Sermon on the Mount (cont.)

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

A famous part of Christ’s teaching. I have heard and given many messages on these verses. My old youth pastor used to say something like spend about 10 years teaching before you try and teach the parables of Christ – probably wise. I am not even going to get into it. What is fresh to me this time are those last few words: verse 16. It would seems that being the “salt of the earth”, and the “light of the world” is tied closely with our “good deeds”.

Now I am not talking about the faith vs. works argument, that’s so last decade. What strikes me is that quote, “people don’t care what you have to say until they know that you care” (or something like that). The point is that so many times Christians want to tell others how to better their lives, or change, or break a habit, or whatever – but they miss the crucial point of letting “your good deeds shine”. A lot of times relationship is the key to evangelism – getting to know people, showing them you care, spending time with them, allowing God’s Spirit to work in their lives (and yours as well). Then when you’ve built some level of trust, God brings opportunities for you to speak into their lives. I am not saying this is how evangelism must work, I am just saying that this is an effective way that it does work – especially in my life with my personality.

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OK, so this is way late – but I was on the road with the family…

3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

The Beatitudes, the first part of the famous “Sermon on the Mount” given by Jesus Christ (thus the red lettering). You’ve heard it before probably, but “Attitude is Everything”, and Jesus chooses to share this message at the beginning of his public ministry, probably teaching and training his disciples in this very important lesson on your attitude towards ministry and life in general. As I was studying this portion of scripture here’s what really stuck out to me:

This is a code of ethics; a standard by which to live our lives. As my commentary puts it, “these are not multiple choice – they must be taken as a whole”. The questions I can ask myslef are simple – the answers profound.

  • Do I daily realize my NEED for God in my life?
  • Do I mourn? (to me this means is my heart tender towards other people – am I touched by their situations?)
  • Do I live a life of humility or has pride taken hold on my life? (probably the most important question – ask someone else to give you an honest answer to this one!)
  • Do I have a genuine concern for justice in the world? (definition of justice: the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.)
  • Do I show mercy on a continual basis in my life? (definition of mercy: ccompassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence: Have mercy on the poor sinner.)
  • Do I continually strive for purity of heart? (of course the Bible teaches us that the heart of man is not pure, but the Bible also says that we can receive a new heart; check out this verse:
    “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses….” Ezekiel 36:26-28
  • Do I seek peace, am I a peacemaker? (definition of peace: a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, esp. in personal relations: Try to live in peace with your neighbors. It takes a lot of humility and mercy to achieve peace – is making peace that important to me?)
  • Do I live my life without fear of being persecuted for doing what is right? (the pressure to conform to the world is ingrained so deeply within us that sometimes just doing what is right in a situation can bring persecution. Compare and contrast this with what is happening to the persecuted churches worldwide, check out this link, and it might bring clarity into our lives and challenge us to do what is right more often.)

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worship2So I have been thinking about this over the past couple weeks (and forgive me, but this is mainly for worship leaders, musicians, ministry leaders, etc.), but what are your expectations for a worship service? I think this may be one of the most profound questions we can ask each other, because your answer will reflect what you value in what expectations you put on your teams and your church.

Many worship leaders talk about how they just want to see people “get it”, or “really worship”; some say they want to “see God move”, or “have people cry out”, “be delivered”; some wish that “people would just sing”, or “lift their hands”, and on and on it goes. When you have a great weekend at church – what does that mean? Was the church “getting it”? Was “God moving”? What does success look like?

Here is a little check list that I came up with (so of course it is right) to help get things in order before you define a successful worship service:

  • What is the Vision of your church?
    Begin by taking into consideration that each church’s vision for what the purpose of a weekend service varies. Find out what it is – this should come from your lead pastor, or the core values of the church. Write it down, memorize it, stew on it, pray about it, and let it become a part of you. If you don’t do this, you will never be successful because in your heart you will be struggling against the very core of what God is doing in the church.
  • What is the Vision of your personal ministry?
    What has God placed in your heart? Where do you thrive? What keeps you awake at night and drives you all week long? And here is the clincher: does this line up with the core vision of your church (or potential church!). If they don’t line up, or come very, very close then you have three choices:

    1. Ask God to change your heart (and He will, trust me)
    2. Find a new place to serve/work
    3. Waste years of your life in constant conflict trying to convince God that you are right

    That’s it, as far as I am concerned right now – those are your choices…

  • What are your gifts?
    What areas has God gifted you in? What are you capable of? Are you great at that soft heart warming worship or are you an arranger that puts together parts and harmonies and choirs, or do you just rock? Are you a songwriter, a people person, introverted, easily offended, creative, a leader, a leader of leaders, a multiplier (discipler), immature, confident, etc. Find out what areas God has gifted you – designed you for and take advantage of them. This is not to say that you can’t achieve and strive to be more gifted in areas, or maybe God will chose to use someone with less talent to do a great thing. But for the most part, people excel when they operate in their giftedness.And here is a free tip: ask others about your areas of giftedness & talent – tell them to be brutally honest. We are way to into ourselves to be honest…

