May 16 2011

Summer Reading

As we move into the summer season of our ministry here in Harrisonburg, a few of us (60+ to be a little more specific) have taken on the daunting challenge of reading through the entire Bible in just 14 weeks. Our goal isn’t to create a legalistic atmosphere of putting ourselves under some sort of heavy burden so as to become more spiritual. But rather, our goal is to get a better understanding of the overarching story of the Bible… God’s great plan of redemption. This is the story to which every detail of the Bible is somehow attached. We may not understand every detail as we navigate through, and we may get behind from time to time. Both of those things are OK. We just want to have a goal and be striving towards it.

It will take some discipline and it will take some sacrifice, but in the end we will find that it was well worth it. Our broadened understanding of the work God is doing will help us have a better perspective and outlook on life. Of this I am convinced!

Remember, for those of you who are reading with me… This is only a hill to a mountain climber.


Aug 12 2010

The Simple Life Part 3

Simply Trust

Joseph

Joseph is definitely a man that we would all want to be like… but his life was not one that any of us would want to live.  He was loved by his father and hated by his brothers; he was sold into slavery, elevated to power only to be thrown into prison because of a great injustice; he was then left in prison because someone forgot about him, but finally elevated to be the most powerful man in the region.  We love the end result, but his path was full of abandonment, discouragement, and pain, not something we all want to embrace.

God’s will doesn’t seem quite so glamorous when it doesn’t include a life of ease.  But this, many times, is the reality of following God.  Most of us would have given up on God, lived for ourselves and done our own thing.  Joseph could have easily decided that God didn’t love him and really didn’t have a plan for him.  How could God possibly use him with all of this pain and suffering?  How could God use him if he didn’t have a ‘platform’?

Here’s how… Joseph trusted because he knew God!  We never get any indication that Joseph knew what God was doing until the very end of the book of Genesis (45.5; 50.20).  Here we see again that the greatest way to glorify God is to simply trust Him for who He is more so than for what He is doing.  God will always do the things that align with His great character, and that will always promote His kingdom and turn out for the good of His people; maybe not on an individual basis, but definitely on a collective level.

Our challenge is the same… pursue the knowledge of God.  The more you learn of God and His great character, the more substantial your trust will be.  You will be like the man who built his house on the rock, all that you build will stand because the foundation (your trust) is in God.

Spurgeon… We cannot always trace God’s hand, but we can always trust God’s heart.


Aug 2 2010

The Simple Life Part 2

Simply Follow

Abraham

You can read about the life of Abraham in Genesis chapters 12-25, and what an amazing life it was.  He left his family, friends, and homeland in order to follow something much bigger than himself.  God had a plan for Abraham, not just any plan, but a divine plan that would affect the entire world.

What is most interesting about this plan is that Abraham didn’t know a lot about it, especially in the early stages.  He knew that God had called him and that he was supposed to follow; the other details simply were not there.  Why did Abraham follow?  Why would he go without a plan?  What exactly was his plan?

Those are all questions that I asked about Abraham, and seem to try to rationalize in my own life.  The answers are quite simple, yet very profound.  Let me explain…

God first came to Abraham in chapter 12 and made a very general promise, “Abraham went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11.8). Most of us would not so much as consider following until all the details were worked out.  We also see that this was the life of Abraham: God spoke and Abraham followed.  Sure, there were times when Abraham shows a lack of faith in the promise, but his direction never changes.  And we see in the end that he is willing to sacrifice his own son because he knew that “God was able even to raise him from the dead…” (Hebrews 11.19).

The point here is that Abraham followed, not simply because he knew all the details of the plan or even the reasoning behind the details that he did know, but because he trusted in God.  Or more literally, he trusted God’s character.  You see, Abraham knew God, which was why he was following.  This was the ultimate act of service to God… for Abraham to follow Him based on who He was more so than what He had promised.  Essentially Abraham believed in the Gospel.  He had given up everything to follow God based on who God was.

