Monthly Archives: March 2015

Holy Week

holyweek

This week is special. It is special because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His life events that change the foundation of the world forever. Jesus began His week by riding into town on the back of a donkey while crowds of people cheered Him on as the Messiah. Palm branches lined the streets for the King of Kings. What a sight it must have been.

As you worship Jesus this week, remind yourself of the sacrifice He made on your behalf. He loves you very much and really does desire to be your King.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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In Everything Go To God

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When you face today, remind yourself about this one thing: Whatever you are going through, you can present it to God!

God is always available to you. He is never to busy for you. He is the only One who can give you true inner peace when you need it the most. The verse in Philippians 4:6 says that we (me & you) are not be anxious about anything because we have the greatest listener in the world. God is begging you today to ask Him anything by way of prayer.

Go ahead and ask. He would love to hear from you today.

Stay in the Light 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Climb that Mountain

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Psalm 24:3-4:

3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?

4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.

The mountain of God, at first glance, seems unclimbable. I read that the only one that can stand or climb to God is a person who is clean and pure. Again, at first glance, I throw my hands up and say, “Well, I guess I will be staying right here at the base of the mountain, since, me a sinner, can’t be clean enough or pure enough to go to that place.

That is exactly what our adversary (Satan) would love us to believe. He wants us to believe that we will never be clean enough or pure enough to get close to God. It just ain’t going to happen.

But thanks be to God who has created a way for me and for you to climb that mountain and stand before  a holy God! The Way is Jesus, who says in John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

So today when you just don’t know how to start climbing, remember the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.

Climb that Mountain!

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Easter Is Just Around The Corner

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With Easter just 2 weeks away, it is now the ripe time of the year to invite a friend, relative, or a neighbor to church. You know it is one of those times where you can probably have a positive response to a church invite. I have always wondered why. If Easter and Christmas are good days to attend, then why not other services?

According to Thom Rainer, the term CEO christians (Christmas Easter Only) is an exaggeration. What really happens on Christmas and Easter is those church attenders who are infrequent all come together on those special days, so it seems that there are non-going attendees in the midst. It is a reunion of the occasional church goers.

Seems like the expectations of church members is that there are no expectations, including regular church attendance. So it really shouldn’t surprise those of us who attend regularly. Membership used to mean something in earlier church  life, but in the hustle and bustle of today’s church life, membership is nearly a way to count bodies to some extent.

This Easter I am praying for COO (Comes Only Occasionally) to become RCA (Regular Church Attender). Membership and church attendance are still a vital means for a healthy family life. God has to be part of an overcrowded calendar and schedule. Why not try to put Him on the docket this year, and see if doesn’t deliver. I know my life has never been the same once I truly surrendered to the living God. He is ready to become important again!

Stay In The Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Guilty Feelings

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When you feel guilty about not going to church, what does that say about the God you claim? Does He make you feel guilty or is it that you are guilty. I don’t believe that God plays with our hearts in that manner. He is greater than all our sin (Romans 5:20, The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more).

So, if you are a believer, ask God to forgive you guilt by confessing your sin (1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness). Romans 8:1 says “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

The next time you fell guilty for not attending church, it may be that you are guilty of other things or that Satan is playing with your emotions, because He is an accuser. He would love for you to stay away from church ams feel guilty to the point that weeks, months, or even years pass away before you come to your senses.

Don’t put off another Sunday, go to church and worship the God of this universe in Spirit and in Truth so that you may rid yourself of all guilt!

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Annual Church Membership, really

This post comes from Thom Rainer’s Blog:

There are some pretty strong opinions on church membership. I have heard some say that church membership should come with extremely high expectations. I have heard some indicate that membership should have little or no expectations. And I have even heard some state that membership in an institutional church has no biblical basis.

Not too long ago, I wrote a little book on church membership called I Am a Church Member. I have been blown away with the response to it, over 700,000 books sold to date. There is obviously a strong interest in this topic.

I am also seeing an early trend in one of the highest forms of expectations in the church: annual church membership renewal. Stated simply, the membership rolls are cleared every year. Everyone who desires membership for the next year typically agrees to a covenant of expectations.

I will continue to watch this emerging trend carefully. For now, let me share ten early thoughts on this church practice.

  1. The early signs are that this practice can be a healthy move for a church. Though the numbers of churches practicing annual membership renewal are few, there is indeed greater assimilation and more effective discipleship taking place in those churches.
  2. Proceed with great caution. Most churches are not ready for annual membership renewal. If you are a pastor and push it, you may find your job is not renewed instead.
  3. Incrementalism is necessary in most churches. You could simply begin by presenting a covenant each year for affirmation without making that a requirement for renewed membership.
  4. Membership classes are key. This process needs to be explained carefully to those applying for membership for the first time.
  5. Do not proceed with this process until you have seen it in other churches. Try to find churches that have moved to annual membership renewal. Learn from them. Revitalized Churches, a ministry out of Crestview, Florida, recently released a three-part video series by Ryan Whitley on the topic of annual church membership renewal. It’s an excellent resource for those who want to hear first hand from a church who made this change.
  6. Communication is vital. Of course, communication is vital in any situation. But an annual church membership renewal is a paradigm shift for most churches. The process may be painstakingly slow, with a lot of open communication needing to taking place.
  7. Younger churches tend to handle this change better than older churches. They do not have established traditions that offer resistance to annual membership renewal. In fact, it may work best in new church starts.
  8. Longer-tenured pastors are typically more able to lead this change. There has to be a high level of trust among church members for them to accept such a dramatic shift in church practice. Longer-term pastors have had better opportunities to earn such trust.
  9. Expect opposition. Annual membership presents significant change in most churches. Some members will not understand it nor support it.
  10. Follow-up is crucial. It is imperative that churches have a well-thought out follow-up process for annual membership renewal. For example, what are the plans to get with current members who have yet to elect to renew membership?

