Filtering by Author: Jeff Lacine

Monthly Memory Passage: Romans 1:16-20

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

We have a king who was born of an unmarried woman in a manger stall. He was poor all his life and mocked by the kings of the earth as he lived out the majority of his life in the obscurity of a small Galilean village. After being beaten, spit upon and displayed for public scorn, he was executed by the most painful and publicly humiliating death imaginable. Christians preach that whoever looks to this King as Lord and Savior is forgiven of their sins and will spend eternity in glory on a new and sinless earth.

It isn’t hard to see how someone might be tempted to be ashamed of the gospel, which calls people to the worship of a king who suffered the scorn of a public crucifixion. But we are not ashamed of the gospel, because the righteousness and justice of God is revealed in the gospel.

The fact of the matter is that we all need a king who was crucified for us, because we are born deserving of the wrath of God. We have all suppressed the truth of God's authority over all the earth by sinning against him, and we are all without excuse.

The good news is that Jesus saves all those who trust in him. He lived the perfect life that we have not lived. He suffered the wrath of God that we deserve. He rose from the dead conquering sin and death. And he is now seated at the right hand of his Father, making intercession for all those who trust in him. This truth is not something to be ashamed of, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”

Posted on March 15, 2015 .

Monthly Memory Passage: Psalm 91:1-8

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. 5 You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.

In this Psalm we find a great danger and a great shelter.

Meditate on the vivid picture of the danger. This eminent threat allows for no rest when the sun goes down. It is described as the “terror of the night” (v.5), and the “pestilence that stalks in the darkness” (v.6). But it is also “the arrow that flies by day” (v.5) and “the plague that destroys at midday” (v.6). No sleep, no rest, during day or night can be found when this terror is near. 

What is worse is that this threat is described as a “snare” intelligently and cunningly set by the pursuing “fowler” (v.3), hunting the reader and his companions like birds. This enemy has the raw power of a “great lion,” the deadly venom of a “cobra”, and the cunning of a “serpent” (v.13). 

But like a “deadly pestilence” it is no respecter of persons (v.3). It pursues old and young, male and female, promising only “harm” and “disaster” (v.10). In fact, it seems that ten thousand people who are near to the Psalmist, within eyeshot in fact, will fall to this deadly prey (v.7).

Now marvel at the awesome shelter we find in this Psalm. God is an impenetrable fortress, solid and immoveable (v.1-2). But he is also a different kind of shelter. He is tender and comforting, like a mother bird, pulling the weak near and providing warmth (v.4). He gently nurtures with the softest down of his wing, and yet he is more stable than the most impenetrable fortress made of the strongest steel in existence. This is our God. Is he your shelter?

 

Posted on February 15, 2015 .

Monthly Memory Passage: Hebrews 4:12-16

12 For  the word of God is living and  active,  sharper than any  two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and  discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  13 And  no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are  naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. 14   Since then we have  a great high priest  who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God,  let us hold fast our confession.  15 For we do not have a high priest  who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been  tempted as we are,  yet without sin.  16  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

The Word of God does two things: it exposes our sin, and it reveals Christ to us.

First, the Word of God exposes our Sin. When we compare our lives to the good and perfect will of God revealed to us in Scripture, we are found naked and exposed. The thoughts and intentions of our heart are laid bare, and we see that in our sin we are worthy of the just condemnation of God. None of our justifications and excuses for sin stand as a worthy defense against the sword of God.

But second, the Word of God reveals Christ to us. It shows us that we have a high priest who is sympathetic with our creatureliness. Jesus Christ was tempted by sin just as we are. Yet, Jesus did not yield to temptation. He lived life here on earth completely without sin. The thoughts and intentions of his heart were only good and always in accordance with the Father’s perfect will. When Jesus’ life is measured in accordance with God’s Word he is not found naked and exposed like we are. Rather, he is found clothed in righteousness.

The good news is that Jesus lived the life of righteousness and died the death of a sinner for all those who trust in him as King and Savior. In grace he grants us his wardrobe of righteousness to cover our disgrace, and he welcomes us to his throne room where he is willing to be our continual help. He calls us to confidently come before him — not confident in our own righteousness, but confident in his provision of righteousness. He calls us to come to him for help in the midst of every need. And he will be our help.

Posted on January 18, 2015 .

The Two Instruments of Disciple-Making

In this series we have established that disciple-making is the central work of every Christian. We have also explored what it means to make disciples of both nonChristians and Christians. However, we have not yet discussed what tools we ought to employ in this great work of disciple-making. 

