A Colorado Pastor’s View: Hope-filled and Heartbreaking

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The picture above is a view from my office looking toward Arapahoe Road.  How appropriate since the church I pastor bears the name (Arapahoe Road Baptist Church).  As I look out this window, I see a number of things:

  1. A parking lot:  On Sunday these spaces will be mostly filled.  Christians, seekers, skeptics from all backgrounds, ethnicities, and spiritual journeys will come.  This fuels my prayer and fires up my study in the Word—they are hungry for the Word (whether they know it or not) and need to be nourished on the Bread of Life.  Some will come out of hunger, some out of habit, some out of heartbreak, all out of hope!  May the Spirit show up and bring all of us who are far from God near through Christ.
  2. Arapahoe Road:  Many travellers drive on this major thoroughfare of Centennial.  Where have they been?  Where are they going?  From work to home?  From store 1 to store 2?  Are they going to pick up their children?  Whatever their earthly journey, without Christ, they are destined for judgment and hell because their sin is still held against them.  Christ came to put His righteousness to their account by taking their sin.  We do not know where they are going in an earthly sense—but pray that God would put someone in their path to send them on the right path for eternity’s sake.
  3. Residences:  Within a mile radius of our church is 13,000 people—85-90% of whom do not know Christ nor go to a church.  As John Knox aptly replied:  “Give us this or we die!”  We are at 780 E. Arapahoe Road in Centennial, CO for a reason.  God, help us to pour into their lives the love and hope of Christ in a dark and dying world.
  4. The sky:  This is not the end and this is not all.  Past the atmosphere (the first heaven) and outer space (the second heaven) is the abode of God—HEAVEN (the third heaven—see 2 Corinthians 12).  Christ will return for His church.  Are we ready?  Are we getting others ready—desperately telling them the Good News of Christ?  As we see this clear sky, may we also see the clear mandate to GO (Matthew 28:18-20).

Look out your window!

 What do you see?

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“I Gave Up Nothing; I Received Everything”

dr-d-martyn-lloyd-jones“I gave up nothing [a promising medical career]; I received everything. I count it the highest honor that God can confer on any man to call him to be a herald of the gospel.”

Who said this? Why, none other than Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) — one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century! In fact, a wonderful treasure of his life and work can be found at the Martyn Lloyd-Jones Trust. When one hears this wonderful man of God preach, we understand how Christ had captured Him — how the Word of God gripped him to the glory of God!

I highly recommend to you a wonderful volume by Dr. Lloyd-Jones called “Preaching & Preachers.” He writes:

“The work of preaching is the highest and greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called. If you want something in addition to that I would say without any hesitation that the most urgent need in the Christian church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church; it is obviously the greatest need of the world also. . . . Is there any need of preaching? Is there any place for preaching in the modern church and the modern world, or has preaching become quite outmoded? The very fact that one has to pose such a question, and to consider it, is, it seems to me, the most illuminating commentary on the state of the Church at the present time” (p.9).

Like Paul, Dr. Lloyd-Jones could say,

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8, ESV).

By the world’s standards, Paul gave up everything: wealth, worldly intelligence, status, and an unbelievable heritage. All those things that the world put in Paul’s credit column of the ledger that was his life is now in his debit column. What’s left to Paul’s credit? Only Christ. Paul, like Lloyd-Jones, gave up nothing (I should say, Lloyd-Jones like Paul gave up nothing).

I hope this will springboard your look into Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ life and ministry — it will be well-worth your time, I promise you!

We all risk being false teachers

false-teachersThe aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions (1 Timothy 1:5-7)

Paul urged (begged, implored) Timothy to remain in Ephesus in order to set that church’s doctrine straight.  Why?  Out of love for the church. False teachers came in out in arrogance (that is, out of love of self) doing three things:

  • V. 4: These folks “promote speculations.”
  • V. 6: They wandered away into vain discussions.”
  • V. 7: In their arrogance began to make “confident assertions.”

They longed to be “teachers of the law.”  Arrogant in their abilities and preferences, but were ignorant regarding to the nature of the Scriptures. The church members, sheep needing a shepherd, begin to trust these confident leaders. We risk doing the same thing. Our favorite teacher writes a book, we trust what they say.  If it’s talking about the end times, all the better. If they are winsome and confident, then we are sheep with a problematic shepherd, indeed.

