I gotta fever and the only prescription is more JOY!

I gotta fever and the only prescription is more JOY!

The following originated from an email I sent to my fellow team members at Christ Chapel on January 8, 2018.

Good morning team,

On December 31st, I set about my morning bible reading asking the Lord to give me a passage of scripture for the new year. Up to this point, I had been journeying through the Psalms. At eventide of 2017, my foot set upon the golden shores of Psalm 16.

As I considered the entirety of this magnificent passage, I discovered a treasure I could hold in my heart at dawn of a new year…

 

“In your presence there is fullness of JOY.” (Psalm 16:11)

 

Unbeknownst to me, Pastor Ted Kitchens would announce on Sunday that the staff’s “theme” for 2018 would be ‘JOY’!

I too thirst for Joy! We all do. It’s been tough and trying year for many of us, and the only prescription is more Joy!

As I studied Psalm 16 again today, I couldn’t help but reflect on Jesus’s words in John 15: 1-11 (the True Vine). I encourage you to set both passages side by side and ponder them. One can’t help but be awe struck by how God has woven his word together. So, I pulled a couple threads I hope will encourage your heart as we embark on our voyage this new year.

Where do we begin?
Begin with the end in mind: Joy!

“in your presence there is fullness of Joy….” – Psalm 16
“that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full (or complete).” – John 15

How do we find this ‘Joy’?
Set the Lord before and abide in Him – the Vine

“I have set the Lord always before me…” – Psalm 16
“Abide in me (Christ)….” – John 15

By intentionally yielding our will in humble obedience, we enthrone Christ in our hearts to rule and reign. In turn, we yield fruit (which brings the believer Joy to the Father’s delight!). We are running to our Father shouting, “Father, father, look! Look at this beautiful fruit that you planted in my garden!” And the delight of the Father’s smile begets Joy in the hearts of his beloved children.

Can we find Joy apart from Christ?
The answer is ‘no’.

“I have no good apart from you.” – Psalm 16
“apart from me (Christ), you can do nothing” – John 15

So, Where do we end?
End with the beginning in mind: Joy!

Everyday – “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord’… in your presence there is fullness of JOY!” (Psalm 16)

Who’s Joy?
His Joy… our fullness of Joy!


Read previous post: Pondering Glory – For on this world the Creator has stood

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Pondering Glory – For on this world the Creator has stood

Pondering Glory – For on this world the Creator has stood

Originally posted in December 2016

I have been reading Charles H. Spurgeon’s (1834-1892) collection ‘Christ’s Glorious Achievements’. Last night I awoke around 2am unable to sleep. So, I quietly made my way to my study and decided to read a few pages of Spurgeon’s book. My hope was that I would become sleepy again and wonder back to bed. I eventually did. But it was not until God put an impression on my heart and mind that I wanted to share with you.

I won’t go into details but 2016 has been a trying year for me. It has been a year of transformation and refining. As I wrote a few days ago, there has been grief around the passing of my father. Thank you for your love and support.

 

Today, I want to shift the gears from Grief to Glory.

My prayer for this Christmas is for the Lord to deepen the meaning and allow me and my family to experience His presence in a special way.

Below are two verses I’ve pondered many times in the past. However, this morning, I have treasured them in my heart. And now, I hold them out for your consideration.

“And, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14a)
“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

The first verse states the Incarnation of Christ, Immanuel – God with us. The second verse states His mission then and now.

Consider the words of Spurgeon:

“You have often thought of it, but have you ever worked your mind into the very heart of it – that God has actually visited the world in human form – that he before angels bow has actually been here, in fashion like ourselves, feeding the hungry crowds of Palestine, healing their sick, and raising their dead?

 

I know not what may be the peculiar boast of other planets, but this poor star cannot be excelled, for on this world the Creator has stood. The earth has been trodden by the feet of God, and yet it was not crushed beneath the mighty burden, because he deigned to link his Deity with our humanity.

