Counterfeit Gospels

16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Galatians 2

We hear a lot about counterfeit gospels or “watered down” preaching in the church today. Most of the time, the folks that do this talking are complaining that the gospel doesn’t talk about sin enough. It is certainly true that the gospel begins with the fact that we are all sinners who need Jesus. But we need to remember that when Paul talked about other gospels, he was talking about those who tried to require new Christians to be Jews before they could be Christian. He was condemning those who tried to bring the law back into Christianity. He was talking about those who called “sin” that which was merely a different practice or tradition.

We need to be careful that we aren’t just jealous of the success of approaches different from ours. We should not attach labels without careful prayer and study. We really need to be sure we know what we are talking about, especially when we talk about someone who, in truth, is following Jesus.

People aren’t always comfortable with the freedom that comes in Christ. With freedom comes joy and peace. It grows from the responsibility of being followers of Christ. A true Christian follows Christ, led by the Spirit. Many are much more comfortable with tradition and rules. Jesus came into a Jewish society that had gone crazy with rules. He wasn’t impressed. He condemned the Pharisees. This was a Jewish sect noted for strict observance of rites and ceremonies of the written law and for insistence on the validity of their own oral traditions concerning the law. The Pharisees insisted on “my way or the highway.” 

I love to be with Kairos brothers. They come from a variety of expressions of Christianity. They worship a little differently. They differ in a variety of way in matters which are of no  eternal consequence. But in each I see Jesus. I see peace and joy and a love for the Lord. I see a desire to bring others to Jesus. I hear their stories of redemption, conversion and restoration. I see lives truly changed. 

Sometimes when we see something different, before we cry “counterfeit” we need to look for Jesus and the fearless love and peace He brings.

Be blessed.

Nick


Heavenly Crowns

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

This week Rose and I attended our grandkids’ end of school award ceremonies. Every kid gets something; even if it’s just a certificate of participation. Our guys are pretty good students and we were proud of their awards. 

It got me thinking about heavenly crowns. When it’s all over, I sure would like more than a certificate of participation. Yet I don’t feel like I’m earning crowns. I’ve had an interesting year. Lots of strange things have happened and are happening. I just don’t know if they qualify as “crowning” events. 

A couple of nights ago I awoke at 2 a.m. Among the things I did was listen to a sermon from our church website. I just picked one at random. It was called “The New You.” It had been preached back in January. It was about being a new creation, and picking up our cross. Pastor discussed some of the extraordinary things that happened to the disciples after the close of the Book of Acts. Only John died a non-violent death. I can see some crown winning activity there.

If you follow church news throughout the world, you can’t miss the fact that many are earning crowns, through the suffering of persecutions and trials. It’s starting to get a bit uncomfortable to be a Christian in this country. I wonder what it will be like by the time those grand kids are grown. 

When listening to a sermon from the church website didn’t put me back to sleep, I listened to David Jeremiah. He’s been preaching on the end times. Things are really going to get worse before they get better. I believe before too long, learning earning a crown will be just part of being a Christian. 

Maybe in the meantime our crowns are earned by how we handle the trials that do come.  “Taking up your cross” has to mean handling what comes, no matter how “ordinary” or how “dramatic.”

Even around us some are suffering for taking a stand and just doing what they are called to do. I suppose handling the trials we have will prepare us for the ones to come.


Nick

The Father Sees

I wasn’t the greatest father when my kids were growing up. It’s only by God’s grace that my daughter is the wonderful Christian that she is today. I was too quick to criticize and too slow to encourage. I grew up poor so I was anxious that my kids have the things I didn’t. I wasn’t always there when I should have been. 
I think many of us suffer from the imperfect fathering we received. When we are told about our heavenly Father, we suffer from echoes of our earthly fathers. When we hear voices, we can’t tell if it’s God or someone else because the voices sound so much like the father’s voice we remember from childhood.
These things I have learned: 
Our Father doesn’t focus on the past. He guides us to a brighter future.
Our Father doesn’t harp on confessed and forgiven sins. He elevates and multiplies our smallest efforts.
Our Father isn’t interested in all we know, but in that we know Him.
Our Father didn’t send his Son to fill our heads with learning, but to teach our hearts to love. 
I had a rare word from the Lord the other night. He said simply not to fear and that His people are in His heart and never far from His sight. At the time I thought it kind of strange. Aren’t we always in His sight. On prayer and reflection I realize that He was encouraging. He was saying we are not far from seeing as He sees. He always sees us, we just don’t always see what He sees. Sometimes the vision comes close, but then it slips away.
On earth it’s tough to keep a heavenly perspective: to see continuously things as God does. Some of what He sees is that much that we consider important, isn’t. He sees us struggling to know more about Him and failing to really know Him. He sees us forgetting that how we love each other is the real sign that we are His. He sees a world that’s dying and a church that’s not really trying. 
But He also sees the widow that spends her lonely hours in prayer, the mother who struggles to raise her children alone, the teenager who tries to find the way. To see as God sees is a great gift with a great responsibility. He sees all the need and knows He’s the only answer.
Be blessed.
Nick 

What Happens When We Pray?

