Be An Encourager

There are individuals who leave a lasting impact, offering more than just a positive outlook on life. It’s not about viewing life as a glass half full or making lemonade out of lemons. It’s about encountering someone who, with few words, guides you to what truly matters in the moment, leaving you not just with a smile but with a resilient spirit to face challenges.

In the Bible, we come across a figure named Tychicus. Although scant information is available about him, we know he traveled with Paul during his first imprisonment, proving to be a faithful minister (Ephesians 6:21). Inspired by Tychicus, I wrote a blog post titled ‘Be Like Tychicus,‘ exploring how we can strive to embody his qualities.

In Ephesians, Paul expresses his desire to send Tychicus back to the community to encourage their hearts (Eph 6:22). This phrase holds profound meaning, something that resonates with all Christians. Earlier in Ephesians, we are reminded to “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29).

The act of encouraging the heart transcends surface-level positivity; it delves into the core of a person, leaving a profound and lasting impact.

So, what does this kind of encouragement look like?

1) Being a Good Listener:

True encouragement involves meaningful conversation, and a skillful encourager excels at being a good listener. Listening is an active, not passive, endeavor. A genuine encourager attentively engages with their friend’s situation, offering a supportive presence.

A skilled listener exercises patience, refrains from hasty responses, and refrains from interrupting. They engage fully in the conversation, demonstrating empathy by genuinely aligning themselves with the other person’s experience and emotions.

2) Pointing Someone to Jesus

   In the context of Ephesians, the entire book emphasizes the greatness of Jesus. Following Paul’s exposition of profound truths to the church, it is fitting to have someone follow up and provide encouragement.

  •   We are reminded of the greatness of what Jesus did for us (Eph 1:19-20).
  •    We reflect on what we are saved from (Eph 2:1-10).
  •    We are guided towards understanding what we are saved to (Eph 2:11-22).

Pointing out Something Beautiful

The other day, while driving, my daughter eagerly sought everyone’s attention to witness a breathtaking sunset. Grateful that she did, we were treated to a spectacle of pinks and orange hues, creating a truly magnificent scene. It was a welcome diversion from our daily activities.

Similarly, when someone encourages you by pointing you to Jesus, they are redirecting your focus to the awe-inspiring love that He has for you. Just like the sunset captured our attention and filled us with wonder, being pointed to Jesus can be a transformative experience, drawing attention to the incredible love that surrounds and uplifts.

  • Welcoming Weary Souls (Matthew 11:28-30):

 When weariness weighs you down, find solace in Jesus. He extends a comforting invitation to experience true rest, providing respite for the soul (Matthew 11:28-30).

  • Enduring Struggles (Hebrews 13:5):

In times of struggle, reflect on the enduring love of Jesus. He bore the weight of the cross on our behalf, promising to never abandon us. Through every challenge, he remains steadfast, a constant presence that will never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

  • Unconditional Love (Romans 5:8):

Jesus’s sacrifice transcends our worst moments, actions, or thoughts. Even in our lowest state, He chose to die for us. The gospel serves as a reminder of God’s unfathomable favor, showcasing His love for us when we least deserved it (Romans 5:8; Eph 2:4).

In the tapestry of life, woven with the threads of encouragement, we find the timeless wisdom of Tychicus and the profound teachings from Ephesians. The call to encourage one another, expressed by Paul, resonates as a guiding principle for all Christians. As we reflect on the art of encouraging the heart, we recognize the transformative power it holds—moving beyond mere positivity to a deep and lasting impact.

Being a good listener, exercising patience, and pointing others to the unfailing love of Jesus emerge as the brushstrokes that paint a portrait of genuine encouragement. In the symphony of life, each note played, inspired by the virtues of Tychicus and rooted in biblical truths, creates a melody that resonates with the divine grace and compassion we are called to share. May we be encouragers who not only leave smiles but imprint resilient spirits, mirroring the boundless love that captures our attention and fills us with wonder, much like a breathtaking sunset, to the profound love of Christ.

Why Should I Ask For Prayer?

