Impacting Others


One of the many papers I wrote, in the 3rd year of my Master of Divinity program surrounded a theme that had a tremendous amount of practical relevancy to it. The class was Church History II: From the Reformation to the Modern Day, and the paper was a major portion of the final grade.

My, my…those paper writing, mid-term/final exam, 4-5 hours of study and research each evening and night while working full-time, raising a family, going to church, nights and weekend class – days. For me, it took 6 years to complete the 90 credit hours, acquiring field and life experience, and going through approval for degree confirmation. I loved the process and I was blessed in how it equipped and trained me.

Back to this one class though: My paper for this course centered around much of what we face, today, in a very individually, inward focused world.

I mean look around, you don’t have to look far at all to see how deeply people love their own preferences. People occasionally ask me how I know this to be true, and I will respond, “Because I live and breathe.”

Some share their preferences non-stop. And many aren’t hesitant, at all, to let you know what they are.

There are millions of ways to custom-tailor your life to perfectly suit your every preference. When times get rough, or even a little uncertain – many think very little of pulling away from responsibilities. A growing number will completely reorient their life from whatever causes even a hint of inconvenience. This extends to something as central, and needed, and purposeful as our commitment to the Lord and to His local church.

All who are connected to the local church, each genuine Christ-follower, has witnessed people (sometimes family, other times close friends, and even co-workers and neighbors) waiver and wonder in their commitment. Maybe at one time we were that wanderer ourselves. The fact is: It is very personal and up close.

Other times, we have had to extend a call, a hand, a note, in order to encourage someone back into connection, fellowship, participation, and worship. And is often the case, we will often pull out one or two of our “go to passages” from Scripture. There are several that are extracted from many segments of the New Testament that are cited, quoted, and used.

One of the more acclaimed is found in Hebrews, chapter 10. It is here, in vv.24-25 where we are told to warn of the danger of “neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some…” We insist that those who neglect to participate in the local church will encounter spiritual temptation, spiritual decline, and even spiritual death. And while all of this is true, it is not the key principle of the passage. In fact, when we use the passage in this way, we are not displaying the divine urgency behind the text, but our own deep-rooted individualism.

Here is what Hebrews 10:24-25 states, in its full contextualization and meaning: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

This passage does, indeed, warn of the serious consequences of skipping out on church, but its focus is not what we might expect through our Western, individualized eyes and minds. This passage does not warn us that when we skip church we put ourselves at risk. Rather, it warns us that when we skip church we put other people at risk. You see, the root here is neglecting the needs of others…which means, we don’t demonstrate our love for God, or for them, correctly. And even worse, we show complete disregard for the Bride of Christ: the church.

Gathering with God’s people is not first about being blessed, but it is about being a blessing. It’s not first about getting, but it’s about giving.

As we come together for things like Worship, The Colonies, ministry opportunities, training and workshops, for outreach opportunities, our first consideration should be “how to stir up one another to love and good works.” We should approach Sunday deliberately, eager to do good to others, to be a blessing to them, to give things away – including ourselves.

In those times we feel our passion or zeal is fading (even a bit), when we feel the temptation to skip out on a Sunday or withdraw altogether, we should consider our God-given responsibility to encourage “one another, and all the more as you see the Day of the Lord drawing near.” This text is not about us, but about them. This text is not for Christian individuals but Christian communities.

And, of course, our commitment to the local church is far more than a commitment to Sunday morning services.

  • It is a commitment to other people through all of life.
  • It is a commitment to worship with them; then, to connect and fellowship with them, to serve them, and to pray for them all throughout the week. That is the mantle of DISCIPLESHIP.
  • It is to bind ourselves together in a covenant in which we promise to do good to them, to make them the special object of our attention and encouragement. It is where we can know and where we can be known.
  • It is to promise that we will identify and deploy our spiritual gifts for their benefit so we can serve them, strengthen them, and bless them.

Every Christian has a place within the local church. Every Christian is needed within a local church. Every Christian has responsibilities within a local church. Every Christian is to commit to the members of a local church and to love them, to encourage them, and to stir them up in zeal until the day of Christ’s return.

This has to happen…this must happen…even when our preferences are not met.

Are we considering the needs of others? Are we allowing ministry to happen to people who are not as familiar with faith than we are?

The church must be a place that reaches the unsaved and disciples the saved. The church must be more of a hospital…a clinic…a growing, working, community center than it is a museum, a venue, or a morgue. May God grant us favor and power as we seek to be and further become this, for His glory!

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

Identity Counts

I remember it well, even if it was 30 years ago: my first job. I actually have to give my sister, Liz, a lot of kudos for getting me on as a dishwasher to start. I was 16 years old, soon to be a Junior in High School. But Liz was one of the best servers there, so she had a lot of pull with management.

I worked for about 9 months in that hot kitchen, washing plates, loading-cycling-sorting-and stacking dishes and flatware. It was a bit monotonous, but it paid money. Then, I finally came up for a server position. Soon after, I was trained over a few weeks, watched for a few more, and then cast into the world of direct customer service, attending to customer’s needs. {Liz did warn me about this too].

Over the next 6 years, up until college graduation, I worked that job and applied for others. They included an Assistant Manager’s position at a retail Music Store (which is no longer in business) and as a Book-Keeper/Payroll Clerk at a Resort nearby.

