Saturday, December 30, 2006

Where the Treasure Lies...

Over the past few weeks I have endeavored to find the mind of God for myself personally, for the church that I Pastor (Oak Park Church), and for my city. My goal is to set a vision for 2007.

As I contemplated the coming year and what the focus needed to be, a simple but powerful question crept into my mind. Where does the answer for my life, the church and my city lie? Where does true treasure lie? Then the equally powerful answer reverberated through my being..."In His Presence."

His presence, of course, that is where everything becomes clearer, where the power flows, and where His direction can be found. Nothing but truth can stand in His presence. The seemly important things evaporate in His presence. The frivolous things vanish in His glory. The right things stand at attention. The light of His presence illuminates the correct path.

The old song says, "turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full into to His wonderful face and things of this world will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace."

In His presence there is...

1. Peace
2. Hope
3. Forgiveness
4. Reconciliation
5. Fullness of Joy
6. Pleasures for evermore
7. Clear vision

David knew where to find this precious treasure and never forgot where it was found. During every struggle of David's life he ran, crawled, even pleaded his way into the presence of God.

When the enemy spoiled their camp and their families, David fell into God's presence and found strength, courage and direction.

When David committed adultery and the Prophet Nathan stuck his finger in his face and said "thou art the man," what did David do? Did he plead for his throne, his palace or his possessions? No, David said, "take not thy Holy Spirit from me!"

When David looked around and saw the prosperity of the wicked and he almost fell...what did he do? He went to the house of God and their he saw their end and his reward. Everything was clearer in God's presence.

David knew where to find the treasure.

Therefore, in the year 2007 let us plan, schedule, advertise and organize like never before. However, let us also endeavor to spend more time in His presence. In His presence, He will sustain us, direct us, chasten us, and empower us...

That is where the treasure lies...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

It's a Wonderful Life

Well, it's Christmas! Christmas is a time for shopping, eating, giving gifts, getting gifts and of course "It's a Wonderful Life," Frank Capra's master piece Christmas movie about George Bailey.

George Bailey, the smartest and most loyal guy in town, thinks he has lost everything when money from the building and loan comes up missing. Even though he spent his life sacrificing his desires so that others could realize their dreams, he felt like a failure. He thinks of killing himself, when an angel, Clarence, arrives to save his life.

Of course, I am not telling most of you anything you did not already know.

However, the story continues as the angel gives George the gift of seeing how the world of Bedford Falls and it's inhabitance would have been if he had never been born. Without him the whole town changes. Everyone is negatively effected by his absence. Nothing is the way that it should be.

As I thought of this, my mind went in two directions. First, what effect would my absence have on my world? Secondly, how can I live my life that it will have the maximum impact?

I believe that each and everyone of us makes an impact on our world. The life that we live and the message that we carry, truly is effective in the lives of those we touch.

Jesus stepped into a world that was in chaos. His life changed the course of history. Nothing has been the same since. The cultural, political, and social landscape has been eternally altered.

Through His power; By His strength; With His Word, we too can effectively change the landscape of our world; Our cities; Peoples lives; The climate of our churches.

First, be encouraged, you are making a bigger impact than you think. Your life and your calling are significant in God's plan.

Second, make this coming year a year of influence. Pour yourself into others as did George Bailey. Pour yourself into your church. Pour yourself in to your city.

George gave away and used up his finances, his friendship, his talent and loyalty...everything he had. Yet, in the end they called him, "the richest man in town."

Give yourself. Give it all. The effect will result in eternal dividends and endless reward.

Hanging in the "Bailey Building and Loan" offices there was a picture that said, "The Only Thing You Can Take With You Are the Things that You Give Away."

Living totally sold out to God..."It's a Wonderful Life!"

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Good Luck on the Island

Our culture teaches us that we must be strong. We must be self-sufficient. Survival of the fittest; kill or be killed; show weakness and die.

The sad fact is that not only our secular culture pushes these false ideals, but many times the culture of the church pushes these same misconceptions.

I just got off of the phone with a friend that has been going through a tough time in his ministry. At times, he has felt that he had no one to turn to; like he was on an island with no one to rescue he and his family. He is not alone. There are countless leaders and their wives that, no doubt, feel this same way.

Sometimes we set sail for islands on our own, because we feel that we can not trust others. Maybe we have been legitimately been hurt, misused, or abused. Using these numerous and possibly legitimate excuses we set sail in our ship, the USS Bitterness, with guns ready and our defenses at high alert.

Other times we find ourselves washed up on the shore, ship wrecked on an island with no fault of our own. The storms of life have isolated us. We can not find an anchor.

Either circumstance can happen to anyone of us if we allow ourselves to drift away from others. Therefore, we must take a risk...reach out...cry out! We need others.

Also, we who are not struggling at this time, must be on the lookout. We must be attentive to the needs and hurts of the people around us. Leadership is a lonely place. We who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak (Rom 15:1). Ready the rope; check the life preserver; maintain the ready!

