The Bible

This past week I came across some stunning reports that spoke of ‘regular church attenders’ and their ability to identify certain well know passages of Scripture. For instance, it would give John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Than it would ask the respondent what verse this was. In one portion of the study it asked if regular church attenders knew what ‘The Great Commission’ was. Surprisingly, 51% of the people polled said they had never heard of the great commission. There could be a lot of underlying factors in this but none the less, it is shocking. The phrase ‘Great Commission’ is not found in Scripture. Rather it is what we have titled that portion of Scripture where Jesus gives those orders to ‘Go and Make Disciples of all Nations.’ (Matthew 28:16-20). This interaction that the Resurrected Lord had with the Disciples occurs each of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) as well as in Acts. Each account gives similar yet different word for word accounts of Jesus’ words. It is arguable that this understanding still does not give excuse for why 51% of the people polled have not heard of the Great Commission. I believe it to be one of the greatest instructions given in Scripture. Of course, we know from Matthew 22:36-40 that the greatest commandment is to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ The second is like it, Jesus says, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Beyond this, a love for God and neighbor is a desire to see them enter into a relationship with the one that can heal, bring peace, restore their lives. If we are loving them, we should be leading them, leading them to the very feet of Jesus. There is a great amount of this sobering study that lies on the church’s shoulders. There are churches across the country, even the world, that has allowed the Gospel to be cherry picked as if we were looking for our favorite piece of candy and not wanting the other stuff that ‘might not taste as good!’ Our pastors, lay leaders, elders, teachers, all have a responsibility to preach all the gospel, even those areas that do not seem as popular. I am not certain why the Great Commission would not be on the upper end of sections to preach but for some reason our church people do not know about it. Now, you are not off the hook! The study and recognition of the authority of Scripture in our life is not just for those who are the leaders of the church. Proverbs 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Joshua 1:8 says, “Keep this Book of the Law always on you lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” As a member of the Kingdom of God you have a responsibility to be feeding yourself with Scripture both day and night. You should be growing, not just from the teachings of others, but from your own study!

Beyond our own self, we should be teaching others as well. Who can you share scripture with? Who can you help grow an young Christian to a more mature Christ Follower? Each of us can grow and help someone else grow. If you do not have anyone, or you need to grow yourself, pray to God to help give wisdom and insight in this area. If you want him to provide someone you can mentor, I am confident He will! If you are interested in reading the full study regarding this Scripture understanding simply go to: https://www.barna.com/research/future-teaching-great-commission/.


Responsibilities

I have spent the last couple weeks preaching on responsibilities. The word responsibility carries significant weight in different settings. In our jobs we have responsibilities that were probably set out for us long before we came. We call them ‘job descriptions’. In our homes, depending on our situation we have responsibilities there as well. I have a responsibility to do my part in caring for my four children. I also have the responsibility of caring for our family pets and the upkeep of our home. In my job I have a responsibility to care for a church and its people. In my personal life I volunteer with a few civic groups and have responsibilities there as well. Responsibilities are everywhere! It is what keeps us going from day to day! But how often have we stopped to consider what our responsibilities are in the church? We have the greatest commandment that perhaps could summarize all responsibilities. In Matthew 22:36-40 Jesus is asked, ““Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” We obviously have a responsibility to love. Whether it be our love toward God or to our neighbor. But to the greater Kingdom of God we have a responsibility there as well. Here are five areas we can serve the Kingdom: (1) We have a responsibility to furthering and advancing the Kingdom. We are to be doing the work of the Lord in all areas of our life seeing to it that the Kingdom is advancing. (2) We have a responsibility to preach the gospel to everyone in the world. In Mark 16 Jesus gave the commands to the disciples to ‘go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.’ Imagine if each believer, just here in Newton, choose one friend to preach the Gospel to. Not preach at! But preach to! (3) We have a responsibility to help a fellow believer get back on the right path. I know what some people are thinking. What about that Matthew 7:5 verse, you know the one about the plank? Well, you are right to have some concern if you are calling out a brother or sister for something you do not have straight in your own life. But each of us who have experienced salvation and grace have the responsibility to help correct and lead in the right path a brother or sister who has gone astray. But we must do it lovingly and with the right intentions! (4) We have a responsibility to do what is good because of God’s grace. It is in our nature and our human flesh to want to rebel sometimes. But God’s grace, the death of Jesus on the cross, should spur us into making decisions that are good. It should cause us to want to do what is right. And finally, (5) We have a responsibility to defend others in need. Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” We can simply offer a hand of help, a cup of water, to those who have a need. We can be a voice to those who need it.

