The gospel is…the word about Jesus Christ and what he did for us in order to restore us to a right relationship with God. – Graeme Goldsworthy

Monday, March 30, 2015

Seven Years Ago Today

Seven years ago today -- at this exact moment that I now write -- I was preaching my very first sermon as a “pastor.” On March 30, 2008 New Covenant Community Church launched its first church service. Three decades of divine preparation led up to that moment, and God’s grace has sustained me and the precious congregation I shepherd in the years since. God has been faithful and good.

Many in Christianity today define success -- first and foremost -- numerically. The size of a congregation is the immediate litmus test whereby we gauge whether a minister and his church has “made it.” Additionally, denominational brass and nay-saying critics often marginalize those churches that haven’t performed many baptisms. I’m glad God’s opinion -- found in His Word -- doesn’t parallel these superficial perspectives. I’m also thankful that church history -- and some of the more significant ministries in the story of world missions -- doesn’t completely agree, either. I opened my sermon yesterday with the following quote:

It was seven years…
…before Carey baptized his first convert in India.
…before Judson won his first disciple in Burmah.
…that Morrison toiled before the first Chinaman was brought to Christ.
…declares Moffat, that he waited to see the first evident moving of the 
              Holy Spirit upon his Bechaunas in Africa.
…before Henry Richards wrought the first convert, gained at 
              Banza Manteka. 
                                        A.J. Gordon in Why Revival Tarries by Leonard Ravenhill (p. 130)

Immediately following this quote I said, “I would like to add to A.J. Gordon’s list. Seven years ago New Covenant Community Church had its first church service. May it be said about us one hundred years from now that seven years after we began...revival broke out." A resounding, “Amen!” followed.

But whether that happens or not is not the main point. I’ve come to learn over the last seven years that numbers, financial health, or numerous conversions does not define the success of a local church. It is defined by faithfulness. In the early years of planting New Covenant Community Church, I read a book written by a seasoned pastor that laid out the biblical case for this, entitled Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent Hughes. With a providential timeliness that can only come from a kind and gracious God on this seven year anniversary, one of my congregants sent me an email this morning entitled “For your encouragement” with the notation, “I think you will be blessed by this series. It is by Kent Hughes on success in ministry.”

As I listened to one of the messages of the series this morning, I couldn’t help but respond in gratitude for this fortifying reminder, and I’d like to share it with you. Whether you are in full-time ministry or not, it will encourage your heart if you consistently battle Western society’s constant definition of “success” -- which is not only propagated outside the church, but also, sadly, from within its own walls. As you listen, may your heart be sweetly drawn back to the clarity of God’s Word.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Though You Slay Me

Ten years ago this week, I lost one of the most significant individuals in my life. My mom. Even though a decade has passed, the weeks leading up to her home going is still etched upon my memory -- a season filled with soul-tearing grief and gospel-saturated joy. To watch someone you love stripped of external dignity as the consequence of Adam’s original sin becomes painfully visible -- yet hear a final appeal from dehydrated lips, “You have to let me go to be with my Savior,” is  bittersweet. Death -- yet Christ. A grave-sealed goodbye -- to be eclipsed one day by a resurrection reunion. The gospel steadies us in our anguish in such times, empowering the dying Christian and their loved ones to confess together...

Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to the cross I cling
Naked come to Thee for dress
Helpless look to Thee for grace
Foul I to the fountain fly
Wash me Savior or I die

While I draw this fleeting breath
When mine eyes shall close in death
When I soar to worlds unknown
See Thee on Thy judgment throne
Rock of Ages cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee

Suffering is one of life’s greater hardships -- yet it is also one of God’s greater instruments to make us like His Son. What enables a Christian in the valley of suffering to survive is faith -- not mysticism -- but faith that’s grounded in the unchangeable truths of Scripture. There we read of someone who suffered immensely -- Job. And his story teaches us what it means to suffer difficult providences, yet cling to what we know about our God. After losing all his assets, all his children, and then his health -- he makes this remarkable statement…

Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.

Though a tsunami of tragedy had just carried away his comfort, joy, and security -- there was still standing the immoveable foundation of His trust in God. As one commentator says about the verse above, “Job reasoned that though God might consider him presumptuous [for questioning His ways] and slay him, Job would wait in hope, trusting him to do otherwise(Alden, R. L. (1993). Job (Vol. 11, p. 160).

Job ultimately reminds us of the One Who suffered unfathomably. Knowing what was before Him -- drinking the cup of our eternal wrath in order to purchase our eternal liberation -- He still prayed in faith, “Father, not My will, but Your will be done.” Praise the Lord He did. Praise the Lord for a Savior Who knows acutely our dark nights of suffering.

One of my congregants introduced me to the following song. Music has a profound way of sowing truth into our soul. May its words strengthen your faith today in God's faithfulness.

Though You Slay Me

I come God I come
Return to the Lord
The one who's broken
The one who's torn me apart
You struck down to bind me up
You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who's all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
With my eyes with my eyes I'll see the Lord
Lifted high upon that day
Behold the Lamb that was slain
And I'll know every tear was worth it all

Though tonight I'm crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You're still more than I need
You're enough for me
You're enough for me
Beth Barnard | Brian Woods | Josh Moore | Lauren Chandler | Shane Barnard © 2013 River Oaks Music Company (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Waiting Room Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Fair Trade Global Songs (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Powerful Sermon on Prayer (For This "Snow Day")

Since we are all bunkered into our cozy homes (that God has so graciously provided for us!) on this snowy day, I thought I’d suggest a powerful sermon I heard 10-1/2 months ago.

I’ve had a strong desire to have our mid-week studies listen to this sermon, but it can be a challenge logistically to do so. Perhaps this “snow day” is a providential opportunity to listen to it as a congregation in our respective homes. May it fuel the already-existing flame of God in your hearts -- calling you to the vitality and importance of prayer!

Friday, February 20, 2015

It's Such "Good News" That Ya Wanna Dance!

Thought I'd take a quick break from my typical Friday sermon prep to introduce you to a new song. As you’re heading home and/or going to the grocery store today (before the Denver snow storm hits -- along with everyone else!) -- here’s a song to which you can jam for Jesus! Or -- if you start getting stir-crazy this weekend with cabin fever -- bust-a-move for God’s glory, bro/sis!

I discovered this Christian Canadian band -- Manic Drive -- three weeks ago, and my kids and I (and, yes, even my pregnant wife) have been enjoying their music. The gospel is good news that not only should be celebrated with reverent “worship music” -- but also with tunes that make ya wanna dance! Eternal life, forgiveness, reconciliation with the God of the universe through Christ, His Son -- what could be more worthy of a foot-movin' celebration?! So, crank it -- and enjoy!