Monday, October 10, 2011

How Do We Define Ourselves?

In his book, Letters to New Pastors, Michael Jinkins writes the following story:

George MacLeod once told the story of a sailor, a latter-day Robinson Crusoe, shipwrecked on a lonely tropical island. When he was rescued many years later, he gave his rescuers a tour of his island home. He showed them his camp, the straw hut he lived in, and not far from his hut, his own little church, where he worshipped each week. Later that same day, as they were walking in another part of the island, the rescuers saw a building that looked curiously like the church that stood near the survivor’s hut. They asked him, “What’s that? It looks like a church.”

“It is a church,” he answered. “It’s the church I don’t go to.”

The church we don’t go to shapes so much of our identity as Christians. The most common litany of my childhood (if we had believed in litanies) might have been: “We don’t do that. That’s Catholic.” For some people its “We don’t do that. That’s fundamentalist.” Or: “We don’t do that. That’s what liberals—or evangelicals—or Pentecostals—do.” The possibilities are almost endless in the game of defining ourselves by what we do not do or do not believe.

Jinkins explains in his book that this is not always bad. At times it is necessary to explain what we aren’t, what we don’t do, or what we don’t believe. However, more often than not, most Christians define themselves by what they don’t do instead of what they do and believe. Wouldn’t it be great if the focus and emphasis of North Hills was described by what we do: being a people of grace, a community of service, a body of forgiving and loving believers, and an environment of discipleship and growth in Jesus Christ?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pursuing God

As the sailor locates his position on the sea by “shooting” the sun, so we may get our moral bearings looking at God. We must begin with God. We are right when, and only when, we stand in a right position relative to God, and we are wrong so far and so long  as we stand in any other position.

Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image. The flesh whimpers against the rigor of God’s inexorable sentence and begs like Agag for a little mercy, a little indulgence of its carnal ways. It is no use.

We can get a right start only by accepting God ads He is and learning to love Him for what He is. As we go on to know Him better we shall find it a source of unspeakable joy that God is just what He is. Some of the rapturous moments we know will be those we spend in reverent admiration of the Godhead. In those holy moments the very thought of change in Him will be too painful to endure.

So let us begin with God.

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, 95

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bulletin Bloopers

We have to smile from time to time when we read the bloopers that have appeared in church bulletins:

Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands. 
Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.

Miss Charlene Mason sang 'I will not pass this way again,' giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice.

Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Last Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of an event that forever changed the history of our great nation. Many of us remember what we were doing that day 10 years ago as we witnessed the horror of the terrorist attacks on our own soil.

Last month the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, decided not to include clergy in the 10th anniversary remembrance of the 9/11. This reminds me of the verses in Ecclesiastes 9:13-18 where no one remembered the wise man who delivered the city.

“But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man's wisdom is despised and his words are not heard” Ecclesiastes 9:16.

Fernando Cabrera, a pastor and New York City council member, made a statement to the Wall Street Journal of the response of clergy to the attacks, "This is one of the pillars that carried us through. They were the spiritual and emotional backbone, and when you have a situation where people are trying to find meaning, where something is bigger than them, when you have a crisis of this level, they often look to the clergy."

Spend a few moments today remembering the lives that were taken and those heroes who risked it all to save others. And let’s continue to pray for our leaders, our soldiers, our country, and our enemies! 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why I trust in the Bible?

Its unity. A book with 40+ authors, written over a period of 1500 years, by men of different occupations living in different countries, under different circumstances and conditions, yet the Bible has one overarching theme: Jesus Christ and His redemption.

Its preservation. There are some 24,000 copies of the Greek New Testament (5300 Greek manuscripts including Latin, Coptic, Syriac, etc). Second to the Bible, we have a whopping 643 copies of Homer’s Iliad!

Its claim as the divine Word. “All Scripture is God-breathed…” 2 Ti. 3:16.

It’s historical accuracy. Prior to 1993, no extra-biblical material mentioned the name of David. To many scholars, he was a myth or legend. That all ended in 1993 when archeologists discovered a 3000-year-old inscription on black basalt in the town of Dan, a little north of the Sea of Galilee in Israel mentioning the king of the “House of David”.

Its honesty. Many a book “whitewashes” the details of an incident so that it is not shown in a negative light. Not so with the Bible! The Bible describes the individual and situation with “warts and all.”

