The Gospel

The Gospel

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Welcome to Long Island

This week, my family and I began a new ministry at Temple Baptist Church, Ridge (Long Island), NY.  We are so excited about the work that God has in store for us and how He will use the people of Temple to tell others about the gospel.

The people of Temple have welcomed us with love and affection.  God used them to bless us, encourage us and help make the transition very smooth.

If you do not have a church home or if you would like to get connected with a church right in your community, come visit us at 70 Smith Rd. in Ridge this or any Sunday at 11:00 AM.  We are starting a new series on the Gospel and look forward to what God will teach us.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Convictions of a Pastor - Part 4

Our church is studying through the gospel of Luke and this week one of our pastors spoke on the Good Samaritan. 

There is so much in that story that Jesus tells that is wonderful and convicting at the same time.  Jesus of course, talking to a very "righteous" person who wants to know how to inherit the eternal life. 

Jesus, knowing his heart, says what is in the law.  He doesn't say obey the law, but he asks him a question.  The man, is confident that he has done that but wants to put Jesus in a corner and asks Who is his neighbor. 

Of course then the story....a bat a man who gets the fool beat out of him and a hated man showing him mercy.

Jesus tells a story that puts the hated Samaritan in the place of a good neighbor.  Even the man can see that even though he does not even say who it is - "the one who showed him mercy".  Jesus says go and do like wise.  Showing mercy is being a neighbor.  We should certainly, as Christians, have this kind of heart attitude in us.  The motivation however is not because it gets you to heaven or is a spiritual thing to do.  We do it because Jesus is our Samaritan

The Samaritan in the story looks a lot like Jesus.  Just as the story, a man is beaten and left for dead and deservedly so.  We are like that man - we don't deserve anything.  Jesus, like the Samaritan, sees us, comes to us, gets down of his horse.  He shows mercy on you, even when you don't want it, deserve it or even know it.  He puts you on the saddle, bandages your wounds and restores you to life.  But Jesus takes it one step further.  He gets down in your place - a place of judgment and he gets the fool beat out of him.  What mercy.  What Kindness.Jesus is your neighbor.  He shows you mercy. 

The neighbor is kind, merciful, looks beyond your condition to your need, looks beyond your lineage (child of Satan), looks passed the danger he will face.  Being a good neighbor  is more than being like the Samaritan.  It is really about being like Jesus. 

Are you a neighbor like that?  Now that is convicting.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Convictions Of A Pastor - Part 3

Over the last month the pastors from the church we have connected with have been preaching a series called "Outsiders".  It is a look at the cost of true discipleship.  We started our study in Luke chapter 5.  The text is where Jesus is with his disciples in a boat and they are having no success in catching fish that day.  

There are a few observations that could be made about this text.  First, in verse 4 Jesus offers his suggestions on how Peter and the rest of the group should fish - "put out into the deep and drop your nets."  Now know that Jesus is the God of the universe and in hindsight it would seem foolish not to listen to his words.  But to these disciples Jesus was a carpenter - an occupation that probably knows bubcus about fishing.  This is the first of several strange and hard to grasp requests that Jesus makes of his disciples.  Peter might have thought "why should we listen to him - if we were making furniture absolutely - but fishing."  Peter give a little defense but sort of reluctantly he lets the nets down.  Most of us know what happens next - They catch a boat load of fish (pun intended). 

Peter has a unique response to this amazing catch - he falls on his knees and begs Jesus to depart from him and says he is a sinner.  You get the sense that if Peter could walk on water at this point he might have just left the boat.  There was fear and awe in his heart.  We have seen this before - several times actually.  But the two that stand out are the callings of Isaiah and Jeremiah.  God summons both of them and they both respond that they are unclean.  This is the response of sinful people that come in contact with a holy God - we are not worthy and our sin is magnified a thousand times in the sight of God's holiness.  Isaiah and Jeremiah, after seeing God's holiness and their sinfulness, are cleansed by God and are called to ministry and they both respond in obedience and faith.  God specifically asks Isaiah who will go and tell others the good news of God - his answer "I will go, send me"

In a mirror image (or typological pattern if you will) Peter seems to be having the same kind of experience.  Jesus says to them to not be afraid because they will now be fishers of men.  Again, this is the same language used in Jeremiah 16:16 - Behold, I will send for many fishers saith the LORD, and they shall fish them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.

