Too Familiar   

 

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Phil. 3:13-14

I grew up in a Christian home. I don’t mean that I grew up in a home where people thought they were Christians but lived like everybody else. I mean that my parents loved the Lord, and because they did, they poured Scripture into my brother and me. They ensured that our lives were spent in the fellowship of our church. They guided our lives according to biblical teaching and attempted to honor Jesus through it all.

Because of this godly legacy, I possess a rich warehouse of Bible knowledge and understanding. I trusted Christ as a young boy and have walked – however haltingly at times – with Him since I was six years old. It’s easy to consider my relationship with Christ as “successful.”

One of my greatest temptations, then, is to just coast through the rest of my walk with Jesus. In Philippians 3, Paul demonstrates his desire – strong drive – to continue his pursuit of Jesus. As I read this, I’m convicted that often I don’t have that same kind of drive to chase Christ.

Here’s why: I sometimes become lazy in my assurance of salvation. (Granted, God gives me assurance of this as I walk with Him. It is a real gift from God.) Because I know all of the doctrines concerning salvation and His keeping me, I am tempted to not “work out my salvation with fear and trembling” much anymore.

As I’ve hear the above passage preached before, I hear those preachers say that the “what lies behind” stuff is either worldliness or sin, so we must press past those things. But, if you read the whole thing in context, Paul’s “what lies behind” stuff is the things he counts as righteousness or gain. All of his religious past is forgotten so that he can press into faith in Christ. This faith, by the way, is today’s faith in Christ, not yesterday’s.

We are called to an active faith, day by day. So, instead of resting in the all too familiar place of just hanging out and waiting for the end, we ought to be pressing toward the goal…

At least I know I need to press on…because Jesus is worthy!
 
In Him,
 
 
 
 
 
Pastor Jim


Forgiveness…and the Repetition of Sin

 

And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:7-11

 

I try not to exaggerate much when I communicate. I grew up in an era when many preachers were given to hyperbole and it just rubbed me the wrong way. Because of this, I take great care with my words, almost to the point of hesitation. With these thoughts in mind, I’m going to make an extreme statement: the greatest blessing of the Christian life is forgiveness of sin through the work of Christ on the cross.


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So Afraid…

 

“He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’”
                                                                                                    Mark 4:40

I have spent the past couple of days learning as much as I can about hurricanes, floods, and power outages in the Carolinas. I’ve been listening to the weather channel’s coverage of Hurricane Florence regularly as I work. As a new resident of North Carolina, and one that is depended upon to make wise decisions concerning congregational gatherings, I felt it necessary to gain as much information as I can before the storm hits. One of my favorite leadership quotes: “There is safety in a multitude of counselors” (Proverbs 11:14).


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Rejoice!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice (Philippians 4:4).

As Paul wraps up his God-breathed letter to the church at Philippi, he gives them a list of three reminders as they continue walking with the Lord. He tells them, first, to live in peace with one another. It seems two ladies had gotten cross-ways with one another, and it was causing issues in the church. Paul addresses these two beloved women and begged them to agree in the Lord.

The third reminder was for the Philippians to set their minds on things above. “…Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” So, Paul said, we ought to discipline our minds to contemplate only godliness.


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Dead or Alive?

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God…” 

This passage of Scripture from Revelation 3 strikes fear deep in my heart. The Lord has given us His word for several reasons: so we can know Him, so we can know His wonderful gift of grace, so we can be instructed in His ways, and so we can be awakened from our slumber and warned of judgment to come. In this passage, God clearly warns us of being complete in Him. 


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What I Am Reading…

Something awesome just happened in the practical execution of my ministry day! I was contemplating my need to publish a blog post for this week. As I was trying to develop a coherent thought for the post, I received a phone call. The caller, who was present last night during our Adult Discipleship time, asked me for the name of the book I referenced in my time of teaching. Then I thought, if she wanted to know the name of the book, perhaps others would like to know what I am currently reading, too. Then, bang! I figured, what a great topic for a blog post. The rest, as they say, is history.


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Looking toward the Future

Churches in this 21st Century America face a great many challenges. Our flirtation with the god of this world in the areas of illegitimate power, ill-gotten money, and identifying passions have rooted itself in our practices, to the extent that we have accepted them as a matter of course. In many ways, the American church has strengthened itself in its own flesh – doing the best that man and money can do – while ignoring God’s power and program. And, if all this were not bad enough, we are failing to make disciples in our own families, creating a mission field out of the very ones who we ought to count on as the next generation of disciple-makers.

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Why I believe in VBS…

This week, many of our church members are gearing up for our Vacation Bible School. Next week, our church grounds will be flooded (I hope!) with 5 year-olds through sixth graders coming to get their Game On! It will be a big week for our church; perhaps the biggest of the whole year.

You may wonder why churches, and ours in particular, still host Vacation Bible Schools each summer. It takes so much preparation, it’s exhausting, and uses many resources. Plus, churches all over do it. Why not let a few just have it?

First, it’s one of the few outreach events churches offer to which parents are still willing to bring their children. According to a recent Lifeway research poll, 69% of parents polled stated they would allow their children to attend VBS if invited. Did you get that? Seven out of ten, even among the unchurched, are okay with their kids going to VBS! This research alone should motivate churches to get behind VBS.


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What I’m Thinking About…

Wow! It seems like forever since I’ve put pen to paper for our church’s blog. Since last I wrote, Myra and I have travelled to Florida and the Caribbean. Most of you have heard about our trip. For those that haven’t, the highlight was our celebrating 25 years of marriage. We are so thankful to the Lord for bringing us together and keeping us united. To God be the Glory!

Our trip was not the only reason for my failure to write. I have a great many things on my mind, but I have not sufficiently developed any of them to share with you. (Sometimes it’s a scary thing to be in my mind!) But, since I want you to continue this journey with me, I thought that I would at least let you know what’s occupying my gray matter.


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Summertime Blues

I hate to confess this, but I’m a music junkie. I love all kinds of music. In fact, with every season of the year, and my life, I have an internal soundtrack that is on continual loop. When it comes to this time of year there are a few I cannot escape: School’s Out (for Summer), Changes in Latitude, Dream On, and Summertime Blues. Various reasons exist for each of those songs bounding around my head during summer, but suffice it to say, they are ever-present. 

Summertime Blues speaks of a young man’s obligation to work all summer long instead of enjoying it. In fact, I suppose that after twelve to sixteen years of living on a schedule that included summers being off, it’s difficult for a person to actually have to grow up. Through the whole song the singer bemoans the fact of having to work instead of enjoying (being lazy) the summer. 


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