Its prophetic fulfillment. There are some 300 prophecies of the first coming of Jesus Christ (born in Bethlehem in Micah 5:2 and born of a virgin in Isaiah 7:14). The chance of Jesus fulfilling 8 of these prophecies is 1 to 1017. Yet He fulfilled them all!

Its scientific reliability. For many years man believed that the earth was flat, but the Bible has said all along that the earth is round. See Isaiah 40:22.

Its Christological endorsement. Christ gave full weight to the authority of the OT. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” Matthew 5:17-18.

Its power to change lives. One of the greatest reasons I trust the Bible is when I see what it has done for you!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I Will Build My Church!, Part 4

Now that we have seen where the word church is first mentioned in the Scripture and how Jesus defined this new program, let’s fast forward about a year from Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16. The disciples are not in Caesarea Philippi but in Jerusalem. Jesus is no longer with them but He has died on the cross, rose from the grave, and ascended to the Father. Before He left His disciples, He told them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit who will indwell them (Acts 1:8).

In Acts 2, we find some 120 men and women waiting in the Upper Room when the Holy Spirit comes. Luke tells us that “there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind…and there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them” (Acts 2:2-3).

After the Holy Spirit filled each individual, they became witnesses for Jesus Christ in Jerusalem as described in Acts 1:8: “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses….”

This new movement spilled out in the streets of Jerusalem and the disciples began sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. We find an exemplary model of their witness in Peter’s message in Acts 2:14ff. Peter, who just a few months prior had denied Christ, now stands before the Jewish people and proclaims the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

After Peter delivers his first sermon, Luke tells us that 3000 souls were saved (Acts 1:41). What’s happening? Jesus is building His church as He predicted in Matthew 16. I find this fascinating! 3000 people were saved and added to the body of Christ! No committees, no programs, no ministries, no youth groups, no church building, no church constitution or bylaws, no board of leaders, no lead pastor, no Awana program, no Sunday school. Nothing but the message of Jesus Christ!

Just as Jesus said: “I will build My Church!”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Will Build My Church!, Part 3

Jesus replied, “…upon this rock [Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah] I will build My church” Matthew 16:18.

The last word of Jesus’ statement is church. This is the first time the word church is mentioned in the Bible. The Greek word for church is ekklesia which is a compound word from ek, which means “out, from,” and kaleo, which means “to call.” Putting the two elements together, the word refers to those who have been “called out” from the world.

In other words, the church is a distinct, unique body of people who have been called out for a specific purpose. What is it about North Hills Baptist that sets us apart from everything else? What makes us unique? I believe the answer is found in Exodus 33.

In Exodus 33, Moses has realized the difficulty of leading people with all their flaws. The people have rebelled, complained, and fallen into near mutiny against their leader. Though Moses understood his mission, he was not willing to continue on unless there was one assurance: God’s presence!

“Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me… Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight… And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:12-17).

What should set the church apart from everything else: God’s presence with us! It matters not the size of our church or the look of the building or the charisma of its leaders or the money in the bank or our ministries. Our success will be found in whether our God is with us! This is the only thing that counts and will make us unique—that “His going is with us.”

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I Will Build My Church!, Part 2

Several weeks ago we examined Peter’s confession of Christ in Matthew 16. When Jesus questioned His disciples about the community’s perspective of Himself, they responded that the people saw Jesus as nothing more than a great teacher or prophet.

But it is Peter’s confession that changed the entire conversation. Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus commended Peter on his confession and explained how a new program would be built on that confession: the church!

“…upon this rock [this confession of Jesus as the Messiah] I will build My church” Matthew 16:18.

We looked at the first two words of Jesus statement last time. Let’s look at the two more. The third word is build. The building of the church is a process which will take place over time. Christ is still building His church until He comes again for the saints. The church is an organism as much as it is an organization. The church has leadership, committees, strategies, and ministries. But more importantly, it is an organism. It breathes, pulsates, and moves. It is fluid and dynamic. It grows and changes in response to the power of the Holy Spirit.

The fourth word is My. This first person possessive pronoun asserts ownership and authority. There are several analogies in the Bible to describe Jesus’ position in the church. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). He is the cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6). He is the Head of the church (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22, 23). The church originated with Christ and belongs to Him. Not to anyone else!

Let us keep Christ at the center of everything we do!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I Will Build My Church!