Their aim was arrogance, but our aim is love.  Embrace God’s law and God’s word. Be a Berean (Acts 17:10ff) and do your own due diligence as well. “False teachers are dangerous because, like their evil master, their appearance is deceiving,”  so says John MacArthur (1 & 2 Timothy, Kindle Location 465). The goal of the false teachers was not to create an environment of love, but to fulfill their egos (cf. 1:7), and to fill their pockets.

But clinging to our traditions and preferences and agendas we all risk being false teachers. It’s selfish and setting ourselves up as an authority.  We are arrogant about our TPAs (traditions, preferences, agendas) but ignorant of the Word. We risk being false teachers as well, just in a different strain.

The gospel is self-less and Christ-full! We stay pure to Christ, our conscience is activated by God’s Word and not our own selfish ambitions. And a sincere faith that comes from a new birth that was actuated by Christ and His resurrection. This serves as our power source. Love coming from the Spirit that changes hearts from self to the Savior.

From where is your power source?

Reasons to Reboot Your Church Weekly

While less necessary than it once was, rebooting still offers advantages.As you may know, our church has started a series out of 1 and 2 Timothy called Reboot. I came across an article (below) by Thomas McNish on why computers should reboot nightly. Given how my mind and heart were on the topic of rebooting and church matters, I saw a lot of parallels.  Below is the article, with notes showing the parallels I see. What parallels do you see, if any?


Reasons to Reboot Your Computer Nightly

by Thomas McNish (with additional notes for Lead With Joy)

Turning off your computer at night has an obvious benefit: it saves electricity, which saves you money. Rebooting your computer, on the other hand, has less obvious benefits. Most laptops have the ability to go into sleep mode, which makes it easier to skip rebooting. Even though improved operating systems and more efficient computers have made rebooting less necessary, it still has advantages.

[LWJ: Churches do not always need to reboot, but many churches need such.]

Flushes RAM

Your computer’s random access memory (RAM) is also known as volatile memory, because it’s constantly in flux — as opposed to solid-state memory, such as your hard drive. Your RAM handles lots of different short-term tasks and data, like running processes and holding program values. Rebooting your computer flushes out all this information, allowing your device to start anew and helping it run faster and more efficiently.

[LWJ: What programs are still running and what values does the church have that are holdovers from another time and another place?  Flushing out these short-term ministries and matters that served that other time and place, all the while keeping the operating system of the gospel in place will serve the church well.  Rebooting flushes these things out so that the church runs faster and more efficiently moving forward.]

Stops Memory Leaks

Memory leaks occur when a program doesn’t close properly. Every program that runs on your computer uses memory (usually RAM) while it’s open. When you close the program, that memory should return to your computer. Outdated, overused or glitchy programs, however, can have memory leaks, which occur when memory isn’t returned to the computer. Rebooting your computer each night can help prevent memory leaks from occurring.

[LWJ:  Have we forgotten the gospel?  Has our memory leaked as to the primary focus of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission (Matthew 22:37-40; Matthew 28:18-20)? Rebooting in a church means we close those leaks and that our memory would return to Jesus being enough!]

Fixes Small Errors

Many computer users are unaware that when they reboot their computer, it runs diagnostics on itself, automatically fixing minor errors. These errors can range from buggy or glitchy applications to problems with the RAM. This is why you’ll often find that when your computer freezes, or has a problem you don’t know how to fix, simply restarting resolves the issue.

[LWJ:  Churches become stuck. Like those computer screens that freeze, churches freeze when ‘errors or glitchy applications’ such as false teachings, adherence to preferences and traditions that do not help the operating system function well.  Rebooting by running some gospel diagnostics to resolve the issues will serve the church well.  This takes courage, intentionality, and wisdom.]

Installs Updates

Every piece of software on your computer has the potential to receive updates, which can add new features to an application or fix issues that occurred with older versions. In fact, Microsoft releases new updates for its components on the second Tuesday of every month, known as “Patch Tuesday.” Oftentimes, you must restart your computer to download and install the necessary updates and patches that help it run quickly and smoothly.

[LWJ:  Adding ‘new features’ and changes to a church makes many nervous.  Fixing issues in ‘older versions’ of ministries in the church brings a defensiveness, especially if someone is still in the church who helped start off that program.  Rebooting helps those new changes been seen with less fear and trepidation and more with a willingness to experiment to see if its gospel effectiveness is strong.  Seeing and fixing older versions (i.e., programs) will be welcomed.  The point is not the program, but the purpose in reaching and discipling people!]

