Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I read an interesting article this past week by Pastor Rick Warren. For whatever reason it captured my heart so I want to pass on to you what I gleaned.

The article starts with one of the beatitudes from Matthew 5:7 “God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” When most of us think of mercy we think of two things. First, forgiving people who don’t deserve it. Second, helping people who can’t help themselves.

This may be true, but mercy is so much more. Mercy is part of God’s character and there are at least seven facets to it. These seven facets will enable you to transform your relationships and develop a ministry of mercy. I have added my own thoughts to each of Rick Warren’s seven aspects.
1.        Be patient with people’s quirks. By the way, we all have quirks. Instead of getting angry, uptight, irritated, show mercy. “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
2.       Help anyone hurting around me. Remember Jesus pointed out that our neighbor (who we are to love as ourselves) is the one who is hurting. You need mercy to help you love your neighbor (Read the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37.)
3.       Give people a second chance. Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Notice mercy is contrasted with six negative responses. If you want to be merciful: (1) don’t get bitter, (2) don’t yell, (3) don’t get angry, (4) don’t use harsh words, (5) don’t be rude, (6) don’t curse. How many times has God given you a second chance? We want First Free to be known as a church of mercy.
4.       Do good to those who hurt you. Mercy is giving people what they need not what they deserve. Hurt people hurt people. The people who you want to love the least are those who need it the most.
5.        Be kind to those who offend you. Yes, the Bible says be kind to those who are offensive. Arguing with people when they offend you gets you nowhere. “You’ve got to be more interested in winning them to Christ or becoming like Christ than winning an argument.”
6.       Build bridges of love to the unpopular. Why does God want us to build bridges of love to the unpopular and specifically to unbelievers? Because you cannot win your enemies to Christ. You can only win your friends. Building bridges of love can be unpopular, but it coincides with Jesus’ mission: to seek and to save that which is lost.
7.        Value relationships over rules. I want to dare you to do something very risky. I want to dare you to commit an act of premeditated mercy. Be patient with people’s quirks. Give people a second chance. Who is an unbeliever you can invite over for dinner in the next two weeks, just like Matthew did? And then invite them to church. This, friends, is your ministry of mercy.

P.S. When you are stressed out, how do you respond? Do you do more, sleep, yell, exercise, or eat more? Most of us look to those things, thinking it will give us hope. But do they? Join me this Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 AM as we explore the one thing that brings true hope. Bring a friend with you!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Think on WHAT Things???

What do you think about when you drive? 
What do you listen to at home?
 When the remote control is in your hands, what channels do you turn to and allow to flow into your mind?

Did you know if you feed your mind on a diet of mental junk food, your spiritual health will reflect it? Conversely, if you feed your mind on a diet of eternal truths, the character of God, the promises He has given, His track record with His people, your spiritual health will, over time, prove stronger and more consistent and lasting than you ever thought possible.

In Philippians 4:8, Paul writes “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything is worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

The word DWELL is not a casual word. It means “to deduce, to reason, to calculate, to ponder, to deliberate, to subject to protracted analysis or thought.” It implies thinking about a matter long enough to take into account its character and realize its implications for your life. If we apply the definition to each thing Paul mentions in verse 8, we would see a description of thinking great thoughts:
  • True: Think about things that are objectively true, things that conform to reality. Before you put something in your mind ask: Is this true?
  • Honorable: Means worthy of respect. It refers to those things that reflect the serious purposes of a believer’s life. Before that movie, commercial, or conversation goes into your mind, ask yourself: Does this honor God and reflect His purposes for me?
  • Right: This word is a picture of duty. Before you spend time thinking about something, ask yourself: Is this right or wrong?
  • Pure: This word means ‘holy’, pure from defilement or immorality. Ask yourself: Am I thinking on things that are pure and holy?
  • Lovely: Means attractive, winsome, and beautiful. Ask yourself: Is my mind filled with beauty?
  • Of Good Repute: The word means admirable or literally for speaking. In other words, ask yourself: Are these thoughts fit for God’s hearing?
Paul urges us to practice this kind of thinking. How do we do that?

First, begin to think great thoughts- the best place to begin is the scripture.

Second, dwell on great truths. Let me give you one example. ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose’ spoken by Jim Elliot is a great truth. There are hundreds of truths like these.

Third, take time to notice beauty: the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, the trees, and the flowers. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1)

Fourth, meditate on spiritual insights. One example of many would be: ‘God loves me at this moment as much as He ever has and as much as He ever will. My performance isn’t going to change that.’ Wow! What an insight.

Let’s begin thinking great thoughts.

P.S. “I wish I would have…” is one of the worst feelings to live with. The good news is that feeling that can be avoided! Join us Sunday as we discover 3 key ingredients to living a life free from that “I wish I would have” feeling. Join us this Sunday and bring a friend at 9:15 or 11:00 am.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Election Day Cometh

During this pivotal year of electing the next President of the United States, we need to be wise with our words and actions. These are serious times. It is in the air. We sense it, feel it, and know it in our heart. I believe much is at stake. To me this is unquestionable and undeniable. Yet, it may do well for each of us to remember a few things during the election process.

