Apr 16

The Purposes of Jesus’ Temptation

One thing that was discussed in the sermon on Sunday was about the temptation of Jesus.  Sunday didn’t provide enough time to go into detail about the purposes of Jesus being tempted as He began His ministry.  Therefore, this is a follow-up to that point.

The Bible declares in Hebrews 4:15 that Jesus was tempted just like we are, yet without sin.  And this leads some to say, well if Jesus couldn’t sin, what was the purpose of satan tempting Him those 40 days?  The purpose was to two-fold.

First, to show beyond the shadow of any doubt that we can trust Jesus. H.A. Ironside said of the temptation of Jesus, “His temptation was not to see if perchance He might fail and sin in the hour of stress, but rather to prove that He would not fail, because He was absolutely the sinless One.”

The second reason of Jesus’ temptation was to give us an example on how to handle temptation when it comes, and it will come.  1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  So Paul is saying that temptation is going to come.  And notice, God is faithful in that with every temptation that comes, He will provide you with an escape so that you don’t have to give in to that temptation.  What is the number one way God has provided for us to escape temptation?  For that we would look in Matthew 4, where the temptation of Jesus is detailed fuller.  In Matthew 4 we see that with every temptation satan brought at Jesus, Jesus quoted Scripture back to satan.  So the number one way God has provided for us to avoid sin and to handle temptation is the Word of God.  That is why it is vital for you and I to spend time in the Bible every day.  We don’t just want to read it to say that we read it.  We want to read it to know God and how to please Him.  Paul says that the Bible is given by the inspiration of God and that it is good for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction of righteousness so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly furnished to do good works.  To do this we must do what Psalm 1 to meditate on the Word day and night and in Psalm 119:11 it says, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You.”  Have a plan and work the plan on being in the Bible daily.  If you need help in that, please let us know, we would love to be able to help you establish a healthy habit of reading the Bible.

 

Pastor Justin

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Apr 11

Never Easy, But Always Necessary

Any parent can tell you, one of the hardest parts of being a parent is having to discipline your child when they sin.  As parents we always want to believe the best about our children.  We think things like, other kids might do that, but my little sweet angel would never.  And as much as we want to believe that, we know it isn’t true.  We all have a natural tendency toward sin.  It is the result of Adam and Eve choosing to disobey God in the Garden of Eden, and Adam passing that nature down to the rest of humanity as we see in Romans 5:12, “As sin entered the world through one man, and death  by sin.  So death passed to all men, for all have sinned.”  The reality is none of us are above committing the most heinous of crimes.  For parents, it is how we deal with our children in these times that they disappoint us that can set them up for either success of failure in the future.  So how does the Bible teach us to discipline our children when they sin?

