Category Archives: preaching

A little preview of “righteousness” for this Sunday at Ephesus

This Sunday we’re continuing in Matthew at Ephesus Church with Matthew 5.6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for the they shall be filled.” It’s a great promise from Jesus of the result of a life lived striving to be more like Him. I’m not going to give you all the details for Sunday here, but there is a great description of righteousness throughout the OT and NT in Baker’s biblical theology dictionary that I wanted to link you to. Read it, it’s good stuff!

http://tinyurl.com/dmw24j

(BTW Safari 4 Beta is not letting me insert hyperlinks, so you’ll have to copy and paste, sorry.)

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Wrestle

This past Sunday at Ephesus we looked at David’s hurt and frustration when Uzzah died after trying to steady the Ark on its journey to Jerusalem. Seemingly God struck down Uzzah for not a really good reason, at least from our perspective. But that’s right where things get sketchy, when we start trying to answer everything from our perspective. At its core, that’s supreme arrogance. In this world of tolerance and correctness, we determine those things based on our own perspective. Who are we really? Even from a secular, humanistic perspective we’re not much. Just random chance evolution, destined to become worm food. Who are we to say what’s just and what isn’t? The same is true of our understanding of God. Who are we to decide what is just and what isn’t? It’s a tough concept, and one that Christians too often gloss over or pretend isn’t really a struggle. “We’re Christians and everything therefore, is peachy!” But we know in our hearts that’s not true. That’s why it was good to wrestle with those questions this past Sunday. We have to wrestle, constantly. Our faith demands, our purpose to our city demands. God who wants our authentic love deserves it. He deserves a people who wrestle and think and strive to better know Him. Honestly, it was a tough one for me, I had to wrestle with just putting together a coherent message that allowed us to journey closer to understand God’s justice. But I’m glad I did, I’m glad the Holy Spirit prompted me to go there. If you want you can check out the podcast here(will be up by the end of the week of 12/1). Keep wrestling!

PS: I mentioned a couple of great books on the subject, here they are

The Reason for God, by Tim Keller

Mere Christianity, by CS Lewis (an oldie, but a goodie!)

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Follow up to The Vision-Revisited

This past week at Ephesus Church we looked again at the vision God has given us as a church in Uptown Charlotte. I was just looking over some notes from a sermon we had on what the church is supposed to be back about 5 months ago. I saw many things in that sermon that dovetailed very nicely with this past Sunday. So in a first, never been done before, I’m posting my notes from that sermon in their raw form. Basically I’m being lazy and not wanting to reformat and edit for the blog (the bullets and tabbing is off too, oh well!) so enjoy and get a taste of how I arrange my thoughts for Sundays while also digging deeper into who God has called Ephesus to be as a church…

The Church Pt. 5                                                          27 April 2008

 

REVIEW last week

1.    Ekklesia

o   “called out”

2.    an assembly of believers

3.    A place of belonging

q  Salvation was not meant to be spent alone

4. the church belongs to Jesus

PART 2

  1. A place to discover Jesus
  2. A place to encounter God

q  Supernatural origins

  1. A healthy community

q  The church is designed for relationship

  1. A place to be challenged

q  Edification-building up and encouraging

q  Exhortation

5. A place to serve

q  Being in a church gives us a place to serve with eternal purpose

 

Worship

q  Giving adoration and devotion

q  Includes music and includes lifestyle

 

The Lord’s supper/Communion

1.    Remembrance

2.    Communion

3.    Expectation

 

How the church reaches out

q  Many names

  • q  Evangelism
  • q  Outreach
  • q  Missions

q  Many different ways it has been done in

  • q  Crusades
  • q  Tracts
  • q  Apologetics
  • q  Altar calls

q  All of these are fine within the right cultural contexts

  • q  Culture today has changed
  • q  Its full of slick marketing
  • q  Slick sales-pitches
  • q  Mass advertising
  • q  Creating events with mass emotional appeal
  • q  People are burned out on it
  • q  We see through the hype
  • q  We’re wary of it
  • q  We’re calloused and bitter most of the time

q  We have the most important message on earth but have to be challenged in how we present it