There is no doubt these are lofty responsibilities. But God has called us into a fellowship with Him. We respond by loving God, loving others, and carrying out the responsibility’s scripture has set out. Take a moment to pray and ask God how you are doing in carrying out the commands and responsibilities we have. Ask Him to search your heart and then respond appropriately! Blessings!


Kindness

This past week I was flipping through the pages of the Bible looking for a certain verse. The sun was shining, the window blind was open, and I could hear my children’s laughter outside of my office window. I would like to say that I am usually very focused during my studies and nothing gets me off track but that would be a lie. Usually, I have a million things running through my mind. Is the next sermon ready? Is the church ready to go? Are visitor bags ready for the guest? Is there activities after church Sunday? On those nice days when I am home, I am thinking about being outside, with my kids, or even working in the garage for a bit. But when I was flipping through the pages of Scripture, I found myself in Proverbs. A word jumped out at me and despite all the things going on in the world around me my eyes became captivated on one word.
 
Kindness.
 
It seems like such an elementary word. I remember my kids learning how to be ‘kind’ in preschool and kindergarten. We taught them things like sharing toys, helping a friend who is hurt, giving someone else first pick on snacks as all being ways we can be kind. We taught them that words are one way we can be kind. It was actually a verse on words and kindness that caught my attention. Proverbs 16:24 says, “Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”
 
In the news of this past week words have taken center stage. Words that are not kind. Words that we do not want our kids to repeat. Words that can be rather offensive to people. After reading this verse, listening to the news, it made me wonder, are my words kind? So, I asked myself, as an adult, what does it mean to be kind? I thought primarily about the words I use. The things I say to my kids when I become frustrated. The words I choose to use with my wife. The things I say to a cashier, a server, or someone else who is serving me. But then there are actions to. When someone gets in my way at the store, pulls into the gas pump I was planning on going to, or when someone doesn’t use a blinker. These are all times when we have a chance to respond in a way that isn’t kind.
 
I believe that Proverbs 16:24 is telling us that not only are our words and actions sweet and healthy for others but they are sweet and healthy for us as well. As a Christ follower a mark of identification can be that of kindness. A healthy Christ follower will clothe themselves with kindness. In the same manner someone who does not clothe themselves with kindness, well, I have to wonder about the relationship that person shares with the Lord. No, its not too late. No, its not that a Christ follower isn’t unkind sometimes. But it means that we should be working toward displaying ourselves in such a manner that kindness consistently flows through our words and actions. Through my studies on this word I read Proverbs 3:3 which says, “Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.” There is also Proverbs 11:17, “Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you.”
 
When I came back from my thoughts on kindness, I couldn’t help but wonder if the actions of my kids, those both kind and unkind, were reflective of what they had seen form their dad. My prayer for all who find themselves in the fellowship of the Kingdom of God is that their life will always display acts of kindness to all of those around them. Blessings!
 


Trust in the Lord

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Imagine in this new year if the decisions we made and the things we sought after were all things we bathed in prayer. I believe as we begin this new year one of the biggest reasons for failures on resolutions or goals is that we do not fully commit to them. For instance, how many times in your life have you made the commitment to eat healthy and lose weight? It usually doesn’t take too long to realize that you enjoy certain foods you gave up and that extra hour sleep in the morning is worth sleeping in for! Because we enjoy food and sleep, we do not fully commit to the resolution and it doesn’t take long for us to fail. On a side note, for those of you who have succeeded in this resolution before, congratulations, you are amazing! This scripture from Proverbs is really about a commitment. We cannot give our full heart to something (trust) if we are not fully committed. I have had conversations with individuals and families before in a midst of a crisis. If this is a ‘marriage’ or ‘family’ threating crisis, the issue of commitment can usually be found as the root cause of the crisis. I believe the same is true in a relationship we share with the Lord. If we have difficulty in finding a full sense of trust in the Lord, it is typically because we have not fully committed to the relationship with Him. Then of course, we begin to rely on our own understanding instead of His. Each of us have a path to follow this year. We can choose to forge our own path and brave the elements all alone. While this may be a path the world wants us to pursue it is not one that God wants us to pursue. He wants to seek after Him. He wants us to rely on His guidance and wisdom. He gives wisdom to those who seek it and guidance to those who ask for it. I am thankful that in this new year each of us can stop what we’re doing and ask God to guide our paths this year. And you know the best thing about this? If we ask, He will do it!

