Unity In Times of DisagreementWow! It has been quite a journey, but today our study of Romans is coming to a close. If I have counted right this is our 79th study in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. That is crazy isn’t it? In a day when church gurus are telling preachers to keep their sermon series to three or four weeks, we are completing a 79 week study. What if, in the weeks leading up to our study of Romans, I sent out emails and we put up posters announcing our new study—“Join us for a 79 week study on Romans!” I will guarantee you that we would have gotten emails and phone calls letting us know that there was a typo in our publicity materials. 79 weeks! That’s just way too long, but boy am I glad that I was here for every one of those studies. I’ve benefitted so much from all of the hours that we have spent sitting at the feet of the Apostle Paul and learning from this powerful letter that is every bit as relevant for us today as it was for the folks in Rome who read it first. Continue reading ““And One Last Thing…”
For the past three weeks we’ve spent our time in worship focusing on the four themes of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, and tonight we will take a look at “Love.”
I was having lunch with a friend following the study we did a few weeks ago on “Hope.” He pulled out a piece of paper and began reading some quotes from the study. After he read some of the things I had said during the study, he looked at me and said, “Hope isn’t available in anything this world has to offer. Hope, real hope, the kind of hope that all people are looking for is a gift to those who walk with God.” I said, “You know what’s really interesting? This week I’ve been studying ‘peace,’ and the exact same thing can be said about the kind of peace we are all longing for—we aren’t going to experience the kind of peace people are longing for in anything this world has to offer.” Continue reading “Christmas: Love Embodied”
Unity In Times of DisagreementIn a pluralistic society like our own there are many different ideas about Christianity. What is it? I Googled the phrase “What is Christianity?” this past week and here are some of the answers that came back to me. Christianity is…
• A monotheistic system of beliefs and practices based on the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus as embodied in the New Testament and emphasizing the role of Jesus as Savior.
• Christian – a religious person who believes Jesus is the Christ and who is a member of a Christian denomination
The website GotQuestions?org provided the following answer to the question, “What is Christianity and what do Christians believe?” Continue reading “The Heart of the Family
Unity In Times of DisagreementSeveral years ago I was getting ready for a meeting when someone in our office came in and said, “Mike, there is a pastor from Texas on the phone who wants to know if he can come to see you tomorrow at noon?” I didn’t have any information on what the pastor wanted, but I said, “Sure.” The next day the pastor, from Wichita Falls, TX. walked into the office and said, “Well, I can see from driving around the neighborhood that we have a lot in common.” I said, “What do you mean?” “Well, it looks like you are in a racially mixed neighborhood and that this church has been here since before the change starting taking place.” I said, “You are a perceptive man.” We spent the next ninety minutes together talking about his church in Wichita Falls and the dilemma they are facing. The church has been in its present location for many years. The church hasn’t changed, but the neighborhood has changed dramatically. On the day that we sat in my office he shared with me how his church had been slowly dying even though they wanted to live and thrive. Continue reading “The Three R’s of Building A Strong Church: Reading, Relationships, and Righteousness”
Unity In Times of DisagreementI’ve been thinking about the Apostle Paul’s words written to the church in Rome. I’ve thought about his unparalleled teaching, his deep understanding of the things of God, and his ability to communicate God’s truth to others. God had given Paul an ability to think, comprehend, and communicate godly truths like few who have ever lived. Yet, at the same time, there is no question that Paul had spent countless hours pouring over the Hebrew Scriptures, forming his messages in his heart and his mind, and meditating on how the teachings of the Old Testament shed light on the coming of Jesus.
Paul had a brilliant mind, but he was not an academic, he was a missionary. His heart was to share the Good News with those who had never heard the message of Jesus before. He ventured off the beaten path, he traveled to places where other followers of Jesus would have never considered going, and he rubbed shoulders with those, who years earlier, he would have never even given the time of day. Continue reading “The Blessing in the Struggle
Unity In Times of DisagreementWe hear a lot of talk today about setting goals. Goals are important, but it is important that we set the right kind of goals and know what it is going to take to realize those goals. Most people want to achieve something, but they want to experience the thrill of accomplishing something without paying the heavy price that is always involved. It doesn’t matter whether you are a young athlete who has a desire to experience success in athletics, an aspiring entrepreneur who has a dream about starting a new business, or a brand new follower of Jesus who desires to know God’s Word—there is a price to be paid if you are ever going to realize your goal.