  • q  STORY> stripper turned Christian
  • q  Stef

                       o   Teenager

                       o   Drugs sex

                       o   Stripping

                       o   Boyfriend

                       o   Moved in together

                       o   Missing something

                       o   BUT didn’t want to be told what to do

q  Began with relationships

  • q  Began with a church and its people willing to accept her and her boyfriend where they were
  • q  AND pursue friendships with them
  • q  Not an emotional response to a big event
  • q  A process in which she was led to Jesus

q  People all over this city, need to be loved, need to find friends and need to know Jesus

q  Our vision as a church is “Loving Jesus, loving people, loving the city”

q  That begins with reaching out in love and building relationships with people

q  It is our biblical mandate:

 

Matthew 28.18-20

All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 

1.   Jesus is the man

2.   Go make disciples

  • q  Get deep
  • q  Get real
  • q  Follow Jesus’ example

            o   He didn’t start with a huge blowout laser and light extravaganza giving out free donkeys
            o   He started by meeting a couple of guys down at the lake, doing some fishing, going to a party,                      turning a little water into wine

3.   Trust him when he says he’s with us to the end

 

How

1.   Focus on Jesus

John 12.32

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself

 

q  Jesus’ resurrection will draw people in

q  There’s the victory and hope we have

q  Jesus is alive, he defeated sin

 

2.   Understand, then practice Missional living

q  Change in American culture requires a change in how people discover Jesus

q  George Hunter-Celtic Way of Evangelism

                                              i.     Celtic population of the British Isles was reached through integrating into the culture

                                            ii.     Becoming a part of their lives, while still living by Christian principles-“lifting up Jesus”

                                          iii.     Through relationships the Celts discovered Jesus

q  This applies in our culture today

                                              i.     Peter Berger “Social Construction of Reality” wrote this in 1966 about how people can shift their worldview in our culture

1.   Person’s view of reality is shaped within the community into which they are socialized

2.   In a pluralistic society (of which we are certainly a part!) conversion, or changing the way one perceives reality, is opened up through conversations with people who live with a contrasting view of reality

3.   One adopts and internalizes the new worldview through resocialization into a community sharing that new worldview

q  What does that mean for us?

                                              i.     Get out there!

                                            ii.     Make friends, build relationships, have conversations

Colossians 4.5-6 MSG

5 Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. 6 Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.

                                          iii.     Live life together

                                          iv.     Trust Jesus to be with you until the end of the age

 

3.   Bigger scale-Plug into the city

q  God loves the city

                                               i.     The bible ends with the city

                                             ii.     First missionaries went to plant churches in the city

                                            iii.     Nehemiah sent to rebuild the city of Jerusalem

                                           iv.     Jonah sent to the “great city” of Nineveh

                                             v.     Culture flows out of the city

1.    Change happens in the city

2.    Density of population

a.    More relationships

b.    More communication

c.    More openness to life change

q  We have to be praying a seeking how to better plug into Charlotte

                                               i.     Opportunities

                                             ii.     Key, strategic relationships

                                            iii.     Give back to the city in real tangible ways

                                           iv.     Make a positive name for ourselves in Charlotte

 

All this may happen before someone even comes to church

q  That’s tough for me

o   This is where I’m measured and judged right?

o   This is the big deal…

 

4.   When folks come Welcome and include everyone

q  As someone’s social network includes more and more Christians they may get plugged in

q  We have to be open and welcoming to everyone

                                               i.     Goth chick

q  Allow them to “belong, then believe”

                                               i.     Maybe they play in the band

                                             ii.     Help with the website

                                            iii.     Shake hands at the door

                                           iv.     Whatever

q   We have to be intentional about this

5.    Preach about Jesus

q  2 issues to avoid as we live missionally

Syncretism

1.    Culture becoming more important than the Gospel

a.    Dangerous because the Gospel is controversial

b.    In our fear of offending people we could water down the Truth of Jesus

Romans 12.2

do not be conformed to this world

  Sectarianism

1.    Making the church more important the Gospel

a.    This leads us to create a “holy huddle”

b.    We become protective of what we are and don’t engage people who don’t yet know Jesus

John 17.15

I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.

 

q  Jesus is the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father

q  We do contextualize

  • o   We have to continually adjust our methods to bring relevance within the culture we live
  • o   Paul in Acts 17 in Athens
  • o   Missionaries around the world

o   MISSIONAL

o   If not, the church will die of irrelevance

 

6.   Baptizing

a.    As someone’s life is transformed through the Christian relationships they develop they to become a follower of Jesus

b.    May not be a precise moment of raising a hand or checking a box

c.    They fully grasp Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection

d.    Tell their friends and the church celebrates

e.    Then they are baptized as a public example of what has happened in their lives

                                               i.     This is an opportunity for others to see Jesus

                                             ii.     An opportunity for the church to celebrate

f.      More on my blog this week

g.    Do you want to be baptized?

