Here are the slides & scriptures for this week’s sermon (February 25th) on the Resurrection!
Here are the slides & scriptures for this week’s sermon (February 25th) on the Resurrection!
Stop it. Stop it right now. Stop saying things like, “You took God out of the schools...”. Just stop!!! These statements, and you liking, sharing and posting fake T-shirts with that slogan just show that your theology is VERY broken.
God did not get kicked out of the schools. If you think that you are following a fake god you have invented. The God of the Bible is Sovereign, All-Present and Lord of all. If you really think God can be “kicked out” of ANYWHERE than you clearly haven’t read your Bible and your statements and posts prove you to be Biblically ignorant. God has revealed to us through Scripture that He is EVERYWHERE. Jacob, when seeing the vision of the ladder and angels ascending and descending says, “I didn’t realize God was here.” In Ezekiel, the whirling merkabah was God demonstrating, “I can even be in Babylon.” When God decimates the fake gods of Egypt, right in the very heart of a country against Him, it was all to prove HE IS.
God did not get kicked out of the schools. He is there. He was at the Columbine shooting and strengthened the faith of those who wouldn’t recant. He was at Sandy Hook when teachers threw themselves on top of their students. He was there when a football coach sacrificed himself for others. God was there.
And I have seen Him in our schools. He was there when
two rival gang ridden schools in Hagerstown started to prayer after football & basketball games. He is there every time a bible study is led by an FCA character coach–I’ve seen it. He was there when I watched a public school principal pray over an injured student waiting on an ambulance. God is there every time the Young Life leaders show up to make friends with the students. God is there when the teachers and coaches lead FCA huddle groups–every week in over a dozen schools in Washington County. God is there every time a CEF volunteer leads a local Good News club. He was there last Tuesday when a little girl asked Becky (a volunteer with CEF) about dying and told her she was scared. He was there as Becky led her to the Lord. AND He stayed there when another little girl wanted to know more about Jesus and Becky explained it again. God was there and regenerated those girls hearts and gave Becky the words to say to explain what God was doing. God was there when I stood in a local high school’s graduation ceremony and proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ. Listen–the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Child Evangelism Fellowship, Young Life–they are in the schools and they need YOUR help and support.
But something is missing… the church. The church quit going into the schools. The church makes excuses and points its guilty finger. You are right, there is no longer a fruitless morning prayer over the loudspeaker for everyone whether they believe or not–but daily teachers and students who know and love God pray fervently for each other and their lost friends. You are right–they don’t teach the 10 commandments anymore. Do you? Do you care SO much about the 10 commandments that you taught our children and grandchildren? Do they know them? I have noticed that many who write “they took God out of the schools” have taken themselves out of church. God is so important to them that they are willing to give Him an hour or two a year.
Stop making excuses and start making disciples. You want “God” in the schools? Then YOU GO reflect His image and character by volunteering there. Meet some young people and build relationships with them. Make a difference by proving God’s presence because YOU were there representing Him. So please stop. Stop making ridiculous statements that are Theologically WRONG. Stop liking posts and picture that point out your own neglect of disciple making. Stop blaming others for not making disciples in YOUR community.
I am so proud of MBBC and the commitment it has made to reflect the character of God to our community. I am so excited that two of our pastors, another two staff members, two missionaries in our congregation and six volunteers are in the schools 4-5 days a week. If you would like to know more about how to disciple your local school or partner with ministries that already are, let me know. Have your pastor call me. We would love to share with you how we see God moving in the schools in our community
It was 6 years ago this week. Hurricanes Lee &
Irene turned into tropical depressions and overlapped their path in Northeast Pennsylvania. The result–devastating flooding.
This was my crash course in leading in times of Natural Disaster. Our area was hit hard with a flood. Our town became an island–stranded for almost a week. By God’s grace the parsonage was on higher ground. But my neighbors lost their homes. My friends lost their businesses. Some of our church families lost everything.
What I learned through the next 4 years of leading disaster recovery is how to help well.
Here is what I learned about the “dos and do nots” of helping well:
May the God of all Grace, Peace & Mercy make Himself known to the people affected by flood & fire. Give us the grace to make the invisible reign of Jesus Christ visible.
If you have questions, please let me know.
Worship is designed to move us into the presence of God. To call His glory down. The tabernacle was God’s design for His people’s movement towards experiencing Him.
The curtains, the furniture, the alters, laver’s, candelabras–they all reminded the people of who God was–a Holy, Providing, Delivering God. Several of the psalms were written to aid the pilgrims heading to the temple to prepare their hearts as they ascended the hill of the Lord. As they moved into the Tabernacle and toward God they were reminded of God’s character, Who it was they were approaching.
