The Power of an Invitation

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“You are Invited.” Those are three very special words in our language. An invitation is a special thing to receive. In a cold world where many feel alone or isolated, a warm invitation calls the lonely in, the hurting to rest, the broken to repair. We are told that 85% of the people who come to a church for the first time do so because they were personally invited by someone at the church. Maybe it was a friend or relative. Maybe it was a co-worker or a family from their kid’s soccer team. Whatever the source, the fact is true – there will never be a marketing or ad campaign that can replace the power of a warm, personal, invitation to church.

Jesus told us this in the book of Luke…

This verse is found in a parable Jesus told of a man who was throwing a dinner party. He called all his employees together and told them to invite everyone they saw to come to the party. He said to go to the highways and ask the travelers (strangers) to come. He said to go to the hedges and ask those who were on the outskirts, and who may have built up defenses of isolation to come. Do you get the picture? Christ was telling us that our responsibility is to INVITE.

Every time the church gathers, we are gathering for a party. We are gathering to celebrate the living Savior and the life He freely gives us through faith in Him. Everyone knows that more people makes the party better. How many people in your life are at home while you are at God’s house? How many are at home but would come if you would just invite them to the party? You may never know until you ask.

This Sunday, I extended a challenge that many in our church committed to participate. They committed to warmly and personally invite 5 people to church with them this Sunday. These people may be on the highway, they may be behind the hedges, or they may be living in the same house with you. Wherever they may be, INVITE. Invite them to the party, so that His house will be filled, and so that they may hear how great our Savior is; and how He can change their lives.

Had to Share: Heart for God

I have come to find many supplemental sources to deepen my devotional time over the years. One of the sources I have come to love is “Wisdom Hunters”. It is an app for my iPad which delivers a daily devotional with powerful insights from God’s Word. I wanted to share today’s entry with you…

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. Luke 8:15

A heart for God is nurtured by the word of God. Just like the stomach receives good food to grow the body, so a healthy heart receives nutritious morsels from a meal of Scripture. Indeed, the spiritual development process begins with a heart hungry for God. A soft soul, like moist dirt, takes in truth and gives it time to deepen its roots in righteousness. Tests of trust come, but a humble heart stays true to its commitment to Christ. Faith perseveres and retains God’s word.

Beware of Satan’s attempt to snatch away the seed from your pathway of faith and obedience. Your acceptance of Christ by faith and your obedience to His commands by grace, hide the seed of God’s word from the snare of the enemy. Truth applied to your life cannot be taken by the devil. He trolls the surface of your thinking trying to steal away the Word. However, when you hide Holy Scripture deep in your heart you are safe from the thief’s clutches. You are saved!

Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. 1 Samuel 3:7

Yes, the word of the Lord allows you to know the Lord. Therefore, pace yourself in the grace of God, so you continue to grow in your faith. It is not how early you start with God, but how far you go over a lifetime. Do not allow trials to take away your joy in Jesus. You can still smile on the inside, even when you are suffering on the outside. The tests of your faith teach forgiveness and grace in your relationships. Life lessons learned make you more effective in how you love.

Cares of this world mustn’t block us from learning the Bible and becoming better followers of Christ. Worry can keep us from the Word of God, or the Word of God can keep us from worry. Therefore, it’s imperative that we quietly meditate on Scripture, so the Spirit can clearly speak to our heart with reassuring words of hope, wisdom and encouragement. Once rooted and grounded with a heart for God, our Heavenly Father multiples the fruit of our faith in other faithful lives.

We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. Hebrews 2:1

Prayer: Heavenly Father may my humble heart be fertile ground to receive Your word, so you can grow my faith and the faith of those I influence for You.

Pick up the free wisdom hunters app today

Had to Share: “I Wanted More”

British actor Robert Pattinson admits his struggle with anxiety and depression in light of his celebrity status.

Each morning, I get several email devotions in my inbox. This morning’s entry from Dr. David Jeremiah really grabbed my heart. Had to share…

And will not be anxious…. (Jeremiah 17:8)

Millions of fans around the world idolize actor Robert Pattinson, the British heartthrob made famous by the Twilight movies. But for Pattinson himself, fame was a letdown. He recently told an interviewer about his two-year struggle with depression and career anxiety. “I went through a big time of depression,” he said. “I couldn’t go where I wanted to go, I was in the tabloids every day and I didn’t have access to the roles I really wanted. I wanted more, on every level.”

