The Inadequate Musings of a Future Pastor

I constantly feel the pressure to be strong, to not crack, or fall down. I feel like so many people expect so much of me since I have been brought out of a great darkness and an even deeper pit. I feel like others expect wisdom and leadership constantly from me. But I can’t live up to these expectations. I am inadequate, I don’t deserve to be in the places I have been placed. I am human. Even in times of struggle all I want to do is control it, stop it, fix it, but instead, God asks for me to be still and just let Him hold me. These are the inadequate musings of a future pastor.

This weekend God hit me hard with some real convictions. First, he showed me I had been trying to disregard His plan for my life and do it my own way, once again. He showed me that this gift He had given me, of expositing the Bible, and teaching His Word, because of my inadequacies, I had doubted His plan.

Being in a hermeneutics class with people that have been Christians for years has been intimidating. Because of my intimidation and my supposed inadequacies, I have not put forth the effort that has been needed. Instead of working even harder, I became lazy, and I also chose a new path, Christian counseling. While this is a good path, it is not the “best” path. The best path is the one that makes me feel out of control, the best path makes me scared and fearful that I will put in a place to lead believers and teach them what the Word of God says for their lives. That’s scary. It seems like a task that I’m not capable of doing. And that’s absolutely right. On my own, I am incapable. But I’m not on my own.

So, I begin down this path to becoming a future pastor and leader of God’s people, teaching them and expositing His Word in a manner that glorifies Him.

Also this week has been full of struggles. It feels like my past finally woke up and decided it was time to antagonize my life once more. And all I’ve wanted to do is control. Put blocks on my computer, get rid of facebook, chain myself to a wall. At least then, after taking all the cautionary methods, I would feel safe, from myself. If let out, if allowed to run wild, I am an uncontrollable monster that can’t be stopped, that can’t be contained. And I’m so afraid of what that would be like, again. So I try to control it and I focus on it.

God says to do this instead:

“Come and see what the Lord has done,<sup class="crossreference" value="(AD)”>
    the desolations<sup class="crossreference" value="(AE)”> he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars<sup class="crossreference" value="(AF)”> cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow<sup class="crossreference" value="(AG)”> and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.<sup class="crossreference" value="(AH)”>
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;<sup class="crossreference" value="(AI)”>
    I will be exalted<sup class="crossreference" value="(AJ)”> among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob<sup class="crossreference" value="(AK)”> is our fortress.” (Psalm 46:8-11).
 
Sometimes all we can see in the middle of the storm is the waves and all we can hear is the booming and blasting, but God wants us to remember He is there. He wants us to just let go, stop trying to control, and let Him be God. Its a hard concept for me, but it is one that I am learning, nonetheless.
 
   
 
 
Blessings,
Joseph.

 

Stop Apologizing: The Gospel is Offensive

I’m prone all the time to say I’m sorry. I hate offending people and I’m a people pleaser by nature. But the gospel is offensive. Billy Graham recently said, “The cross is offensive, because it directly confronts the evils that dominate so much of this world.” If Jesus truly calls us to “love our neighbors as ourselves” why can’t we get over the uneasiness of the gospel truth and share it no matter what others say or how they respond? If we truly love people, we will share the gospel truth, no matter how offended or angry they may get. The anger that is produced is the light exposing the sinful desires of the flesh, and the desire to be in control.

Jesus wasn’t afraid to offend others. In fact, he called out people on several occasions, testing their motives and their hearts.

Here are some examples:

“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh<sup class="crossreference" value="(BJ)”> of the Son of Man<sup class="crossreference" value="(BK)”> and drink his blood,<sup class="crossreference" value="(BL)”> you have no life in you. ” (John 6:53).

“Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?” (John 6:61).

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (John 10:34).

“Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted<sup class="crossreference" value="(I)”> will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:12-14).

“Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect,<sup class="crossreference" value="(U)”> go, sell your possessions and give to the poor,<sup class="crossreference" value="(V)”> and you will have treasure in heaven.<sup class="crossreference" value="(W)”> Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich<sup class="crossreference" value="(X)”> to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:21-24).

“You are Israel’s teacher,”<sup class="crossreference" value="(L)”> said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know,<sup class="crossreference" value="(M)”> and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.<sup class="crossreference" value="(N)”> I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” (John 3:10-12).

“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying<sup class="crossreference" value="(L)”> and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers<sup class="crossreference" value="(M)”> and the benches of those selling doves.<sup class="crossreference" value="(N)”> “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, ‘but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:12-13).

Jesus was an in your face, tell it like it is, kind of man. He was not just man, but God also. He loved through telling hard truths, as we must as Christians. If we sit back and continue to tell the world, its okay to continue in your sinful lifestyle because Jesus forgives, we are being tolerable and doing this world a disservice. Even the apostle Paul talks to believers about not falling back into their pattern of sin: “What shall we say, then?<sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”> Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?<sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”> By no means! We are those who have died to sin;<sup class="crossreference" value="(C)”> how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2).

If we stand back and tolerate this world and its fleshly desires and do not confront them with the gospel, we truly are not loving this world. Its time to put up our apologies about the gospel and about the cross of Christ and stand up like we never have before. We must be lovingly offensive.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel,<sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”> because it is the power of God<sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”> that brings salvation to everyone who believes:<sup class="crossreference" value="(C)”> first to the Jew,<sup class="crossreference" value="(D)”> then to the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16).


http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=anjskrIO_2fKgM&tbnid=-mEO5KGUYMs02M:&ved=0CAUQjRw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fbarefootrunner.org%2Freflections%2Fbaresoul_12-18-11.htm&ei=KAMJU-uENe2D0QG6iYCABQ&psig=AFQjCNFg7v2ztUfIM-tUIED2ix-0yse9pg&ust=1393185936992058






Blessings,
Joseph.
 

<sup class="crossreference" value="(K)”>
 

 

The Laodicean Church of the 21st Century

This semester I’ve been studying hermeneutics, which is the interpretation of the Bible from the original context. One thing that I’ve learned through hermeneutics is that the whole Bible is connected. You cannot just take pieces of the Bible, scripture out of the context to support a theory that you wish to support. You have to look at scripture as a whole. One thing that I have already learned through hermeneutics is the misunderstanding of the verses in the Bible about the church of Laodicea.  Through the blog post I’d also like to point out some similarities between the Church of Laodicea and the Church of the 21st Century.

“The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation says:  I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth.” (Revelation 3:14-16)

God is speaking through the writer, John, on the island of Patmos. Now looking at this from our perspective, and not the original audiences’ perspective, we could see these verses as a plea from God for the church at Laodicea to get off the fence post, to be either hot (on fire for Christ) or cold (completely against Christ). But if you take it back to the original context, we realize that hot water was for taking showers and cold water was for drinking. The towns around Laodicea were connected to natural springs of water, filling their needs for both hot and cold water. But, Laodicea was not. They had to import their water from towns of at least five miles away. So, when they actually brought the water back, it had been a couple days journey, turning the water neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. Also, from traveling, the water was filled with sediment. So because the water was neither hot nor cold, it was useless. You couldn’t use the imported water to shower, because it was filled with dirt and it was lukewarm, and it would probably make you sick, bathing in dirty water. Also, the people of Laodicea could not drink the water, because it was filled with dirt, also causing them to be sick.

Looking at that from a spiritual perspective, the church of Laodicea was no longer connected to the spring of life, Jesus Christ. In John 4, Jesus says to the woman at the well: “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again.  But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever!<sup class="crossreference" value="(Q)”> In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.” (John 4:13-14) The Laodicean Church was trying to import their water, their spiritual water from their culture and from their own ideas, instead of from the all-knowing living God, who gives strength.