Last post was on how it is a joy to be able to pray for others. This post will focus on the other side of the same coin, asking others to pray for you.

Is it simpler to offer prayers for someone rather than seeking prayers for yourself? Perhaps there’s a hesitation, a concern of not wanting to burden others with personal issues. It could be a comparison, thinking one’s struggles aren’t as significant as others, leading to the decision to keep it to oneself. Alternatively, the reluctance might stem from a pride issue, a fear that asking for prayers may expose vulnerabilities and weaknesses in one’s life.

Here are some reminders on the importance of asking other believers to pray for you:

1. Humbling Recognition of Dependence:

Opening up to seek prayer is a humble acknowledgment that our strength and abilities are limited. As Paul encourages in Ephesians 6:10, our true strength comes from the Lord and His might.

These well-known verses from Proverbs serve as a powerful reminder of our dependence on the Lord, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

We must recognize that nothing occurs beyond the scope of God’s care and control. Turning to Him, we express our dependence and place our trust in His sovereignty.

2. Submission to God’s Authority:

Prayer is a powerful act of submission, recognizing that God is in charge. It’s a deliberate casting of ourselves before the Lord, surrendering our concerns and acknowledging His sovereignty. He who is charge of all things invites us to ask and seek him. When we ask other believers to pray for us, we are united in seeking God’s sovereignty. 

We ask others to help us to say, “Not my will but your will be done.”

3. Shared Burden-Bearing:

Asking fellow believers for prayer is not a solitary endeavor but a shared burden-bearing. It’s an invitation for others to join in carrying the weight, creating a supportive community in alignment with God’s design.

We are commanded as fellow believers to be fellow burden bearers (Galatians 6:2).

Asking other believers to pray for you gives them an opportunity share your burden and to experience joy in lifting you up before the Lord.

Prayer is like breathing for the Christian

Let’s remember, prayer isn’t just a ministry within the church; it is the lifeblood of the church itself. It should flow so naturally in the life of a Christian, akin to the instinctive act of breathing for a person.

If then it is natural or as I look at it as the outflowing of ABIDING with God then we will naturally pray for others.

Pastor Iain M. Duguid writes this in his book The Whole Armor of God, “If you think of praying in the Spirit at all times, with all kinds of prayers, persistently for all of the saints, as a job description (Eph 6:18), it will wear you out. But for us as children of the great King, it is simply living life in the presence of our king. It is lifting hearts and minds and voices regularly to him in petition and praise as the Spirit leads.”

As we embrace prayer not as a duty but as the natural outflow of abiding with God, it becomes an integral part of our daily lives, akin to living in the constant presence of our King. Pastor Iain M. Duguid beautifully captures this essence in his book, highlighting that praying in the Spirit is not a wearisome job description but, as children of the great King, it is simply living life in communion with Him – lifting hearts, minds, and voices regularly in petition and praise, guided by the Spirit.

The Joy of Praying for Others

Christians can engage in actions that bring about joy in their lives. Among these, singing praises to God alongside fellow believers, finding encouragement in Scripture, and praying for one another stand out.

I have experienced moments of upliftment when a fellow Christian has earnestly prayed for me. Likewise, I find great fulfillment in the privilege of praying for others.

In the book of Ephesians, a portrayal of the spiritual warfare faced by Christians is vividly presented. The struggle is not merely against flesh and blood but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in this present darkness, and spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places (Eph 6:12).

Towards the culmination of Paul’s enumeration of the spiritual armor essential for the Christian’s battle, he emphasizes the importance of continuous prayer for one another. When Christians come together in prayer, a unifying and strengthening force is set into motion, fostering a sense of unity and mutual support.

The reason is that:

– We share a common adversary: the devil, whose intent is to kill, steal, and destroy, as stated in John 10:10.

– Our shared directive is clear: to fulfill the mission of making disciples worldwide, as outlined in Matthew 28:18-20.

