Friday, August 29, 2014

Worship reflection, August 29, 2014

Don't miss the fellowship...

While we are so often rushing to get "our seat" in the sanctuary...
While we're fussing over our hair, or the kids this, or that person's that... 
While we're disdaining the preacher...the music...the pew...the color of the carpet...the sound of the choir...or what someone said or didn't say... 
While we are hating this denomination or that...
While we are hating in general...
While we are worrying over someone else's clothes or hairstyle...
While we are trying to play solo Christian because no one is as holy as us...
While we are trying to play get-along-Christian because we care not for holiness...
While running around, lost in culture...and hobbies...and profit...and loss...
While we are distracted in any way by anything, or perhaps everything...

We often miss Him who has so graciously offered Himself!

While religious leaders were lost in the details of their ideas, they missed God standing right in front of them.

"I tell you, something greater than the temple is here." (Matthew 12:6 ESV)

Don't you blame a soul or a solitary object for wildly missing Him who is plainly apparent and freely offered.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Walk reflection, August 26, 2014

Before you get all haughty on a soul...

We ought to want in the minimum for others what grace we have received from God. Think about that... 

A believer was born dead in their sins and trespasses, but through Jesus, they are made alive.
A believer was bound for hell, but through Jesus, they are bound for heaven. 
A believer was in darkness, but Jesus, who is the Light, came to them, not they to He. 
A believer was cut off from God, but through Jesus, they have fellowship with the Father. 
A believer was an enemy of God, but through Jesus, they become children of God. 
A believer was bound to sin, but through Jesus, they are set free.
A believer was a slave to Satan, but through Jesus, they are servants of righteousness. 
A believer had no hope after life, but through Jesus, hope springs eternal, and heaven awaits! 
A believer only produced fruits of the flesh, but through Jesus, they can produce fruit of the Spirit. 

There are more privileges and realities...much more! 

Perhaps the sweetest of all, a believer had not fellowship with the Father, but through Jesus, they are given intimate connection with the One True and Living God! 

Sometimes we seem to forget what we've been granted in Jesus. Sometimes we forget to want for others what we've been graciously granted through the Christ. 

We need to remember... 

"...remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." (Ephesians 2:12 ESV)

Remember, there was a time when you were not experiencing the grace of God. Remember that!

God is good! He's been good to me and He's been good to you. We are wise to remember how good the Good Shepherd has been to His sheep when we deal with each other.

Grace was in God's hands to offer. The very nature of grace is granting the good one does not deserve instead of the judgment they do deserve. God's grace is so amazing because His justice is so deserved. ALL we like sheep have gone astray. The wages of sin is death. We deserve the result of our sin and judgment for our sin, too. But, ah! grace!

How can we say we know grace and know how precious it is, but not desire to offer what grace is in our hands to others? I say we must either not understand the grace we've received, or we've never received grace from God.

Don't be haughty. Want for others what you have received. Want people to know Jesus. Want them to experience fellowship with God. Want them to know forgiveness. Want them to know new life. Want them to have peace and purpose and power in their lives.

Want for others the grace you've received so badly that you offer what grace you have in your hands AND preach that grace God has in His. Preach Jesus. Proclaim Jesus! Get at it! Be the witness God saved you to be!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pastor's Pen (for the bulletin), East Rock Community Church, Sunday, August 24, 2014

"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed." (1 Corinthians 15:1-11 ESV)

A lot of people don’t know the Good News is good news because they are unwilling to receive the truth about the bad news.