One day it maybe you stuck on an island.

Look around today. Do you see a home missionary, neighboring pastor, a lonely evangelist struggling? Take him to dinner. See if you can encourage him.

The life you save may be your own!

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006

Less Desirable Packages

Last night my wife and I sat at the dinner table wrapping Christmas gifts as the sweet sounds of Christmas music drifted through the air.

My lovely wife had purchased several different kinds of wrapping paper. Different colors, textures, and patterns but each was beautiful in their own unique way. When we finished I sat back and admired our handy work. The packages were beautiful.

I began to reflect on the things of life. Many times we receive beautiful packages. When they are placed in our hands our heart fills with expectation. The paper shimmers and gleams as if to say “there is a great gift inside.” Anticipation raises our awareness. We rip off the wrapping searching for the treasure inside. Desirable Packages!

However, there are times in life when things are not as they seem. As my pastor loves to say, “Sometimes the greatest gifts come wrapped in less desirable packages.” At times, things come along in our lives that do not look very appetizing. These “gifts” do not catch our eyes. They do not fill us with anticipation. In fact, just the opposite, they fill us with trepidation.

Some of the greatest times of blessing in my life have been, at first glance, undesirable. These things came wrapped in the undesirable trappings of trials, storms, wilderness experiences, and temptation. When these were placed into my hands I took them reluctantly, almost begrudgingly. My heart wanted to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Yet, as I look back at these less desirable packages, I see them differently. As the wrapping was unfolding in my life I see beauty; relationship; provision; strength; mercy; correction; love.

The very things that I saw as painful, I now see as blessing. Less Desirable Packages!

Therefore, do not judge the gift by the wrapping. Trust God! He is your father. He is a master at giving good gifts.

He may wrap them differently. They may be cloaked in pain, uncertainty, even grief, yet you can trust that when everything is revealed, you will have a treasure to hold.

God gives the best gifts wrapped in Less Desirable Packages!

Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

1 Pet 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Greater than the Sum!

The Church is more than an institution. It is more than a group of people. It is more than a building. It is more than a series of services. It is more than an organization.

The Church is a living, breathing organism. The Church’s breathe is the Holy Ghost. The Church’s body is made up of millions of blood bought, Holy Ghost filled saints. The Church’s cloak is one of righteousness. The Church’s authority is in the Name of Jesus. The Church’s foundation is a Rock that can not be moved.

The Church is greater than the sum of its parts.

Many times, we as the church, we look at ourselves as a minority. We see ourselves as small and without influence. We look at our local congregation and we are intimidated by the small percentage of our city that we pastor.

Yet, we are more than the sum of our parts. As one can put a 1000 to flight and 2 can put 10,000 to flight, so is the church more powerful than our collective numbers.

The gates of hell cannot with stand our force. The enemy cannot destroy us. Our culture cannot ignore us. The media cannot shame us into compliance.

The Church is powerful. The Church is effective. The Church is salt…a preservative. The Church is light…a piercing sword cutting through the darkness.

Lift up your head and know that we are the bride of Christ. We have his favor. We have His power. We are called for His purpose.

Move forward into revival without fear or intimidation.

The Church is greater than the sum of it's parts!

Saturday, December 9, 2006

I'll Be Home...

Home...What a warm and fulfilling word.

Anyone can build a house. However, a home is another story. Homes take effort, patience, love, forgiveness, and careful planning to create. Home is a place of the familiar. It is a comfortable place. No matter how small and simple or how large and opulent the structure, there truly is no place like home.

I am blessed to have more than one home. Here in Richmond, Indiana my home is modest yet warm and inviting. When I walk through these doors there is a peaceful rest that settles over me. It is my sanctuary from the cares of life. I can let down my defenses without fear. I can sprawl by the fire, read in my chair, cuddle with my children and hold my lovely wife. aaaaahhhh...home! Thank you Lord!

I have another home. It is 1000 miles away. I will go back there for Christmas. I still have a key to the back door, and "back door guest are best." When I walk in there I am home again. My room has been transformed into a "guest" room but I do not feel like a guest. As I enter, I get that same "at home" feeling that I get when I walk into my own home. Peace, acceptance, and love overshadow me. It is a familiar place. I raid the refrigerator and the pantry. I sample the culinary delights before they are quite ready for the table. I kid my sweet mother about not burning the bread, again. aaaaahhh...home! Thank you Lord.

I have yet another home. This home I have never been to. I have never had the pleasure of entering through it's gates. I have felt it's draw. I have sensed it's atmosphere. I have smelled it's sweet aroma. Heaven! Though, I have never been there, somehow, I know that when I enter in there that it will not feel foreign to me.

It will be like coming home. Even with all the glorious sites to see and it's unimaginable beauty, it will be a familiar place...I'll be home! My defenses will fall. My fears released. Peace, acceptance, and love will fold around me. My spirit will confirm that this is the place that I have always longed to be. aaaaahhh...home...finally! Praise the Lord!

