Sunday, January 29, 2012

Don’t Give up on the Evening Service – Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung has written a post about not giving up on the evening service. This is an area that I have thought a ton about over the past several years. The past couple churches I've served as pastor of have a significantly smaller crowd on Sunday evening. I also see the benefit of small group settings where believers can pray for one another, encourage one another, exhort one another, and seek to apply the other 'one another' passages of the NT. Of course, this doesn't have to happen through a small group ministry, but I can see how it could.

With that being said, I have recently started thinking that a recovery rather than an abandonment of the evening service might be better for CLBC. We have one. We have about 25% come back. It appears we are in a similar situation (though smaller) as Kevin DeYoung's church. As I have reflected more and more on the Lord's Day I have come to the place where I think it's best for our church to continue what we have, but to make it better (by intentionally focusing on what needs to be focused on).

I like a lot of what DeYoung says in this post, but I must admit I wish he elaborated more on his points at the end. You can click on the link below to read his post. In a world and time when so many other things are going on around us, I think it may be helpful to truly set aside the whole day to gather with God's people, rest in Christ, and sit under God's Word.

**Others also pointed out that they wished DeYoung elaborated on his concluding points. He has now added to those. What are your thoughts? 

Don’t Give up on the Evening Service – Kevin DeYoung:

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

9 Keys to Reaching College Students

Our church is seeking and praying through how we might more effectively engage the students on Edison State College's campus. We are only a couple blocks away from the campus, the student body is growing, they are now putting in dorms, and we want to minister to these men and women. I found this article helpful as we think and pray through this opportunity.

The Nine Keys are:

1. Whatever you do, don't shy away from depth

2. Preach the gospel

3. Love on display is often the most effective apologetic

4. Remember that we live in the Bono generation

5. Lift their eyes to the nations

6. Aggressively develop summer projects and overseas opportunities

7. One-on-one meetings and small groups are often more effective for evangelism than large gatherings

8. Providing multigenerational connections within the church is essential to discipleship

9. Cultural adaptation is important, though not essential

You can read the whole article here:

9 Keys to Reaching College Students

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sunday Sermons

Yesterday I continued through the gospel of Luke with CLBC. The morning sermon received a lot of feedback from our congregation. By God's grace, it appears it has ministered to several people. If you listen to it, I hope and pray it serves you well and points you to Christ.

AM - Strive to Enter through the Narrow Door - Luke 13:22-30

PM - O Jerusalem, Jerusalem - Luke 13:31-35

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Large or Small Gathering?

I would greatly appreciate your feedback. I know many churches who used to have Sunday night and/or Wednesday night services that made the switch to small groups (and thus canceled one or both evening meetings). I recognize the importance of gathering in smaller groups as well as the importance of gathering with the whole body and experiencing the several means of grace in a corporate setting.

If you had to choose between small or large gatherings, which would you choose and why?

My church presently has Sunday AM and PM corporate gatherings, plus a Wednesday night prayer meeting and Bible study. There are many reasons for me to rejoice in this. I also see the benefit of gathering together in small groups for prayer, accountability, application of the Scriptures, and encouragement. I do not see the benefit of adding another night to the busy schedule of people's lives.

So if you had to choose between small or large gatherings, which would you choose and why?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Is Jesus Anti-Religion?

I'm not one who likes to argue or get things started. However, I do feel the need to caution people with terminology, especially as it relates to this video and several other preachers, articles, and videos with similar sayings.

There is much in this video that I applaud, and the heart certainly seems to be sincere. I am grateful for this brother's salvation and his desire to use his gift (which, by the way, I do not possess but wouldn't mind if I did!) to spread the good news of hope in Christ.

However, I am concerned about what is said in this video. Words matter. Words matter a lot. What you say affects others. I learn this often when I say something while preaching, but later realize I hadn't said it the right way or said it in a way that misled. Is God still able to use my preaching, or this video? Yes. And praise be to God that He can.

Just to be clear about one more thing, this video is simply the latest that is making the rounds. I've heard preachers, read posts, heard comments, had conversations, and more where the same kind of thinking is portrayed. And to be clear, often times these are from people whom I love and respect in thousands of ways. With that being said, Jesus doesn't hate religion. Jesus isn't anti-religion. Jesus is certainly against self-righteousness and man-made religion, but that isn't all religion. We know this because in James 1:27 we learn of the 'religion' that pleases God the Father.

