Saturday, December 19, 2009

Lessons from Acts

I just finished a 56-day study in the Book of Acts this morning.

Throughout this study I was struck by the tenacious character of the early Church, the power of the Holy Spirit that both advanced it and held it together, and the tremendous opposition from those that should have been the first to embrace it.

All of the above characteristics of Acts can be seen in the final chapter of the book. Paul, perhaps the most tenacious character in all of scripture, has finally arrived in Rome. He does what he had always done. He takes the gospel to the Jews first. This had to be Spirit motivated! In the natural going to the Jews first would surely not have made any sense at this point. The Jews were the reason Paul was a prisoner in the first place. They were the reason for the scars on his back. They were the reason for the broken bones. They were the reason for the bruises caused by stoning. They were the reason for most all of Paul's struggles. Yet, here he is, once again, taking the gospel to them first.

As a minister of the gospel my first obligation is with those that are closest to me, even though they are also the ones most likely to inflict pain upon me. My first obligation is with the flock that God has given me, yet they are not my only obligation. In my estimation the modern day American Church is much like the Jewish community in the time of Paul. In the final chapter of Acts, Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah to the Jews in Rome, "You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving." God had previously warned Paul that much of what he proclaimed would fall on deaf ears, "For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles (those outside the chosen community) and they will listen.

I am truly thankful to pastor a church that cares about the outcastes. I pastor a church that proclaims the message to the flock, but understands that many don't want to hear. I am so thankful to be able to stand in a foyer on Wednesday nights and watch the outcastes of my county enter our building because we have literally went into the highways and the byways and compelled them to come in! When I stand on the floor in the Against The Grain youth dome on Wednesday nights I feel like Paul in the marketplace of Athens.

I am deeply grateful for The StoreHouse! Together may we "Salt The Earth, and Secure The Harvest, Until He Comes!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Paralyzed By Fear

It seems that America has been overcome with fear. We are afraid of terrorism, afraid of economic crisis, afraid of getting sick, afraid of rejection, afraid of global warming, afraid of winter in Indiana, afraid of losing our jobs and afraid of just about anything else that 60 minutes tells us to be afraid of. It seems that the only thing that we are not worried about is eternity. The Super Bowl is scheduled to be held in Indianapolis in February of 2012. I can guarantee you that if it were to snow 24” the day of the Super Bowl that we would still have it. The stadium would still be packed. The Super Bowl parties would still take place, and the game would have no eternal significance whatsoever! Why? Because having tickets to the Super Bowl and not being able go would be one of our greatest fears. We would arrive hours ahead of time even though we already had an assigned seat. Why? There might be traffic, we might have a flat, it might be hard finding a place to park, etc.

Why is everybody so afraid, and why are we afraid of all of the wrong things? I’m certainly not afraid about any of the above. Are you? People tend to fear what they cannot control. Unfortunately, they do not concern themselves nearly enough with what they can control. Our eternal destiny and our relationship with Jesus fall into the category of what we can control. If we were to concern ourselves with these two things then there would be no need to fear what is beyond our control. Being secure in our relationship with Christ causes all of our insecurities to disappear. Why? Because while a great deal is beyond our control; nothing is beyond His! Satan is the source of my fears. Jesus is the source of my strength. The decision that I have to make everyday is who I am going to hang out with: Satan and my fears, or Jesus and His strength. I choose Jesus! His perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). I have my ticket to heaven, my seat is already chosen, I’ll let Him decide how and when I get there. In the meantime I’m going to enjoy the journey!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why Am I Here?

“Why am I here?”  Isn’t that the question that everybody really wants answered. Part of the answer is very simple and part of it is very complicated. The first part of the answer is true for everyone on the planet. You are here to worship God! Whether you fulfill that purpose or not is up to you. The second part of the answer is a bit more complicated because it is different for every single one of us. The way we each worship God is by obeying His plans or ‘calling’ for our lives. That plan is like a fingerprint; everybody has a different one. I don’t know what yours is, but I encourage you to ask God to reveal it to you. Don’t expect Him to reveal it all at once. God likes to take His time when it comes to creating His masterpieces.

As for me, God is happiest with my worship when I am fulfilling His plan for me. His plan for me was to be the Pastor of The StoreHouse. When I do that and keep myself from being sidetracked God is blessed with my worship. I’ve been asking God lately just exactly what He means when He asks me to be the Pastor. Everybody seems to know what it is that a pastor does, but I’m not really interested in what everybody else thinks. I’m only interested in what He thinks. The last few days The Father has been telling me that I am here to take a stand. I am here to stand between. At times I stand between the traps and pitfalls of Satan and lost souls or blind Christians. Other times I must stand between the wrath of God and the people that He has called me to lead.

“Why am I here?” I am here to take a stand. To be honest, sometimes I want to sit. Other times I want to just go to sleep. Then there are those times when I want to run, and times when I want to disappear. Those are not options. When I do those things I am not worshiping Him. I must take a stand. Pray for me. Pray that when I have done everything to stand – I will keep on standing. That’s why I am here. What about you?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Flaming Rock From Arkansas Lands In Indiana

Last week the small midwestern town of Greencastle, Indiana was shaken by the arrival of a strange phenomenon from Arkansas. This small town will no doubt never be the same again! For those with spiritual ears to hear what God has in store for his house, a sonic boom could be heard. Seeing the tremendous value of this phenomenon that has come to be known as 'JIA', I quickly found a secure location deep in the inner recesses of one of our hollowed domes to serve as a laboratory in which this phenomenon from Arkansas could morph into even great things. The results have been truly amazing! This new arrival promises to help missio dei become a reality in my life.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Sister

Four years ago at this very moment I was sitting at this very desk when I received the most painful phone call of my life. I listened as the voice on the other end told me that my sister had been killed in a car crash. At that moment everything changed.

I remember walking out of my office to find my dad that was busy working elsewhere in the building. How do you tell a father that his daughter is dead? I’m sure I did a very poor job of it. Two other sisters, her mother, and Becky’s four children would have to be told by somebody that day that they had lost something precious. I’m glad that I was spared that responsibility. One responsibility, however, I was not spared – I had to tell her husband. I’ll never forget that day. I drove to Plainfield where he worked to break the news. I remember the surprise on his face when he saw me pull up when he exited the building. I remember it changing from joy to see me to worry when he saw the police car in the lot as well. There is no good way to break such sorrowful news. He collapsed in my arms and we wept on the sidewalk together. I drove him home that day to comfort his four children. What a horrible drive.

Life will never be the same without Becky. Everything has changed. I miss her today. I’m sure that I don’t miss her as much as her kids, her husband, her mom, or her dad, but I miss her none the less. Pray for my family today.