Thursday, December 29, 2005

Yes Memphis!

Being home for the holidays caused a resounding "YES" to resonate in the heart of each of the founding pastors of Grace Church! We were overwhelmed with joy and burden, desire and desperation, confirmation and reality. Thanks for all of you who are praying with us. We trust the Lord is up to more than any of us are dreaming!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Thanks be to God!

Romans 6:17-18 'Thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.' I'm grateful for the reminders of my sin and what my flesh is capable of apart from the grace of God along with what I could be apart from the righteousness of Christ. Reminders of these things evoke thankfulness to God for delivering me from my own self. He has given us, in Christ, an obedient heart, that even thought continues the struggle with self and pride, wants to please God. As Paul said 'Who will deliver this wretched body...thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 7:24-25)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Merry CHIRSTmas

Praying you will have a Christ filled CHRISTmas!
The Thomas', Smith's, & Sawyer's

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bible memorization

Most of us are troubled by the lack of Bible we can recite verbatim. Nathan Sawyer introduced me to a great memory tool written by the pastor of FBC Durham, N.C. This is perhaps the most helpful Scripture memory tool I've come across. To see for yourself click here. then click "writings," then "An approach to the extended memorization of Scripture."

"Thy Word, I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee." - Psalm 119:11

Unless it all be in vain!

Psa. 127:1 - "Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain."

This verse is not about physical structures (temples, houses or church buildings), but about people. Two verses later (v. 3), "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward." This is about people, lives, blood, kindred, eternal souls. God establishes a people for Himself. He does the labor. God is the great Builder (v. 1), Watchman (v.1), Servant (v. 2), Worker (v. 2), Laborer (v. 2), indeed the Painful Laborer (v. 2). In reality, we sleep...God works (v. 2)! This is oh so crucial for Christian life and for church planting. If we do the work, then we should get the glory. But if God does it ALL, then ALL glory is His! I Peter 4:11 declares that all of our "serving" is actually God serving us by supplying the strength to serve in a way that God is glorified!

God is the builder of every individual body (v. 3-5), and the builder of every corporate church body (Ephesians 1:23, 5:23, 30; Col. 1:24). Otherwise, it is all in vain!

The worst thing for Grace Church would be for her to be erected by man! Be the Builder Oh God! Be the Builder!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Solus Christus

‘O would to my Lord that I could cause paper and ink to speak the worth and excellency, the high and loud priases of a Bother-ransomer! The Ransomer needeth not my report; but O, that He would take it and make use of it! I should be happy if I had an errand to this world but for some few years. To spread proclamations, and outcries, and love-letters of the highness, the highness for ever more, the glory, the glory for ever more of the Roansomer whose clothes were wet and dyed in blood!

“if there were ten thousand thousand millions of worlds, and as many heavens, full of men and angels, Christ would not be pinched to supply all our wants, and to fill us all. Christ is a well of life; but who knows how deep it is to the bottom? Put the beauty of 10 thousand thousand worlds of paradises , like the Garden of Eden, in one; put all trees, all flowers, all smells, all colours, all tastes, all joys, all loveliness, all sweetness in one. O what a fair and excellent thing would that be? And yet it would be less to that fair, and dearest well-beloved Christ, than one drop of rain to the whole seas, rivers, lakes, and fountains of ten thousand earths.

Welcome, welcome Jesus, in what way soever you come, if we can but get a sight of you. And sure I am that it is better to be sick, providing that Christ come to the bedside, and draw aside the curtains and say, ‘Take courage, I am your salvation’, than to enjoy health, and never to be visited by God.”

The Life of Samuel Rutherford by Andrew Thomson

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Tricks of the Trade

Should we "trick" people to Jesus? Opinions vary. Most Christians would be uncomfortable with the word, "trick," but the methodology we employ in evangelism, outreach, and church services, says a lot about the God (or, god) in which we believe.

An essential question for any follower of Christ is, "Is Christ enough?" After a cursory reading of scripture, any believer would be constrained to affirm the Bible emphatically answers, "YES!" Click the Biblegateway link to the right of this blog and search "Christ" for yourself to see the way Scripture speaks of His exhaustive sufficiency for faith, life, and ministry. Applying this great truth to the life of the church will be key for our generation. Too many unchurched people (and many churched!)are already disenchanted with the arsenal of "next great things" we've devised.

If the Church in the modern era has lacked anything, it has NOT been a limited approach to outreach methods. Agree or disagree, the terms, "Seeker sensitive, contemporary, blended, missional, and emergent" have become house-hold words for church planters, and even for many in the pew (I mean, chair. Whatever. See what I mean?).

One thing that has NOT lacked is seminars, conferences, classes, websites, companies, and arm-chair theologians who have derived their method on "the best" way to reach people.

My concern is that the same type of energy has been virtually non-existent to cause us think about how to be more Christ-exalting, more Christ-centered, more Christ-like, more Christ-saturated, and more Christ-believing!

