Monday, July 31, 2006

Jesus Had to Go to Samaria

As I've previously mentioned, we're studying the Gospel of John in our Sunday School class. We began looking at chapter four this past Sunday-- "The Woman at the Well." We focused our attention on the phrase, "He had to pass through Samaria", noting that there were other routes available to Jesus and the disciples, but they chose the route through Samaria, ultimately stopping in the village/town of Sycar. Commenting on that phrase, John MacArthur writes:

It was not geographic necessity that compelled Him to [go through Samaria]…the Lord was compelled to pass through Samaria and stop in a certain village, not to save time…but because He had a divine appointment there. He was always conscious of doing the Father's will, which is why He came to earth. (John Commentary, Pg 141)

We spent some time contemplating God's sovereignty, not only in this situation, but in our own lives as well. How much does God "control?" What does it mean when we say that God is sovereign in everthing? Proverbs 16:9 says: "The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps."

For me, knowing that, believing that God is in control of ALL things gives me great comfort...most of the time. Knowing that there isn't a single event in my life that He either controls or allows within His perfect plan for me relieves me from worrying (as if that would change anything). I have to admit though, there are times I still wonder: "God, why did you allow that? or "Why did you bring that particular thing into my life?" And I guess it's good that I ask, because it causes me to contemplate God's goodness and His plan(s) for me that are far better than anything I could dream up.

Knowing that God has providentially placed me in the job, family, neighborhood, church, etc...that He knows is best for me causes me to look at the situation differently. No such thing as "luck", just God's loving providence.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Touching Story

I didn't write this, but I still felt it was worth sharing. You'd have to really know me to understand why.

A man was on holiday in Kenya. While he was walking through the bush, he came across an elephant standing with one leg raised in the air.

The elephant seemed distressed so the man approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot. There was a large thorn deeply embedded in the bottom of the foot.

elephantAs carefully and as gently as he could he removed the thorn and the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man and with a rather stern look on its face, stared at him. For a good ten minutes the man stood frozen -- thinking of nothing else but being trampled.

Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned and walked away.

For years after, the man remembered the elephant and the events of that day. One day the man was walking through the zoo with his son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to where they are standing at the rail. It stared at him and the man couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant.After a while it trumpeted loudly; then it continued to stare at him.

The man summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder.

Suddenly the elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of the man's legs and swung him wildly back and forth against the railing, killing him.

Probably wasn't the same elephant.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


bankthermometerI've been away for several days. Alex (my 13-year-old) and I were among several thousand IDIOTS that went to Six Flags Over Texas this past Tuesday. Actually, it wasn't that bad. The heat (107 that day) kept the attendance down and we ended up riding everything pretty much whenever we wanted. At one point, we rode Batman six times in a row...actually, I rode with Alex and his two cousins three times; I got off and they rode four more times. Three times is enough for a slightly overweight parent pushing 50 years. Alex rode the Titan rollercoaster somewhere around 6 or 8 times. I lost count.

Still hot today...BUT Saturday is only supposed to get up to 88°!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Be Merciful to Me...

Ray Ortlund, Jr., Senior Pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, spoke last night at the Founders Conference on the topic of justification. His text was Luke 18:10-14, the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. You know the story: the Pharisee and the tax collector go the temple to pray. The Pharisee prays: "God, I thank you that I am not like...this tax-collector." The tax collector prays: "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!"

I didn't take extensive notes, and I probably won't state it the same way he did or will I do it justice, but a couple of things Mr. Ortlund pointed out:

  • The Pharisee, at least, does thank God, acknowledges God's influence/provision in his life.
  • He fasts twice a week, but that isn't required under the Law.
  • The tithe he pays in on "all I get" (He did a pretty quick 180° as far as God's involvement!)
  • The tax collector understood his position before God. He was a sinner and the only thing that could make him righteous before a holy God...was God's mercy.

After making those points, Mr. Ortlund said (something like): "And the funny thing we read the prayer of the Pharisee...most of us thought, 'man, I'm glad I'm not like THAT GUY!'"