What is the church? The word is first mentioned in Matthew 16. Interestingly, it was not Peter or any of the other apostles who used the word. It was Jesus!

In the context of Matthew 16, Jesus takes his disciples into the Gentile area of Caesarea Philippi. Once arriving in the area, Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13).

Here we find Peter’s great confession of our Lord. He says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” There were many times where Peter blew it, but at this moment, he nailed it!

Jesus blesses Peter’s confession and explains how His program which will be built on Peter’s confession. In other words, Jesus says, “Peter, you nailed it with your confession about Me. I am the Messiah and I will do a work through you that you could never fathom. On your statement, “I am the Christ, the Son of the living God,” I will build My church and no demon in hell will stop it. Against all odds, it will prevail! No enemy will destroy it, no circumstance will deter it, and no person will change it. What I have established will take place.”

This is truly awesome! The church is the Lord’s program. Notice several nuggets from Jesus’ words: “I will build my church.” First, the first person pronoun I. Jesus is the author and originator of the church. It was His idea and program. The church is not built on a leader, committee, or a pastor. The church will go on regardless who is standing behind the pulpit. Praise God!

The second word is will. The word will looks to the future. At the time that Jesus spoke these words, He had not completed His mission: death on the cross. The church was still a future phase that would be established on the death of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection.

We will look at two more words next week.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Remembering Fathers

I Remember Papa

When I was a kid, a father was like the light in a refrigerator. Every house had one, but nobody knew what either of them did once the door was shut.

My dad left the house every morning and always seemed glad to see everyone at night.

He opened the jar of pickles when nobody else could.

He was the only one in the house who wasn't afraid to go to the basement by himself.

He cut himself shaving, but no one kissed it or got excited about it.

It was understood whenever it rained, he got the car and brought it around to the door.

When anyone was sick, he got the prescription filled.

He set mousetraps, cut back the roses so the thorns wouldn't clip you when you came to the front door.

When I got a bike, he ran alongside me for at least a thousand miles until I got the hang of it.

I was afraid of everyone else's father, but not my own. Once I made him tea. It was only sugar water, but he sat on a small chair and said it was delicious.

Whenever I played house, the mother doll had a lot to do. I never knew what to do with the daddy doll, so I had him say, "I'm going off to work now," and threw him under the bed.

When I was nine years old, my father didn't get up one morning and go to work.

He went to the hospital and died the next day.

I went to my room and felt under my bed for the daddy doll. When I found him, I dusted him off and put him on my bed.

He never did anything - I didn't know his leaving would hurt so much. I still don't know why.

~Erma Bombeck~

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memorial Day

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868 as flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael replied with her poem:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

She conceived the idea of wearing red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who have died while serving our great nation.

Memorial Day not only recognizes a national sacrifice, but a spiritual sacrifice as well. In other words, we not only commemorate the blood that was shed to ensure our national freedom; but, we also commemorate the blood that was shed to ensure our spiritual freedom, as well, by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Most of the Memorial Day observances in our nation will look to graves filled with the bodies of those soldiers who died in service to their country. We thank God for their sacrifice. However, as believers, our Memorial Day can also look to a vacant cross, and an empty grave to the greatest sacrifice ever given.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

John 15:13

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Psalm 23

The Lord is my Shepherd = That's Relationship!
I shall not want = That's Supply!
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures = That's Rest!
He leadeth me beside the still waters = That's Refreshment!
He restoreth my soul = That's Healing!
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness = That's Guidance!
For His name sake = That's Purpose!
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death = That's Testing!
I will fear no evil = That's Protection!
For Thou art with me = That's faithfulness!
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me = That's Discipline!
Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine enemies = That's Hope!
Thou annointest my head with oil = That's consecration!
My cup runneth over = That's Abundance!
Surely goodness an mercy shall follow me all the days of my life = That's Blessing! And I will dwell in the house of the Lord = That's Security!
Forever = That's Eternity!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Quotes by Erma Bombeck on mothers:

"When your mother asks, "Do you want a piece of advice?" it's a mere formality. It doesn't matter if you answer yes or no. You're going to get it anyway."

"When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they're finished, I climb out."

"I love my mother for all the times she said absolutely nothing.... Thinking back on it all, it must have been the most difficult part of mothering she ever had to do: knowing the outcome, yet feeling she had no right to keep me from charting my own path. I thank her for all her virtues, but mostly for never once having said, "I told you so."

