To Live is Christ

To Live is Christ

For a few weeks now, through the summer heat and humidity, and all the unique, seasonal challenges that the summer brings, God has been speaking loudly. It really began the week of July 4th and has seemingly continued each day since. What is very interesting, and often consistent in how God works, is that He shows up, speaks, and reveals in the seasons and times when we least expect.

The summer. A time when school is out. People are traveling and on vacation. Families and friends are visiting. The water is a great getaway. A somewhat slower schedule is often welcomed. And then, perhaps when we may not expect it: God shows up, He speaks, and He gets our attention. Not saying He can’t when we are physically exhausted, overloaded, or under pressure; but rather, I sense His unbelievable patience waits until He can get through to us, so that we hear/receive more clearly.

This is what I feel going into this Series: “To Live is Christ.” It has been curating now for a while, week in and week out. God knows what He is doing, all the time. His ways are far better than my ways; His plan is far better than my plans. I say all of this, to make this point:

This Series belongs to Him!
It is surely a God-ordained, Jesus-led, Spirit-filled journey
that will, with His guidance, lead us into more intimate
relationship with Him.

I would like to encourage you and invite you to join us. Consider that a heartfelt invitation. More than anything, I feel it will delight the heart of God and be a beacon of hope to you, in your life right now. It begins this Sunday 8/4/19 @ 10 am and will continue for several weeks.

I hope you will come alongside us for “To live is Christ.” Remember, the journey is the destination. Blessings and peace to you and yours. Hope to see you Sunday!

Porter

 

Why the Sabbath is Important

I confess: I haven’t always been a pastor.

I know that is hard to comprehend, but it’s true. At one time, I even asked and wondered over the very subject matter (and question) that is in the title bar. In fact, I just didn’t ponder it – I almost tried to find, locate, and prove that the Sabbath wasn’t as important as thought. It was in that period that, among other things, when God showed me just how foolish, and wrong, I really was.

For the purpose of this blog, I won’t consume our time with those details. Just know it was very targeted, and God got my full attention. Yes, I was a “babe” in Christ; just learning the elementary things of the faith; dipping in the waters of Christendom and faithful followship. But within 6 months, my whole perspective began to shift.

Hard to admit: That was nearly 20 years ago, now.

Today, I am obviously at a much different place. People tend to view me as among those who work on Sunday. Others probably conclude that it’s part of my “job” or “responsibility” to promote honoring the Sabbath, so of course I am going to do that. Right? Well, I can say with the utmost transparency here: No matter what it is the Lord would have me do, inside or outside His Church: I will always be a proponent for His Word, His Will, and His Sabbath. It was His idea and He is the Creator of the Sabbath. That is precisely why I see it as important.

Here are 5 Reasons why I believe the Sabbath is essential, necessary, and non-negotiable. [There are probably more reasons, and you can add to the list. But for me, these are the Top 5]:

  1. It is a command. We do well as people and as believers to know the difference between commands and recommendations; to know the difference between orders and opinions. From the very earliest period in the Creative Order decreed by God, to the giving of the 10 Commandments, to the prophets challenging the people to “honor it,” the Sabbath Day is a command given to God’s people. Within the very framework of all of this…we are even shown the benefits of honoring it and the consequences of dishonoring it. [See Genesis 2; Exodus 20; Jeremiah 17 for the references).
  2. If offers you…you and I…the opportunity for both refreshment and rest. The actual word, “sabbath,” is translated as “rest.” As such, the 4th Commandment commands people to take a break from work, from work-related activities, from labor, and from the daily grind in order to pause and focus on God, His presence, and a much needed reset. In this way, it is a day that is promised to contain these things if we will simply receive it: He will give rest to those who are His (see Exodus 35).
  3. Jesus kept the Sabbath (I hope this is not news to you). For those that thought Jesus just overturned and voided out all the Old Testament commands: He didn’t. As we turn the pages over from the Old Testament to the New, the Gospel records are clear: The Lord honored and observed the Sabbath, in His own life and ministry (see Luke 4). He went so far as to claim that He was “the Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12, v.8); and He taught that the day itself was made for us (see Mark 2, v.27). I believe if for no other reason, every believer and Christ follower ought to honor the mandate because Christ Himself showed how important it was.
  4. The Lord transformed the Sabbath, through His death and resurrection, to the 1st Day of the Week. Jesus was raised on the first day of the week. When He was raised on that Easter morning – the old system of sacrifices and sinfulness died too, and He ushered in a new way to honor His resurrection. Sunday marks a new Christian Sabbath, or commonly called, “The Lord’s Day” as He defeated evil and sin and gave us new life.
  5. Over and over again in the New Testament…the Lord shows that the 1st Day of the Week is now the new Holy/Worship Day for His Church and His followers. Consider the following examples:
    • When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, Thomas is not present. To overcome the doubt, Jesus comes to him 1-week later, on Sunday, and Thomas worships His risen Lord (see John 20, vv.24-28).
    • The Day of Pentecost is the day when Jesus sends forth the Holy Spirit, in all of His fullness, to the Church (see Acts 2). In the Old Testament, Pentecost was a feast celebrating the harvest, deriving it’s name from the number 50. By arriving 50 days after Passover, it is clear that Pentecost fell on the 1st day of the week. The Holy Spirit coming on the 1st day of the week is significant for understanding the intent it had on worship, and preaching, and sharing (in the Church) on this specific day.
    • The early church began meeting on this day, regularly, for sharing the Gospel, for worshiping the Lord, for giving, and for prayer (see Acts 20; 1 Corinthians 16). It was never altered, changed, corrected, or rebuked. No where in Scripture, after decades of the Church going into the world, was there a reset by our Lord or in the apostolic teachings.