– Employing the same strategies, our task is to proclaim the gospel. As fellow followers of Jesus, we are called to direct attention to Him, a purpose that perplexes the wise, as articulated in 1 Corinthians 1:27-31.

How Do We Do This?

In our shared calling and as comrades in the trenches of spiritual warfare, we face together, echoing Paul’s directive to “keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Eph 6:18), find joy in lifting up prayers for your fellow saints who stand beside you in the midst of the battle.

By Name:

It’s indeed a special and meaningful practice to pray for fellow believers by name. Numerous approaches can enhance this experience, and one noteworthy method is maintaining a prayer journal. This personalized record allows you to list each person’s name and note specific prayer requests or updates as they arise.

In our church community, we’ve taken a collective initiative by creating a comprehensive prayer notebook. It encompasses the names of everyone in our church and the missionary families we support. This not only serves as a prompt for interceding on behalf of one another but also provides a dedicated space for me to jot down specific details about each individual, fostering a more intentional and heartfelt prayer life.

By praying specifically for fellow believers to thrive in their walks with Jesus:

When you pray for fellow believers, consider expanding beyond physical needs and specifics. Take inspiration from Paul’s profound prayer in Ephesians 3:16-19, asking that, according to the riches of God’s glory, they may be strengthened with power through the Spirit in their inner being. Pray that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith, rooting and grounding them in love. Ask for the strength to comprehend the vastness of God’s love and to be filled with all the fullness of God.

In essence, you’re praying for their spiritual growth and a deepening understanding of the profound love of Jesus. This prayer, with its richness and depth, can have far-reaching effects, influencing various facets of life that, in turn, impact the church and the broader community.

As we commit to fervent and intentional prayers for one another, may the transformative power of God’s love, as beautifully articulated by Paul, resonate in our lives, fostering spiritual growth and unity within our community of believers. You will find joy in this wonderful task of praying for others!

Preach The Gospel To Yourself

I can’t tell you who I heard the phrase, “Preach the gospel to yourself” first. But as a pastor, it has become a mantra I often repeat. 

The gospel encapsulates the profound message of Jesus Christ — his identity and purpose. It serves as a constant reminder of our essence apart from Christ, exposing the gravity of our sins and the magnitude of His grace. This transformative message is not just about what Christ came to do but also about who we are becoming through Him.”

Greg Gilbert in his book The Gospel defines it this way, “First the bad news: God is your Judge and you have sinned against him. And then the gospel: but Jesus has died so that sinners may be forgiven of their sins if they will repent and believe in him.”

What do we benefit from preaching the gospel to ourselves:

We see how God is not holding out on you.

God isn’t withholding anything from you. In Christ, we possess an abundance beyond our wildest imaginations. Every spiritual blessing is bestowed upon us (Eph 1:3). The gospel serves as a poignant reminder that Christ sacrificed everything to lavish His blessings upon us.

You reflect on the goodness of God.

In Romans 2:4, we encounter the profound question, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

The gospel serves as a lens that sharpens our focus on God’s goodness. Despite our deserving of condemnation and death, God extends kindness and goodness to us. Through Jesus’ sacrificial death, he stood in our place. Every gift, care, and watchful eye on us are expressions of God’s inherent goodness.

When you preach the gospel to yourself you remind yourself that this life may be hard, but nothing can take away the love of God

Romans 8:38-39 assures us that nothing, not even death, can sever us from the love of God. In John 16:33, the Bible acknowledges that tribulations are inevitable in this life—it’s not a question of if but when. The gospel becomes our beacon, reminding us that this earthly life is not our ultimate destination. With the endurance of Jesus as our inspiration, we find the strength to endure whatever challenges come our way.

Bad circumstances fail in comparison to eternal life in/with Jesus. 

In 2 Corinthians 4:7-11, the Apostle Paul vividly articulates the trials and tribulations he faced, emphasizing that these challenges pale in comparison to the richness found in Christ.

He eloquently states, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

The gospel acts as a poignant reminder of the selfless gift bestowed upon us by Jesus and the unparalleled richness we find in Him. This perspective helps us recognize that our challenging circumstances are overshadowed by the abundance we possess in Jesus.