  • We must discipline them.  I’m going to start here, because many parents think the most loving thing they can do for their child is to let their wrong behavior go unpunished.  From the Old to the New Testament there are countless examples of God disciplining people and nations for sinful behavior.  In Proverbs 3 and Hebrews 12 we read, “whom the Lord loves He chastens (disciplines).”  The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that if God disciplines us when we sin, it shows that we are His child.  But if we can sin and not feel discipline from God it is because we don’t belong to God.  I never really understood what my parents were saying by the statement, “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”  As I child my thought was, “you are lying, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to be the one getting the spanking, not you.”  But as a parent of four wonderful, yet fallen children, now I get it.  When Diana or I have to discipline our children because they made a poor choice and sinned, it breaks my heart.  The key at least for me is to remember what Hebrews 12:11 says, “Now now discipline for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are disciplined.”  I have to discipline not only to show in the moment that what they did was wrong, but also to prepare them for the future to make better choices when their decisions will have more of an impact over their life and others.
  • We must discipline out of love, not anger.  As a father, I have to admit that I haven’t always followed this one like I should.  My children will tell you, if you want to elicit a swift and sometimes too strong of a reaction from their father, do something in public you know you aren’t supposed to.  I have to admit, I do not like being publicly embarrassed.  But I will also tell you, that we have to be the adult in the situation and handle ourselves properly.  Discipline is not just punitive, it is meant to be corrective.  We don’t want them to simply stop a bad habit, we want them to develop good habits.  Therefore, when we do discipline we need do more than just give a punitive punishment.  One thing that my wife, Diana, is so good at and that I am trying to learn is to sit them down and talk to them first. Ask them the questions, do you know why you are in trouble?  Do you know why it is wrong?  Then whatever discipline is handed out is handed out.  But then she looks them in the eye and tells them, “I forgive you and I love you, and nothing you do will ever make me stop loving you.”  The way she has always explained it to me is that she wants to break the habit, not the spirit, and she wants the children to know that even when she is upset with them, her love for them doesn’t change.  If you feel yourself being angry as you are going to discipline, be the adult, take a step back, take a walk, and then come back and handle the situation.  If you are like me and you forget these steps, as soon as you can, go to your child and confess your sin and ask for their forgiveness.  It may be hard to go to your child and admit that you messed up, but if the goal of discipline is correction and showing them the right attitude and behavior, then it is a necessary thing for us as parents to do.
  • Be consistent.  One of the worst things we can do as a parent, but something we are all guilty of doing is being inconsistent in our discipline.  Let’s be honest, some days go better than others and so some days we are in a better mood than other days.  However, that leads to frustration in our children because they don’t know what will bring discipline and what will bring laughter.  Ephesians 6:4 says, “And, you fathers, do not provoke your children to anger: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”  I believe Paul singles our the dads here for a couple of reasons.  First, the father is often the disciplinarian in the family. Though I would argue that mom and dad need to be on the same page and both should be disciplinarians.  Primarily I argue this because the phrase “just wait until your dad gets home” can sow seeds of disrespect for the mother, and make it seem like she doesn’t have an equal voice and say in the home.  But it also causes many children to fear their father, become angry and resentful towards him, and not look forward to his or her father coming home.  Second, I think Paul singles out us dads because we are most often guilty of being inconsistent in disciplining our children.  Some days work goes well, we are happy to be home, and so we allow the kids to get away with a little bit more.  Other days, our boss is a jerk, everything goes wrong, we carry work home with us, and our children can do nothing right.  This is why I believe the Bible argues for us setting up boundaries early on with our children about what is right and what is wrong.  In our home, and I’m not saying our way is the only way, we have our rules for our children posted on a cabinet in the kitchen.  By establishing boundaries, you are setting rules and expectations for the children.  You are also taking the subjectiveness of your mood as a parent out of it.  If there is a violation of the expectations and rules, then discipline is a must.  But if they aren’t breaking those rules or expectations, even if you are having a bad night and want to snap, it can serve as a check for your own heart and attitude.  I like to put it this way, if the action would get them in trouble on a “Monday” kind of day, then it needs to get them in trouble on a “Friday” kind of day.

Disciplining our children is not fun, neither of us enjoy it, but it is necessary.  If we as parents discipline properly and confess when we don’t, then we can set our children up for success in the future. More importantly, as parents we are teaching them about God and how God relates to His children.  Let your children see God in you and through you.  If we do this, regardless of what society says, we will have done what God has called us to do and that is a win.

Pastor Justin

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Apr 10

When Tragedy Strikes

News broke Friday night into Saturday about a tragedy involving a hockey team in Canada.  As of the time of this writing, 15 people including young men in their late teens to 20 years old died.  There are still some recovering from injuries sustained in the accident.  Countless lives have forever been changed in the blink of an eye.  In times like these we often search for an answer to the one question that seldom has an answer.  We want to know, why?  We sometimes ask, where was God?  We even at times malign God’s character by saying, a loving God wouldn’t let something like this happen.  We resort to these questions because we are hurting, in some cases we are angry, and we want to blame someone.  So how are we as Christians supposed to answer these difficult and sometimes impossible to answer questions?

