Monday, May 31, 2010

Got Faith?

During my vacation, I have been thinking and praying about a couple of different "themes" that God seems to be pressing on my heart. One of those themes is the importance of faith.

In a few days, I will be fully immersed in another summer season of ministry with Sunshine. This will be my 9th summer of ministry with Sunshine! I am excited for it to begin. However, at the same time I am challenged by the thought/question of what I expect God to do this summer. I am convinced that He wants to do big things in us and through us. Sadly too often I limit His largeness. It is so easy to slide into what is comfortable, and to be content with small prayers and small results. I don't want that to be the case this summer. I want to seek Him for big Kingdom impacting things, and I want to serve Him with fervency and anticipation.

Sometimes I am guilty of looking at others who are in ministry and thinking "I wish I had that type of faith." Or I look at the believers in the book of Acts, and think wouldn't it be great if God did that today. The thing is, He still can. God has not changed. His Holy Spirit is still alive and active. The men and women and the Bible are no different than you and I. As Pastor Chan reminded me James 5:17 states, "Elijah was a man just like us." In "Crazy Love" Chan states, "As chronicled in Hebrews 11, the God that the people of faith served is the very One we serve." Later he adds, "When you pray, your prayers are heard by the same God who answered the Moses' prayer for water in the desert, the God who gave Abraham and his barren wife a son, and the God who made the slave Joseph second in power only to Pharaoh (pg 116)." Do I believe that? Do you?

I am also in a season/situation in my personal life where I am not in control. In other words, "my hands are tied." I have no choice but to trust God. There isn't another option. This is hard. This is stretching. The following words out of Francis Chan's "Crazy Love" really resonates with me. He states, "This place of trust isn't a comfortable place to be: in fact, it flies in the face of everything we've been taught about proper planning. We like finding refuge in what we have already rather than in what we hope God will provide." Whew! That is rocking me right now.

The Bible states in Hebrews 11:6 it states, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Seek To Show Hospitality

The next two Sundays I will be preaching a message on the topic of Biblical hospitality. Here is my sermon outline thus far. I have greatly enjoyed studying this mark of God's people. I covet your prayers as I share this message with God's people on the next two Sundays.

Seek To Show Hospitality
Romans 12:13 = Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

(1)The Meaning of Hospitality

Hospitality = Greek word = philoxenia = love of strangers

(2)The Mandate of Hospitality

Hospitality is to be a mark of both…
a) Church Leaders
• 1 Timothy 3:2
• Titus 1:7-8

b) Church Laypersons
• Hebrews 13:2
• 1 Peter 4:9

(3)The Motivation for Hospitality
a) His grace
• “God’s grace calls for gratefulness, and gratefulness calls for a welcome of the stranger.”

b) His example
• The Table Fellowship of Jesus

(4)The Metamorphosis of Hospitality
a) Missional Transformation

b) Personal Transformation

“The practice of hospitality is an alternative to a life focused on consumption and materialism. God lends us our homes and possessions to use for Kingdom purposes, not just for our own comfort and entertainment. Hospitality ensures that we maintain a right relationship with our possessions.”
David Anderson “Unleashing the Family” pg 427

“Hospitality must be relearned and activated if we are going to reach the nations in our cities.”
Dr. David Anderson in “Hospitality in the City” pg 243

“God’s mission in the city is much larger than seeking the transformation of the poor or strangers. His purpose is to transform all the people of the city, including the people of God. God brings us together in the city for mutual transformation. The Spirit is changing all of us into God’s likeness. This makes openness to change essential for the Christian who seeks involvement in ongoing transformation. Only in this state of embracing vulnerability and accepting change as a gift can a person begin to welcome others. The person who does not want to change cannot afford to welcome others.”
Mowry pg 118

Vision Trip

I just had the opportunity to spend 5 days with my Grandpa and Grandma Clark in Simi Valley CA. My grandpa is now 93 years old, and my grandma turned 85 this year. They have been married for 64 years!! The last few years, I have made it a point each spring to fly out an spend time with them (and my other family in Simi - love you guys!). I didn't really grow up near my dad's parents, so I have always looked forward to our yearly time together.

My grandparents met in church. My grandfather was serving a military term in England, and while there he visited various churches to preach and sing. On one particular outing he sung and preached at the church of a young Phyllis Joyner. She played the organ and he sang, and let's just say they caught one another's eye:) She would eventually move back to the states with my grandpa and they would serve in ministry together for over 4 decades. He pastored 4 different churches in Michigan. He was a passionate proclaimer of the Word of God (he did it with a sparkle in his eye), and each of his churches shared his passion for missions work. My grandma continued to play the organ, raised a family of three (including my dad), and blessed each congregation with her selfless love and intercessory prayer. My grandparents have never had much, but they have always had enough. They never owned a nice car. They never had an extravagant home. However, they would be quick to testify of God's faithful provision for them. One thing that has always been evident to me is that my grandparent's possess the joy of the LORD. They love the Lord, they love people, and they love to laugh.