The Gathering Near to God is the celebration, the opening ceremonies of God’s activity in our lives over the past week. We have come to proclaim that “God has delivered us!” To make that proclamation, we celebrate the character of our Deliverer by rehearsing the characteristics of God through testimony, hymns and scripture.
The next movement of worship is experiencing God. When the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies, he was entering the place where God’s manifest glory would come down and reside over the ark of the covenant. The priest was now in the presence of God.
Being in the presence of God is a life changing experience! Take Moses for example–when Moses came before God’s presence–Moses was changed. God revealed His will to Moses through the law and direction for leadership. God’s glory radiated from Moses’ face, Moses had to veil his face in order to protect the people from overwhelming power of God’s glory radiating from him.
When we worship, we experience the revelation of God through His Word. The scriptures contain the self-revelation of God. Scripture is sufficient & efficient. In other words, the Bible contains all of the information about God that we need to know to be in a right relationship with Him. They are sufficient in that no other information is needed outside of the scriptures, not tradition, not reason, not experience. God’s word and God’s word alone. They are efficient in that the truths of God’s self revelation are effective and true–they rightly show us who God is, who we are, and how God has made a way for us to stand before Him.
On Sunday this is the preacher’s job–aided by the Holy Spirit. The preacher is to read the Word of God, explain the Word of God and encourage the hearer to trust the Word of God. This is accomplished through expository preaching. The style where the preacher starts with the text and explains the text, exposing God in the verse or verses. Expository preaching grows us in our understanding of God. The alternative of this is topical preaching–where the preacher picks a topic and then looks for scriptures to prove his point. The problem with topical preaching is that the preacher picks his belief, opinion or stance and then finds scripture to prove his point–often taking scriptures out of context or manipulating them from their original meaning. The preachers job is not to entertain, not to wow the audience or display his own oratory skills. It is simply to expose God as He is found in His scriptures.
Experiencing God as He has revealed Himself through our worship should change us. We are convicted by the law, transformed by grace and sent forth to reflect the character of God as it radiates from us.
This Sunday, would you come ready for that? Please come expecting to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Please come expecting to meet God in the worship. Please come ready to be moved towards God, changed by Him and leave radiating His glory!
One of my first assignments in seminary was to create an annotated order of worship. The task was to design worship, and then give a narrative explanation of why each element was included, placed where it was and what is the theology behind that decision. What Dr. Cook-Moore was teaching us, is that worship design needs to be intentional, theologically reflective and explained to the congregation. In other words, why do we do and say the things we do? The answer is not because, “The pastor likes this song” or “the organist picked the hymns.” And especially not, “We have always done it this way.” Worship is a design with purpose and intentionality. Unfortunately, pastors and worship leaders don’t usually let the congregation in on what the purpose and intention is–so everyone else is left in the dark.
You may have noticed a change in the order of worship at MBBC. If you’d let me, I’d like to explain to you the purpose and intention of the design of worship.
There are three movements to the worship at MBBC: Gathering Near to God, Experiencing God & Our Response to God.
The first part of worship is when we Gather Near to God. The purpose of this movement is gather as a body and proclaim, “We have made it through another week!”. In other words, God has sustained us, provided for and moved in our lives so that we survived another week in this broken world. It is meant to be an opening celebration! (Think of the opening ceremony at the Olympics.) We have lived our lives separately all week, and now we are coming together, as one body from many different places, to report and celebrate God’s movement and saving activity in our lives. It’s our Ebeneezer stone! We have reached this moment because “the Lord has helped us!” (1 Sam 7:12)
Gathering Near to God can consist of a scripture reading, hymns, testimonies or songs that exclaim the characteristics of God.
This week, as you get ready for church or during the drive, think about how God has been active in your life this week. What do you have to celebrate? What are you thankful for? How has God been your help this week? Bring your reports of God to worship and proclaim them for all to know!
Leadership is a balancing act, right now I feel like I’m on the tightrope halfway between “the old way” and “a new future”.
An organization has a tendency to fixate on a period of time and gauge all other events, epochs and metrics against that one period. In a church it is often the “Good ole days,” or as a friend from Carlisle once told me, “Back when the church had 4 busses and a bowling team.”
There can also be the dreamers and visionaries who are fully engrossed with the future. The future becomes the period they are fixated on. Earlier this month I resigned from the Executive Board of an organization whose vision was to unite the church in the greater area to work together for poverty (at least I think that was their vision at one point). They decided that vision wasn’t going to work anymore they want to build/renovate houses. They were paralyzed by an over focus on the future they couldn’t do any good right now in the present.
In the last week I have been focusing on leadership and I have come to a few conclusions that I wanted to share.
Balance. We need balance as we lead our folks. As I move forward and attempt to lead it will be with the balanced model of Know, Understand, Look Forward.
Know the History of the organization, where they have come from, what they went through. Honor the legacy and how God has used the past.
