Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Death and Dying

The brain thinks about really weird things when you can’t sleep. I woke up about 4:00 in the morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. For some reason my brain started forming this post in my mind. I was thinking about how Christians don’t like to talk about death. Death is a fact. Everyone who lives also dies. The important part isn’t even necessarily how long you live, but how you live. What do you do with the time God has given you on this earth? Do you use each and every day you have to bring glory to God, to bring others to salvation, to influence your generation, neighbors, friends for the kingdom?

I was reminded of the life of Jim Elliott. Jim lived only 28 years but he lived everyday to do and to be what God wanted. His story is recounted in the book “Shadow of the Almighty” and was written by his wife. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend it. Jim was a missionary to the Auca Indians in South America and he ended up being killed for his faith. His efforts spurred a movement of men to enter missionary service. One of the famous quotes from Jim’s life is: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

So what does the Bible say about death and dying? What should my attitude be toward death and dying…

* I believe that Christians can face death without fear.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

* I believe that a Christian goes to be with the Lord the moment he dies.

“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 5:8

“If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,” Philippians 1:22-25

* I believe that Christians will dwell with God forever. Psalm 23:6

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

* I believe that heaven is an awesome place and that we cannot even conceive how wonderful it will be.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3

* I believe that heaven will be a far better place for Christians than earth is.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

Dying is the beginning not the end. It shouldn’t be feared and should be talked about.

Where ever you find yourself, use your life to serve God with all your heart. As a Christian, your finish line is heaven. Run the race well and take as many people with you there as you can.

Monday, September 28, 2009

How Would You Introduce Christ?

I watched this video today and loved it. What do you think?

This is Steve Harvey, a comedian, addressing a secular audience. The subject is: "How Would You Introduce Christ to a Room Full of People?" It's hard to imagine that this is a comedian and not a preacher, and this is an audience and not a congregation.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pray for Your Pastor

Ken Sande, of Peacemaker Ministries, in an article entitled, "Strike the Shepherd", reports that every month, 1,500 pastors in the USA leave their assignments because of conflict, burnout or moral failure. Sande states that one study showed that the average seminary graduate spends only 14 years pastoring before changing careers.

Pastors need people who will pray for them. They need consistent and specific prayer. Think about Moses in the Old Testament. Do you remember what happened when his hands and arms were tired? Aaron interceded by holding up his hands until the battle was won. (Exodus 17:8 – 13) We need to hold up the hands of our pastors through prayer. As we uphold our pastors we will see God win the battles in our churches.

Jesus asked three of his disciples to go with him into one of his darkest hours. His assignment was for them to pray for Him. If Jesus needed men to pray for Him, how much more does your pastor need and want you to pray for him.

Galatians 6:2 tells us we need to carry each other’s burdens. We need to pray for our pastor and help him bear the burden of the ministry. Pray for his personal needs. Pray for his ministry needs. Pray for his vision for the church. Pray that he will seek God’s will and direction. Pray that he will walk humbly with God. (Micah 6:8) Pray that he would have joy in the ministry. Pray that he would give thanks in all things (1 Thes. 5:18)

Pray that he would stand firm in the faith. (1 Corinthians 16:13) Pray that he would influence every person he meets for good and that he would be a shining witness in his personal life. Pray for him to lead a life of integrity and honor. Pray that his character would be above reproach.

Pray for his family. There is a lot of pressure being a full-time pastor. Pray that he would be a godly leader of his home and that he would be able to give his family the love and attention that they need. Pray for God’s protection for him and his family.

Pray that he would preach the Word. Pray for his study time and prayer time. Pray that God’s word would be alive for him. Pray that his words would draw others to Christ.

Your pastor needs your love and support. Pray that he would remain firm in his faith and strong in his ministry.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Flooding at Six Flags

Six Flags Over Georgia is on the west side of Atlanta. The road next to it is I-20. That is the main East/West road through the city.


More Atlanta Flood Pictures

Best idea was to stay at home (if possible).

FYI - Cars don't float.

Entire subdivisions were immersed in the water.

As you can see many of the roads could only be navigated by boats.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pray for Atlanta

I live about 40 miles north east of Atlanta in Gwinnett County.

The metro Atlanta area was hit hard with rain and flooding this week. Some areas received as much as about 20 inches of rain in 3 days. Streams, creeks, and rivers all overflowed their banks. Road and homes were flooded. Hundreds of people either were chased from their homes or had to be rescued from their homes. Nine people were killed in the floods.