 

 

The Operating System of the Church is the Gospel

Even if you do not know much about computers, you know about times when computers need to be rebooted, for various reasons:

  • Ever had your computer screen freeze? Sometimes computers freeze due to errors or glitchy applications and we just don’t know how to fix them.
  • Sometimes updates are installed which can add new features to an application or fix issues that occurred with older versions. 
  • Do you have an outdated program or operating system?  Sometimes computers have outdated, overused or glitchy programs that leak memory that need closing so the the computer operates well.
  • Sometimes computers have some short-term tasks and data that keep the computer running slowly.  Rebooting it helps flush out these issues and make it run more quickly.

Churches are much like computers. Sometimes churches become stuck. Sometimes programs need updating. Sometimes things go on in the life of a church that keep it moving more slowly than is needed.  

To reboot means to restart a computer by loading the operating system, or to make a change in something in order to establish a new beginning. This sermon series is entitled, Reboot. Churches, like computers, can have things happen and sneak up on them that can cause glitches and freezes, can need some updating and fixes.  God provides us great opportunities to examine ourselves and to see what our personal and church’s operating system is.

Our operating systems: The stewardship of every church is the guarding of the gospel.

Churches have ways of operating. Some are innovative: Music, lights, technology. Using the movies, TV, and books popular in the culture in order to connect with same said culture. Whatever is new is implemented. This is where, even if your iPhone 7 is working fine, you’ve got to have the iPhone 8 as soon as it comes out.

Some are, well, not so innovative: for some, any change, any adaptation is compromise at best, blasphemy at worst. Music for some is consigned to piano and organ. There’s no negotiation as to meeting times.   Programs have to stay in place. Computers at times have screens and systems that freeze up.  Churches can freeze as well, but rather than stay frozen, a reboot is needed to clear out the issues and start from scratch.

What operating system drives the church according to Scripture?  The gospel.  But others were bringing in other operating systems and bringing in viruses (that is, heresies) that were making the church malfunction.  Churches are stewards not of the latest fads, nor are they stewards of another time and another place of our preferred era.  We are stewards of the gospel!  Verse 11:  “In accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.”

Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary: 

“If we lose the gospel, we lose everything. We may thing other things are more urgent or more in need of addressing in the church—things like prayer, leadership, mission, materialism, or caring for one another. Paul would get to all of these things eventually, but he began by telling Timothy to guard the gospel. And we guard the gospel by the way we use God’s Word, which in this case concerns his law. (Daniel Akin).

We can have conversations about all these things, and be passionate about leadership, mission, roles, music, innovation, programs—but we are having conversations about preferences.  What about talking about what Scripture talks about.

The gospel is about how God designed us to love and worship Him, to have fellowship with Him. But we chose to follow our own ‘word’ that separated us from God and pursued sin and self. We became broken, looking for other streams to find our identity and purpose.  Jesus wasn’t enough—we had had enough of Jesus. The gospel told us of the Good News of how Jesus rescued us from our sins if we repent and believe His saving work on the cross and how He rose from the dead in triumph. He rescued us and restored us to God’s design. 

Not myths. Not lineage. Not traditions. Not preferences. Not agendas. Not self.  It’s a denial of self.

Is the gospel our personal operating system?  Our church’s?

Arm Yourselves with the Scriptures (Ryle)

cropped-wp-1450650175109.jpg‘You live in a world where your soul is in constant danger. Enemies are round you on every side. Your own heart is deceitful. Bad examples are numerous. Satan is always labouring to lead you astray. Above all false doctrine and false teachers of every kind abound. This is your great danger. To be safe you must be well armed. You must provide yourself with the weapons which God has given you for your help. You must store your mind with Holy Scripture. This is to be well armed.

Arm yourself with a thorough knowledge of the written Word of God. Read your Bible regularly. Become familiar with your Bible…. Neglect your Bible and nothing that I know of can prevent you from error if a plausible advocate of false teaching shall happen to meet you. Make it a rule to believe nothing except it can be proved from Scripture. The Bible alone is infallible…. Do you really use your Bible as much as you ought?

There are many today, who believe the Bible, yet read it very little. Does your conscience tell you that you are one of these persons?

If so, you are the man that is likely to get little help from the Bible in time of need. Trial is a sifting experience…. Your store of Bible consolations may one day run very low.

If so, you are the man that is unlikely to become established in the truth. I shall not be surprised to hear that you are troubled with doubts and questions about assurance, grace, faith, perseverance, etc. The devil is an old and cunning enemy. He can quote Scripture readily enough when he pleases. Now you are not sufficiently ready with your weapons to fight a good fight with him…. Your sword is held loosely in your hand.

