Archive for July, 2008

31
Jul
08

CLOTHED

As Christians, are we really clothed in Jesus Christ? Before you answer so quickly, let’s think for a moment what that really means.

When we sin and repent, do we really let go of that sin as Jesus does? He throws it as far as the east is from the west. ARE WE CLOTHED IN HIS FORGIVENESS?

When we have worldly thoughts and do things of the world, ARE WE CLOTHED IN HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS?

When really hard times occur, when financial troubles arise, when a loved one receives news of cancer, when we lose a loved one, DO WE CLOTHE OURSELVES WITH HIS PEACE?

When we’ve had a really horrible day and the train is delaying your getting home from work, or you get behind that school bus when you are already late, when we have prayed and need an answer, ARE WE CLOTHED IN HIS PATIENCE?

When that dirty homeless man asks for a dollar, or when a “lazy” relative asks you for money, ARE WE CLOTHED IN HIS GENEROUSITY?

When we are trying to be obedient, but the road seems uncertain, ARE WE CLOTHED IN FAITH?
What if we were as generous, as faithful, as forgiving, as patient, and as peaceful as Jesus? Wouldn’t that be amazing? To live a life of pure glory for the Father.

It is my deepest prayer that we as Christians join together and realize that we keep our focus on being clothed and completely enveloped and engulfed in the love that Christ has for us, and that we remain focused on being completely and utterly sold out to bringing glory to Jesus Christ.

That really should be our one and only desire and concern.

30
Jul
08

Does God really speak to us?

While Pastor Ryan is on vacation this summer, he has turned his blog over to four CrossPointers. This week, Kimberly Bingham takes over.  Kimberly and her husband, David, have two beautiful daughters, Bella and Maggie Ellen. Kimberly counsels young women at a rehab center 3 nights a week and leads the Glory Girls on Wednesday nights at CrossPoint.

Well, the simple answer to that is “Yes, absolutely, 100% yes.”

God speaks to each of us. The real question is “do we stop and Listen to what He is saying to us?” Just like our customized plan that God has for each of us, God speaks to each of His children in a different way.
There are many ways that God speaks.

Sometimes, His majestic mountains might speak to our hearts. Or through a beautiful spring rain that leads to a rainbow. Maybe it is the homeless man asking for a dollar that gives you that little pull in your heart. Many times it is through His word. He gives us both scripture and each other.

I have always been skeptical when I hear someone say “God told me…” I always want to say “Really, how can you be sure? Did He yell that out to you? Did you hear Him audibly?” The answer most times is “no.”

I think many times we put God away in a little box and pretend that the same God that raised Lazarus from the dead, walked on water, and turned water into wine doesn’t exist anymore. That is such a lie from Satan.

He exists now just as he did in the past, and just as he will in the future. We pretend as if the day that Jesus stopped walking as a human on earth, that the miracles just stopped, which is another big lie.

God doesn’t need us—He wants us. He wants two-way communication with us, His children.

He knows all; so why don’t we take the time to ask Him?

He is in every detail; so no discussion is trivial with God.

I was at a prayer group and there was a man there that I had never met before. He shared a very stressful prayer request. I opened my Bible and had decided that when the group was leaving that I would give him Psalm 91. I opened my Bible to Psalm 91 so that I would have it ready and He immediately without knowing my thoughts or that my Bible was open to the specific scripture, shared that on Thursday his wife gave him a very special scripture – Psalm 91. I was amazed and just told him right then and there that I had marked my Bible to give him Psalm 91. Many would chalk that up and consider it coincidence.

THAT IS OUR FATHER MAKING SURE THAT THIS SWEET MAN COULD CLING TO GOD’S WORD SO THAT HE COULD CLAIM THAT PARTICULAR VERSE. GOD WANTS TO USE THAT IN HIS LIFE.

I didn’t know this man at all, but God does, and God knew that he needed that verse.

This is just one way that God speaks.

When I pray to God, I ask him to please speak very clearly to me so that there is no misunderstanding. He is faithful in revealing Himself in extremely clear ways.

When I became pregnant with my 5 year old, the fertility clinic called and said “you’re pregnant, but your progesterone level is a 2. This is bad, as it should be around 22 at this stage in the pregnancy to sustain the baby.” This happened on a Friday afternoon and they gave little hope and explained that without a doubt that I was on my way to my 3rd miscarriage. It was more than I thought I could bear, and fear began to overwhelm me. I prayed for God’s peace in that desperate moment. I prayed that He would show me His control and that everything was going to be ok one way or another.

