Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving List 2012

In the tradition following my dad's Thanksgiving List in His column "Chip's Off the Old Block", here is my Thanksgiving List for this year.

I’m thankful for God’s grace that forgives me of all my sin, credits me with righteousness, and adopts me into His family as His son.

My wife who is the treasure of my life. She is excellent and wise beyond any beauty I could ever imagine. I love my beautiful wife. She challenges me, sharpens me, and points me to Jesus.

All of my children. God’s grace in my older children’s lives is absolutely amazing. Kashiku and Lemlem defy the typical compliments others can pay to a parent. Yes, he is strong and handsome; yes, she is beautiful. But they are wise. Both of them have a heart to reach the nations with the Gospel. I praise the Lord for their hearts.
I praise God for the babies, Isaac and Kaleb. I love watching their personalities blossom; I love kissing their faces and snuggling them up.

My mom and dad. They care for my family and I more than I know and more than the average person can understand. I thankful for their wise counsel.

I love to hear Karen tell me about a conversation she had with either my mom or dad on the phone without me.

GracePointe Baptist Church. I’m thankful to pastor a church cares about the Gospel.

I’m thankful to serve along two pastors at GracePointe, Jim and Phil.

A magical sister who is a great aunt.

A nephew who is very smart, verbose, and entertaining.

Teaching at St. John’s Academy.  The Lord has worked in an awesome way that has brought me to SJA. I’m thankful I was able to home school Kashiku and Lemlem. That experience allowed me to work at First Baptist Church in Palm Coast last year which provided teaching experience. The Lord has given me a great calling to pastor and teach children.

The leadership and teachers at St. John’s Academy. Wallis Brooks, the principle is a very kind woman and excellent leader. I’m thankful for the teachers in the first grade that are an immense help to me – Mrs. Mahen and Mrs. Reinhold.

I’m thankful for Kashiku & Lemlem’s teacher, Mrs. Masters.

Kashiku & Lemlem making all A’s at such a tough school. They are champs!

Living in St. Augustine.

The Alligator Farm. It’s a family favorite! We have our favorite animals: the reticulated python, marabou stork, and the macaw, Even if it’s slightly scary walking over the alligator pit with small children.

My wife’s great cooking; it’s adventurous with many new spices and flavors.

Riding my bike.

My friend and encourager, John Mark Tittsworth.

Preaching the Gospel.

Having a family that listens to the Gospel. Watching Kashiku & Lemlem’s faces while I preach is a blessing I’m thankful for and humbled by. God is good.

Running races with my family.

Dr. Eddie Hatifield, a blessing like none other. His wisdom and friendship is incomparable.

Running while Kashiku & Lemlem ride their bikes, and I push the babies in the stroller.

Working out with Karen (it doesn’t happen very often, but I love it.)

Working puzzles with Kashiku & Lemlem.

Karen and I watching our favorite TV shows together.

Playing chess with Mitchell and Paul.

Eating a quart of Cold Cow Ice Cream, chocolate peanut butter of course.

The house we live in right now.

Having sand in my shoes.

Two cars that work. As a driver of a minivan that currently has a luggage rack on top, I can say my dream car has finally arrived. It’s no muscle car, but it’s a wonderful blessing to need such a car.

An office at Christ the King Anglican Church. I’m very thankful for the care and support of this fellowship. David Alert, the pastor, is a blessing to me and GracePointe.

Going to the beach.

Playing Monopoly Deal, a card game, with my family and winning. *Karen would suggest she wins the most frequently. This is my Thanksgiving List though. Her suggestion will be neither supported or refuted.)

Siracha hot sauce

Friends of mine that are pastors and faithful to the Gospel: Jamus Edwards, Brandon Swanner, Jeremy Hatfield, Brad Rhodes, and Freddy T.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Orphan Sunday