Yes, we are 2,000 years past this. People do have careers, jobs, and responsibilities that require them to work on Sundays (on the sabbath day) that are often difficult to get out of. But in other things, life can get in the way (and all too often, we allow it to). Sundays get occupied with sleeping inlazy breakfastsday travelskid’s sporting events, and shopping. It’s a good day, some will reason, to catch-upto relaxto breathe from the highly occupied week, and to do what I want to do. I know. I’ve been there, I’ve heard it, and I’ve believed it before.

My only request would be for you to seek God in it if you have a choice. To really glean His heart and His Word. Let us be a people after His own heart, and really acknowledge in the depths of our own lives: He has our best interests, at heart, always. He has. He does. He always will.

Porter

Treasures and Hearts

Oswald  Chambers (one of my favorites, if you’ve never noticed before) asks a question in his My Utmost for His Highest devotionals. Without conjecture or even set-up, here is what he asks: “Have you ever been pierced by the Lord?” 

Now ponder that for a moment. Take a good journey down memory lane.

Have you?

It’s not: Have you been challenged by the Lord? Nor is it: Have you been pushed by the Lord? He can certainly do those alone or in conjunction with other actions. But the question is: Have you ever been pierced by the Lord?

I have multiple times in life, and quite frankly, there is absolutely nothing like it. You can’t deny it, you can hardly explain it, and you can’t get around it. His piercing is both deeply soul-wrenching and incredibly freeing, when it happens. There is no wondering what it is, what it was, or why it happened. It comes with crystal clear clarity and purpose. Truth here: Our Lord pierces us to accomplish His purpose; to better us for His glory and so that we might accomplish His work.

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, there is a rich litany of teaching expelled and given by Jesus. I often think of how challenging it must have been for the writers of the Gospels to listen, to soul-search, to capture, and to write the words of the Lord. Surely the Holy Spirit was their true guide in capturing the depth and proclaiming the truth. Starting in Matthew 6, at v.19, Jesus is expounding on the theme of storing up things for ourselves. It had to speak exceptionally loudly and a bit uncomfortably to the disciples and followers. After all, most of them had very little in the way of “earthly value” and “assets.”

But Jesus goes deep, and after driving home the point of “storing up treasures in Heaven,” He hits the real nerve (I feel) that He wanted to tackle in v.21: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” 

Let’s go ahead and say it together: “Ouch!” It’s o.k., we are all people and we are all familiar with treasures.

I run into different people with different treasures every week. Here is a short-list of what could be a treasure: addictions; athletics; family; money; title/position; power; school; leisure time; work-out plans; and just work itself. There are more, no doubt. Even in my past, there were things that became, and were, treasures. The thing is, no matter what the treasure is (which can be/become a form of idolatry, if not careful), our heart is also right there with it.

People put there “treasures” ahead of everything, including God. 
We hold onto them, with a grip that is unrelenting.
And most often, it is denied that it really has control over us.

When Chambers asks: “Have you ever been pierced by the Lord?” – I feel he is going head on into this very subject matter. Sure, it could be other things and relate to entirely different circumstances in our life journey. But I come back to the reality that when the Lord pierces us, it is often with the intention to get our attention and to get us back to what is most important in our lives…His presence and lordship.

Never allow your own will to eradicate or undermine the Lord’s purpose in your life. If our treasure is in Him…if we place our life in His hands…if we see ourselves as a people after His own heart…our treasures will reflect and represent where our heart truly is. So let’s allow Him to pierce us, so that our treasure is truly in the Lord Jesus Christ – once and for all. Then, we will be better equipped and positioned to be a blessing to His Kingdom and to others.