"Just think of all those women on the Titanic who said, 'No thank you' to desert that night. And for what?!"

"There's something wrong with a mother who washes out a measuring cup with soap and water after she's only measured water in it."

"Insanity is hereditary. You can catch it from your kids."

“Spend at least one Mother's Day with your respective mothers before you decide on marriage. If a man gives his mother a gift certificate for a flu shot, dump him.”

“When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they're not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They're upset because they've gone from supervisor of a child's life to a spectator. It's like being the vice president of the United States.”

“It is not until you become a mother that your judgment slowly turns to compassion and understanding.”

"Giving birth is little more than a set of muscular contractions granting passage of a child. Then the mother is born."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blessed Money and Cursed Money

I am continually amazed with Corrie ten Boom. She was in her 80’s when she penned her autobiography, In My Father’s House, about the events that God used that would forever shape her. She tells a story about her father, Casper ten Boom.

She recollects a time when the ten Boom family was facing a real financial crisis. A large bill arrived in the mail but there wasn’t enough money to pay it off. During that time, a very well-dressed man came into the ten Boom shop to purchase a watch (Corrie’s father was a watchmaker).

As the man looked at the watches, Corrie stayed in the background and prayed that the man would purchase one of the expensive watches so they would have the money for the bill.

Of course the man picked out an expensive watch and pulled out a stack of large bills to give to Casper. Corrie writes, “Praise the Lord- cash! (I saw myself paying the overdue bill, and being relieved of the burden I had been carrying for the past few weeks.)”

As the customer handed the money to Casper, the customer mentioned that he used to purchase his watches from another watchmaker in the town (who Casper knew) but the watch was a lemon and he said he would never buy a watch from that watchmaker again. Casper asked for the watch and repaired it right there.

As Casper handed the watch back to the customer, he told the man to encourage the other watchmaker by buying a new watch from him. And if there were any problems with the watches, Casper would repair them free of charge. Corrie writes, “I was horrified. I saw Father take back the watch and give the money to the customer… My heart was where was my feet should be as I emerged from the shelter of the workshop. ‘Papa, how could you?’”

Casper replied, “Corrie, you know that I brought the Gospel to that watchmaker’s family…What do you think that watchmaker would have said when he heard that one of his good customers had gone to Mr. ten Boom? Do you think that the name of the Lord would be honored? There is blessed money and cursed money. Trust the Lord. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and He will take care of us” (114-17).

Will people remember your words and your actions? Will they remember how you trusted the Lord more than anything else? What are you doing to shape and mold those in your life? Let’s leave a legacy of trusting God!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Celebration

Joseph Bayly in "Psalms of My Life," which appeared in Christianity Today magazine, shares this excellent perspective on Easter (; accessed on 04/18/2011):

Let's celebrate Easter with the rite of laughter. Christ died and rose and lives.
Laugh like a woman who holds her first baby. Our enemy death will soon be destroyed.
Laugh like a man who finds he doesn't have cancer, or he does but now there's a cure. Christ opened wide the door to heaven.
Laugh like children at Disneyland's gates. This world is owned by God, and he'll return to rule.
Laugh like a man who walks away uninjured from a wreck in which his car was totaled.
Laugh as if all the people in the whole world were invited to a picnic and then invite them.

Take time today to think about what Christ accomplished on the cross and how He as defeated death. We have nothing to fear because our Lord has conquered our greatest foe!

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

- 1 Corinthians 15:54-57

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Knowing Your DNA

Once upon a time, the animals decided they should do something meaningful to meet the problems of the new world. So they organized a school.

They adopted an activity curriculum on running, climbing, swimming, and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was excellent in swimming; in fact, better than his instructor. But he made only passing grades in flying, and was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to drop swimming and stay after school to practice running. This caused his web feet to be badly worn, so that he was only average in swimming. But average was quite acceptable, so nobody worried about that – except the duck.

The rabbit started at the top of his class in running, but developed a nervous twitch in his leg muscles because of so much make-up work in swimming.

The squirrel was excellent in climbing, but he encountered constant frustration in flying class because his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of from the treetop down. He developed “charlie horses” from overexertion, and so only got a C in climbing and a D in running.

The eagle was a problem student from the beginning and was severely disciplined for being a non-conformist. In climbing class he beat all the others to the top of the tree but he insisted on using his own way to get there. The running coach accused him of not even trying. After swimming practice, his feathers were so wet, he couldn't fly for hours, so the duck got better grades for flying than the eagle did.