I was sitting in my home office which was later to become the nursery in Nashville, TN. It was a cold fall day, and the brightest bluebird that I had ever seen tapped on the office window. I didn’t think too much about it. I since have learned that bluebirds are not out very often in cold weather, and I had never seen a bluebird around our Nashville home. But the next morning, this same bluebird kept tapping on the window. I would go in and acknowledge that I heard it and it would fly away. I told my Christian mother about my returning bluebird and she thought that perhaps my emotions were running a bit high and that it was probably a coincidence.

She came for a visit and the bluebird did not fail to miss a morning. That bluebird came in rain, in sleet, and in snow. Nine months passed and the office was now a nursery. The bluebird had not missed a morning. I went to the hospital to have Bella, and when we brought her home, I never saw the bluebird in Nashville again. I found peace in that bluebird in the midst of some fearful times.

The story gets better. We moved to Atlanta, and to my knowledge, I never saw a bluebird for the next 4 years. No bluebirds.

We moved to Birmingham, and I became unexpectedly blessed with another pregnancy, but, once again, fear set in, and I was overwhelmed. I again fell on my face before Jesus and prayed for peace and rest from fear. It was a February day in 2007, and David and I were standing in what would be the dining room of the house that we were having built. It was so cold, and as we looked out of what would become the dining room window a bluebird flew right towards us.

As I wept over a bluebird, I found God’s promise for me – His peace for me.

It might not be a bluebird, but God speaks differently to each of us. If you are willing to listen to Him, He will tell you some amazing things and provide you with love and peace like none other.

For me the bluebird was not a coincidence, even though some skeptics would call it that.

That little bluebird sent from God helped me hear His voice of peace at the exact moment that I needed to hear it.

I get so excited with the anticipation of what He wants to tell me next.

We do not serve some far away God that sits on a throne where He cannot be reached and cannot hear us. We serve a God that adores us. One that made us for His glory. One that loves to talk to us and hear us. He loves miracles, and He knows all things and understands every fiber of our being. He is alive, in your heart and all around you at every second of every moment of every single day! It is my prayer for each of you that God is so tangible in your life that the little bluebirds never become coincidences!

29
Jul
08

Sedentary Faith

While Pastor Ryan is on vacation this summer, he has turned his blog over to four CrossPointers. This week, Kimberly Bingham takes over.  Kimberly and her husband, David, have two beautiful daughters, Bella and Maggie Ellen. Kimberly counsels young women at a rehab center 3 nights a week and leads the Glory Girls on Wednesday nights at CrossPoint.

Many Sundays I look around the sanctuary, and I see many of the same people sitting in the exact same place each and every week, they never miss a single Sunday or Wednesday for that matter. They are the ones that are there “every time the door is open!” Please don’t miss understand; this is a wonderful thing. But I am quickly reminded that for eighteen years of my Christian life, I was a Christian, I was going to Heaven, I was a foreign missionary, and I was president of my church youth group, I was present at church “every time the door was open.” All of this, and yet I had sedentary faith.

If you had asked me about my faith, I would have answered “of course I have faith in Jesus, of course I know and believe He died for my sins, of course I know that He can heal and forgive.”

I would have even been able to define faith to you as being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see. I had this “faith thing” down pat.

As I am growing, I realize constantly just how important my faith is, I am referring to the kind of faith that comes after that initial acceptance of Jesus Christ as your Savior, and I am referring to the day to day, life faith. The faith in Jesus that you believe in and call out for when a young mother is stricken with cancer, or the 3 year old lies in a bed at St. Jude’s, or you are losing your home due to financial trouble.

Is our faith active and alive? An atheist has the ability to occupy a seat in a sanctuary “every time the door is open,” but our true faith in the most difficult of times is what separates God’s children from the non-Christians in the world.

I encourage you to first, seek that initial act of faith in accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior, I not only encourage you, I beg you, and I pray that you will not rest until you know Him.

Secondly, I ask you to seek Him in Faith, and each and everyday that you draw a breath, I challenge you to seek new ways to glorify Him. Please do not let your faith be sedentary.

This applies to your prayers that should never cease, this applies to the ways that you seek to glorify Him. This type of faith really is a one-on-one, personal, and intimate relationship and love for Jesus Christ.

