Month: October 2008

What Will it Be Like When God Shows Up?

This is a copy of my visitor article for this week.  I thought that I would post it here to get some feedback.

“Oh, that you would rend the heavens! That you would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence-“ Isaiah 64:1

Two Sundays ago, I preached a message entitled, “What’s Missing from Our Church?”
If you were not there I urge you to call the church office and get the DVD of the service.  In that message I shared with you my concern that we are not experiencing the manifest presence of God in the life of our church.  As the last two weeks have gone by, I have noticed in my own heart a burning to see God at work in our midst.  To have that special visitation of His presence and demonstration of His power.  I want to see God do in our midst what only He can accomplish.  My prayer has become “Oh, that you would rend the heavens! That you would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence.” This morning as I sit hear reflecting on the prayer I have begun to meditate upon what it would be like if God answered that prayer.  What would happen to our church and our community if God really did show up in our midst.  Over the next several weeks I want to explore this issue and think about what will happen when God manifests His glorious presence in our midst.

Well first of all, when God does grant us a special visitation of His presence the church will begin to deal seriously with sin.  Now that may seem odd because some would say that the church is already dealing with sin.  But I don’t think that is necessarily the case.  What I observe among evangelical churches in America is that we are very good at diagnosing and confronting other peoples sin but not so good at dealing with the sins that beset the church. For instance, in just about every American evangelical church you can regularly hear preachers rallying against the sin of homosexuality.  While I agree that this is a serious sin and that God will judge those who practice this lifestyle, I have to ask myself the question is this really the sin that is hindering the move of God in the American church today.  You can walk into any church in America and find rampant gossip, constant backbiting, divisions of every sort, hypocrisy on steroids, all of which the Holy Spirit deals with throughout the Bible and yet we focus an inordinate amount of time on this one sin that involves only a small fraction of the church.  Why is this?  I think that the reason we have chosen this one sin to make the bogey man for all the evils of society is that it easier to pick on someone else’s sin rather than to deal with our own.  While God may judge America for tolerating the sin of homosexuality, He has withdrawn His presence from the church because of our failure to deal with the sins that beset us.  Our refusal to acknowledge and deal with the sin in our midst has hindered the spread of the gospel and has kept us from being able to deal with the other sins of society.  How can we maintain any credibility in confronting homosexuals with their sin if we are not willing to deal with our own.

When God shows up in the midst of the church, however, sin is recognized for what it is and the church deals with is seriously.  When Isaiah received his vision of God in Isaiah 6 and saw his sin in contrast with the Holiness of God, he bowed and cried out, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” (Isa 6:5) Isaiah saw God but he could not help but to see His own sin in light of God’s perfection.  This is how it always is when God manifests His presence among people.  As we pray for God to move in our midst, we will know that He has answered when we begin to deal seriously with sin and see other members of the church do the same.  Pray with me that God will reveal His holiness in our midst, that the light of His countenance and glory will reveal our sin, that His grace will draw us near to the cross, and that the saving blood of Jesus will be applied to our sin so that we can be cleansed, forgiven, and enabled to once again experience the joy of our salvation.

Seeking God’s Manifest Presence

Sunday I shared with you my concern that we are missing the sense of God’s manifest presence in our church and that we must get it back.  We, like Moses in Exodus 33:15-16, must be so concerned about the presence of God in our midst that we are unwilling to go on without it.  I do not think that it is hard to see that our services and ministries have become dry and powerless.  The deeper question that I have had to wrestle with this week in my own life, however, is “Why is the presence of God missing in my life?”  My logic here is simple, how can I expect to experience God in the church if I am not experiencing Him personally.  The hard reality is that my devotional life has become cold, barren and formal.  Instead of meeting with God I have been going through the motions.  I have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof.  So how do I change?  What God has been showing me this week is that it starts with two issues.  First, it begins with dealing with sin.  The fact is that everyone of us struggle with sin and have our own favorite pet sins.  I have mine.  You have yours.  We need to do a thorough heart-searching and self-examination under the direction of the Holy Spirit.  We need to let HIm dig down into the depths of our souls to uproot and expose the selfish lusts and desires of our sinful nature.  We need to let Him show us the depths of our depravity so that we will be driven to Godly sorrow and repentance.  Second, we need to deal with the area of our affections.  One thing that I have been struggling with and I think many of you have as well is my affection and love towards Jesus.  In all of the business of doing ministry, I often forget that I my first responsbiity is to love Jesus more than anything else.  Sadly, I let other things, lesser things, unimportant things, come in a steal my affections from my first love.

I’d like to hear from you this week about what God is saying to you and the steps that you are taking to seek the manifest presence of God in your life.

