Church

Church to think about

Hopefully those of you who know me, know that I have a passion for Jesus and the Gospel. One of the outworkings of that passion is also a passion for church planting. I happen to believe one of the best ways of reaching those who are un-churched, or those who have become de-churched is through the planting of solid Gospel centered churches. This is not to say that I have any disdain towards existing churches. I do not hate the ‘traditional’ church. The traditional church can be a beautiful thing, and in many places it is. I also do not think one size fits all…nor does one way of worship…nor does one way of discipleship

Nearly 2 1/2 years ago a church plant that I was a part of closed its doors. While we saw God do a lot of great things, we just felt like God was telling us it was time to move on. There were many factors involved, but at the heart of it, we simply felt the church as it was could not continue, and God was calling both myself and the lead planter elsewhere. I rejoice for this time of growth, the relationships I formed, and the many things I learned both about myself and about ministry and church planting. As much as anything else, I learned from the mistakes we made.

Not too long after leaving this church plant I landed at another church through the miracle of twitter and met a couple of wonderful men of God who shared my passion for not only Jesus and the Gospel, but also church planting. I wasn’t sure how it was all going to play out, but I knew these were guys that I would want to do ministry with. One of those guys was Allen Murray, the other was Joey Canady. Neither of us knew exactly what God was doing, but I believe we all had a sense that God was going to do something.

At this point, honestly we still aren’t sure exactly what God is going to do. At this point, all we know is that God has given us a strong desire to plant a church here in the Wilmington area. Allen has gone back to school to pursue his degree, but his wisdom in all things theological, and his preaching skills will be called on as often as possible. We also feel strengthened in knowing that his prayers are with us as we continue to seek God’s will. Joey and I have been very cautious as to when and where we ought to do this. Some may even say cautious to a fault. Still, we feel the need to be very discerning in matters of this magnitude.

All of this being said, we both feel that now is the time. While we aren’t exactly sure what God is going to do, or what exactly it will look like, we feel like now is the time to start getting this young church in motion. We don’t claim to have all the answers. We don’t claim to be the only ones who know what church is supposed to look like. We do however share a common passion, and a common vision for what the church could look like…and it may(read that as WILL) look different than what many folks are used to. This again is not to say that other churches are wrong, or bad. It is simply to say we believe God is calling us to do something different, and we are excited about the potential and what God is doing.

Our main goal in all of this is to see that God is glorified, and that the beauty of Christ will be shown to all that we are blessed to come in contact with. If you are not involved in another church, or are interested in being involved with what we’re doing, we’d love for you to consider being a part of what God is doing. Again, we don’t claim to have all of the answers, but we’d love to tell you a little about our vision, and let you get to know us. Everyone who is interested can join us on November 13th at the Best Western conference room at Monkey Junction in Wilmington, the address is 5600 Carolina Beach Rd. at 6:00 PM. We will chat for a few minutes, then around 6:30 we will be speaking, then afterwords there will be time for questions. We’d love to see you there!

For those of you who can’t make it, feel free to contact me at chrisc9951@yahoo.com, or contact me via facebook. God bless!

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I Can Be A Real Hypocrite

“Some make it a part of their religion to talk about and criticize others. They do not imitate their graces but reflect upon their failings. God grant that professors may wash their hands of this! Were people’s hearts more humble, their tongues would be more charitable. It is the sign of a hypocrite to censure others and commend himself.”  -Thomas Watson

I can be a real hypocrite…Wash me Lord, grant me a humble heart and a more charitable tongue.

Do you tend to be more charitable or critical? You may be a hypocrite too!

 

 

 

‘Big Picture’ Kind of God

I was reading my Bible the other day and read through Genesis 50:15-21. Most of us know the story of Joseph, it’s a favorite for Sunday School classes, and for us to tell our kids. As I was reading the story though, the verse that really stood out to me was verse 20.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

As I said, almost all of us know something of this story. How Joseph was the favorite son of his father Jacob, how jealous his other brothers were of that fact, how even through all of Joseph’s trials(and we fail to teach that perhaps he brought some of his troubles on himself) he remained faithful to God, and God blessed him. These are all facts from the life of Joseph. Many times though I think we read this story from the standpoint that God was simply trying to bless Joseph through all of the things he was going through, and in spite of the evil plots against him. How foolish of us if this is all we take from this passage of Scripture.