There are many tools and strategies that can be utilized in our efforts to initiate nonChristians into the life of faith and to encourage Christians to obey Jesus in all things. However, there are only two tools that are absolutely essential to the work of disciple-making. If these two tools are not utilized, then the work of disciple-making is utterly impossible.    

The first absolutely necessary tool is the Bible. The Bible is the only infallible and perfect Word of God. It’s central message is the gospel. All the details of the Bible support, protect, unpack, inform and illustrate this central gospel message.

We can’t always see how each and every detail of the Levitical law or the genealogies in 2 Chronicles works together to inform, color or undergird the gospel message. But they do. Every word of the Bible is important. And as we grow in our understanding of God’s Word we see more and more how all the various parts of Scripture inform us on the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, the redemptive ministry of Christ, and the response of a repentant and believing heart. 

The Bible informs, feeds and guards our knowledge of the true gospel, preserving it perfectly as all the various parts and nuances of Scripture work together to paint one picture. And it is by this gospel that we can know and trust Christ, enjoying true fellowship with God. We cannot make disciples of Jesus without leaning into the Bible.

The second absolutely necessary tool for the work of disciple-making is prayer. Grace is the power of God, and grace is absolutely necessary to make and grow disciples of Jesus. Nothing less than grace. But you and I are not the source of grace. We cannot generate the grace needed to make mature disciples of Jesus Christ. Grace comes from God.

So, do we just wait for God to give grace as we seek to see a nonChristian converted or a Christian maturing in their faith? No. We pray. We call out to God for grace. We pray for our neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family. We ask God to give them grace to believe and trust the gospel. We pray for our Christian brothers and sisters, and we ask God to grant them growth and maturity in Christ. We call on God to work. We ask him to make our feeble attempts at disciple-making of eternal good. In prayer we recognize that disciples will not be made if God does not work.

We point to and speak the truth of God’s Word — the truth of the gospel, and we pray. Bible and prayer. These are the two absolutely necessary tools for this great work of disciple-making.

Posted on January 4, 2015 .

Monthly Memory Passage: Isaiah 53:3-7

3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 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. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 

This prophetic prediction of the coming Christ was written about 700 years before the birth of Jesus. It is a deep and profound exposition of the atoning work of Christ for his people.

Verse 6 speaks to the depravity of mankind. All of us have strayed from God and turned to our own way. Yet, the Lord laid on Christ our iniquity. Christ was crushed for our sins so that we could have peace with God (v. 5).

What kind of glory did Christ receive for this awesome atoning work, restoring a straying people to the Father by taking the punishment for their sins upon him? “He was despised and rejected by men” and “we esteemed him not” (v. 3). It makes your heart drop into your stomach. The eternal and glorious Son of God came to execute the central event in the history of the universe, restoring sinners to the Father. And he did it as he was despised. The humility of Christ is scandalous and perplexing.

But this is not the end of the story. Earlier in the same book there is another prophecy of the Christ. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:6-7).  He will come again and be recognized as the King that he is, and he will rule in righteousness. 

Posted on November 16, 2014 .

Making Disciples of Believers

If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ then you should also be being made a disciple of Jesus Christ. There are no typos or syntactical errors in that sentence. Go ahead, read it again. Confused? Let me explain.

In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus commissions his followers to make disciples by baptizing new converts and also by teaching those who have already been baptized to obey Jesus in all things. In this article we are going to focus on the second part of this discipleship equation – teaching believers to obey Jesus in all things.

If you are a follower of Jesus then one of the main purposes and goals of your life is to encourage other believers to obey Jesus in all things. When we think about encouraging other Christians to greater obedience to Christ we normally think about helping Christians who we would consider to be less mature in their faith than than we are — we normally think of an older Christian helping a younger Christian along. This is certainly biblical and right. For example, Paul tells  Titus that the older women are to teach the younger women “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3-4). However, the Bible is also clear that those who are younger in their faith have much to contribute to the spiritual health of the whole church. Paul spoke to the reality that younger believers could bring him spiritual refreshment (1 Corinthians 16:18; Philemon 20). Moreover, in 1 Timothy 5:1, Paul encourages Timothy to implore/encourage/exhort older men in the faith. The Bible calls every Christian to actively consider how to stir up other Christians (without restriction) to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). This includes the newly converted or less mature Christian encouraging the seasoned Christian. The Bible is clear that even those who seem to be the weakest Christians, freshly saved out of a life of sin, are indispensible to the spiritual health of a church (1 Corinthians 12:22).

