Friday, September 28, 2012

Replacement Christians

Many of you have been following the debacle that has been the replacement referees in the NFL. Last Monday night's game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers brought this issue to a head. A last second call was botched giving Seattle the win over Green Bay when it should have clearly gone the other way.

As a result of this incident, NFL owners moved quickly to settle the lock-out dispute to recall the "real" NFL referees. Last night, on Thursday Night Football, the real refs returned to thunderous applause.

In some ways you have to feel a little sorry for the "replacement refs". They were pulled into a situation they weren't prepared for. They were given expectations they couldn't meet. They were constantly criticized. They, at times, and especially last Monday, were vilified.

Let me ask you a question. Do you sometimes feel like a "replacement Christian"? Maybe you feel ill equipped to respond to spiritual need. Maybe you feel like "real" ministry is reserved for "real" or "professional" Christians. Or maybe you have purposefully neglected the issue of spiritual growth in your life and find yourself "uneasy" with making spiritual calls when they matter.

The Apostle Peter challenged that we would never be in the position of being considered "replacement Christians" if we are true followers of Christ.

1 Peter 3:14b-16 (ESV)- "Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame."

God's purpose for our lives is not to have a secondary or tertiary knowledge of Him and His ways, but to grow to full maturity in Christ. The Apostle Paul speaks to this in Colossians 2:6-7 (ESV). 

          "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up                   
            in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving."

Are you growing in Christ this week? Are you spending time in His word and in prayer seeking Him and knowing Him more? My challenge to you, and to myself, this week is to be who God has called us to be, His sons and daughters, consistently growing toward Christlikeness so that we may be "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you"

Blessings as you grow in Him.

Pastor Jim

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

11 Years Ago Today!

Where were you 11 years ago on this Tuesday morning? I was sitting at a breakfast table eating and reading when the phone rang. My wife, Laura, had already gone to work, and I was left alone to spend time in the Word and prayer. I immediately recognized Laura's voice on the other end of the line as she simply said, "Are you watching TV?" I responded that I wasn't, and she said to turn the set on immediately. As I turned to one of the network stations, I saw a building burning. I immediately recognized it as one of the World Trade Center Towers in NYC. I was filled with confusion, horror, wonder, and fear. As I watched and listened to the commentary an object caught my attention from the side of the screen. As I watched in disbelief, a plane flew into the second tower. As you know, over the next horrifying minutes and hours both towers fell, a plane flew into the Pentagon in Washington and there was a reported crash somewhere in Pennsylvania. And our world changed forever......

The events of that day play fresh in my mind today as I sat at that same kitchen table eating and reading this morning. I thought about how our world has changed over the past 11 years. My oldest daughter, now 13 and in 8th grade, was 2 at the time. My youngest, not born for another year. I lived in Fayetteville at the time, as I do now, but in two different states. The world seemed a little more naive then, much more cautious and cynical now. But one thing has not changed......

I was reminded of this scripture this morning.

Psalm 2:1-6 (NIV)- "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.

Though the nations rage, God is still sovereign. He is in control of all things. His anointed, Jesus, is "the same yesterday and today and forever". (Hebrews 13:8) He has not and will not change. Even in the mist of events such as that of 11 years ago, our God is constant, present, and powerful!

So, as you think back on that day today, let us remember...

Psalm 99:2 (ESV)- "Great is the Lord in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations."

Amen and Amen!

Pastor Jim

Thursday, September 6, 2012

House Hunters

This past week, Laura and I filmed an episode of the HGTV show House Hunters. (Before any of you ask, it looks like it will air some time in Dec. 2012) We had a great experience learning the ins and outs of filming a TV show, getting to know the wonderful crew, and learning better how to "Invest and Invite". Some observations.....

1. Filming a TV show is long, non-glamorous work. We spent 10 hours a day on our feet, and, in the end, over 10 hours of footage will be shot to get a 30 min. show.
2. Getting it right really means "do it again". Our favorite joke last week was when the producer said, "That was excellent. Do it again." I remember one shot where I was simply opening a door for Laura at a restaurant that we had to re-film 7 times so that we had the perfect shot.
3. What we hear and see is not necessarily what others hear and see. I had mic problems the first day. The sound tech, Mike (ironic name, huh?), kept hearing something that we couldn't hear. (He told me that the mics were so sensitive that on previous shoots he had even heard the actor's heartbeat at times.) After a few wardrobe changes and some strategically placed tape, the situation was solved.
4. Distractions can stall production. In the course of filming we had to deal with AC units, cars, trucks, and motorcycles, planes, secadas, and lawnmowers (Though our producer Cilia had a gift for getting lawn crews to take 10 min. breaks!).

This morning I was reminded of some verses as I thought back on our experience.

Psalm 127:1-2 (ESV)- "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep."

Though there is a healthy theology of work in Scripture, not only as a result of the fall, but also as an ethical response to following Jesus (James 2:14), any labor is in vain if it is not directed by the Lord. (Proverbs 20:24) As followers of Jesus we are called to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Him. (Luke 9:23) We are called to a life of obedience as we keep in step with the direction and guidance of God's Spirit every day. (Galatians 5:16, 25) 

So, who is building your house? The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 2:22 proclaimed, "In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." Peter, likewise, declares in 1 Peter 2:5, "You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." Again Paul entreats us in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

The purpose of House Hunters is to look at three houses and then choose one to purchase (we can talk about the illusion of Hollywood sometime later). The purpose of God is that you and I be built into a spiritual house where God dwells by His Spirit and where He accomplishes His will as we daily surrender to His promptings and leadership in our lives. As we do, He forms in us the character of His Son as we offer Him the sacrifices of a life lived for His worship, praise, and glory. (Romans 8:28-30; 12:1-2) 

Will you allow God to build your house today? Will you allow Him to form in you the character of Jesus through the power of His Spirit? Will you be obedient to His calling to "keep in step with the Spirit" today asking Him to give you "eyes to see and ears to hear" as He directs your steps ? Will you be obedient to follow Him as He directs your work for His glory and other's good? 

Blessings as you serve. 

Pastor Jim