God is so sovereign. As a result of Joseph’s brothers sin, God was not only blessing Joseph, he was sparing many lives, in Israel and abroad. God was ensuring the future of Israel, which paved the way and preserved the bloodline of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who is the Savior of the world.

Again I say, God is so sovereign, so amazing. God pays attention to the details of our lives. God cares so much about us as individuals, but God is also a ‘Big Picture’ kind of God. If we are only focusing on the things we can see, or the things God is doing at the moment, or in our individual lives and that is it…We are missing so much. There is a much bigger picture at work in creation. Ultimately the redemption of His creation through the person of Christ.

I need to focus more on the big picture of what God is doing, not only in my life, but the lives of His people, His Church, and His mission throughout His creation. I believe this is something all of us need to be striving to do…

Living in Awe of God…

My Pastor said a great line in church this past week. He told the visitors in our church that his hope for them, is that they would see a people in awe of God, and that they would themselves experience that in our church. He said if they didn’t have that experience in our church, he hopes they would find a church in which they would. That is our goal as a church, to show the world a people that are in absolute awe of God. That is something you don’t see so much in the Church today. It is a sad reality.

A couple of passages of Scripture come to mind for me, in speaking of being in awe of God. First you have John, the author of Revelation who gives an amazingly detailed description of the throne of God, and the “one seated on the throne”. (Revelation 4) I love his description, because He uses word pictures of jewels, gold, rainbows, fire, crystal, thunder and lightning to try to paint us a picture of what He was seeing. He told us about strange creatures that even with his detailed descriptions are hard for us to imagine. I think as hard as he tried to give us an accurate description…he still fell short. When reading Revelation 4, you get a sense of wonder, and amazement, that the author must have felt.

In Isaiah 6:1-7, you have another description of the throne of God. He also describes creatures that are hard to imagine, and tells us that the “house” in which he was in was “filled with smoke”. Isaiah also was filled with awe…look at his words as he was before the throne of God, “Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Another passage that comes to mind for me is the transfiguration in Matthew 17. When Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, Matthew tells us that, “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” Peter was so taken aback, and didn’t know what to say. He knew he had seen something special, and wanted to set up tents to mark the occasion. Then in Matthew 17:5-6, we read that a “bright cloud overshadowed them” and that God spoke out of the cloud. The three disciples were so afraid they fell on their faces. Verse 6 tells us that they were “terrified”.

The other two passages that come to mind for me are both in Exodus. In Exodus 33:18-23. Moses asked God to see His “glory”. God partially grants his request by placing Moses in the cleft of a rock, and covering his face until He has passed by him, and allows Moses to see His back. God doesn’t allow Moses to see His face, because the glory of the Lord’s face is too much for him to handle, as He tells Moses in verse 20 that “man shall not see me and live”.

The next Passage is in Exodus 34:29. After Moses has been on Mount Sinai with God, the Scriptures tell us that the “skin of his face shone”. After seeing this, the people were afraid to go near Moses. Not only were the people in awe of God, they were in awe of His glory, that was now in some way upon Moses, and in their midst.

If we are to be a people that truly love God, and truly worship Him, we must be a people that are in absolute awe of Him. We must see Him for who He is, and fall on our faces before Him. If we have truly been in His presence, and have experienced His glory, then it is going to show in us, the way it showed on the face of Moses. People will see that, some people might even fear it. It is my prayer though that people will want to experience it for themselves. That people will want to come into the presence of God, so that they too can experience His glory. May our church, your church, your life, and my life be one in which we can all help people experience God for themselves. May we be a People that doesn’t forget who the God we serve is. May we be a People always, living in awe of God. May that be our prayer…