Consider the inspiring perspective of Joni Eareckson Tada, who, despite enduring the challenges of paralysis since a diving accident at age seventeen, envisions expressing gratitude to Jesus for her wheelchair in heaven:

“I hope I can take my wheelchair to heaven with me—knowing well that it’s not biblically correct. But if I could, I would have my wheelchair right next to me when God gifts me with my new, glorified body. Turning to Jesus, I would say, ‘Lord, do you see that wheelchair? You were right when you said we would face trouble in this world, and that wheelchair brought a lot of trouble! Yet, the weaker I was in it, the harder I leaned on you. The harder I leaned on you, the stronger I discovered you to be. So, thank you for what you did in my life through that wheelchair. And now,’ I always say jokingly, ‘you can send that wheelchair to hell, if you want.'”

When you preach the gospel to yourself no gift can be better than the gift of Jesus.

In 2 Corinthians 9:15, the Apostle Paul exclaims, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”

Within this passage, Paul conveys to the Corinthian church the importance of generosity. His plea is not coercive but rather a proclamation that as generous people, we reflect the character of our generous God.

The measure of God’s generosity prompts us to ponder: What do we truly deserve, and what does God freely give? The gospel serves as the profound response to these questions. Therefore, let the resounding truth of the gospel be a constant refrain in your life—preach it to yourself!

Family Time Management- What Does that Look Like ?

Time Management

We find ourselves amidst the busy season of school and sports, and if you were to glance at our calendar, it would resemble a hodgepodge of colors, each representing different commitments and locations. Balancing family needs, church, work, school, and sports can feel all-encompassing. Alyssa and I are aware that there are periods of heightened activity in our lives, but we are also committed to improving our time management skills to navigate these busy seasons more effectively.

What Does the Bible Say About Time

The Bible mentions how we are to think about time:

  1. Do not be a sluggardProverbs 6:6-11.
  2. God is in charge of timePsalm 31:15. It is a gift from God.
  3. Be mindful of your timePsalm 37:18; 90:12; James 4:13-17. We do not know what tomorrow has or how many days left we have to live. I recently wrote an article about how many months do we have based on a conversation I had with my kids.
  4. Be urgent with your timeEphesians 5:16.
  5. Be aware of the presentMark 13:32-33.

Time is a precious gift bestowed upon us, and we have the power to choose whether we reflect on it with remorse over its use or with wisdom, as highlighted in Ephesians 5:15-17. It’s essential to recognize that we act as stewards of the time at our disposal, with the capacity to craft it, maximize it, or squander it. Grateful for its presence, we also bear the responsibility of ensuring we don’t allow it to slip away needlessly.

Make the Most of Your Time

Many of us find ourselves engaged in numerous worthwhile endeavors. However, I’ve come to realize that my children’s involvement in sports isn’t just their activity alone; it’s an opportunity for me to actively participate alongside them.

Learning to discern what holds eternal significance has been pivotal. We don’t want to engage in activities without purpose. Take sports, for instance—it can offer more than just enjoyment (though it’s often quite fun); it can also serve as a platform for us to be witnesses.

In his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul underscores the importance of mindful Christian living, which includes a keen awareness of how we utilize our time (Ephesians 5:16). He isn’t advocating a YOLO mentality; instead, he’s reminding them of their divine calling—to make disciples. This mission lies at the core of every Christian, this one thing and the beauty is that we have the freedom to fulfill it in nearly any setting.

Learn to Say No- Better Commitments

Mastering the art of saying “no” is an ongoing lesson I continue to embrace. Often, we find ourselves compelled to say “yes” for various reasons, sometimes due to a sense of obligation or simply because we struggle with the word “no.” Regardless of the cause, it’s an essential skill in effective time management.

For instance, we’ve implemented a strategy in our family to restrict the number of sports our kids participate in each year, borrowing the wise “two-sport rule” from some friends.

