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Tag Archives: Gospel

Thanks to the generous folks that I have the joy of pastoring at Terra Nova Church, Jennifer and I are spending a week away… ALONE… on sabbatical in St. George Island, Florida. It’s our earnest desire to return refreshed and renewed… ready to continue the journey before us!

This was our first full day here and we’ve done nothing other than REST and obviously enjoy the beauty of our surroundings. This evening we walked down to the beach for a quick walk and to watch the sunset. It was absolutely gorgeous… as you can see in the picture below!


Beach Sunset

As we were walking, Jennifer began to collect seashells. This is traditionally what she has done every time we have been on the beach together, but the conversation today was different. It encouraged me and brought me a great amount of joy. So, I want to briefly share it here in hopes that you too may find joy in the Gospel… the provision of our gracious Savior!

Broken Seashells As we walked, I too joined in the adventure of collecting seashells. I would grab one, show Jennifer, and wait for her approval. She would look at each one and decide if it made the cut. If it was approved, she placed it in her pocket… If not, it was tossed back into the water. I began to grow confident in this process and bypass those that appeared to be broken… assuming this was part of the criteria… NO BROKEN SHELLS. However, apparently I was wrong.

Out in front of me was a pretty shell, but it was broken. Jennifer asked me to grab that one. I inquired why she wanted it due to its broken condition. Her response is what prompted this blog and my finding joy in the Gospel. She said, “It’s broken, but it’s still beautiful. Like me… I’m truly broken, but God still thinks I’m pretty beautiful.” Wow! I couldn’t agree more!

You see we are ALL broken people… filled with sin… and lost apart from Christ. Please hear me, I’m constantly aware of my brokenness… my sinfulness. This is why the Gospel is the GOOD NEWS. He has redeemed us and chooses to use us… even in our brokenness!

I’m personally grateful for this time that Jennifer and I get to spend away… TOGETHER. It’s already been an amazing time of personal reflection, repentance, and renewal. Believe it or not… Pastors are people too… their personal lives… their relationships… their marriages… have brokenness. It’s so easy to run 100 miles an hour IN MINISTRY and not slow down to nurture our own relationship with Jesus and one another.

So, tonight I REST spiritually… IN HIM… JESUS… and His grace… and forgiveness. I’m broken, but I’m still beautiful to Him. I hope you too will find peace in the redemption that is available in Jesus.

Finally, when it comes to my precious wife… she too is broken. And truthfully, I’ve fallen in love with her many times despite the brokenness… However, today… I’ve fallen in love with her because of her brokenness. The video below pretty much sums up desire for us as we continue this journey called marriage… parenting… ministry… and life.

Stay tuned. I’ll share much more as I spend some much-needed time in the arms of Jesus.

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Holy Spirit

For the past two weeks I’ve been leading our church through a series about the person of the Holy Spirit… I truly believe that we will not see the Biblical mission of the church carried out and the world changed apart from the POWER of the Holy Spirit.

We have accessible to us the same Holy Spirit POWER that enabled the virgin Mary to conceive the Son of God and the same Holy Spirit POWER that raised Christ Jesus from the dead.

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. — Luke 1:34-35

The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. — Romans 1:3-4

When we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit within us… We give Him freedom to do what we are POWERLESS to do on our own. Here is a REAL testimony and example from our weekend worship service… this could not have happened apart from the Holy Spirit.

As I was standing at the door following our worship service a man shared with me that he did something that he could not explain other than it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit. He said, “Throughout the service I felt the Holy Spirit telling me to say something to the young lady in front of me, but I didn’t know who she was.” He battled with it through the service, but his faith in the Holy Spirit gave him assurance that he was to share a message with her.

So, after church he politely asked her if she had a minute and spoke these words to her… “You ARE a beautiful woman and you are going to be the best mother and give your children the childhood you always wished you had.” Pretty simple, right? To him it was nothing earth shattering.

However, when he asked me who she was and told me what the Holy Spirit prompted him to share… IT WAS A SIGNIFICANT WORD FOR HER. You see, this young lady was here for the first time in months and has been battling an addiction to heroine. She hasn’t felt beautiful in years. Also, this young lady had been adopted. He didn’t know these things… he just trusted the Holy Spirit.

