Let’s Be Jesus People

As a pastor I often find myself occupied with issues that are good but that are not the primary thing – How we can grow our church?; What should I preach on next (actually I plan my preaching schedules 6-12 months in advance so next does not mean next Sunday, or even next week)?; Where can we get someone to teach a Sunday School class?; Where can I find a guest speaker for when I’m on vacation?; and the list literally goes on and on and on and on.

Your list probably looks different from my list but you have one and it goes on and on and on.

Most of the things on our lists are good and necessary and they need to be addressed. But they are not the primary thing. The problem is that they tend to dominate our time, occupy our attention and suck the life out of the primary thing.

So what is the primary thing?

As I was thinking about all of this the thought came to me that what we need most and what we need to make primary in our lives is to Be Jesus People.

It’s not an original thought (I haven’t had one of those in a long time – if ever!). In fact I think that this is the message of the Bible especially in the writings of the Apostle Paul. He didn’t say it in those words, but he said it often:

Walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called (Eph 4:1).

Let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ (Phil 1:27).

Walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him (Col 1:10).

Walk worthy of God (1 Thess 2:12).

Adorn the doctrine of God (Titus 2:10).

What Paul is saying is Be Jesus People!

Be People who reflect Jesus. People who teach Jesus. People who walk with Jesus. People who walk LIKE Jesus. People who honor Jesus with your life.

Make Jesus central. Make Jesus the focus. Make Jesus important in your life. Make much about Jesus.

Make Jesus the primary thing in your life.

All of those other things on your list have to get done. Just make sure that they get done in the context of making Jesus the primary thing.

Do them in the context of Being Jesus People.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

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Does Jesus Really Need Facebook?

As Christians we’ve come up with all kinds of ways to tell people that I love Jesus. It began with bumper stickers on our cars – anybody remember God is My Co-Pilot? and it quickly spread to tee shirts and mugs for your office desk. One of the latest ways to make sure that people know you’re a Christian is your Facebook page.

Have you ever wondered why we need extraneous ways to declare our faith? Is it because people won’t know who we are just by looking at us? If so, what does that say about us?

As Christians don’t we already have a way to declare to other people who we are and where we stand on the person of Jesus Christ? Why do we need a tee-shirt or bumper sticker or Facebook page to tell people that we’re Christians? They should already know that by our lives. And that may be the problem. Perhaps our lives don’t reflect Christ the way they should so, just to make sure people aren’t confused about who we are, we declare it on Facebook.

The Apostle Paul wrote that every Christian is an epistle (a book) . . . known and read by all men (2 Corinthians 3:2).The page of our lives should be enough to show Jesus Christ to anyone who reads it.

Matthew’s gospel adds to this when it says, Let your light (life) so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). If our lives are lived in agreement with the Word of God so that they shine out the person of Jesus, people will see who we are and that will lead them to give glory to God.

I’m not sure if a Facebook page can do that. God is into people not technology.

As a Christian, your life is like the page of a book. Make sure that the people who read your book are reading something worthwhile.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Do We Really Worship?

Worship has received a renewed emphasis in Christian circles in the past decade. That’s a good thing. Anything that causes us to think about worship is good.

With that said, I wonder if the reason we talk about it more today than our parents or grandparents generations is that they had it but somehow we missed it. They didn’t talk about worship – they just worshipped. We talk about it but don’t. At least not like they did. Perhaps.

Several years ago Michael W. Smith wrote a song titled The Heart of Worship. It was made popular by a number of Christian artists including Sandi Patti. You can listen to Matt Redman’s version here.

The lyrics of the first verse and chorus are:

When the music fades

All is stripped away

And I simply come

Longing just to bring

Something that’s of worth

That will bless Your heart

I’ll bring You more than a song

For a song in itself

Is not what You have required

You search much deeper within

Through the way things appear

You’re looking into my heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship

And it’s all about You,

It’s all about You, Jesus

I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it

When it’s all about You,

It’s all about You, Jesus

The song is true, as far as it goes. Worship is all about Jesus. It is all about what’s in our hearts. It’s true that it’s about blessing Jesus, not just being blessed. It’s true that we’ve turned it into something less than it is.

The shortcoming of the song (and this may never have been Smith’s goal) is that it tells us what worship ISN’T but it doesn’t tell us what worship IS. And that’s rather important. We won’t be able to worship until we know what the worship of Jesus is supposed to look like.