Things even got more interesting after college graduation. I won’t bore you here with those details and experiences. Let’s just say: there were some very interesting things before I landed in the world of manufacturing.

But one consistent thing I learned, as I look back on all of that from 20-30 years ago now is this: Identity mattered then, and it surely still matters today.

Even if you are an American citizen, born here and lived here your whole life, you know a few things about what occurs when you apply for a job:

  • You complete an official Application, answering all kinds of questions about yourself. Even explaining to some extent, why you are “interested” in the job or position.
  • If asked, you provide a resume that even further divulges into “who you are” “what you have accomplished” and “what you can offer.”
  • You submit to a drug screen.
  • In many instances, you will also have to sign for a Background Check to be completed.
  • Then, you begin the process of personal, face-to-face interviews. I know some people who went through many layers of these, including up to 4 different dates/times.
  • And of course, everyone is familiar with the 90-Day Probationary Period. In that window, you are observed and evaluated to ensure you are a good fit, a reliable employee, and able to complete the job responsibilities.

While some of this may vary from place to place, from position to position, one thing is constant: Who you are, matters, up front; and who you become is something that is observable to those around you.

Your identity and who you are matters to God – most importantly. The real question of your life is this: Who (or in some cases, what) are you identified with? In the Word of God, we are told over and over again that we are to be made, more and more, in the image of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That is exactly how we will be recognized by the Father when we see Him, face-to-face.

Questions are: Are we becoming more and more like Him? Are we following His example and mandate? Are we yielding to His Lordship? How are we being identified?

There is nothing wrong with knowing or getting to know someone’s identity. If we do this when applying for a job…if it matters when we are before God Himself…then it must also be important when people show up at our doorstep. When Jesus was asked a question in and effort to try and trip Him up, they were pinning the government against the law of God. In essence, the way I read it, they were trying to get Him to say, “you don’t have to pay your taxes.” This would undercut Caesar (and the Roman authority). But Jesus answered conversely, in a way that they could not wiggle out of. He responded:

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.”

There is balance and reason in that response. Some may say that it pertained to taxes. Others may try and turn that, signaling it is 2,000 years old and given in a different culture and era (not applicable today). I say that Jesus answered that with an answer that is timeless and one that we must willingly accept; one that is clarified in other parts of Scripture: “obey those in authority over you” and “pray for them.” 

These are tumultuous times. There are great challenges before us. And yet, we are closer to Jesus’ return as we have ever been! In these days, the enemy is using just about everything to try and divide people. We are told this would happen, even as the Day of the Lord draws near – the intensity, the division – will only increase.

It is in these times we must turn to steadfast prayer, to fasting, to service. We must saturate ourselves in the Lord’s presence and rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth. The most important thing: to have our identity in Jesus Christ, and to do our best so that others desire to be identified by Him/in Him. So let us be a people after God’s own heart, not trouncing on or minimizing His commands and laws, but upholding it through obedient compassion and faithful stewardship.

All things are under His Lordship and reign…thankfully! We can be, and must be, both responsible and compassionate. Blessed is the Name of the Lord!

Porter

It Should, But It Doesn’t Surprise Me

Many people have probably heard about the most recent plea by Preacher Jesse Duplantis to receive enough monies to buy/purchase a new Falcon 7 private jet, at the cost of $50+ million. It’s been all over the news for the past few days; ever since he came out publicly to ask people to give to this campaign.

Here is a link to one of the publications on this: http://time.com/money/5293979/jesse-duplantis-televangelist-private-jet/

I normally don’t take to blogs, to media, to any outlet in order to offer a response to such things. But in these past 24 hours, I have felt compelled to give a personal perspective to what is a heartbreaking conversation piece. And while I would love to say that something like this surprises me and takes me off guard, the reality is: It Should, But It Doesn’t Surprise Me (at least, it doesn’t any longer).

Today (Thursday 5/31/18), I was actually asked by someone outside of our church community, in a casual conversation, “What do you think about that story of Jesse Duplantis?” It came from someone who I’ve come to know better in the past 2 years, and from someone who I am sure was interested in seeing what I might respond with. It didn’t take me long to reply to him.

Here is my take: I believe that our Great Lord and Savior would, if He were here today on His first coming, going around the world and spreading His Good News, would travel commercially. Perhaps, as Jesse states: “He would not ride on a donkey,” but maybe He would. In fact, I believe He would if it would lead others to belief, to faith, and to new life. Plus, prophecy was based on His riding a donkey anyhow!

I believe Jesus would do just about anything to impart God’s will and execute the ministry of the Kingdom. Including, traveling commercially in order to interact and make connections with people…with everyday people…with sinners…with those who need hope. That is just who Jesus is.

How can that be done flying privately? How can it be done running around the world to make preaching engagements, but avoiding meeting others
where they are? Airports and airplanes are great ways
to meet people at opportune times.

The heart of Jesus was always to pour Himself out; to give of Himself; to meet people on the streets, by the lake/river, in their home, and on the steps of the temple. Jesus was where the people were.

That is how I responded today. A lot of good work could be done with $50 million dollars. A lot of lives could be changed and transformed for all eternity. While I don’t judge or have to answer for Jesse Duplantis or any other, my assessment is that I would rather see resources put into the things most important to God’s heart: seeking and saving the lost; feeding the hungry; clothing the naked; building up the church in spirit and in truth; giving back to the community; etc.

May the Lord help us all, to be people after God’s own heart.

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