As if that wasn’t awesome enough… I received a text message after church from this young lady’s mother. This is what it said… “God is so amazing! Someone had a word for my daughter that was right on target! I don’t really remember, but I don’t even think you knew about this. My daughter had been pregnant and she aborted the baby for health concerns for her and the baby (the addiction had much to do with this)… the baby was due this month. It blew her away… she told me that she had to get away from him before she started sobbing. We serve an awesome God!”

Let me remind you of the simple yet POWERFUL word that God had for this young lady… that she would have missed if this gentleman had not been listening to the Holy Spirit. “You ARE a beautiful woman and you are going to be the best mother and give your children the childhood you always wished you had.”

Will you listen to the Holy Spirit today?

 

 

This past weekend I shared a message concerning worship. I continue to be convinced that we don’t really get it. If we did, our churches and personal lives would erupt in worship. This post is just a collection of thoughts, scriptures, quotes, and videos that have spoken to me the past few weeks concerning worship. Enjoy!

 

  • Worship is responding to WHO God is and WHAT He has done. Not who He is generically, but who He is to you intimately! Not what He has done generically, but what He has done for you intimately!

 

  • All creation worships… Check out this video! It’s worth the time!

 

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. — Psalm 19:1

 

You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God. — Exodus 20:3-5

 

  • There is a WAR for our worship! The enemy is crafty… If he can just simply get us to be distracted and place our value and attention on anyone or anything above God… That’s a win for him.

 

  • What is an idol? It is anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. — Tim Keller

 

 

  • To refuse worship to the God who gives life is arrogance; to fight against Him is insanity; to scorn Him is the epitome of ingratitude. — Paul Washer

 

  • Today we have far too many desires and interests, and our lives are being consumed and wasted by them. — Oswald Chambers

 

  • In worship we are NOT the audience… we are participates. There is an audience of One!

 

  • Authentic worship changes the worshiper into the image of the One being worshiped.

 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. — Romans 12:1

Finally, here is Sunday’s message if you missed it or need context.

What are your thoughts? Do we really understand worship? Is our daily living sacrifice proportional to His ultimate sacrifice?

Reconciled. A simple word, but it carries with it the sum total of the Gospel for those who are in Christ Jesus. It is very much an identity for those who follow Jesus. I’ve recently been preaching a series about who we are in Jesus and it’s very fresh for me. So, when I was sitting in the hot tub while on vacation last week and a young man comes along with ‘RECONCILED’ tattooed on his chest, I immediately make an assumption about his identity. I concluded, with the help of the other tattoos, that this guy at least has knowledge of Christ. I’m not bashful, so I ask him to tell me about his tattoo.

He proceeded to share his faith in Jesus and the fact that he has been reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Jesus. This began an incredible conversation… a conversation about his daughter, Eliana. She was over at the pool in a strange dry suit, not your typical swim suit. She was having a blast! Below are a few pictures of Eliana and her story…

Eliana Blocks

At six-months old Eliana was diagnosed with Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension… a rare disorder of high blood pressure in the blood vessels that line the lungs. Pulmonary blood pressure rises when arteries and capillaries in the lungs become narrowed, blocked, or destroyed, making it hard for blood to flow through the lungs. Because the vessels of the lung and the heart are physically connected, this makes blood pressure in the heart rise and forces the heart to work harder than normal.

The doctors didn’t give them much hope when they told her parents that she’d only live to the age of five (5). She’s faced many difficult days and several close calls, but God has remained faithful. In fact, she just turned TEN (10). God is good and doctors CAN be wrong!

One thing that I’ll never forget is that Eliana was overjoyed to tell me that her name means MY GOD ANSWERS. She and her family knew who they were in Jesus! Before Eliana was ever diagnosed, they knew that God hears and answers. They are and will be OVERCOMERS! It’s not because life is easy, but it’s because they know the promises of God.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:2-4

You see, knowing who you are in Christ is NOT just a good sermon topic… it’s REAL LIFE stuff. Life is NOT always easy, or as I often say, “It’s NOT always rainbows and butterflies!” It’s vital that we know and stand in our Biblical identity!

Eliana’s family is not naive. They truly understand that each day is a gift. They understand that more difficult days could be just around the corner. However, they are rooted in Jesus and know that the same POWER that raised Him from the dead is accessible to them too! Eliana is a MASTERPIECE, her family are AMBASSADORS, and they are OVERCOMERS!