So let me offer some general thoughts on worship that I believe are grounded in a study of worship in the Word

  • Worship is more about how we live each day in the holiness of Jesus than it is about what we do on Sunday.
  • Worship is more about giving to Jesus than it is receiving something from Jesus.
  • Worship is more about who we are as sanctified people than it is about what we do (and it is about what we do).
  • Worship is more a life-style of obedience to Jesus than it is an hour spent with Jesus on the first day of the week.
  • Worship is more about the time we spend with Jesus every day than it is about the hour we spend with Jesus on Sunday.
  • Worship is more about serving Jesus than it is singing about Jesus.
  • Worship is more about Jesus than it is about me.

I don’t claim these statements define worship in its totality. Maybe you can add to them. But they are a place to begin the discussion.

So the question is: Are we really worshiping or are we doing something else?

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

The Day After the Resurrection

It’s the Day After. Yesterday was a day of Hope, Praise, and Expectation for Christians. We celebrated one of the greatest days/events of our faith. It’s the day that gives our faith meaning and significance. Without it we have nothing. We had every right to be excited and to celebrate – Jesus rose from the dead!

But what about today? It’s the day after and we’re back to our normal routines, our lives as we know them. For most of us nothing has changed. Today is the same as the day before yesterday.

But . . .

Shouldn’t yesterday have some impact on today?

Shouldn’t yesterday change the way we view today?

Shouldn’t the euphoria of yesterday carry over into today – and the next day and the next?

Resurrection isn’t just about a future event. It’s about a present reality (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). It’s about transformed lives. It’s about a present hope. It’s about how we live out our faith in this world.

Our lives should be fundamentally different today than they were before yesterday. Yesterday should have a bigger impact on us than just the hour or so we spent in church with other Christians.

Look at how the early followers of Jesus were impacted in the days following the Resurrection:

-they worshipped Him (Matthew 28:9, 17, Luke 24:52)
-they marveled (Luke 24:12, 41)
-their hearts burned in them (Luke 24:32)
-they were highly motivated (Luke 24:33)
-they were excited (Luke 24:34)
-they were filled with joy (Luke 24:41, 52)
-they continually praised and blessed God (Luke 24:52)
-they professed their love for Jesus (John 21:15f)
-they followed His instructions (Acts 1:4)
-they boldly shared the gospel (Mark 16:20, Acts 2:5f)

The lives of the early believers were literally transformed by one thing – the Resurrection!

So the question for us is – Have our lives been transformed today by our celebration yesterday?

If not then we have missed something – something terribly important.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

When Grace Came

Christmas is such a special time of the year. Whether or not we know the exact year of Christ’s birth (we don’t) or celebrate it on the right date (we don’t) really doesn’t matter. We’re not celebrating a date we’re celebrating an event – the birth of Christ. Without question it is the greatest event to occur in human history. That’s worth celebrating.

The birth of Christ is an event that is drenched in grace. Can you imagine the magnitude of what happened in Bethlehem that night? The infinite, eternal One came to be with us. Immanuel. God, the one without sin, came to live with sinners. That’s grace.

Amazingly He didn’t ask us to clean up our act before He came – He just came. He didn’t expect us to change our lives so He could come – He just came. He came to a world that wasn’t looking for Him (with some minor exceptions), to a world that didn’t want Him, to a world that really wasn’t craving what He had to offer. And knowing all of that He came. That’s grace.

The birth of Christ in Bethlehem that we celebrate at this time of the year was Grace with a capital G. As much as I love our carols and the scenes of peace and tranquility that they project, they miss this one thing – if the birth of Christ in the manger was anything it was the one of the loudest expressions of God’s grace that has ever come into our world and into our lives. It might have been Silent Night to some but it wasn’t to God. And it shouldn’t be to us.

That night was God literally screaming grace at us. It was God shouting Here I am! I’ve come to be with you! I WANT to be with you! I want to be with YOU! Even in the quietness of Bethlehem He could not have said it any louder.

Grace seldom comes quietly into our lives. How can it? It’s the Eternal One invading our time, our space, our lives. It’s not meant to be quiet it’s meant to be loud and noisy. It’s meant to get our attention; to shake us up; to change our lives.

That’s what happened in Bethlehem. That night in a village that was insignificant to most of the world, God’s grace came. It came in the form of a baby. It came in the form of God (Philippians 2:6). And it came with an explosion that rocked the world.

That’s what Christmas is. That’s what Grace is.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

On Becoming Like Christ

If the Christian life can be summarized in one thought it’s the idea of becoming like Jesus. From the moment of our salvation to our ultimate glorification the entire process of the Christian life, what we refer to as sanctification, is pointed towards the goal of becoming like Christ. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit the land of Israel. It was one of the unique experiences of my life. While I have never felt the need to “walk where Jesus walked” I have to admit that there was a sense of sacredness as I touched the stones of the Wailing Wall. The same was true as I stood on the deck of a boat in the Sea of Galilee and as I hiked in the tunnels in the area of the temple mount and stood on the Roman pavement on which Jesus probably walked. Knowing that I was where Jesus had been touched me in a way that I cannot explain. I came away from that trip wishing that I had taken it thirty years sooner.