Jesus is saying to the disciples - Do you know who I am - Did you read the prophets.  The language should have sent bells and alarms ringing in the minds of the disciples.  Peter (and the rest of the disciples) are in the presence of a holy God, they fall to their knees and see their sinfulness.  So what do the disciples do - they get to the shore and...leave all those fish.  Now to most of us this doesn't seem odd. I don't eat fish - I wouldn't think twice.  But they weren't leaving behind fish - but cash and lots of it - a boat load if you remember.  They walk away from all that.  To be fishers of men.  Why would they do it? 

For the same reason Isaiah and Jeremiah before them do it.  The same reason that you and I must be willing to do the same - because those that see the glory of God in Christ Jesus the only obedient response is complete abandonment and following Jesus with our lives.  Taking nothing with us, holding nothing tightly in our hands and being willing to leave everything behind. 

There have always been little things in my life that I was not quite willing to give up to follow Jesus.  But that is not true discipleship.  A real disciple of Jesus leaves everything, even earthly wealth and power, to follow Christ.  I want to be like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter and millions of others who have said "Give Me Jesus, only Jesus".

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Convictions of a Pastor - Part 2

I think that Andrew Peterson might be one of the most creative and distinct artists around.  His album "Behold The Lamb of God" might be the best Christmas album I have ever heard that captures the true redemptive, gospel story.  I listen to him often. 

I have just recently started to listen to another one of his CD's - Counting Stars.  One song that has really hit home is the song "Fool With A Fancy Guitar".  Now, I don't play the guitar or any other musical instrument for that matter.  But the description "fool" has fit me on more than one occasion - perhaps some of you can relate.

You can listen to it here.  Here are the lyrics - It’s so easy to cash in these chips on my shoulder
So easy to loose this old tongue like a tiger It’s easy to let all this bitterness smolder Just to hide it away like a cigarette lighter; It’s easy to curse and to hurt and to hinder; It’s easy to not have the heart to remember
That I am a priest and a prince in the Kingdom of God

I’ve got voices that scream in my head like a siren Fears that I feel in the night when I sleep; Stupid choices I made when I played in the mire; Like a kid in the mud on some dirty blind street; I’ve got sorrow to spare, I’ve got loneliness too; I’ve got blood on these hands that hold on to the truth;
That I am a priest and a prince in the Kingdom of God

I swore on the Bible to not tell a lie But I’ve lied and lied;
And I’ve crossed my heart and I hoped to die And I’ve died and died

But if it’s true that you gathered my sin in your hand And you cast it as far as the east from the west
If it’s true that you put on the flesh of a man And you walked in my shoes through the shadow of death

If it’s true that you dwell in the halls of my heart Then I’m not just a fool with a fancy guitar
No, I am a priest and a prince in the Kingdom of God

I love how Andrew puts to words what most of our lives look like - I know certainly my life looks like this.  The Christian life is a constant struggle against temptation and sin.  Those that say they don't struggle with sin or temptation must be superhuman.  The Bible says that we are in a war - raging against the principalities of darkness.  It is true that Jesus struck a death blow to Sin and death and Satan, yet we still see all around us that sin is still here and until Jesus returns we will be faced against it. 

I struggle with anger - with a quick tongue that likes to lash out occasionally - and letting go of hurts - probably if we admit it, most of us do.  Yet, Andrew reminds us what Jesus has already said - that we are a priest and a prince in the Kingdom of God.  We are at the same time both marred by the presence of sin and yet uniquely set apart by God and saved for a purpose.  I heard my pastor (that sounds funny) say recently that it is only in the gospel that we can be more (evil and exposed) and yet completely loved at the exact same time. 

Those first two verses are convicting.  I forget who I am.  I am sort of like Simba in the Lion King - I am a prince but I am running around acting like a vagabond.  If the song stopped there, I might walk away depressed, feeling completely exposed, unworthy, and hopeless. 

And yet, Andrew closes with Hope (That is what the gospel does).  He says that "if it is true that you gathered my sin in your hand and you cast it as far as the east from the west..."  Even though I struggle with sin that is not fitting for a priest and a prince, Jesus Christ, in his death and resurrection, has already dealt with those sins for me.  I am free - free to live, obey, love and follow Jesus. 

The Christian life is a daily battle against sin. It is much like the battle of an alcoholic - you are only somber for the next 24 hours, then you start all over again.  I can only strive for one day to obey Chist - then I start all over again, day after day after day. 