OK, so I'm a bit disenchanted with the "tricks." I concede, no, I gladly embrace, that Christ is the King of "incarnational ministry," and the paramount model of "cultural relevance." He is the greatest missionary ever, and the most effective! Is He still around?

Wearing sandals, a robe, and growing a beard is not the way to model Christ. Being allegiant to God with all your heart, and loving people with insurmountable passion is! As Christ works in His church, of which He is the boss (Eph. 5; entire NT), the greatest "trick" to gather "outsiders" will be unconcealable - changed lives! Coming up with ways to advertise, phrases to coin, or cool web-based thingamajigs, will not suffice for "compelling reasons" for "seekers" to check out our churches.

We need God. As He changes lives, and the office jerk becomes the office intercessor and becomes the office servant, people will take note, and perhaps they will become "seekers" too! As believers, equipped in a community of faith, and possessing a real love for Christ that spills over in commending Him Whom we cherish, we will have returned to a wonderful methodology.
Christ is enough. Mailers, preview services, church-plant launch services, radio bits, commercials, etc., may have a place. But, nothing suffices for Christ working in, and working through, a warm blooded human who is being transformed by His power!

Lord, fill us with authentic love for Your Son, and authentic love for our neighbor! Be pleased to use us to commend Him to many!


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Dynamic Church Planters International

I just arrived in sunny San Diego, CA for a week of church planter training with Dynamic Church Planters International (DCPI). You can go online at the link above and learn a little about their ministry. Pray that God will be pleased to draw me to Himself and that I would be teachable these days. I've looked forward to this training for a while because it is totally geared toward the practical side of things. At Bethlehem, we have been exposed to wonderful visions of God, solid bible teaching, and many other spiritually edifying things. Admittedly, BBC doesn't thrive on the "how to" of alot of things. Lord willing, I will be able to take helpful things away from DCPI's practical training, and flesh them out in the culture of God-centeredness in all things! May God be glorified by this training effort. May many Mid-Southerners be reached with the gospel as a result of it! Thanks for your prayers!


Friday, December 02, 2005

Grace Churchs’ Object of Faith: God

Most are familiar with the story of God calling Abraham to ‘go to a land I will show you’(Gen. 12:1) and of the promises made from God that followed (Gen. 12:1-4). We see in Romans 4 how this is fleshed out in the life of Abraham and what we, Lord willing, may glean from this as church planters.
1) (v17) In hope against hope. Abraham’s hope was not in self but in God. Our hope as church planters can not be in our self.
2) (v17) He believed. Abraham believed in the God who ‘gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist’ (v17). As church planters we must believe God without conditions and without strings attached. We must believe in God!
3) (v19) Without becoming weak in faith. The reality that He and Sarah were beyond the age of child-bearing did not cause his faith to plummet, because, and only because his faith was rooted in God’s promise. Faith is weakened when it rests in the ability of man. May we as church-planters take heed to Amy Carmichael’s words ‘For every look you take to self, take ten looks to Christ’. Father help us, by your grace, to not trust and depend on each others gifts and abilities; but may our faith rest solely on You.
4) (v20) He did not waver in unbelief. Unbelief is a sin against an omniscient God and therefore paralyzes the Christian. We as church-planters must be willing, along with Job ‘to accept both good and adversity from the Lord’( Job 2:10) and realize that each circumstance and every situation is a tool in the hand of the Lord to make much of His Name and to cause His children to depend more and more on him. Father, help us, by your grace, to fight the fight of unbelief! (James 1:5-8)
5) Results: (v20) He grew in faith…giving glory to God
Hopefully what can be learned from this is that God births faith in us (Eph. 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29; Rom. 12:3) and then so orchestrates every aspect and detail of our life by His kind providence to this end; that he would receive the glory, and in so doing it also strengthens our faith, not in our own ability, but in Him.

Please pray for our team and this church that our hope will have its root in God, along with an unshakable belief in God, and an unwavering, strengthening faith in God, resulting in the glory of God and our joy in God.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are ALL things, to Him be the glory, now and forever (Rom. 11:36),

Jordan, Bryan, and Nathan

The Power of God

"The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16). So, just how powerful is the gospel? Well consider the limitless power of God that comes to bear in the gospel? Omnipotent! All-Powerful! Almighty! Indefatigable! The gospel exerts it's power in causing resurrection to take place in the spiritually dead!

Therefore when God declares that the gospel is the "power of God unto salvation," we take courage knowing that all of the strongest forces in creation, including all forces of spiritual darkness, all man-made inventions of power, all power of influence, all power of thought, all capability of technology, all forces of nature, and all other power's combined do not, can not, and will not stand in comparison to the unlimited, exhaustive, and unfathomably infinite power of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Pray for God to unleash His power, through His gospel, through His church, through His people, to the end that many are powerfully changed by Him!

In Christ,
Jordan, Nathan, Bryan