There is another aspect to this call to teach each other obedience to Jesus that is very important for all of us to consider. We must not only consider the implications of Matthew 28:19-20 in terms of our ministry to other Christians in our church. We must also consider the implications of Matthew 28:19-20 in terms of our need for ministry from other Christians in our church. If you are a follower of Jesus who, like me, is not yet obedient to Christ in all things, then you need other people to be actively engaged in making you a disciple of Jesus. In other words, you need the local church.

Just how willing are you to be exhorted by other Christians to greater obedience to Jesus. How well would you receive this encouragement from a Christian that you would consider not as far along in their understanding of the Bible or less mature in their faith?  Are you seeking out this kind of ministry from other Christians, young and old, because you long to be more obedient to Christ? As we do this together I think we will find that we are drawing spiritual fruit and wisdom out of one another, thereby making each other more obedient to Christ.

So go make disciples, and be being made a disciple as you do.

Posted on November 2, 2014 .

Monthly Memory Passage: John 14:1-6

1 Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going. 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Jesus told his disciples, “You know the way to where I am going.” I love Thomas. He was thinking what I would be thinking. We do? Well, if Jesus said we do, I’m sure we do. But I don’t think we do. So, Thomas stated what everyone else was probably thinking. “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Jesus is telling his disciples that he is not only the desired destination, he is also the way to get there. This is a profound reality. Let’s meditate on it in two parts: Jesus as the destination, and Jesus as the way.

First, Jesus is the destination because he is a perfect reflection of the Father. To believe in God should also be to believe in Jesus (John 14:1). The true believer wants God more than anything, and God is found in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus is the desired destination of every true believer.

Second, Jesus is the way to get to that destination – he is the way to get to God. He is not only the end, he is also the means to that end. The Christian faith is all about the glory of Jesus as both the end of all creation and the means to that end. This universe is about God glorifying himself in and through Jesus Christ.

And this is good news for us. We are redeemed for Christ and by Christ. We do not and can not earn our way to God through obedience, through good works, through consistent prayer, or through good (grand)parenting. We get to God through Jesus. He is the way, and there is no other. 

 

 

Posted on September 21, 2014 .

Making Disciples of Unbelievers

In the previous installment of this series on discipleship we learned from Matthew 28:18-20 that disciple-making is a two part process. First, disciple-making involves winning unbelievers to repent of their sins and trust in Christ, and to make this faith visible by identifying with Christ and his body in baptism. Second, disciple-making involves teaching baptized believers to obey everything that Jesus commanded. Therefore, as disciple-making Christians our mission involves both unbelievers and believers. In this month’s installment we are going to zero in on our disciple-making mission for unbelievers.

Just how do we make disciples of unbelievers? How do we bring someone along to the point of repentance of sin and faith in Christ, signified in baptism? First we must recognize that while God calls us to make disciples of unbelievers, in one sense it is an impossible task. The Bible  tells us that we all are born dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1,5;  Colossians 2:13), blind to the glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4). This means that even people who are born in Christian homes to parents who genuinely love Jesus are born spiritually dead in sin. Everyone is in need of the miracle of regeneration for salvation, and God alone has the power to open the eyes of the spiritually blind (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Yet, we have a part to play in God’s plan to bring spiritual life to those who remain dead in their sins. The Bible tells us that the way God does his eye-opening regenerative work is through the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:23, 25). There is no salvation where there is no gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:13-15). And who does God use to bring the gospel to unbelievers? Disciples of Jesus like you and me. Our role in making disciples of unbelievers is to be a clear, bold, and loving witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. Our role is to tell people of their need for Jesus, and to explain to them that they are under God’s holy displeasure because of sin. We need to explain to unbelievers that Jesus suffered the penalty for sin on behalf of sinners like us, so that everyone who turns from their sin to trust in Christ has been given a new heart and eternal life with God. We are also to show the world that we truly believe this message and that God has indeed granted us new hearts. The evidence of our genuine faith in the God of the gospel is our growing love for God and our growing love for one another — growth in holiness and humility (Romans 2:6-8; Hebrews 12:14; James 2:14-19). As we faithfully preach the good news of Jesus Christ, we should also embody lives that confirm its power.

So, how are you seeking to make disciples of unbelievers? Are you being plain and bold with the message of the gospel? Is there any part of your life that undermines the message you preach? If you answered yes to either of these questions, there is good news for you. You are not saved by your faithfulness to preach the gospel, nor by your ability to love others. You are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. Moreover, you can affirm rather than undermine this reality by repenting of any past failure and asking God for grace to obey. Will you join me in this prayer of repentance and dependence on God? Christ will build his church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). Will he do it through you?

 

Posted on September 7, 2014 .

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 .