Mix those three components together:
Church Vision + My Vision + My Gifting = (determines) Ministry Style

Now check this out:

  • Ministry Style A + Great Execution = Success A
  • Ministry Style B + Great Execution = Success B
  • Ministry Style C + Great Execution = Success C

Does this make sense? Our Vision (what God has placed in our heart) + Our Gifts (what God has placed in our minds) determines our style of Ministry, which meets certain needs in our communities; not every need – thus the need for many styles to fulfill many needs. And of course at the end of the day the same basic need is met: connecting people with a loving and just God. That is success – how we get there is the big question and what we deal with week in and week out. I’ll share my restaurant theory of church sometime soon…

So again, what does success look like to you in your ministry?

Next: I answer my own question…

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“From then on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near’.” Matthew 4:17

Check out what Matthew Henry’s Commentary has to say on this verse: “This he preached first upon; he began with this. Ministers must not be ambitious of broaching new opinions, framing new schemes, or coining new expressions, but must content themselves with plain, practical things, with the word that is nigh us, even in our mouth, and in our heart. We need not go up to heaven, nor down to the deep, for matter or language in our preaching…This is preached often upon; wherever he went, this was his subject, and neither he nor his followers ever reckoned it worn threadbare, as those would have done, that have itching ears, and are fond of novelty and variety more than that which is truly edifying. Note, That which has been preached and heard before, may yet very profitably be preached and heard again; but then it should be preached and heard better, and with new affections; what Paul had said before, he said again, weeping, Phil. iii. 1, 18.”

In our endeavors to be creative, relevant, and fresh, we can never forget the most basic fundamental message of Christ: “repent and turn to God”, “for it is an unspeakable privilege that room is left for repentance.”, as Matthew Henry’s so eloquently puts it.


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This from the worship blog – If you have an extra hour and twenty minutes, watch this interesting video. It is a forum hosted by www.webevangelism.com on an interesting discussion about myspace and how Christians should approach the situation. It is especially interesting for parents of teenagers, which I am so glad I am not, yet.

Check it out here (btw – it didn’t work in FireFox, I had to resort to IE).

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“And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.” Matthew 2:6 is actually a quote from the Old Testament prophet Micah (Micah 5:2). I love prophecy in the Bible – it’s so interesting to think that Micah “preached” this message almost 700 years before it became reality, when Jesus was born in the small town of Bethlehem.

In keeping with the theme of humility – Jesus Christ was born in an insignificant town, in a stable, a feeding trough as his cradle. He never owned a home, didn’t amass wealth, didn’t marry or have children, and didn’t build a church building. He knew his purpose and lived his life constantly moving towards that purpose . I wonder how fragmented our lives become in our search for purpose or significance – we spend our entire lives in a search, on a journey, adhering to the world’s standards of significance: getting a decent education, getting a great job, getting married, having children, amassing wealth, and finally ending up with enough wealth to retire and “enjoy” the last 10-20 years of life with that feeling that we lived a significant life, only to realize that we missed the point entirely. I hope this doesn’t sound too pessimistic…

I am just thinking that in the grand scheme of life, our true significance comes not from worldly possessions or accomplishments, but from our position in eternity, our position in “Christ” as some preachers put it. Significance is now, not when you feel like you have measured up. Realizing that God sacrificed everything to be in relationship with us, realizing that he has promised to give us a life that is significant now (abundant life, John 10:10), he has promised to take care of us, never leave or forsake us, and give us the desires of our hearts – all this puts us in an incredible position. I’m not even sure what to say.. I am just encouraged to look at life differently, to take more chances to love God, and to love people – what being a Christian ultimately boils down to.

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Spending time daily listening to God is crucial for developing a deep and meaningful relationship with God. Someone once said that “those who read his Word the most, hear his voice the best” – and so I am encouraged and challenged to spend more time reading and studying the Bible, listening to what God is saying. All that to say that I am going to begin posting my personal devotions here as a challenge to myself and as an encouragement to others. We’ll see how it goes – Here’s todays:

Matthew 1:21-23
…and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

This was the moment in time when God stepped into time to fulfill his promise to send a Savior to redeem man. It’s like one point in history that changed everything – ok, so it’s not “like”, it is that point in history that changed everything. God sent his son Jesus to save people from their sins – He became Immanuel: God with us. And to think that God, existing outside of time and space, the creator of the Universe, came down to Earth, a tiny spec of a planet in the vast world that he created. He took on the form of his creation, and as the story goes, allowed himself to be completely humiliated by his own creation – all to redeem that which was lost: man’s relationship with God.

I think the word of the day is: Humility. It’s so easy to let pride creep up into our lives – humility is the Godlike character that we should be striving towards. Living every day knowing it is a gift from God, realizing that it is him who holds our lives in his hand gives us perspective and reminds us that God is on the throne, not us.

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