Monthly Archives: February 2016

The Main Thing

“Keep the main thing the main thing”

I remember hearing this advice long ago, but I no longer remember the context in which I heard it.  It is however, good advice for quite a few situations.

We tend to complicate things over time.  For example, you might begin the search for a car.  You say you just want simple, reliable transportation that moves you from home to work or school etc.  But then you surmise a car with low mileage would be better.  And you want air conditioning.  And power windows and locks. And it needs to have a CD player with a 6 speaker sound system.  And you want a red one, but not candy apple red, but more of a sunset red.  Before long, you no longer want a simple vehicle but something that includes a long list of extras.

Those “extras” are added onto the main purpose of having a car in the first place, which as to get you from point “A” to point “B.”  A black one without power anything will do the same thing right?  But we lose focus and no longer, “keep the main thing the main thing.”

I wonder how often we do this in churches?  We get caught up in the latest ministry trend and implement various programs with the latest models of ministry.  I am all in favor of learning and adapting the presentation of our message, I also think we may be missing the “main thing.”

In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas beginning what we commonly refer to as their first missionary tour, we get some insight into how Paul is presenting his message.  Basically, it comes down to three key points that I think must always be part of our ministries – to a varying degree, but these elements must always be part our ministry.

The Word of God MUST Be Our Foundation – Notice how Paul shapes his argument with the Jewish leaders of Antioch.  Beginning in Acts 13: 17-25, he uses the scripture to make his point.  Going back to Moses, he lays out his case.  He quotes scripture from Exodus, 1 Samuel and Psalms.  Clearly, Paul knew his ministry had to have a high value placed on scripture.

Here’s a thought I heard awhile back from James MacDonald about the high value ministry’s need to place on the Bible;

“Any ministry not founder upon, committed to, conviction about and passion for, the perfect Word of God and all that it asserts is doomed to failure and it’s eventual relegation to the garbage heap of history.”

I can’t agree more with that statement.  Yet I am afraid many ministry organizations that exist under the banner of Christianity, churches and sadly church attendees in our current world do not operate with the Bible as their supreme and final authority.

The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Was An Actual Event – Paul continues this his message by pointing to the actually resurrection of Jesus, starting in verse 30 through verse 35.  We know from 1 Corinthians 15, that he believed this was the essential message of Christianity.

Here too, even in the church there are those that openly question His resurrection.  The whole Easter event becomes a nice spring time story.

But of course it is so much more than a story.  It is the way we know the payment for our sins has been paid and accepted by God.  The resurrection is the way we know we can have a right standing before God.  It is the key theological concept of Christianity which satisfies all the Old Testament laws and allows us to have a right fellowship with the Father!  The resurrection of Jesus must be front and center of our ministry philosophy.

Jesus is the Only Way We Gain Forgiveness of Our Sins – Notice Paul’s statements starting on verse 38 and 39.  “by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things…”  In context he is talking about sin and how believing in Jesus is how one gains salvation.

Jesus made the claim in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”

He isn’t leaving much wiggle room here with that statement.  “No one” would seem to indicate, “nobody” is coming to the Father, except if you go through Him – Jesus.  You can’t go through your parents or your sincerity or even because everyone thinks you’re a nice person.

Jesus is the only way of salvation.

Is that a claim your ministry makes?  Do you stand behind that statement or attempt to explain it away?

Any ministry that wishes to claim the cause of Christ, must stand on these claim points.  Oh other things can be debated and we can wrestle with style and presentation preferences, but these three points must be the three legged stool so-to-speak of our Christian walk.  Lose any one of those points, you lose them all and then, we cease to have a ministry or any Christian way of any substance.

Unfortunately, we get lost in many small issues which don’t really “drive the car” so-to-speak.  We fail in “keeping the main thing the main thing” and in so doing, miss our call and flounder in work which is unproductive for cause of Christ.

So, keep the main thing the main thing, and maybe you can settle for something without the power windows.

Blessings My Friend

-jm

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Lessons From Peter

Say what you want about the Apostle Peter, but I think he was pretty amazing. Oh sure, he had issues.  We love to point those out, but there are plenty of positive things I admire about him.

He was the de facto spokesmen for the disciples. In Matthew 15:15 and Matthew 18:21 (plus a number of other places) Peter comes to Jesus speaking for the group, asking Him questions.  Whether the other eleven are afraid to speak or hadn’t thought to get clarification, Peter is the one who speaks up!