He is not a distant figure on a throne somewhere that we dream about. He is real; He is alive; He adores you right where you are at this moment, not just where you were yesterday, and not just where you will be tomorrow, but today, right where you are.

I always think about when I draw my last breath, and I meet Jesus face-to-face. It is my prayer that in that moment, Jesus and I will simply be carrying on our conversation from my previous moment here on Earth. It is my prayer that in that moment that I experience my Father face-to-face that he will know me as His daughter that loves and adores Him.

As Christians, we should not desire to meet him face-to-face as a distant fifth cousin that you might hear from every 5 years at a family reunion. No! We should desire that one-on-one father/child relationship with Jesus so that when we come into His presence face-to-face there will be no question to us having a “sedentary faith.”

We should want our faith to be so active and real that it never ends. Not even upon the moment that we draw our last breath. If we, as Christians, practice our true faith day-in and day-out, how many people would seek to know the amazing God in whom you serve and place your faith?

28
Jul
08

I Am

While Pastor Ryan is on vacation this summer, he has turned his blog over to four CrossPointers. This week, Kimberly Bingham takes over.  Kimberly and her husband, David, have two beautiful daughters, Bella and Maggie Ellen. Kimberly counsels young women at a rehab center 3 nights a week and leads the Glory Girls on Wednesday nights at CrossPoint.

I often think about and talk about Jesus. There are many descriptions that come to mind in my thoughts of Jesus-Son of God, Savior, Shepherd, Father, friend, forgiver, keeper, comforter, Prince of Peace, master, listener, Alpha and Omega, Ruler of the world, the great physician. I could go on and on. He is El Roi ( the God who sees), and he is Jehovah Jireh ( the God who Provides). If you stop for a moment and think about this, it really is awesome and amazing. He is the God who sees; therefore He knows exactly how to be the God who provides.

In Exodus, Jesus speaks to Moses and He simply says “I am who I am tell the people that I am sent you.”  This is really powerful. God felt no need to explain or define who He was. He encompassed His being in two words that really summed up all of the realms of God – I Am.

God did not feel the need to say Moses “I am the Prince of Peace or the Almighty Father.” He simply said, “I Am.” There is such power in understanding that God is who He says He is, and that He encompasses every single thing that we need for every trial, struggle, and triumph in our lives. He is the God who sees and the God who provides. He is every single being that you need for every event that has taken place in your life, is taking place in your life, and have yet to take place in your life.

This brings me to my question – if we, as Christians, really believe as that we serve the forgiver, then why do we hold on to our sins, pain, and afflictions? If we truly believe that we serve the Prince of Peace, why do we not ask Him for peace in difficult times. Many times, we actually turn away from Him in difficult times. If we truly believe He is Jehovah Jireh, why is it that we don’t always trust that He will provide? And finally, if we as Christians believe that He is “I Am,” why do we continually challenge that He is who He says He is.

Instead, so many times we try to put our hands in the work that He is in the process of unfolding. He really doesn’t need our help!! Instead, we try to rely on our own strength,or look to the world and chase the things that the world tells us will “fix our problems.” In the end, the answer to all questions, the perfect peace that so many search for, and the Provider of that peace, is right in front of us, waiting patiently for His children to recall that He is all things. He can heal and mend all needs. He is “I Am.”

25
Jul
08

No More Excuses

While Pastor Ryan is on vacation this summer, he has turned his blog over to four CrossPointers. This week, Chris Howell takes over.  Chris and his wife, Carrie, have been married for 19 years.  They have two wonderful sons, Daniel and Jordan, who are both very active in CrossPoint’s student ministry.   Chris serves on CrossPoint’s staff as Minister of Adults.

Have you ever wanted to do something significant but never pursued it?  Or did you try it, only to give up before you accomplished it?

Maybe it was completing a degree that always had to take a back seat to other priorities.  Perhaps you never played a sport that had interested you.  Maybe you haven’t obtained a professional certification that you’ve been meaning to pursue.  What about that piano or guitar you bought?  Still haven’t learned to play it yet?  Still thinking about participating in that mission trip?   Maybe you considered serving in the children or preschool ministries, but didn’t think you were needed.  Perhaps you wanted to coach a little league baseball team but thought someone else was better qualified.

What did you try (or want to try), but did not finish?  What kept you from finishing?

