Friday, November 17, 2017

A Peace Filled Life is a Thankful Life

This time of year many are reflecting on the things that they are thankful for. Whether that be family, health, jobs, our homes, or other blessings we have so much to thank God for. Being thankful can also be somewhat difficult especially when it seems at times that life just isn't fair. A storm of this life takes a friend or a home, cancer attacks unexpected, the waves just never seem to stop.

But we see in Colossians 3:15 Paul instructs the Colossian Christians that they were to have a "thankful heart." As Christians what does this mean? Well, when you look at the full context has a much fuller meaning than mere thankfulness. 

Colossians has many references to thankfulness, but the word Paul uses here is unique, it is not used anywhere else in the New Testament. Also, in full context, it is directly linked to the exhortation to allow "the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful" (Colossians 3:15).  

The combination of "peace" and "thankfulness" here is quite logical. When you lack peace, you will also lack thankfulness, and more often than not the lack of peace comes from a dissatisfaction with things as they are or from other selfish motivations. On the converse when one is thankful, having come to the realization that all things are provided in Christ we find real peace. 

When we come to rest fully in Christ. When we trust in Him and embrace His Word of Truth. That is when we find the true peace that passes all understanding. That is when we face the storms of this life, and we can sing songs of praise to the one who saved our eternal soul. 

"Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." - (Colossians 3:12-17 CSB)

See ya Sunday! 

Friday, November 10, 2017

If-Then

Deductive reasoning and logic statements such as "if-then" statements have been around for thousands of years. In mathematics "if-then" statements are also known as conditional statements. The "if" is the condition, the "then" is the resulting conclusion. This is shown as a p -> q  this would be read as "if" p "then" q.  The statement should be true in its converse as well in that q ->p or "if" q "then" p.

So what in the world does this have to do with theology?

Well the Apostle Paul in Colossians 3, knowing the logic-based approach to life found in the region around Colossae, offered his audience an "if-then" approach to the Christian life. Listen to what says in Colossians 3:1-11

"So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, God’s wrath is coming upon the disobedient, and you once walked in these things when you were living in them. But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator. In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all."

Do you see the "if-then"? Paul is presenting the logical course of action that "IF" you have been raised with Christ, "then you should" seek the things above. He follows that statement in further detail on how we are to do that with the "therefore" statement in verse 5. "Therefore" (if we have been raised with Christ) we are to put to death what belongs to our earthly natures.

The emphasis in this passage is on the believer's relationship with Christ. We died with Christ. Thus we live in Christ.

Let's simplify this (this might be an oversimplification but true none the less) IF we are truly in Christ THEN we should live as if we are. Paul in Galatians 2:20 phrases it like this:"I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." 

If we are to follow Christ, it should be as if we have died with Christ. Meaning that our thoughts, wants, desires, and loves all should be of the things above not the way they were before we trusted in Christ (on earthly things).

Certainly easier said than done, not going to lie, but that should be our goal.

See ya Sunday!


Friday, November 03, 2017

A Great Number and a Greater Reminder

I really dislike paperwork. To the point which yesterday I realized thanks to Irma I was 3 months behind on our monthly reports for the Food Ministry. Now I knew we have had a lot of people that have been helped since the storm but I was in no way prepared for what I discovered. From September 12 thru October 31st we were blessed to be able to minister to 1138 families representing 4100 individuals.

Now to put that into perspective, an average month we serve 250 families and between 400-500 individuals, annually the past few years we've been steady just shy of 7000 individuals for the year.
Insane. However, as I started to reflect on these numbers I was given a stern reminder. Romans 12:3 literally popped up on my phone and as I read the words I was immediately convicted. See Paul had every reason to boast about his achievements as well yet he realized the danger in thinking too highly of himself. Listen to what he says:

"For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one." Christian Standard Bible

I love how Eugene Peterson phrases this passage in The Message: 

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. Romans 12:3 MSG

In the greater context, Paul is referring to spiritual gifts, but the point is still very much a valid one. Just as we must always remember where our giftings come from, we must also remember as Peterson puts it not the ones bringing the goodness to God. It's not about the good works we do, it's about what God has already done. He is the one who brings all goodness into this world. Thus, "the only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him."

It's not wrong to look at the work that has been done and be excited and proud of it. We just have to remember who actually was responsible for those things. Neither I nor our amazing team of volunteers are the ones responsible for the fact that 1000+ families were impacted with the Gospel message over the past two months. The responsibility for that lies with God alone. We are just blessed to have been used as His instruments, and what a blessing that has been. 


Friday, October 27, 2017

Indication of a Healthy Church

What makes a church a healthy one? Is a healthy church one in which there are activities seven days a week? Packed worship services? Constant community involvement? I wonder what the Apostle Paul would say if he were to visit our church today? Well while that's a nice thought we know it's not practical however we do find in Paul's writings to the Colossians several indicators of a healthy church. 

Colossians 2:1-10 -

1. For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me in person. 2. I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ. 3. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.

4. I am saying this so that no one will deceive you with persuasive arguments. 5. For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.

6. Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, 7. rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude.

8. Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ. 9. For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, 10. and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

In this passage, we see four indicators of a healthy church.

