Saturday, January 29, 2011

Neighborhood Block Party

The house that we have moved into is on the same street as my secretary and her husband. They have greatly modeled hospitality since we've arrived in Fort Myers. Across the street from them lives another couple who seek to live out Christianity in their home as well. They decided to have a neighborhood block party and asked us if we'd like to be involved. We jumped on the opportunity! Today, at 4:00 PM, we have invited several people from out street and the block surrounding us. As of Thursday morning we had 28 confirmed coming today. We are extremely excited about this opportunity.

Why are we doing this? It is common for churches to have some sort of block party, but it seems less common (rare?) to hear of Christians trying to have something in their neighborhood. As far as I'm concerned, there are at least two main reasons we wanted to be involved with this block party. The first is that we hope to be good neighbors. What I mean is that we want to know those who live around us so that we can, as much as they allow, be a part of their lives. We hope to build friendships with them so that they know they can trust us and want us to be a part of the neighborhood.

The second reason is probably pretty clear since I'm writing about this. It is my hope that we will have many gospel conversations. I hope we do today, but I really hope we will have ample opportunity in the future as well. This is not because I'm a pastor, but because I'm a follower of Christ. I truly believe there is salvation in no one other than Jesus. I also truly believe that there is no greater joy than that found in Christ. If this is true, then I hope to be able to point our neighbors to the life giving Son of God.

So would you pray for us? Would you pray that whether or not someone believes in Christ for salvation that we would still be good neighbors to them? Would you pray that God would open a door for the word and give us the wisdom and clarity to share it properly?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Shepherding your Family

When Paul lays out the expectations for those who desire the office of overseer in First Timothy 3:1-7, he says in verses 4-5, "He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?" I have thought much about this in recent years. I spent two years in an internship with Open Door Baptist Church with Dr. Pete Schemm as my mentor. He modeled to me great discipline in managing his household well and encouraged me to do so as well. I must admit, however, that I have often times felt that I needed to do much more. I want to make sure I am leading my wife to the fountain of grace in Christ. I want to make sure I am helping her along as she seeks to pursue and treasure Christ. Now that I have two children, I want to make sure I am leading them to know and love the Lord. The truth is, if we take this as a serious expectation of God for the leaders of His church, then we will realize that it takes time and diligence.

Just recently I decided it was time to make sure we had a plan in our household to help us be disciplined in our pursuit of Christ together. I certainly do not have all the answers. I know I have a long way to go. However, I thought I'd post our plans on here for anyone it may help. Also, since I want to do this well, any thoughts for improving would be of great benefit. Before I show the schedule, I also want to make sure it's clear that this is not the only time we talk about the gospel. We hope to cultivate a family life that centers on Christ and all He's accomplished on our behalf. Also, we have used a variety of resources in the past, so I am not recommending anything particular at this time (except to say make sure the Bible is used, and make sure whatever songs you sing and prayers you pray are Biblical).

Sundays are pretty wide open because I pastor Cypress Lake Baptist Church and we have Sunday School, Sunday Morning Worship, and Sunday Evening Worship. Therefore we do not have a particular order for this day. Wednesday are not as structured either as we have a prayer/Bible study time with CLBC.

Mondays and Thursdays we try to eat at 6:00 PM. We do this as a family and sit around the table until about 7:00 PM to discuss life and how our day has been. At 7:00 my wife or I will clean the kitchen while the other one gives the kids their baths. We give 45 mins for this to make sure all is well and finished! At 7:45ish we begin playing games as a family (which may be on the wii, or with toys, or just wrestling). We stop early enough to have prayer together and put the kids in bed around 8:30.

Tuesdays and Saturdays we try to eat at 6:00 PM. We have the same schedule as Mondays and Thursdays, except on these nights we have a time of family worship from 7:45 until 8:30. During this time we sing hymns together, read Scripture and Bible stories, and pray together. We actually hope to add to this Scripture memory and Catechisms. We try to pick songs that my oldest (5 years old) knows the words too so she can sing with us. Last night it was cool because as we sang my 17 month old son tried to join in!

On Fridays we cut our time around the table short and try to start watching a movie together in time to still get them in bed at a decent time.

I am sure there are things we can improve on. However, having a plan in place has already helped us to make sure we are intentional about spending time together and with the Lord. I typed out this schedule in Excel, printed it out, and we put in on our refrigerator. This has proved helpful for us. What are your thoughts or suggestions?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Qualified for the Ministry?