 

The incarnation is a wonder of wonders, but it does not belong to the realm of the imagination, or even expectation, for it has actually been beheld by mortal eyes…

 

From Bethlehem to Calvary he has traversed life’s pilgrimage. Thirty years of more yonder canopy of sky hung above the head of Deity in human form… for a thousand joys lie close compacted in the word ‘Immanuel’ – God with us, ‘The son of man is come.’”

Now imagine the power and humility involved with such an act of grace. Would you trade your home, comforts and lifestyle to be born into a shanty town to a poor family – from a people ridiculed by the world only to die for those who hurled insults at you? I wouldn’t.

Christ is come and Christ remains. Why?

To seek and save the LOST.

Spurgeon said, “Proud men do not like us the preach this truth.” I completely agree with him as a man of former pride in being lost. Are you too proud to consider yourself as ‘lost’? By ‘Lost’ I mean the depraved condition of your being, your thought patterns, your selfish motives, habits and addictions, secret envy and hatred toward good – maybe you attempt to exist under a shiny veneer of ‘imaginary holiness’ or comparison to others who overtly behave worse than you. Only God’s spirit can make you understand you are in fact ‘lost’. Otherwise, we all continue being lost in our lostness and without hope. We are like blind men grappling in darkness on the edge of the abyss we refuse to acknowledge exists.

But, think of it. “God with us.” God is come in the humble form of an infant babe whose mission in life and death is to seek and save the lost. Our finite minds cannot fathom the depths of this grace. But, dead men see the light and He makes them live. Everyday for 2000 years, the lost have been found. As the Lamb of God trods the pathways of time, do you feel the earth tremble beneath His glorious steps?

For on this world the Creator has stood… “and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

No human could possibly contrive such a revelation of a personal God condescending to his creation to save it, thus revealing his ultimate Glory.

Merry Christmas!


Read previous post: Blurry Lights – Grief and the Holidays

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Blurry Lights – Grief and the Holidays

Blurry Lights – Grief and the Holidays

I have been keeping a journal for nearly ten years, and every year at the end of December, I have a tradition of reading through the previous year’s entries. Sometimes, I get lost in the pages of my own writings and I am swept back in time.

On the morning of February 5, 2016 I journaled a prayer for my dad’s ‘routine’ gall bladder surgery later that morning. He had been experiencing a great deal of pain.

My prayer: “Lord, I pray that you would use this trial in his life to draw him closer to you … bring him out of this a changed man.”

 

That morning, I was reading Psalm 36 as my devotional. The theme of this Psalm is God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:7-9)

There is a huge difference between knowing the meaning of a passage in your head and understanding it in your heart.

Shortly before noon on February 5th, I entered the crucible with my family. The surgeon walked into the waiting room with a file folder in his hand. He seemed to be a bit young to be a surgeon of his caliber. But, I brushed that aside remembering that I’m older than I think. The doctor sat down next to my step-mom and began to speak. The surgery was a success and dad’s gall bladder was removed. The doctor opened the file folder. Inside it were hi-res photos. Then the words came, “Jim has cancer.

58 days later on Saturday April 3 at 9:33 p.m., after indescribable suffering, my father succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Poppa was surrounded by his family when he drew his last breath of Texas air and woke up in eternity a changed man. The words of the old hymn “Finally Home” washed over me and gave me comfort.

“But just think of stepping on shore – And finding it Heaven!
Of touching a hand – And finding it God’s!
Of breathing new air – And finding it celestial!
Of waking up in glory- And finding it home!”

A couple days ago, I woke up early in the morning as is my habit. I turned on the lights on our Christmas tree in the dark room where it sits in a corner, lovingly decorated by our children. On this particular morning, the lights were blurry. A wave of grief ushered in my quiet time with God as tears had blurred my sight. I did not know the tears were there until I turned on the Christmas lights.

“In your light do we see light.”

I now understood the meaning of the passage in my heart.

This holiday season, there may be an empty chair at your dinner table. You may wake up early on Christmas morning to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to the one you love only to find them gone. There will be a void in life. There will be an embrace and a voice missing from the greetings and conversations. That distinct familiar laugh from the other room.
There will be blurry lights.