What a case study of humanity: Fame. Fortune. Career anxiety. Depression. Emptiness. Wanting more on every level.

No one is exempt from anxious feelings; but as followers of Christ, we want more of Him on every level. According to Jeremiah 17:7-8, those who trust in the Lord and place their hope in Him will be like trees planted by the waters with their roots tapping into a mighty river. They “will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

There’s no need to dwell in the twilight when we can walk in the sunshine.Those who make God their hope have enough in him to make up the want of all creature-comforts. They shall not cease from yielding fruit in holiness, and in all good works.

Those who make God their hope have enough in him to make up the want of all creature-comforts. They shall not cease from yielding fruit in holiness, and in all good works.  (Matthew Henry)

This is something I am trying to remember more and more each day.  Want more God, need less everything else – DH

The Contentment Factor

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“THANKS” is probably one of the most under-used and under-appreciated words in the English language. And, I believe, as we progress further and further into the generation and age of entitlement, “thanks” will be a word even more rarely used.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am commanded to give thanks and to publish His goodness to a world that, apart from the praises of His people, may never be made aware of their need for His presence in their lives. But true thanksgiving is a matter of perspective. I used these examples in my sermon Sunday to illustrate…

I AM THANKFUL FOR…
…the taxes I pay… because it means I’m employed.
…the clothes that fit a little too snug… because it means I have enough to eat.
…a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing… because it means I have a home.
….the spot I find at the far end of the parking lot… because it means I am capable of walking.
….my huge heating bill… because it means I am warm.
….all the complaining I hear about our government… because it means we have freedom of speech.
….the lady behind me in church who sings off key… because it means that I can hear.
….the piles of laundry and ironing… because it means my loved ones are nearby.
….the alarm that goes off early in the morning… because it means that I’m alive.
….weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day… because it means I have been productive.

We are trained to be consumers. I also believe God has blessed us with what we consume. But as we consume, He intends for us to do so with a grateful spirit and a heart of contentment rather than entitlement.

A contented heart will lead to a proper perspective. A proper perspective will lead to a more grateful spirit. A more grateful spirit will lead to a more contented life. And can’t we all use more of that?

God Doesn’t Like Replacement Refs Either!

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I must admit that I am among the many, many, many people who love to watch football.  Without football, fall would just be about raking stinking leaves and cleaning up smashed pumpkins!  While I am more partial to watching college football, I also enjoy kicking back in a Sunday afternoon between church services and cheering on my beloved Cincinnati Bengals from time to time.  And then comes Monday.  I believe there is an obscure verse in Genesis which refers to the fact that God created Monday so we could have Monday Night Football!  Don’t quote me on that one though.

So, if you are a football fan like me, your life has probably been affected somewhat (more than somewhat if you are a Packers fan) by the recent referee lockout in the NFL.  Since the refs are on strike, the NFL has employed the “talents” of “replacement refs” and it looks like the original refs won’t be returning to the field any time soon.

It doesn’t take a trained gridiron eye to notice that these replacement refs are somewhat lacking in ability and it is beginning to affect the outcomes of games, bringing the lockout discussion to a fever pitch.  We are beginning to see that when it comes to adequately calling a professional level game, you cannot settle for substitutes.  These refs are trying their best, but it is obvious they lack the expertise needed to keep up with the pace and rhythm of the NFL game.

Scripture tells us that God isn’t too happy with replacement refs either.  No, I don’t think He cares who wears the striped outfits on Sunday afternoons and Monday nights, but He is very clear that He doesn’t approve of people trying to replace Him as judge – something He is clearly the only One qualified to do.

Many are familiar with the command in Matthew, “Judge not, lest you be judged,” but many people fail to realize why we are told that.  It is because we are not qualified.  Psalm 9:8 reminds us that, “He shall judge the world in (his) righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in (his) uprightness.”  God is the only one perfect and holy enough to judge us.  We are not qualified to be a person’s judge, and when we do, we are assuming a throne or a bench that does not belong to us.  As a matter of fact, God warns us that if we pursue judging others harshly and without mercy, He will judge us in the same vane (which could sometimes go against His otherwise merciful nature).

