Monthly Memory Passage: Matthew 6:27-33

27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Anxiety is a bigger problem in our society today than it has ever been. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, nearly 20% of the U.S. population has a diagnosable anxiety disorder. As those who deal with regular anxiety attacks can attest, anxiety can be a crippling issue. Moreover, it is not only those who have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder that deal with regular anxiety. To one degree or another, we all have dealt with the pain of anxiety. What help does Jesus offer us?

It is not my desire to diminish the rightful role of a physician’s professional care and the wise and appropriate use of medication. However, I think it is good for us to fight anxiety not only with the professional care of a physician, but also with the promises given to us by the physician of our soul. In this passage of Scripture, Jesus gives us five truths for us to employ in the war against anxiety.

1.    Worrying will not help you. (v. 27)
2.    God will care for you better than he cares for the beautiful lilies of the field. (v. 28-30)
3.    Those who worry are those who do not trust in God. (v. 32a)
4.    God knows about all your physical needs. (v. 32b)
5.    As you seek the things of God, God will provide for your every physical need. (v.33)
    
In the gospel, God has become our Father who looks to care for our every need. Do we believe that God is good? Do we believe that he cares for us? Do we believe that he will provide for our needs as a good and loving Father?

Posted on August 17, 2014 .

Disciple Making Is A Two-Part Process

So far in this series we have seen that the real work of the local church, and of every Christian, is making disciples of Jesus Christ. This week we will explore what disciple making really is.

In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus gives a commission to his disciples, and by extension he gives a commission to the Church. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” The main verb of this sentence is “make disciples,’’ and in the original Greek it is just one word, matheteuo (μαθητεύω). This sentence is a single command to make disciples of Jesus Christ. 

It is extremely significant that in his last words on earth before his ascension into heaven, Jesus commands his followers to make other disciples. It is also extremely significant that Jesus doesn’t just tell us to make disciples, but he also gives us pointed instruction on exactly how we are to make disciples. 

First, we are to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This means we are to encourage people to make a public profession of faith in Christ as the true revelation of the One Triune God. We are to seek out converts who are willing to publically identify with Christ and his body in baptism. This is the visible beginning of the Christian life. The essence of what Christ is saying here is that disciple making involves seeking the conversion of the lost to a visible faith in Jesus Christ.

But, evangelism is only one part of disciple making. There is also a second part of disciple making that Jesus describes, namely, teaching converted Christians to obey everything that Jesus has commanded. Notice that Jesus is not merely saying that we should teach others to understand everything that Jesus has commanded. We are to do much more than that. We are to teach others to obey everything that Jesus has commanded. 

So, when we are talking about being involved in disciple making, we are talking about (1) evangelizing non-Christians and (2) teaching and encouraging Christians to trust and obey Jesus. These two things are the central work of the local church, and these are the two things that we will each be doing individually as we seek to follow Christ as redeemed Christians. In light of this, I think it would be appropriate and good for each one of us to periodically take inventory of our lives by asking the following two questions in regard to disciple making: 

  1. How am I seeking to bring lost people to Christ? 
  2. How am I seeking to encourage other individual Christians to trust and obey Christ? 

It is for these two purposes that we are here on this earth. Christians are by definition disciple makers. It is our job description. And, because there are always people who need to be introduced to the Christian gospel, and because every Christian needs to grow in obedience to Jesus, we all always have plenty of work before us. The good news is that we are not alone in this work. Jesus has promised to be with us in a special way as we seek to obey his commission — “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b). Let’s go make disciples in the strength and courage we receive from Christ with us!

 

Posted on August 3, 2014 .

Monthly Memory Passage: Matthew 6:19-24

19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

What have you set your eyes on, really? What is it that you crave? What is your treasure? What is your gaze set upon? You are aiming at something. What is it?

Some people set their eyes on money because of all that it can buy — leisure; a nice house; a remodeled house; a nice car; vacations; international travel; the latest and greatest technology; a great education for you, your children, or your grandchildren; good food; the best gear for your favorite hobby (hunting, sports, fishing, etc.); free time; etc. Don’t get me wrong, in and of themselves none of these things are bad. We can receive these things as gifts from God. However, if any of these things become the object of our delight — the thing we have fixed our eyes on — then it has replaced God in our lives. 

