Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Reflection for January 27, 2010

"Reaching Full Potential"

As a pastor one of the greatest joys you experience is to see the church as well as individuals in the church grow to their full potential in their service to the Lord. On the other hand, one of the greatest disappointments for a pastor is to see individuals and churches fail to grow to full potential in their spiritual pilgrimage. Over my ministry, I have had the opportunity to experience both the rewards and disappointments that come in ministry.

It is always inspirational to read the story of someone or of a church that rises above the expectations of those around them. We are inspired by churches that seem to rise above man’s expectations and to do wonderful things in the Lord’s service. It is these kinds of performances that bring out excellence.

Unfortunately, few churches rise to this level. Instead, they are content to take care of their own and to go through the motions of being excited about what the Lord is doing around them. If this is true of churches, it must also be true of church members, since the people constitute the church. If we are to regain momentum in this country more of our churches need to believe the words of Paul found in his prayer for Ephesus. He closed his prayer with these words, “Now to who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think __ according to the power that works in you __ to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20, 21 HCSB).

The January 21, 2010 addition of the Baptist Courier contains an article about Bennettsville Second Baptist Church. This church seems to have turned a deaf ear to those who are filled with excuses for why we can’t do things for the Lord. Instead, they have involved themselves in a wide range of ministry activities. Without going into details, here are some of the things Second Baptist is doing.

-1- Annual mission trip to Honduras
-2- Gives 13% to Cooperative Program
-3- Involved in a home mission project in West Virginia
-4- Maintains a strong prayer ministry for people they know
-5- Has an ongoing rebuilding ministry for victims of Katrina
-6- Active in a wide variety of community oriented ministries

The most amazing thing about Second Baptist is that it averages 60 in Sunday school. Obviously, they have not accepted the argument that they are too small to do great things for the Lord. Instead, they have believed that “through Him they can do all things”. While I have not talked to them, I believe they have learned a lesson that every individual and church should learn. They have learned that if they are faithful to the things God has given them to do; He will give them even more things to do.

I was personally inspired by this article about Bennettsville Second Baptist Church. It gives all of us an example to follow. God may not call us to do the same things but He does call all of us to do something. It should inspire each one of us individually and as a church to discover that something He has for us and to do it with all of our might. It should inspire us to refuse to except mediocrity and to aspire to do great things for the Lord. It should inspire us to refuse to accept the not big enough or wealthy enough or talented enough to do anything.

If our churches would develop that kind of can do attitude and to expect God to do far and above anything we can imagine, we can turn the tide of godless humanism that is sweeping our country. It is time for all of us to roll up our sleeves and get busy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Reflection for January 20, 2010

When the End Comes

In recent years, there has been a fascination with a variety of end time scenarios. A few years ago, the Left Behind series of books was on the best seller list across the county. I recently watched a History Channel program devoted to the importance of the year 2012 on the Mayan calendar. Hollywood has gotten into the act by releasing films dealing with end time scenarios. This fascination with the tend times is not new. History testifies to the fact that there has always been an apocalyptic nerve in mankind.

Christians also look to the future in anticipation of the end times. For them, it will be a time when Christ returns to judge the wrongs of this world and to establish His kingdom of righteousness. Some have devoted their lives to discovering the exact time of these events. For me, they ask the wrong question. Our question should not be when will He come but what will He find me doing when He comes. Scripture gives us clear answers to the later question. Here are three things I believe He should find us doing.

First, we should wait expectantly. When Jesus was taken up into heaven we were left with this promise: “They also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:11 NASB). The early Church took this promise seriously. They anticipated his return at any moment. Their belief of his return enabled them to endure the hardship they were subjected to. Their attitude has followed the faith through the centuries. In the bleakest moments this promise has enabled Christian to look to the future with optimism. Today should be no different, because we, too, know that in His time He will return

Second, we should wait patiently. The world views us as being simple minded, when we speak of our “blessed hope,” They scoff at our naiveté. The early church faced the same kind of scoffing. Peter addressed this issue. He wrote, “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep all continues just as it was from the beginning of Creation.”(II Peter 3:3,4 NASB). Peter’s reply then is equally sufficient today. He wrote, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance”(II Peter 3:8, 9 NASB). Peter’s words are equally important for us today, because they remind us that God is not bound by time. His plans are sure and in His time He will bring them to reality.

