Archive for April, 2012

Vision Sunday 2012

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To get us started, let me define what I am talking about when it comes to church pride. There is nothing wrong with loving your church (far from it) but for some, it can get into an area of pride. This is especially true for pastors who can get tunneled vision on their vision. I know because I have struggled with this in the past myself.

This is not just a church leader problem though. I meet many people who seem to worship their church, their traditions, and/or their pastors. Often times, they say things that show their suspicion and concern about any other church than their own.

Then there’s another level where people can be very prideful and cut themselves off from any contact with other churches at all which is a strong problem in the area I live. That might push someone’s buttons but as the guy who owned the Christian bookstore in town and knows many in our area, this is a very true statement.

So some thoughts came to mind as I was doing my study time this morning and read this…..


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Message on Ephesians 3: Talking about why life can be hard and what Paul has to say about it……

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The other day, I met an older gentleman and as soon as he realized I was a pastor, he shared a story with me on why he left his church that he had been gong to for decades. It seems the pastor had taken the pulpit off the stage. That’s it…… The pastor took the pulpit off the stage. Not that there was false teaching, lack of love, or hypocritical living. He was angry because a long time ago, they spent a lot of money of that pulpit and who did the pastor think he was taking it off the stage?

The pulpit was a tradition. It wasn’t Biblical, it was a tradition.

Now let me be clear, I was raised with a respect for tradition in the church. There is a beauty within tradition. However, I was also raised in churches that had a problem….they considered tradition more important than the move of the Holy Spirit and it often led to lack of love, compassion, and God doing a new thing.

When this happens, it is a sin.

Explore with me Mark 7: 1-23 with me….

“The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?” Mark 7: 1-5

Notice how the religious people were annoyed because Jesus’ disciples were not falling in line and acting like the other rabbi’s disciples. They weren’t following the tradition of washing their hands before they ate. There was no law given from God on washing your hands before you eat (sorry, parents).

Now, there is nothing wrong with washing your hands before you eat. However, Jesus could see the religious leaders did this because they held a tradition over Godliness….. Watch what He has to say….

“He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

 “‘These people honor me with their lips,
   but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
   their teachings are but rules taught by men.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.””

Wow! I thought I was being clear on the topic. It seems like Jesus is more passionate than I am on the topic!

When people hold onto tradition over the move of the Holy Spirit, it is hypocritical, dishonoring to God, worship in vain, and moves their hearts far from God as they hold onto rules taught by men instead of leaning into God.

Now, let me take a break and remind you, I was raised with a healthy respect for traditions. They can be a tool to move us closer to God. However, if we hold them too tightly, they can be a wall that blocks God. This may be the way a church is governed, rules within the sanctuary, a system that tells us who we help and don’t help… it could be many things so we must be careful.

After Jesus explores this, he moves into an example with them and shares with the crowd around Him. He shares a new teaching that shows that all food is now clean to eat. He taught that things going into the body do not make someone unclean but the things that come out of the heart…… lust, theft, murder, slander and more.

Those who were open to this new thing of God, enjoyed the freedom that came with it. However, those holding to traditions were left in bondage to an old way. Which would you rather be?


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5K for Kenya

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One of the Spiritual disciplines we talk about the most is spending time in the Word; reading the Bible, listening to messages, and daily study. We also talk often about how hard it can be to fit time in for this as well as just forgetting.

Well, I was reading a section today that speaks into this. In this section of Mark, Jesus has been teaching through parables as the crowds continued to come to Him. It says….

“He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4: 21-23

What is Jesus saying?

The lamp is God’s truth. It is the light to the world. Today, in the church age, we have the Bible which brings us the light. It is the lamp and a beautiful gift from a relational God who wants us to know Him, His ways, and His heart.

Now, what do we do with it? Do we place this gift under a bowl or bed? Do we squash and hide the light and not partake of it? That would be insane, wouldn’t it? But isn’t that what many of us do as we claim we are too busy or too overwhelmed in the darkness to partake of some much needed light?

No, what should we do with the lamp? We put it on “it’s” stand! We place it in it’s proper place! In the open, raised up, and allowing it shine into our lives and the lives around us!

Why? He states that what we do not know yet is meant to be know! God wants to be known! He wants his Truth to be known!  He wants others to see the Word through you and shining in the world!

On top of this, He wants us to hear what He is saying and not just let it pass….. “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

“Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” Mark 4: 24-25

We take the Word for granted but Jesus warns us not to do so. Those who partake of His truth, will receive from the Word even more than what they put into it. However, if you neglect the Word, the truths, hope, and encouragement from it will be lost to you.

Are you in the Word? Is your church in the Word? I pray you partake from it so you may be full!

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Before I get into this blog, I want to put forward that I am making an assumption. I am assuming your pastor is called by God, preaches the Word, has a burden for the message God has laid on his heart that week, and begs the Holy Spirit to speak through him (or her) so the message is not the pastor’s but is coming from the Lord himself. If that is not a description of your pastor, you need to communicate with him and then look up my blog “Thinking about leaving a church?”

So moving forward with my assumption in place, let’s explore a story in Mark 3: 1-6

“Another time (Jesus) went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Mark 3: 1-3

Here we have Jesus going to the synagogue, a tradition He would generally do to worship and to teach. This is much like your pastor today where he goes to his local church focused on teaching the Word. Now like some of our churches, He is there to teach to a group that is pumped, ready to dig in, and respect and encourage their pastor as well as those sitting back just waiting for the pastor to mess up to jump on him. Why people with this attitude don’t find something better to do with their time, I have no idea. It’s something hurting within them but it tends to happen at times.

Some pastors who are aware of these people get timid and very cautious with every little thing they say and do hoping to avoid a conflict. This is not the case with Jesus! He has the man with the damaged hand stand up in front of all to do what is right and loving. Every one is on the edge of their seats wanting to see what happens next.

“Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.” Mark 3: 4

Here it is…. a one sentence sermon in the form of a question. The law (that Christ came to fulfill so we are no longer under it through grace) said no work could be done and Jesus challenged it. Which is God’s heart on the Sabbath? Good or evil? Life or death?

No one said a word….. No one responded. This is not because they didn’t know the correct answer. It’s because they closed down their hearts and didn’t want to do the right thing. Didn’t want to follow God’s heart. They were hard-hearted and closed down.

This happens in our own lives at times during the message time too, doesn’t it? We know God is wanting to break down some walls in our lives. We know that He is calling us to do something, change something, or release something as the pastor brings the Word but we just decide to fold our arms, sit in the shadows, and decide to blow it off.

You might say, “Wait, Tom…maybe they didn’t know the right answer.” OK, let’s read on…..

“He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” Mark 2: 5-6

Did you catch that?They would not submit to his challenge and encouragement to change and respond so Jesus was… ANGRY! We are used to Jesus getting angry at the temple and kicking out the money changers but here we see He gets mad at people who refuse Him. He was DISTRESSED at their stubborn hearts.

We get this view that Jesus is ever gentle with so much patience that we can do whatever we want…. whenever we want… and He will just sit on the sidelines until we need Him. Come on now!

He calls us for one reason; he wants us to respond. When you feel a challenge from your pastor in the Word, when you feel a conviction as you read the Word, when you know He’s trying to reach out to you……. Listen! Act! Move!

Will you act on the Word today or, like the Pharisees, will you blame the messenger and plot against him?

What you do with the Word……MATTERS!

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Did Jesus really live? If He did, Did He really die on a cross? What about if He really came back to life? We explore these questions, the reality around each, and the evidence we have to consider in this study….. and ask, why does it matter and what does it mean to us today….. We start with a 3 minute testimony from Brent Longstreth off of last week’s sermon and then dig into Easter!


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Jesus once said ” I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist…” Matthew 11: 11

That would be pretty cool to hear Jesus say that about you, wouldn’t it? I know I would be rather pumped….. So today I was looking at some of the things that made John so great and wondered if we could do the same…. Here’s where I started…..

“And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.  John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you withwater, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1: 4-8

Some things I noticed….

John was not afraid to live in the desert: We often feel the most comfortable living in structure. We enjoy a roof over our head, food in the fridge, a set job to go to, and a hospital close by if we get hurt. However, God will call us at times into the exile where things are scary, new, and fluid. While structure is great, we naturally pull closer to the Lord when  we are in the desert. Are we willing to follow Jesus there?

John had his needs met by God: Jesus spoke at another time telling us not to worry about what we would wear or what we would eat. He reminded us that His Father who loves us would provide for us. John is an example of this. His clothes were not the norm. His food was not the norm. But He was provided for! Are we willing to get what God wants to give us for our needs instead of trying to provide for our wants.

John was confident and humble : John said Jesus would be greater than himself. He didn’t say that he (John) was trash or worthless. He said Jesus would be greater!

Then he humbled himself…. “I am not worthy of untying the thongs of His sandals.”

John knew the calling he had and was confident within it. But even though he had the whole Judean countryside and everyone from Jerusalem coming to him, he knew his place. He didn’t need to brag about being used by God, he waited and let Jesus be the one to lift John up. Are we willing to do the same?

John knew he had to do his part, and then Jesus would do His: John knew his baptism was of water (repentance) as well as knowing that Jesus had a more powerful baptism (baptism of the Holy Spirit). That didn’t lead John to sit around and say “Hey, when the Messiah comes, his deal is so much more powerful, let’s just wait on it.” He did his part, led people to repentance and prepared them for what Jesus would do next. God won’t do our part but He will do immeasurably greater things with it.

Those are random thoughts There is so much more about John the Baptist we can learn from. I suggest doing your own study, see what qualities he had that made Jesus say this about him and then share your findings below…. More importantly, will you adopt John’s qualities to follow the Lord?

The Shepherd’s Fellowship


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