Sometimes God gives us a dream or a desire to accomplish something, and we think of numerous reasons why we can’t fulfill it.  God’s call to serve others requires commitment to complete what he has asked us to do, regardless of our excuses.  Jeremiah faced this when God called him to be a prophet.

Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.”
Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”\

Jeremiah 1:4-10

When first called, Jeremiah had excuses for avoiding what God wanted to do through him: “I’m too young!  I don’t know how to speak to crowds!”  Jeremiah sounds like most of us.  But God encouraged and empowered Jeremiah.  Then God did great things through Jeremiah because Jeremiah shed his excuses and followed God’s leading, even when it was difficult.

You have much to offer in service to others for the sake of sharing the gospel.  As a church family, we can work together to reach others with the love of Jesus.  God wants to work through us in fresh, creative ways to reach people who need Jesus.  Let’s prayerfully determine what God wants us to do, and do it!  No more excuses.

24
Jul
08

Short-Term or Long-Term: Which is Your Focus?

While Pastor Ryan is on vacation this summer, he has turned his blog over to four CrossPointers. This week, Chris Howell takes over.  Chris and his wife, Carrie, have been married for 19 years.  They have two wonderful sons, Daniel and Jordan, who are both very active in CrossPoint’s student ministry.   Chris serves on CrossPoint’s staff as Minister of Adults.

Even if a man lived to be 1000 years old, he would spend far more time in Heaven than in this life.  Since this is so, why not spend this lifetime faithfully and actively pursuing everything God wants you to be, learn, and experience?  Why waste time pursuing wealth that can evaporate in an instant or prestige that is more fragile than eggshells?  Why not spend this life eagerly anticipating and preparing for the rest of eternity in Heaven?  Life is so incredibly short when compared to the rest of eternity.  Why waste even a moment of it when, instead, every moment that is invested in God’s plan will be rewarded in Heaven?

For you as an individual, eternity doesn’t start when you get to heaven.  Eternity starts on the day you were born on this earth.  God gives you this lifetime to prepare for the rest of eternity that you will experience in heaven.  So how do you do that?

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:1-3

In this passage, the Apostle Paul challenges us to focus our thoughts on “things that are above.”  Paul is saying, “Stay focused on Christ and on Heaven.  Think about Heaven and what God has in store for you in eternity.  Let your anticipation of Heaven influence every decision you make, all of your relationships, and how you live life right now on this very day.”

Paul also says we should not set our minds “on things that are on earth.”  He is alerting us to distractions that will keep us from making the most of our short lives.  If we are so focused on what our consumer-culture has to offer, we will miss what God has to offer.  If we have to have the latest, greatest, bigger than before, best looking, most up-to-date, newest, cutest, new-and-improved vehicle, house, education, vacation, spouse, whatever… then we’ve bought into a world of lies.  This type of life is self-serving, living only for the moment with no consideration for the future beyond this lifetime.

Paul tells us to “seek the things that are above.”  He wants us to think about Heaven, our eternal home.  He wants us to prepare for it.  Why?  Because if we are preparing for Heaven, we will develop an eternal focus that impacts everything we do now in this lifetime.

Discipleship involves connecting with God, connecting with God’s people, and connecting with God’s plan.  It includes growing closer to Christ and following him faithfully.  Although we seldom hear about changing our focus from the short-term to the eternal, this is a very important factor in our growth as followers of Jesus.

Randy Alcorn, in his excellent book Heaven, rightly states, “Perhaps you’re afraid of becoming ‘so heavenly minded you’re of no earthly good.’  On the contrary, many of us are so earthly minded we are of no heavenly or earthly good.”

Noted Christian author C. S. Lewis observed, “If you read Christian history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.  It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.  Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

Are you living with eternity in mind, or do you exist with only the concerns of this life consuming your time and energy?

23
Jul
08

Hot? Cold? Or Lukewarm?

While Pastor Ryan is on vacation this summer, he has turned his blog over to four CrossPointers. This week, Chris Howell takes over.  Chris and his wife, Carrie, have been married for 19 years.  They have two wonderful sons, Daniel and Jordan, who are both very active in CrossPoint’s student ministry.   Chris serves on CrossPoint’s staff as Minister of Adults.