During this time of year when we go back home for the holidays...let us remember that "this world is not our home...we're just-a-passin through."

Keeping Heaven in view! aaaaahhhh...home!

Thursday, December 7, 2006

The Inn Keeper Syndrome

Joseph and Mary came to Bethlehem to be counted at the mandate of the government. They were frantically looking for a place to stay. Mary was going into labor. No doubt, the pains were growing close together.

They arrived at the Inn and knocked on the door. The Inn Keeper was honest with them. I do not believe that he was mean; he just told them the truth, "there is no room in the Inn."

His life was filled to capacity.

As an after thought, He made a place for them in the barn. Joseph, Mary and eventually Jesus was pushed to the back...they received the last available accommodation that the Inn Keeper had left.

We lament and look down our collective noses at the Inn Keeper..."How dare you! Do you not know who you are turning away?"

However, the Inn Keeper did not know who he was turning away...He had no idea...

Yet, we condemn him to an infamous status.

Are we not as guilty as he? In fact, I would propose that we are more guilty.

We know who we are serving. We know what he has done and what He can do. Yet, we push Him to the back of our lives so often.

So many times we have the Inn Keeper Syndrome. Our lives are filled to capacity. Comfort, pleasure, work, play, and the seemingly important soothes our hunger for God. These things fill us and occupy us so much until God becomes an after thought.

We push Him to the barn of our lives. He inhabits the fringes of our consciousness. Simply an after thought.

Let us empty ourselves. Let us wet our appetite for God. He must be our priority.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst...

The Inn Keeper Syndrome...

Rev 3:15-17
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

The Cure...

Ps 34:8
8 O taste and see that the LORD is good:

Matt 5:6
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

3 Christmas Gifts

There are many things that we can learn from these wise kings. These nuggets are like gifts...treasures...principles that we can hold and install in our lives. Let us look in to their lives and motivations.

  • The first principle that they brought us is the gift of Watchfulness.

These men were paying attention. They were diligently reading the signs of the times. As they gazed into the night sky studying the familiar, they saw an anomaly. What seemed to be a star. It seemed to be out of line...out of place. However it happened, one of them broached the thought...may be it's a sign. Through diligent study and spiritual perception they determined that it must be a sign of the birth of "the King of the Jews."

Oh, that we could be so sensitive to the subtle changes in our spiritual environment. As we go through our lives let us endeavor to perceive the motion, motive, and majesty of our King.

Let us be Watchful.

Mark 13:35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: 36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

  • The second principle that they brought us is the Gift of Commitment.

These men of wisdom, comfort, and wealth, left the comfort of their kingdoms and set out for a long journey. This type of journey was not easily taken. It was fraught with difficulty and danger. However, in spite of the hardship they committed to find this new born king.

They committed to seek the King, to endure the hardship, and to pay the price.

We would be wise to commit our lives to seeking the King; Commit to endure; Resolve to pay any price to find Him.

Let us be Committed.

2 Tim 1:12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

James 5:11 Behold, we count them happy which endure.

  • The third principle that they gave us was the Gift of Value.

These men placed a high value on things that are truly valuable. They valued worshiping the King greater than their own comfort. They laid aside their own agenda to seek the Lord. They laid aside other temporal pursuits so that they could follow after the eternal.
If we would value the eternal more than the temporal we would be in awe of his majesty, his mercy, and his might.

Let us place the proper Value on the things of the Spirit.

Matt 13:45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

Matt 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Wise men are watchful, committed, and have a proper perspective of the things of value in this life.

Let us be wise and cherish these three gifts this Christmas Holiday Season.

Friday, December 1, 2006

A Defining Moment

“When a defining moment comes along, you can do one of two things. Define the moment, or let the moment define you.” Author unknown

There are defining moments in our life. These are opportunities disguised as trials, obstacles, road blocks, sickness or adversity. These moments can cause us to cower in defeat or they can propel us to great victory.

We must refuse to allow, our circumstance, our weakness, our limitation or even our past, to define us.

The seed that grows in a perfect environment does not have the hardiness to endure the scorching sun, the turbulent winds, or the devastating drought. However, a seed that pushes its way through the rocky soil, withstands the winds of adversity, and thrives in spite of the elements, will survive and will stand strong for years to come.

Our response to adversity will define us.

Let us take out our pen of faith and begin to write on the tablets of history. Let us define ourselves as faithful; strong; committed; compassionate; determined. We are more than conquerors. We are over comers.

We refuse to allow our circumstance to hold us back from fulfilling our destiny.

God has called. God has empowered.

We will reap the harvest of souls. We will turn our city upside down. We will have revival. We will have a great victory.

We have an “Audacious destiny!” (D. G. Hargrove)

Today is a defining moment for the church...let us write a story of victory!

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