I have really enjoyed Charles Bridges' Christian Ministry. It's been a slow read thus far, however, because I have been deeply convicted and encouraged on nearly every page. I just finished reading through the qualifications of the minister. Without giving you all of what he says, I found this closing paragraph one worth posting.
A person may, in a general way, be said to be qualified for the Ministry, who has talents for preaching though not fitted for profitable private intercourse, or the affairs of Church Government. But this is evidently not a complete adaptation to the work. It is, on the contrary, a very imperfect one, and one with which no man should be content. For, all the aspects of Ministerial labour are, if not equally, yet highly, important; every one of them far too important to be trifled with. The right performance of each affords facilities for the rest, and gives additional beauty and efficacy to all. To be fit for only one department, cannot but greatly impede our activity, and diminish our success. To fill the Ministerial office with a degree of satisfaction and benefit commensurate with its capabilities, or with the desire of a heart awake to its importance, we must be all that it demands--men of God, perfect, completely furnished to every good work. This is an elevated standard. He that aims highest will most approximate to it."
After reading this, I'm glad he started this section by writing:
Mr. Newton's important remark may be considered as an axiom--"None but he who made the world can make a Minister of the Gospel."
I have found myself in much need of God's grace as a pastor. I have found myself lacking in areas that only He can fix. I have found myself driven to much prayer as I hear and think about what it means to fulfill this office of the church.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Ministry of the Word Draws and Hardens

Many people love the aspect of the ministry of the Word that draws people closer to the Lord. I love that! It's the greatest pleasure in preaching/teaching to know that the Lord is using what you teach through His Word to draw many unto Him. However, the ministry of the Word also pushes others away. For those who do not believe, it serves to harden their hearts towards the Lord. I have meditated on this one sentence from Charles Bridges:
For if it be joyous to convert, how afflicting to harden, by our ministry!--specially in the fear, that the more lively the energy for conversion, in the same proportion is its influence for judicial condemnation.
As I've meditated on this truth throughout the day today, I have found myself at times extremely excited to preach, and extremely burdened for those who continue to rebel against the Sovereign and Just God.

Shepherding the Flock of God

Over the past few days I haven't read nearly as much as I'd like due to being sick again. However, I am really enjoying The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges. I have found it both extremely encouraging at times, and extremely convicting at times. The following quote I found helpful. In the context, he helps to see the importance of the ministry of the word of God. For instance, he began a paragraph by writing, "The ministry of the word was ordained for the planting and watering of the church." After describing in more detail what he means by this statement (and giving Scriptural support), he writes:
If the church be called the flock, the Minister is the pastor to "seek that which is lost--to strengthen the diseased--to heal the sick--to bring again that which was driven away;" in a word, to shepherd the flock in all the exercises of tenderness, consideration, and care, that belong to this endearing character. If the family of Christ be an household, the Minister is "the faithful and wise steward," who dispenses the provision of the house according to the necessities of its several members. If the Church of God be a city, he is the watchman to wake and warn the slumberers of their peril. If it be a husbandry, he is the "labourer," to plant and water the soil--to cleanse the earth--to watch the growth of the plant--and instrumentally to bring forward the harvest. If it be a building, he is the "Master-builder," to build upon the "sure foundation" lively stones--a spiritual house--"growing into a holy temple of the Lord, builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." If there be a treaty of peace to be negotiated between the Majesty of heaven and a world of rebels, he is the ambassador, entrusted with "the Ministry of reconciliation;" and praying them in Christ's stead--"Be ye reconciled unto God."
Again, I found this both encouraging and convicting!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Christian Life is a Penitent Life

In preparing to preach this morning in the gathering of Cypress Lake Baptist Church, I am reminded of our need of continued repentance in the Christian life. In Luke 3:8 John warns those who are being baptized to "bear fruits in keeping with repentance."This is not something that was only for his day. Today the Christian is to continue to repentant and bear fruit. In 1 John 3:4-7 the apostle John writes, "Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous." Beloved, if we are to be true followers of Christ, then we must also be continually penitent of our ongoing rebellion.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Who is Sufficient?

When you think of the calling of a pastor, is there really anyone sufficient for so great a task? If taken seriously, the answer is no. However, as I have just started reading Charles Bridges' book, The Christian Ministry with An Inquiry into the Causes of its Inefficiency, he writes something that I think is extremely foundational and encouraging:
"Who, whether man or angel, "is sufficient" to open "the wisdom of God in a mystery"--to speak what in its full extent is "unspeakable"--to make known that which "passeth knowledge"--to bear the fearful weight of the care of souls? Who hath skill and strength proportionate? Who has a mind and temper to direct and sustain so vast a work? If our Great Master had not himself answered these appalling questions by his promise--"My grace is sufficient for thee;" and if the experience of faith did not demonstrably prove, that "our sufficiency is of God;" who, with an enlightened apprehension, could enter upon such an awful service; or, if entered, continue in it?"
Pastors, remember that we are only able in Christ Jesus!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Three Goals I Gave my Church

This morning, as I began my sermon, I listed three areas I hoped we would work on in 2011. Actually, I stated that I hope we will work on these for the rest of our lives. Based on the fact that we say, "Cypress Lake Baptist Church exists, by the grace of God, to make disciples of all nations, through treasuring Christ above all things, for the glory of God at all times," I think these three things are quite appropriate.

1. Let's be intentional in our efforts to make disciples of all nations (including teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded)
2. Let's be intentional in our efforts to reach those around us and to reach those overseas with the gospel of Jesus Christ
3. Let's seek to know the person and work of Jesus through a continued exposition of the book of Luke together

You can hear the full sermon here.