 

7.   Continue living life together

q  Be real and be repentant

q  Romans 6-we’re free from sin, and become slaves to righteousness

q  So step up our lives and accountability as we journey together

 

Challenge

q  Salt of the earth

Matthew 5.13-16

q  Will you be salt or will you be thrown out, marginalized?

q  This is the call on all of our lives

 

Ephesus is called to this city and the people-are you going to step up, are you willing?

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Parenting…a follow-up to Ephesians 6:4

This past Sunday at Ephesus we hit Ephesians 6:1-4. This passage includes children obeying your parents (as opposed to wives voluntarily submitting in Ephesians 5; it’s a different relationship) and parents bringing up children in the training and admonition of the Lord. I didn’t have time to make it into a workshop on parenting, so I only laid out 4 foundational principles that I believe are a key place to begin:

1. Have a growing relationship with Jesus

2. Consistent discipline

3. Man as the head of the house

4. Love

You can get the podcast to hear more on those. I recommended a great book, Revolutionary Parenting, by George Barna. His approach is methodical and scriptural. He examines families with children who have grown up to “spiritual champions” and discerns what the families did to raise these children. Instead of a  formulaic approach to parenting, what was discovered is that the parents focused first on living out and growing in their relationship with Jesus which then naturally flowed to their children. Also, parents were intentional in instilling biblical values (not just biblical stories) in their children so it inculcated their character. This is challenging as there isn’t a step by step process to raising children, it flows out of a personal, dynamic relationship with Jesus. What a concept! So again, I highly recommend this book.

What I didn’t address on Sunday, that I wanted to hit on, were some of the negatives that we can fall into in parenting. The things that help lead “your children to wrath” as Paul states it in Eph. 6:4. John MacArthur helped me compile this list (am I allowed to reference John Macarthur at a Foursquare church??).

1. Overprotection- in some ways, the current state of our society has helped promulgate this tendency to overprotect our children. Things I did (and my mom let me do) as child I would never even consider for my own kids. We roamed the town where I grew up on our bikes all summer long, I couldn’t imagine my children doing the same thing today. Now, while that’s wisdom on my part, too often we can take this protectionism too far. We end up smothering our children so that they never learn, or live in fear, or don’t understand the values learned in making mistakes. A few years ago, I helped a friend coach his son’s 4 year old soccer team. At the first game, I learned they didn’t keep score! Didn’t want anyone to have hurt feelings because they lost??!! What happens to that boy in 20 years when he gets fired from his first job? Or doesn’t quite come through on the big project at work? Or a dating relationship doesn’t work out? A few weeks ago, we took our boys to a local park to play in the large water sprinklers they had set up for kids. Little kids were running everywhere! Laughing, splashing, having fun, probably 100 children running around. Well, as we watched from the sidelines my son and another boy knocked noggins while both were running and not looking. It was nobody’s fault. I saw the whole thing. My son got up rubbed his head, kind of looked at the other boy and walked over to us. “I hit my head” he said. “Are you alright?” I asked (I knew he was, they hadn’t hit that hard). “Yeah, I’m okay.” And back out to play he went. Over his shoulder I watched this other boy’s mom come swooping in from the sidelines, scoop him up and begin looking to see where the other boy who had done this to her son had gone (back to playing!)! She carried him to a chair where he sat and sniffled and was coddled for a little while. And I thought, “there’s a boy who’s going to have a hard time being a man, when he needs to be and is going to be either bitter at mom, or dysfunctionally attached.” That’s where overprotection breaks down the family

 

2. Favoritism-We see in the bible the result of this, Esau and Jacob. The fathers’ of 2 peoples that continue to war today (The Jews and Palestinians). Our children will always be different. My 2 boys are completely separate people. I’m sure as my daughter grows up her uniqueness will be readily apparent. My older son is very lively and animated while my younger son is a little more thoughtful. Sometimes when the older one is bouncing around I catch myself thinking, “Why can’t he be calmer sometimes like his brother?” And very quickly I have to stop myself. He does not need to be like his brother! He is who God made him to be. We can’t compare our children to their siblings, they’ll become bitter and angry and have their spirit destroyed.