In our lives, there are activities we must undertake, those we desire to engage in, and those that are optional. A key question to ponder is: what consumes the majority of your time? Moreover, how do you determine what holds enduring value and what does not? Additionally, are there areas in which you adamantly safeguard your time and refuse to compromise?

Are there commitments in your life that are monopolizing your time and diverting your attention from serving the Lord? Remember, the things we choose to decline today often pave the way for opportunities to say “yes” in the future.

How Many More Months Do You?

My boys were curious about my age in the time of months, and after throwing out some random numbers over 1000, I had to do some quick math to figure it out. I recently turned 40, which means I’m 480 months old. This realization struck me deeply; if I can live to 80, I’m at my half-life. It made me reflect on the passage of time and the brevity of life. It’s not a morbid thought but a reminder to make the most of the time we have.

Just like we think about financing a car over a specific number of months, life can be broken down into months too. I now find myself pondering how I’ve used my 480 months so far and how many more I have left. This realization gives me a sense of urgency to make each remaining month count. It’s a reminder to be intentional about how I spend my time, focusing on what truly matters to me.

The Bible verse you mentioned, Psalm 90:12, advises us to “number our days” so that we may gain a heart of wisdom. In other words, it encourages us to be mindful of the finite nature of our lives and to use our time wisely. By understanding that life is short, we are prompted to prioritize the things that truly matter, live with purpose, and cultivate wisdom in our choices and actions.

Take Inventory

I’ve come to realize the importance of having a list whenever I go to the store because without one, I tend to buy unnecessary items and forget the essentials. This simple analogy has led me to think about life in a broader sense. It’s like taking inventory of our lives, reflecting on our choices, and understanding that death is a reality that awaits all of us.

When I contemplate the months I’ve lived so far, it becomes a moment of self-reflection. Have I truly lived for myself, pursuing my passions, and staying true to my values? Or have I allowed life to pass by without much thought, just going through the motions?

Regret can be part of life, and I have certainly experienced it at times. There have been moments when I wish I had made different choices or taken more risks. However, I also understand that regrets are valuable lessons that shape us and help us grow. They remind me to be more mindful of my decisions moving forward, hopefully it turns one to Jesus.

Making the Most

The wisdom of the old Chinese proverb, “When is the best time to plant a tree? Yesterday. When is the next best time? Today,” resonates deeply in our lives. It reminds us that taking action promptly is crucial for positive changes and outcomes.

Today holds the power to transform our direction and future. It’s the day to seek solace and guidance in Jesus. Through Him, we find redemption and grace, as mentioned in Ephesians 5:15-16. Embracing obedience to Jesus leads to divine rewards, as expressed in Matthew 25:23.

As we look ahead to tomorrow, our hearts are filled with prayerful aspirations to remain steadfast in our faith, constantly turning to Jesus, as emphasized in Hebrews 12:1-2. Our desire is to live wholeheartedly for Him, as we find reassurance in Jude 24-25. We strive to embrace a life of holiness, seeking to become more like Jesus, as described in Ephesians 5:1-2.

In summary, this reminds us to take action today and to continuously seek Him for redemption and guidance. Prayerfully, our tomorrows will reflect our commitment to living for Jesus, growing in holiness, and walking in His grace. Each day becomes an opportunity to deepen our relationship with Him and to align our lives with His divine purpose.

The Influence of the Church

Throughout history, the church has wielded significant influence on the world, and it is essential to recognize both its positive and negative impacts. While acknowledging the negative aspects of the church is crucial for a comprehensive understanding, it is equally important to highlight the numerous positive contributions it has made to society. These positive impacts include humanitarian work, charitable initiatives, aid and emergency response efforts, promotion of education, and the embodiment of unconditional love towards marginalized individuals, just to name a few.

In his enlightening book, Bullies and Saints: An Honest Look At the Good and Evil of Christian History, John Dickson fearlessly delves into the challenging periods of the church’s past, such as the Crusades and the Inquisitions. However, he also emphasizes the church’s embodiment of Christlikeness and its profound influence on humanity.

