Archive | December, 2016

IT’S NOT A GAME!

6 Dec

walk-and-talk

At the end of every year, there is a time for reflection. A time for looking back on the past and looking forward to the future.

I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone that this year has not been the best for a lot of people.   To date there have been about 85 celebrities that have passed away in 2016. Most tragic was probably Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds dying one year apart.

We probably had the weirdest presidential election EVER.  And really and truly, that’s a drama that we are all anxiously waiting to see what happens next. The truth is it’s probably not over by a longshot.

On a personal level, many of us lost loved ones. In some cases, we’re still dealing with that loss.  The pain is still there.

On a personal level, it has definitely been a year in the Hope household.  We have endured loss of another kind and everyday, that saga continues to unfold. I wish I could tell you it has gotten better but that would be a lie.  However, lessons have been learned. There are some things we look back on in years past and yes, wish we had done differently. Even more so, there is pain over some of the actions of others and the hatefulness that has occurred.  We have learned that some friendships we thought we had were in fact not really friendships at all and more than ever before, we know what it’s like to be the victim of slander.

But there has been some positive that has come out of it. We have felt the support of a loving church family.  And God has confirmed in us that just as Jesus loved unconditionally, we will do the same. The door will always remain opened to restored relationships.

But what about the church? What was 2016 like for the church?

Let me start off by saying, I LOVE THIS CHURCH. I have loved it for 15 years! It is our home and Danna and I have come to love you as family.

I look back on so much this church has involved in the last year.

Several, several years ago, I got one of those emails that Pastors often get where someone chooses to tell you how sorry you are and how much of a failure the church you pastored really was. Now, I really don’t think that person feels that way anymore but one statement that was made in that email that I will never forget.

“If you were a successful church, more people would be attending.”

That statement stung. But I have looked back over the last month and I would have to say I disagree.

I think the true mark of a successful church is not how many people attend but how many lives you touch for Christ.

Because of God using the ministry of FBC Lillian, countless souls in Lillian, Alvarado, the DFW Metroplex, Los Angeles, Mexico, South Texas, and Africa have come to know Jesus as their personal Savior.

Because of God using the ministry of FBC Lillian, many families are fed each month from homes in our community to the homeless in downtown Fort Worth.

Because of God using the ministry of FBC Lillian, many prisoners have come to know true freedom in Christ.

God gets all the glory but I love the fact that He can use this church.

But I also think a true mark of a successful church is when other communities want to invest in your ministry as well because they SEE God working.

Every year we get more homes than our church can really handle wanting help at Christmas time. Our philosophy has been for a long time that we would not turn anyone away and every year, we look and see what God is going to do.

Well, this year, other communities jumped up along with the church and said “Let God use us!”

Whether it was Camp Gladiator, Cahill Methodist Church, World Financial Group, the American Legion, Lilian Volunteer Fire Department, friends in the area, or church members, 24 children in eight families were taken care of for the holidays. We even had a former Dallas Cowboy jump in the action.

One family had their rent paid and another their electric bill paid. And that has happened so many times throughout the year.

And today, a lady calls. She had made it a requirement for their family get together that every family member bring food for the local church’s food bank. Wow!

I’ve said it before. We are not a small church. We are a God-sized church.

And it’s a privilege to be your Pastor.

 

But I would be remiss to just blow sunshine at you today.  Yes, I meant everything I just said. This church is truly amazing.

But can I share with you some frustrations?

I would say that it’s not so important that they frustrate me but that they frustrate the cause of Christ.

Here is the thing: I fear that we have rested on our successes for too long and failing to recognize that we have not ARRIVED spiritually. There is much more for us to do, much more growth that needs to occur, much more that needs to happen.

Titus 2: 1-15

 But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Every now and then, we have a conversation and someone says something that sticks in our mind for one reason or another.   For example, I remember talking with my good friend, Paul O’dell, when he was music minister at our church.  Someone had told him that they would love to come to choir practice but they just didn’t have time. Paul’s response:

“You make time for what’s important to you!”

Another such conversation came about when I was working for a drug and alcohol treatment center. A patient was talking to a nurse and myself in the hallway. He was commenting on how he someday hoped to be someone who was a little more self-confident.  The nurse, my friend Kim Cantu, responded “The only way to become that type of person is to just start being the person you claim you want to be”

 

That’s what I’m here to tell you.

Quit talking about what you want to be. Be that person.