My grandpa's health is declining now. His mind is still sharp (especially his Scripture knowledge), but his body is breaking down. It was honestly hard for me to see this up close this time. I realize it is a part of life though. In the midst of this, I was so blessed to see my grandparent's interaction with each other on this trip. My grandma now serves my grandpa each meal on his couch, as it is difficult for him to make it to the kitchen table. She makes sure that he takes his various medications (and she is stern with him when needed if he is stubborn). Each night she helps him get into bed, and tucks him in. There are also times where she has to help bathe him after a humiliating episode, and let him know that things are okay. My mom made a comment to my grandma about how challenging this must be. My grandma responded in her own cute way, "this is what we do, for better or for worse." As I sat watching TV with my grandpa the other day he told me, "God has blessed me with a great helpmate. I am blessed." As I listened to my grandma tuck him in last night he thanked her and said "God bless you."

64 years of marriage, 4 decades of active ministry service, 3 kids, 8 grandkids, and a growing number of great grandkids. They also have numerous ministry relationships that span many years and geographic locations. My grandparents have lived for Christ and they have lived for others, and God has been so faithful to them. I continue to take note of their life. I too desire to have a best friend, a teammate in ministry and family (keep praying y'all, I'm getting closer:)). I also aspire, by God's grace, to have their enduring joy in the Lord and faithfulness and longevity in service to the King. I am thankful for the example of my grandparents, and for this recent visit that proved to be a "vision trip" for me.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Beauty Of The Body

On Sunday April 25th I worshiped and preached at New Hope Church of SW Michigan in Lawton MI.

On Sunday May 2nd I worshiped and presented at Glorious Light Church in Chicago.

On Sunday May 9th I worshiped and celebrated Mother's Day with my mom at Lawton Evangelical Mennonite Church in Lawton, MI.

On Sunday May 16th I returned to worship at my home church in Chicago, Christ Bible Church.

Tomorrow (while on vacation in California) I will worship at Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley California.

Next Sunday (May 30th) I will be worshiping and preaching at Living Hope Neighborhood Church in Richmond, California.

Sunday June 6th I will be worshiping and preaching at City Lights Assembly in Chicago.

All of these churches are very unique. I love all of them! Some of the churches that I mentioned above are predominately white and some are predominately black. One of the churches is a multi-cultural church plant, and one was planted by a Nigerian missionary. Each of them are seeking to make a "glocal impact" - meaning they are committed to reach their neighborhood and the nations. Each worship service is different (different songs, different styles, different service lengths, etc.). Individually and collectively they are a beautiful picture of the body of Christ.

I am thankful for this 7 week journey and for the opportunity to celebrate Christ with my brothers and sisters at these different assemblies. It is a beautiful thing to realize that amidst our differences we are all One underneath the banner of Christ.

Some day I want to get all of the above churches in one arena for a joint worship service! Wouldn't that be crazy? Wouldn't that be beautiful?

Playing It Safe?

I am re-reading Francis Chan's "Crazy Love." It is a book that God has used to challenge me greatly, to examine my love for Christ, to re-think generous giving, to continuously check my comfort level as I follow Christ. I was reminded of this youtube clip of Pastor Chan in which he likens many of our lifestyles for Christ as "straddling a balance beam." I think, especially given our American Dream influenced Christian culture that we live in, this clip is a good challenge to self-examine whether or not we are playing it safe.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Something Was Missing

I recently attended a 3 day preaching workshop at a church in the west suburbs of Chicago. It was a gathering of pastors and ministry workers from all different denominations and churches. Some of the men were from the Chicago area, and some had travelled quite a ways to get there. The main sessions were excellent! The breakout sessions were very helpful and engaging. Overall, I had a great experience at the training and learned some valuable tools that I can implement in my own preaching and teaching. However, something bothered me each day I was there and as I drove away from the training on that Friday.

Here is what bothered me. This was a meeting of multiple church leaders from various denominations. This was a conference located just outside of a large metropolitan area (a metropolitan area that is racially and culturally diverse). However, the conference attendees were 95% white and all of the main session speakers were white. The worship was VERY white.

If this conference was in an area that is predominately white, then fine. If this conference was for a certain denomination that is predominately white, then fine. This was not the case though.

Right now the world is becoming increasingly urban, and cities are becoming increasingly multi-cultural. The Church is growing rapidly in South America and Africa. In the US, although it is reported that the church is dying, ethnic congregations are growing (check out the book The Next Evangelicalism if you don't believe me). Given these current realities, I don't think we should ever settle for homogeneous gatherings - especially interdenominational gatherings in metropolitan areas. It is an incomplete picture of the body. We miss out on opportunities to learn form one another and to celebrate our cultural differences and our unity in Christ.

As John Piper states, "Christ died for a diverse bride." Just look at Revelation 5 and Revelation 7 at the beautiful scene of Christ's multi-ethnic bride worshiping together in heaven. If this is God's heart, should it not be ours?!

As the Church in this generation we must care about this! As the Church in this generation we must God to allign our hearts with His "All-Nations" perspective and "All-Nations" compassion.

I don't write this post to bash the conference I attended. If fact, in a loving way, I wrote a smaller version of the above post on my evaluation. I just want Christ's bride to make Him look good. This is an area where I pray that the Church in this generation will rise to the occasion. Let's be learners, and let's be lovers of all nations.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Returning To The Blogosphere!

I haven't done an update in a minute. I have been busy, as we have finished the school year. However, I do have several "blogs in the hopper." They will be forthcoming. I am heading to California today, and it is going to give me a lot of much needed time to pray, rest, reflect, journal/blog, etc. I thought I would share this short 1 Minute Sermon that is worth checking out. Enjoy!