I attended Prayer Time last night at our church. I was much better after an hour of prayer than when I went in. It made me consider just what happens when we pray.

During our hour of prayer we spend a half hour praying alone and a half hour praying together.

1. Physical improvements. It has been demonstrated that our body gets better when we pray. Our blood pressure becomes more normal and our heart beat stabilizes to a better level.

2. Emotional improvements. We become more stable emotionally after just a few moments of praying. Anger and fears subside. A peaceful feeling emerges.

3. Perspective improves. There is something about getting quiet before the Lord. Gradually we begin to see things a bit differently. Maybe we begin to get some of His perspective. As we give thanks we realize every thing we have. As we consider who He is, we begin to see that He’s got this situation. As we remember our previous times of prayer, we remember how He has worked in the past.

4. It’s quiet. Just being in a quiet situation is a good thing. Our world is so noisy these days. Not only does quiet do us good. It’s just good in itself.

5. We listen. It seems when things are tough we spend more time worrying and talking to our selves. When we pray, if we are praying correctly, we spend more time listening than talking.

6. God speaks. If we can just be quiet, we can hear him. He really does answer prayer.

When we pray corporately more great things happen.

7. We hear from others. As we gather we benefit from the insights and the words others have received from God.

8. We are blessed with fellowship. I think we spend too much time alone these days. We communicate by electronics. There is blessing in being face to face with other believers. It is good to see and hear and touch them.

9. God’s presence becomes even more real. Remember He promised when two or three are gathered in my name, there He is.

10. We are encouraged. There is nothing like holding hands in a circle and hearing others cry out to the Lord and to pray in a language that the Spirit has given them to chase away fear and doubt and to build up courage within.

11. We are bound together. One of the most common supplications in group prayer is to “bind us together.” The mere act of praying together has that binding together effect.

12. We share. As we hear each others prayers, we learn a little more about their struggles. As we pray, others learn a bit more about us and our lives begin to meld together.

13. We increase in love. Nothing helps a relationship like praying together. There is truth in saying that the family that prays together stays together.

14. God moves. There is a spiritual principle that says that God is often waiting for us to take the first step. There are numerous examples in scripture of God moving with power after His people take the first step of faith. Praying is that first step.

15. We move. Pray before acting. But remember to act after praying. Praying is the first step. In it we are guided and encouraged to act. In the process we have come to know a little bit more about each other and our God. We have a bit more of His mind. We are a little closer to His heart.

Renewed, refreshed, encouraged, motivated, and blessed, we act.

Pray and be blessed. Pray together and be greatly blessed.

Nick

In Remembrance

When I was much younger I served in the U. S. Navy for 11 years. I went to Vietnam twice. Others served for fewer years but gave much more than I. We didn’t return to parades or gratitude. We were called baby killers and spit upon. I remember those I knew and those I didn’t for giving all. They gave when their giving wasn’t popular or politically correct. They went because they were called. Thanks guys.
Yesterday I exercised one of the rights they died to protect. I gathered with those to whom my Lord has lead me. We hugged and prayed and praised. I taught a little and learned a lot. We had a great crowd for a holiday Sunday. I am thankful for the path He has lead me on. I am not arrogant enough to think that mine is the only or even the best path. It is simply the way Jesus has led me. It is my right to walk this path and to call others to it.
I know that others He loves, Jesus has lead on other paths to worship with other groups in slightly other ways.  We who trust and follow Jesus are all Christians. I would never call those whom my Lord has led to other paths, blind or misled, deceived or deceivers. I would never denigrate their pastors and leaders. I would not attempt to harm the love of their fellowship or the peacefulness of their assembly. My Lord wouldn’t like it and such would not honor the memory of those who died for their right to gather with whom and how they are led. I believe that I deserve the same from others.
Tonight I will exercise my rights again. I will gather for prayer with the fellowship I have chosen and love. I would like to think I will do so for some higher purpose. But I know I will do it because I will be hugged and loved and blessed. In times like these who could turn that down.
Have a Happy Memorial Day.
Peace Out.
Nick

Journey

I had a full day yesterday. I spent a lot of time analyzing documents and communicating with clients and friends, offering advice and counsel, the kind of stuff I sometimes get paid for. But I was also trying to keep up with UL Baseball, UL Softball, LSU Baseball, and the NBA. By the time the NBA East Finals were over (Go Pacers), I was ready for bed.