In every worship service we make Christ the center or our worship. Yesterday churches around the world highlighted orphan care. I preached from Ephesians 1:3-6 in order to highlight our status as adopted children. By the glory of God's amazing grace, God chose us to be holy and predestined us to adoption as sons. As former orphans we celebrate God's great grace in our lives. When we read this passage our hearts immediately leap in praise because of what God has done for us. This text is about worship. We recognize that God designed and accomplished salvation in a perfect Trinitarian act, as the rest of the passage shows (1:3-14). 
As God's children we tell God's story of adoption to ourselves every day. The Gospel reminds us what Christ has done on our behalf and whom we now are in Him. By teaching the Gospel to ourselves everyday we rest in God's faithfulness and love rather than our self-righteousness. 
Our theology ties into orphan care because the church is most suited to care for the orphans. All because we know what it is to be an orphan, we gladly provide for the needs of orphans. Providing for the needs of orphans comes through adoption, foster care, assisting foster parents or families adopting, giving to those who are adopting, and most importantly praying. 
We can pray for Eric and Amy Ostrander. Right now they are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo attempting to finalize their adoption of two boys. They meet with their social worker today to advocate for their son. They should have a decision sometime Tuesday. Church, pray for this adoption to be finalized and the Ostrander's bring home their two sons soon.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Check it out . . .

In today's artistic culture there are several musicians who are writing new songs and remixing old hymns. Welcome Wagon is a band I heard after their record debut was produced in 2008. I really enjoyed their remake of "He Never Said a Mumbling Word." I'll be honest I didn't know it was a remake until I looked into their work a little more. Nonetheless it was a humbling song for me to hear and a great picture of just how much Christ humbled himself in order to bring salvation. Their latest album is a great piece of artistic work that mirrors the Gospel from beginning to end. It may not be everyone's favorite genre of music, but it is a great illustration of God's great grace to sinners. Listen to it on Spotify or buy the album. Here's a couple of their songs below.

Monday, August 06, 2012

What's a church to do?

Recently I have been preaching a sermon series about the church titled - Who Cares About the Church? Jesus Does. The doctrine of the church is vitally important for Christians. Salvation is not simply getting to heaven; salvation entails a host of blessings, both personally and corporately. God calls us into His family which means we will spend eternity with our brothers and sisters. On this side of eternity we get a glimpse of eternity in the church.

Our glimpse into the next age comes from our status as believers. Once a person confesses Jesus Christ, his or her walk to obey all that Jesus commanded begins. Jesus calls all believers to be baptized. The clear picture of a person eligible for baptism in the New Testament is one who has repented and believed in Jesus for salvation. It is also clear that those who have faith in Jesus associate with a local church. The early church presupposes membership in a local church because a person's life has been radically changed. The reaction of a person saved by grace is to fellowship with other believers. Worship becomes riveting, engaging, and amazing when the truth of Jesus Christ is proclaimed. When Paul gives instruction to the Church at Colossae (Col. 2.6-15), he roots their behavior in the reality of the Gospel. Paul tells them, “Act like who you are because of Christ" (paraphrase H. York). The church is full of Holy Spirit filled brothers and sisters of Christ.

A glaring objection about the church immediately jumps off the page. Even though church members are "new creatures in Christ," the church is full of hypocrites, liars, and cheaters (a.k.a sinners). People who claim to believe in Jesus Christ do not act much different than Buddhists, atheists, or any other false religion. One function of the church is to build each other up even through discipline so there is a clear distinction between the church and the world. Since every member of the church is a member of Christ, we are called to love our brothers and sisters even when that means we have to correct them. As culturally unpopular this notion might be, it is clear from Scripture that God uses the church to hasten holy living among members who live contrary to God’s will.

Church discipline benefits church members. This action is not branding people with Scarlet Letters. The church calls an individual to repent of sin tenderly, patiently, and lovingly. Jesus spoke about church discipline when he told the church to judge each other after famously telling people not to judge (Matt. 7.1-7). Jesus taught a way to judge. It is important we help each other live holy for God's glory by looking out for each other's walk with the Lord. Paul encouraged the church to do the same thing (Gal. 6.1-2). Paul did not expect the church to judge those outside of the church. Church discipline is for those in the church.

The church proceeds with church discipline (out of love) to bring a brother or sister to repentance. By pointing out a person's disregard for personal holiness, the church affords that person the opportunity to repent. Repentance brings worship, joy, and satisfaction in Christ over false idols and temporary pleasures. Church discipline portrays a holy God righteously judging sin. When the church confronts sin in a person's life (binding and loosing - see Matt. 16.19 & 18.18), the church acts on the authority of Christ. A person has the opportunity to repent, but when a person hardens his heart, the church acts in the same way God will act on the day of judgment.

