Honor and Memorial

When I was young, my sixth grade class took a field trip from Cahaba Heights Elementary School to Washington DC. I remember the train ride from Alabama to DC, and seeing the sights and visiting a lot of historic places. I was probably too young to really appreciate all that I had seen and experienced.

Now I live not too far from our nation’s capital and have been several times to see various places, like the National Zoo, the Smithsonian, and the Washington Mall with all its monuments and beautiful buildings.

But even all the way back to that sixth grade trip, I’ve always been impressed by the solemn ceremony of the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. The Guards carefully choreograph the event which is a moving tribute to soldiers whose names and sacrifice are “known but to God.” Equally moving are the private moments of steady pacing when the crowds are gone: back and forth, hour after hour, day by day, in even the worst weather.

In September 2003, Hurricane Isabel had passed through our area, I was living in Richmond at the time. The storm was bearing down on Washington, DC, and I read that the guards were told they could seek shelter during the worst of the storm. The guards refused, to no one’s surprise. They unselfishly stood their post to honor their fallen comrades even in the face of a hurricane.

Is it possible to have such unending devotion in this life? How about in your spiritual life? As we read the middle chapter of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:1-6), I believe Jesus’ desire is for us to live with an unrelenting, selfless devotion to Him. The Bible calls us to good deeds and holy living, but these are to be acts of worship and obedience (Matthew 6:4-6), not planned out acts for self-glorification (Matthew 6:2). Action must be taken for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.

The apostle Paul endorses this whole-life faithfulness when he pleads with us to make our bodies “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). They say, the one real problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar. Wake each morning with this one goal in mind, to live this day for the one who die to set us free.

On this Memorial Day, remember those who have fallen in order to secure and defend our freedom; because freedom in never free.This day is more than the summer kick-off weekend, or a great time for a sale at the mall or the car dealership, it is about sacrifice.

Thank you Jesus for securing our salvation, and thank you to the fallen heroes (and their families) who sacrificed so much so that others might live. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13).

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More Than an Easter Message

Today is Easter, Resurrection Sunday. For many people across the country, it is one of the two days people gather at church, I suspect “to pay our respects to God.” This is done often with no real consideration for what God has done for us. Just believe the right stuff, come to church a couple of times a year, but God can’t expect me to get all fanatical about this stuff. Jesus said it best, this generation “honors Me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me” (Matthew 15:8, Isaiah 29:13). Don’t let Jesus say that about you.

According to The Message version, Jesus also said, “I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 MSG)

Easter is a celebration of Jesus conquering even death in order to give us freedom. After walking this life with you, Jesus wants you to join him in heaven.

Are You In?

How do you do that? You accept the gift that he’s given you, the gift of forgiveness and life. You can do that right now. You can talk to him and tell him, “I accept your gift of forgiveness and I accept your gift of life. I want to live the life that you made me to live. Thank you, Jesus, for loving me.”

This is a very simple prayer, but it changes everything. When you say I accept the fact that Jesus’ blood was given so I could be forgiven, it changes everything about your life, everything about who you are and everything about your eternity. It becomes more than a twice a year ritual.

Do You Think You’re In?

For those who are already believers, Jesus also said that we need to receive him (or accept him – John 1:12). Have you done that? Have you gone beyond simple belief to actually receiving him? This is a life-changing action, worthy of full consideration. It makes all the difference.

Jesus also said that on that day (judgment day, the end of time), many will find themselves face to face with Jesus and he tells them I never knew you.

Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws (Matthew 7:21-23).

The scary part? He said MANY people who felt they were “in” will discover that they are actually on the outside. Let’s get serious about God and involvement in what God is doing through his church. He loved the church (the followers of Christ) enough to die for it. Should it not be an important part of our lives? A tree is known by it’s fruit (Matthew 7:19-20). Don’t forsake the gathering of yourselves together (like going to church – Hebrews 10:25).

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The Vision of Small Groups

At King’s Grant Baptist Church, our goal is to develop people into fully devoted followers of Jesus. It involves a multi-step process whereby we move people from the outer ring of our target toward the center.

The best way to reach out to others is not in a mass mailing or the website; but rather person to person, reaching the people with whom we have something in common:

  • Same workplace
  • Same school
  • Same neighborhood
  • Same club or organization
  • Same hobbies

The church may provide activities that cater to the needs of people but it is relationship development that will help them move to higher levels of commitment to Christ and His church.

Our steps look something like this:

  • The Community: people who inhabit this city; who may have no idea we even exist, or perhaps that God exists.
  • The Crowd: people who for some reason or another have visited our church, expressing interest and have come to one or more of our events.
  • The Congregation: people who are actually attending our church fairly regularly; including nominal church members.
  • The Committed: people who are members of our church and active in its programs.
  • The Core: people who are actively involved in leadership and ministry of the church, and are passionate about the church motto, Knowing Christ and Making Him Known

Sharing the Vision:
To move people toward higher levels of commitment to Christ and his church.