In His grace,

Porter

The Matter of Belief

I used to be told: “Either stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.” To this day I am not exactly sure where it originated, but I am sure Google or Bing or Yahoo could help direct a history. In many forms and fashions, and at different stages in my life, I have heard those words or something quite similar.

The fact is: What we believe, and why we believe it, is more essential than we often realize. Not just as we grow, mature, and get a bit older. The sum gain is that the beliefs we adopt, ascribe to, and support will often help cultivate our life, our priorities, and our worldview. That is just reality.

Later this month, on Sunday, April 29, we will launch a multiple part Series titled, “We Believe…” Over the course of at least 6 weeks, we will both cover our agreed upon beliefs in our Christian family, called Nazarenes, and we will dig deeper into them to see their Scriptural basis. We are but one part of a much bigger family of God, but for over 110 years now, our heritage has been anchored in a passionate pursuit of drawing ever closer to God. As a Great Commission Church, we give much priority to Jesus’ command “to go into all the world and to make disciples of all people.” Yet, our conviction and desire goes deeper into God’s heart, as we work out this faith in the here and now.

I sincerely hope you will join us for this Series. The top priority is to honor God through it all. Along this journey, as a second focus, is to come together in shared/unified belief as we do the equipping, service, and work of His Church in the 21st century. Again, each Sunday @ 10 am, starting on April 29, 2018 at Bridgeway Church. Of course, we hope you will join us before the Series begins and after it concludes.

We are better together…always,

Porter

Closer to the Heart

Since March 1, we have been on a journey of Hope and Renewal. The Series is called, “Come Alive” and with the Series came the 30-day journey. It is designed to prepare us for what begins this Sunday (Palm Sunday), continues through next week (Holy Week), and culminates with our Easter Sunday Celebration.

In relation to this, I felt impressed to share a few tidbits on where we are. I love having a resource like the book to follow together, for those that either bought one or had one provided. It gives us some shared opportunity to glean, pray, and read together.

As we arrive at chapter 20, we see the reference from Matthew 6, v.21. It is a direct statement from Jesus that pierces us. It truly goes straight to the heart and leaves no room for ambiguity or misunderstanding. It is simple, yet, it will drive us to really ponder the essence of our being. Here it is: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” Clearly in making that statement, Jesus was directly conveying that treasures are a reflection of our heart.

People often go off on a tangent when they hear that or read it. Some will even go so far as to say: What does it mean? Should I just give everything away and live in total poverty? – often implying that it surely is not reasonable, or that Jesus would not require that of us. Relax. That is not what Jesus is saying. Rather, it does mean that we (no one excluded) need to examine our actions and desires and be certain that Christ is the center of our lives (see p.65).

It is no one’s duty, or job, or position to tell someone else how to exercise generosity. That is solely the responsibility of the Holy Spirit. God’s puts His people in places where He can utilize others to guide, lead, and teach us good/godly principles, biblical concepts, and prayerful suggestions – but the inner work and the heart cleansing is His thing!

Simply ask yourself: Based on your actions, behaviors, and choices – related to finances and money – where would you say your treasure is? What would those closest to you respond with? That might be a tad painful to answer for some, or, you could look back and see how far God has brought you. Either way, God will be faithful in His work and He will bring you further – if you will allow Him to. That is a fact for all of us! 

Why this subject? Why at this juncture? What’s the reason? It is fascinating to note that Jesus talked about money, about riches, about treasures more than any other subject. He knew the issues it caused – He knew it was a major reason why people remained distant from God, why others wouldn’t surrender, and why even some would not come to faith. So instead of just tiptoeing around it, or leaving it alone – Jesus goes to the heart, as He so often does.

God loves us. He has provided His best, in Christ, for everything we need for life and salvation.  His piercing may hurt…it will challenge…it even goes deeper than we sometimes wish it would. But He always has our best interests at heart. Wherever our treasure is – there our hearts will be too.

Hope lives.

Porter

Gain What?

I could be the only one, but for some reason, I seriously doubt I am. It just seems like I am overwhelmed at the incredibly intense, never relenting, marketing-machines in our world today. All to get your attention, first; then, move in to “tell” you why you must buy this product; get on this plan; do this in the new year; or sign-up for this program.

Along with that, there is more “self-help” stuff available than anyone would have resources to purchase and enough time to sift through. It has even infiltrated the church in some levels, as unfortunate as it is. Some is referred to as the “Prosperity Gospel,” and there is no shortage of people (and many who claim to be Christians) who have bought into it completely.

