Friday, July 10, 2009

The Church

Most of the posts on this blog are generally devotionally focused. I think that means that I write with the hope of you being drawn closer to God or being challenged to think more critically about your relationship with God. Here's a litle different post.

Where do you think the Church is heading? What direction? Is it a positive direction? A negative direction? Do you see the Church growing? Do you see the Church in decline? For the individual congregations that are experiencing growth - what's causing it? What does that say about the spiritual and religious landscape of our society?

These are a few of the many questions that have been on my mind for some time. I have taken a lot of time to really discover my beliefs and thoughts on these questions. And I'm going to try and answer them over the course of the next few weeks.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Who Am I? Who Are You?

I love this scripture! It's such a great encouragement to me. Check it out.
10"Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt." 11But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?" 12And He said, "Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain." 13Then Moses said to God, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?" 14God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
It's easy to see why this verse is so encouraging to someone who has a heart to serve the Lord, but who sometimes gets lost in self-doubt. That's a perfect description for me. Deep down in my heart I feel like God has a plan for me. But sometimes I am so scared to jump out there and go for it. But every time I read this scripture it's a great reminder for me that the "I AM" has got my back.

On a personal level, there's really not much difference between Moses and me, or you. He was a regular guy with great leadership skills, a ton of potential and almost as much self-doubt. The way that I strive to be like him is that he fought through his apprenhension, his fear, his doubt and he just got after it. That doesn't mean he didn't go back to the great "I AM" every now and then for a pep talk. But he stayed in the game and he allowed God to use him. I hope people can say that about me. What about you?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Anger Poured Out

I had the chance to speak at the 6th Avenue congregation this week. This was the home congregation for Gus Nichols. It was really kind of neat to speak from the same pulpit that such a great and impactful preacher called his own for so many years. In case you aren't familiar with Gus Nichols, he was really instrumental in the growth of the church in the early and mid twentieth century. He started countless numbers of congregations in the western half of Alabama. He's really left a great legacy, particularly in this area.

I was asked to speak on James 1:19-20 - about being slow to wrath. I had never preached on this text before; and preparing this lesson on anger was a little more challenging that what I anticipated. But it was really benefical for me. Hopefully, the family there got something out of it as well. I want to share just a little of what I studied. Hopefully, you can take something from it.

Anger is one of those sins that really hits close to home with most everyone. I've known a few people in my life who I don't think ever struggled with anger - but for most of us, this is a common vice. There's a verse in Ephesians that people go to, to try and assuage their conscience when it comes to their anger. You may be familiar with it too. It's Ephesians 4:26 and it says
Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.
This quote, along with a few references to Jesus' anger with the Pharisees (Mark 3:5; are missused and misapplied so much. Grab your Bible and check out Mark 3:5 and look specifically at what got Jesus angry. And then check out the Romans 1:18 and 2:8 where it talks about God's wrath.

Now just think to yourself, are the things that get you going the same type of things that got Jesus and the Lord worked up? Are they in the same category with what God's wrath is going up against? Probably not. Jesus was angry with the Pharisees because they had a hard heart. And God's wrath has been and will be poured out on all sin. Those hardly match up with idiot drivers, kids that don't listen, an incompetent boss or an umpire that you're convinced is cheating your kid.

It's really kind of humbling when you think of it in that context. So does that mean that you're sinning if you get angry for any reason other than a reaction to sin? I honestly don't know the answer to that. But I do know that James 1:19-20 says to be slow to wrath (or anger) because anger does not bring about the righteousness of God. After studying verses 18-21, here's what I came to realize about anger: it does not bring me closer to God, it does not solve the issue that instigated it, it does rob me of the fullness and the joy that I am supposed to experience (v.4)and finally, it does not take away the pain that caused it in the first place. Only Jesus can do those things.

God bless you!