Third, not only should we watch hopefully and wait patiently, we should work diligently. Once again Peter gives us insight into what we should be doing when Christ returns. He wrote. “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it is serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (I Peter 4:7-10 NASB) God will not be happy with those who chose to hide themselves and to withdraw from the work that is to be done before His return. Rather than panicking, Christians should be demonstrating God’s love and serving each other with the gifts that He has given them. In doing so, they will help give hope to their little part of the world.

There you have it, a really simple formula for finding hope in difficult times. Watch hopefully, wait patiently and work diligently while you wait for His return. If we will implement these three things, when we do see Jesus, He will say “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Reflection for January 14, 2010

The Reality of Consequences

When I was in high school many years ago, corporal punishment was still acceptable. If you were an athlete, the punishment was normally carried out by one of the coaches. Anytime I showed up in the gym area at an unscheduled time, the coach on duty knew I had been sent for disciplinary reasons. He would take out the paddle and say, “Bend over!” As I recollect, I heard those two words frequently.

It never occurred to me to become angry, because I knew that I was guilty. Being guilty, the right thing to do was to accept the consequences of my actions. This was not a noble attitude on my part. It was a truth learned growing up in the fifties. The truth was that our choices always come with consequences.

It seems to me that as a whole, modern society has failed to teach this important truth. Instead, it teaches that one should accept responsibility only when it is absolutely necessary. It also teaches that once responsibility has been accepted, the individual should expect forgiveness without consequences. We see these lessons taught regularly in the public square as well known people are forced to confess to their misconduct. Once they have come clean, they expect to continue life without having to own the consequences of their actions.

It would be nice if it was that easy, but it is not. While sincere apology may warrant forgiveness, it does not guarantee that the events set in motion by bad choices will not continue to move forward to the final consequences of our actions. In fact, when one continually attempts to avoid the consequences of their deeds, he often makes matters worse.

Scripture teaches us that forgiveness is available to each one of us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. His death and resurrection has provided a means of pardon for all those who receive Him into their life. The pardon He provides sets one free from the penalty of sin, which is eternal separation from God. However, this does not mean that one is relieved of all the consequences of his prior actions. For example, if someone chooses to live a sexually promiscuous lifestyle and as a result contracts a sexually transmitted disease, he can sincerely confess his failure before God and be completely forgiven, but this does not mean that he will not have to continue to deal with the disease that has been contracted.

Scripture tells us, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap”(Galatians 6:7 NASB). Experience validates this timeless scriptural truth. Therefore, it is important that we begin to teach our children this truth early in life. If they do not learn this truth from childhood experiences, they will be forced to learn it as adults and this can be many times more painful.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Reflections for January 7, 2009

"A 'Best Is Yet To Come' Attitude"

There are many parallels that can be drawn between life and competitive athletics. One of the most obvious is that in athletics you do not have the time to throw a pity party for past failures or the luxury of gloating over past successes. If you do either, you will fail to reach your full potential in the present and future. You can learn from past mistakes and you can build upon past success but you must always keep your focus on the future.

Life is the same way. We all make mistakes. No one walks through life without ever experiencing failure. The difference comes in how people respond to their failures. The individuals who learn from their mistakes and become determined to do better in the future are the ones who find the most fulfillment in life. John Maxwell’s book, Failing Forward, reports on the part that failure played in the ultimate success of many people. All of the people he wrote about shared one trait. They viewed their failures as learning experiences that could help them be better prepared for the future. They agreed that failing did not make you a failure but accepting failure did.

The Apostle Paul recognized that he was not perfect but he was determined to learn from past mistakes and to move forward. In Philippians he wrote, “Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus’”(Philippians 4:12-14 NASB).

Like Paul, we must recognize our imperfection, deal with it and move beyond it. Just as athletes must continually prepare for the next game, Christians must continually prepare for the next phase of their lives. Each year, rather than dwelling on past failures, we need to see the New Year as a time for moving beyond past failures. Like Paul, it is a time for us to acknowledge our imperfections without accepting them as being final. It is time to commit ourselves to pressing forward to becoming all that Christ has for us to become. There will times when we will fail but these failures need not be more than bumps in the road, if we will keep our focus on the calling of Christ in our lives.

My prayer for all of us is that we will look to the future with a “the best is yet to come” attitude, expecting 2009 to be a great year.