Too powerful not to share…

I had to post this…It is just simply too powerful not to. Please Read…

“…your poverty is no hindrance, for my Master asks nothing from you – the poorer the wretch, the more welcome to Christ. My Master is no covetous priest, who demands pay for what he does – he forgives us freely; he wants none of your merits, nothing whatever from you; come as you are to him, for he is willing to receive you as you are. But here is my sorrow and complaint, that this blessed Lord Jesus, though present to heal, receives no attention from the most of men. They are looking another way, and have no eyes for him…. My Master is not wrathful with you who forget him and neglect him, but he pities you from his heart. I am but his poor servant, but I pity, from my inmost; heart, those of you who live without Christ. I could fain weep for you who are trying other ways of salvation, for they will all end in disappointment, and if continued in, will prove to be your eternal destruction.” -Charles Spurgeon

Praying someone who needs to see this, will…

Reformed Baptist?

Recently I mentioned a book that I have been reading, “A Reformed Baptist Manifesto”, which inspired the question by some, “What is a Reformed Baptist?” Below is my response in an attempt to sum it up very briefly.

In an effort to try to be brief, a “Reformed Baptist” is basically someone who holds to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. Someone who is reformed in their theology generally identifies with the early reformers of the Church, such as, Luther, Calvin, Knox, etc. Many people debate whether or not someone can be both Reformed and Baptist, as there are significant differences in the theology of the two groups, such as mode of Baptism, subjects of Baptism, and what exactly Baptism symbolizes, etc.

I personally think the debate on whether or not someone can be both Reformed and Baptist is silly, and frankly don’t think it matters.

I more than likely fall into the category, as I do identify with the Reformers. They were right on so many levels. The Church was in dire need of being reformed. They took the church back to Biblical Christianity, a belief in the sovereignty of God, Salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and the authority of the Bible…

I also believe though many of the reformers got it wrong, in relation to the issue of baptism. I believe that historically the Baptists have been right in that area. As well as who exactly the New Covenant is for. Again though, I think this is an issue that has been made a much bigger deal than it should be, and has caused too much division in the church. That is why I am glad to be in a church (Crossmark Church) now that allows for the difference of opinion on which stance on baptism and the New Covenant is correct. We have strong opinions, but ultimately, this isn’t an issue that determines whether or not one is a Christian, and should not divide.

By the way, the book I’m reading, is basically a defense of the Reformed Baptist position, in contrast to the other doctrinal stances within the church. For those of you who are interested, the book again is called, “A Reformed Baptist Manifesto” by Samuel Waldron and Richard C. Barcellos.

Blessings…

Today’s Sermon-“Humble Pie”

I’m not sure whether or not many of you are going to agree with the statement I want to get us started with or not. Some of you may agree, some of you may not. That’s okay. Some of you may think I’m flat out wrong…or maybe think I’m just looking at it from the wrong angle. I don’t know…but one thing is for certain, I hope it makes us all think. So what is this statement?

“The biggest stumbling block for Christians in their Christian walks, and their service to the Lord is not their sins. It is themselves.”

I suppose I need to clarify somewhat. The big problem, in the big picture is definitely sin. But I think many of us have this idea, that if we could just stop sinning, we could serve God better, become more intimate with Him, and finally be all that He wants us to be. I suppose in theory there may be some truth to those thoughts. So yes, in general, “Sin” is the problem. But, for each of us on a personal level, on an individual basis, in our individual lives, in our individual relationships with Christ, I don’t believe our individual sins are the problem. The problem for each of us is well…us. Some of you may be confused, but I pray that you guys would bear with me, as we go through several passages, and hopefully I will be able to articulate, and accurately “handle the word of truth”, as Paul instructed Timothy to do.

Philippians 2:5-8

This is by far one of the most amazing texts in the entirety of the Bible to me. I say that a lot…I guess because the Bible in itself is amazing. But in all seriousness think about this. John 1:1-2 tells us that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…” What is John telling us here? John tells us later in John 1, that the “Word” he was speaking of became flesh and dwelt among us. He tells us that the “Word” he was talking about was Jesus Christ Himself. John is saying in these verses that Jesus Christ was with God from the beginning, and Jesus Christ was Himself God. In the text we just read in Philippians 2, Paul tells us that Jesus was in the form of God. Jesus was equal with God. But Paul tells us that even though Jesus was God, and was in the very presence of God the Father, He made Himself nothing. Jesus let go of His equality with God in order to become a servant. He took on the likeness of man. He humbled Himself, He was obedient to God, even to the point that He was willing to suffer and die.