I do applaud this video (and the other things I've pointed out) for the stance against what is often seen in the church today as religion. There are certainly hypocrites everywhere in the church. There are certainly legalist throughout the church. And there are certainly those who make it quite easy to hate what is perceived as religion. Nevertheless, religion isn't against Jesus, nor is Jesus against religion.

The Bible clearly shows us that there is a set of expectations and practices that Christians are to be about. For instance, we know the early church was committed to the apostle's teaching (Acts 2:42). Paul told Timothy to devote himself to the reading and explaining of God's Word (First Timothy 4:13). Even Jesus said if you love Him you will keep His commandments (John 14:15). This, though very brief, shows us that there is a set of rules or expectations that the Bible has for believers. Again, Jesus isn't against religion, but against self-righteousness that makes up many religious people today.

Bottom line is this, Jesus possesses all righteousness and freely gives this to all who repent of their sins (even and especially self-righteousness) and trusts in His perfect obedience alone for his or her salvation. Would you repent and trust in Christ? Would you then join a local church and help redeem the word religion by seeking to obey Christ with other brothers and sisters?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

10 Ways to Facilitate Spiritual Growth in Christ

This morning I preached "Rooted and Built Up in Christ: Part 2" for Cypress Lake Baptist Church. I listed the following 10 ways to facilitate spiritual growth in Christ at the conclusion of my sermon:

1. Join a Sunday School Class (our small group)
2. Be Faithful in your Attendance (to all areas of the gathering of the church)
3. Find Accountability and Prayer from Others
4. Read your Bibles Often
5. Pray Regularly
6. Memorize God's Word
7. Meditate on God's Word
8. Find Ways to Serve Others
9. Read Good Books
10. Proclaim the Goodness of Christ to Others

I listed each of these and tried to offer a brief explanation for each one. You can listen to the sermon here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Walking in Christ

This past Sunday I preached the first sermon of the year from Colossians 2:6-7. The text reads, "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." This coming Sunday I'll preach my second sermon from the same text. It is my goal for our church to seek to walk in Christ Jesus daily. Here is a quote from John MacArthur about what Paul mean in Colossians 2:6 when he said to walk in him:
The familiar term walk refers to daily conduct. In this context it means primarily to continue believing the truth about Christ, not allowing their Christology to waiver...In broader terms, however, walking in Christ means living in union with Him.
May we make it our intention to daily walk and live in union with Christ Jesus the Lord!

A Forgotten Text? Why is that, I wonder? - Reformation21 Blog

This is, I think, a good word for our day. His closing question is, "Here is a question: would it make any difference to you, any difference at all to the way you talk, to what you watch, to the way you "engage culture", if Eph. 5:12 had never been written?"

A Forgotten Text? Why is that, I wonder? - Reformation21 Blog

The Gospel, The World, The Church, The Glory of God

I am considering changing the name of this blog to "The Gospel, The World, The Church, The Glory of God" because it captures the process and emphasis of what I hope to focus on and be about in my life and the life of my church. I begin with the gospel because that is the foundation for who we are and how we are in Christ Jesus. That gospel goes out into the world of darkness. When those who hear, repent, and believe they become part of the church. The church is both universal and local. I will primarily deal with the local church, as I am a local church pastor. All of this is for the glory of God. Plus, by making the title and emphasis broad like that I feel free to really blog about all things pertaining to Christ and His church.

Does that make sense? Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Learning to Love the Reality more than the Dream

Over the past couple of weeks the Lord revealed something in my heart. He revealed to me that I was loving the dream more than the reality. We live in a day when we are able to see the "successes" of other pastors and/or churches. We live in a day (nothing new here) when we seek to justify our actions and thoughts in a godly fashion. Here's what I mean. There is nothing wrong with wanting to see as many people in my community as I possibly can coming to faith in Christ. I live in a county that is said to be over 90% unchurched. There is indeed a great opportunity for the light to shine in darkness. I have called it "vision" when I say I can see so much potential before us. I can see so many wonderful opportunities to see people reached for Christ, growing in grace, planting churches, sending missionaries, reaching the unreached peoples of the world. And all of this is great and sounds good.

However, I didn't realize how I was drifting into a dream and away from reality. I was frustrated that our church wasn't keeping more people. I was frustrated that we weren't seeing more fruit. It was a slow progression in my own heart and easily justifiable because of the good nature of wanting to see these things take place.