Just like the Laodicean church, our 21st century church for the most part, is disconnected from the living spring of Christ. We import our ideas from the world, even though Paul says in Romans 12:2-“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” We, as the church of the 21st century have allowed the world to shape our ideas of God, we have allowed the world to take God out of churches, and instead replace Him with a good works based faith, where morality reigns supreme, and our effort to be good, has replaced God’s grace and His death on the cross. “For you are saved by grace<sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”> through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). God’s salvation should not make us prideful, it should humble us and break us to our very core, where we can only get on our knees and thank an Almighty God for not giving us the just punishment that we deserve.

The church at Laodicea had also become self sufficient.
“Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked,  I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see.” (Revelation 3:17-18).
The church of Laodicea had become sufficient on its wealth, and they didn’t even know that they were dying and poor, even though they had “material wealth.”
“Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.<sup class="crossreference" value="(P)”>  But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven,<sup class="crossreference" value="(Q)”> where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).
The church of Laodicea was poor because they put their hope in things that would pass away, instead of putting their hope and trust in the never-ending love and reign of Jesus Christ.

Just like in our churches today and in our world, we value material things: cars, phones, money, that will all pass away. We value big churches and big numbers, over salvations. We talk about big theological debates, instead of sharing the words of God. Our pastor value fame and recognition, over Jesus Christ getting all the credit and recognition. 1 Corinthians 13:8 says: Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.”

Now that we, just like the Laodicean church, have been confronted with these things, what do we do?
“As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent.” (Revelation 3:19).
The reason for the rebuke both now and in the times of Laodicea, is because the fact that Jesus loves us. He only rebukes the people that He loves. Like a father or mother punish a child for disobedience, we have an Heavenly Father that calls us to repentance. We have wronged Father God. We have taken His name in vain, we have thrown Him out of our places of worship, we have done things on our own, and now it is time to repent, and come back to Him as the center of our churches.

The result of our repentance: “If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20).

If Christ came back into our churches, what would it look like? Salvations? Revivals? Growth once more? Christ is wanting to come back into His church, to bring the power behind the gospel, for He Himself is the gospel. The world needs more than our churches can give it. It needs Jesus. The world needs to see that there is such a thing as absolute truth and true love, stemming only from Jesus Christ. What a blessing it would be to see Christ in the midst of our churches again. Join with me to pray for our 21st century church, that we would heed the call of repentance and see God do a mighty work in our churches and lives, once more.

  

Blessings,
Joseph.


 

A Rant about True Love

True love is knowing that we are worthless and dirty, and that nothing in and of ourselves warrants God to love us. But He did, and does love us with an everlasting love. A love that is so passionate and powerful that it can’t be contained. A love so amazing that it died on the cross for us in the form of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. A love that is so abundant that it is spread throughout the whole world in the hearts of believers, only to flow out more and more everyday into the world and into the brokenness of our sins.

 Our momentary loneliness if we are single, cannot compare to the everlasting, ever flowing, never ending, un-tainted love of Father God. He is the creator and perfector of love. His love shut Adam and Eve out of the Garden, so that they would not be eternally damned. His love is hope and purpose and joy and peace. His love is not bound by time or space or people. His love is not passive, it is active. He is actively loving us everyday, despite our constant non-reciprocal attitude of not wanting to love Him back. Despite of all that, His love remains. His love is patient. He waits for us and pursues us, His bride. His love is kind. It bandages our wounds, it heals our brokenness. His love overcomes hate, it overcomes evil. It even overcame the grave.

The greatest sacrifice ever known to man, came in the form of a helpless baby, preserved in the body of a perfect man, and perfected in the bruised and beaten bloodied body of a risen Savior. Death could not hold love, love overcame death. Love overcame sin. Love was so great that it was despised and rejected, spit upon and mocked. Love was brought so that those hating and mocking and spitting and cursing, would be forgiven of their ways, that they may be given eyes to see and ears to hear. Love said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Love became nothing so that we may have life. Love took the sins of everyone on His shoulders, sins that He didn’t commit.