People in this area do not carry flood insurance. We have never seen water this high. Many people will have lost everything. Hundreds of roads were closed due to flooding. People who got out to go to work Monday had a hard time getting home Monday night. Many of these roads sustained damage and it will be quite a while before they can all be repaired.

Romans 8:28 "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."

1 Thessalonians 5:18 "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

It's hard to remember these verses when you are in the midst of tragedy. Please pray for the people in the Atlanta area.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Purpose of the Church

Our pastor is retiring the end of the year and so as a church we have had some discussions about what is the purpose of the church. There are lots of things you think about when you think about the ministries of the church.

Here’s a list of what I feel we are called to do and to be as a church.

• Worship
• Fellowship - exhorting, encouraging, prayer for each other (bear each other’s burdens)
• Preaching the Word and teaching doctrine
• Outreach - evangelism, minister to the hurting
• Believers’ baptism and communion

The church is mentioned 111 times in the New Testament and so it is an important part of the Christian life.

Its purpose is not to entertain. It is not to be a just a social organization. People shouldn’t have to be “bribed” to attend. They should come to worship God.

Here are some verses I based my list above on:

Acts 2 :42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

I Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

Matthew 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Just Do It

Do you ever think about what kind of influence you have on others? People watch what you do and listen to what you say and all of that put together helps them form not only an opinion about you but an opinion about what you stand for. So it really isn’t a question of if you’ll have an influence but what kind of influence you’ll have. Christians are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

In Biblical times, salt was extremely valuable. It was used as a preservative. It kept good things from going bad. The second thing salt does is gives taste and flavor to food.

Christians are given the task of being salt in our society. We are to help people persevere. We are to help them see meaning in life when they have no hope. It is about helping others in their quality of life. We are to encourage reconciliation and peace. We are to point them to the Savior.

Salt and light do not exist for their own sake, but to make a difference and to give glory to God.

Notice that Jesus doesn’t ask us to be salt and light. He says we are salt and light. So be who you are. Act upon your nature, your identity, just do what you are meant to do.

Just do it.

Here’s another way to think about it:

“Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. "Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand - shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13 -16 -- from The Message


“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5 :13-16 NIV


Monday, September 14, 2009

Follow-up on Kennedy/Pope letter

I've been asked - so what do you have against Catholics. My answer - nothing.

As long as you understand that being a Catholic won't save you; it won't condemn you either. No church or organized religion will do either of those things.

In John 14:6, Jesus said "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Based on this verse of scripture, anyone trying to get to heaven because they are a good Catholic, (or a good Methodist, or a good Baptist, etc) will fail. There's only one way to heaven and that is through a personal relationship with Jesus.

Rituals, traditions, communion, baptism, works, none of those will get you to heaven. Any church who allows you to believe that is wrong.

Find a church that preaches the Word, that calls people into a personal relationship with Christ, and that then trains them in their faith (based on Scriptural principles). If it does these things, then the denomination doesn't matter.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Kennedy writes letter to the Pope

Priest makes Kennedy, pope letters public
(I've pasted the content below but you can click above for source link)

At the graveside service at Arlington National Cemetery for Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C. and a family friend, read portions of the letter that President Obama delivered on Kennedy's behalf to the pope last month and portions of the pope's reply.

Kennedy's letter:

"Most Holy Father, I asked President Obama to personally hand deliver this letter to you. As a man of deep faith himself, he understands how important my Roman Catholic faith is to me, and I am deeply grateful to him.

"I hope this letter finds you in good health. I pray that you have all of God’s blessings as you lead our Church and inspire our world during these challenging times.

"I am writing with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines. I was diagnosed with brain cancer more than a year ago, and, although I continue treatment, the disease is taking its toll on me. I am 77 years old and preparing for the next passage of life.

"I have been blessed to be a part of a wonderful family, and both of my parents, particularly my mother, kept our Catholic faith at the center of our lives. That gift of faith has sustained, nurtured and provided solace to me in the darkest hours. I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith, I have tried to right my path.

"I want you to know, Your Holiness, that in my nearly 50 years of elective office, I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I’ve worked to welcome the immigrant, fight discrimination and expand access to health care and education. I have opposed the death penalty and fought to end war. Those are the issues that have motivated me and been the focus of my work as a United States Senator.

"I also want you to know that even though I am ill, I am committed to do everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country. This has been the political cause of my life. I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health care field and will continue to advocate for it as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone.

"I have always tried to be a faithful Catholic, Your Holiness, and though I have fallen short through human failings, I have never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings. I continue to pray for God’s blessings on you and our Church and would be most thankful for your prayers for me."