  • To – speaks to a vision and a strategy, a word of action and direction
  • Move – speaks to progress and growth, never remaining static
  • People – speaks to the reason we do what we do, it’s all about people
  • Toward – speaks to a goal for which we are aiming
  • Higher – speaks to a closeness to God, moving toward the mountaintop
  • Levels – speaks to measurement toward our developmental goal
  • Commitment – speaks to our resolve and passion
  • Christ – speaks to our mission of knowing Christ and making him known
  • His – speaks of the real head and leader of the church
  • Church – speaks to this body of believers at King’s Grant

This series of posts will help to share the vision of what we can become and do for the kingdom’s sake. We must never settle for the status quo, but make a difference in the lives of those who are near us, in school, the office, and the community.

All living things grow, so if we are alive, we also must grow (individually and as a church). When we grow, we must have a strategy to develop people into fully devoted followers of Christ. My next post will address the need to fulfill the Great Commission through small groups.

Disciple-Making Pastor, Part 6

The Understanding of a Disciple Making Pastor:

He commits time and resources to this effort. He understands the big picture – ideology, revolution for structural change. Theology of the church must be secure.

  1. The kingdom is the model: (Matthew 12:28, Luke 17:20-21, Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14, Mark 6:12).
  2. The cross is the means: with respect for resource and character, not methodology – (Mark 10:45, Mark 8:31-34).
  3. The commission is the method: clearly understood objectives produce sustained conviction. The church exists for mission – salt, light, leaven, a family, kingdom of priests, building, body, temple.
  4. The coming is the motive: to strengthen convictions and bring personal rewards (1 Corinthians 3:12-15) and accountability (what would we do without exams?).

The Commitment of a Disciple-Making Pastor:

Placing Disciple Making at the Heart of the Church (Isaiah 29:13). Why so often disciple-making gets only lip service? First, a belief that discipleship is a program that fits into a department of the church. Second, the pastor does not always make disciple-making his personal responsibility, Third, disciple-making may be believed to be too narrow for the local church (for only a small group of ultra-committed soldiers of the church).

  1. Proclaim is from the pulpit.
  2. Write it down and make it church dogma.
  3. Model disciple-making at the staff level.

Providing Clear Identification and Communication: avoid fuzzy thinking and call people toward obedient action of making disciples. The pastor is in charge of the cardiovascular concept, care for the heart of the church.

Proclaiming Priesthood of All Believers: (1 Peter 2:5, 9, Revelation 5:10) – Christians have the authority and responsibility to minister for Christ as the priesthood traditionally did. The word “called” (kletos) means vocation (1 Corinthians 1:26, Ephesians 4:1, Romans 1:6-7, Ephesians 4:11-12, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

  1. Pastor gives permission.
  2. Pastor gives direction – Reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18-21), Edification (Ephesians 4:11-16, 1 Peter 4:10-11), Physical need (Luke 4:18-19)
  3. Pastor give training.

Planning on a Process of Multiplication: You did not choose Me but I chose you, to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last (John 15:8). Would you rather have $1 million today or 1 penny today doubled each day for 30 days? ($10,737,418.24). The world will not be reached through addition!

Prioritizing Disciple-Making: (Matthew 28:18-20). Fruit is expected (John 15:8, 16).

Proper Selection of Personnel: (2 Timothy 2:2). Multiplication requires several passes of the baton. Multiplication requires that those who have it pass it on. Multiplication means passing the baton to the right people (reliability) – Luke 16:10, 1 Corinthians 4:2). Multiplication means passing it on to qualified people (proven they can be trusted) – giftedness and suitability, not spirituality.

Expressing Passionate Faith

Passion is generally defined as intense emotion; and when we have passion for God, we live differently than simply living a casual existence, just simply getting by. We develop purpose and meaning and direction. We are then motivated to serve because it is the right thing to do, not out of guilt or for any rewards or recognition that might come. Imagine pursuing God with the same passion we had for our wives, before we got married.

Quotes:

I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain. — C. S. Lewis

There is no emptiness of soul ever for those whose life is devoted to God. — William Lawson

Few delights can equal the mere presence of One whom we fully trust. — George McDonald

Top 10 Expressions of a Passionate Faith:

  1. Worship freely: let your body mirror your soul.
  2. Pray continually: speak with feeling and intensity.
  3. Share openly: Do not filter your spirituality around unbelievers.
  4. Live intentionally: fill every day with Kingdom content.
  5. Serve radically: lead your family into spiritual connection.
  6. Love deeply: love for and respond to people’s urgent needs.
  7. Listen carefully: take time to hear people’s true hearts.
  8. Protect vigilantly: know the enemy’s schemes and cut him off.
  9. Speak honestly: Don’t mask your soul in religious veneer.
  10. Rest thankfully: invest wisely in Sabbath renewal.