 

3. Pushing achievement-The dads duking it out on the Little League field exemplify this negative parenting trait. Dads so often want their sons to accomplish what they never did and moms want to be able to brag on their child as being the best at something. What this leads to is resentment on the part of the child and a feeling of never measuring up. Allow your children to find their groove, push enough to build character and a strong work ethic, but be wary of pushing them to the breaking point.

 

 4  Discouragement-It’s easy to always focus on the negative. Think about your view of yourself for a moment…did something negative pop up? Be wary you don’t transfer that to your children. Our children put so much of who they are on how we treat them. If all we do is point out the negative and never the positive, we’re buildng children of wrath 

 

5.  Failure to make sacrifices-Our culture today values the individual and the individual’s needs. That leads to selfishness and defiance against sacrifice. Children know this and see this if you treat them as though they are in the way or a nuisance, or holding you back from your selfish desires. The other night I was watching “Cinderella Man” with Russell Crowe. As the family struggled through the Great Depression, they were low on food. His daughter innocently complained of being hungry. Russell Crowe’s character gave his one piece of bologna to his daughter and went off to work with no food in his stomach. What did that say to his children! They’ll certainly be far from wrath

 

6. Failure to allow childishness-they’re children! They’re going to act like children! Let them goof around and play and be silly (try being silly with them, it’s a blast!). Don’t expect perfection or maturity if they’re children. Let them express ideas that may be silly, even though they don’t intend them to be and don’t laugh at their silly ideas if you know it will hurt them. They’ll grow out of it (unless they’re like me) and love you and remember a fun childhood.

 

7. Neglect-our society today is one that is busy and we can pack our schedule out with all of the “good” things we need to be doing. As a pastor, I have to constantly examine my time management (with Casey’s help!) and not let the “important” things of ministry lead to my neglecting our 3 children. David, a man “after God’s own heart” allowed himself to neglect his son Absalom which led to his entire family’s ruin. They know when they’re second-tier in your schedule and eventually wrath will begin to build

 

8. Withdrawing love-this should never be a form of punishment or a threat. “I won’t like you if you do that…” Quickly they will become insecure. Praise God, he never stops loving us! We should never stop loving our children.

 

9. Bitter words and cruel physical punishment- (I’ll let John MacArthur handle this one, I’ve got no patience for verbal and physical abuse) Never take your anger out on your children. I don’t know what causes anyone to batter children, but we all need to be careful; children are fragile. Fathers, don’t shove your weight around and use your superior strength. That will provoke your children to wrath. Not only can children be battered physically, but they can also be devastated verbally. Parents are more erudite and sarcastic than children, and they can destroy and discourage a child through their verbal barrage. I’m always amazed to hear the things we say to our children that we would never say to an adult for fear of our reputation.

 

These are great reminders of what to avoid as we seek to live lives of example and love for our children. Good stuff!

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The Challenge…

Writing consistently on the blog is a challenge. Plain and simple. If you’ve ever started one you know what I’m talking about. Consistently creating engaging content is the challenge of everything these days. Everyone can produce content and immediately blast it out to the web for literally hundreds of millions (if not billions) potential consumers to ingest and feed on. But the reality is only the smallest of fractions of content gains any kind of foothold in our world, and other things take our attention and focus and we slack on creating new content for our “oh so well-intentioned” blog. So there’s my excuse. But really I’ve come to realize that my content-creation focus these days has been completely hijacked by sermon prep. And this is how it should be. Right now my focus is there, and has to become more there. I’m not saying this blog will disappear, far from it. Who knows, maybe next will begin a new flurry of blogging the likes of which we’ve never seen! But for now, priority is on sermon prep. Tyler Jones at Vintage 21 graciously spent nearly two hours with me last week giving advice and encouragement. I felt mentored in a way during our time together.  And he challenged me to focus on sermon prep during this time of our church and to build systems, leadership and staff so that I can always focus on sermon prep. Amazing, yet simple advice, that I am trying to heed. So my content creation will be focused there for now. You can check out some of what that looks like at the Ephesus Podcasts…

Beyond that, baby number 3 in the Eige house is very close to coming to see us. She wants very badly to join world even though it’s a bit too early for that. Casey is being a real trooper as Reese tries to get herself out here. And we’re trying to sell our house (we hate being bored at our house) and get down into Charlotte. What a great summer!

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