You may wonder why a pastor of a small church would teach such a difficult and controversial topic. Simply stated, it is in the Bible. Jesus instructed His church to do this. Who am I to implement other means to keep His church holy? I pray that GracePointe will be marked by love and holiness. May we be a church filled with people who care for each other and live for the riches of Christ.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Going to Church

In worship yesterday, the sermon text was Matthew 16.13-20. I taught about Peter's confession as the foundation of the church, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus joyously responded that Peter's confession was the foundation of the church, "and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Our identity as Christians is necessarily joined with the church. Believers in Christ don't have to go to church because the church isn't a place; it's a people. When a person has a relationship with Christ, he happily gathers with other believers to worship as God's family. Jesus tells us in this passage that those who confess Him as Lord and Savior are His people, the church. We gather as a church to show and experience this reality. Being a part of a local church is an important part of our Christian lives. For believers, it's not a laborious obligation; it's a delight in our pursuit of Jesus, the one who has rescued us. Our corporate worship is a visible testimony to the Gospel we proclaim. I look forward to worshipping with my brothers and sisters each week. We're not just coming to church, we are the church. It's who we are.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Getting to Heaven

There is a fun children's song I was introduced to a few years ago. It's called, You Can't Get to Heaven on Roller Skates. It sounds like a good song to teach children song about salvation by grace and not by works (or mode of transportation). In another version of the song, it may teach a few other things - "you can't get to heaven in a miniskirt." The song is cute and fun, but none of the versions ever explain how a person enters heaven. The audience is still left with an incomplete understanding of how to get to heaven. When there's a lack of clarity, people fill in the blanks with their own understanding and assumptions. The religious leaders in the first century lived with an incorrect understanding of acceptance before God. Based on a strict, ethical code the Pharisees attempted to live in such a way that granted them access before God. Mark jibes at their excessive rules they thought would make them blameless(7.4). By their everyday living and adherence to the elders' tradition, they expected to have an open door to God. They tried to attack Jesus based on their tradition in an attempt to silence Him and squelch His growing fame. The attack showed their lack of understanding and Jesus' superiority. Jesus looked past their tradition and quoted the prophet Isaiah (7.6-7). Jesus ignored their trivial accusation to show the greater issue at stake - worship. Jesus supported His claim by proving from the Law their traditions were self-seeking and and therefore, false worship (7.9-13). The Pharisees might as well put out a cute children's album because they were just as clueless about knowing God as someone trying to get to heaven on roller skates in a miniskirt. They missed the point of the Law and ultimately, missed the Messiah. There aren't any rituals a person can perform that provide righteousness before God. There's no rituals you perform that make you a "good" Christian or a "bad" Christian. Believing the Gospel is an everyday experience of God's grace. When you believe the promise of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit makes your dead heart alive in Christ. Following Christ is an act of grace the Holy Spirit leads us in every step of the way. There's no work we perform that adds to our salvation. It's all Christ's righteousness in us that allows us to stand before God. May God point us to His amazing grace.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Ride for Adoption

In just a few short days, the Ride for Adoption begins. I'm joining Kaleb Scharmahorn in the first Ride for Adoption to help him bring home his son or daughter from Nicaragua. We will be riding from Nashville to Daytona, 700 miles in 7 days. As a church we stand with those adopting to encourage and help in every way we can. We can respond to orphan care in three ways: prayer for orphans, families adopting or providing foster care, financially support families adopting, and rescuing the orphans through adoption or foster care. Adoption is a beautiful reality that effects every one of us. We have been given the blessing of adoption through Jesus Christ. Our salvation gives us forgiveness, righteousness, and adoption. Each aspect of salvation is beautiful and drives us to worship God for the many blessings He pours out on us. None of us were naturally in God's family. By His amazing grace, He called us into His family. When we support adoption we are picturing the Gospel! Children who were once without a father are now called into a family and called son and daughter. For the Scharmahorns we want to pray and help financially. The ride is a fundraiser to help the Scharmahorns overcome the financial difficulty of international adoption. Please consider sponsoring a few miles of this ride to help fund their adoption and bring home their precious child. Every donation helps them; there's no amount too small. Check out the website for information on how you can give.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why is Election in the Bible?