Think about that for a second. God Himself came down from heaven, took on the form of a man, emptied Himself of the majesty that He had, became a servant, and died for you and me. I don’t think most of us really grasp this. I don’t even know if we can.
There is an interesting verse to me in Luke Chapter 2. It’s very easy to just read past this verse and not think about it, I did that for years. But look with me real quick at Luke 2:52, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
I think many of us have this idea of Jesus popping out of the womb, chilling in the manger for a bit, then getting up and starting to recite Scripture. This isn’t how it was. This verse shows us that. I think we all have this idea that things were so easy for Jesus. He was like a superhero, with super powers. But I don’t think that’s an accurate picture. Luke tells us here that Jesus “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” If He increased, then obviously he didn’t have the wisdom, and even favor with God and man that He needed, from birth. I believe Jesus had to pour over the Scriptures and learn them just like you and I do. I believe Jesus had to learn humility, and obedience just like you and I do. How exactly that all worked out…I don’t know. You and I are sinners, we sin, the Bible tells us that Jesus did not. Generally we fail at humility and obedience and God has to discipline and humble us in some way to get our attention. That wasn’t the case with Jesus, but still, like us, God used the circumstances, trials, and even disappointments in Jesus’ life to prepare Him and grow Him into His ministry, and what He had been called to do.

So how does this apply to us? Well, if Jesus, God in the flesh, humbled Himself, took on the form of a servant, how much more should we? If Jesus had to pour over the Scriptures, learn about God, and grow in His relationship with Him, how much should we have to? For Jesus to be obedient to God, and glorify God, the first thing He had to do is empty Himself, of Himself. If that is the case for Him…how much more should that be the case with us?

Lets look at Philippians 1:27-30

I think many of us think that, “well, we believe in Jesus, so we’re good.” But that isn’t enough. James tells us in James 2:19 that even the demons believe in Jesus, so just an academic belief, or a knowledge of God and of Jesus isn’t enough. It’s about a real faith, that changes your life, and causes you to submit to Christ. It is about striving for the Gospel of Christ. Paul tells us that this is a sign of our salvation, and the destruction of those who would seek to hinder the Gospel. I wonder how many of us today are striving for the Gospel? If you were to look up the word “Striving” in the dictionary, the word means to “try hard” or to “struggle”. Are we trying hard and struggling for the sake of the Gospel? Paul tells the Philippian Church that they will not be frightened of their opponents. How many of us are fearful of the world? Maybe not fearful in the sense that we fear death, but how many of us are fearful of losing ourselves, or giving up things in our life that we love? How many of us are fearful of what the world is going to think of us? But Paul tells us that we should also suffer for the sake of Christ. How many of us suffer for Christ? How much did Paul suffer for Christ and “striving for the Gospel”? Paul was ridiculed, persecuted, shunned, called crazy, imprisoned, lost friends, beaten, and many people believe He was beheaded. Paul willingly endured all of these things for Christ. As Paul said in Philippians 1:20-21, “…Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Now, I’m not saying we all need to go on foreign mission trips, or be homeless, and travel from town to town preaching the Gospel, or even be beaten and die a martyr. But we should be willing to do without, or make sacrifices for the sake of Jesus, for the sake of the Gospel.

What do I mean by sacrifices and doing without? Well that is a very broad question, with a broad answer. We touched on it a bit this past week in small group, so let me tell you what I believe it means.

Lets look at Philippians 3:7-11

I believe where Paul was at in His Christian walk, is the place we must get in ours. Paul said that he had suffered the loss of all things, and counted them as rubbish. As Will so elegantly explained in Small group, the word translated as rubbish here, would literally be our word for crap.