Praying Like You Mean It

Sunday I preached a message entitled praying like you mean it.  In that message I challenged the church to beging to pray 1.) Consistently, 2.) Specifically, and 3.) Pruposefully.  As I examine my own prayer life I find that I struggle in each of these areas at times.  Consistency is always hard when it comes to prayer because our flesh and the devil both war against our spending any meaningful time in prayer.  I sometimes struggle with being specific in prayer out of pure laziness and spiritual lethargy.  Praying puposefully for me becomes a problem when I allow my prayer life to become dry and formal.  What I am wondering about is how has God spoken to you this week about your prayer life?  What steps are you taking as a result of Sunday mornings message to improve and deepen your prayer life?

What was going on in Colossae?

This past Suday I mentioned that Paul wrote to the church at Colossae becasue he was concerned about a heresy that was developing in that region.  We will deal more specifically with this false teaching when we get into the later portions of chapters 1 and 2, but several of you asked me Sunday about what was going on and what this false teaching involved so I thought this would be a good topic for our blog this week. Most importantly, I would like for you to think about and comment on how we face the same kind of problems today.

First, let me describe a few of the characteristics of the false teaching in Colossae.

  1. It called into question the preeminency of Christ (Col 1.15-8).
  2. It said that Christians needed add something to their salvation in order to reach full maturity in their Spiritual life. (Col 1.19-23)
  3. It involved elements of philosophy and man-made tradition. (Col 1.8-9)
  4. It was legalistic, calling for people to be circumcised,to follow the OT law, and the oral traditions. (Col 2.11-17)
  5. It delighted in false humility and ecstatic experiences. (Col 2.18)

New Testament Scholars have made several suggestions about what this heresy may have been.  It has been common to suggest that it was some form of early Gnosticsm but that is unlikely since Gnosticism did not come about until the second century A.D. and several of the key elements of this system are not present in the book.  Most likely it was some kind of Judaizing group.  N.T. Wright suggests that all of the characterisitcs of this false teaching point towards a Jewish origin.  J. B. Lightfoot suggested, even before he discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, that the false teachers were Essenes.  Whatever their identification, it is clear that Paul was very concerned about this teaching and the devestating effect that it could have on the church.

For our purposes, I wonder what kind of things creep into the church today and have the same devestating effect.  I mentioned Sunday that anything that takes our focus off of Christ and that we think we need to add to our salvation fits into the general concern expressed by Paul.  I think about the church that I grew up in where legalism run out of control.  Don’t do this, don’t do that, it seemed like that is all that we ever heard.  Boys couldn’t be spiritual if they had long hair, girls couldn’t be spirtual if they wore short dresses.  The rules eventually became litmus tests by which we tested it others spirituality and ranked our importance in the church.  All of this turned into pride, division, and eventually discouragment on the part of those who didn’t quite fit the bill.  Later on, I remember being in a church where a particular Bible study became all the rage.  Spirutality in that church was determined by whether or not you had completed that class and could talk in that lingo.

Have any of you experienced this same kind of issue?  Do you see this as a potential problem in our day and age and in our church?

To the Praise of His Glory- Eph 1.1-14

Here is the audio file from Wednesday, Oct 1, entitled to the “Praise of His Glory,” from Ephesians 1.1-14.  While preparing this message I could not help but to reflect on how often I have missed the point of this passage.  While these verse contain some of the richest, deepest, most profound theology in all of the BIble, the main purpose that Paul had in mind was praise.  As we reflect on these verses, the intent is that they carry us into a deeper more profound experience of praise.  I hope this message is helpful to you.

wed-10-01-08

Getting Started

I’ve finally done it.  I have entered the techonology age and decided to begin a blog.  The goal of this blog is very simple, to provide a place where we can interact together as a church family as we seek to understand and apply the Word of God to our daily lives.  The decision to start this blog has come about because of a deepening concern in my soul that the Sunday sermon is not enough.  Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in the primacy of preaching in the church and that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom 10:17) But I have become convinced that in order for the Word to take root in our lives that we must interact with it as a community of believers.  Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  This is my desire for this blog- to be a place where our church family can join together in a robust discussion of the Word of God.  Not only do we watn to talk about the content, backgrounds, and interpretations of passages but we want to talk about application.  How can we get the message of the Bible into the practice of our daily living?  My hope is that this will become a regular part of your day or week and that the discussion that goes on here will be a blessing to you.

The question that must be answered now is, how does this work?  Well, it is actually very simple.  On Sunday mornings as you take notes in church, write down any questions, comments, or insights that you may have about the message.  Then email them to freashbread@metrofbc.com.  Some of you are fond taking notes with your pda or smartphone, you can email your questions to us during the service if you want to.  On Tuesday mornings, I will take top questions and post some comments about them.  Then we can interact throughout the week in the comments section.  What I think will be especially helpful is for us to share how we are applying the message from God’s word in our lives.  What specific things are we doing or trying to do as a result of hearing God’s Word?

I look forward to this new area of ministry and pray that God will use it for His glory and the edification of His church.

Bro. Joe