God has called me to pastor this flock. God has called me to pastor Cypress Lake Baptist Church. I had somehow drifted away from that. I wanted to see "other" people here. I was taking for granted the fact that God has allowed me to pastor "this" particular people. In all my "dreaming" of more people (even for good reasons like making more disciples) I missed the most important aspect of my calling, which is to shepherd the flock among me. In all my dreaming I began loving the dream more than the reality.

This reminded me of a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community, "He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial."

Ouch! That was me. The Lord, in His grace, pointed this out to me. A couple Wednesday evenings ago I confessed this to my congregation. Why? Because I want them to see that this is Christ's church and I had started to place myself as the head of the church. I had bought into this lie that I could make us grow and move forward. I had bought into the lie that I could create community if the church would follow.

I was wrong. Dead wrong. I cannot make us grow. I cannot make the church better.

Two Scriptures that make this point abundantly clear:

1. Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, "I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Emphasis added)

2. First Corinthians 3:5-9, "What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building." (Emphasis added)

My calling, indeed a pastor's calling, is to faithfully minister the Word of God. God is the One who does the work in and through His faithful ministers. God is the One who gets the glory. Instead of "dreaming" of how things could be, I am learning to love the reality of being with God's people more than the dream of a people yet to be known.

Why am I blogging?

The title of this post is a question that I have asked myself a thousand times in the past couple years. The truth is blogging has often been more of a burden than a joy. However, I have thought much about blogging and my motivation for it. I have shifted a couple times over the years, but never really stuck to a particular 'goal' in blogging. With that being said, this blog is either going to be more intentional (and I hope better) or it will be shut down.

So why should I blog? Let me give you three quick reasons for my continued blogging.

First I think "if" I blog it must be for the glory of God. All things are to be for His glory and this includes blogging. If I am motivated by anything else I have missed the point of this blog.

Second I want to blog for the good of the church. Specifically I want to blog for the good of Cypress Lake Baptist Church where God has so graciously allowed me to pastor. Secondarily I hope that my blogging will benefit the people of God throughout the world as well.

Third, I realize this is my blog. Therefore it will reflect me. It will reflect many of my own personal thoughts. It will reflect some of my personal life. I have purposefully not made this my primary focus, but it will come out nevertheless.

With these three thoughts being said, I would like to give this blog a name that better captures my desires. Any suggestions?

Sunday Sermons

Here are this past Sunday's sermons:

AM - Rooted and Built up in Christ: Part 1 - Colossians 2:6-7

PM - Caring for Others on the Sabbath - Luke 13:10-17

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year; Same Goal

Yesterday I preached Colossians 2:6-7. My primary goal was to encourage Cypress Lake Baptist Church to make 2012 (and beyond) a time to 'walk in Him.' It was part one of two, but I concluded with 6 practical ways to set yourself to grow deeper in Christ and to continually walk in Him.

1. Join a local church - we have several non-members every week. Some are longtime visitors of CLBC, some are winter residents in SWFL, and some are just visiting churches. I believe it is vital for people to be members in a local church where they can be cared for, loved, and strengthened in the faith.

2. Join a Sunday School class - we still have Sunday School at our church. It is our place for small groups, and is where I hope we will genuinely care for and pray for one another. I believe it is important for believers to have that smaller group setting where this can better take place.

3. Be faithful in gathering with the church - many in our day seem to think this isn't all that important, but we are told directly in Hebrews not to neglect gathering together. It is in the gathering of the church where many of God's means of grace take place.

4. Find accountability and prayer with others - I still believe it's important to have those one or two people who will speak into your life and help you grow in grace. We are simply not strong enough on our own and will easily convince ourselves we are fine without such accountability and prayer.

5. Read your Bibles Often - It is God's Word. It is where God has chosen to reveal Himself to man. It is living and active. It is able to save yours souls. Bottom line is, you should read it more and more and more. Having a good plan will help this and there are several good plans out there.

6. Find ways to serve the church - While this one may not seem as significant, I believe that as you serve God's people you are actually following Christ. He did, after all, come not to be served but to serve.

You will quickly see this is nothing new for 2012. I simply want our people to "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).

You can download the sermon here.

What would you add to the list?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Is Sunday a Burden?

As I prepared to preach tonight's message from Luke 13:10-17 I read this from J.C. Ryle:
Let us never forget that our feelings about Sunday are a sure test of the state of our souls. The person who can find no pleasure in giving God one day in a week is clearly unfit for heaven. Heaven itself is nothing other than an eternal Sabbath. If we cannot enjoy a few hours in God's service once a week in this world, it is obvious that we could not enjoy an eternity in his service in the world to come.