This past Sunday, Pastor Mark gave a great illustration of Immanuel Church. He said, “It’s the exact opposite of the NFL.” Mark’s reasoning is simple: the NFL is mostly preparation. Teams and coaches spend the majority of their time and energy training for a game that only takes place in a period of hours every week. Immanuel Church, on the other hand, takes a few hours to prepare for the entire week.
Granted, Sunday church isn’t the only way we prepare ourselves for ministry outside our church walls. I can’t help think that we have much less preparation time than we actually need. This is especially true when we think of how important our various ministries and responsibilities are outside the church walls.
What I find to be incredible is how Jesus prepared his disciples. In Mark 3, Jesus appoints his disciples to be with him so “that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” Notice that this is the beginning of Mark and not the end. So Jesus has his disciples doing active ministry before they had extensive and comprehensive training. Had I been Jesus, I would have given the disciples authority when I knew they could handle the authority and not mess things up. But one thing I’m absolutely sure of is that I’m not Jesus, and his ways are infinitely better than mine. He gives his disciples authority not because they were ready but because that’s how they grow.
I believe that God does the same for us. There is not a graduation day were we get our official Christian diploma. We are already Christians who do work. We still have a long way to go, but we are doing his work all-along-the-way. Doing ministry is preparing, and preparing is doing ministry.
What has God put on your heart for ministry?Read More
This past Sunday we talked about our being; namely, our being is in Christ. Our being has to be somewhere, whether we are aware of it or not. If our being is not in Christ than our being is somewhere always inferior.
One of our problems is that we struggle to believe that our being is actually in Christ. When trials and temptations come along we topple like a tree with shallow roots.
Colossians 2:7 talks about being rooted in Christ. Trees and their strong roots are a great image for us. For not only do the roots feed the tree, but they firmly plant the tree to the earth like and incredible anchor. When the strong winds blow, trees are able to withstand the storm.
There’s another reason why trees and their roots are an important illustration. When a tree grows the roots grow. A tree does not first grow roots and then grow above ground. No, as the tree grows it needs further anchoring: the higher the leaves the deeper the roots.
That goes for our lives as well. The more we know Christ, the more we recognize our incredible need for him. That is why being rooted in Christ is so necessary. The more we grow in our faith the deeper and deeper our roots anchor into Christ Jesus.
When was the last time you acted or reacted to a situation that made you feel you were not rooted in Christ?Read More
C. S. Lewis writes this in his work, Reflections on the Psalms:
“I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise. The world rings with praise – lovers praising the ones they love, readers praising their favorite author, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game. I had never noticed either that just as we spontaneously praise what we value, so we spontaneously urge others to join us: “Isn’t she lovely?” “Wasn’t it glorious?” “Don’t you think that is just magnificent?” I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment. The delight is incomplete till it is expressed. When we act out our love and acknowledgment of Him in this way, we fulfill our purpose; and when we are rightly fulfilling our purpose, we have the best possible joy – God is pleased, our relationship with Him is enhanced, and He has rightly received what He deserves.”
We all can benefit from letting these significant truths soak into our souls:
- Praise is a natural response to God’s blessings
- Praise expresses, but also completes, the enjoyment
- Praise is not just suggested but commanded in Scripture
- Praise is part of the fulfillment of our purpose
Have a great week of praise!Read More
Whenever you watch an interview of a football coach who just lost a game, what does he always say? He says they didn’t do enough, try enough and sacrifice enough. Even if the other team was simply better, he still blames himself and his team. For some reason, that makes fans feel better.
There is a great big ugly problem with this mentality. The problem is, no matter the outcome, there always could be improvement. No matter how good a team does, there will always be mistakes and there will always be a need for improvement.
The sad reality is, most of us approach out spiritual lives in the same mentality. We know we need improvement, we feel we need to be better and even if we are successful in certain things we still beat our breast and say, “I’ll try harder next time.” Here’s the problem: we want God’s love to be directly correlated to how good we are. The reality is, we are never good enough, that’s why we try harder and harder. We approach our relationship with God like a losing football coach. We constantly admit we didn’t do enough, try enough and sacrifice enough. We blame ourselves. For some reason, that makes us feel better.
Here’s what we need to know. God’s love is not related to what we do. God’s love does not rise and fall with our successes and failures. God’s love is steadfast and complete. God does not love us anymore than he did 20 years ago. Why do we want him too? Do we think he is holding back some of his love until we are good enough to receive it?
This truth is most evident in John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his only son.
That means the highest expression of God’s love was given at the point where we deserved it the least. God most showed us his love, when we most showed him our hate.
So rather than living as though we need to earn God’s love, we live knowing that God’s love is complete and we are sons and daughters of the living God. Our Father’s love is not something to be earned, but something to place our lives.Read More
Do you ever talk to your soul? That sounds like an odd question perhaps. But in Psalms 103, the writer is doing that. He is talking to his soul. He is telling his soul to praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
I honestly can’t think of a time when I addressed my soul as I would a friend. I don’t ever tell my soul to do anything. So what are we to do with this passage?
The writer of Psalm 103 understands a deep truth about the human soul. Our souls fundamentally desire to praise God. But so often our souls become enslaved to our moments. In other words, if we don’t particularly feel like praising the Lord, we don’t. If we don’t feel like singing we don’t. If we don’t feel like raising our hands we don’t. If we don’t feel like kneeling we don’t. If we don’t feel like praying, we don’t.
We might even feel like we’re being dishonest if we praise God while our inmost selves don’t really feel up to it.
So why is our praise so dependent upon how we feel? If God is who we say his is, we should be ready to praise him at any moment.
How much more honor do we give God when we praise him even though we might not feel like it? Praise is, after all, about God right?
I remember a time when I resolved to no longer praise God based upon how I feel at the moment. I was in a worship service and I did all the things you might expect me to do when I am really “feeling” the praise. So I praised God without any expectation of getting anything out of the service for me personally. Guess what happened? I praised God, and gave him all of me.
The writer of this psalm recognizes that praise is not praise if it is about us. We are not actually praising God when we want him to give us something. Praise is leading our whole soul, our whole inmost being into giving God what is due to him…all of us.
So next time you are praising God alone or in church, recognize that it’s about him, and you might have to tell your soul to fall in line.Read More
Generally, there are two types of people, those who are quick to speak and those who are slow to speak. As a member of the former, I readily admit that we have a problem. Sometimes we speak too quickly and end up saying something we regret; for example, “When are you due?” or “I can’t believe your dating someone and I’m not,” or “my grandpa wears those same sandals.”
Those who are slow to speak have their own problems. Admittedly, I cannot speak from experience, but like any good “quick speaker”, I’m really good at guessing. I imagine slow speakers wish they were proficient at witty comebacks and dazzling crowds with articulate yarns.
I’m sure that we can all agree that we can improve our speaking. Imagine speaking at such a level that everyone was jubilant over every syllable that came out of your gaping maw. That would be nice.
The apostle Paul talks about speaking with such quality, such confidence, that you could hold the attention of both men and angles. But he asks this question. What good is it to be the most eloquent speaker if you do not have love? Without love, enrapturing people with your words means about as much as a car horn.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul compares love to the things we find important. If we are honest with ourselves, eloquence of speech is often preferable to love. The reason is simple, love is hard and doesn’t bring acclaim the way speaking well does. But which has more meaning? Is it love or speaking well?
The economy of God is pretty clear. Love for others necessarily benefits both the loved and lover. Speaking well may be beneficial to those who listen, and not necessarily beneficial to the speaker. Love is the best economy because it benefits all.Read More