WHEN YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE… YOU WILL KNOW WHAT TO DO!

In the meantime, would you please pray for Eliana and her family? In fact, you can voice your prayer in the comments section below and they can read them. The Alderete family is from New Mexico and were in Denver, CO last week for Eliana to visit her specialists. Eliana’s story and our meeting has been shared with their permission.

On a personal level… I’m grateful for the opportunity to meet this family. I too often struggle with who I am in Christ and what that requires of me. However, on Thursday evening of last week… I got it… because I was listening to God and dug a little deeper than surface level conversation. The result was a poolside (public) prayer meeting that was simply precious!

BECAUSE I KNEW WHO I WAS… I KNEW WHAT TO DO.

As I consider the times in which we live… I’m actually EXCITED. Yes, I’m serious… Just hang with me for just a few minutes! I understand the daily concerns of our culture… the condition of our government, religious liberties, jobs, our children’s future, and on and on. However, I’m excited because of one word that I believe God has been stirring in me and it’s also a word I think the Church needs to be reminded of… It’s the word OPPORTUNITY!

Op·por·tu·ni·ty (ä-pər-ˈtü-nə-tē) noun: A favorable juncture of circumstances. A good chance for advancement or progress.

When it comes to the Gospel… the time is NOW! Opportunity abounds! WE, the body of Christ, need to be faithful and switch our focus from feeling oppressed to walking in opportunity! To be blunt… GET OVER YOURSELF AND GET ON MISSION.

Scripture gives us some pretty clear mandates about opportunities…

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10 NIV)

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. (Colossians 4:5 NIV)

I immediately see three things…

1. God desires for you to capitalize on opportunities with FELLOW BELIEVERS.

2. God desires for you to capitalize on opportunities with UNBELIEVERS.

3. God desires for you to capitalize on opportunities with ALL PEOPLE.

God is CONSTANTLY and SUPERNATURALLY at work creating for you… OPPORTUNITY! He is moving people in and out of your life with purpose. However, it’s not opportunity for you to make much of self, government, your political agenda, or anything else… It’s opportunity to make much of HIM. Everything that God sets into motion has one solitary purpose… His glory!

So, I’m pretty excited about the perspective that God has birth within me this week. As I pastor Terra Nova Church, I’m keenly aware that God creating NEW OPPORTUNITIES for us to make much of Him! In fact, I’ll be sharing some of these opportunities in detail during our services on March 16th and 17th… Don’t miss it!

Until then… Be ready for your next opportunity…

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

moving forwardJesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

— Matthew 16:23

 

We’ve launched 2013 with a pretty bold challenge at Terra Nova Church to BE RICH and now we are preparing to dive into a brand-new series, RENEWED BLISS, that will speak truth into marriages. It’s become very apparent that we are addressing some very critical issues in the life of our church and in the hearts of individuals.

I think we often overlook or even dismiss the reality of spiritual warfare. When God is at work… the enemy and all the forces of darkness rise to delay, derail, and destroy that which God earnestly desires for His bride.

John’s gospel reminds us…

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. — John 10:10

If you are part of the Terra Nova Church family… PLEASE pray for our church as we move forward on mission. If you are simply a regular viewer of this blog or have just stumbled upon it… PLEASE pray for our church and certainly pray for the local body that you gather with. There is NO CHURCH that is exempt from the schemes of the enemy.

Frank Viola says this…

When the Lord is having His way in a body of believers, God’s enemy will be sure to attack. Nothing so threatens the enemy’s kingdom than the church of Jesus Christ being expressed and standing for God’s timeless purpose and Christ’s fullness and headship.

So, here are four (4) things to keep in mind when such attacks occur… Notice that I said WHEN

  1. The enemy virtually always uses uncrucified flesh as the ground for his attack against a body of believers.
  2. Those who are giving ground to the enemy aren’t always aware that this is what they are doing; giving him ground via selfishness and self-gratification.
  3. The only way to close the gap is to die to self. God’s enemy has no ground by which to work then. Remember Jesus’ words: “Satan has come, but he has nothing in me.” There was no ground in Him for the enemy to use.
  4. The enemy uses lies and deception to hold ground. He’s a master at it. The scriptures wielded by crucified hands and in the Spirit are a force to break that decption.