A duck is a duck – and only a duck. It is built to swim, not to run or climb. A squirrel is a squirrel – and only that. To move it out of its forte, climbing, and then expect it to swim or fly will drive a squirrel mad. Eagles are beautiful creatures in the air but not in a foot race.

The moral of the story is simple. Each creature has its own abilities at which it will naturally excel, unless of course, it is expected to do something for which it wasn't designed. When that happens, frustration, discouragement, and guilt bring overall mediocrity or sometimes even complete defeat.

What is true of creatures in the forest is true of Christians in the family. God has not made us all the same. He never intended to. He planned and designed the differences, unique capabilities, and variations in the Body. God has placed you in His family and given you a set of gifts that makes you unique. Nobody else is like you and when you operate in your giftedness, you will excel, the whole church will benefit, and you will experience incredible satisfaction.

- Source Unknown

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Life is but a Weaving

Life can be compared to an embroidered tapestry. At first glance there is no discernible pattern. One only sees a jumble of colors, threads, and stitches. We see our lives in the same way at times. Confusion! Doubt! Pain! Suffering! There seems to be no apparent reason why we face the seasons of our lives. However, when the weaver completes his needlepoint, he turns the tapestry over and reveals a beautiful pattern. When we see life from God’s perspective (“above the sun”) we will understand that God is the Weaver who is threading all the seasons of your life together to form a beautiful tapestry of his handiwork which will bring Him glory and praise. Corrie ten Boom writes, "This is how God views your life and someday we will have the privilege of seeing it from His point of view."

My life is but a weaving Betwixt my God and me, I do not choose the colors He worketh steadily. Ofttimes He weaveth sorrow, And I in foolish pride Forget He sees the upper And I, the underside. Not till the loom is silent And the shuttles cease to fly Will God unfold the pattern And explain the reason why. For the dark threads are as needful In the Weaver's skillful hand As the threads of gold and silver In a pattern He has planned Grant Colfax Tullar or Benjamin Malachi Franklin (poem attributed to either author)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

His Perfect Plan!

Corrie ten Boom intrigues me. I am drawn to individuals who have faced enormous difficulties in life, yet come out of these experiences with an inspiring testimony.

She reminds me of the verse in James 1:12: “Blessed is a man [or woman] who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

Much like the Apostle Paul who possessed a mysterious disposition in the midst of his circumstances, Corrie Ten Boom rose from the ashes of the holocaust with a quiet and godly demeanor. How did she maintain a clear perspective of God in the midst of such hatred and cruelty? It is truly unexplainable unless you know something or should I say Someone that most people do not.

Corrie was a holocaust survivor during World War Two. Her first 50 years was spent with her family in Holland until the Nazis invaded the European continent with their strategy to rid the world of all Jews. In the midst of Hitler’s anti-Semitic plan, the ten Boom family provided “hiding places” for persecuted Jews. Because of their underground activities, Corrie spent many months in a concentration camp.

In Corrie ten Boom's book In My Father’s House, Carole Carlson writes the following in the foreword (which originally was written in Corrie ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place):

Today I know that memories are the key not the past, but to the future. I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do.

Corrie’s comments provide an apt introduction to our passage in Ecclesiastes. Solomon has been on a journey to find meaning in life. He has tried it all only to come full circle and realize that all is still vanity. The name God is mentioned only once from Ecclesiastes 1:1—2:23. Why? Solomon has been living life under the sun. God has not been a part of Solomon’s equation, that is until Ecclesiastes 2:24.

Solomon will soon discover that God uses every event that occurs under the sun for the purpose of bringing about the “mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will have us to do.” We would do well to listen to Solomon as he teaches about our God.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pray for Japan!

Area: Four large islands (Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kyushu) and 3,000 small islands in NW Pacific. Mountainous; only 13% can be cultivated.

Population: 126,995,411

Government: parliamentary government

Capital City: Tokyo

Peoples: 34 people groups (68% unreached)

Official language: Japanese Languages: 16 (12 languages do not have a copy of the Bible in their language).

Religion: Largest Religion: Buddhist
Religion Pop %
Buddhist 88,376,107 69.59
New religion 28
Christians 1,955,729 1.54
Evangelicals 596,498 0.5

As you pray for Japan as they try to recover from a catastrophic earthquake, pray for the following challenges:

 Most of the population are into Shintoism – a uniquely Japanese form of religion which worships idols, ancient spirits and dead relatives!