Over recent months, as I have worked with a team of writers developing The CrossPoint Connect Process Bible study that all CrossPoint Bible study groups will begin on September 7 (see my blog entry from two days ago for more information), I have seen many examples of people serving God with their time, talent, interests, resources, and availability:  men and women caring for preschoolers; leaders teaching children in Vacation Bible School; adults and students working long, hot hours to raise a building for a church in Red Bud, Illinois; men and women leading other adults on Sunday morning as they study God’s word and apply it in practical ways to their lives; golf cart drivers bringing people to CrossPoint’s main entrance from the parking lot; volunteers who work in the church office helping with many tasks; musicians leading worship by playing and singing to God’s glory; workshop leaders teaching children God’s word in creative ways; greeters who cheerfully welcome guests to CrossPoint.  This list could go on and on and on.  God is obviously working through many people to love and bless many more through CrossPoint.

However, I’ve also noticed not everyone has a place to serve.  You’re probably thinking, “OK, Chris… this is no shocking revelation.”  And you’re right.  In every church, there are people who serve and people who don’t:  People who are strongly connected, and people who are barely connected at all.  Many see serving as vitally important in their relationship with God.  Others see serving as an inconvenience or an imposition they would rather leave to someone else.

Jesus made a very strong statement about the things we do and whether or not we serve him whole-heartedly:

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:15-16

First, let me give a point of clarification.  When Jesus said, “I wish you were either cold or hot,” he is not saying, “I wish you were either on fire for God or not saved all.”  This is over-spiritualizing Jesus’ words.

Although I’ve heard this verse interpreted this way on numerous occasions, this view overlooks highly important contextual clues about the meaning of what Jesus is saying.  In this passage, Jesus is speaking to the church at Laodicea, which was a wealthy, vibrant city in the first century.  In any city, water is an essential resource.  The Laodiceans built an aqueduct to bring spring water into the city from a significant distance outside.  Because the water had traveled quite far, it was neither hot nor cold.  If the water had been hot, it would have been useful for bathing, cleaning, and dyeing cloth, among other things.  If the water had been cool, it would have been refreshing to drink.  But the water from the aqueduct was neither cold nor hot.

It was lukewarm, which limited its usefulness and made it very unappealing to drink.  When Jesus used water to describe the Laodiceans, they understood exactly what he meant because he was using an illustration that was very familiar to them.  Jesus was saying, “I want you to be useful to the kingdom of God, like hot water and cold water are useful to you.  I don’t want you to be of little or no use to the kingdom, like lukewarm water is of limited use.”

Here’s another point for consideration regarding this passage: Jesus was speaking to the church in Laodicea.

Who is in the church?  Believers.  Followers of Christ.   Why would Jesus, Creator and Savior of the Universe, ever say that he would rather one of his followers be cold if being cold meant spiritually cold, spiritually dead, or separated from God?  Jesus did not die on the cross, go to the grave, and conquer death by his resurrection only to later say to a person for whom he did this, “I wish you were not one of my followers.”  Based on Jesus’ sacrifice and suffering for the salvation of his church and based on God’s character, Jesus’ use of the hot and cold analogy can not mean spiritually alive or dead.  It must mean something else.  I think the context of the Laodicean water issues give us the best interpretation.

So what does all this mean to you and me and to CrossPoint?  The key is in the first four words of verse 15:  “I know your works.”  Jesus is telling the Laodiceans that they have not connected to God’s plan in a meaningful and fruitful way.  Yes, they are genuine Christ-followers, but their poor involvement in ministry and missions has not been beneficial to the kingdom of God.  Like lukewarm water, their lack of commitment in service to God and to others has left a bad taste in Jesus’ mouth.  The question for you and me is: Am I being useful to God?  Am I allowing him to work through me to bless and benefit others?  Or am I leaving a bad taste in Jesus’ mouth because I haven’t connected to God’s plan?

As followers of Christ, our relationship with Jesus should be growing and active.  We should be serving God because we love him with all our heart, soul, and mind.  We should be connected to God through Jesus Christ, connected to God’s people in a Bible study group, and connected to God’s plan through involvement in ministry and missions.

If you have not found your place of service at CrossPoint, I encourage you to prayerfully identify a specific area of service that interests you.  Find out who the ministry leaders are and contact them to express your interest.  Give it a try. If you determine this ministry is where God wants you, great!  If not, try something else.  As you are exploring possible areas of service, take Discovery 301: Discovering My Ministry and Discovery 401: Discovering My Life Mission this fall during CrossPoint University on Wednesday evenings at 6:30PM.  These courses will assist you in search for the place God has designed you to serve.
God has a place for you to serve.  I pray that you find it soon.