  • Acknowledge that we don’t always know the answer.  I know this scares many of us.  When people ask us a question, especially a theological question, we feel that we have to give them an answer.  And while we could give theological answers to the problem of evil and suffering in the world, in the moment, those answers aren’t what people are really looking for.  There is absolutely a time and a place to answer questions dealing with evil, pain, and suffering.  However, in the midst of a tragedy, that isn’t the time because often the answer is “I don’t know, but we have to trust that God has a plan and He knows what He is doing.”  Saying that in the moment to a grieving family will not bring comfort, it will only lead to more questions, uncertainty, and possibly sow the seeds of anger and bitterness towards God.
  • Pray for the families who are grieving.  Many people get upset when they hear a Christian say that we should pray for the families.  They lash out and say, “praying won’t bring my son or daughter back.”  They are right in that it won’t change their situation.  However, prayer can change their perspective of the situation.  David wrote in Psalm 18, “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help.  From His temple He heard my voice, and my cry reached His ears.”  For a Christian to say “we need to pray” is the way that we as Christians admit that the answers people are looking for do not come from us, rather they come from God.  Prayer is the human acknowledgment that we can’t, but we are going to the only person and trusting the only person who can give us what we need.
  • Pray with and be with the families who are grieving.  We cannot sit back and be passive in our ministry to the hurting.  We must be present with them.  In his great theological work, the apostle Paul in the book of Romans said, “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”  He starts that section of Scripture by saying, “let love be genuine.”  Many people will “offer up thoughts and prayers for the families.” Yet few will go the extra mile to go and be with them in their time of grief and beyond.  While the world will move on from this or any other tragedy in a week or so, those families will still be hurting, still searching for answers, and still trying to learn how to live their life.
  • Realize the gift you have been given.  This is an internal one, but we need to sit back and be grateful for the grace God has shown us in that we still have life.  Life is incredibly fragile.  It can change in the blink of an eye.  As James said, “For what is your life?  It is a vapor that appears for a short time, and then vanishes away.”  Don’t take the precious gifts you have been given for granted, because they can be gone before you know it.
  • Look to share the greatest gift you have ever received. In the midst of pain and suffering, people are more open to God and the Gospel.  Again they are searching for answers to why this happened, but also they are searching for answers to the question, how do I go on from here?  No we don’t want to manipulate emotions or prey on the hurting.  But it is a good time for us to share how the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the answer they are truly searching for.  Only as we have placed our faith in Him, and know that we are His child can we live day to day.  Only having the peace of mind of being secure in His love and grace will help get us through life’ most trying moments.  When we are with those who are hurting, we are not there to show how smart we are or give them our answers.  We are there to point them to the only answer they need, Jesus!  It is in this way we can give a simple answer to the why and to the how question.

Example conversation you could have: The pain we are feeling is not how God designed things.  The tragedy that you are experiencing right now is because long ago and ever since the Garden of Eden man has rebelled against God.  The Bible calls this rebellion against God, sin.  The pain we are feeling is the result of sin.  Yet God in His great love desires something better for you, and He has provided everything needed for you to experience it.  He sent His Son, Jesus, to this earth to be the sacrifice for the sins of the world.  And by Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection, He now offers us forgiveness for our sins.  He has made what was impossible, now possible in that our sin separated us from God, but through His death we can now have a relationship with Him.  No, being a child of God will not take away all the pain in life.  It will not make you immune to suffering.  As long as there is sin, there will be suffering.  But it does mean that you won’t walk through this or anything else in life alone.  It means that God will give you the strength you need to make it through each day, one day at a time.  It means in those days that you are struggling, and are angry, God will give you grace and He will never turn His back on you.

In something that short, you are answering why tragedy happens-sin.  But you are also pointing them to the hope and the answer of how do they go on from here-have a relationship with God that was provided for by God, and grow in trusting Him.  No one is immune in this life to pain and suffering.  As Christians, we have experienced and have been given the mandate to share the Gospel, which is the only good news that can save a person, change them, and change their perspective on tragedy.

Pastor Justin

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Apr 02

Unwritten “Rules”

For those who know me personally or those who follow this blog, you know that I am a sports guy.  I played throughout much of my life, I was blessed to be a part of some great teams, I have coached some, and now my children are playing various sports.  My favorite game to play without any doubt was/is the game of baseball.  I know many people might not see it this way, but I always saw baseball as a chess game played on a field.  You always had to be thinking a couple of plays ahead to set yourself up for the best chance to win.  Sometimes you would sacrifice one player (a bunt situation especially) so someone else with more power could help you win, etc.  One thing that most baseball people know and are for the most part ok with is what is referred to as baseballs “unwritten rules.”  For the record, these “unwritten rules” are also what drive many non-baseball fans absolutely crazy.  Just a brief sample of some of baseballs “unwritten rules” are things such as if you hit a home run, you need to run around the bases.  Do not stand there and admire your homer.  That is grounds for getting plunked on purpose the next time you come up to hit, or in some instances the next guy who hits directly after you has to take your punishment for you.  Another one is if a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter and it is late in the game, you do not try to bunt to get a base hit and break up the no-hitter.  That one has serious ramifications for you if you do this.  One more example, if your pitcher hits one of my teammates and it appears on purpose, then I am obligated as a pitcher to hit your first batter of the next half inning.  No one knows exactly how many “unwritten rules” there are in baseball, because after all they are unwritten.  But there are a lot.  Sometimes someone might intentionally break one of those rules, and there are other times when someone doesn’t it but they don’t mean to.  Whether it is intentional or not, there are ramifications and some would argue, these unwritten rules ultimately hurt the game.  The validity of those rules isn’t the purpose of this blog post however.  I heard of a situation in a game yesterday.  One team got really upset,  but it doesn’t appear that any “unwritten rule” was violated.  But it created some bad blood and it has baseball fans talking about it.  But again, this isn’t the point.  So what is the point?

