Focus

I’m a pretty simple minded person. Maybe it comes from carrying corn cobs to the kitchen stove when I was five, or milking cows most of my childhood, or spending hours in the fields throwing hay bails around. Whatever the case, I don’t think the gospel or the Christian life was meant to be so complicated. That’s why I’m always stirred when I read Jesus’ conversations on following after God — like a man plowing in the field that should not look back, or like seed planted on various kinds of soil. This is really easy stuff to understand.

We tend to make things more complicated than they should be. And we’re often eager to “discuss” issues that are meaningless.

So when Paul tells Timothy to keep people from wasting “their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God,” (1 Timothy 1:4) he’s primarily reminding us that a lot of things that sound spiritual are a big waste of time.

We need FOCUS. We need to constantly focus on the things that really matter.

Now–here are some great words from Spurgeon

Our days are few, and are far better spent in doing good, than in disputing over matters which are, at best, of minor importance. The old schoolmen did a world of mischief by their incessant discussion of subjects of no practical importance; and our Churches suffer much from petty wars over abstruse points and unimportant questions.

There are, however, some questions which are the reverse of foolish, which we must not avoid, but fairly and honestly meet, such as these:

  • Do I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?
  • Am I renewed in the spirit of my mind?
  • Am I walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit?
  • Am I growing in grace?
  • Does my conversation adorn the doctrine of God my Saviour?
  • Am I looking for the coming of the Lord, and watching as a servant should do who expects his master?
  • What more can I do for Jesus?

Now that’s a great list to help us find some focus!

Music Matters

Singing is magical. We do it to express ourselves, to honor God, and to communally speak to God. We have good singers and bad singers…and some in-between, but God doesn’t care. “Make a joyful noise,” He proclaims.

Singing also makes church life challenging since we all like different sorts.

  • Is some music more spiritual than others?
  • Is there a certain style that we should be singing more than others?
  • How do we “arrange” a worship experience so everyone is happy? Or is that even what it’s about?

I’ve been giving this some thought lately–again. Here’s what I’ve realized as I’ve dug below the surface of my soul — I’m not in pursuit of any certain style, nor am I stuck on something I like (I’ve actually come to like just about everything except screemo). I’ve decided I like new, fresh, current. You see, when I pray, I don’t want to use the same old prayers I’ve used before (I did that when I was a little child). I want to pray what’s on my heart, what I feel, some new expressions of faith, commitment, and thanks to God. I’m certain that this idea of fresh expressions to God greatly pleases Him, too. Scripture clarifies that our ultimate worship before Him some day will involve singing “a new song unto the Lord.”

The important thing is that we keep on singing with fresh fervor for the Lord, to exalt His name, to honor who He is, and to express authentically what we feel about God and His presence among us.

Take in a few thoughts from one of my favorite bloggers, Mark Batterson (get linked up in the side column). “All of creation is singing a unique song to the Creator. And you are part of that universal chorus. No one can worship God FOR you or LIKE you. God has given you a unique voiceprint. There are millions of people praying and worshiping God in every language all the time. But your voiceprint is unique. Like a parent who knows His child’s unique cry or scream or laugh, God knows your voice. He hears your voice. The Heavenly Father loves your voice.”

It’s All About Love!

I just finished meeting with the most gifted committed five young men ever! This a group of twenty-something leaders that I’ve pulled together recently into which I hope to pour some truth, wisdom, and encouragement. As Paul wrote to Timothy long ago, “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also,” 2 Timothy 2:2. This is about sharing the goods and multiplying our efforts.

Here’s the thing–I am so challenged by these guys! I love their pure passion, untainted commitment to Christ, can-do spirit, and energy for God-things. This old horse is getting fed and fueled. I’m benefiting big time! We take the masks off, share our lives, and talk about loving God and loving people.

This morning we pondered 1Timothy 1:5 which states, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

Bulls eye!

It’s all about love. Just like Jesus said, the greatest commandment is to love God and love people. It’s so tempting to get distracted with meaningless things that look Christian and sound spiritual (1Timothy 1:3-4). But it’s counterproductive.

Keep the main thing the main thing.

I love you guys!!!

Ticked

It’s confession time. I got ticked yesterday…while I was preaching! So here’s the deal–we’ve spent ten weeks fleshing out Acts 1 & 2 trying to understand and then become more like the Acts 2 church. When I asked for a response about inviting and welcoming some people next Sunday to a special event, only about 25% of our people (in one of the services) indicated they could participate in that kind of ministry. I was really upset and almost lost my cool. That doesn’t happen often.

So here are a few questions I have on that…

  • Is it that we tend to spectate more than participate–even when asked to respond with a raised hand?
  • Are our people more honest than most, not wanting to commit to something that they suspect they will not do?
  • Is it that my expectations are too high?
  • Was the anger in me at that moment righteous or carnal?