 The birth rate in Japan is so low that the population is getting older and older (percentage of the aged in Japan’s population is faster than any other nation) and young people are a dying breed. This materialistic and individualistic generation is really challenging Japan’s older traditional values. Pray that this generation would continue to be increasingly open to hearing about God.

 A lack of a moral centre. Japan’s own leaders called it “a superpower without a moral compass”. This is most notable among young people, who struggle with particular challenges such as social phobia or social anxiety (Hikikomori), a suicide epidemic (over 30,000/year), bullying and teenage prostitution. High rates of suicide in other age groups and divorce also reflect this challenge.

Operation World, Japan. (accessed March 15, 2011).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Though He was rich..."

One way to enhance your spiritual walk is to read the biographies of godly men and women who have lived for Jesus. You can learn so much from their lives, and you will gain a deeper appreciation for the Christian truths and principles.

For example, one such individual was C. T. Studd. He was one of England’s greatest athletes in the 1800s. Studd was a world champion cricket player who came to Christ. When his wealthy father died, C. T. inherited over $150,000 which was a fortune in the 1800s. C. T. Studd said, “I don’t want that money to clutter up my life. I think the best way to use it is to invest it with God.” He then sent $25,000 to Hudson Taylor’s Inland China Mission, $25,000 to William Booth’s Salvation Army, and $25,000to D. L. Moody to start Moody Bible Institute. The balance C. T. Studd gave to his wife on their wedding day with these words, “The rich young ruler was asked by Jesus to give all.” Then the both of them sent all the remaining money anonymously to William Booth and the Salvation Army. After investing all of their money in the Lord’s work they invested their lives as missionaries in Africa.

What a testimony! One of the ways that you and I can measure our walk with Christ is to look at our giving. And I am not only speaking of monetary giving. We can also include the giving of our time, resources, energy, and talents. How are you using those things for the Lord? Are you serving Him with your best?

We are reminded in 2 Corinthians 8:9 what Christ did for us. Paul writes, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” It is incredible to think of what Christ did for you and me. He who was rich in everything laid those things aside that He may become poor and die on a cross so that we can receive the eternal riches of knowing God. You are indeed rich!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Souls to be Loved!

It’s hard to believe that the same man who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes also wrote Psalm 127. Solomon did not put God at the center of his life. He chased down rabbit trails to find meaning and fulfillment only to discover that he had been chasing the wind. Only later did he realize that “unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

Here is a question to all us as we celebrate our youth today. Do your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and others know that God is at the center of your home? I don’t mean if you have a large family Bible sitting on the coffee table. Is God really at the core of your life? Are you known as one who turns to God in prayer in the midst of difficulty? Are you known for praising God for His many blessings? Are you known for reading , meditating, and applying the Word in your life?

Solomon tells us that parents possess the greatest influence in their child’s life. Children look to you and will remember how you handled the issues of life. Solomon continues in Psalm 127 by reminding us that children are a “gift from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Thomas Short (“Christian Marriage,” Pulpit Digest) gives us a helpful reminder:

All husbands and wives borrow their children. Our children are not our own. Our children belong to God. He has loaned them to us for a season. Most marriages contain these borrowed jewels. They are not ours to keep but to rear. They are not given to us to mold into our image. They are not given to us so that we can force them to fulfill our lives and thus, in some way, cancel our failures. They are not tools to be used, but souls to be loved.

What a line: “[children are] souls to be loved.” We are celebrating our youth this morning. They are our assignments by God to faithfully teach them about their Creator. They are not mistakes nor are they accidents. They are a gift from the Lord. Let’s tell them how much we appreciate their lives.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How are you spending your time?

Let’s face it. As much as we struggle with Solomon’s outlook on life, his journal is a reality check for many of us. As he struggles with the frustrations and conundrums of life, we often find ourselves in his shoes asking the hard questions and trying to find answers. However, we quickly realize that life is not always black and white. All too often there is more gray in life.
Because these frustrations leave a void in our life, we turn to our resources and energies to fill that emptiness. We think that a little more of this or some of that will fill the void in our souls. As we have seen over the last two weeks nothing in this life will ever satisfy the longing of your soul than a deep relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Are you spending time getting to know Jesus? Are you more interested in His work and agenda? How is your prayer life? Are you in His Word? How do you spend your time during the day? As I thought of these questions, I was reminded of the following parable:

Let's say that tomorrow morning you got a call from the president of your bank, and he told you that an anonymous donor who loved you very much would be depositing 86,400 pennies into your bank account every day. The only condition is that you will have to spend all of the money. You can't carry it over from one day to the next, and what isn't spent will be taken away. When you take out your calculator, you realize that it amounts to a lot of money each year.

