Let His Light Shine!

Matthew 5:16 says, “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good img_8476deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  As we get ready to close out 2016 here are three things we need to do as followers of Christ to let His light shine:

1. Share it!  We share all kinds of things every day through social media. Whenever ‘good news’ happens you share it. Use our Christmas Eve-Eve Service as an opportunity to invite your family and friends to church so they can hear about the greatest news ever shared; that God sent us a Savior!  Your friends who don’t know Jesus need Jesus! Share our event on Facebook and INVITE!

2. Be generous!  Our Heavenly Father is a giver! God has done some amazing things this past year in and through Cedar Point, and in 2017 He’s asking us to continue to GROW in our faith and generosity.  We want to see more people take the step of following Jesus.  Let’s not allow finances to keep us from reaching more people with the Good News of Christ! Be generous in your year-end giving and to those around you this Christmas.

3. Enjoy it!  This is something I always have to remind myself to do.  Take time to sit back, relax, and just enjoy your family and friends this Christmas season.  But most importantly, remember to celebrate the reason we gather; God has sent Light into our darkness.  Through our faith in Jesus we can find true rest in those moments of chaos and uncertainty and more importantly, “find rest for our souls.”

I am so proud to be able to pastor such a great group of Christ followers! Here’s looking forward to what God has in store for 2017.  Hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Pastor D

“When are they going to recite the Apostles’ Creed?”

For whatever reason this has been coming up a lot lately for me: “I grew up in apostlescreedsuch-and-such church, but yours doesn’t do all the typical readings.”  And I know all too well what they’re saying and why they’re saying it.  I’ve been there.  I grew up in a Lutheran church and can still yet today recite the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds.  I remember my first time going to a ‘non-liturgical’ church (like Cedar Point) and asking my girlfriend, “When are they going to recite the Apostle’s Creed?”  At first it drove me crazy because all they did was sing (a whole lot) and listen to a sermon.  They didn’t even say the Lord’s Prayer.  But I’ll never forget walking away from that experience knowing one thing: yes, it wasn’t church the way I was used to, but man do they love Jesus!

You see, there’s nothing wrong with liturgy and reciting certain things.  But for me, those things didn’t mean anything to me.  It was just something we did, like at a football game… “stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight!”  There’s nothing wrong with reciting the Lord’s Prayer, though that’s not what Jesus had intended for us to do.  In Matthew 6:9ff, Jesus never said, “This then is what you should pray.”  He said, “This then is how you should pray.”  Not what, but how.  It was a model prayer meant to teach us how to pray.

And personally, I believe God would rather Continue reading

This Weekend: Make It Count!

“We implore you on Christ’s behalf…”

The Christian ‘Super Bowl’ is this Sunday.  There is no greater day in the Christian faith than Easter.  Without Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and his rising from the tomb we’d still be dead in our sins and separated from God.  But thank God for Jesus!

For those of us who already know Christ as Lord & Savior Easter presents an awesome opportunity to invite others who are far from God or have given uinvite-a-friendp on the church to give it another shot.  The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church begged Jesus followers to reach out to others.  The truth is, God works through us in bringing people to himself.  We are His ambassadors, IF, we choose to be.

We have two days left before Easter.  Make them count!  Invite that coworker, your neighbor, your friend to church.  Don’t simply come and sit through another Easter service without doing anything with it.  Go be an ambassador, a herald, a proclaimer of the greatest news the world has ever heard.  Grab that person on your left and the person on your right and invite them to church.  They matter to God too!  The question is, do they matter to you?  Make this weekend count.

2 Corinthians 5:14-21

“14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Be An Encourager

Has anyone ever encouraged you?  I hope so. There’s nothing quite like those words coming to our ears that lift us up, that give us hope or confidence.  Several years ago as a nominal Christian going about my daily monotonous life, I had a guy take me out for lunch who told me I could be a leader, that I could make a difference in the church. Wow!  I had never been told that before andEnourage-Someone-Photo-583x465 it blew me away.  “Really? Me?” It’s so true that there are power in our words; power to lift up or power to tear down. And I for one would rather see people lifted up.

One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 3:13, “But encourage one another daily as long as it is called Today.” Life is hard. God is good. And encouragement we all need. Who can YOU encourage Today? Don’t be a ‘Debby Downer’ that sucks the life out of others. Be an ENCOURAGER! Because you can make a difference.

Don’t Forget Adley

 

My wife Deedie talking with Adley

On January 12, 2010 the small Caribbean country of Haiti was hit with a cataclysmic level 7.0 earthquake sixteen miles west of its capital city Port-au-Prince near the city of Léogâne.  The world was shocked as reports came in of an estimated 316,000 dead and over 1 million now homeless.  As the people of Haiti stammered to put their lives back together aid from numerous countries started to pour in.

Two and a half years later Haiti still struggles to get back to normal.  This past month my wife and I traveled to Léogâne to help Samaritan’s Purse with the construction efforts of an orphanage that will eventually house and school 100 children.  Continue reading

Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

Millions of us have watched and laughed along as Jeff Foxworthy wittingly pokes fun at adults who try to prove their intellectual prowess over school-age children on Fox Network’s game show “Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?”  As we play along it seems like it should be an easy enough task to remember the things we learned in grade school, but only two people, Kathy Cox and George Smoot, have been lucky enough to claim the $1,000,000 prize and escaped admitting that they “are not smarter than a 5th grader.”

Games like Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit make my head hurt.  Continue reading

I hate reading the biblical prophets!

Okay, maybe ‘hate’ isn’t the right word, but my MS Word thesaurus didn’t produce any synonyms I thought fit well.  Instead, maybe, I ache or am sickened when I read through the biblical prophets.  Way too many of them took God’s message to His people, quite often a message of repentance, and the people seldom repented.  Jeremiah, who is often referred to as ‘the weeping prophet,’ never saw a single person turn to God, and I think to myself, “What if I’m another Jeremiah?”  Does anyone care about God anymore?  I hate reading the prophets!

  • They followed God, while no one else did.
  • They delivered God’s message, while no one listened.
  • They informed people of God’s righteous decrees, but no one cared.
  • They told people to build God’s Kingdom, but the people toiled to build their own.
  • They warned people of God’s coming judgment, and it’s still coming…

So has anything changed today?

 

“The Greatest” Paradox

I recently read an article on leadership and the need for godly ambition.  While it stated some things that I didn’t totally agree with (that it’s okay to be seen as arrogant if it’s coupled with ambition) I would agree that we as Christ-followers need to be ambitious in our faith.  Not only do we need to put in work to grow in our faith so that we do not become stagnant Christians, but Christ has given his followers a task to fulfill, to ‘go and make disciples’ (Matthew 28:19-20).

So what does “godly ambition” look like?  My wife and I have four children and our youngest, Kelly, who is two now, is at the stage where she constantly follows people around copying what they do.  Most often you’ll find her following her older brother who is three doing everything he does, whether it’s talking, jumping, or climbing the kitchen cabinets.  She wants to be just like her big brother.  But how often do we as Christians find ourselves doing the same thing with Jesus?  I think I’m safe in guessing not as often as we should.

Following Christ is not exactly an easy thing to do.  If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.  But God’s Word teaches that in order to be like him we must deny ourselves, that we must think of others first, that we should even carry others’ burdens, and that just doesn’t come naturally for any of us.  Americans, or humans for that matter, have a huge inferiority complex.  We don’t like being considered as someone’s servant.  Even three of the four gospels record stories of the twelve disciples arguing about which one of them was the greatest.  Mark even places the story after the Lord’s Supper just moments before Jesus was arrested.  So here are twelve men who have spent a little over three years with Jesus.  They’ve walked with him, listened to his teaching, witnessed firsthand the many miracles, watched how he interacted with people, and they still didn’t get it!  But Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).  Being the greatest means being the least.

So look at your home, your workplace, even your church.  Who are the “greatest” among you according to God’s standards?  How many people do you know who put others ahead of themselves?  Are you one of those people?  As a pastor I’ve learned that many people will easily give a complaint, few are willing to give a solution.  If you are a follower of Christ the places you live, work, and worship should be better places because you are there.  If there’s a problem you should find a way to be part of the remedy.  The presence of God living in and through you should improve the people and situations around you as you learn to put others ahead of yourself just as Christ did.  It’s a paradox that’s hard to grasp, but as we look to God’s Word for how to live I hope we’ll begin to see lives transformed.

The Gospel of the Kingdom vs. the Gospel of Atonement

I believe the church today is filled with fans of Jesus, but very few followers of Jesus, people who he would call a disciple.  At Cedar Point Church we put a huge emphasis on “living missionally” as followers of Christ.  Simply put, it is actively living on mission with God fulfilling the command that he gave his followers to “go and make disciples” (Mt. 28:19; Acts 1:8).  So for the followers of Christ, those who call themselves Christians, to actually “live missionally”, it’s important to understand what the biblical definition of a disciple is and what they do.  We need to understand what it is Jesus wants us to make.  But in order to get to that point we first need to have a better understanding of the gospel, the “good news” that begins the discipleship process in each of us.

A friend of mine recently posted a link to an interview with Dallas Willard, former pastor, well known Christian author, and current professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California.  The article, titled The Gospel of the Kingdom, covers many topics but particularly the preaching and teaching of the gospel of the Kingdom versus the gospel of atonement and its affects upon Christians.  For me it was rather eye-opening, and I would presume even more so for those who have grown up only hearing the gospel of atonement.  Please take some time to read the article.  I hope you walk away with a fuller understanding of what Christ came to preach: The Gospel of the Kingdom (Mt. 4:23).

Sacrilege: Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus

Hugh Halter: “The Art of Subtle Wooing: Winning the World Through Meekness” (Excerpt, Chapter 6)

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:5

The Power of Posture

Words tell people what we think, but our actions, our facial expressions, our touch, or our general “posture” tells people what we actually feel. And this is the power of Jesus to win the hearts of people. When the woman was caught in adultery, Jesus postured himself as an advocate for her, kneeling down beside her as she was stooped over under the condemnation of the pious. When Jesus quietly allowed Mary to pour valuable perfumed oil over His head while skeptics belittled her, He was communicating His compassion for this woman. When he turned tables over by the temple, the sound of crashing trinkets and the look on his face communicated far more powerfully than the words people heard him mutter. As He reclined at Levi’s table, laughing and enjoying dinner with the outcasts, people picked up on his inclusive love. Most starkly, the fact that Jesus lived in the neighborhood for 30 years without letting people know He was their Savior, their Messiah, their God, and instead just lived with them, celebrated with them, and mourned with them, is astounding. His voice and words would someday, in the right timing, cut their hearts to the core, but His ability to draw a crowd and win the crowd was based on His beautiful posture, his nonverbals. And we would do well to live the same way.

In the book of Philippians, Paul encourages us to be like Jesus, who—though being all-powerful—intentionally chose not to force the issue with us or force dogma down our throats. Instead He chose to live among us, love us, show us and teach us about how to live life in His new kingdom. It’s incredible that in the three years of His ministry recorded in Scripture, we don’t see Him aggressively trying to convert anyone. He just seemed to wait for them to come to him. This is the power of godly posture.

To me, this is all the proof I need that God doesn’t want us to stick up for him, confound the unchurched with our right doctrine, or belittle them with attempts to be morally superior. Jesus is teaching us to stop trying to convert people and begin wooing them to His kingdom way of life through the meekness of our way. Meekness will cause us to be dignified and in turn dignify the spiritual journeys of others. Meekness will compel us to respect others, listen to them, and acknowledge the things that turn them off about Christians, especially if they’ve had a few run-ins with fundies. Meekness by its very definition communicates to people an authentic belief that we aren’t any better than they are—really!—and that we only know what we know and have changed because God pursued us, saved us, helped us, and loved us.

Yes, Jesus did teach about the need to be born again spiritually. He did confront people with their need to repent of sin. And so will we . . . if we win their hearts through the power of meekness. With meekness, evangelism and our heartfelt desire to see our friends find Jesus become like one homeless person helping another homeless person find a warm bed for the night.

Exchanging Aggression for Meekness

So here’s a real switcheroo. Evangelicals need to learn that the earliest and most prolific communities of Jesus followers, who saw literally thousands of their friends come to faith in one day and who turned entire cities around for Jesus, were not, as a general rule, aggressive toward the culture. Instead they simply waited for people to come with their curiosity and questions. In 1 Peter 3:15-16, Peter said, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

We should ask ourselves, “Is anyone asking me about my life or my faith?” If not, I think Jesus would say, “Then you’re not living out the level of love I called you to in this life.” Often we think people’s lack of spiritual response is because they just don’t want to find God. More often, I have found, the real problem is that we just don’t live enough like Jesus yet. Think about this. In early New Testament times, the most religious people, the Pharisees, were highly evangelistic, sometimes sailing across far seas to win one convert. But here is what Jesus said to them in Matthew 23:15: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”

Conversion isn’t just about helping someone find faith. Yes, it includes this, but when people focus all their efforts on getting people “saved,” they communicate only a small part of the Good News. All too often we are like egomaniacs wanting to turn converts into evangelists, like a giant pyramid scheme where the main goal of the corporation is to multiply and get more warm bodies in the door. But Jesus does not need any more arrogant soul-winners who go out to make more arrogant soul-winners. Jesus wants us to point people to who He really was—a man of humility and love—then allow that image to change them in whatever way God wants. It is not a cookie-cutter operation. The Good News is that every person has a story, and the way Jesus enters each story is highly unique and individual. The process may take years to complete, with fits of starts and stops and doubts along the way. God never meant for us to sign people up with a quick prayer, a contract, and a pat on the back. He intended for us to love and journey with others in their walk toward and with Jesus. This isn’t about a duty to be performed; it is about a relationship to be explored.

Jesus’ own apprentices at first didn’t get His lesson about approaching others with humility. In Luke 9, the disciples were in a fight over who was the greatest dude among them, which Jesus basically dismissed by saying, “It is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest” (v. 48), which probably didn’t sound like a lot of fun to them. Then Jesus sent word to the Samaritans that he was coming through town, but the Samaritans didn’t respond favorably. So what did these self-focused, power-hungry apprentices do? They asked Jesus, like the tough guys they wanted to be, a question I can only hear in my head as sounding like one of the Sopranos: “Yo, Jesus! You wanna we should call down fire on dose blasted pagan half-breeds?”

And they asked this right after Christ’s little lesson on humility.

You have to wonder if Jesus hit His forehead and thought, “Oy veh!” There’s no biblical record of that, but Luke does record that Jesus rebuked them for their attitude of assumed superiority (see Luke 9:51–56).

(What kind of posture do you present to those around you?)