Take for instance a sick man who is in denial. Imagine a doctor saying to the man, “Sir, you have
tragicsuretodiefromititis. You’re going to die. It’s just a matter of when.”
Now, imagine the man in conversation with the doctor, rebutting in questioning and unbelief about his condition. “What? Listen, doctor, I feel fine. I’ve never heard of that disease. Doc, I believe this is just your way to get me to keep coming to see you. This is just your way to get money out of me. Tragicsureto...what is it? That’s just old-fashioned hooey.”
The doctor might reply, “Sir, think what you want, but the fact remains that you have a condition which no medicine, no change in diet, no exercise regime — nothing in your power, strength, purchase or supply — can do a single, solitary thing about. You do have tragicsuretodiefromititis. Saying I am a liar. Accusing me, or not even believing me will change it. You can even believe you are dreaming or that I don’t exist, and it won’t change the truth or the facts. You can leave here and tell everyone you meet that I, nor your condition exists, but you’re going to die.”
The doctor might continue: “Sir, there is a cure. You cannot cure yourself, but there is a cure.”
The man might reply, “I don’t need a cure, because there’s nothing wrong. I’m fine.”
Many today reject the Good News that salvation can be found in Jesus because they’ve never believed the bad news that they are sick and dead in sin.
The Good News is good news precisely because bad news exists that reveals bad reality. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All have offended His holiness. All are dead in their trespasses and sins. All of humanity has gone astray, each to his / her own way. It is tragic and we are more than sure to die from it; we are dead from it!
The Good News is always good news, but it won’t be good news to each of us as individuals until we believe the bad news about ourselves. Until we believe we are sick … until we believe this sickness matters … until we believe there is danger in our sickness … until we each see the consequences of our sickness … none of us will be willing to receive the cure.
Oh! Glory! Praise God, if someone becomes finally convinced they need the help of God, Oh, blessed God, to that person, the Good News will be great news! It will be the best news! It will be news they never tire of hearing!
The bad news is that we are lost and dead in sin. Everyone is born lost and dead in sin. The Good News is Jesus. God came as a man, lived perfect, died to pay for sins, rose to conquer death, ascended to rule and sent the Spirit to reveal Himself to mankind. The Good News is that bad news does not have to be the end of our story.

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and Jesus the Son,
Tim Bowes, Romans 12:1-2

Saturday, August 23, 2014

August 23, 2014 Light Steps Courier Times article

Walk reflection August 23, 2014

Evidence of righteous work...

Can you look back at your life and see tremendous differences from the time before you knew the Lord Jesus till today? 

We should be able to see a difference. We should be thinking some different. We should be speaking some different. Different aims and goals ought to be ours. We should be doing different things.

And, don't get caught only thinking of bad habits changed; think of Gospel habits begun. Are you a witness for the Lord Jesus? Are you discovering and growing and exercising your giftings within the Body of Christ? Are your finances yielded toward Kingdom ends? On and on and on... 

The Apostle wrote the the church in Ephesus, and the Church, saying, "Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called 'the uncircumcision' by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated 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 once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (Ephesians 2:11-13 ESV)


Here, Paul speaks on position. There was a time when a believers position found them out of fellowship with God. Paul says, "Remember that time."

But, because of Jesus, that position changed: "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." (Ephesians 2:13-22 ESV) Now, because we are "in Christ Jesus" and are NOT "far off", but have been "brought near," God is in the business of working to make us a "dwelling place" for Himself. That means we should be changing. We should be growing. Is there evidence of the lovely lordship of Christ bringing change to your life? Have you attempted to add Jesus to your life or has He given you His own life? Any persons brought into the "household of God" are positionally children of God and being shaped / conformed into the image of God's Son. If your testimony is that your position has changed but your life has not, you are either hindered in your growth or mistaken in your testimony. "Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again."'" (John 3:6-8 ESV)

"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13 ESV)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Not a condiment...

A Ministry Report...

One of the great mistakes in Christendom is to think we can simply add Jesus to our life. No. I fear many who take that approach will hear the Father say "depart from Me" on judgment day. No, we don't add Jesus to our life. Jesus gives life to our death. If we don't get spiritual life in the place of our natural state of spiritual death we remain lost, unredeemed, undone and damned.

Consider some of Paul's counsel to the church at Ephesus...

"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV, emphasis mine)

Too often, too, we make salvation a thing of knowledge, rather than a thing of Christ's life. We think salvation is some things we learn rather than someone we know. Even today, recognizing this reality, David Paul Tripp tweeted, "No one gets smart and gets saved. Blind and dead, we were all saved by sight-giving, life-giving grace alone." We're all blind and dead until we are quickened by the Spirit of God and given life in Christ Jesus.