Christians around the world want to visit the Holy Land because they want to walk where Jesus walked. But it’s not enough to walk where Jesus walked. It won’t do anything for your spiritual life – if that’s as far as you take it.

I’m teaching an Adult Bible Fellowship class in our church on Matthew 5-7, the passage we commonly refer to as the Sermon on the Mount. One of the things that I tell the class each week is that you can’t walk like Jesus walked until you think like Jesus thought. That’s the crux of the matter. It’s not the physical proximity to where Jesus spent His life that matters, it’s the spiritual proximity to how Jesus thought that will change your life. We need to begin thinking like Jesus thought.

Again the Apostle Paul spoke to this issue when he wrote do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). It is the mind, the way we think and process life that needs to be changed. We won’t become like Jesus by visiting Israel, but we will become like Jesus when we begin to think like He thought.

The New Testament stresses this need for us to think like Jesus. We’re told that we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), and to let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). That is, we have been given a new mind, a regenerated mind so we need to use it to think like Christ. The process of sanctification is a process of changing the way we use our minds so that we see and respond to life in a way that is different from our normal tendencies.

Someday our minds will be completely changed. The Apostle John explains it this way: Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). That is we will ultimately and totally be like Christ. It’s a process that has already begun in our lives and it’s a process in which we have an important role to play.

The only way that we can begin to think differently, to think like Jesus is to be immersed in the Word of God. It is the Word that will wash our minds so that we think differently. It is the Word of God that will sanctify our minds and our lives (Ephesians 5:25-27). As we are in the Word the Spirit of God will transform our minds and in the process we will become, in small, incremental steps, more like Christ.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Getting Ready to Leave

The days immediately leading up to a missions trip are always hectic days. Supplies to purchase, bins to pack, and teaching notes to review for the last time. Do we have enough? Can we get everything in our bins and be under the weight limit? So much to do, so little time to do it. It’s always a busy time but I admit that I love it.

In eleven days my wife and I will be leaving for Haiti to teach a week-long Couples Seminar to sixty pastors and their wives. At the end of the week she’ll be returning home and I’ll stay for eight nights of evangelistic meetings. We do some variation of this every March and it’s one of the highlights of my year. It’s the preparation that is exhausting, the ministry refreshes my soul. I’ve never kept track of how many hours go into preparation but it’s a lot.

That caused me to begin thinking about the concept of preparation. So much of our lives are spent simply preparing for something yet to come. We prepare to go to work every morning; we prepare meals; we prepare to meet with clients; we prepare for tests at school; we prepare for vacations; we prepare for meetings; we prepare to go out to dinner; we prepare for shopping trips; we prepare to play basketball games; we prepare to watch basketball games; we prepare to go to the doctors, the dentist or the hairdressers. Just think about how much of your life is spent preparing to do something else. For most people it’s considerable.

But how much time do we spend as Christians preparing for the biggest event of our lives? How much time do we spend preparing to meet God? I’m not talking only about salvation – that’s just the first step in the preparation process. There is so much more.

Just before His ascension Jesus told the disciples that He was going back to the Father. Borrowing from the language of the Jewish wedding He said, I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2). After a young Jewish man and girl were promised (betrothal – a legal step in the marriage process) to each other, he would go back home and spend up to a year preparing a place for the two of them to live in his father’s house. During that same time, the bride would be busy preparing herself because she never knew the day or the hour when her husband would come to take her to their new home. However long it took, she wasn’t idle. It was a time of preparation for her new life – emotionally, materially, spiritually and relationally.

The New Testament often uses the same marital language to show the relationship of Christ to His Church. As the church we are the bride of Christ. Like the Jewish husband, Jesus is preparing a place for us. Just like the Jewish bride we don’t know when Jesus will come to take us to the Father’s house. It could be anytime.

As His Bride we’re to be busy preparing for His coming. But too often we are so busy with “life” that we don’t have time to get ready for the biggest day of our lives.

If you knew that in eleven days you would stand before God, how would you prepare? Would you pray more? Read your Bible more? Share the gospel with more people? Spend more time confessing sin? Love someone more? Help someone more? Be kinder? How would you prepare if you knew that you were soon to leave?

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. Matthew 25:13

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve