Will We Start?

How does a person become a great pianist?  How do people become great ball players?  How do people get good at a foreign language or pottery?  Yes, all take work.  Yes, all take a measure of skill to start with.  However, regardless of skill or natural giftedness, all require that a person begins.  It may seem simple, but I would guess that we all could do some things that we just have never started at.  I could collect stamps, but I never started.  I could raise butterflies, but I never chose to start.

Interestingly enough, when we think about following Jesus the same truth must be acknowledged.  No one, not matter their ability or giftedness followed Jesus well if they never started. Starting is key.  We must start!

We read in the book of Hebrews:

13 But encourage one another every day, as long as it is still called “today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we keep the beginning of our commitment firm until the end, 15 while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”

Hebrews 3:13-15

This passage urges us to encourage each other to not put off responding to Jesus “today”. There are two big reasons for us to start today in whatever way that Christ is calling to us. First, responding to Jesus now is a sign of a soft heart. He warns that a symptom of a hard heart is dismissing Christ’s call to us. So, let’s start today. The second big reason we should start today is that saying we should start is not the same as actually starting. Procrastination gets us nowhere. It doesn’t make us better at anything. It certainly doesn’t help us grow in faith!

Many of us wish that we were better at praying or had more scripture memorized.  Many of us who believe in Jesus wish that we were better at evangelism, or were more involved in ministry.  Isn’t starting the key?  The great men and women of faith all started somewhere.  Years of following shaped and cultivated them.  But, all of them started!

What about us?  Do you want to know more scripture? Start today!  Do you want to be a prayer warrior? Start today!  Do you want to witness for Jesus? Start today! If you feel led by Christ to do something, don’t put it off. Start today! As they say in those advertisements for junk that we see on TV – why wait, start today!

The Hebrews passage urges us to finish well. We are told to keep our commitment to the end. If we never start, how will we ever finish?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Rising to the Challenge of Those Who Came Before

Yesterday was Memorial Day. It is a day that we remember in this country what those who have gone before us have done. Our service men and women show us that freedom is worth it. It is worth fighting for even if one will never get to use it again.

Think on that for a moment. Many of our soldiers give their lives to protect someone else’s freedom. They won’t get to use their own because they have given up their life! How precious freedom is to them. They believe… so they act.

“All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”

– Hebrews 11:13

This is not just something we see with our soldiers. This is also the life of the faithful believers in Jesus before us. The book of Hebrews tells us, “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” (11:13) The faithful before us lived believing that following God, even when He asked them to wait until Heaven to see His glory, was worth it.

I am from Missouri – the show me state. The faith of those who have come before us challenges me to believe without seeing. Their lives declare that Jesus is worth it. Their lives also ask me, “What is my life declaring?” What about you? What does your life declare to those around you? Does it declare that Jesus is worth following with your whole life?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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A Disciple or a Fan

Let me tell you a story of two children… Young Bobby wants to be a great soccer player. He watches soccer. He has posters of soccer players on his walls. All of his video games are soccer video games. He even sleeps with a stuffed soccer ball. Young Sarah also wants to be a great soccer player. She too watches soccer. She has posters of soccer players on her walls. She gets up every morning before school and kicks the soccer ball into a net that will bounce it back to her. She works with her coaches every day after school to improve her skills. After practice she runs, does other work outs, and then heads back to her home practice area after finishing her homework to drill whatever new skill her coach has shared with her. Which young person is on the path to becoming a soccer player?

Our empathetic nature wants to say that both young people are on the path. However, unless he changes course, Bobby is on the path to become a great fan of soccer and not a great soccer player. Bobby has not yet understood what it takes to move from fan to player. Sarah, on the other hand, has accepted the work involved. She not only desires to do something in theory, she also has embraced what becoming a soccer play in reality. Do you know anyone like Bobby? They talk about wanting to do or be something, but they haven’t really embraced what it will take to be it? Do you know any Christians like that? Are you (and I ask myself this question from time to time) like that?

When Pastors talk about living for Christ, some folks respond by saying, “That’s easy for you, Pastor, you don’t have to face my boss, family situation, or work conditions.” Would it shock us to know that most pastors today are very aware of the struggles, temptations, and opposition Christians face when they try to live for Jesus. No, your pastor may have not stumbled in the exact same way or faced the exact same temptation that you have; but the scripture is clear that all of us (including pastors) face similar temptations and struggles (1 Corinthians 10:31). So, it isn’t a lack of understanding that causes both men and women of God to encourage us to live wholly for Christ. Quite the contrary! Instead of a position of ignorance, those saints who urge us to embrace the high calling that is being a disciple of Jesus do so exactly because they know it is hard. They also see so many that seem surprised by just what is necessary to live for Christ. Personal holiness, sharing Christ, personal discipleship, and living consistently are not always easy or simple things to do.  They take effort.  They take effort over and over.  Sometimes that effort yields immediate results.  Sometimes that effort is a lot like planting seeds.  All you see is the work you did, but there is no obvious or instantaneous result. I wonder… are we willing to do the work that doesn’t yield immediate results?  Does it discourage us?  Or do we acknowledge that it is part of the process? Are we ready to do what is necessary, or do we balk at the effort?

Farmers know that it is all part of the process.  Sowing is sometimes needed.  There is no getting around it.  A wise farmer will not resent the process.  He will not reject the prospect of needing to plant seeds and cultivate soil.  He won’t just quit in May because the ground is hard or the weeds seem to be winning.  No, he will work because he knows the process.

Do we?  Do we who believe in the Lord of the harvest understand the process of the harvest?  Do we know that tireless effort that appears to have no result is exactly what is needed?  Do we understand that we must plant and cultivate and weed before we see the growth?  Do we give up in the May or early June of our relationships (either with God or with others) and never get to August or September?  What will we miss if we do? How will we ever see the harvest unless we do the work?  Never give up!  Be willing to do what is needed and what we are called to even if it is hard. Prepare yourself now to become the disciple Christ calls you to be.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Sacrificing to God

Worship. Sacrifice. As Christians we think of those two words as separate things. However, those two words are deeply connected in both Scripture and life. When we worship we want to declare that God has supreme value to us. We are declaring that He is worth our praise, our attention, and even our lives. When we think of worship, we think of things like singing, praying, reading Scripture and listening to sermons. Do we think of sacrifice?

Sacrifice.  That isn’t a popular word today.  Sacrifice is something we ask of others, but we rarely ask of ourselves.  For those who believe in Jesus, we can come to believe that sacrifices are things of the past. They were done before Christ came to pay for our sin. We tend to think about how those sacrifices point to God’s sacrifice – Jesus. However, offering an animal to God is a very narrow definition of the word sacrifice.

21 Then Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” And David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you, in order to build an altar to the LORD, that the plague may be held back from the people.” 22 Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what is good in his sight. Look, the oxen for the burnt offering, the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. 23 Everything, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the LORD your God accept you.” 24 However, the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

2 Samuel 24:21-24

When King David had failed God and God’s people, he begged God to spare them. God stopped His judgment at a man named Araunah’s threshing floor. Although David does offer a traditional sacrifice on the threshing floor, his first concern is not the sacrifice. His first concern is whether or not he gets to pay for the threshing floor. You read that right. He wanted to make sure that he would pay for it. David would not let Araunah give him the land and the oxen. David had to pay for it. No, there was no command from God that said that David had to pay for the land and the animals. David wasn’t satisfying a rule. David was satisfying a desire in his own heart. A desire that we might be lacking today. He wanted to sacrifice. He didn’t just want to offer the animal sacrifice. He also wanted to give up something in order to do it.

It is always like that. We sacrifice for what we believe is worth sacrificing. We sacrifice for our children because they are worth it. We sacrifice for our country when we believe it is worth it. We even sacrifice for our interests or hobbies because to us they are worth it. What does it say when we are willing to sacrifice for God? What does it say when we are resistant to sacrificing for God?

Oh, if only sacrifice would be the hallmark of our life toward God! If only we would so desire to truly give God what He deserves that we would come to Him giving our attention, devotion, treasure, and life.  That is what sacrifice really means. Will we give Him that sacrifice?  Jesus said it this way, “If anyone would come after Me let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  Is that not sacrifice?  Doesn’t that mean something? Let’s move our understanding of worship from a Sunday activity to a genuine sacrifice. Will it be our undivided attention? Will it be our time? Will it be our treasure or our abilities? Let us give to God what He is due. What will it be for you?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Do We Remember (and focus on) the Important Stuff?

Think for a moment about the truths that we teach children. We teach them to love their neighbor. We teach them to love God. We teach them to believe that God really works in their lives. We teach them to believe in Jesus. These truths aren’t minor. Nor are they little.  They are the most important truths that we have.  They are the truths about Jesus. They are the truths about God’s love. They are the truths about forgiveness.