1.Keep everything in perspective.
  • God is sovereign over all human affairs. Regardless of who wins the nomination of your preferred party or wins the election, God is ultimately in charge. I am not advocating passivism, I am calling for each person at First Free to keep everything in perspective. Our hope and trust is ultimately in the Lord.
2.Be involved in the process.
  • America cannot afford us to stay home. I am deeply convicted that each Christ-follower needs to be involved in the processes of electing our next president. We need to know about the candidates, understand what they believe, measure it by the word of God, and vote as we believe God is leading us. Please be involved in the process of electing our next President.
3.Watch what you say and how you say it.
  • People are watching and listening. You represent our Lord everywhere, so we need to live up to this wisely. Do not lose your testimony and influence with others for the sake of pontification, as if you are trying to win an argument or promote your preferred persuasion.
  • Be wise with your words and gentle in spirit. At First Free, we have people from all backgrounds with all kinds of opinions. God calls us to be patient, understanding, and loving to those who might differ in their opinions from us. We must honor that.
  • Furthermore, the IRS continues to make it clear that political campaign intervention by 501(c) 3 organizations including churches is absolutely prohibited. It is important for us to understand the role of the government in our lives and subject ourselves to it. (Read Romans 13:1-7)
4.Pray for God to raise up His next leader for our nation.
  • Daniel 2:21 says ‘He changes times and seasons; he disposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.’ God does have a will for our nation and He has the power to raise up whomever He desires to lead our nation.
Our role is to pray for God to raise up His next leader for our nation, get involved in the election process (using the Bible as the grid in understanding and evaluating the issues), and trust the Lord, who is sovereign over all affairs.

P.S. When you hear the word ‘worship’ what do you think of? What if I told you worship happens every second of every day? Worship happens at home, work, school, and prayer. Would you believe that idea? This week we are discovering the cure for putting first things first and we will answer these questions. Join us this Sunday and bring a friend at 9:15 or 11:00 am.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

On the Subject of Worship

I read an interesting article on the subject of worship written by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church. This article was so helpful to me that I wanted to pass on to you some of the principles I gleaned from it.

“Worship is expressing our love to God for who He is, what He has said, and what He is doing.” There are many appropriate ways to express this love to God: praying, singing, trusting, giving, testifying, listening, thanking, and responding to His word; whatever the expression God-not us-is the focus and center of our worship.

“Although unbelievers cannot truly worship, they can watch believers worship.” That is why at First Free we design our services to be worshipful and seeker friendly. We believe you can have both without compromising either.

Unbelievers can observe the joy we feel, see how we respond to God’s word, how worship encourages, strengthens, and changes us. They may not be able to explain it but worship is and becomes a powerful witness. On the day of Pentecost God’s presence was so evident in the disciples’ worship that a crowd of people (Acts 2:6) grew to 3,000 converts.

Why were 3,000 converted? Because they felt God’s presence and they understood the message. God’s presence must be sensed in our worship services. More people are won to Christ by feeling God’s presence than by all our apologetic arguments combined.

Warren states “I believe there is an intimate connection between worship and evangelism.” When we recruit worshipers, that’s called evangelism. John 4:23 states ‘the Father seeks worshipers.’

On the other hand, worship, being in God’s presence, provides the motivation for responding: evangelism. Isaiah had a powerful worship experience and responded ‘Here am I send me.’ In genuine worship God’s presence is felt, God’s pardon is offered, God’s purposes are revealed, God’s power is displayed. These things can create a desire to the unbeliever to want to know God.

Because genuine worship can have such a profound impact on unbelievers, we need to be very sensitive to their fears, hang-ups, and needs when they are present in our worship services. And we want them to be present. That’s why we are always encouraging you to invite your unbelieving friends.

We must also be willing to adjust our worship practices. Paul commanded the Corinthians to do this (see 1 Corinthians 14:23). Let me remind you of some important truths:
Making a service comfortable for the unchurched doesn’t mean changing your theology. It means changing the environment of the service.
Being sensitive to nonbelievers doesn’t not limit what you say but it will affect how you say it. We must make both the worship and message understandable.
3) Unchurched people aren’t asking for a watered-down message. They can handle a clear, biblical message when it is delivered in terms they understand and in a tone that shows you respect and care for them.

These are the beliefs we are striving for in our worship services at First Free. A clear message coupled with genuine worship will not only attract unbelievers, it will open their hearts to the power of the gospel. Our mission is to introduce people to Jesus Christ, development them into fully-devoted followers, and equip them to reach their city and world. Worship then becomes much more than a witness to unbelievers. It becomes a source of joy to our God.

P.S. Struggling with setting priorities? Frustrated that you have already digressed from your New Year’s resolutions? Questioning whether God really has a plan for your life? Join us this Sunday at our services 9:15 & 11:00 as we begin to unpack these questions in our new series Living Well.