Sin

I hear a lot of complaints that we don’t hear much about sin anymore. If true, that’s too bad because sin is something we all have in common. I don’t want to be part of that problem, so today I would like to talk about sin.
The Supreme Court, Congress, the President, gays and straights, Christians, the saved and the unsaved, the churched and the unchurched, murderers, rapists, liars, slanderers, Muslims, blacks and whites, Democrats and Republicans, conservative and liberal Christians, TV preachers, porn addicts, sex addicts, drug addicts, the cool kids at school, soccer moms, Tiger fans….
The all have some things in common:
1. They don’t determine what is sin. God does that.
2. They all sin. Only God doesn’t do that.
It doesn’t help to try to “reclassify” some things as “not sin.” It doesn’t matter what we call it. Sin is sin. The good news is that God has provided a solution to sin. Those who repent, (that doesn’t mean they stop sinning. It means they turn away from it.)  recognize they are sinners and that they can’t do anything about it themselves, who turn to Christ and acknowledge that He defines sin and let Him deal with it in their lives become new creatures in Christ and the sin problem is solved. They still sin, but they don’t like it so much. They want to avoid it. They are forgiven for it. 
That’s the basics about sin. But there are some other “fun facts” about sin that deserve attention.
We love to compare sins. Surely some create more problems than others. A serial killer does more harm than a tax evader, but both sin. In fact, you could argue the tax evader is actually preventing problems but that’s a subject for another day.  All sin makes us worthy of hell and unworthy of heaven. So quit feeling better because other folks have committed and are committing “worse” sins. God doesn’t grade on the curve. 
We think some folks are good and some are bad…no matter how we judge that, they all sin. There is none good but God.
We think after we come to Christ we don’t sin. First of all I don’t know why anyone believes that. There certainly isn’t any evidence of that in what I have observed. It certainly isn’t true. I came to Christ years ago and still sin. I will say this. Once we are in Christ sin doesn’t have the victory over us. We don’t like sin. But we still do it. Some things we know are sin but we still struggle with. Other things Jesus hasn’t yet revealed to us as sin. You see Jesus is kind. He knows we couldn’t handle it if we were hit with all our sin at once. So he moves us from sin to sin. As we learn to deal with one; we are shown another.
We really don’t have time to worry about everyone else’s sin. We ALL have plenty enough of our own. Sometimes we seem to think that because we are forgiven, we don’t need to worry about our own sins and can bother folks about theirs. Not true. Jesus deals with us every day about our sin and cleaning up our lives. It’s a full time job; so quit focusing on everyone else.
Convicting folks of sin isn’t our job. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit and He’s very good at it and doesn’t need our help. Telling people about God’s solution to sin IS our job. Telling by showing is always better than telling by talking. So focus on dealing with the sin that remains in your life. Enjoy your time with Jesus as He helps you with that. Share with others how being In Him is so much better than trying to be good all by yourself. In so doing you will be following the great commission. That will make you very cool.
I feel that when we get to heaven we will be surprised by who is there. There will be some who publicly struggled with sin all their lives, but they were In Him. It just shouldn’t be any surprise that we find ourselves there. Sin has been conquered. There is a solution. It’s just not obvious to everyone.
I think I used the word “sin” about forty times. Hope that’s enough about sin. Maybe you should make copies of this and hand it out to folks every time they say that we don’t hear enough about sin. Ops. I think I just stumbled over the sin of pride. Better get back to work.
Be blessed.
Nick