A few weeks ago I planned to teach about election. My parents happened to be in town for that Wednesday night service. When my mom learned about the topic, she raised some points regarding election and its practical place in everyday life. She also cautioned me that it’s very divisive. I’m thankful for my mom and her help because once again she’s right.
Election has caused controversy throughout the church’s history. It’s not a teaching that any believer can ignore because it’s all over Scripture. More importantly, Jesus instructed His disciples to observe everything He commanded, and treasuring the place of election in God’s redemption is a part of our calling as disciples. Believers have the joy of reading God’s Word and discovering the riches of His grace to us. God’s grace to us includes election. The salvation that we have through Jesus is deep and rich. Savoring every important aspect gives believers more and more opportunities to delight ourselves in our Sovereign God. Election is difficult to understand and even outside of our complete understanding. God still gave this gem to us for a wonderful reason – WORSHIP.
Reading passages like Ephesians 1:3-14 offers us a chance to worship God rather than detail who is “elected” and who isn’t. Paul wrote this amazing beginning to the Ephesian church to lead them (and us) in worship for God’s amazing grace. On the one hand we are invited to behold God’s plan of salvation – worship Him. On the other hand in places such as Matthew 28:18-20, we’re invited to participate in God’s plan of salvation – Tell others about Him. To combine these frameworks undermines their purpose and develops a faulty method for reading Scripture.
Election brings praise and thanksgiving from a true believer. Paul’s writing is filled with praise and worship to God for what He’s done. God’s action in electing individual believers sets aside human pride. The very fact that I didn’t do anything or deserve His love directs me to worship God rather than brag about myself for who I am or what I’ve done.
I have confidence in God for His salvation. I trust in His salvation that I know He will make complete. Election produces fruit like Paul writes about the Thessalonians in 1 Thess 1:4-10. Election produces holiness not pride or laziness. Since God elects individuals to salvation I know that nothing can separate me from His love (Rom. 8:29-30). I am assured of salvation through Jesus because of God’s word. When I trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins I know God has chosen me. Oh, what humbling grace! May we draw near to God because of His great grace to us.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Ride for Adoption

Kaleb & Meagan Scharmahorn are adopting a child from Nicaragua. They are great friends of ours. We're thankful to be so close together in Florida. Kaleb's serving at Salty Church in Ormond Beach, FL, and I'm here in St. Augustine.
One of the fundraisers they're doing for their adoption is a bike ride from Nashville, TN to Daytona, FL. Yes, that's correct from Tennessee to Florida - 700 miles in 7 days. Check out the video and consider donating to help the Scharmahorns bring home their next son or daughter! from Ride for Adoption on Vimeo.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mmm, I'll take seconds

In the sermon yesterday, we were challenged to crave Jesus more than we crave other things to satisfy us. In Mark 2.18-22, Jesus responded to the question why His disciples didn't fast. At that time there wasn't any reason to fast since Jesus was in the flesh with them. Just like the guests at a wedding aren't crying out in pain and sorrow. It's a time of joy because the bride and groom are present, ready to join in marriage. Although Jesus did respond to His critics that there would be a time His disciples would fast. Those words were written for the church's instruction. It's clear the disciples who weren't fasting then understood the need to fast when Jesus wasn't with them any more (i. e. Acts 13.1-3). We don't fast today because we're preparing ourselves to receive forgiveness like the Jews did at the time of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16.1-34). Jesus fulfilled everything the Day of Atonement required. Atonement was finalized in Jesus' one perfect sacrifice! Now we fast because we understand the blessing of salvation we have in Jesus. We fast because we want more of Jesus.
I challenged you to plan for a time you can fast in order to pursue Jesus. The riches of Jesus are worth abstaining from one meal or a day's worth of food. Take time to plan for a fast so you can pursue God's will and His riches in your life. Let's join together as a church to pray for these five areas:
1. Our lost friends and family members
2. Our church - pick someone in our church and pray for their growth in the Lord.
3. Our nation - pray for the evangelism and church planting going on in the New York, specifically for Pastor Freddy Wyatt at the Gallery Church to lead the efforts and train up new leaders who will see many people follow Jesus.
4. Our world - pray for the unreached people group of Tai Nyo. They're located in Northeastern Thailand along the Mekong River. There are 96,500 of them and less than .1% are Christian. Pray that God will send workers to this area; pray that God will gather new believers into churches and for new churches to grow and grow.
5. Our Convention leaders - pray for Jim Smith. God has gifted him substantially as a leader and a writer. Pray for God's provision and protection and His anointing over His ministry.