The point of this blog is to ask this question, are there some “unwritten rules” of church?  Are there some known or perceived “rules” about going to church?  Another question that I am pondering is this, are those “rules” helping or hurting the church’s mission in reaching the lost with the Gospel?  My initial thought is that most if not all of these “unwritten rules” are hurting our Gospel witness in our community.  While we may have good intentions, just like baseball does in protecting the integrity of the game; I believe that some “unwritten rules” or “unwritten expectations” about going to church are pushing people away from seeking God and truly hearing the Gospel from otherwise great men and women who love God, and the great churches they attend.  So I want to have a little bit of fun, but also maybe shine some light on a few thoughts that may be hurting the church’s effectiveness in reaching the lost.

This is what I would like you to do.  Whether you go to church or don’t.  Write in the comments below, what are some “unwritten rules” you have run into or believe exist for people who are going to go to church?  I am going to ask for one thing, please keep it respectful.  Don’t mention any names of churches or pastors.  While you may feel good about calling a church or a pastor out, it is not the right time, place, or way to do so.  I recognize that pastors (myself included) have unintentionally hurt people in the past, or people have gone to a church and been hurt by a church.  If that is the case, I would encourage you to reach out to the pastor or the church and have an honest conversation with them about what happened.  Speaking as a pastor, I don’t want to shy away from difficult conversations.  I realize that I am a fallen, sinful human being who though he doesn’t try to hurt others, sometimes is guilty.  And churches are made up of imperfect people who sometimes do things that cause hurt.  So let’s have some fun, shine some light, but show compassion and grace as we learn together.

Pastor Justin

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Mar 14

Following Christ

Christians today know that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to follow Christ in our culture.  This doesn’t diminish our calling to follow Him in any way.  The following devotion was shared with the staff of Westlake Baptist Church at our monthly staff meeting in March 2018.

Scripture: Joshua 1

 

Being in leadership today, whether paid or lay staff is incredibly difficult.  Most every church I know has a similar complaint to this one, it’s hard to find people to help.  It is easy to become discouraged when you struggle to find volunteers.  It can be discouraging to have personal excitement, but not see it on the face of others who are working in your area of ministry.  It can really be discouraging when you are doing what you believe God has told you to do, but you are seeing the results that you expected to see.  As I read Joshua 1 the other day as part of my Bible reading plan for this year, I was struck by the number of times I saw a particular phrase.  The phrase was “be strong and of good courage.”  That phrase appears four times in 18 verses.  I pondered on why did God keep telling Joshua to “be strong and of good courage”?  Then it hit me.  God told Joshua to be strong, because a weak leader will never be able to lead a strong-willed group of people.  If you study the book of Exodus you will quickly see the group that Joshua was inheriting from Moses was a strong-willed group.  On multiple occasions the people complained and willfully rebelled against God.   It lead God to call the “stiff-necked” or what we would call stubborn.  We must be strong in the Lord, stand and fight in the power of Him.  The greatest way to be strong in the Lord is to be a man or woman of prayer.  But God also told Joshua to be of good courage.  As a leader, it is very easy to get discouraged.  Satan will do whatever he can to put stumbling blocks in front of you, place difficult people around you, and anything else he can think of to discourage and distract you.  However, we must remember a few important lessons if we are to remain of good courage.