Pope Benedict XVI's reply, via a Vatican official:

"The Holy Father has read the letter which you entrusted to President Barack Obama, who kindly presented it to him during their recent meeting. He was saddened to know of your illness, and has asked me to assure you of his concern and his spiritual closeness. He is particularly grateful for your promise of prayers for him and for the needs of the universal Church.

"His Holiness prays that in the days ahead you may be sustained in faith and hope, and granted the precious grace of joyful surrender to the will of God our merciful Father. He invokes upon you the consolation and peace promised by the Risen Savior to all who share in His sufferings and trust in His promise of eternal life.

"Commending you and the members of your family to the loving intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Father cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, comfort and strength in the Lord."

We discussed this letter in our Sunday School class and I wanted to post these thoughts so I wouldn't forget them.

Why did Mr. Kennedy write this letter? Was he hoping that the pope could assure him of his salvation? As you read his letter, it seems like he is placing his hope on the church saving him. He refers to his parents' faith (not his own). He talks about all his good works.

In the beginning of this letter, Mr. Kennedy referred to the pope as the Most Holy Father. Our God is a jealous God and He alone should received all our adoration and praise. While we can respect our religious leaders, it is not appropriate to refer to any human as the most holy father.

Notice what he doesn't talk about in this letter. He never mentions Jesus. He never mentions a personal faith. He never mentions trusting God.

Ephesians 2:8-9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast."

My question to Mr. Kennedy would be," Who is your faith in?"

Now looking at the pope's reply back to Senator Kennedy:

He commends him to the loving intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

My problem with this statement comes from these two verses:

1 Timothy 2:5 "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

Romans 8:34 "Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."

There's no where in scripture that states that Mary intercedes for me.

As I read the pope's response I noticed that he offered no consolation and no assurance. I wonder how this made Mr. Kennedy feel.

I can't imagine what it would be like not to have to assurance of my salvation. To live every day trying to do good works in hopes that it would be enough. To never know for sure that you were going to heaven when you died.

Think back to the story of the thief on the cross. (Luke 23:39-43) He said that he deserved his sentence but Jesus did nothing wrong. He asked Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. Jesus answered that today he would be with him in paradise. Obviously his salvation was based solely on his faith in Jesus and not on any works.

Romans 3:22-24 "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Every day with Jesus

I haven't posted much lately. I guess I haven't felt like I've had much worthy of posting. As I thought about it, every day that you walk with God is worth sharing something about.

Nothing too tremendous happened this week. I went to work; I came home; I fixed dinner; I did dishes; I did some laundry; I took care of my daughter; I went to bed and got up and did it all over again.

Yet everyday God loves me. Everyday God goes with me everywhere and helps me with everything I do. Everyday God has his hand of protection on me. Everyday I needed him and everyday He was there for me.

As I sought Him, he was there. He never lets me go through anything by myself. He never leaves me alone. I need to recognize his presence with me at every moment.

It is my responsibility to seek God. Everyone who seeks Him will find Him.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7: 7-8

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Conflict Resolution

I read an excellent article this week on conflict resolution. You can find it here.

Here's a brief summary:

Six Pratical tips for handling conflict.

Pray: apply the principle that prayer is essential to overcoming fear.
Before approaching someone else about a conflict, approach God and ask for wisdom and guidance.

Process: determine the type of intervention necessary.
Determine if this is a casual conversation or a formal meeting. Do you need a group meeting? Encourage people to share their feelings and make them feel that they are in a safe environment to do that. Stay objective through out the meeting - dont' take sides. Discuss a plan for how to "fix" the relationship.

Take action: approach the confrontation with a good attitude.
Epheisans 4:32 “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave [us]”

Colossians 3:12 “clothe [ourselves] with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”

Share your vision: discuss the hope of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Try to uncover the root cause of the problem. Try to come up with a resolution to the problem.

2 Corinthians 5:19 “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them”

1 Peter 5:5–6 “clothe [ourselves] with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ ”

Listen carefully: let all parties know they have been heard.
Listen, listen, listen. Let others talk. Don't feel the need to fill the silence. Let people share honestly then put together a plan for working together. Let people state what they need from each other and then ask for an agreement between them.

Ephesians 4:15 "Rather, let our lives lovingly express truth [in all things, speaking truly,dealing truly, living truly]. Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).”

Pray together: warn of the dangers of not forgiving.
Close the meeting with prayer. Try to get each participant to forgive the others. Get them to see that forgiveness is a choice not a feeling.

Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

Mark 3:24–25 “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If
a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand”

It takes courage to confront conflict. The Scripture has a lot to say about handling conflict. When conflict arrives, have a plan of action and trust God to help you through it.