This is exactly what the Gospel calls us to do today.  We never get a clearer picture of who God is then when we meditate on and understand the Gospel of Jesus.  God reveals Himself to us in the work of Christ.  We don’t always understand everything about God or His ways, especially early in the game.  But the more we meditate on Christ’s work on the cross, the more we learn about God and His great character.  As we learn, we begin to worship, which in turn leads us to an absolute trust that would not have otherwise taken be born.  The next thing we know, our lives have been radically changed, not by an emotional experience, but by a process of believing and following.

– You have no business trying to find out where God is leading – the only thing God will explain to you is Himself.  Oswald Chambers


Jul 27 2010

The Simple Life Part 1

Simply Serve

This will likely be a three part series about the importance of knowing God.  So many times we get caught up in trying to figure out what God’s will is for our lives, or what God wants us to do (both generally and specifically).  We try to figure out all the details of right and wrong and then try to emulate the life of Jesus; all things that are noble, but none of these things can bring true fulfillment or satisfaction.  And none of these things can bring about true change.  Think about it, don’t we easily grow weary of always trying to ‘do’ and ‘be’?  The reason is because instead of trying to “be” or “do”, we should be trying to “know”… know God!

I have been meditating recently on Philippians 2.1-11.  Here we find the great theological truth that God came to us.  This is most profound because it tells us so much about God.  Jesus certainly is our prime example and we see it so clearly here in this passage.  But more than that we are brought, by the Apostle Paul, to an attitude of worship based on the character of our great God.  I wont go into detail there because that isn’t necessarily the point of this particular post.

Basically, we can get a really good understanding of what God’s will is by simply looking to the life of Jesus.  But we aren’t really changed or even truly motivated when we see His life.  We, as believers, are induced to change and to live radically when we realize what His work on the cross was all about.  When we see God’s great wrath poured out on His son because of our sin, we see His great mercy and grace , both of which point us to His immeasurable love.  We get a true sense of who we are and what God truly did on our behalf, which gives us the ability to do the things that would please Him.

Our pursuit should be to know God.  As we pursue this knowledge, our hearts will be prompted to worship Him for who He is and what He has done.  This worship will then induce a behavior that will emulate Jesus and please God.  Humble, selfless service towards others will be the beautiful will of God lived out through us.


Jun 11 2010

Does collegiate church planting really work?

For those of you who read the blog of Aaron Proffitt and gain some valuable insights on collegiate church planting, this post may be of some great encouragement to you as well.

I am fortunate enough to be the pastor of Aletheia Harrisonburg, which was the very first church in our young and small network.  This is both a great thing and very encouraging because I am able to reap the benefits of all the hard work of those who were here before me.  What was once predominately a collegiate audience has evolved into a church with a very diverse demographic.  People in our community are embracing the Gospel and embracing our vision for making an impact on the next generation.

This past Sunday as I stood to teach, I saw the largest ‘summer crowd’ that this church had ever seen.  People continue to attach themselves to what God is doing here through our ministry, and that is very encouraging!

It really is possible to plant a church on a college campus with a passion for the next generation while planning to serve the community.  God honors the powerful message of Christ on all fronts, both on campus and in our communities.


May 17 2010

City diversity… a good thing.

The reason I felt it was necessary to have a section on my blog called ‘Stuff I should have said on Sunday’, is because almost everything I say on Sunday morning is calculated… meaning that I go onto the stage at Aletheia with a lot of notes that have been prepared, prayed over, and reviewed quite extensively. Due to a lack of time, I rarely say, elaborate on, or clarify everything that I would like to say. Hopefully this will be a help to everyone who attended Aletheia on Sunday morning or who listens to the podcast on our website.

We have just started a 14-week series through the letter to the Philippians entitled ‘Advance’.  This week we walked through the introduction and background as we looked at the first two verses of Chapter 1… You can listen to or view the podcast here: http://www.aletheiachurch.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=62&Itemid=81 (it should be up by Wed.)