Now, I say all this to tell you about a couple of meetings I had yesterday. I am privileged to enjoy regular discipleship meetings with young people. Let me say this, within the process of discipleship there is both evangelization of the unredeemed and edification of the redeemed; so, whether I am dealing with a "Christian kid" or a "lost" kid, it's the same process, and I push on pushing them to love God through Jesus.

We take God at His word, that Jesus is enough, and we lovingly, share that message with the world and beg the Spirit to provoke them to recognize the sufficiency of Christ, believe Him and receive Him.

Then, in community, I think all of us live a life time of figuring this out, and much of our discipling others should be helping each other understand this life from God and walk in it.

One young man I was meeting with yesterday came to the conclusion that he had no objection to believe the things of God, but that he had not received life from God. That was his own conclusion. "What holds you back from receiving life in Christ?" ----- long pause ------ he was thinking, weighing. "Is it being afraid of what you think you'll lose? Is it worry of what God will change?" I asked. ---- more thinking --- Finally, he said, "Man, I don't know what holds me back."

Do you know where that conversation started? I simply asked him to define several Christian words; for example, I asked him what it meant to be a Christian and what does it mean to be saved, etc. You see, after weeks and weeks of meeting with this young man, after weeks and weeks of listening to his story, after weeks and weeks of learning about his life, it was time to press in. He'd told me on more than one occasion he'd been a Christian "all my life" (as he put it). No one is a Christian all their life. We are born lost, born spiritually dead, born in need of redemption. But, I didn't press in until I knew where to press. I'm not even saying the young man isn't a Christian; I'm saying he keeps saying he is a Christian but doesn't seem to have Christ's life in him. Jesus, at best, is a conversation piece to him; at best, Jesus is a historical figure.

If the young man is a Christian, I want him to grow into a person who enjoys abiding in Christ and seeks to bring God glory. If he is a Christian, I want him to recognize his own conversion and learn to walk in it.

Do I believe this young man is "saved"? It doesn't matter what I believe...I am praying he comes to cast all on Christ day by day.

The other discipleship meeting I wanted to highlight came with a young man I'd spent many meetings with. I'd explained to him over and over again things like condemnation, justification, sanctification and glorification. I'd explained to him what it means to believe and receive Jesus, how trusting and believing are connected and many other things. Then, one day, this young man believed on the name of Jesus and asked to receive life from God through Jesus. Now, I'm just trying to help him learn what happened to him at conversion. Yesterday, we synchronized our mobile phones to a You Version Bible and devotion reading plan so that he and I can be in the word together each day for the next few days, even when we're not together.

There is a rich, beautiful, dynamic, flowing life that comes to those who have life from God in Christ Jesus. That's what I want from young people! I don't want anyone to think Jesus is a condiment; you know, something they sprinkle on certain portions of their lifestyle. No, Jesus is life, and if we don't receive His life, we have missed His salvation.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I get Bruce Springsteen's heart...

A Prayer Appeal...

You are familiar with God's command to the Hebrews in Babylonian captivity: "But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." (Jeremiah 29:7 ESV)

If we believers have no other motivation to work in our community than the sense made by Jeremiah to the Exiles, then that alone would be enough. Seek the welfare of the city you are in -- want good for it, work for good in it, pray for good, strive for peace, strive for success. Why? If our city is doing well, it will be good for us, too. 

I drove around our city and county yesterday. As I drove around, Bruce Springsteen's song came to my mind. Springsteen sings: 

The church doors blown open 

I can hear the organ's song 
But the congregation's gone 

My city of ruins 
My city of ruins 

Springsteen sings quite literally of Asbury Park, New Jersey. Springsteen wrote the song as part of an effort to revitalize what was once a premier resort area (it's been working, too...since 2000, the Asbury Park has experienced an amazing turn around). However, the song grips my heart in a different way. My city grips my heart in a different way.

We don't have urban blight. Sure, there are plenty of empty buildings, and most of that is bad stewardship, not urban blight. What we have is spiritual ruin. The church doors are open, but the congregations are gone. 