It would seem our goals and objectives, in these types of systems, are magnified over the purposes of God. We can get more. We can have financial security. We can take elaborate vacations. We can retire early. We can reduce stress. We can eliminate anxiety. We can have better kids. We can build our own empire. 

But then I hear the resounding words of Jesus – breaking into the very heart of it, asking with clarity: “What does it profit anyone, if they gain the whole world but lose their soul? Or, what would a person exchange for their soul?”

It’s as if He took it to task Himself, settled it, and gave us the answer at the front end. Here it is: Nothing! There is no profit in achieving or acquiring or gaining anything, if it will result in losing your soul in the process. To be sure: It is heart-wrenching that we would even consider it, or that we would miss it in the pursuit of profiting. But the reality is, we do, when we drift, fall away, and resist the Lord and His guide. It’s almost like we sell Him out for what is before us.

How much is enough?
How many goals must we attain?
Then what?

My experience and history tells me that this is about heart and pursuit more than anything. It’s about what we idolize and what we go after in priority, often, with great urgency. Are we pursuing physical things? Material things? Selfish things that really don’t matter in eternity? Or, do we yield to God and allow Him to guide us in what we should seek? Are we abandoned to Him with everything, or are we holding on to our own preferences and delights?

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans what our response ought to be, right at the beginning of chapter 12. It is a reinforcement of Jesus’ teaching that nothing is worth losing our soul. Paul puts it this way: “I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and well pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”

Like me, you’ve probably heard, read, and studied that passage a million times. But the question is: Has it sunk in? And if so, how is it manifesting itself? We surely need more of God in our everyday life – and we need to ensure nothing comes before Him.

I’d like to encourage and invite you to join us here at Bridgeway Church. We are in a series that comes alongside of this, and it’s titled: “The Will of God.” You know, He has a will. And His will includes you. So if you are seeking more, wanting more, desiring more in your spiritual life – I believe this is the place for you and yours. Sunday @ 10 am, and we will have a special gift for coming and being our guest.

Blessings for the day…and ponder it over the weekend: What would it profit you to gain everything…everything you can imagine, yet, lose your soul?

Porter

A Sincere Thanks

About this time every year, we pause for a break in the regular routine to “give thanks.” A proclamation was issued years ago, a holiday was forged, and before we embark on the Advent/Christmas Season, we “give thanks” for what we have. For many, they pause long enough to give the impression and  observance that they are participating in doing this, but the question remains: What (or Who) are we giving thanks to?

Needless to say, this time of year all of the focus, articles, blogs, resources, cards, and notes begin to be disbursed. The influx is almost uncanny and can seemingly be overwhelming. The terms: “give thanks” “be grateful” “show gratitude” and “happy thanksgiving” echo on every platform and are captured in so many visual ways. For the Christian, the passages begin to float to the surface as certain words from Scripture are recounted and remembered. Some even memorized and turned into a message or teaching series.

Don’t think I am against all of it. I am just against it when the words and the actual gratitude is superficial or non-existent. You see, when we go through it because it’s part of the season or we are expected to, it doesn’t really mean anything at all. At that point, you’re just along for the ride, just saying all the things you feel you ought to say.

That doesn’t glorify God in any way. In fact, I kind of see that as a direct slap to His face.  [Maybe that’s just me – but perhaps there are some others too.]

God is glorified when our level of gratitude, our thanksgiving to Him, is real, deep, and sincere. It happens when Jesus is the Lord of our life and when nothing will rob, steal, or strip us of praising God and rendering our true thanks unto Him. God is great, and God is good, and His mercy endures forever (see Psalm 136).  Paul writes in 1st Thessalonians: In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (5, v.18).

Those words aren’t up for debate. They aren’t based on where we are in our journey today. And they should not be correlated to our current situation. They are timeless truths that extend far beyond anything earthly, anything seasonal, or any emotions I may feel. It is living and proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Lord of my life and giving Him thanks for all He has done for me. At the very least, I can live a life of gratitude for that!

This is what Thanksgiving really means to me. Yes, I am grateful for many other things too. But as we begin our journey to Advent and to the precious Christmas Season, slowing down and coming back to adopting and having a grateful heart is what I sense this next week is all about. Seize it. Find time and opportunity to connect with God and with His others. Trust Him. Know that He has given all that is needed for real hope, for real life, and for real joy.

Let me leave you, this day, with the opening of Psalm 34 (from TLB): “I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will constantly speak of His glories and grace. I will boast of His kindness to me. Let all who are discouraged take heart. Let us praise the Lord together and praise His Name” (vv.1-3).

Blessings as you give thanks!

Porter