Therefore, take heart! It’s okay to grieve. To grieve is at the core of what it means to be human. Grief tells you that you have loved and been loved. It reminds you that you must truly live. Grief should point us to God as our help and comfort in this broken world. We can draw near to Him and to each other.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

 

In the light of God’s love, there is sufficient grace for me and you. In the midst of the storm and fog, there is a kindly light and peace to be experienced.

 

“The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings… in your light do we see light.”

Those who grieve can help the grieving. When the lights are blurry, remember many others experiencing the same thing. Do not allow the ministry of grief to be wasted. We who grieve have the privilege to come alongside those who are grieving. We do well to acknowledge and validate the pain yet lift each other up in love. God’s kindly light shines through the fog of pain and grief. The warmth of that light is felt in a loving touch, a nod of the head or a kind word of encouragement.

I’ll leave you with my closing words from dad’s memorial service. I pray it will minister to you if you are grieving and encourage you to be sensitive if you are not.

“It is part of the pathos of mortality that we only discover how dearly we love things after we have lost them.
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
It is the law of the cross, it is a sacrificial law.
“Christ gives rest to the heart by giving burdens to the shoulders. And, as a matter of fact, it is in being burdened that we usually find rest… Heavy luggage is a cure for weary hearts.” So, we must bear each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

F.W. Boreham

Lord, “in your light do we see light….” Even if the lights are blurry.

Originally posted December 14, 2016


Read previous post: Local Outreach: Philosophy of Ministry Part 1.

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Local Outreach: Philosophy of Ministry Part 1

Local Outreach: Philosophy of Ministry Part 1

Today, I am going to share the philosophy of ministry I have the privilege of leading.

Preface: This post begins a series intended to help other church leaders understand the way we do ministry within Local Outreach at Christ Chapel Bible Church. This is not the ‘only way’ but ‘one way’ to approach ministry. I’m not stating that there is one right way to do ministry. Context is important.  You will adapt ministry to serve in your context. We’ll get into some of the theology and why I believe every church should have a robust community outreach in later posts.  I have tried many things an failed and I’ve made plenty of mistakes.  My hope is that you will see this as a starting point on a journey.

There must be a philosophy of ministry undergirding mission; in this case, community outreach.

 

A bit of background:

I’ve been on staff at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth, Texas for three and a half years. Perviously, I was doing my own thing in the wealth management and insurance industries until I received a call from the executive pastor at my church. He was convinced that I was the next Local Outreach Pastor. After three months of wrestling, one early morning God made it crystal clear, he had called into full-time ministry. That said, I continue to have a deep appreciation for business done well and the entrepreneurial spirit. I love visiting with business owners and entrepreneurs. I believe that ministry could use more business acumen and business could use more ministry acumen.

The Local Outreach Ministry (I also refer to it as ‘Local Missions’) at Christ Chapel existed for decades before I took the helm in 2014. The ministry has grown and evolved as the church has grown from a couple dozen folks to nearly 7,000 attendees, two campuses and over 1500 folks streaming every Sunday.  A solid foundation had been laid by others prior to my arrival.  I am so thankful for their work.  It is a privilege to build upon it.  I pray that I pass the baton well.

We refer to Christ Chapel as a ‘church without walls’. This means we believe we must move out of the confines of church buildings and into the surrounding community to serve and share the love of Jesus Christ.

We believe that church staff exists ‘to equip the the saints for the work of the ministry…’ (Ephesian 4:12a). My role as Local Outreach Pastor is NOT to do everything myself. My role is to equip our people and give away the ministry. Then, I get behind lay-leaders (volunteers) and support them in their work.

One person is limited to he or she can accomplish in a day alone.

But, many ministry leaders work as if everything depends on them.  This form of ministry is exhausting and prideful. Little wonder pastors suffer from burnout and leave ministry. It’s unbiblical for one man or woman to do ALL the work. At the moment Jesus called his first disciple to ‘follow me’, he began giving away the ministry. Jesus provided the New Testament model and philosophy of ministry. We are called to give it away.

