Posts Tagged gospel
Today was an exciting and emotional day for me. Almost three years ago the dream and planning for Second Mile Church was born. Today was the final worship gathering for Second Mile Church at Perry High School as we are moving next Sunday into our own full-time facility at 8743 E Pecos Rd and officially becoming Redemption Church Gateway.
I snapped this picture on my way in to church today and remembered that this would be the last time I would see this sign out:
We had a great worship service together, which concluded with singing “You Have Done Great Things.” What an appropriate end to the gathering and to this season of ministry.
Afterwards, a few dozen of our faithful “make it happen” crew took the trailer over to the new building and began to unload some of our equipment. We had a great time working and anticipating what God will do.
Next week our location changes and our name changes. But our God doesn’t change, his glorious gospel doesn’t change, and the wonderful opportunity we have to represent his Son doesn’t change. It’s been a wonderful season, and the best is still to come. Thanks to so many of you for your prayers, support, service, and work over these last few years. I am eternally grateful.
Want to make a difference for those who are guests on Sunday? Here’s a very simple way: Show up early.
As a pastor, I’m at our gathering location early every week. And I’ve noticed that, at least at our church, only 3 kinds of people show up early (at least 10 minutes before):
- Older people
- New people
Older people are just respectful and are basically not in a hurry, ex-cons have been subconsciously trained that if they don’t show up early they don’t eat, and new people are there because they didn’t want to show up late and get embarrassed.
When these guests arrive, wouldn’t it be great if there were a bunch of genuinely joyful people there, excited about the chance to be together and celebrate Jesus? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were loving, devoted Christ-followers ready to strike up a conversation or say hello?
If you were a guest, that’s what you’d want. And all it takes is showing up early.
I know, I know…it takes kids forever to get moving in the morning, especially when you want them to hurry. But they do it for school and you do it for work. Why? Because showing up early to those things is important to you. Shouldn’t the opportunity to love on guests to our church (people who are likely exploring the faith) be just as important?
There is low-hanging gospel fruit and ministry every week for those who will take it. So join me, your pastors and the band and come love on some new people!
Our mission to take the gospel to people and make disciples is definitely not limited to what we do on Sunday — it happens all the time, everywhere we go. But it should also be happening at the Sunday gathering. If we can’t do it well there, we’ll have a hard time doing it elsewhere. Everything we do when we gather is a chance to communicate the beauty of Christ.
Hell is real, and Hell matters.
If this were not the case, then the recent controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, is totally ridiculous (click here for Pastor Jake Johnson’s helpful review of Bell’s book). But Hell truly does matter—and not for just theological reasons, but practical ones also. Believing that Hell is real should impact your life.
So, here are four practical ways that believing in Hell should affect your life here on Earth:
1. It should give you greater love for what Jesus accomplished on the cross
Jesus did not die merely to save you from feeling bad about your unfulfilling life. He died to save you from his Father’s wrath against sin and then bring you into a relationship with him that could never be broken.
One of Hell’s greatest horrors is being cast away “from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his might” (2 Thess 1:9). If everything good and perfect comes from God (James 1:17), then to be shut out from his presence means solitary eternity without good—nobody to laugh with, nothing beautiful to admire, nobody to sympathize with your pain, no taste of food or drink, and no longing for friendship fulfilled.
In contrast, Jesus’ death accomplished eternal life—and all that goes with it: friendship (with God himself), camaraderie, singing, eating, drinking, working, delighting, laughing, and rejoicing—all centered and focused around Jesus and what he won for you. This new life with God begins now, and you should enjoy it.
2. It should give you a greater appreciation for what Jesus experienced on the cross
Jesus’s death on the cross was violent and awful. It was torture. But it was torture for two criminals next to him as well. What made Jesus’s crucifixion truly hellish was that he was experiencing separation from his Father—a taste of Hell. Let’s be clear: Jesus did not go to Hell when he died to suffer more there (he told the repentant thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise”). But Jesus’s suffering on the cross was a taste of the agony of Hell. The weight and guilt of sin crushing down on him while his Father turned his face away. The Savior you treasure has tasted Hell for you.
3. It should remind you that even the smallest of sins sent Jesus to the cross
Jesus mentions Hell twelve times in the Gospels. A number of these times warn of the seriousness of sin. In Matthew 5:22, Jesus declares that it’s not just murderers who deserve Hell, but those who angrily say to a friend “You fool!” One of the major themes of Jesus’ teaching on Hell—appearing five times (Matt 5:30, 18:9; Mark 9:43, 45, 47)—is that sin is so serious that it would be better to lose a body part causing you to sin than to keep it and go to Hell. Thus, Hell instructs us to fight sin with an amputation-level seriousness.