One fascinating aspect discussed in the book is the church’s transformation during the 4th century, following the Great Persecution in the Roman Empire (303-312/313). During this time, the church embraced a unique perspective centered around the principle of love. Inspired by the life of Jesus, the church sought to model love in all aspects of its existence.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

Wealthy “benefaction” was, of course, an important feature of ancient Roman life. Emperors and other elites would bestow gifts on the citizenry-and only citizens-including buildings, monuments, and public games, as well as food supplies in times of shortage. The word for this was euergetism. “do-gooding,” and it was closely linked to the virtue of philotimia, “love of honor.” Public benefaction in ancient times was not charity on the basis of human need, but a social contract. The benefactor shared resources with less well-off citizen in return for public honor. This civic euergetism, writes Peter Brown of Princeton, ‘contained no element of compassion for the poor.’

John Dickson, Bullies and Saints, pg. 79-80.

The Radical Teaching in the New Testament

The church’s service to humanity, especially to the poor and their neighbors, was characterized by true compassion without any expectation of reciprocation. Their actions stood in stark contrast to other humanitarian aids of that time, as they cared for the sick not for payment but out of a genuine compulsion to show love. Aid was freely distributed to those in need, not seeking honor in return, but driven by the belief that every person bears the Imago Dei, the Image of God. This foundational principle made the church distinctly different in its approach to humanitarian work.

The teachings in the New Testament further exemplify the radical nature of love and compassion promoted by the church:

  1. Love Your Neighbor: Jesus emphasized the importance of loving one’s neighbor as oneself, encompassing anyone the Lord placed before them (Mark 12:31).
  2. Love Your Enemy- Taking it a step further, the teachings urged believers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them, thereby reflecting the character of God (Matthew 5:43-45).
  3. Non-retaliation “Believers were encouraged not to seek vengeance but to leave it to God, and instead, to respond to evil with acts of kindness and love (Romans 12:19-21).
  4. The Sign of Love- Jesus emphasized that love for one another would be the defining characteristic of His disciples (John 13:35).

What About Today?

However, reflecting on the present state of Western Christian churches, there is a concern about whether they have retained their influence and adherence to these principles.

As we examine Western Christian churches, it becomes evident that we must confront the question: Have we lost our influence? In a world that desperately needs love, compassion, and a message of hope, it is essential to reflect on whether we are faithfully embodying the radical teachings of Jesus. Are we consistently showing genuine love to our neighbors and even our enemies? Are we responding to evil with goodness and kindness? Our impact on the world hinges on our commitment to living out these principles. As the church, let us reevaluate our priorities (Jesus), rekindle our passion for selfless service, and embrace the transformative power of love. By doing so, we can once again be a powerful force for good and exemplify the true essence of Christianity to a world in need.”

You can pick up a copy of Bullies and Saints from Amazon or other retailers.

Obedience Met With Disappointment

It was a profoundly heavy and disheartening day, one of those days when everything seemed to go wrong. Right from the moment of waking up, there was an underlying feeling that it would be an uphill battle, filled with challenging conversations and adversities at every turn. It’s as if this difficult phase had become a recurring theme, leaving you drained and yearning for an end to this relentless new normal. The future appeared bleak, devoid of joy and excitement, making you wonder when it would all come to an end. The weight of it all led to questions and introspection: was it your own actions that led to this, or perhaps a lesson you were meant to learn?

Seeking solace and strength, you turned to passages from the Bible that spoke of God’s unwavering presence and support:

“He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1:6).

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

God’s Promises But Still The Struggle

Despite reminding yourself of God’s promises, it felt as though He remained silent in that very moment, leaving you grappling with disappointment. In this state of deep sadness, you found resonance with Psalm 44, attributed to the Sons of Korah, a group of Levites responsible for music in worship (2 Chronicles 20:19). This Psalm describes God’s past victories and deliverance for Israel against their enemies, and their obedience in response.