We have a lot of roller coaster Christianity.  We have people in our world who claim to be all about Jesus. And then when hard times hit, we choose to respond as a person of the flesh. We choose to respond more like what the world and our feelings tell us than how the Bible tells us. We say that “Someday I’m going to be more consistent in my walk with Jesus”…

I’m sick to death of it. I’m just going to be honest. I don’t claim to be the most perfect Christian. I certainly have my flaws. But I am tired of someone proclaiming the name of Jesus until it’s inconvenient to do so. I have seen people who claim to be sold out for Christ suddenly sell out to the world. I’ll be honest. I have seen it a lot in marriages. I can think of three marriages in 2016 alone where people who seemed to be all about Jesus made selfish decisions and turned their backs on their spouse and their Savior.

My Dad used to say we needed to “fish or cut bait”.  Be who we claim to be or quit claiming it.

It’s time to quit talking about it. We need the become the Christian that God wants us to be.

This morning I want to talk about three things today that will help you and I be the Christian that God wants you and I to be

First of all, be sound in our beliefs.

Our doctrine must be that of God’s word – not the doctrine of the world. No matter how challenging or even how difficult it seems, we out to follow the Word of the Lord before we follow our own desires. I have seen people make decisions on what they were feeling at the moment rather than stop and consider Jesus.

Philemon 6… That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you Christ Jesus.

Listen to that again: Everything good in us comes from Christ Jesus!

Consider Colossians 3:16

 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

The word is our foundation. We must know God’s word.

And no matter how good it sounds… if it doesn’t ring true in scripture, then it’s just not true.

I have been criticized by others for standing against certain preachers who promote a prosperity Gospel.  You have told me that I need to be careful, that it’s not right to criticize other preachers, some have even gone as far as to say that maybe I am jealous of some of their successes.

But I am called to be the shepherd of the flock. And one of the responsibilities that I hold is to guard against those who would hurt it.

Consider Matthew 7:15

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s. clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

For as long as I am here, I will challenge you to abide by the Word of God and not by popular opinion. I will preach the Word of God and not culture. You can find preachers who will do otherwise even in this county. But you will not find that here.

Secondly, we are to be fully committed to our Lord and Saviour.

Christianity is not a part time occupation. It is a full time, keep your guard up job. You are not working for your local boss at work, you are serving your Heavenly Father who is actually at work for you!

2 Corinthians 5:17-18…If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given himself to us the ministry of reconciliation.

Once you’ve given your life to Christ – there’s change! Not a lack of commitment! Not a lack of wandering who is in charge of my life.

These folks who have a sticker that says “God is my co-pilot” I don’t want to ride next to them on the highway. They’re not on the same level as God. They need to re-think things – “God is my pilot, my leader and my guide.”

God requires our service to Him. People who say they can get enough from a TV preacher and not come to church – well, bless their hearts.

1 Thessalonians 5:11…Comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

That shoots their theory. In order to grow – we need each other!

But we need to just not be sitting by each other. We need to be serving together. You are not here to warm a seat.  I am sick and tired of being told we don’t have the personnel to do some things because we do!  But what we don’t have in willingness to serve, we make up for in excuses.

I’m too old.

I’m too young.

Let some of the younger folks do it.

I have more important things going on right now (because there are things more important than the Kingdom of God.

God has much he wants to do with this church in 2017. But we are going to need people serving.

And we are going to need people giving.

I don’t look at financial records.  Being a rich church is not my concern. But here is the thing: I know how much my family and I give each month and when I see the same financial report on the bulletin that you all see, and I know how much of that amount belongs to us.. well, it tells me that not everyone is giving.

“Well, Pastor, if being a rich church is not your concern.. then why are you talking about giving.”

Because when I have a large part of the church not even willing to give ten percent of their income, then I know we have a church not willing to really be sold out to Jesus Christ.

How do I know that? Because we are not willing to follow one of the basic commands of Scripture.

Trust me on this:if you be obedient to God, He will reward you.

Thirdly, walk the Walk and talk the Talk! Really, that kind of summarizes the whole thing.

Titus 2:8 tells us that young men are to  be sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

This is speech taht people have a hard time condemning because it is carefully thought out, obedient to scripture. It is iron sharpens iron. It builds others up.

AND OUR ACTIONS MATCH OUR WORDS!

What about the walk?  Well, check out verse 12… instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.

This is a walk that is above reproach. It is a walk that denies sin and worldly things

You see, we have a hope.  We have a security.  We have great news of great joy which brings great deliverance to us all.  But only if we believe.

Check out verse 13… looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of [h]our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus

Our hope is in the appearance of Christ

He gave himself for you and I so that we could be freed from the bondage of sin.

He gave himself so that you and I might have the opportunity to become a peculiar people.

He gave himself so that you and I, if we take on the challenge, to go out and share this life changing news with all.

So let’s quit talking about the people we ought to be and become that person! Let’s live a life worthy of His sacrifice!