A few years ago I heard about a young Filipino girl named Charice Pempengco. Charice was born on May 10, 1992 in the Philippines. Her mother raised Charice and her brother by herself after she left her abusive husband. From a young age Charice had a beautiful voice. To help support her mother and brother, Charice, began singing when she was seven years old. She entered between 80 and 100 singing contests during the next few years. When she was thirteen, Charice entered Little Big Star, a talent show in the Philippines like American Idol, and was eliminated after her first song. They brought her back as a wildcard later in the show and she went on win third place. Continue reading “Set Your Sights
Unity In Times of DisagreementOur study of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome has been an incredible journey for me. I’ve learned so much. I’m in awe of His Sovereign plan to reclaim those that He has knit together in their mother’s womb, but who have chosen to go their own way. I’m in awe of His patience with those of us who continue to battle with the flesh, our own desires that are contrary to His will. I’m in awe of His grace that has been demonstrated through the life of His Son who was willing to die for us though, at the time, we were His mortal enemies. I’m humbled by His desire to use people like you and me to affect, impact this broken world with the message of the Gospel. I’ve been challenged at every turn to really examine my heart, my motives, and my daily walk with the Lord in the areas that Paul has brought to the attention of his readers in Rome, and to us today.
Today, as we take a look at Romans 15:7-13, we are coming to the end of Paul’s teaching. For the remainder of Romans 15-16 Paul will turn to more personal matters. There are still good lessons left for us to learn, but his words and tone will be different for the next few weeks than the previous fifteen chapters of his letter. Let’s read our Scripture for this morning and see what we can learn.
7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs 9 so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.” 10 Again, it says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” 11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.” 12 And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.” 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:7-13 NIV)
Continue reading “Follow The Leader
Unity In Times of Disagreement“I can’t do this.” Those are words that I often hear, words that I’ve spoken from time-to-time. They are words that can paralyze us, persuade us, and pummel us at the bedrock of our soul. “I can’t do this” means that we have decided that it is time to place a “period” at a prescribed point in our experience. “I can’t do this” means that the battle is over, the victory has slipped away, and it’s time to head to the showers. “I can’t do this” means the thrill is gone, the joy has waned, and the enthusiasm has morphed into hopeless despair.
Throughout the pages of God’s Word we meet those who have found themselves in the predicament that every one of us has experienced at some point, maybe even many points, in life. Elijah was a firsthand witness to the mighty moves of God at times during his life, but he also experienced the agony of “I can’t do this.” Shortly after his Mt. Carmel experience, what had to be the high point of his life, Elijah tumbled into the abyss of despair and prayed, “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life…” (1 Kings 19:4 NIV) Continue reading ““He Gives So That We Can…”
Unity In Times of DisagreementAs we continue our study of Romans and begin our study of Romans 15:1-6, I am reminded of a scene from Jesus’ life just before He went to the cross. Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane and He was praying. While in prayer, Jesus prayed for His followers. Turn with me to John 17 and let’s take a look at one of the things that was on His heart as He approached the end of His ministry. John writes in John 17:9-11.
9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name–the name you gave me–so that they may be one as we are one. (John 17:9-11 NIV)
Jesus prays, not for the world, but for those the Father has given to Him as His followers. He prays for the Father to protect them so they may be one as He was one with the Father. Jesus prays for the unity of His followers. Jesus isn’t through praying at this point. He continues His prayer and in John 17:20-23 we read, Continue reading “Lifting Up The Body of Christ
Unity In Times of DisagreementAny person who has ever played a team sport has heard their coach say, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” We’ve heard the phrase so much that it has become a cliché, but the phrase is absolutely true. If you have a line-up filled with individuals who put the team before their own goals and desires then you have the potential for greatness. On the other hand, if the mindset of the team follows another philosophy, “Every man for himself,” then you have a recipe for disaster. It doesn’t matter if the team is filled with talented individuals or not—if the athletes put their own goals before the goals of the team then they will fall far short of their potential.
There is a great example of what I’m talking about right here in our own backyard. In the OKC Thunder’s first season in Oklahoma City they had a 23-59 record. I wouldn’t call that hopeful, but the guys made a commitment, “Team First!” The next season the Thunder posted an amazing turn around record of 50-32! Pretty impressive huh?! In 2014 their record was an impressive 59-23! From 2010 until last season they’ve made the playoffs each year. To what do you attribute the turn around? Did they pick up LeBron in the offseason? Hardly. The nucleus of the team has remained the same: Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka. What’s made the difference? The Thunder play together as a team and not as individuals trying to make a name for themselves.
Continue reading “There’s No “I” in Team!