When I got to bed, Rosemary was listening to sermons on the internet. I was mildly annoyed. She offered to listen in the headphones, but what she listens to actually usually helps me go to sleep. So I said “no thanks” and just laid there. But I didn’t drift off to sleep. What she was listening to was great. I listen through some really good sermons on learning God’s will for your life and the end times. I heard about working on the sin in your life and salvation and sanctification. It was good deep stuff delivered with humor and skill. It kept me awake for several hours.

I recognized something in the accent of the pastor and in certain phrases he used. Rose was listening to sermons from Journey Church in Central, Louisiana. The accent and other elements were familiar because Journey is the church our new Lead Pastor came from. Apparently all people from Central talk a little funny. I could recognize other similarities. Eventually I was able to go to sleep and slept with contentment. I knew my wife was listening to good stuff and, after all, as head of the household I have some responsibility for the spiritual food my family is fed.

I also felt good about the future of my church because you can learn a lot about a man from the nature of his mentors. I have actually met our Lead Pastor’s former Pastor and he’s a nice guy in addition to be a great preacher. His church is experiencing great dynamic growth and is impacting their community. They still all talk funny. That gives me great comfort in considering the future of our little church.

I look forward to Sunday. Hopefully all my teams will win. Pastor Jason is preaching again and I look forward to that. I am filling in for our vacationing Senior Pastor, but you should come anyway. Maybe I’ll share some of the great stuff I heard while trying to go to sleep last night. I’m practicing talking funny too.

Thanks Journey and

Be blessed.

Nick

Minister

14 We urge you, brethrenadmonish the unrulyencourage the faintheartedhelp the weak, be patient with everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:14
As Christians, we know that we are suppose to be ministering to each other. If the Holy Spirit is in us, we are motivated to do so. However, we are fearful that we just don’t have the “gifts” to be successful in what we want to do. Let’s consider for a moment what we really need to do. 
  1. We are not called to fix, just to be there. A brother or sister in need doesn’t really expect us to have all the answers, they just want someone to be present while the questions are pondered. Just to sit quietly with a friend is a tremendous blessing. 
  2. Listen.  As we sit we need to really listen. We need to learn to listen not just to the words that are spoken, but those that are not. We need to learn to get a feel for the emotions. 
  3. Share.  It is much more helpful to someone hurting to hear that they are not alone in feeling pain. They don’t need easy answers but they can be blessed by a honest sharing of experience. Be careful not to “one up” the person in pain. We don’t need to say, ‘You think you have it bad. Let me tell you what happened to me.” We can never completely put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, so don’t try. 
  4. Pray. Sometime when we are in pain, we don’t know how to pray. It can be such a blessing for someone else, in our presence, to go before the Lord for us. Prayer gives God the opportunity to act and bless.
  5. Give. After listening and praying, it may become clear that we have some resource that the suffering one needs. We need to admonish and encourage, but we also need to “help.” 
  6. Substitute. When we are in pain, it becomes difficult to perform even our normal daily tasks. Look for opportunities to step in and fill in where the hurting can’t act or can’t act as efficiently as they usually do.
  7. Be Jesus. The greatest thing we can do is to “be Jesus” and to bring Him to the hurting. A person in pain may not be in the best position to “hear” the gospel, but they are certainly in a position to see it.
We live in a world full of burdens and the burdened. Even when we ourselves are suffering, the greatest salve can be to minister to someone else.
Be blessed.
Nick

Untitled

Your church needs you. I mean both the congregation of which you are a member and “The Church” meaning the entire body of Christ. You have gifts and talents. If you are like me you can’t sing a note, so the worship team might not be for you. You might cringe at the thought of speaking in front of folks, so maybe you are not a teacher. 

It’s time we stop thinking in terms of a “Sunday only” establishment. The church is not a place or a time; it is a body of believers, each one uniquely gifted by God to guide, help, challenge, and support the rest. In fact, most service to the Lord doesn’t take place inside the church building. It happens out in the world, where we do all the things that Scripture commands.

We all have spheres of influence. Our immediate sphere may not be large, but it interacts with other spheres.  When we act or speak, only those closest to us notice, but a chain reaction ripples outward to affect an entire community. 

A gentle rebuke, a listening ear, or a loving deed benefits the church by strengthening one brother or sister, who then supports another.

We are on this earth to serve the kingdom of God and His church. And we do that by ministering to each other in small ways that steady the whole body as we give extra support to one member. Let’s pray that God will show us the needs we have been created and molded to meet and the courage to step forward. 

Be blessed.

Nick