I wonder if sometimes we, as adults, make life complicated. We talk about theology, we argue over the finer points. Yet, that isn’t what we see the gospel writers or the apostles doing. Sure, they talk about deep things; but they don’t talk about them in a way that makes their faith more complicated. The deep things they think about never over-shadow the important lessons of the Scripture.  Even when Paul expounds deeply, it erupts into simple praise.  Paul never forgets the important lessons.  The love of God in Jesus never became just a children’s song. In fact, the love of God in Jesus is a theme that Paul comes back to again and again.

And He called a child to Himself and set him among them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So whoever will humble himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 

Matthew 18:2-4

In our desire to be ‘grown up’ do we we lose sight of these precious truths that give us hope and remind us of God’s love and worth? If so, I don’t want to be a grown up.  I always want to be a child of my heavenly Father.  I especially want to have the simple faith and loving abandon of a child.  What about you? Will you join me in living by the simple and amazingly profound truths of Jesus?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Episode 47 – The Larger Baptist Family. Who are They?

What is going on in the larger Baptist world? We have talked much about Southern Baptists, but what about American Baptists? What about Independent Baptists? Let’s talk about some news involving the larger Baptist world.

Looking for more? You can always find all of the episodes right here…

At Calvary – Episode 47 – The Larger Baptist Family. Who are They? At Calvary!

What is going on in the larger Baptist world? We have talked much about Southern Baptists, but what about American Baptists? What about Independent Baptists? Let’s talk about some news involving the larger Baptist world. Looking for more? You can … Continue reading →
  1. At Calvary – Episode 47 – The Larger Baptist Family. Who are They?
  2. At Calvary – Episode 46 – Small Government? Big Government?
  3. At Calvary – Episode 45 – Questions Asked of Google
  4. At Calvary – Episode 44 – The Baptist News Podcast
  5. At Calvary – Episode 43 – James – Faith is Lived Out

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Is It Time to Jump?

I think of myself, even to this day, frozen on that diving board. I was taking swimming lessons, and it was my turn to jump. I had seen others jump. I had heard how to jump. I had even practiced on the side of the pool. Yet, there was something about going from theory to practice that I struggled with. Instead of trying to jump into the water, I just froze on the board. In the end, I jumped off the board more like a tear drop. I was frozen in that position, and that is how I landed.

There comes a time when we need to move from thinking about something to doing something. A time to move from considering action to acting. A time to face fears, try something new, and step out. When it comes to following God, there is always that moment of truth. It is the moment that we embrace God’s call.

11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12  The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Romans 13:11-12

As we think about reaching out to others with the gospel, it is time to do more that just think. It is time to do. How will we do it? We will start by asking who… With whom will I begin to share the message of Jesus? Start by praying. Pray, asking God to open your eyes to a person in your life that would be open to hearing about Jesus.

Next, plant seeds. Don’t see yourself as an evangelist or someone who has to deliver a whole message. See yourself as a seed planter. Plant a seed a day or a seed a week. Scripture teaches many lessons through many examples. All of those lessons are seeds. They teach us. Those seeds use time and patience to change our lives. God can use us to do the same thing.

Third, we can challenge others to do something with the truth they hear from us. We don’t have to be obnoxious, but we can ask them to wrestle with the truth of Jesus.

The process above is not complicated, nor does it take great training. However, it is a lot like jumping off a diving board. Talking about it is not the same as doing it. Will we do it? Will you move from thinking to doing?

Whatever the issue is for which God is asking you to make a leap, isn’t it time? What Paul said in Romans 13 certainly applies. It is time to wake up. The day is here. Are we awake? Are we acting on what we know God wants us to do? Let’s do it! All we have to do is jump.

Something to act on,

Pastor John

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Which Came First, Discipleship or Evangelism?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Have you heard that question before? Usually, we hear that as a funny saying that seeks to illustrate that sometimes it is difficult to figure out what the true cause is of a particular problem or event. Today, I want us to think about which came first – evangelism or investing in the life of another.

Last week we thought about Jesus helping us see our lives in a new light. This week, let us look to Him to see reaching others for Him in a new light. When we think about evangelism, do we focus on a product (getting someone saved) or do we focus on a process (introducing someone to Jesus).

Think for a moment how you generally assume people get into the family of God.

Is this the way you think of people getting into the family of God:

  • Start lost, get evangelized (by a professional), get saved, follow in discipleship
    • Need: an event or an evangelist
    • Problem: We assume that this is THE way

Now, there is nothing wrong with the above process. However, the problem is that we ASSUME it is the only way people come to Jesus! This locks us in, doesn’t it? It makes it very difficult (even impossible) for us to see a way that people could get saved without a special person (a minister, evangelist) in their lives. How is that special person supposed to get into the lost person’s life?!