To remain as a leader of good courage we must:

  • Remember it is about God, not me. Joshua 1 starts off by God saying to Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan” in verse 2.  The man goes into the ground, but the message and the mission go on.
  • Remember you are not alone. One of the greatest promises given by God to His children is found in verse 5, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”  We are going to go through valleys in life and ministry, but we are never alone!
  • Remember that what God will accomplish what He promised. God promised in Genesis 12, that He was going to multiply Abraham’s descendants, and that He would give them a land.  Even though Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the nation of Israel had failed God and sinned numerous times; God was still faithful to His promise.
  • Remember that God raises up those He desires to use. If God wanted Moses to lead the nation of Israel into the Promised Land, then God would have used Moses.  In the same way, God has gifted you, give you passion, and called you to the ministry you are in because He desires to use you for His glory and to accomplish His purpose.  You may feel unqualified or unable to do anything, but God doesn’t make mistakes.  Remember point number one, it is about God not you!  God uses the weak things and the foolish things of this world.  It is never about what you can do for God, it is about what you allow God to do in you and through you.
  • God prepares us for His purpose. God doesn’t waste any experience in our life.  Even if the experience is bad and not what God would have desired for us; He can still turn something bad into something good.  At the same time we must understand that God will not just give us a big responsibility without first preparing us.  We must be proven faithful in the little things, before He will entrust us with bigger things.  So see your current situation and circumstances as part of God’s preparation process.  You may be like the faithful men and women of the Old Testament who believed in God’s promises, looked for them, labored for them; but in the end never saw them.  But their life and their ministry had a purpose.  Or God might let you see the fruits of your labor and to enjoy the harvest.  Regardless of whether you get to see it all come to fruition or not, keep your eyes on Jesus, be faithful to Him, and He will be pleased.

May we as Christians be able to say as Paul did in 1 Corinthians, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

Pastor Justin

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Feb 19

Post Sunday Follow-Up From February 18th

In yesterday’s message we talked about marriage from God’s viewpoint.  We looked at issues such as, what is God’s design for marriage?  What is God’s purpose for marriage?  And we even saw the deeper meaning of marriage in that it is to reflect the relationship between Jesus and the church.  This blog is meant to further that discussion more.  In this blog we will look at an issue only briefly touched on yesterday. That issue is, what about a spouse who is a believer being married to someone who is not a believer?

This is certainly a very important topic to discuss, because it is a very real issue in 2018 as it has been for many years.  What does God’s Word have to say on this topic?  My goal is to keep this as simple and straightforward as possible.  But the Bible says the following on marriage between a believer and an unbeliever:

  • First, the Bible tells us not to be unequally yoked (2 Cor. 6:14).  While we may not have control over a lot of things in this life, who to marry is something that God has given us the ability to decide.  We need to take that privilege very seriously.  The simplest way to avoid the trouble that is coming if you marry an unbeliever is to not marry them in the first place.  Pray for them, share the Gospel with them, be friends with them, but don’t enter into the holy covenant of marriage with them unless and until they become a genuine follower of Jesus.
  • Second, let’s say that when you got married you both were unbelievers, but since then by God’s grace you have become a believer, what are you to do then?  Scripture would say to stay (1 Cor. 7:12).  I love what Paul says in verse 16 of that passage.  He basically says, you never know the influence you will have over them, and by your holy living, you might be used by God to draw the unbelieving spouse to the Gospel.  As I said yesterday in service, ladies you hold an incredible amount of sway over your husbands.  Leverage that for good!
  • Next, what do you do in the meantime?  If the husband is the believer, sacrificially love your wife( Eph. 5:25).  If the wife is the believer, submit to your husband (Eph. 5:22).  In other words, whichever one is the believer is to fulfill their obligation to their spouse as though they are doing it to and for the Lord Jesus.  Of course the caveat here is, if your spouse is asking you to violate Scripture or deny your faith, then you are to honor and glorify God.  No one, no matter who they are should be able to cause us to deny our Lord and live contrary to His Word.
  • Finally, whether both spouses are believers or just one of them is a believer, pray for the other.  Salvation is a work of God, not man.  Satan will try to drive a wedge between husband and wife.  His game plan from the beginning has been this, dismantle the family.  Satan knows if he can dismantle the family, then he can destroy a nation, and do great harm to the Gospel.  This is part of the invisible war that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6:12.  A spiritual battle must be waged with spiritual weapons. Your greatest power and greatest tool is prayer.

Just remember the key to a successful walk with God, a successful marriage, a successful family, career, hobbies, etc is this, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  Make Jesus and His righteousness your most passionate pursuit, and trust God to work in your heart and life and provide whatever He knows you need.