The Will of God – Ascertaining your part

It’s a mystery why God choses to act through His people, but He clearly does. When a situation, problem or needs comes to our attention, it could be God calling us to play a part in His great plan. But it could be our human nature, the devil, or the bad shrimp we had for supper the night before. How can we know? It’s tough but there are ways.
1. Pray. Before taking any action or saying any word in response to a perceived need, we need to pray. I am talking about serious prayer. I mean prayer that is 1 percent us talking and 99 percent us listening. Because the bottom line is God will tell us what we need to do and what we need to stay away from. Hearing for His voice to determine His will is something we learn. It’s why He starts us out with small things then moves us on to bigger challenges.
2. Investigate. If we see a situation that seems to need some correction or intervention, we need to look closer. For example, if we think something is wrong in our children’s program at church we need to get involved. We need to volunteer. Take a closer look. We need to do this for several reasons. We need to have the right information. We need to see the perspective of others and we need to build our credibility. Those involved are much more likely to listen to one who is in a position to know and understand than to one who just “heard from God.”
3. Examine our motives. We really need to know ourselves. Are we controlling types? The biggest motivation to seek change and see problems is often not the voice of God by the spirit of control. There truly is such a Spirit and some folks are bothered by it in spades. Consider your past. Have you had evidence of the influence of this spirit? Are you motivated by jealousy? Sometimes it just bothers us if someone is receiving much applause over their work. We just want our moment in the sun. That’s not God, that’s another influence. Does a critical spirit rest on your shoulder? Usually this spirit doesn’t prompt us to act, but to talk about those who do. It is always outside the will of God.
4. Consider our place. Is the problem we see in an area outside of our concern. Here I don’t mean that “lay” folks should stay out of “staff” business or that kind of thing. I think the best example happens with our children. We spend years teaching them and, we should, be giving them good example. Sometimes we see them doing “wrong” and want to step in an intervene. Be careful. Just because they aren’t doing what we would do, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Even if it is wrong, it doesn’t mean we are called to step in. During certain periods of life, our parents or grandparents are the last persons we want to hear from. Another example is politics. All Christians should be concerned about the direction our country and society is taking; but we need to be careful about spending too much time worrying and fretting about it. Some are truly called to act in these areas. For most of us, that’s not our place. There is too much to do with individuals, much closer to home.
5. Consider the timing. Make sure that intervention is needed now, before acting. Sometimes God is working on the person or in a situation. He may be teaching a lesson or clearing out some chaff. We don’t interfere with that.
6. When sure of our direction, place and timing, ACT. Don’t put yourself in a position of regret. Knowing we should have acted and having failed to do so.
7. PRAY. Obviously we need God’s help at every point of this process. Being in His will, means being in Him. That means not just saying a prayer when we need Him, but living a life of prayer and praise and worship.

There is nothing like being in His will. The joy it brings is worth every difficult step it takes.

Be blessed.

Nick

TIme of Anointing

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. Isaiah 61:1-11

Football season starts in less than sixty days. For fans, that means the excitement is starting to build. For players and coaches, that means that the time of hardest work is upon them. I remember the year that my son went out for football. He spend the hottest days of summer in grueling practices. He would come home burned out and exhausted. There was no glory in hundred degree practices. The cool fall evening football games seemed a long way away. 

Although it isn’t very fun or pretty, the days of summer are crucial for football teams. Players are getting back in shape. Coaches are laying out strategies and deciding who will fill what slots in the coming season. Opponents are being scouted. New talent is spotted and some, for whom there was much promise, are falling by the wayside. 

For everyone that God uses there is a time of preparation. Jesus and Moses both spent time in the dessert. These are tough and lonely times, but they are crucial times. During these times, hearts are prepared and spirits are nourished. These are the times of anointing. I know that’s not how we usually think about anointing. We think of dramatic moments with public laying on of hands or doves descending from on high. By the times these public events happen, the work of anointing has already taken place. 

Look about. If you see poverty, broken hearts, folks in captivity or prison, that means someone is being anointed. Someone is being prepared to deal with these situations. The Spirit of the Lord is at work. Consider for a moment, perhaps you are that person. There are problems to be solved. If you are noticing them, if your heart is being moved by conditions that you see, perhaps you are being called. 

If it seems like you are in the midst of hot, hard, tiring summer practices, perhaps you are being anointed. You see challenges ahead that seem impossible. You feel inadequate to make any difference. You are being anointed. You are realizing that you need something supernatural to make a difference.

There is probably nothing more humbling than a summer of working out in the sun. The time of preparation is a time of recognizing our weaknesses and our need for His strength. 

He is ready to do great things through you. The need is great but He is greater. Seek His anointing and get ready.

Time to put on the pads and get in the game.

Be blessed.