Perhaps looking at how Jesus led the disciples to Himself might help us troubleshoot this challenge. Jesus didn’t save the disciples and then disciple them. Jesus invited the disciples to join Him in life. Then, He taught and lived with them. We might not call that technically discipleship because we don’t know exactly when the disciples became believers – for example, Judas NEVER became one! However, what Jesus did with the disciples sure looked like discipleship, didn’t it? For Jesus, the process was:

  • Start lost, receive teaching and life with Jesus, get challenged, get saved, and continue in discipleship
    • Need: time, love, and an intentional investment of God’s truth both declared and lived out
    • Problem: obedience

Now that is a new way to look at evangelism – living intentionally with lost people! Jesus shared with and expected a response from people who had yet to declare a clear commitment to Him. He still shared with (taught/discipled) and still challenged (sent them on assignments) those who had yet to give their lives to Him. Did it require Him to have a degree? Did it require Jesus to be gifted in public speaking? Sure, Jesus did have a degree of sorts (He knows everything) AND He was gifted in public speaking (He is all powerful, after all). However, neither of things were required for Jesus to live with and share with the ones He called His disciples. What it did require was His time and His love and a consistent message. Isn’t that something we all could give?

19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20

Jesus told His followers that they were equipped to disciple others. He didn’t just pull aside the remaining disciples and give them some secret instructions about discipling the world. No, He told the eleven that they were equipped to lead others to Him, and then they told us that we were equipped also. The promises Jesus made were not just to the ones we call apostles. The call to disciple others was not just to them either. The call is to all of us.

So when we think about reaching the lost, do we just have ‘professional’ evangelism in mind? Are we really only thinking about tracts, presentations, concerts, and preachers? Is it time to step back and look again? Is it time for us to invest anew in the life of another? Maybe we will see that instead of wanting some ‘professional’ to reach our friends and family, who Jesus wants to use is us! How will you and I be used in the life of another?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Episode 46 – Small Government? Big Government?

We were going to talk about history a bit. But instead, I want to share some thoughts about our preoccupation with what goes on in the halls of government. I want to think about how big the government has become to us.

Looking for more? You can always find all of the episodes right here…

At Calvary – Episode 47 – The Larger Baptist Family. Who are They? At Calvary!

What is going on in the larger Baptist world? We have talked much about Southern Baptists, but what about American Baptists? What about Independent Baptists? Let’s talk about some news involving the larger Baptist world. Looking for more? You can … Continue reading →
  1. At Calvary – Episode 47 – The Larger Baptist Family. Who are They?
  2. At Calvary – Episode 46 – Small Government? Big Government?
  3. At Calvary – Episode 45 – Questions Asked of Google
  4. At Calvary – Episode 44 – The Baptist News Podcast
  5. At Calvary – Episode 43 – James – Faith is Lived Out

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Troubleshooting with God

When I was a kid, I did a lot of troubleshooting. No, I didn’t call it that back then, but I did it. When I was faced with a problem like a ball stuck on a roof, I would think through possible solutions until one presented itself. Sometimes, I would do foolish things to solve the problem. Usually, those foolish things included throwing other things on the roof to get the ball down. I would through other balls, bats, gloves, and bases hoping that something would tap the ball. However, this usually meant that I still had something on the roof that I had to get down!

Most of the time, the answer for such problems didn’t come to me when I was frustrated and filled with thoughts of the problem. The answer came when I stepped back and took a new look with fresh eyes.

God invites us to look at our lives with fresh eyes. He says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19) In Christ, there is hope. In Christ, we discover that God is doing new things in our lives. He invites us to see those new things that He is doing.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:19

What about your life? Can you see the new thing God is doing in your life through Jesus? Troubleshooting involves finding new ways to see old problems. It requires fresh eyes. Sometimes, we just can’t see what needs to be done because we are too close to the situation. We need Christ’s view. Does this describe you? Is it time to look at the struggles of your life with some fresh eyes? That is one of the things that Jesus does. He takes us a step away from our struggles so that we can see them clearly. He takes us a step away from our struggles so that we can see hope – so we can see His answers.

Do you need to step back today? Let Jesus show you from a different point of view those struggles that have you discouraged. Let Him, through His Word, speak a fresh perspective regarding your life. There is hope. We find it as we see through His eyes.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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