Pastor Justin

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Feb 04

Continued Discussion on Gender

In this Sunday’s message, we looked at what it means to be a biblical man and a biblical woman.  If you haven’t listened to the message, I would encourage you to go to iTunes, and under podcast search “Westlake Baptist Church.”  The message is titled, “Part 4-Equal Yet Different.”  Or you can visit our Facebook page and click on the link there.  in this blog, we want to continue the discussion on gender as given in Scripture.

One thing that was briefly mentioned in the sermon was on how the two genders can teach us the true biblical truths of equal yet different.  All three members of the Trinity are equal to each other just as men and women are equal.  Yet each member of the Trinity has a different role He plays in creation and in redemption.  The same is true about gender roles for men and women.

The other aspect that we want to look at here is the difference in God creating mankind from God creating everything else.  When God created light, the sun, moon, stars, green grass, herbs, and animals; Scripture says that God spoke it into existence.  However, mankind is different.  Genesis 2:7 says, “And the LORD God formed man.”  Then in Genesis 2:22 it says, “And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made He a woman.”  Both of these words “formed” and “made” indicate a personal creative act of God.  This shows us that God was intimately involved in our creation, and it reveals His desire to have a relationship with men and women.  Another clue about the intimacy of our creation is seen in the words Moses uses to describe God in Genesis 1 and 2.  In Genesis 1, Moses uses the name, God (Elohim).  In Hebrew, Elohim, refers to the mighty, powerful, and exceedingly great God.  However, in Genesis 2 Moses uses a different name for God.  In Genesis 2, Moses uses the name, Yahweh, which is the personal name of God.  Yahweh is not describing an attribute of God  like Elohim does.  Rather, Moses is saying that the all-powerful, all-knowing, and great God of Genesis 1, is also the very personal God that we can know intimately through a relationship with Him.  As Elohim, God is the Creator and owner of it all, and we are accountable to Him.  As Yahweh, He wants us to know Him, love Him, and worship Him.

Do you know Him as Yahweh?  Do you have the relationship He created you for?  Or is he simply Elohim, the all-powerful, all-knowing God you are accountable to?  Jesus came to earth to die on the cross, and He rose from the dead so that we could have a personal, intimate relationship with God not only once we die, but even while we are living. That is why Jesus said in John 10, “I have come to give you life, and have life more abundantly.” As the words of that beloved hymn, Without Him, says, “Jesus, O Jesus, do you know Him today?  Do not turn Him away.  O Jesus, O Jesus, without Him, how lost I would be.”

Pastor Justin

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Feb 01

Super Bowl Commercials and Christians

This coming Sunday is typically a big Sunday in many households in America.  Although this year may be different due to the current political climate, especially as it relates to the National Football League.  This Sunday evening the two best football teams will square off in Minneapolis.  But there is another competition that also occurs that evening.  This competition occurs mostly in the first half of the football game.  It isn’t between two teams, but rather many companies.  It is the competition for the best television commercial during the Super Bowl.  The commercials are one of the reasons that the Super Bowl is one of the most viewed sporting events of the year.  And to have your company and product featured comes with a high price.  In fact this year, each company is going to fork over about $5 million dollars per 30 second commercial.  That seems like an exorbitant amount of money to pay for 30 seconds (and in my opinion it is).  However, when you consider that approximately 110 million people will be watching, that is a lot of exposure for your company and your product.  It seems as though companies are willing to do whatever it takes to get their message and their product in front of as many people as possible.  But what does this have to do with Christians?

Simply put, what are we willing to do in order to get our message of the Gospel in front of people?  We have something far more valuable for the world to hear than any commercial you may see this Sunday evening.  In Matthew 10 Jesus told His disciples about the cost of being His disciple.  In one place Jesus said, “don’t fear those who can kill the body, but not kill your soul.”  In another place Jesus said that brother would betray brother and even a father would betray his son to the point of death.  Then starting in verse 37 Jesus said some very interesting statements.  He said, “‘The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. ‘And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Anyone finding his life will lose it, and anyone losing his life because of Me will find it.”

Those seem strange because they seem contradictory.  However, what Jesus is speaking of when saying that we are to love Him more than our father and mother is that our love for Him is to be so strong that it looks like we hate those closest to us.  Jesus is telling us that our strongest and most important relationship is the one we have with Him.  Then Jesus says we are to be willing to lose our life for Him.  That is we are to love Him so much, we are to desire to spread the Gospel so much that we are willing to lose our life so that the Gospel can go further.  So I will ask the question again, what are we as Christians will to do so that others can hear the Gospel?