In our Scripture memory verse for this month Jesus tells us that if we set our eyes on money and what it has to offer, then we aren’t seeing properly — we have bad eyes. Moreover, it is not just our eyes not working the way they should, but our whole life is out of alignment — full of darkness. If our eyes are set on money and what it can buy, then we are constantly concerned with making sure we have enough money. If this is the case, then we are not truly serving God with our lives, we are serving money. Money has become God to us. 

Brothers and sisters, the day is drawing ever nearer when money and all that it can buy will be forever gone. God has given us money so that we might make evident by the way we use it that money is not our treasure, Jesus is! Jesus has become our treasure because he purchased us with an eye for what we shall become — completely set apart for his glory. And, his eye is never bad, he sees things as they really are!

 

Posted on July 20, 2014 .

Disciple Making Is the Work of Christians

In last month’s newsletter article we saw how the ultimate goal of the local church is to glorify God, and the chief way a local church is to glorify God is by making disciples of Jesus Christ. This month we are going to go a step further. It is easy to talk about the mission of the church in the abstract without ever getting practical and thinking in terms of our mission or my mission. Therefore, we need to explore not only disciple making as a church, but disciple making as individuals.

The church is a community made up of individual members. It can only be said that a church is working to make disciples if the individual members of the church are seeking to make disciples, together. It is possible to be faithful to attend Sunday meetings and midweek Bible study without really following Jesus and his call to discipleship. We need to regularly ask ourselves: How am I making disciples of Jesus Christ? How am I nurturing a passion for Christ in my own heart and seeking to spread that passion to those around me?

As Christians, this is what our lives are about. Whether we are employed full time in the business world or we are a full time homemaker, mother or grandmother; whether we are in grade school or retired; whether we are single or married, the central work of our lives is making disciples.

You may manage the corner grocery store full time as a platform for disciple making and as a way to financially support your disciple making mission, but the main work of your life is not managing a grocery store full time. You may be busy at home everyday making sure your two year old boy is emotionally, physically and psychologically nourished, but this is still not the main work of your life. The main work of your life is making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Yes, to be a worthy disciple making witness to Christ as a grocery store manager you need to make sure the store is managed well. And yes, your disciple making mission certainly includes your two-year-old son. In order to be a witness to the beauty of Christ to your two-year-old son you need to sacrificially give yourself to meeting all the needs of a healthy two-year-old boy.

But, what I am calling for is a complete paradigm shift — a total change in mindset about our lives. You can be a faithful grocery store manager in the eyes of your employees and not be a disciple-making follower of Jesus. You can be a good mom in the eyes of the world without the aim of making disciples of Jesus Christ.

So, the next time you are at a social gathering and that question comes, “What do you do for work?” What if your response was, “By God’s grace I make disciples of Jesus Christ as a husband, father and grocery store manager.” Or, “I’ve been given the privilege of full time employment making disciples of Jesus Christ as a busy mom and friend of others in the neighborhood.” Or, “I am an ambassador for Jesus Christ at the elder care facility I live at, looking for opportunities to remind others of the glory of Christ in the gospel.”

If we did answer that question this way, would it be honest? What changes do we have to make in our lives in order for each of us to honestly say that disciple making is the main business of our lives?

Posted on July 6, 2014 .

Monthly Memory Passage: Matthew 6:9-15

9 This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Our Father in heaven…
Go like a little child goes to his dad, not like someone who has his/her act together. There is something in us that wants to put away our helplessness before we bow our hearts to God in prayer, but resist that urge. Go as a needy child to your heavenly Father. Go just as you are.

Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…
Bow your heart in submission to God in prayer. Pray that he would be hallowed — would be truly revered — in your heart and in all the world in just the same way that he is revered in heaven. Pray that your family would honor him, pray that your church would honor him, pray that your neighbors would honor him, pray that your co-workers would honor him, pray that his Kingdom would overwhelm all the earth.

Give us today our daily bread…
Acknowledge your total desperation for and dependence on God. God is the one who has given you all that you have. You have food and clothes and all your sustenance because God has given it to you. You receive your daily bread from him, so ask him for it as a needy child. Ask him for all you need at this moment and in this day — spiritual needs, physical needs, and emotional needs.

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one…
Our greatest need is spiritual. We need forgiveness from God, and though we have received full forgiveness in Christ, we should make our dependence for this forgiveness regularly known in prayer. But God offers us even more than forgiveness, and so we ask for more. We ask that he would guide our path away from sin, so that we might walk in holiness, just as he is holy.