However, as the Psalm progresses, the tone shifts, revealing the stark reality of defeat and feeling forsaken: “But you have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies” (verse 9). It seems that despite their faithfulness, disappointment befalls them. The Psalmist goes on to express their loyalty to God and wonders why they face abandonment and defeat despite their commitment:

“If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered (Psalm 44:20-22).”

I Know My Redeemer Lives

This heartfelt lament strikes a chord with you, as you can relate to this profound sense of disappointment despite your obedience. In the midst of this turmoil, the Psalm concludes with a cry for God’s intervention and redemption:

“Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love (Psalm 44:26)!”

In times of distress and confusion, this final plea for God’s redeeming love serves as a reminder that even amidst adversity, hope can be found in His unwavering and steadfast presence.

Job in the Bible went through a season of hurt and pain. He lost his children, his wealth, and his health. He was broken and a point of despair. In a conversation with one his friends he gives some great insight that is just as important today.

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see for myself,
    and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
    My heart faints within me (Job 19:25-27)!

Can you relate?

The Most Asked Question: Why did we move from Southern California to Washington State- Part 3

The Church

Hello, the third part of this series has been prolonged as I have tried to process and communicate that background in thinking and prompting us to move. The most asked question we have been asked is, “Why did we move from California to Washington?”

The first post regarding this was regarded as a calling. I do believe God calls Christians to their vocations, cities, and neighborhoods. The Lord calls people into ministry and the Lord called me and the family to move to Washington. You can read the post HERE.

Second, answering the why did we move involved processing and defining what a pastor is. Through seeing what a pastor is and is not I was able to discern more and more the call to be a senior pastor. You can read the post HERE.

There were times I felt like round pegs trying to fit in square holes or square pegs in round holes (however the statement goes). There are many things that had me question is this where God has me?

This led to the third question. It was what is the church? This by no means will be a theological discourse on ecclesiology. God had been growing me and working through the years on my understanding of what is the church and how the church functions.

To be clear, I don’t have any issues with large churches. I came from a very large church. I am thankful for the experience and time. I am thankful to see all that God has done. There are many benefits that come from a large church but there are also many hindrances that come with it too. In fact, 70% of churches in America are 100 people or less. 

I always had pressed upon me that God has called me to a smaller church. I am thankful for the people I had been able to meet, shepherd, and love at Harvest. Now, at a smaller church, have been blessed to be part of a smaller community. I have been able to experience the different struggles and benefits that come with it.

Here are a few areas that I have seen this coming through:

  • Smaller budget yet higher volunteer and ownership. A smaller church will have a smaller budget and is limited on resources to do certain things. What I came to see and appreciate was a church where saints take on the burdens to work on the church, support the church, and do the work of ministry (Eph. 4:12 ). 

Yes, there are things that a higher budget allows a church and ministry to do, but I have learned you don’t need much to do church. In fact, many Christians around the world have a church service with a lot less than even churches with smaller budgets in America. 

  • Wearing multiple hats and learning to embrace weaknesses. A larger church usually will have people in multiple departments such as IT, A/V, HR, Accounting, and so on. This was something for me to learn to adapt. I struggled with this at first because I felt like I needed to do everything. I have learned that I am unable to do everything. I stink at some things and at the end of the day, probably are glad that I did not do them. 

This is humbling but also a reminder that the church is made up of individual Christians coming together to serve and do the work of ministry. The Bible uses the term members of one body (1 Cor 12). This means we are connected and depend on one another. I am thankful for those who are knowledgeable in those areas and give of their time/talents to serve.

  • The church is the bride of Christ. Small church or big church or any church size in between is the bride of Christ. This has helped me to be thoughtful in what I say and how I think about the church. Though not perfect, the church is still the bride. The small church may not have much in terms of resources, but it offers something that large churches struggle to do, the deep impact of the local community of believers knowing one another.  
  • The church is a new community that God is building. The Christian’s identity is in Christ. Their citizenship is in heaven and they are part of a new group of people (Eph 2: ). We strive to know what it means to be in Christ. This unites the Christian with other believers which goes into eternity.