4. It should propel you into conversations about Jesus’s cross
The Bible says that those who reject Jesus will “perish” (John 3:16) and that “the wrath of God remains” on those who do not obey him (John 3:36). In other words, the stakes are high. People need to hear the good news about Jesus’s saving death. If you believe that being with Jesus is the most delightful thing you could experience and that those without him will experience a solitary eternity of misery apart from him, then you must offer the only hope—the cross of Jesus Christ. To say you believe in Hell but don’t ever talk about Jesus with those who are going there is, at best, inconsistent hypocrisy and, at worst, hate-filled indifference. This is why even Penn Jillette, a committed atheist, can applaud a Christian for genuinely sharing Jesus and ask, “How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
Do you believe in Hell? If so, then let it transform the way you adore Jesus, the way you fight disobedience to Jesus, and the way you talk about Jesus.
What are some other practical reasons that Hell matters? What would you add?
This past Sunday we talked about the values of Proclamation and Demonstration — the idea that Jesus talked about the good news of his Kingdom and also did actions that proved his love.
I joyfully borrowed from Andy Stanley’s principle, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” It’s a helpful principle, especially in light of how many overwhelming needs there are in our cities and communities.
I’d encourage you to watch a recent message that Stanley gave on this entitled, “One, Not Everyone.” In particular, don’t miss his personal story of how he has seen this principle work out in a very powerful way (starts around the 20:00 mark).
Justin Anderson is one of the lead pastors at Redemption Church, and he was kind to spend some time last night with our leaders at our monthly “2nd Tuesday” gathering. Training leaders is a high priority for us as a church, and Justin’s words were great things for us to hear. I had asked him to speak on the topic, “How to Accidentally Screw Up Your Ministry.” Unfortunately we didn’t have the audio equipment available to record his talk, but here’s a summary of what we learned.
Foundational Principle — Grace Leads to Action
In Ephesians 2:8-10, we learn that we are absolutely dependent on God’s grace. We are saved by God’s grace, period. But this always leads to action always follows from true grace. If you don’t think God loves you by grace, you miss the gospel. If you don’t act as a result of the grace you’ve received, you misunderstand the power of the gospel.
How to Accidentally Screw Up Your Ministry
1. Use guilt, shame, or moralism to motivate people. While guilting people into action is always easier and has power to produce results, it produces only short-term results. The gospel motivates by grace, love, and a compelling vision for the future. So should we. There are times when we need to administer a “kick in the pants” to those we love, but we should not make guilt our de-facto motivator.
2. Stay off mission. Many leaders convince themselves and their people that they “aren’t ready” for mission or that they need to grow more first. The result is that they end up insulated in a Christian subculture that never contributes to the overall Kingdom of God.
3. Use your ministry to prop yourself up. It’s wonderful to receive compliments and encouragement, but if you are using your ministry to find your identity, you are an idolater. One of Justin’s former pastors said, “Compliments are like perfume. Smell them and you’ll be fine, but drink them and you’ll be sick.”
4. Don’t let your ministry get bigger than you. Many leaders put themselves at the center where nothing can happen without them. As a result, the ministry stifles and young leaders never develop their full potential.
5. Forget that your ministry is just a piece of the puzzle of the church. Because we love the ministry we do, it’s easy to see our ministry as the ultimate one. As a result, many leaders and ministries compete with each other rather than serve each other. Leaders are called to raise their sights above this and keep the big picture in mind.
6. Sacrifice your family or personal walk with God for the sake of ministry. If your life is screwed up, your ministry is screwed up. If you don’t pray or love your spouse because you are “doing ministry,” soon you will have no ministry to do and your life will be in shambles.
7. Lead negatively more than positively. Rather than being an encouraging coach who celebrates others’ wins and allows them to have a voice in their development, many leaders focus too much on what is broken and on telling others what to do.
8. Forget that there is nothing more important than knowing, loving, and experiencing Jesus. The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 3 that everything was rubbish compared to knowing Jesus. If we forget this, then our ministries–which should be designed to help people love Jesus–miss the mark.
9. Overspiritualize your ministry. These are leaders who pray but don’t plan. They talk but don’t do. This is a mistake. We should both pray and strategize.
10. Underspiritualize your ministry. These are leaders who plan and do but don’t pray. They over-value their creativity and resourcefulness and forget that they desperately need the Lord to guide them.