I can only imagine what our churches, our homes, our families, jobs, community would be like if all Christ following Christians made a commitment to fully seek Him in this new year. I don’t think there is anything wrong making new years resolutions or goals but shouldn’t the most important thing we do be that of committing with a full heart to trust our ways to Him? Perhaps, that simply needs to be the resolution or the goal in this new year. Our Father wants the absolute best for you in this new year. If we trust, if we allow Him to lead, if we commit to being in relationship with Him, He will lead us down the path to take! Happy New Year!
 


The New Year

Goodbye 2018…Hello 2019! Whether you like it or not 2018 is coming to close and 2019 is knocking at the door. Wow! This year has absolutely flown by. It seems like yesterday I was back in the same setting I am right now trying to decide if I would have the energy or motivation to stay up until midnight or simply go to bed knowing that the new year was coming whether I was up or not. The new year can bring a mix of emotions. We often reconsider what all has happened in the past year and we make resolutions for the next year.
 
Speaking of resolutions, 2019 has a whole new list of top resolutions for this year. The resolution of losing weight and exercising more is not as popular as it has been in years past. While it is still number one on the list only 38% of people are committing to losing weight and exercising more. That is down from 41% the year before. Interestingly, the resolution to save money and pay off debt is higher on the list than ever before. 37% of people are committing to this resolution which is up 6% from the year before. Others will commit to making new friends, getting a new job or hobby, and 7% to new relationships.
 
The flip side to this is reflecting on the past year. Almost every single one of us has had something happen to us in this past year that caused us grief. The loss of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, financial changes, job losses, the list could go on and on. I think that in some situations those hardships from the past year sometimes help us shape our new year resolutions whether good or bad. But whatever you do at midnight on Monday evening we all can turn our eyes to God and see what He has to say to us in this next year.
 
In the book of Revelations 21 the New Jerusalem is being described. In this scripture (verse 5a) it says, “And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”” What a fantastic blessing we have as Christ followers. While this verse is not speaking of new years or new situations in our life there is a confidence we have as the Children of God that God is making all things new! The new year is a new beginning. What has happened in the 2018 year has been done. We can accept things as they are and move to a better situation in this next year.It won’t be long and the trees and plants will begin to blossom. The grass will turn green again and the birds will be chirping. This time of year, we have so many new beginnings and new chances. What in your own life, your relationship with the Lord, needs to be rekindled? Relationships? Your job? Finances? Health? Personal time and hobbies? Church attendance? Your own personal time of spiritual growth? What in your Christian walk needs to have a resolution to do better in? I believe the Lord is whispering to you, “I am making all things new!” You have a chance right now to commit to deepening your relationship and rekindling your love for our Savior. So, whatever your new year resolution is I pray that you are successful in your resolutions and your relationship with the Lord will grow deeper and stronger! Rely on Him for your success! He is making all things new, are you allowing Him to work in your life to make you new?


Dreams?

Dreams. Each of us have them from time to time. Often times our dreams at night are shaped and played out as we recall the past day or weeks events. For instance, I can remember having dreams about deer hunting as the deer season approaches. Of course, in those dreams I am always finding the biggest Buck I can find and dropping him just a few yards from my stand! As a kid I had a recurring dream that my father had left my brother and I at home while he went to work. I had gotten up but fell back asleep on the couch and when I woke there was pizza sauce all over the walls! I am not certain why I always had that dream, but it happened on more than occasion…no, not the pizza sauce on the wall. Just the dream!
 
People throughout Scripture had dreams on numerous occasions. In almost every situation their dream meant something. God was speaking to them through their dreams. God spoke to Abimelech (Genesis 20:1-7) in a dream. God did so to spare Abimelech from sinning. Jacob received a blessing from God through a dream (Genesis 37:1-11). Solomon was asked by God in a dream to ask anything to be given. Solomon chose wisdom (1 Kings 3:5). And even in numerous other situations God spoke through dreams.
 