Nick

New Testament Church

Imagine with me the following scenario: You arrive at church next Sunday and instead of the usual order of service the Pastor takes the microphone and announces that the Lord has been dealing with him and that he believes that your church should become a true New Testament Church. He advises that some significant changes are going to take place:
1. The building is going to be put up for sale. In the future the church will meet at homes. He asks for suggestions for next weeks meeting place. He is meet with silence.
2. He and the entire staff are resigning. In the future there will be no paid staff or clergy/lay distinctions. Everyone is staying around but will be seeking employment outside the church. This will obviously require more participation from everyone. The congregation seems quite uncomfortable and folks begin shifting in their seats.
3. There will be no more clergy given sermons or worship leading. Everyone is asked to pray during the week and in the future come prepared to share a word, a testimony or a song. He, the former Pastor, is excited about learning as much about Jesus from everyone else as He has been expected to previously provide. Several people start looking toward the doors.
He further advises that there will be further changes as the Lord leads. He steps down, places the microphone on the pulpit and takes a seat. There seems to be a new glow in his face and a confidence in his step. He appears to be a man who, after many years of struggle, has finally done exactly the right thing.
What do you think would happen next? I don’t know either. I have been studying church history for a while and have been amazed at what I have discovered. We put up the church as described in the Book of Acts as the model for church life. We consider the first hundred years as the purest in church history. It certainly was a time of tremendous growth and blessing in the church. The church hasn’t been the same since. Over the centuries, the church has changed and adopted structures and traditions from the society in which it exists. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I fear in the process the message, the good news has been subtly changed.
There is no doubt from scripture and supported by history that the first century church did not know buildings, or paid staff or clergy/laity distinctions. Christians in the first century were unfamiliar with the order of service now common in churches, the practice of sermons given every week for years by one person, or traditions like altar calls. A New Testament Christian would not have recognized churches in which most of the attendees were spectators or in which the success of the meeting was measured by the quality of the sermon or the level of inspiration of the music.
I understand that it’s 2013 not the year 13.  I know that it’s the message that matters. I’m certain that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. I know He is still changing lives and that He loves His people. I’m just not sure the entire message is coming through. I’m not convinced that if Jesus returned today He would be pleased with or even recognize His church. 
Can we be faithful enough to look closely at all that we do in light of scripture? Are we willing to let Jesus be the head of his body? Can we separate tradition from bible centered truth? We insist that the church be faithful to the message of the gospel, but are willing to let it slide when our methods are unrecognizable from those described in Acts.
The scenario that begins these thoughts is not likely to happen. If it did, it would not likely end in success. The former pastor would probably end up as a greeter at Walmart and the next Sunday only a handful would show up at someone’s house.  Changes that have occurred over 2000 years, can’t, and probably shouldn’t, be reversed over night. When Jesus returns, we will all see what church was meant to be, but shouldn’t we try to get it as close to right as possible before then?
I love the church. Like everyone and every thing that we love, we aren’t satisfied unless the object of our love is everything that it was meant to be.
Be blessed.
Nick

Encouraging Sunday

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” – (Matthew 28:19-20). 

I actually think there can come a point in your Christian life where you don’t need to go hear more Bible studies (now, don’t take that out of context). What I mean is, there can come a point when you are sitting down and having a meal, and it is time to push away from the table, digest your food, and let it be turned into energy to do something productive. Greg Laurie

Yesterday was an encouraging day. We had a great time at church service with inspiring worship and a good message on the Power of God. But the real encouragement came at 4 p.m., when the church was again full of folks applying the morning’s message and volunteering for VBS. Everyone there was ready to serve in any way necessary. There was no fighting for the “best parts” or grumbling about anything. The whole meeting took less than an hour and I came away encouraged and excited about serving in the Vacation Bible School. 

I know Greg Laurie’s words can be a little shocking. Despite his request I’m sure some folks will take them out of context.We love studying. It’s comfortable. It’s filling but it’s not always fulfilling. We are called and created and anointed to do things. We’re not all called to be great preachers or extraordinary missionaries, but we can be extraordinary. Sitting in a bible study is ordinary. Putting it into practice what we learn is extraordinary. That doesn’t take a special person. It just takes a humble, honoring, willing, Child of God.

See Pastor. I was taking notes yesterday. I went to be encouraged and I was.

Have a blessed day.