So as humans, we have no clue. We think we understand love. We thinks its about chocolates, cards, letters, and poetry. But true love didn’t speak, it acted. True love didn’t make empty promises, it delivered. Humans think love is about finding “the one” but until we understand who “The One” Jesus Christ is, and what He has done, we won’t understand love. And how could we? How could we look at a world full of hate and lust and perversion and see that their is love in all of that. Because the world has taken love and they’ve twisted it and melted it, into what they would have it to be. Love is not sacred anymore. Love is tainted, bruised and scorned.

Love is not the world says it is. The world does not define what love is, only Jesus Christ can do that. Only the author and perfector of love, can do that. Maybe you’ve been abused and miss-used and torn down and abandoned. Maybe your view of love is based on the world says it is. Don’t listen to their lies, don’t allow them to trick you into believing in a “feeling” as Disney calls it. That one is not out there. There is no human being that can take away all your pain, all your problems, and whisk you away to a far off fairy tale. Love is not a Disney movie, love is a choice. Love is messy and anger-filled, cursing latent. But love is love right? Wrong. Our example, our standard, the bar that was set on how we should love and experience love is through the example of Jesus Christ. “He became sin, who knew no sin, to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” Love cleanses, washes deeper than we want to be washed. Love hurts and stings and breaks and builds up.

Sorry for this rant. So many people though need to hear though, because every time they look outside their window they think that one day, that “one” will come and fix everything. Their hope is skewed, their trust is misplaced, only the love of Jesus can truly show us true love and true grace. So I pray that if you’re listening and reading this today that you’d put your hope and trust in an everlasting, unfailing love, only something this great and big could have come from above.

-Happy Valentines Day, ya’ll,
God bless.

Unwanted by the World; Cherished by Jesus: Part 5: Praying for the K-People

It seems such a strange thing, prayer. That the God of the Universe is actually listening and cares about what we say to Him. At any time, anywhere, without a priest, we as children of God can pray. And we pray because we know that He answers prayer. Maybe not in the way that we would always want Him to, but in His timing, and in His way, He moves and He speaks. And prayer is not just speaking to God, but it is also waiting and listening and “being still” and “knowing that He is God.” I’ve been blessed that from the moment our group on campus has started reaching out to the K-people, prayer has been a main focus. Friday mornings have been this time of intentional prayer.

I’ve been so blessed to have strong prayer warriors around me, that understand the importance of prayer. Prayer has been the thing we go to first. Before we make any decision, prayer. Before we go anywhere, prayer. And its so refreshing. Just to sit in the presence of the Lord, knowing that in our own power and own might, we can do nothing.

So, on Fridays we come and sit at the feet of the Lord. We ask Him for mercy on the K-people and that He would open up their eyes. We ask that God the Father would guard our own hearts and minds as we venture out in new places and in new ways to share the gospel. We ask that we would not go into these communities with the attitude of “we’re going to convert you,” but instead the attitude of “let me show you the love of Jesus Christ in my life, and He will change you, not me.”

Its been amazing to see what the Lord has done here in our city already in just one semester of reaching out to these people. It was also super amazing to see what God did in Nashville and how there are other churches and other communities praying and loving on these same people.

So, I ask you, fellow readers and believers. Would you spend some time every day praying for our team? Would you pray for our hearts and even our own relationships with Christ? We need you. We need support in the area of prayer. We need the body of Christ to bond together with us and pray, so that the Mighty Hand of God may work. We ask that you pray for the families we will encounter and continue to build relationships with. Pray that God would be interceding among these people, who desperately need the gospel of Jesus Christ to pour out over their lives.

Also we ask that you pray for our upcoming visit back to the communities in our area. We will be going there next Wednesday, to continue to love on these people with the love of Christ.

Thank you all so much.
Blessings,
Joseph.