How many of us have gotten to the point in our lives where we count everything in our lives, except for Jesus, as crap…or rubbish if you want to be a little more “proper”. Think about Paul for a second here. Paul was “the man” in Jewish circles. Some say he was even on the fast track to becoming High Priest. Paul was well respected, and more than likely was financially well off. Some say he might have even had a wife, though that is only speculation, since the Bible doesn’t speak of that. Yet, when Paul became a Christian. He lost all of that. He was willing to lay all of that aside, and here he calls all of that stuff, all of the things he had gained in the world, as crap. Why? It was because he was willing to lay aside all of that “worldly gain” so that he could gain Christ. All Paul wanted was Jesus.
Can any of us sit here today and say that all we want is Jesus? Have any of us gotten to that point yet? We need to plead with God to transform us, and change our hearts so that that will be our mindset. How many times in our lives do we desire stuff more that Jesus? How many times do we desire the approval of our peers, more than we desire Jesus? How many times do we desire television more than Jesus? How many times do we desire time with our spouses, or children, more than we desire Jesus? How many times do we desire food, more than we desire Jesus? How many times do we desire sin, more than we desire Jesus?

Back to the statement I made earlier. “The biggest stumbling block for Christians in their Christian walks, and their service to the Lord is not their sins. It is themselves.” Look closer at what Paul says in 3:9, “…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

I’m not here today trying to get any of us to start following certain rules, or to start praying more, or to stop certain sins in our lives. I’m trying to wake us up to the truth that everything apart from Jesus doesn’t matter. Jesus is all that matters! Once we come to that realization, everything else will fall into place. When we desire Jesus more, we will seek Him more, we will pray more, we will read our bibles more, we will stop doing the things that separate us. But it starts first, with our desire for Jesus, above all else. We must get to that point. So don’t just try to stop sinning, that doesn’t work. Love Jesus. That is what works.

I believe when we say that sin is our biggest stumbling block, we are placing blame on something other than ourselves. We have an attitude that “well, we can’t stop sinning, so we’ll just do the best we can.” That is an attitude of defeat, and one that will not draw you closer to Jesus. You don’t need to defeat sin. Jesus has already done that. You need to have Jesus in your life, you need to love Jesus, yes, more than you love sin, but more importantly more than you love yourself. It isn’t about stopping to sin. If you lived the most pious life in the history of mankind, but didn’t love Jesus, it would do you no good. You’d still end up in hell. Actions without a pure heart mean nothing. The only way we can have that purity of heart is if we are focused on Christ, above all else.

This is a message that applies to each one of us here today on an individual level, and I pray, all of us will go home today and take it to heart, and truly ask God to transform us. I also believe this is a message that applies to this church(Crossmark Church). If this church is going to succeed, we must be a church that desires only Jesus. No fancy programs, no big rock band, but Jesus. If we are focusing on Jesus, then I don’t believe we can fail. For our church to succeed as a church, it is going to take all of us, as members of this body, to individually be willing to put away all of the nonsense in our lives that are drawing us away from Christ, and seek Christ above all else. We must as a church get to this point that Paul speaks about, where everything but Jesus is crap.

Will said in small group that this is his desire for our church. To be a church that is about Jesus, and nothing else. I echo that with my whole heart. That has to start with each of us individually. If that doesn’t happen I don’t believe God is going to bless this, and we might as well pack up and go home for good. We might as well find another church with a cool band, and rock out to some Casting Crowns or Chris Tomlin songs. But I want us to be a church that loves Jesus. It’s just that simple. We must, WE MUST, be willing to step out of our comfort zones, and lose ourselves, in order that we will glorify God. It may be sacrificing time with our spouses, it may be our kids going to bed a little late, it may be not having as much family time as we’d like, it may be driving 30-45 minutes out of our way, it may be getting to church early to set up, and staying late to encourage others, it may be missing a fishing trip. But isn’t Jesus worth it? As Paul said, we must be willing to suffer for the sake of Christ. We must be willing to strive side by side with our brothers and sisters here, for the sake of the Gospel.

There is a great song on Christian radio these days, that I quote all the time. I believe we all should make one of the lyrics from the song our prayer. “Rid me of myself…Lead me to the cross”

Father rid me of myself, and lead me to the cross. May we all decrease, in order that Christ may increase…Amen…