I was taught at an early age to surround myself with people who are smarter and have more talent than I have. You don’t have to know everything to lead. It’s a good thing if someone else has more passion for the poor or serving children or single moms than you do. It’s a good thing if someone knows more about homelessness or prison ministry than you do! God has placed those desires in their hearts and they have gifts you don’t have.

It is the pastor’s responsibility to celebrate that passion and talent and then provide opportunities for those people to express it.

In Genesis 2:19, God delegated responsibility and limited authority to man in naming things in the created world. God has been about giving it away since the beginning.

As pastors and leaders, we are not God. So, we can’t do everything ourselves. God has always modeled giving away (or delegating) responsibility and authority. So should we.


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Are you a person of peace?

Are you a person of peace?

There are two kinds of people in this world.

People of Peace and People of Strife.

The question we must ask ourselves is: ‘which one am I?’

Everyday, you have a choice as to which you will be.

Gut check questions:

  • Are you fascinated by strife and discord?
  • Do you become consumed and inflamed by conflict and violence?
  • Do the pattern of your thoughts reflect a thirst for forms of entertainment that portray strife, distrust, envy, violence and conflict?
  • Or, do strive and violence make you sick and sad to your core?

FW Boreham says strife has entered into and permeated every department of life.  It affects society in general. On every hand, in a million different forms- we meet rivalry, suspicion and distrust. We see class contending with class: the rich oppressing the poor; the poor breathing maledictions on the rich. Petty jealousy mars the sweetness of every friendship; it stultifies the efficiency of every organization; and, entering our very churches, it disturbs and destroys that abiding unity that should be their most conspicuous charm.” The seventh Beatitude extends an olive branch…. “Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God” One does not need to be a ‘Christian’ to understand Jesus’s teaching here. The peacemaker is a lover of peace and works to preserve peace. “The sounds of strife and discord are an agony to his spirit.” says Boreham. Like a rose exhaling it’s fragrance is an involuntary expression of its nature, the peacemaker exudes a spirit of peace without even realizing.

I challenge you to work to become a peacemaker.

  • Work not to offend others.
  • Work on not taking offense.
  • Work to extend an olive branch of peace to another (this is risky).

In order to change the climate of discourse, we must become people of peace (even when discord is the predominate noise).

God vs. the NSA – The ways of man cannot be hidden

God vs. the NSA – The ways of man cannot be hidden

Last night, I found myself reading about the Edward Snowden. He is the NSA guy who broke the news that the US Government has been gathering massive amounts of electronic data on US citizens. Snowden has currently found asylum in Russia. I find the unfolding story intriguing. Everything from phone calls and emails to text messages and other forms of private communication have been swept into NSA data bases. Suffice to say, the NSA knows a lot about millions of Americans. It got me to thinking this morning after reading Proverbs 8.

“For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He pondereth all his goings.” (Proverbs 8:18 KJV)

Not only are the actions and deeds of a man (or woman) known by God but, God knows a man’s thoughts and motives. Nothing can be hidden from God.

We are prone to hide anyway. Whether it is the tantalizing lustful fantasy or desire of a sexual nature or pride wrapped in the robes of radiant humility, ALL is known by God.

Perhaps its the good deed done in hopes of recognition by the world? ALL is known by God.

Only the regenerate, reborn, remade, redeemed heart can be pricked by the blade of the Holy Spirit; capturing and dragging the motivation in chains to the cross. This is where Christ puts it to death and renews a man’s spirit with His Grace and love.

The rebellious unregenerate heart will be ruled by passions and motivations.

In the final analysis, a man has a choice. He can remain in bondage to a cycle of base impulses like sex and self. Alternatively, he can capture his thoughts and put them to death and freedom is achieved.

What are the characteristics of the thoughts running through your mind?
The answer will reveal whether you are in bondage or freedom.

While you may be able to hide from the NSA, the ways of man cannot be hidden from God.  ALL is known by God.