Someone who loves you very much deposits 86,400 seconds into your bank of time every day. They cannot be carried over from one day to the next. There is no such thing as a 27-hour day. You are given 24 hours each day to use as you choose. And you can choose to give that time to the Lord. The Bible tells us to redeem the time, because the days are evil (see Ephesians 5:16). That means to make sacred and wise use of every opportunity.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

- The Dash -

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of his friend, he referred to the dates on her tombstone from beginning –-- to the end.

He noted that first came her date of birth and spoke of the second with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time that she spent alive on earth, and now only those who loved her know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own; the cars. . . the house. . .the cash. What matters is how we live and love when we’re living out our dash.

If we could just slow down enough to consider what's true and real, and always try to understand the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger, and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we've never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect, and more often wear a smile. . . Remembering that this special dash might only last a while.

So, when your eulogy's being read with your life's actions to rehash. . . Would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?

- Anonymous

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

He Took It All!

The Lord’s Supper is a celebratory occasion. As you take of the elements, remember what our Lord did when He committed Himself as the sacrificial Lamb of God. All of sin was poured on Him and He drank of the cup which the Father poured out as an expiation for our sins. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Read the following excerpt from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers:

The death of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment in history of the very mind and intent of God. There is no place for seeing Jesus Christ as a martyr. His death was not something that happened to Him— something that might have been prevented. His death was the very reason He came.

Never build your case for forgiveness on the idea that God is our Father and He will forgive us because He loves us. That contradicts the revealed truth of God in Jesus Christ. It makes the Cross unnecessary, and the redemption "much ado about nothing." God forgives sin only because of the death of Christ. God could forgive people in no other way than by the death of His Son, and Jesus is exalted as Savior because of His death. "We see Jesus . . . for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor . . ." ( Hebrews 2:9). The greatest note of triumph ever sounded in the ears of a startled universe was that sounded on the Cross of Christ— "It is finished!" (John 19:30). That is the final word in the redemption of humankind.

Anything that lessens or completely obliterates the holiness of God, through a false view of His love, contradicts the truth of God as revealed by Jesus Christ. Never allow yourself to believe that Jesus Christ stands with us, and against God, out of pity and compassion, or that He became a curse for us out of sympathy for us. Jesus Christ became a curse for us by divine decree. Our part in realizing the tremendous meaning of His curse is the conviction of sin. Conviction is given to us as a gift of shame and repentance; it is the great mercy of God. Jesus Christ hates the sin in people, and Calvary is the measure of His hatred.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I read a recent column in a bulletin from my home church in Orangeburg, SC, and I want to share some of the pastor’s thoughts.

The apostle John tells us that when we are connected to Jesus and bearing fruit, it will be evidence that we are disciples of Jesus Christ.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:5-8

How connected are you?

Are you connected to people who help you grow in the Lord? Do you surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you? Are you connected with people who challenge you to walk closer to the Lord? Are you connected to people who will hold you accountable?

Are you connected to the community? Are you living the life of a follower of Jesus Christ? Is your life making a difference here in Marietta? Are the people of Marietta changed by your life? Do they see Jesus through your words and actions? Are you doing everything you can to share the gospel of Christ with others? Are you sensitive to people’s needs around you and looking for ways to meet their needs?

Are you connected to the church? Do you seek to serve along with others at North Hills Baptist to carry out God’s will for this church? Are you more than just a pew sitter on Sunday morning? Do you go beyond the services to build deeper relationships with one another? Are you working together with others or separately? Are you using your spiritual gift(s)? Are you involved in ministries here at North Hills?

Are you connected to Christ? Are you totally reliant on God and Him alone? Are you seeking His will for your life? Are you disciplining yourself to know more about Christ through prayer? Reading and meditating on His Word? Spending time alone with God? Are you “cause-driven” or “Christ-driven”? Are you serving “cause” you have to? Or do you serve because you seek to honor Christ with your life?