Pastor Justin

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Jan 24

Mission vs. Maintenance Part 2

Yesterday we looked at deciphering whether we personally or we as a church are living in maintenance mode or we are living with a missional mindset.  In case you missed it, you can go here to read it: http://www.westlakebaptist.org/blog/mission-vs-maintenance-part-1/

Today, we want to be more practical in terms of how can we fan the flames of a missional mindset or get out of maintenance mode?  Before you can be changed, you must be able and willing to admit that change needs to happen.  Apart from acknowledgement that something is wrong, you won’t have the desire for God to change you.  The first step will always be prayer.  The mission isn’t about you individually or the church corporately.  It is God’s mission for God’s glory.  The fight to live on mission for Jesus Christ is above all else a spiritual issue, which means spiritual warfare will be involved.  We cannot fight spiritual battles with earthly weapons.  We must pray and confess our sin of not living as a “sent one.”  We must pray and ask God’s Spirit to empower us to have a change in our heart which will lead to a change in our mind, which will fully manifest itself in a change in how we live.  This is a heart issue, and therefore only God can fix it. We need to pray that the Spirit will give us grace and strength to persevere when it gets hard (and it will get hard).  The second step is to ask God to change your attitude.  One thing that keeps us from living on mission is our attitude of, it’s all about me.  I need to ask God to help me have the attitude of, it’s about You God and it’s about others.  We must have the conviction that apart from faith in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection; a person cannot be right with God.  Therefore, if they die in their rejection of the Gospel, they will spend all of eternity in the lake of fire separated from God.  David Platt, the leader of the SBC’s International Mission Board, has said on more than one occasion, “when will it become intolerable to Christians that people are dying and going to hell?”  The mission we have been given by Jesus is bigger than us, it is bigger than the here and now.  This is a mission that has the eternity of every person hanging in the balance.  No, we are not able to save anyone.  But we have been given the message to share that can save them.  We must have the attitude of “I am going to share the Gospel with you regardless of how uncomfortable I may feel about it and regardless of what it costs me.”  I would say the next logical step will be getting equipped to be a disciple who makes disciples, and be a church that plants churches.  In this step is the requirement that we practice what we preach.  It means we are going to have to make church attendance a priority in our life.  Paul is clear in Ephesians 4:11-16 that God gave the church spiritual gifts for the training, equipping, and building up of the body of Christ.  To neglect regular church attendance is to neglect your relationship with Jesus.  The church is a gift from God for encouragement, but also for accountability.  This step also requires that church leadership be intentional about training its members in how to be a disciple.  There are a plethora of resources available for individuals as well as churches to help in this area.  Some of my personal favorite discipleship resources are Experiencing God by Dr. Blackaby, the MasterLife Series by Avery Willis, and The Disciple’s Path by Lifeway. Some of my personal favorite evangelism resources are Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out by Dr. Alvin Reid, FAITH Evangelism by Bobby Welch, and Evangelism is by Dr. David Wheeler.  The church must become better about training disciples by leaders modeling it and the church teaching it.  The final step in becoming missional is to follow Nike’s advice, just do it.  You can pray for God to give you His heart and passion,  you can receive encouragement and training from the church, but if you don’t do anything with it, what have you truly accomplished?  Will it be clunky at times?  Yes.  Will it be difficult to start Gospel conversations at first?  Absolutely it will.  But the deeper the conviction, the more confident you become through training, the more comfortable you will become in being a disciple who makes disciples.

Maybe now more than ever, there must be an intentionality in the heart and life of Christians to reach the lost around us.  The nominal or cultural Christian is fading from the landscape of our society.  This means more and more people are no longer attending church, even on holidays that 20 years ago it was expected that people would attend church.  We can lament this, talk about a bygone era where families went to church, and we can condemn those who don’t attend church.  Or we can love God and love them enough to pursue them just as God pursued us.  I am convinced that people by and large are not against God, the Gospel, or the church.  They simply aren’t being told about God and they aren’t hearing the Gospel as often as they once did. And that is something that by God’s grace and with His help that can be changed!

Pastor Justin

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Jan 23

Mission vs. Maintenance Part 1

The current climate and context of the American church is something that is frequently discussed and written about.  Therefore, it is highly unlikely that I am going to say anything groundbreaking.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be said again. If the leadership gurus are correct, it takes someone hearing something on average 14 times before it truly sinks in. So what do I mean by the title of this blog?