Nick

Be the church or stay home

Ron Edmondson recently posted the 7 most frustrating and the 7 most exciting things a pastor sees. He has great insight into what’s good and bad in church.  His thoughts can give us some ideas about what should and shouldn’t happen “in church.”
He is frustrated by people who abuse power or position,  hypocrisy, rumor spreading, selfishness, tradition, time wasters,  and half-heartedness. In these feelings, he seems a lot like Jesus. Jesus’ harshest words were for those in power. He called them hypocrites. As to rumor spreading, He said, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is said whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs” (Matt 10:26-27). He focused on putting others above ourselves. His ministry was certainly not about tradition. He wasted no time and did nothing and encouraged nothing that was half-hearted. 
Edmondson is encouraged by note takers, sacrificial givers, visitors and the people who invite them, servant hearts, new people joining the church and when the church is the church. Here it seems that Edmondson is just like most of us. He wants folks to come to church for the purpose of following Jesus and of getting others to do the same. He knows that note takers intend to use what they hear. He knows sacrificial givers are serious about the church. He knows the purpose of church is make the unchurched, churched. Jesus called it “making disciples.” Finally, he knows that church isn’t what happens on Sunday. The purpose of Sunday is to enable us to be the church the rest of the week.
The purpose of church is so simple. How do we make it so complicated and so “about us.” We do it by going to get something instead of giving something. What we should get is encouragement. Encouragement is a strange thing. You can only get it by giving it. 
If you go to church today bring your bible, a note pad, your wallet and a neighbor. Look to see what needs to be done. Be alert for whose hurting. Do something about what you see. You will encourage your pastor and those around you and, most surprising of all, you will come away encouraged and that’s the only reason to go in the first place. 
If you aren’t going to do these things don’t go. Because if you’re not helping, you’re hurting. You can abuse power,  be a hypocrite, spread a rumor, be selfish, relish your traditions, waste time,  and be half-hearted at home. You’re not needed at church. We’ve got work to do and we don’t need distractions.
Be the church and be blessed.
Nick

Coaching

I was not involved in sports as a kid. It just wasn’t our family thing. Perhaps because of that my kids weren’t involved either. We didn’t do soccer games, or little league or drop off kids at football practice. I say this to put last night’s dream in perspective. I dreamed that my four year old great grand daughter was showing promise as a runner and we were all acting as her coaches. In fact, she got to be pretty good and folks asked me what I did as a coach. This is what I love above dreams. I can be smarter and more daring in dreams than I am in real life. In my dream I told people: “All I do is stand past the finish line and call after her to ‘come here.'” 

We are all called to be coaches. There is even a job title now, “Life Coach.” I guess we are all called to be life coaches. It’s different from being a sports coach. We can’t claim a lack of experience. We have all played the game of life. It’s easy to think that a four year old doesn’t want to hear from a sixty-four year old. That’s just not true. We all have something valuable to share. Many of us have followed Christ for a long time. We have picked up things from our life experience that could really help someone younger. 

Lives are different and we can’t expect others to live life exactly as we have. But we can share things that worked and things that didn’t. We can tell about triumphs and failures. That requires that we be willing to admit that sometimes we failed. Wouldn’t you want those you love to be able to skip just some of the tough lessons you’ve learned? 

We can’t live the lives of those younger ones we love. Their path won’t be exactly the same. They will have different talents and challenges and run a different route. But we can stand past the finish line and cheer them on and call for them to “Come on.” 

Be a coach and be blessed.

Nick

Yogurtland

Wednesday evening after services, Rose and I went to Yogurtland with Pastor T, Debbie and our grandson, Nicky. At this place you put together your own yogurt creation. There are a bunch of yogurt dispensers with a wide variety of flavors and a ton of different toppings.

It turns out I’m a pretty simple man. I selected one flavor and one topping. My companions were much more creative. I don’t know, mathematically, how many different combinations of toppings and yogurt is possible, but it has to be in the millions. 

I don’t think while we were there any two customers came up with the same finished product. Ain’t God something. While it is true that all of us can be basically divided into two groups: those who follow Jesus and those who don’t. It is also true that we are a complex variety of individuals of all shapes, sizes, colors, likes and dislikes. It’s what makes God’s creation so great.

Last night was the last night of the NBA Finals. I was cheering for San Antonio but Miami won. I’m sure some San Antonio fans didn’t sleep last night after the very close loss. I turned off the TV and went right to bed. While I was in favor of one team over the other, it wasn’t a life or death situation for me. I have only been to one NBA game in my life and it happened to be in San Antonio. Thus I am a Spurs fan. Yet I didn’t watch one regular season game all year. So I’m certainly not a fanatic. 

We are also so different. We are passionate on some subjects and merely interested on others. Some things keep us up at night and some things don’t bother us at all. Our lives are really like Yogurtland. The world is full of exciting combinations and choices. What seems great to one; seems awful to another. God didn’t have to give us all that variety. He could have made His world black and white instead of techicolor. He could have made one substance (maybe Manna) for food, one kind of plant, or bird, or insect.

He didn’t do that. He loves variety and He loves to present his children with wonderful and pleasant choices. Just think how great heaven will be: Yogurt Land on steroids.

Something to consider when you get to feeling bored or down. There really isn’t any reason. Is there?

Be blessed.

Nick