As we can see on the football field, it is not a pretty sight when people try to judge something even though they are clearly in over their heads.  I can only imagine the sight is even uglier to God when we try to replace Him as people’s refs.  That’s what I’ll try to remember throughout this lockout.

Go Bengals!

Get Comfortable on the Hot Seat

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15)

I selected this verse as the guide and “mission statement” when preparing to teach the 11th Grade Apologetics course at Blue Grass Baptist School this past year.  This verse speaks to the vital need for believers to know what they believe, why they believe it and in whom they believe.  It promises that we will be questioned regarding our faith.  Our response may be the difference in bringing a person closer to Christ or driving him or her further away.

This past Wednesday night, I was reminded once again of the importance of being a student of God’s Word and continually preparing to give answers.  I had the opportunity to speak at our Student Worship Service, and a “Q&A Session with the Pastor” turned in to an all-out grilling of doctrinal knowledge.  These students were throwing out questions more difficult than I had to answer at my ordination inquisition.

I have to say that I was hugely impressed by the depth of these students’ desire to know and understand their God and Savior.  In some instances, I had to be honest with them and declare I would have to study further and get back to them.  After the session was over, several students asked if we could do this more often, and maybe on a “whole church level.”

The most beautiful outcome of the evening was that two students trusted Christ as their Savior, simply by listening to the questions and responses.  We saw 1 Peter 3:15 play out right before our eyes as these students were introduced to, “…the hope that was within us…”.

It is often easy to fall into the malaise of belief that we live in a culture so saturated with a familiarity to Christianity that there is a diminishing appetite for spiritual truth.  I was greatly encouraged by this group of Middle and High School students who displayed such a “voracious” appetite for answers to their questions about God’s Word, not because they were skeptical, but because they desired to know so they could be better equipped to face a world hungry to know the truth.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that we can never fall into the trap of satisfaction in our knowledge of God or His Word.  People desire to know the truth (and may not even be aware of their hunger yet), and we are the witnesses God has appointed to guide them to it.  The more we study and seek, the more prepared we are to share and the more hope we gain ourselves.

I went to that Student Service hoping to help enrich their faith, but I believe I may have come out with the greater enriching.  If you are one of those students from the other night, THANK YOU.  I pray you never lose that appetite for God.

How Can We Not Return Thanks?

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies…They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens….”

These were the words of President Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863.  Over two centuries have passed since Honest Abe put pen to paper, but the words seem to be just as timely for today’s modern world.

The practice of returning thanks and praise to Almighty God for His benevolence to us is something the Bible commands, especially of His children…

“O Give thanks unto the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever.  Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, who He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy.” (Psalm 107:1-2)

Who has more to be thankful for than the redeemed?  As His child, I have been given forgiveness and pardon from the death penalty of my sins, adopted into His royal family, been placed in a holy priesthood, and given a position as an heir of His inheritance, not to mention the eternal home in heaven being fashioned for me at this very moment by the Master Carpenter, Jesus Christ!

As I type this post from my living room, I am reminded of my physical blessings as well.  I have two beautiful, healthy, precious little girls in the room with me that God has given to me as a product of the relationship He has allowed me to share with the most amazing wife, friend, mother and pastor’s wife this planet will ever know.  All my needs for nutrition, clothing and shelter, and most of my “wants” are met.  I am currently strategizing over how to lose weight in the New Year, when a good portion of the world will spend today wondering where their next meal will come from.  I have been given the sacred commission to preach the gospel and the joy of pastoring a warm, willing, growing congregation.

God has blessed me in so many ways, how can I not return thanks and praise?  God has blessed His people in so many ways, how can we not return thanks and praise?  God has blessed our nation in so many ways, how can we not return thanks and praise?

It is my prayer that each of you have a wonderful, safe and happy Thanksgiving filled with a constant awareness of God’s great blessings and an overflowing of joy and gratitude which comes from being the object of God’s great mercy and love.