The Church is the trophy case of God’s wisdom of salvation (Eph 3:10). The mystery of the gospel has been revealed through the church which is diverse yet unified in Christ.

How Do you Look at the Church?

Maybe you have been hurt by the church. The rise of church failures and reporting about issues within the church has gained national attention. I grieve knowing that people have been hurt and may not want to go back to a church because of past experiences. I pray and hope that you can see the beauty that comes with the bride of Christ, though not perfect points to Jesus.

Pastor and commentator Richard Coekin writes,

“You are welcomed into the precious family of God, so love those people deeply. You are being built upon the foundation of the Scriptures, so listen to the teaching carefully. You are being constructed as a dwelling of the Spirit of God, so be holy in the way you behave…Your local church is a gathering of a new humanity, the temple of the living God, the only ‘local building’ that will last forever, and a wonder in the heavenly realms. Enjoy it!”

The New Man

We get some snow here in Bellingham, WA. Sometimes it sticks around for a couple of days. These past few winters we have been blessed with snow that has stuck around for a week or so. Those who are born and raised in the area reassured us that this is not normal 🙂

The kids go sledding down our street which is a wonderful hill to pursue being a tobogganist.  The kids will always want to build a snowman. They roll his body (maybe a little too big). They do the rest of his body and head. They add some sticks for his arms and something for the nose and eyes. And, if they are really into it, some other items for a hat. 

The kids have fun making a new creature. The snowman is unable to move and most likely will melt away by the end of the week and they still name him!

Those who are called “in Christ” (the term that Paul uses in the NT to describe the Christian) are a new creation. He writes to the Corinthian church about the work of reconciliation that happens because of Jesus and that if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).

This new creation is not just about making the person new in Christ such as their sin being washed away (Isaiah 44:22; Heb 10:10). This is true but wait there is more!

Wait there is more!

I have always looked at how the Christian is brought into the promises of God which existed in the Old Testament. As I have been studying and teaching through the book of Ephesians, I have noticed that Paul’s language of the Christian involves something more.

There is a greater work where the Christian is now a new person, part of new people, and and a new group. This group has eternal life. This group is founded upon grace and not on works. This group is connected to one another because of Jesus.  

He is speaking to the Gentiles (people who were not Jewish) and how they have come into the promise of God (Eph 3:1-6). These Gentiles did not have to become Jewish to receive this promise. This sign was circumcision and this is what got a lot of the Jewish leaders upset. This was not needed. It is by the grace of God that one is saved (Eph 2:8-9). 

Look what Jesus does

He takes people from different groups (Jews and Gentiles), those who are in Christ are called a new people. 

Paul describes this by writing, “He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and o that in Himself He might make the two one new person, in this way establishing peace;  and that He might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross (Eph 2:14, 16).

This new person is a new creation not just with their legal standing before God, they are full on a new person and part of a new family. This new person is one who is different because of Jesus. This was God’s redemptive plan from the beginning.  

This new people group as Peter writes, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

This language seems to be spoken to Israel, even specifically about Levites. But, Peter is writing about the new people that are found in Christ, the Christians both Jew and Gentile.

What Do We Get?

This new man, in Christ, receives the promises of God.

Those promises include the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16; Heb 6:4). The same Holy Spirit who came at Pentecost explosively upon the Christians of the early church is the same Holy Spirit the Christians receive today.

Those in Christ receive enteral life and heaven (John 3:16; 14:1-3; Phil 3:20; Web 3:1). Those in Christ not only receive the promises today but also the future promises. We are awaiting our rest with the Lord forever in heaven (Heb 4:1).

Those in Christ receive favor from God because of Christ (Eph 1:3, 11). We have received from God the greatest gift, he is not holding out on us. We look to Jesus and see what his gift of immeasurable grace has been given to us. The Christian is called an heir with Christ (Rom 8:17; Eph 3:6). We share in all the benefits, blessings, and sufferings with our Savior.

Those in Christ live in a way that reflects this change and truth. Not perfectly, dependent upon God’s grace each moment and step of the Christian life.