The first we see is in verses 1&2, and that is the bond of love. Paul's prayer for these believers was that they might be joined together, knit together, and kept together. Paul knew that if they were on their own, they would be weaker prone to wander. This unity is possible only in love. It is the love of God that unites us to him, and it will be the love of God that will unite us with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The next indicator we see is in verse 3-4 and again in 8-10, and that is we are to be resistant to seductive or deceptive teachings. Paul was warning the church to test the teaching they received to ensure that it was sound doctrine. In the Colossian church, they were faced with a heresy similar to Gnosticism and while that teaching was attractive and comfortable to accept it was contrary to God's Word. Combating this is simple, believers must thoroughly become acquainted with God's Word through personal study and sound Biblical teaching. False doctrine could be compared to anabolic steroids, think about it - steroid use can give you a false sense of power and assurance. However, there is a problem. Those same pills that make you stronger at first will eat away at your body, eventually consuming you. Paul is warning the people of Colosse that while that bottled doctrine might sound good and look harmless, it is in-fact spiritual death.

In verses 5-6 we see another indicator of a healthy church, that they are ordered and disciplined. These are military terms with a clear message, this group of believers has become a disciplined group of soldiers. In a battle when everyone does their job, they stand the best chance of remaining stable in the face of opposition. This is the result of careful, rigorous, consistent training. The Colossians arrived at this point because of their attention to Godly discipline and training.

There is also a sense of loyalty when you look at this, think about it - if you are in the US armed forces, you can't just join up with a military of another country, not unless you wanted to defect thus betray your nation. So why is it that we can so easily do this within the church today? Where is the loyalty and faithfulness of the body of Christ?

The final indicator we see in this passage is found in verses 7-8, and that is that a healthy church holds to the faith and abounds in gratitude. Scripture is filled with references to individuals who faced great tests of faith and when they passed their test they were able to give high praise to the Father.

We have been entrusted with a great responsibility as a church, and that is to live out our lives in such a way as to point the world around us to Christ. Are we willing to faithfully pursue Him and walk with Him no matter what?

I heard a long time ago from another pastor - God put the church in the world; Satan tries to put the world in the church. Be Faithful!


Friday, October 06, 2017

What are you known for?

I shared this thought the other night at dinner, and I wanted to record and refine it. As we are working our way through the book of Colossians on Sunday mornings I was particularly struck by chapter 1 vs. 4&5a "for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints because of the hope reserved for you in heaven." 

This church had garnered a reputation. They were known for something. Look at what Paul is saying here "for we have HEARD of your faith in Christ Jesus..."  Paul isn't writing this from personal experience. He didn't visit them, or plant the church there. Epaphras came to know Christ in Ephesus and upon returning to his hometown because of his excitement and passion for Christ planted this congregation in Colossae. Paul has heard of their faith and love in Christ, he has heard of their love for all the saints and offers up this prayer for them and pens this letter of encouragement to them.

The question is this, we are all known for something. What are you known for? It's a simple question one which we should all ask ourselves, are we building a reputation of faith and obedience or are we more worried about what the world has to think about us?

What about your church? I know many of you are a part of our faith family here in Islamorada but many others reading this are in other places, other faith families. What is your church known for? Is it known for its love and readiness to reach its community for Christ or is it known more as a social club where outsiders are tolerated but rarely accepted?

What would our world look like if our people concerned themselves with building a reputation of a people in a passionate love relationship with God and our churches had a reputation for loving their communities and adapting ministries to meet needs?

Just a few thoughts I had this week...See you guys Sunday!

Friday, September 29, 2017

21 days

When I sat down this evening to work on getting an email update out I realized that it has been almost a full month since I had sent anything other than a brief Facebook post out. As I reflected on the events that transpired this month I didn't really know where to begin. I look at the response of our faith family over the last 21 days and I am truly impressed. From those who have dedicated their time to sorting supplies, serving in the kitchen, or folding clothing to those who have shed both blood and sweat to clear yards and clean up houses. God has equipped and gifted his church for this moment.

To put this in a different perspective as of Thursday volunteers from First Baptist Islamorada have been able to touch the lives of over 550 families from Key Largo to Key West. We have been given unprecedented access to be the hands and feet of our Savior to our neighbors. We don't need to preach at them or pound them over the head with our Bibles to introduce them to Jesus. We need to pray with them and for them. We need to meet their needs in such a way that they see Christ in us. When we take the time to listen to their stories or go out of our way to meet an unexpected need God is glorified and His name is exalted.

My prayer for each of you is one of endurance and strength. ~ O that the favor of the LORD my God may be upon me; prosper the work of my hands upon me; yes, establish the work of my hands. Save me, I pray, O LORD! O Lord, I pray, give me success! (Psalm 90:17; Psalm 118:25)

Friday, September 01, 2017

The End is Just the Beginning

This week as we wrap up our study of the Minor Prophets, we spend our time studying the last two chapters of Malachi and by canonical placement the last two chapters of the Old Testament. I find it interesting that the last word of the Old Testament is "curse". That word is the word ḥ─ôrem in Hebrew and means appointed to utter destruction. Think about that. If the Bible ended there. If the story was over with that verse would there have been any hope? 

Doesn't appear like it, thankfully the Bible doesn't end there and the story continues the final chapters reveal what we knew to be true from the very beginning, God wins. But more than that the way he ends is spectacular. 

The New Testament was written largely in Greek vs the Hebrew of the Old Testament but we see in 

Revelation 22:3 a promise that every good Jew would have picked up on right away. It says "and there will no longer be any curse". What hope! What joy we should find in this! Because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross the curse we had been under since Adam, this appointment to utter destruction has been voided for those washed by the blood of the Lamb of God. 

What a glorious promise! One day every tear will be wiped away, there will be no more pain, there will be no more death or destruction. We will bask in the glory of the King of Kings and LORD of Lords praising him glorifying his name for all eternity. What a glorious promise! 

See ya Sunday!