Meaningful church membership is critically important for church health. A few churches are addressing this trend by requiring members to renew their membership annually. It’s an early trend that bears watching. Let me hear your thoughts about it.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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The Gospel for Children

Making Sure Children Actually Hear the Gospel and Not Just a Bunch of Bible Stories

Today I am posting an parenting article from Ed Stetzer: Enjoy!

We must not only teach children the stories of Scripture. We must teach them the Story of Scripture.
Making Sure Children Actually Hear the Gospel and Not Just a Bunch of Bible Stories
Children have a faith that is ready to go. Let’s not waste that opportunity by delivering a humanistic Gospel.

We talk a lot about contextualization Gospel communication. How do we share the eternal truth of God in specific locations for specific people who have a specific shared experience?

The Gospel does not change. So the message should remain the same, even as the methods are adjusted for effectiveness.

But how well do we proclaim the Gospel to children? I’m not asking how well we teach children Bible stories, or how well we have taught the moral truths of Scripture.

Are we contextualizing our Gospel communication for children as well as we are for the hipsters in Brooklyn or the tribes in Tanzania?

The Bible as a Collection of Good Stories

Too often we teach the Bible as a series of isolated morality tales, like Aesop’s Fables. We want our children to learn how to live well, so we draw from the Bible stories of people who did the right thing and those who did the wrong thing.

We hope they are getting the idea that good is of God, leading to success, and bad is of Satan, leading to failure. If the kiddos can then live out and retell the story with the right names and main points, we feel like they have a grasp on the Gospel.

Churches have told children tons of good stories, but have we told them the Story?

Churches have told children tons of good stories, but have we told them the Story?

It is easy to tell the stories within the story, but there is a big picture here. We miss some important points when we offer a slice of the Gospel as if it is the whole pie.

I think about it this way.

There’s this huge story with basically four major acts. Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. I teach these at my church. You might as well. But how do you teach this to children?

I’m a father of three daughters. The reality is I just don’t want them to know one part of God’s big story. He’s given us His Word that tells the story of His grand and awesome plan, from the first verse to the last. I want them to know the Truth, not just a truth or two.

The Gospel is About What God is Doing

We miss the flow of God if we just take the Bible in isolated parts. And the flow is important to understanding that the Gospel is not just a group of ideas, but rather a plan that has been designed and implemented by a loving God for the saving of humans.

Ideas aren’t as personal as a plan. The plan runs the length of Scripture. So for example, we hear Jesus say in 1 Corinthians 11, “This cup is the New Covenant in My blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of Me.”

But we don’t remember that Moses said, “This blood is a symbol of the covenant” in the Old Testament. We don’t understand why Abraham would be called to sacrifice Isaac if we don’t understand what would happen as God the Son is sent by God the Father to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. This interconnectedness happens all through Scripture.

When we take the Bible as a series of isolated morality tales, we think about 66 books with hundreds, if not thousands, of stories contained within them. In actuality, there are not thousands of stories. There are not 66 stories. There aren’t even two stories with the Old and New Testament. There is one story and that is the story of what God is doing—redemptive history.

We want to teach morals to kids, but we don’t want them to become moralists.

The Gospel is Not a Self-help Program

Part of the challenge is in the midst of sharing the Gospel. We want to teach morals to kids, but we don’t want them to become moralists. Yet that is a facet of the predominant religion of our culture today—moralistic therapeutic deism.

Christian Smith coined this phrase.

Moralism is the idea that whatever God is out there wants you to be a good person. It’s also therapeutic. It makes you a better person. It’s actually good for you to have some spirituality in your life. And deism is merely the belief in some God doing something up/out there.

While many people would not self-identify as moralistic therapeutic deists, that is exactly what they are, practically speaking.

They often draw their theology from various sources, including the Bible. But they cherry pick Bible stories that work well with their worldview and adopt the morality found in the story. This will make them feel better and pleasing to God. Mission accomplished.

But that isn’t our mission. That’s not our desire.

The Gospel is that sinners have been saved and are part of a family of believers who edify and equip one another to go out to other sinners and tell them about the Savior. Scripture tells us how God has been searching for and saving people from the first Garden to the Eternal City. We have the privilege of telling that to others, including kids.

Contextualization for Children is Essential

I’m not a children’s pastor and do not have a Ph.D. in educational pedagogy.

Yet, I can tell that that we should not let the fact that children are still learning how to learn keep us from sharing the whole counsel of God with them. When Jesus taught about our acceptance of the Gospel, He said that we must become as children.

Children were designed to hear about the things of God and have faith in them with few hurdles. So let’s be honest with them about the Gospel. It will make more sense if it is delivered holistically, and it will have a greater effect in their lives.

Definitely contextualize, as you would anywhere to anyone else. But do not strip the Gospel of its power in your delivery. God has a Story, and they are in it.

How can we more effectively teach stories without extracting them from the Story? What have you found as you teach children about the bigger story? What part of the Gospel is the most difficult to contextualize for children?

Some Resources

Thankfully, many gifted people see the need to teach the whole Story of Scripture to children. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of great resources available to the Church today to teach children about Jesus, the Gospel, and God’s Word. There are some links to some below. Feel free to suggest your tools in the comments below as well.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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