11. Forget that millions of Christians have come before you. Leaders are prone to have “new” ideas that aren’t really all that new and to convince themselves that their ideas are novel. But they aren’t. For example, in the 90s Bill Hybels talked about being “Contagious Christians” and now people talk about being “missional.” Many of our ideas are not new or novel (if they were it might be heresy), but are simply repackaged versions of things Christians have done for centuries. We would be wise to learn from them and humble ourselves.
Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, pp. 67-69, commenting on Mark 5:38-42:
Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.
Do you think it is odd that when Jesus arrives at Jairus’s house he says that the girl is just sleeping? The parallel account of this story in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels make it clear that Jesus understands she’s dead. She’s not mostly dead; she’s all dead. Then why does he make that reference to sleep?
The answer is in what Jesus does next.
Remember, Jesus sits down beside the girl, takes her by the hand, and says two things to her.
The first is talitha. Literally, it means “little girl,” but that does not get across the sense of what he’s saying. This is a pet name, a diminutive term of endearment. Since this is a diminutive that a mother would use with a little girl, probably the best translation is “honey.”
The second thing Jesus says to her is koum, which means “arise.” Not “be resurrected”: it just means “get up.” Jesus id doing exactly what this child’s parents might do on a sunny morning. He sits down, takes her hand, and says, “Honey, it’s time to get up.” And she does.
Jesus is facing facing the most implacable, inexorable enemy of the human race and such is his power that he holds this child by the hand and gently lifts her right up through it. “Honey, get up.”
Jesus is saying by his actions, “If I have you by the hand, death itself is nothing but sleep.” . . .
. . . There’s nothing more frightening for a little child than to lose the hand of the parent in a crowd or in the dark, but that is nothing compared with Jesus’s own loss.
He lost his Father’s hand on the cross.
He went into the tomb so we can be raised out of it.
He lost hold of his Father’s hand so we could know that once he has us by the hand, he will never, ever forsake us.
HT: Justin Taylor
One of my favorite parts of being in the Acts29 Network is the exposure and relationships that I have with some wonderful leaders. One of the VPs of Acts29 is Jeff Vanderstelt, one of the pastors at Soma Communities in Tacoma, Washington. He’s been out for a number of different training events with the Surge Network and other things, and every time he comes I’m challenged.
Here’s a brief video that summarizes one of Jeff’s core strengths — living on a gospel mission in community. Take a look and I’m sure this will challenge and stretch you.
How could you begin to live in similar ways with people in your life and/or Community Group?
Over the last few days, we’ve looked at the problem of fearing man and how this can change as we set our focus on fearing God instead. Can you imagine what would happen in your life if you could apply the gospel to this key area?
In his booklet, “Gospel Relationships,” Tim Chester describes two powerful things that take place when we start fearing God:
1. The fear of God sets us free to love people.
We are not free to love other people when we fear their rejection or crave their approval. We may speak of loving someone, but in reality we are using them to gain the affirmation that we crave. We may serve them, but in reality we are serving our need for affirmation. If they do not deliver that affirmation, then we respond with bitterness, depression or anger.
Consider a father who craves the respect of his children. When that respect is not forthcoming, he may discipline them out of anger or he may manipulate them through bribery. He is not serving their needs. He is motivated by his need for respect rather than selfless love for his children. As a result, his discipline may well be counter-productive. Imagine now that the fear of God relativises his desire for respect. The respect of his children is no longer determinative in the way he behaves towards them. As a result, he is free to discipline them in love according to their needs.
2. The fear of God sets us free to be ourselves.
When we fear other people, we act in whatever way we think will enable us to gain their approval or avoid their rejection. We are not free to behave as we want…We often fear other people because we fear exposure. I wear a mask to prevent people from discovering the real me. In God we have someone who knows us completely in all our need and sin. Yet still he accepts us and loves us. Confidence in the grace of God means we need not fear exposure and so we do not have to pretend. We can be ourselves.
Yesterday I posted 10 questions to help you discern whether you struggle with the fear of man. These are helpful ways to diagnose what is, for many people, a big spiritual problem. But what’s the antidote to this issue?
In his booklet “Gospel Relationships,” Tim Chester provides this answer:
The answer to the fear of man is the fear of God. We need a big view of God. To fear God is to respect, worship, trust and submit to God. To fear God is to have a proper appreciation of his holiness, majesty, glory, power, love and wrath. Christians can now call God our Father, and fear in the sense of ‘terror’ has been taken away…
…[We need] to meditate on God‘s glory, greatness, holiness, power, splendour, beauty, grace, mercy and love. Encourage them to compare the person(s) they fear with God. [We should] imagine that person next to God. Who is the most majestic? Who is the most loving? Who is the holiest? Who is the most beautiful? Who is the most threatening? Who is the biggest?
How would this perspective change your concerns about people’s approval?