Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Good News Of Holiness

"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome."
1 John 5:3

In our culture words like law, obedience, and holiness have a negative connotation. Thus, we tend to see God's laws and commands as a heavy burden. We see holiness as an ideal that is unattainable.

However, scripture doesn't have this view. Jesus and the other apostles saw these words a bit differently. They believed obedience to God's commands was a good thing...a really good thing. Holiness is the amazing truth that God not only forgives our sin, but also gives us the power to overcome sin. This is good news!  This is the gospel! And if we really think about it, scripture is right.

Do we really believe that living with a divided heart is easier than living with a united heart fully devoted to Christ?

Wouldn't our relationships be better if we were free from things like pride, selfishness, and hate?

What would it be like to be content with what we have instead of desperate for what we don't?

Wouldn't it be great to be delivered from strongholds like lust and anger? What a relief it would be to be set free from all that plagues us.

God's Word was not given to us to burden us or to restrict us. God's Word is our path to freedom. Sin is not freedom, but rather the worst kind of slavery. God made us good. Sin messed it up. Holiness is the promise that he can make us good again. That is good news!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What is the Lord's Will for My Life?

As a pastor, one request I hear repeatedly from people is their desire to know God's will for their life. And by "God's will" they are usually wanting to know about a career to pursue, place to live, school to attend, and whom to marry. These are not bad questions and I certainly agree that we should pray and think about these matters. However, when I read about "God's will" in scripture I rarely see it used in this way. While the Bible doesn't tell every person on earth specifically what his or her life's calling will be, it does give us a lot of general direction:

"You are to serve the least of these." Yes.
"You are to care for the orphan and the widow." Yes.
"You are to deny yourself and follow Jesus." Yes.
"You are to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor. And your neighbor includes sinners, tax collectors, and even your enemies." Yes.
"You are to go and make disciples." Yes.
"You are to show mercy and walk humbly with God." Yes.
"You are to be holy because God is holy." Yes.

I wonder sometimes if we focused more on doing the revealed will of God, perhaps the specifics of our lives would fall into place. Don't get me wrong...God cares about the school you attend, but he cares more about your heart and the way you live.

"Show me the path where I should walk, O Lord; point out the right road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you." Psalm 25:4-5

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My Top 3 Commitments

About a week ago, I started serving at my new church First UMC Pace. This time of transition has been hectic, exciting, and fun. However, in the midst of the busyness I want to make sure I keep certain commitments during this time of transition. Here are my top 3...

1. I will move slowly. I will remember that God didn't move the Israelites into the Promise Land overnight, and he's not expecting me to change our church in one month. If there are some easy "wins" great, but it takes time to learn the people and understand the DNA of the church. I will not assume I know what is best, but I'll seek to learn about my new culture. I need to understand our past and current context before we vision for the future.

2. I will focus on priorities. Busy is not synonymous with effectiveness. Every time I'm doing something, I'm not doing something else. There is a cost to not keeping my priorities...even if I can't see it right away. I will pray and read scripture. I will not neglect my family. I will meet with people...a lot!

3. I will serve. This is my first time being a Senior Pastor. The title alone makes me sound older and more powerful. But power is not something I will use to manipulate others. Christ was powerful, but he used his power to serve. I hope to do the same. I will be intentional in trying to find ways to serve my staff, the congregation, my family, and the poor. I want my leadership to resemble the way of Jesus.

Without a doubt, this new appointment will have ups and downs, successes and failures, wins and losses. Some people will love me (at least my wife and kids but maybe others)...and some not so much. I'll have good days, but some days I'll fall flat on my face. I'm thankful for a Savior whose grace is sufficient in all things. He always works in ways that are beyond my abilities and above my highest expectations. He is always faithful.