 

Posted on June 15, 2014 .

Disciple Making Is The Work of the Church

The ultimate goal of every Christian, and therefore the ultimate aim of the church, is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Glory is a pretty abstract concept, and therefore it isn’t always clear to us what it means to glorify God in everyday life as individuals. It can be even more difficult to understand what it means to glorify God as a local church. In order to move from the abstract to the concrete we must go one step further and ask — What task is the local church given as the means by which they are to glorify God? As we read through the New Testament the answer becomes clear. The business of the church is to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ. This was the commission that Christ left to the church in Matthew 28:19. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”

The mission of the church is not to feed the hungry. The mission of the church is not to keep teenagers out of trouble. The mission of the church is not to make people more responsible citizens. The mission of the church is not to maintain healthy marriages. The mission of the church is not to nurture healthy peer relationships. The mission of the church is not to establish a sense of belonging. The mission of the church is not to rid the world of corruption. The mission of the church is not to make beautiful music. The mission of the church is not to bring people into a worship experience.  The mission of the church is not life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The mission of the church is not to foster emotional healing. The mission of the church is not to create a space for everyone to use his or her gifts. The mission of the church is not world peace or national justice. The mission of the church is not to make good parents and healthy families.

While all these things are well and good, and while a healthy church will accomplish some of these things as a by-product of its central work, none of these things can rightly be called the mission of the church. The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. This is the work that Christ left the church with in Matthew 28:18-20, and this is the work we see the church giving themselves to by the power of the Holy Spirit in the rest of the New Testament.

If making disciples is the task that we have been given as a local church, then everything we do as a church should be about making disciples of Jesus Christ. Every program we implement and document we print should have as its aim making more and mature disciples of Jesus. This is not to say that we should utilize a pragmatic ends-justifies-the-means mentality in our disciple-making. Disciples are only made according to the pattern of the Word of God, and not in accordance with the latest and greatest church growth strategies. Everything we do as a church must be subject to the question: As a church, are we making disciples according to the pattern of Scripture in obedience to Christ’s command?

Posted on June 1, 2014 .

Monthly Memory Passage: Matthew 5:3-12

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In this portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount known as the Beatitudes, Jesus is presenting principles of the Kingdom of God that are so contrary to the kingdoms of this world. In the Kingdom of God it is the poor in spirit (not the rich) who receive a great inheritance. In the Kingdom of God those who mourn are blessed. In the Kingdom of God it is better to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness than to have one’s appetite quenched. And, the citizens of this Kingdom should be happy when they are insulted. Strange indeed! It as if the Kingdom of God is upside down from the world we know. 

But the true disciple of Jesus Christ begins to see that it is not the Kingdom of God that is upside down. Rather, it is this passing world that is upside down. We need to orient our lives to the principles of God so that it is not his Kingdom that seems strange to us. We need to come to grips with the fact that as Christians living in this fallen world we are in a strange and distant country, passing through as pilgrims and strangers, headed to our true home.

In his book, Crucifying Morality: The Gospel of the Beatitudes, R.W. Glenn says that one thing we learn from these verses in Matthew is that “Kingdom blessing looks like the opposite of everything we value. So don’t moralize the Beatitudes, sterilizing the gospel as though it is primarily or even only a rule book for nicer living. You cannot put the mind-altering, world-shattering nature of the Beatitudes into neat categories. Jesus won’t let you.” 

Posted on May 18, 2014 .

A Word From The Pastor

In this first Sellwood Baptist Church Monthly Newsletter, what shall I say to my congregation? There is one thing I feel very compelled to say: I love you. I realize that I am running the risk of sounding smarmy. However, it is in sincerity that I say again, I love this church. I am so thankful to God that he has brought me and my family to grow together with you for the glory of God. It is a joy to serve you. You have received me so well, and I brag on you to all my pastor friends. I am a happy pastor. Thank you for being so kind to me. Thank you for receiving the ministry of the Word with such glad eagerness. You have no idea what joy it brings me that you love going to the Word with me week after week to meet with God and see him more clearly.

Hebrews 13:17b says to follow your spiritual leaders so that “their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” In these early stages of my young ministry in this church, I can tell you that my work is a joy and not a burden. Thank you. I am dreaming big dreams for Sellwood Baptist Church because we have a big God. No matter how big our Kingdom dreams get, they will never be God sized. May God continue to do the work among us that he does so well.

Posted on May 1, 2014 .