I am praying for revival. But, like Springsteen, I'm oft left with a question... "Now tell me how do I begin again?"  

Easy...I get it...I already knew it...I just needed to remember it...
Get to work. That's the answer. Get to work. Build the Kingdom. Be intentional. Be sacrificial. Truly, seek the welfare of my city by Kingdom building. Put MY hands in the work. Encourage, exhort and enable others to put their hands in the work. 

Springsteen sang...

Now with these hands 
I pray Lord 

with these hands 
for the strength Lord 
with these hands 
for the faith Lord 
with these hands 
I pray Lord 
with these hands 
for the strength Lord 
with these hands 
for the faith Lord 
with these hands 

Pray. Work. Pray. Evangelize. Pray. Edify. Pray. Encourage. Pray. Build. Pray. Restore. Pray. And, with me, sing... 

Come on rise up! 
Come on rise up! 
Rise up

Truth be told, we've got much better and bigger reasons to seek the welfare of our communities than wanting a life of prosperity and ease. God's called us to make disciples, build the Kingdom, live in love, stand in truth and so much more. God has called us to rise up and walk with Jesus. He's called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light. He's made us alive, quickened out of spiritual death and into life. 

Shouldn't we, in the very minimum, want the same for every other person breathing on this globe? 

Now, Andrew Liggitt's song is pulsing through my heart. Yes, God is working on my heart. He's giving me a new care for the welfare of our city. We need a revival. And, it must begin in me... 

I pray you feel the same.
Pray for our city...
Pray God revives the spiritual ruin...
Pray for revival, and pray it begins with the man and woman who is willing to say "Amen"...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Witness reflection August 20, 2014

No tricks, no gimmicks, letting it say what it says to who it says what it says...

It's not just an American temptation, but we seem to have perfected it; we want things to be slick. We want to be famous. We want to be known. We want to be original. 

Listen, you are original. You don't have to prove it. You are it. You were designed in the mind of God, created by the power of God, loved in the heart of God and brought forth by the hand of God. You don't have to work to be an original; you ARE original. 

With that in mind, don't use or receive slick approaches to the Word of God. Just open it. Read it. Meditate. Get quiet and listen for God to speak to you. 

Be the student who listens to non-slick, solid teachers...
Be the witness who uses non-slick, loving methods...

"But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God." (2 Corinthians 4:2 ESV)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When Facebook goes awry...

A ministry report...

I believe in sidewalk preaching, pulpit preaching, newspaper and radio preaching, book preaching, conversational preaching, lifestyle preaching...can we just say I believe in proclaiming the excellencies of Christ and the redemptive work of God in any and every possible way I can capitalize upon? I do. 

But, my favorite style of preaching ... of evangelism ... of discipleship ... is relational. No one knows you like the people who know you. One of the aspects about being a missionary to the generations is that we begin to build relationships with them, intentionally stepping out of the comfort zones of our own world / generation and into theirs, and then walking together for years and years. 

As you might imagine, I know lots of young people. I'm connected. I'm on Facebook, and very recently on Twitter and Instagram. Like all things, there is good in it. (Social media is like our words, where they come from is important: Fountain of Life). I keep up with a lot of the young people, and I know many in their 20s, and now in their 30s, who I've known since they were in middle school, and some since elementary school. 

All that to say this...sometimes, Facebook -- and the other social media sites -- goes awry

I'm no one's spiritual police, nor have I any plans on applying for that job. However, sometimes social media allows me to know more than I want to know -- most of the time, that's the case -- and other times it allows me to know exactly what I need to know. The tough part is "discerning what the will of the Lord is" when it comes to knowing information and knowing people. Too often, I find myself wanting to use information coming from the lives of lost people to ask them to be accountable to the standards of saved people. I can't do that. You see the rub. 

What do I wind up with, then? A regular, flowing, continually updated prayer list. And, boy howdy, do we need to pray...

Get out your prayer lists...whether it's in a journal, via social media, on the back of your church's bulletin or all of the above..and join me in standing in this today: "Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
(2 Corinthians 4:1-6 ESV)