I’m excited to be MOVING FORWARD… but please remember… we are NOT simply building an institution or a country club. We ARE called to be LIGHT in the darkness… to be agents of LIFE-CHANGE… and to decrease so that He may increase!

WE GET TO DO THIS!

Cheap ImitationThere are many things in our culture that have been ‘knocked off’ and replaced by a cheap imitation… Things like soft drinks, designer handbags, perfumes, toys, and even household items. We’ve heard the phrase “OFTEN IMITATED, BUT NEVER DUPLICATED” and can immediately think of many things that fall into this category. But have you ever thought of the Church of today as a cheap imitation?

Scripture gives us a very clear picture of how the Church should look and feel… Dive into the book of Acts!

As we see how the Church lived and interacted in scripture it doesn’t take long to see that perhaps we no longer reflect the REAL THING, but rather we’ve become a CHEAP IMITATION. If we truly want to resist ‘Imitation Status’ there are several things that today’s Church must mirror from the Early Church.

The Early Church…

1. Understood the GOSPEL. They didn’t just raise their hand or pray a silent prayer… they understood self-denial and truly surrendered their life, will, and agenda to Christ.

2. GAINED a hunger for God’s Word and His people. In Acts 2 they devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching and fellowship. They pursued the Word. They did not wait for Sunday! The Word and His people were… and still are… vital to successfully walking with Christ.

3. GATHERED Often. They genuinely loved one another! They did REAL life together! They had ALL things in common! Nobody had to force community… nobody had to be convinced to attend a small group!

4. Were compelled to GO. The Early Church did not have the ‘come and get it’ mentality, but rather understood that they were responsible to carry the life-changing gospel to others. It wasn’t the pastor’s job to share the gospel… it was everyone’s job!

5. Had GLAD hearts… They had an attractive demeanor. People enjoyed being around the Early Church. People longed to have what they had. There is a vast difference today… If you don’t believe me… ask a waitress on a Sunday afternoon!

6. GAVE generously. They gave with no expectation of anything in return. They gave because it becomes the DNA of one who has truly surrendered to Christ. In fact, those on the outside looking in were more attracted by generosity than by theology.

7. Experienced radical GROWTH. There is a natural response to the REAL THING. When we refuse to be a CHEAP IMITATION and strive to live out the model before us in scripture… HE will build HIS Church!

As pastor there is no greater joy than seeing and having confirmation that people are GETTING IT… The Gospel is changing people… Enjoy this post!

Guest Post By Justin McLemore

You think you know me but you don’t… I’m not who you think I am… All my life people have told me that I’m such a nice and sweet person. They are wrong… I am a liar, thief, murderer (Matthew 5: 21-22), and adulterer (Matthew 5:28). I have worshipped false idols. I’m a horrible person that is undeserving of God’s mercy and grace. The only thing that I truly deserve is a sinner’s hell!

For a very long time I tried to correct these problems on my own. I believed that if I did well enough, I would be able to save myself from hell. I was wrong. No matter how many good things I did, there was always more bad than good. I couldn’t erase or repay my debt to God. Romans 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. All the things that I tried to do to make myself right with God were destroyed by this one verse. Isaiah 64:6 “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;…” God saw my good deeds, my deeds I did trying to earn His favor, as filthy rags. Nothing that I could do would ever be good enough. That’s when I realized I couldn’t help myself and that’s when I finally understood the truth of the Gospel. 

It’s not about what I’ve done!!!! It’s all about what Jesus did!!!! It is a gift that God gave to me and every other person on the Earth. Jesus stood in the gap for me! He took all my sins, all my shame, and all of my mess and died on a cross for me. He made me pure and blameless in God’s sight. Not a single one of us deserved it but He gave it to us anyway. I stand in awe at just how amazing God’s love is for us. God didn’t have to do it. He allowed his own son to die for me!! He did it all!! Ephesians 2: 8-9 reads “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”   

Nothing about me has changed. There is nothing good about me. The only thing is now because of Jesus dying for me I am free from the chains that bound me in my past. Because of Jesus I am no longer a slave to sin. Because of Him, the gap between me and God is gone. Just typing this gives me chills. I am so thankful for the Gospel and I will do anything and everything short of sin to spread the Gospel.

The Gospel… How I long for the Church of America to be awakened…

If this post and this video activates the Gospel within you… please share it!