Again, how connected are you?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Worship: What We Do!

As we dig deeper into the subject of worship, my prayer is that our time together will not result only in an academic exercise. What good is it if all we seek is more information? It is futile unless the information motivates and spurs us to action.

Some practical ideas have been suggested to assist you to walk closer to God. In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Robert Foster gives numerous suggestions: meditation, prayer, fasting, study, solitude, submission, service, and confession. These disciplines can be summed up as being in the “presence of God.”

In the 17th century, a Carmelite monk in Paris penned his thoughts in a book regarding this concept of being in the presence of God. In his book, he writes,

As often as I could, I placed myself as a worshiper before him, fixing my mind upon his holy presence, recalling it when I found it wandering from him. This proved to be an exercise frequently painful, yet I persisted through all difficulties.

This week make it a priority to think about God’s character and His presence in your life. Before you say anything, ask yourself, “Would God be pleased with my words?” Before you look at anything, ask yourself, “Would God be pleased if I look at this?” Before you do anything, ask, “Would God be pleased with my actions?”
Allow God to change your lifestyle and behavior by the renewing of your mind. I love J.B. Phillips’ translation of Romans 12:1:-3,

“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God remold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands, and moves toward the goal of true maturity”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Missing Jewel

The first question of the Westminster Catechism is this: “What is the chief and highest end of man?” Its answer: “Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.” We have been created by God to worship and glorify Him. In his book, Worship: The Missing Jewel of the Evangelical Church, A. W. Tozer writes,

Now we were made to worship, but the Scriptures tell us something else again. They tell us that man fell and kept not his first estate; that he forfeited the original glory of God and failed to fulfill the creative purpose, so that he is not worshiping now in the way that God meant him to worship. All else fulfills its design; flowers are still fragrant and lilies are still beautiful and the bees still search for nectar amongst the flowers; the birds still sing with their thousand-voice choir on a summer’s day, and the sun and the moon and the stars all move on their rounds doing the will of God.

And from what can we learn from the Scriptures we believe that the seraphim and cherubim and powers and dominions are still fulfilling their design—worshipping God who created them and breathed into them the breath of life. Man alone sulks in his cave. Man alone, with all of his brilliant intelligence, with all of his amazing, indescribable and wonderful equipment, still sulks in his cave. He is either silent, or if he opens his mouth at all, it is to boast and threaten and curse or it’s nervous ill-considered laughter, or its humor become big business, or its songs without joy.

Man was made to worship God. God gave to man a harp and said, “Here above all the creatures that I have made and created I have given you the largest harp. I put more strings on your instrument and I have given you a wider range than I have given to any other creature. You can worship Me in a manner that no other creature can (11).

Oh, how we fail to worship our God who deserves all the praises from our lips. Make it a priority to worship our God!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"Wasting Time"

I love the title of Marva Dawn’s book on worship: A Royal “Waste” of Time. If the church is ever going to understand the meaning of worship, we must begin by losing ourselves in the splendor of our wonderful God. She begins her book with the following insight:

"To worship the Lord is—in the world’s eyes—a waste of time. It is, indeed, a royal waste of time, but a waste nonetheless. By engaging in it, we don’t accomplish anything useful in our society’s terms. Worship ought not to be construed in a utilitarian way. Its purpose is not to gain numbers nor for our churches to be seen as successful. Rather, the entire reason for our worship is that God deserves it. Moreover, it isn’t even useful for earning points with God, for what we do in worship won’t change one whit how God feels about us. We will always still be helpless sinners caught in our endless inability to be what we should be or to make ourselves caught in our endless inability to be what we should be or to make ourselves better—and God will always still be merciful, compassionate, and gracious, abounding in steadfast love and ready to forgive us as we come to him.

Worship is a royal waste of time, but indeed it is royal, for it immerses us in the regal splendor of the King of the cosmos. The churches’ worship provides opportunities for us to enjoy God’s presence in corporate ways that take us out of time and into the eternal purposes of God’s kingdom. As a result, we shall be changed—but not because of anything we do. God, on whom we are centered and to whom we submit, will transform us by his Revelation of himself."

Make it a goal for this upcoming year to set aside time to spend with God and worship Him. It will be hard because our culture has taught us that silence and solitude is a waste of time. Resist that feeling and learn how to quiet your soul before God and listen to Him.