Peter is one of the inner circle of the disciples.  Along with James and John, Peter is present at the raising of Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5: 37.  He is there at the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17 and according to Luke 22:8, Peter, along with John, was given the task of preparing the Passover meal – which we now refer to as the “Last Supper.”

Peter is the first to clearly identify Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God” in Mathew 16: 16-17.  You have to admit, these are pretty impressive things to have one one’s spiritual resume’!

But the thing I may be the most impressed with about Peter is when he gets out of the boat and walks on water in Matthew 14: 18-19.  Sure, he may have only taken a few steps, but that’s more than any other disciple did!

There are plenty of lessons we can learn from Peter.  Here’s a few of them:

God calls us to overcome our fear and take big steps of faith.  Sometimes we need to get out of our comfortable, known surroundings and step out of the boat.    Peter takes the initiative and seeing Jesus walking on the water, calls out to Him.  Peter responds to Jesus’ invitation to join Him for a water stroll across the lake.  That’s a big step of faith that was initiated by Peter.

To exercise our faith and overcome our fear, sometimes we need to step out of the boat.

God wants us to respond to His invitation.  Whether it was the raising from the dead a little girl or witnessing the ORD’s transfiguration or preparing a Passover meal, Peter responded to the invitation to join Jesus.  He may not have understood everything, but he didn’t need to.  He answered the invitation that Jesus gave him.

We need to respond to Jesus’ call even though we may not totally understand the situation.

God uses unlikely heroes.  Peter wasn’t a trained scholar.  He wasn’t a well-respected religious leader or Rabbi.   There was no reason to believe that in just a few years, he would become the one of the leaders of the new movement of God.  He was a fisherman who was submitted to Jesus.  With all his failings, God used this man in a mighty way.

Even with all our failings, God uses us if we are submitted to Him.

Peter wasn’t perfect of course – which is awesome because neither are any of us.  But in spite of his short-comings, I still see great lessons for us from the positive qualities of Peter.

Blessings my friend!

-jm

BTW, if you like these little blog thoughts of mine…  please do me a favor.  Copy and paste the title and then share it on Facebook.  Thank-you!

Running Our Race

You may not think of yourself as an athlete.  It’s not a way I describe myself.  Yet the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9 that we are running a race.  He makes the comparison to a runner competing to win a temporary crown to us running our race for an eternal crown (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

The author of Hebrews also tells us about a race we are running and gives us some directions about this event, the race of the Christian life.  While there are probably more things to glean from this passage, I clearly see four points the writer is trying to convey to us from Hebrews 12:1-2.

First, he mentions how we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.”  Since he begins the verse with the word “therefore” one needs to see what precedes this phrase to best understand to what the author is referring.  That would be Hebrews 11 or as some have referred to that chapter, the Hall Of Fame Of Faith.  We are to look back and learn from those stories of Scripture and see the examples of faith, encouragement and instruction for us.

We are to take Inspiration from the Word.

Next, the author tells us to apply a degree of Discipline to our life. He says we are to “throw off” or some version says “cast off” that extra weight – extra baggage we are carrying around and along with that the “sin which so easily ensnares us.”  All believers need to be disciplined in their walk and make it a point to get rid of those things which impede our progress.  Those past hurts, failures etc.  Further we need to jettison the sin that we dapple in.  Sin is a bad thing and we need to cast it aside.

The third instruction he gives us is to run our race with Perseverance.   Whether you prefer another word such as “endurance” or “patience,” the meaning is all the same.  We are to not give up on this journey.  It is long, hard and sometimes quite difficult.  But we must continue.

Finally, in verse two he says we are to look to Jesus or Focus on Him.  It is Him alone that we are to look to, not our own abilities or circumstances.  Nor can we look to what others may or may not think of us, but we are to focus solely on Him.

So, here are our instructions for our Christian race:

  1. Inspiration – Take encouragement & direction from the Scripture
  2. Discipline – Throw off what is worthless or unnecessary
  3. Perseverance – Don’t give up but patiently endure
  4. Focus – We must look exclusively to Jesus

Too many of believers are stumbling through life and are not being successful in God’s call.  They meander and struggle to hear Him.  Some even think being a Christian is just a “Sunday” thing.  Many aren’t taking this race seriously.  It isn’t an easy task, but this race is one we all must run.  Take some direction from Hebrews 12 and run the race that is “set before you.”

Blessings My Friend,

-jm