A Serious Season of Sabbatical. (Back on August 23rd)

A Serious Season of Sabbatical. (Back on August 23rd)

It’s hard to believe, but this week marks the 30th anniversary of my graduating from Ozark Christian College and entering full-time ministry. For that reason, I’ve decided to begin an official sabbatical. Even the educational and business worlds are catching on to the value of sabbaticals, but the origin of this sacred practice is God’s design. A sabbatical is a strategic and sustained rest, reflection, renewal, and refocus season. There is a purpose to it. So, with the elders of my church giving overwhelming support, I’m launching into this vital season beginning May 20th through August 19th.

The aim of this season, which differentiates it from an extended vacation or academic project, is to deliberately step away from regular ministry for a prolonged quiet to hear afresh from the Holy Spirit. If I were to attach a single scripture to this season, I suppose it would be Jeremiah 29:13, where God spoke through the prophet and assured his children, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” That is my hope as I enter this sabbatical. But what does this look like, and what are the plans? In addition, maybe you can consider what God might be calling you to do in the area of being still and hearing more of Jesus’s voice above the world’s noise this summer. (more…)

An Exhortation from a Present Persecution.

An Exhortation from a Present Persecution.

Well, you know, I didn’t intend for my blog post from a few weeks ago to be a two-part series, but here we are. It started with an email from Adam, one of my brothers-in-law, on Wednesday asking about a PBS story reporting on Russian troops persecuting Evangelical Christians in occupied Ukraine. In short, it was pretty much what I had imagined; it was the same story that has gone on for over a hundred years, dating from before the Soviet Union.

Connection? You can do so here if you did not get a chance to take in my post from earlier on April 11th. In the brief article, I spoke of the importance of committing to a local church family and illustrated the weight of this commitment by sharing what some Christians were required to in the process of forming a local church after the fall of the USSR. They had to present their documents to the local authorities, which perhaps would put their lives on the line if the tides of politics changed and the Soviets retook control. There was a real possibility that these Christians would be the first in line to hear from the KGB. That real fear these faithful Christians had to walk through was realized by these Ukrainian Christians recently when the Russian Army took control of their region. Part of the agenda of Putin is to force everyone in Ukraine to not only be reunited by force with Russia but to submit to the Russian Orthodox Church, and thus, the persecution of those who will not submit has begun.

Not all Russians support this action. There are indeed authentic Christians in Russia, and I still have such friends there. There are so many ways we should be praying about this situation. However, as was the point of the previous blog post, so we have it here: This should be an exhortation for us in America, the West, and really any part of the globe where we are tempted to take our freedom to assemble with the saints for granted.

Do you have reasons for wanting to ignore the community of saints? Have you been wronged, or have temptations toward something else rearranged your priorities? I don’t know. But I’ve struggled, too, at times. I’ve been burnt and broken and frankly have had times when I’ve just wanted to stay in bed on Sunday – and I’m the preacher. I get it. But this is critical. It’s not about me. It’s about God and others.

What we know is that the Bible exhorts us not to give up on the Body of Christ, which means the local church as well. So often, the issue is that we are looking at the church to get what we want instead of the Bride of Christ, warts and all, and asking what we can do for others instead of expecting others to serve us. Here is the reality. Over the past 2000 years, people have been persecuted, even unto death at times, for Jesus and the Church. These people laid it on the line for Christ, which should say something to our hearts. That ought to encourage us to stand up and put Christ and others first.

So, we must pray for the saints on the other side of the globe. And, yes, we are to get out of bed, actively love others, and commit to the church around us where we live. It’s one thing to talk about religion and politics in other places. It’s another thing to commit to the need here and now. That’s what the call is, though. But being connected to and committed to a local church family is also a blessing found in nothing else the world has to offer. What would those persecuted tell us now on the subject if they could?

I’m not always going to get things right and neither will you. But the amazing thing is that God takes us as we are and changes us, and one of the main ways He does that is through our active involvement in His Church. So, what are you waiting for? Find a local church that loves Jesus and teaches the Bible and find a way to dive in to help.

You can watch the short video report here:

 

 The Local Church, Membership, and Being All In!

 The Local Church, Membership, and Being All In!

It was truly one of our most enjoyable C4101 classes to date. This past Sunday, we held another information and membership class at my home church, with about ten people in attendance. They came from different theological backgrounds but found unity in Jesus and other essential Christian doctrines. That’s the beauty of the original church and our growing local church family on the N.W. side of Houston. Seeing the central focus on Christ and freedom in non-essential doctrines was beautiful. Witnessing people leaving selfishness behind and stepping up to the plate to serve in a local body of Christ was encouraging. It was heartwarming to experience a true community forming in Christ. It was a good afternoon.

However, this is not the norm for others in early 21st-century America and the West. While many like visiting churches at their convenience, committing is another story. Some will claim that church membership is not a Biblical principle, and if you look for the phrase “Church Membership” in the Bible, you won’t find it. What you will find, though, is commitment. (more…)

That Which We Must Remember!

That Which We Must Remember!

If you grew up in Texas, you’re no stranger to the cry, “Remember the Alamo!”  It echoed across a field near modern-day Houston on April 21, 1836, as the fledgling Texan Army defeated General Santa Anna of Mexico.  The roar of remembrance brought the Texans courage in thinking of the 180 men who held out at the Alamo for 13 days, effectively being a thorn in the side of Santa Anna before they were all killed.  The remembrance of the Texans with Sam Houston gave them the courage to advance against the Mexican army despite its greater strength.

Like the Alamo, there are many things we must remember and be reminded of, and some of them are more important than we may realize. (more…)