lord, OUR Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

    See you Sunday, Church!
    Pastor Tom

    The Unaborted Mission of the Christ

  • Tuesday, October 19, 2010
  • “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.”  John 17:17
    To sanctify is to ‘set apart for a sacred work’. Jesus in His prayer to the Father asks that we be sanctified… that we be "set apart" in spite of the world in which we live! It is this aspect of the "justification / sanctification / glorification" story of the gospel that is the focus of these verses in John 17.

    “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth...”  begs six questions to be asked… “Who? What? When? Where? How? and Why?!”

    1. WHO?
    The "them" is simply all those that God has redeemed through His Son…
    “After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed: Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify You. For You granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those You have given Him.”  John 17:1-2

    The setting apart of those God has given to the Son is NOT optional! God foreknew and predestined these He called to be justified, sanctified and glorified!

    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Rom. 8:28-30

    2. WHAT?
    Well then what is sanctification?? It is a process of transformation…
    “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Rom. 12:2
    …from the inside out… It is a renewed mind that precedes any action on our part…

    3. WHEN?
    Since at the moment of faith we were "set apart", our ongoing process of sanctification is just that… on going…
    “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  1Cor. 10:31

    4. WHERE?
    We are set apart from the world and we are set apart for the world!

    His prayer to sanctify us separates us from the world…
    “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”  John 17:16-17

    His prayer to sanctify Himself for us sets us apart for the world…
    “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”  John 17:18-19

    5. HOW?
    So just how does this sanctification work? Simply stated… The Word…
    “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”  John 17:17

    And God Himself…
    “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.  1Thes. 5:23-24

    6. WHY?
    And finally, why… Why does God desire to sanctify US?? In order for His gospel to go forth, through us, to the world in which we live..
    “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”  John 17:18
    “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”  1Pet. 3:15a

    May our prayer be that we would be more in the World and the World would be less in us.

    The Unaborted Mission of the Christ

  • Friday, October 15, 2010
  • The mission of the Savior of the World was not aborted at the cross.

    The fable goes something like this…
    Relaxing after a most eventful evening shared in the Upper Room, the disciples are musing together about the declining attendance at their recent public events. What had at one time been standing-room-only crowds, events where they actually had to make a “preaching platform” out of a boat pushed away from the shore, His followers were becoming painfully aware that more people seemed to be leaving Jesus than joining Him. So the event team began to discuss what adjustments they might propose which could reverse this attendance slide. Andrew suggested, “I think we need to organize more of those ‘tail-gate parties’ where Jesus takes small amounts of food and feeds the thousands. You have to admit, He definitely had them jazzed about that!” Philip was quite impressed with the healings. “Maybe we need to round up some more blind people and secure a stadium with excellent seating and better sight-lines for the audience. Let Jesus demonstrate some of His various healing methods on them. Spit and make some mud-packs…cover their unseeing eyes with His hands…or build the anticipation with another of those ‘progressive sight restoration’ healings.” Nathanael, the skeptic, was drawn to the earlier stages of Jesus’ public exposure. “If we would line up some water pots and have Him turn them all into top-quality wine, we not only could build the crowds, we could even underwrite some of the increasing ministry expenses by selling it after the event.” James wondered aloud why Jesus had to do His walking on the water thing in the middle of the night with the only “stage lights” being a full moon. So on and on went the strategizing for restoring the momentum to the mission.  And then, during a lull in the conversation, they heard Judas say, “I don’t know much about your marketing strategies and all. But I would like to suggest that if we are going to keep meeting up here in this Room, we do something about replacing the carpet!”

    Being a somewhat impatient sort of guy…the kind who sees three cars in the drive-thru lane and parks to and go inside to get the kiddie meal…who can’t believe how slow his MacBook opens up…who wonders why they haven’t developed a grass seed that sprouts in 48 hours…the kind of guy who believes we “just need to make a decision” and then, if it is a bad decision, we simply fix it with a better decision later. You know my type! Being an impatient sort of guy, I marvel at the strategy Jesus employed for His mission to our World!

    Thirty-three years of living in one small geographic location with his only “out-of-the-country” excursions being in His infancy to Egypt and in His stepping onto the eastern shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. Three concentrated, sensational years of public ministry and proclamation; and yet, by the time He is preparing to return to Heaven, He is actually losing more followers than He is adding! And with the shadow of His cross looming ever nearer, He declares victory/success/mission-accomplished. “In the World you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the World!”
    John 16:31

    With the unlimited power of Creator being His, one HAS to marvel at the strategy Jesus employed for reaching the World. “As You sent Me into the World, I also have sent them into the World.” John 17:18 Rather than build His followership on grand events with additional numbers recorded each time, Jesus ordained the principles of multiplication. “Each one reach one” by the power of the gospel and for the glory of the Savior.

    If you were sent to “save the World”, what strategy would you employ to accomplish the mission? On the eve of His death on the cross, the number of those who truly believed in Him was very, very small. And then, if you add into the mix the “kind” of followers He had amassed…His impact was unimpressive by nearly all standards!

    But the mission of the Savior was not aborted at the cross. No, rather, it was accelerated there! For that handful of faithful (SORT- OF faithful…night runners and verbal deniers…) embraced their calling and committed themselves to the task. One soul at a time the gospel was proclaimed and embraced. And before long, the reputation of this small band of disciples was, “they have upset the whole world by their preaching of this Christ”!