Think about it. I did.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Worthy is the Lamb

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!" And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!" (Revelation 5:11-13 NIV)

The 24th annual Founders Conference is at our church this week.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Church Membership

Our church is seeing an increasing interest and participation in what we call "inreach" and "outreach"; the former emphasizing shepherding and nurturing the members of our congregation and the latter emphasizing our obedience to Christ's commission to "go into all the world." In a church which averages around 300 each Sunday morning, we've seen over 110 different people on three seperate occasions go out into the community to welcome newcomers to our city, hand out Gospel tracts, and by God's providence, share the Good News with our lost "neighbors." We also use the "outreach evenings" to visit members that have become inactive-- they are still on our membership roll, but haven't attended a Sunday School class or Worship Service in a long time (several months to several years).

One of the things that has really struck me is the number of people that simply no longer attend church, yet consider themselves "members." Now, I must admit that we still show them on our roll, but that's more of a bookkeeping problem we're working to clean up. What I'm getting at is those folks that, when asked: "Do you have a church home?", they reply, "yes, So-and-so Church." Then the conversation goes something like:

"That's great. How often do you attend?"
"Well, we don't attend that often, BUT we plan to real soon when we're not so busy."
"So you don't attend regularly, but you consider [fill in church name here] your 'church home?'"
"Why, of course we do! We're members there!"
What does it mean to be a "member?" I would think it involves more than just having your name on the "Roledex of Life" down at the Church Office. That's what it really boils down to with most of those people. Their name is on the book(s), which entitles them to all the rights and privileges of "membership" (without the commitment), i.e.:
  • I have a place where my daughter can get married
  • I have a place to have my spouse's funeral (you don't think I'm dying first do you?!)
  • I have a free place to hold the semi-annual family reunion
  • If I need extra tables for my garage sale, I can always run down to the church and borrow some of theirs!
I think you get my point. Tim Ascol submitted a Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership at the annual meeting of the SBC. It never made it to a vote. I know this is old news, but it causes me to wonder about- as the resolution title suggests- the integrity of our churches. Claiming to have "X" number of members, knowing that many have moved away, joined other congregations or, as I've already stated, don't attend anywhere just isn't honest.

So whatever happened to meaningful church membership? And what do we do about those "non-attenders", "inactive members", etc. Well, we don't abandon them right away. We pray for them, make the effort to contact them and ask the questions: "Where have you been?" "We sure do miss you." "Are you attending somewhere else?" If they have moved on to another congregation, encourage them. Tell them we're glad to hear they are serving the Lord somewhere else. As our pastor says, "I'm not out to fish someone else's pond." But, if they are simply attending "St. Mattress" on Sundays, lovingly, kindly, admonish them to "come back home" and "be about the Father's business."

I've seen way too many people walk an aisle, the Pastor takes their confession, they get baptized- all sometimes in the same service- and then we never see them again. That concerns me. We're misleading people into thinking they are saved simply because they went through the motions, yet their lives don't demonstrate a life that has been "born again." James said that our lives would show our faith by the works we do. A stagnant, non-involved, non-church attending life MAY well be the indicator of a heart that was never regenerated. We need to be very careful that we don't present a gospel of easy believism, a gospel that doesn't challenge the hearer to "count the cost."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Next Week

Verse of the Day
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14 NASB)

I started teaching an Adult Sunday School class in January. Our attendance roll had several couples on it that had not attended in a while, so we set about contacting them, encouraging them to "come back home." One couple in particular had not been in church for some time. They hadn't joined anywhere else; they had just gotten in the habit of not attending, and ultimately, their Sundays were filled with other activities. Several class members reached out to them, lovingly encouraging them, visiting them periodically. I didn't know the couple at all, but did call them and sent a letter last week inviting them to "come back and be a part of our class." They never showed up.

This past Sunday morning, the husband was killed in a plane accident just a few miles from his home. He and his grandson were taking off in his private plane when they clipped a powerline and flipped into the ground. The aircraft burst into flames. The grandson survived, but with both arms and legs broken and burns over 50% of his body.

Several deacons went to their home that afternoon to minister to the family. The man's wife told them: "We received a letter from the Sunday School teacher last week and had talked about how we needed to get back in church. We had planned to come back next week."

Next week never came for them. I've thought about that a lot the past couple of days. Life here is so short...sometimes "next week" never comes. We better make the most of THIS WEEK.