Attempting Focal Unity

On Wednesday nights starting in late July, I plan to lead our church is a pursuit of clarity. Based on the book (and process) Church Unique by Will Mancini, I will lead us to discover who God wants FBC to be for Him in Concord and beyond.  I’ve read the book through twice, and ransacked it several more times, and it serves as a great tool for assessment.

As we grapple with the concepts on Wednesday evenings, I won’t expect (or even ask) our church members to read the book. What I will ask is that those present will actually participate. Collaborative in nature, the interaction will allow our folks to “remember when” and dream dreams of “what if we….” The product of this venture will provide a sense of unity: unified understanding, unified language, and unified future.


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Willing to Give.

What are we willing to give?

 

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.                                                                                                        1 Corinthians 9:19-23

As I examine God’s calling on my life and dream about my future, I often wander back to this passage of Scripture from Paul’s pen. I don’t always like it, I certainly don’t always live it, but I DO always believe that it serves as a model for our ministries. To sum it up, “I surrender my freedom (rights, preferences, desires) to reach others with the Gospel.” That’s it. Easy-peasy.


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Celebrating our Risen Lord!

I’m grateful for all of the opportunities we have at this time of year to celebrate, enjoy, and congregate with our families. I love the ham, devilled eggs, potato salad, and green beans present at our typical Easter dinner. I enjoy a summer tan or blue seersucker suit with a pink or orange bow tie and white bucks (no white before Easter!) to celebrate the seasonal change. And, sorry Halloween, there’s no candy like Easter candy: peeps, Reese’s eggs, and chocolate- covered marshmallow bunnies. It is a fun time of year.

Yet, we have to intentionally set before us the reason for this time of year. We must consider that at the heart of this celebration we don’t find eggs, or candy; rather we find a bloody cross and an empty grave. Our risen Lord Jesus, who will soon return riding a horse and judging the nations, reigns


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God Has Spoken

 

“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”     – the Serpent

Did God actually say? These four words preface the Serpent’s overture to Eve in the garden. Adam and Eve had received instructions from God on how to please Him and live in harmony in His creation. With these words the Serpent enticed the couple to disobey. With these words the Serpent persuaded humanity to reject His will and succumb to their own desires. With these words all of ordered creation was thrown into disarray and cursed by its Creator.

This question – Did God actually say? – is the most important question for humanity. Not just for humanity, but each one of us as individuals must grapple with this question. Churches – and even denominations – must decide the answer to this question. In fact, every other decision, mission statement, or life-plan runs its course based on one’s answer to this question.


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When Herod has had enough…

We often celebrate Christmas in a kind of a sterile way. The shepherds are all clean and smell of freshly laundered linen. The angels are never frightening. Mary and Joseph know all of their lines. And, the Baby, “no crying he makes.” And, because we’ve cleaned it all up so well, we often fail to remember that Herod’s response to these “glad tidings of great joy” was to commit state-sponsored mass murder. And Rachel weeps for her sons.

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Church and Inclement Weather

This blog serves me as a way to continue to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” So, most of my posts are attempts to persuade you, dear reader, to follow Christ more closely. Sometimes I share things that I see lacking in our lives. Sometimes I share things that God is teaching me, places where I notice short-comings in my own walk with the Lord. And, sometimes, I use this blog to communicate with our church family.

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Intentional Discipleship

Love God. Love Others. Make Disciples.

Thanksgiving arrived earlier than I’m used to this year. It gives us this squirrelly week that we have now; it’s after Thanksgiving but it’s still November. So, instead of turning my thoughts toward Christmas (which I’m wont to do the week after Thanksgiving), I will bring my last thoughts on discipleship for this calendar year.


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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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