Today, I do not mean just dreams that occur while we sleep. We each have dreams. Maybe it is to retire early. Reach more people through good works. Tell more people of the Gospel. Perhaps, it something as simple as financial stability. I have dreams. I want to see my kids be successful in life. I want to do something that is beneficial to the church in a big way! I love business. Perhaps it is through a business transaction or something like that. I want to travel to areas over sea and get to know the other side of the world. And, one day, I want to own a farm. Paul had dreams. He tells us in Romans 15 that he had dreams of seeing the people of Rome. He didn’t know how he was going to get there or when he would go. He had a plan to go to Spain and he mentions that maybe while he is traveling to Spain he can make a detour to Rome. Some scholars would say that trip never happened as he was imprisoned in Jerusalem.
 
What really captivates me in this verse is his closing in regard to traveling on this journey. He says in Romans 15:29 (NLT) “And I am sure that when I come, Christ will richly bless our time together.” This captivates me because it makes me realize that my dreams need to be dreams that advance the Kingdom. This was the sole purpose of this trip for Paul. He wanted to go to Rome to equip the saints to be the hands and feet of Jesus. What if our dreams were so in lined with the Kingdom that Christ would richly bless them? In all honesty, I don’t think owning a farm is that important. Traveling to the other side of the world is just a pleasure-seeking trip. I am not certain that I can ask Christ in good faith to ‘richly bless it.’ But I can ask in good faith, and know it will be given, to richly bless the dreams I have for this church in Newton. Or the ministry I will do in the years to come. In closing I ask, ‘Are your dreams in line with the will of God?’


Linear or Curved?

I was visiting with someone last week in what was a non-planned meeting. I was waiting for someone else to show up and while they never came someone sat down with me, a friend, and we began to share of some past stories to which we each had a relationship with. While sharing, a statement came out of their mouth, one I knew, but was a good reminder. They said, ‘God’s plan is not always linear.’

I remember when I was in Boy Scouts and the Army we did a lot of compass work with maps. The reason you use a compass is simple. If you know your bearings, you will never get lost. For instance, if you look on a map and it tells you your destination is 32 degrees of north you can set your compass to 32 degrees to north and you will walk right to that destination. If you are in a field or an open environment with no obstacles it is easy to walk a straight line.

But what happens if you are in the forest? Or, perhaps a place with hills and valleys? You always keep your compass at your destination unless a change in the path is needed, or, another destination is sought. See, it doesn’t matter which direction you face, your compass will always be pointing to 32 degrees.

Isn’t that a bit like life? We get a destination in mind. It could be a career, family, a home, a place we would like to settle. But isn’t life filled with hills and valleys? Sometimes, we feel like those hills and valleys can completely derail our destination and we feel as if we will never reach that goal. What if those thoughts and feelings are due to the fact that we have not checked our compass for a while?

Or, what if our compass was set on 32 degrees but it is not a straight journey? God is not a linear God. He does not see one way, nor does he always see the easiest way. Nothing is impossible, and nothing is out of reach. The destination, while it may seem hard to reach it is not with God. Should the valleys come, and the hills stand in our way if our compass is always fixed on God we will always reach our destination.

What is the destination God is leading you on today? What degree is your compass fixed on? Is it aligned with God? Is it on your own bearing? When trials and difficulties come do you try to change the destination or do you keep it where it should be and simply find a way through or around. We have the option and we have the resources. God is our compass. His path is not always straight, but it is always true.


Easter…is it over?

Just a week ago the biggest celebration of the year happened. That is, if you are a Christian. If you are not perhaps the biggest event of the year is New Years, the Super Bowl, the Masters, your own birthday, your wedding anniversary…you get the idea, the list could go on and on.

But Easter for the Christian is the largest event of year. Jesus Christ did for us what no one else could do or has ever done. He willingly gave himself for the sake of the Kingdom that we may all come into a lasting relationship with our Father. Our sins are forgiven! Hallelujah! But is that where it stops? Easter is over, He is resurrected, the tomb is empty!

See, we live in a world where we celebrate, go home, do it again another day kind of people. Take for instance the Super Bowl. Hours and hours of work go into producing commercials and getting the stadiums and fields ready. Millions of dollars go into producing commercials, paying players and staff, and…you guessed it…buying tickets. But once the event is over, we relive the memories. We watch the ‘best of’ commercials on Youtube the next day. But that is it. We remember the event and anticipate the next one.

Has that become Easter? Do we anticipate the event, the day, the meals, the celebrations, only to pack up our items, go home, and do it all again next year?