Understand the Present. We are not who we were, nor are we who we will be. The old ways may not be tried and true with a new group. Identify who you are working with TODAY.
Look Forward. There is no way to make any organization move without giving them a target they can see, and work toward.
Leadership is a balancing act, right now I feel like I’m on the tightrope halfway between “the old way” and “a new future”. Thankfully, this is God’s, and no one can accelerate, slowdown or thwart His plans.
The truth is, I go to Guatemala for me. Because I need to. Yes, while I am there I try to help anyway I can. And Yes, they ask me for help to lead the groups, to build or repair things, to help with the Medical Outreach. Sure, I do help, I pray that in some way God uses me being there to mitigate the consequences of sin in this world. I have great friends there and have fallen in love with the kids. But the truth remains–I go for me.
Guatemala offers me a reminder of the simplicity of life. It is a return to being grounded in my relationship with God. When materialism clouds my vision it removes the cataracts from my eyes. When the complexities and over institutionalism of the North American church overwhelm and bury me, the faith of the staff & students at Mi Refugio inspire me. God uses the school and the people of Guatemala to remind me of the most basic facts of life: God exists, He loves me, He died for me, He transforms me and He uses me so others know these same facts.s
Seeing the church in other parts of the world has forever changed my perspective. Guatemala, Haiti, Korea, Israel–the church in these places exists in constant reality poverty and persecution. When the cost is so high, when the threat is so real, when there is nothing else to trust in but God–the faith is raw, it is pure, it is authentic.
These places and people have changed me. I am different. And that has created a difficulty in my life. I live and work and raise a family in a very different world. I am raising my children in a world where sports reign, not family and community. I am a pastor in a world where we worry about how cold our water is, not if its clean and potable. A world where we complain because the music is too loud or soft, old or contemporary, not if we will be arrested for singing these songs. I am different. But God has placed me into an environment where the cares and concerns are very first world.
I get very discouraged. I get frustrated. I love my family. I love my church family. This is where I want to be. This is where God has called and placed me. But, I feel like I am torn in half. I hear and see the concerns, priorities and values and I cannot share them anymore. I understand them. I agree with them. I do. I just struggle to see them with the same concern as others.
Recently, I upset some folks at church who thought I was being secretive by going to Guatemala and not publically sharing it. That was not my intent. I am so very sorry if I hurt or upset anyone. You see, I didn’t publicize it because it wasn’t a “church” trip. It was a selfish trip. It was for me. I need to go to Guatemala. It keeps my head screwed on straight. It reminds me of who God is, what authentic worship is, what it means to ask for my daily bread. It equips me to be a better husband, father & pastor. It equips me to be a disciple.
Guatemala is a retreat in simplicity. Simply needing and loving God. And I need that.
How do we define victory? Last night that was the question I posed at the FCA Victory Dinner. For the answer we turned to 1 John 5:4-5 where the apostle exclaims that our faith is our victory.
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5
Our faith–that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and died on the cross for our sins and on the third day was resurrected–is our victory. The world, full of sin & death since the garden, is constantly trying to destroy, tear apart and break us. But as John says, being born of God–we have overcome the world. Our faith is our victory.
It was a great night celebrating the ministry of the Western MD FCA. I am so proud to be a partner with them. God is moving greatly among the FCA in Washington County to reveal Himself and y–our faith.
What a great honor it was to be at the celebration last night. It was a night seeing friends, coaches and referees I haven’t seen in years! Guys I idolized in football and baseball were there and it was so encouraging to see these men, not just as teammates, but now as Brothers in Christ. (Even If one did go to South High)
For me though the highlight of the night was the surprise of being introduced as the key note speaker by my father. My dad said something that I will always treasure. He said that he was proud of me for being a hard worker. Maybe to you that doesn’t seem like much. But coming from my father–the HARDEST working man I have EVER known–that means so much. My dad exhausted himself, always pouring out for his family and his community. And it has been a privilege to move home and see how he now pours himself out for the Kingdom of God. I have always tried to imitate his work ethic. So when my dad, the expert on hard work and sacrifice, says that he is proud of how hard I work at ministry–I am overcome with joy. I couldn’t imagine any trophy, award or earthly honor greater than that.
Read Isaiah 53
It’s Good Friday. He died. Crucified. For sin, none that He himself committed, but for the sins of those whom He would call. My place. Your place.
His Father turned away. Forsaken. Three hours. Then it was finished. Sin had been atoned for. The price–His life. A perfect, obedient, spotless, righteous life.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
The disciples were crushed. Dismayed. All of their hopes rested in their teacher–rabbi. He taught them so much. Spoke with such authority. Loved them incredibly. But now He is gone. Their hopes dashed. Everything they knew, loved and hoped for lay in the tomb.