This morning, as I was spending some personal time in the Word, I came across these verses from Ezekiel 33:31-32:

“So my people come pretending to be sincere and sit before you. They listen to your words, but they have no intention of doing what you say. Their mouths are full of lustful words, and their hearts seek only after money. You are very entertaining to them, like someone who sings love songs with a beautiful voice or plays fine music on an instrument. They hear what you say, but they don’t act on it!”

I also received an email from a friend that put it this way..

I’m sure there are many reasons why some people were uncomfortable to do anything besides just sit quietly in their seats and listen.  (That’s the type of church I grew up in, by the way.)  And I’m sure that many people just won’t come to the front of the church.  I’m not saying that’s right, but I wouldn’t assume that they weren’t on board with your call.  I actually did come up, but stood along the wall.  Coming forward should have been an easy thing for me to do, but I hadn’t done it before.  And I’m sure many others were wrestling in their own minds over that, too.  And if nothing else, I guess it shows that there’s still work to be done (no surprise, right?).

Bottom line? We had an awesome Sunday. So many people are on-board without question. I don’t think it was right that I got ticked. In fact, now I’m ticked that I got ticked…

Possibilities

So–in our worship together today, about 200 or so people came forward committing to be an Acts 2 Christian. Just think of what this means…

  • If each of those people invite five people to Edinbrook Church in the next few months, and if two out of those five invitations result in a guest attendance, we will have 400 new visitors in the near future.
  • If out of those 400 visitors, one out of ten respond with a “yes”, we will see 40 new Christ followers in the months ahead.
  • If one in three of those 360, who do not say “yes” at this time, continue to attend, we will be constantly exposing another 120 people to the truth of Jesus on an ongoing basis.
  • If one half of those 120 say “yes” to Jesus in the next year, we will have another 60 Christ-followers from that group alone.
  • Over-all, this means that by being Acts 2 Christians, we could easily see 100 new believers in the next year or so…just from these new commitments made today!

And if those 100 new believers have an average of six unbelieving friends that they point to Jesus in the year that follows, we will have another 600 influenced in the following 12 months.

And on…and on…and on…

And that’s just a snapshot of what God can do with just one day of commitments made to Him!

Now–let’s be Acts 2 Christians.

Fog

I dream of seeing the Lord add to our number everyday those who are being saved. He did that when the first church existed (Acts 2:47). He still wants to do it today. We’ve simply gotten lost in the fog of busy and often meaningless activity. The modern church needs to regain it’s…

  • Passion for broken people
  • Urgency about the eternal destiny of those around us
  • Commitment to live obediently to our commission
  • Courage (Holy Spirit given) to intersect with our world gently and purposefully

LeRoy Eims once told a parable about a new shoe factory. Leaving the manager in charge, the owner left for period of years. When the owner returned, he found that the manager had produced great morale, well-educated employees, good equipment, and fabulous plans…but no new shoes had yet been manufactured. But a shoe factory is all about making shoes!

The church is often thrilled about having happy people, good education, wonderful facilities, and noble plans. But if we fail to see new converts, we have failed in the Great Commission to “make disciples”. The first step of that is always new birth.

Let’s face the truth and do something about it.

The Likability Factor

A church’s attitude generates its likability factor. When the Acts 2 church was birthed, they loved being together — “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people,” Acts 2:46-47a. Don’t you get the feeling that they were having a great time being Christian?

Consider a few of these pieces:

  • Learning and worshiping together was a regular way of doing life — “day by day”. Isolation was not part of the equation.
  • Enjoying and sharing with one another breathed life into their bones. The gladness they exuded, along with a spirit of generosity, created an attractive hub of activity for the new believers.
  • There were no fakes. A phrase that describes them is that they had “sincerity of heart”. This literally means “no stony ground of heart” — no pride, masks, bitterness, or self-made agendas.
  • They were positive authentic worshipers who were contagious to others – “praising God and having favor with all the people.”

The Result? “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

I dream of seeing the church return to its true spiritual heritage of being so likable that the world can’t ignore us any longer. Maybe that can even happen in your little corner of the world…

A church’s attitude does generate its likability factor.

World-Changers

A strange thing is happening in the church these days. There are two primary “camps” of Christians among evangelicals.  One group is convinced that most stuff of the world is evil and must be avoided. The other wants to adapt to the world so that the world will be influenced. The first emphasizes separation while the second espouses infiltration. Allow me to share a few thoughts with you on this huge issue which no-one will be able to ignore for long…

  • Salt only has its affect when it gets out of the salt-shaker and makes contact with something. It’s the same way with Christ-followers. We must make contact with the world before we have any influence at all.
  • Light is only needed where there is darkness. Christ-followers are meant to infiltrate their world and bring light where darkness prevails. Scary stuff.
  • Traditionally, Christians have been awful at building bridges — excellent at erecting walls. It has not served the Kingdom well.
  • The “conservative” view often appears more spiritual initially, but Jesus never called His followers to be conservative, but rather risk-takers. We are supposed to get our hands dirty doing His work.

Remember what the world-changer Paul stated in scripture, “I have become all things to all men that I might by all means win some.” Hurray for Paul! Hurray for every Christ-follower that truly follows Jesus!

Ivan Veldhuizen