For me, Easter is not a one-time event. We do not celebrate the resurrection one time and anticipate it next year. Every single day, as a Christ follower, you can celebrate the resurrection! You can anticipate every second of every day the love, mercy, and grace that Jesus is showing be available and present for every single one of us! We are spending time in our church going through the last two chapter of the Gospel of John as we attempt to understand that the resurrection wasn’t it. Christ stayed and appeared to the apostles and others for 40 days after his resurrection. And, the same is still happening for us today. We are doubters from time to time, but Christ is revealing himself to us. Jesus is blessing us by leading us just as he did to his disciples who were fishing and not catching anything. (By the way, as fishing season approaches I hope the Lord will do the same for me as He did them!). And he is delivering us from our past mistakes and failures just as he did for Peter.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to make Easter a one time a year event. Every single day is a celebration of the resurrection and the love and mercy Christ shows to us. Today, claim the resurrection as your own! All our sermons from church are uploaded to our website. Just click on the following link to find them! (http://www.nfcog.com/sermons) We try our best to have this done Monday by noon! God bless, Pastor Clint.
 



My heart breaks.

In the fifth chapter of Romans Paul uses language that can cause heads to turn. He is writing to the people of Rome and he writes these words: “I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying; my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit – I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” He was writing as a way of saying how terrible his heart felt for those who were not in the relationship that only Christ can provide. Over the past few days I have noticed many people around me that have brought prayer request before me for various reasons. But a few have stood out. One was for a man undergoing significant medical procedures and he does not have a relationship with Christ. Another was for a woman who was in a terrible accident and as well does not have a relationship with Christ.

Over the past few weeks I have learned of other serious criminal offenses in our community. What I have realized over the past few weeks and days is that so much of the crime in our communities could be reconciled if these people had a personal growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Seven young people were arrested at the High School in our community for drug possession. Newton has seen numerous murders over drugs. Consistently there are pan handlers outside of the local stores. There was a drug warrant issued and served on a home in the community where a young lady was taken into custody.

This is a drug issue no doubt. But there is more to it. This is a heart issue. People need to experience the freeing power and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and suddenly at 32 years old my heart is broken for these people who feel as if there is no other way in this life except one that is bent for hell and controlled by the evil powers of this world.

I was born and raised in Wichita, KS (just a few miles south of Newton). In fact, my parents and family still live there and some drive to Newton to worship with us. I feel like Paul in Romans 9. I have great sorrow and anguish for ‘my people.’ We are Kansans. We are Newtonians. We are each other’s neighbors. We are each other’s co-workers and fellow students. My heart breaks for those in our community who do not know the saving power of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer for my own life that God will continue to break my heart for those who have a broken heart. Who is around you that you can show the love and power of Jesus Christ too?



I am YOUR God!

This past Sunday I preached from the 41st Chapter of Isaiah. For most of my adult life I have not had much of a relationship with the Old Testament. I do not know why. I wish I did. I think there was so much information there it always seemed very intimidating. It seemed to not flow from one story to another. It seemed to repeat itself. It seem confusing. I knew the stories like David and Goliath. Moses parting the Red Sea. Even the story of Abraham. But the connection was missing. I wrested with this question, “Why is this important to me as a Christ follower?” I found the answer and I found it in a small section in Isaiah.

Isaiah 41:8-10 says “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

There is so much in these three short verses but two parts really stick out to me. The first is in verse 9 where God says “I have chosen you!” Consider that for a moment. The very creator of this universe. The one who fashioned the stars in the sky. The one that told the waters to stop and the land to start. The one that gave flight to the birds and made the sun suspend in the sky. That is the very one who says “I have chosen you!” And I believe He chooses every single person and He will choose you over and over again. The question becomes, “What I will  be chosen for?” There are so many possibilities. But I would guess that wherever you are right now in life, in mininstry, in your job, in a relationship, in your home that God is saying I have chosen ‘YOU’ for this time. What an incredible thing that the God who was speaking to all of the Israelites is still speaking to us today! That is connection #1!

The second is a small part in verse 10 that says, “I am YOUR God.” Again, the very same God that was leading and blessing the Israelite’s is doing the same for us today. He cares for you. He loves you. He desires to know you better. You are HIS EVERYTHING! And today, He is saying, “I am YOUR GOD!” Are you willing? Are you ready? Are you waiting? He is here and He is speaking to me and He is speaking to you! Are you listening?