Sometimes I forget who I really am.  It is true that I am a worthless sinner.  It is true that I was an enemy of God, a child of the devil.  But in Christ I am a sinner saved by grace, I am an adopted son and brother of Christ.  He has called me friend.  What a hope!?!  What a Gospel!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Convictions Of A Pastor - Part 1

John Stott wrote a wonderful book called The Living Church:  Convictions of a Life Long Pastor.  It is a helpful reflection on his many years of faithful ministry.  Recently, I have been reflecting on my much shorter ministry.  I have been doing that from the pew of a local church here in Simpsonville, SC where my family  and I have been placed.  We don't know why God has brought us to this place at this time in our lives yet I am confident (as my friend Mel would say) that I have much to learn and God is teaching me that through the ministry of two pastor friends (one that I have known for years {Jason} and another I am getting to know {Kyle} as we speak).  I doubt any one reads my blog - I am not famous and I am not eloquent.  Over the next few months, an exercise that God may only use to build me up and make me into Christ - I hope to list some of the things that I have been challenged with, convicted of or are growing in on my journey of faith and my personal grace story (as Jason would say).  Some of these things will come from sermons at the church I have been attending (Summit Mauldin) and others will come through the music I have been listening to in my IPOD - both I am confident are orchestrated in my heart by the Holy Spirit. 

Four weeks ago I caught the last sermon in a series.  The Title was asking Big and was part of a series on team (church) membership.  The text was from Acts 17:26 - 27, which says "26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us..."

The teaching pastor reminded the congregation that God, in verse 26, has sovereignly put each one of us right where we are, even at this very moment, so that we can be used by God for the advancment of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and the Gospel - that others might might be drawn to seek and find hope in God.

As I sat there that Sunday I felt the Spirit not tap my on the shoulder but trather yank me be the back of my ear (as I can vaugley remember my mom doing when I was a mouthy preteen).  You see, for the last two months I had been moping around Greenville County South Carolina pouting and I had fully convinced myself that not only was I justified but that it was somehow noble and spiritual.  You see, after two years of struggling with various crisies and conflicts with people at the church I was serving in, I walked away and humbly moved in with my parents and got a job at a local grocery story.  Not exactly the kind of thing I thought I would be doing with my life at 35.  My fellow co-workers kept asking why a guy pursuing his doctorate was working third shift at a grocery store.  And me, a guy who preached or taught every week bringing to the attention of my hearers the sovereignty of God in all things, was acting like I had no idea. 

To a degree I was right - I had no idea why God had brought me here  for me - yet Luke tells me about the greater purpose of why I am here even if I couldn't see it at that moment - God placed me sovereignly for the advancement of the gospel.  Sitting in the pew that day I knew my attitude had to change.  Not because I wanted to eventually find a new ministry for God to use me in, but rather because God had already called me to minisitry right where I was in SC and I was missing it. 

Luke tells us that God is much nearer to us than we can imagine - Jesus came down out of heaven, put on flesh, dwelt among us and is continually summoning sinners, like you and me, to Himself for his glory.  But God has also called me, at this time and in this place (Or as Mordecai says - For Such a Time as this), to live in such a way that those that I come in contact with in SC would see Jesus in me.  I was not doing that - Jesus does not pout about his circumstances - that is a sinful, self centered thing to do.  Jesus did not pout when he willingly put aside his majesty for our flesh.  He did not have a pitty party when his own people and a host of Roman soldiers stapled him to a tree. 

As a pastor, I was convicted - God was doing something in my circumstances even if I couldn't yet see it.  And his purpose, no mater what the journey may look like, is for me to be an agent of the gospel so that others might come to faith in him - even in SC.

Maybe you are in a place where you have felt like I did - you lost your job, your family circumstances are not what you thought they should be, someone in your life is sick and dying - and you walk around saying spiritual things while in your heart you are pouting like a five year old.  I pray that Acts 17:26-27 will remind you that God has put all those things in your life for your good and for His glory - and for the advancment of the kingdom.  Many of us are striving to buld and attain kingdoms - they just aren't Christs'.  When we come to the realization that our lives are not for our sake but for the Glory of God, then we will stop pouting and start rejoicing in the places, often full of muck and mire, that God has placed us and seeing how we can show others the life changing power of the gospel that comes only through Jesus Christ.

After all, this is the point of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation - God is saving a people for himself and for his glory and he has chosen the foolish things of the world - Us - to be the agents that he uses to take the gospel to the world. 

The Outpost - Bible Preaching (Brooke Taylor)