There are currently two types of mindsets in the church today.  Often those in leadership have one mindset, while many church members have the opposite mindset.  This isn’t always the case, but it is more the norm than either side often wants to admit.  The first mindset is what we will call the missional mindset.  That is a Christian who sees a calling on their life to live as a “sent one.” In the forefront of this person’s mind is the question, how can I glorify God today by fulfilling the Great Commission?  This leads them to examine their life in light of biblical teaching, and they are more prone to view the events of their life as a series of events orchestrated by God for them to evangelize and disciple others.  The other mindset is what we will call the maintenance mindset.  That is the Christian who likes the status quo and doesn’t want to rock the boat.  This person has a very different outlook on their life as well as the role of the church.  They see most things including the church as something that exists for their pleasure and purpose.  Therefore, the majority of the decisions they make are made from the viewpoint of answering the question, what is best for me or what’s in my best interest?  Whether we want to admit this or not, we are more prone to have a maintenance mindset than we are to have a missional mindset.  That is because it is what comes naturally to us, and it feeds our selfish, sinful tendencies more.  Without a doubt this is truly a spiritual warfare issue.  God calls us to be missional, while satan tempts our sin nature to be a maintenance person.  So how can you personally as well as your church corporately know which mindset you fall into?  This will not be an exhaustive list by any means, but hopefully it can get the conversation started between you and God as well as within the church as necessary.

I will begin with the negative mindset first.  You have a maintenance mindset if the first question that comes to your mind when a new opportunity is presented is, how will this effect me?  You have a maintenance mindset in the church if you are resistant to change simply because it would mean doing something different.  You have a maintenance mindset if you are more concerned with how existing members will react to a change than how a some simple change could help you reach your community with the Gospel more effectively.  Finally, one of the best ways to decipher which mindset you have is to look at your personal budget as well as the church budget.  Are they geared more towards what you like and want to do?  Or are is your personal budget and the church budget more geared towards investing in Great Commission opportunities?  Do you personally look for ways to cut your personal spending in order to give more to the church and therefore invest in Great Commission opportunities?  Is the church budget more geared towards keeping those you have happy and satisfied or finding ways to reach those who do not attend your church yet?  I realize many of these questions are deeply personal and they can even be painful.  I cringed a few times as I typed them.  However, unless and until we admit there is a problem, nothing will change.  Many Christians and churches are on a hamster wheel.  They are not reaching new people, there is little to no excitement in them.  It’s not because they aren’t trying hard.  It’s not because they intentionally want to stay the way they are.  It’s because, and I say this with a great love for the church, we are insane. That is we are doing the same things, the same ways, yet we are expecting different results.  Then we are shocked when we don’t get it and we begin to play the blame game and pointing fingers at those we feel are responsible for our current condition.  In the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:31b, “…and I will show you a more excellent way.”

The first key to having a missional mindset is to be grateful for your salvation.  I have never met the Christian who is grateful that God saved them, yet they just couldn’t bring themselves to share the Gospel.  Another key to having a missional mindset is remembering who you were before God saved you.  In Titus 3 the apostle Paul wrote, “For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.  But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us…. (Titus 3:3-4a).  If it wasn’t for God’s grace, I would still be lost in sin and destined for hell.  The next key for having a missional mindset is having a proper attitude and understanding about life.  One of my favorite phrases is, God didn’t save us to sit; He saved us to serve.  When I’m truly grateful for my salvation, I will find it joyful to serve the Lord, and I will have a desire for others to experience the same love and grace that I have experienced.  A missional mindset sees each day as an opportunity to bring glory to God by being obedient to the Great Commission.  Armed with gratefulness, humility, joy, and a desire to serve; God can use our life for His glory and the good of others.

So which do you have?  Are you all about maintaining the status quo?  If your philosophy best described as don’t rock the boat?  Or is every day a part of a great adventure in fulfilling the Great Commission?  If you aren’t where you need to be, the first step is to confess it to God and seek His help.  You can’t flip a switch and change from status quo to soul winner.  If you currently have a missional mindset, the danger for you is how easy it is to slip into complacency and flip from missional to maintenance.  Therefore, your prayer needs to be, God help keep my fire and passion for you, your glory, and a desire to see the lost saved at the forefront of my heart and mind.

Join us tomorrow as we will have part two which will focus on some more practical steps to going from maintenance to missional.

By His grace and through His strength,

Pastor Justin

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