1 Corinthians 9.19-22: For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

This was a reference I used as I was describing the lifestyle of the Apostle Paul who had a deep concern for all people groups.  He was determined that he would not allow anything to get in the way of the message and power of the Gospel as it related to his ministry to “all people”.

-Is this our mentality?  Would this describe our lives?

-We talk about world missions, yet we fail to reach out to all of the people groups that live in our neighborhoods. When was the last time we were genuinely thankful that God has brought the nations to our cities and to our college campuses?

Roughly 1,400 of the 4,000 students (K-12) here in the city of Harrisonburg are involved in the English as a Second Language program.  The majority of those students’ native language is Spanish, Russian, and Kurdish with more than 30 additional languages spoken by other students.  This diversity is “troublesome” to certain people because it infringes on their ‘American culture’.  But as Christians, we are called to a completely different culture, a culture that is vastly different than any other culture on the earth.  We are a part of the Kingdom of the living God where race, color, and creed do not matter.

What an amazing time to be serving God here in the city of Harrisonburg!


May 17 2010

Reflect

As last week began to come to an end I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from our first Aletheia Network conference.  Lots of people had been working praying preparing etc. to ensure that everything went well, but you never really know what to expect the first time around.  Well let me say that God was very gracious to us as we heard from the pastors of the different locations, listened to the bands from all of the Aletheia churches, and hung out with people from these different venues.  He graciously showed us that through all the diversity in the group of people, there was a GREAT sense of unity and love.

I saw this when our pastors spoke as each one lifted up the Gospel.  I saw this when the bands played as they all sang of Jesus.  And I saw this when we ‘hung out’ as everyone had a passion for their college campuses and the cities in which they lived.  My heart was engaged in worship all weekend as I saw the radically changed lives of individuals from all over the nation.

The work that God is doing through the Aletheia Churches was evident this weekend in Richmond Va.  May He continue to show us favor as we continue to press forward.

You won’t want to miss next year!


Aug 19 2009

Fear: Unwarranted or Warranted?

 

 

fear |fi(ə)r| noun – an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat

 

There are two types of fear.  The type that is warranted which most of us experience on a regular basis.  For example, a fear that is warranted would keep us from swimming during a thunderstorm or driving at a high rate of speed in the snow and ice.  There are some obvious times when fear is warranted and even healthy.  Our son, not long ago failed to have a proper fear of the hot burner on the stove and the result was a hand full of blisters.  Fear would have helped him at that moment in his life.

 

However, many unwarranted fears also exist which are not only unproductive, but also, in many cases, prove to be destructive.  This type of fear is controlling and debilitating.  It takes away hope, drive, and ambition.

 

The sad part about this type of fear is that when I say it is “unwarranted”, I am actually saying that it doesn’t really even need to exist.  This fear generally arises from circumstances beyond our control.  Psalm 46.2-3 lists a set of circumstances that are completely and utterly overwhelming, all-consuming and totally beyond any one person’s control.  This unwarranted fear results from our being taken out of the driver’s seat in life, of having our options gone, of being forced to let go, of losing control of whatever the situation might be.  Just take a minute and think about the last time you were afraid… wasn’t it because you were facing a situation that was beyond your ability to direct?  We try to hold on and ‘fix’ things, but the more we do this the greater the fear becomes.  Our focus moves from our goals to the ‘trouble’ or conditions that are causing this great fear.

 

What is the answer?  How do I respond to such a situation?  I am glad you asked!  You can look just a few verses down towards the end of Psalm 46 and find a verse that is very insightful.  “Be still and know that I am God…” 

 

When we think of being still, we think of stopping and/or waiting for something to transpire.  However, in the original language, the meaning is much deeper.  First of all, this word is an imperative, which tells us that the idea of “being still” is actually a command from God.  God says, “Be still!”  Secondly this word literally means, ‘to sink down, to let go’… What God is saying to us, or actually commanding us is “relax, let go and know that I am God!”  Does God really want you to walk in fear?

 

The next time you are experiencing unwarranted fear due to a situation ultimately out of your control, obey God by relaxing, realizing who IS in control, and allowing Him to handle it.