If so, you are the man that is likely to make mistakes in life. I shall not wonder if I am told that you have problems in your marriage, problems with your children, problems about the conduct of your family and about the company you keep. The world you steer through is full of rocks, shoals and sandbanks. You are not sufficiently familiar either with lighthouses or charts.

If so, you are the man who is likely to be carried away by some false teacher for a time. It will not surprise me if I hear that one of these clever eloquent men who can make a convincing presentation is leading you into error. You are in need of ballast (truth); no wonder if you are tossed to and fro like a cork on the waves.

All these are uncomfortable situations. I want you to escape them all. Take the advice I offer you today. Do not merely read your Bible a little – but read it a great deal…. Remember your many enemies. Be armed!’

(J.C. Ryle, quoted in J.I. Packer’s 18 Words: The Most Important Words You Will Ever Know, Kindle Location 540.)

Sweet Time in Sugar City 

About every three months, a group from our church goes to Sugar City to help Eddie Nicandro with the food distribution. My boys and I could join this time. What a blessing. Google Sugar City, CO and find out more about them. Please pray for these sweet people.

The Difference Between a 50 Sinner and a 500 Sinner

3-circles41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:41-50, ESV).

In this parable, Jesus is the moneylender, and the debtors are metaphors for sinners. A denarius equivalent of one day’s working wage for the common man. So, one owed about 15 month wages and another owed just over a month-and-a-half’s worth.

In this parable, the woman was a 500 sinner, Simon a 50 sinner.  Jesus does not say that Simon’s sins were less, he is saying that the woman understood the gravity of her sin-debtedness, and Simon did not.  Therefore, the woman loved Jesus more than Simon did because (1) she saw the weight of her sin, and (2) she saw the grace of the Savior.

Kent Hughes in his commentary talks about how many try to submit the currency of our own making in order to gain favor with God:

  • Integrity: “God, I work with compulsive liars. The only honest man I know is myself. Surely I’m acceptable.”
  • Domestic currency: “In this X-rated world, my life is a wholesome G. I’m faithful to my wife. I love her and my children. I am a good husband, father, and son. I reckon that’s all I need.
  • Social currency: “I’m truly color-blind. My money (lots of it!) goes to the needy. I volunteer at the crisis pregnancy center. I really do care. The world needs more people like me, and so does heaven.”
  • Church currency: “I live at the church. I’m there everytime the door is opened. I’m on 15 teams. My goodness will surely be accepted.”

The moral to this parable is that we are all broke and in a massive amount of debt that we cannot repay.  The woman realized that she could never pay what she owed—so God paid it all through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus.  Simon saw himself in comparison to other people and didn’t think Christ had to work that hard to pay for his sins. He was in ministry, went to seminary, and considered the expert.

Yet Christ tells us that we are broke, something Simon missed.

Where are we in this story? Do we see our great sin but God’s greater grace? Or do we believe that Christ’s death was only for the bigtime bad people?

Whether you are a 500 sinner or a 50 sinner depends on how you see your sin.  If you see it as no big deal, you’re a 50 sinner and your love for Christ will be smaller.  But if you are a 500 sinner, and see His grace? Nothing can contain the immensity of your love for Jesus.

Jesus is enough to rescue you and pay your debt.

Finding Peace Among the Pieces

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During a prayer time we this morning at my church, one of our new members prayed for me.  She has been a member of our church for about two years or so, and has lived up to her name as far as I’m concerned.  She prayed something I will never forget and always cherish:

“Lord, we know that when it comes to pastors, everyone wants a piece. Lord, only you can keep him in one piece, and give him peace. Please do this for him.”

How grateful I am to have such intercession made on my behalf. Most pastors start out wanting to please everyone, but they quickly find out they cannot. In the midst of people-pleasing, many forget to please God by studying, praying, preaching His Word, and patiently caring for His people.

Pastors should never be amazed or even bothered by their people ‘wanting a piece.’  That’s the very nature of the calling. We are undershepherds of the flock. But while we cannot always be available personally due to the wide array of needs, we can continually point to the Good Shepherd (John 10) who is continually available and accessible.

Being unable to meet every need brings about a perpetual pastoral guilt that few have and even fewer understand.  And as a result, peace evades many pastors. But the Prince of Peace comes along to convict when needed and to assuage the guilt when needed as well, reminding us we are finite undershepherds–He is the infinite, all-caring, all-powerful Good Shepherd who sacrificially lays down His life for His sheep.

I’m thankful to know and hear His voice. I’m thankful His peace keeps me in one peace.