I was recently at a meeting with other pastors from all across the United States. The thing we have in common is that we lead churches that are in some exciting days. We have about 30 who gather together to share experiences and stories of how God is at work. One of the thoughts that is prevalent is that we are blessed beyond measure. There is no person amongst us that thinks the Lord is doing a great work because of us. We all realize that in spite of us the church is continuing to move forward.
There were a couple of pastors who shared some deep hurts when it came to ministry. It was good to see how the others responded by first going to God in prayer. For that moment we were solely there to see the Lord renew a brother in Christ. God is so good to provide a safe place to share the burdens that weigh us down from time to time.
In John 16:33, Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I take refuge in the fact that our God can give us peace in the midst of troubles. He didn’t say that there might be trouble. He said that there will be trouble. No matter what you are going through, God provides peace. It isn’t the kind of peace that shows up after the trouble is all over. It is a peace that sustains us in the midst of the trouble.
Take heart! The Overcomer will give us the same victory He has. So no matter what you are going through, give it back to Jesus. He will help you to overcome this world.
Faith Promise weekend is just a week away. On Saturday, May 5 at 5:30pm we will come together for a meal and hear an awesome testimony about how the Lord brought a young man through many heart aches and pains. His name is Sam Tamayo and he is from the Philippines. I know that you will be encouraged as you see the impact our church is having all over the world. We will also get a glimpse of the work our team did in Tennessee for the Work and Witness project. Lots of good things happening. Come and participate in what God is doing!
Joy in Jesus!
Two churches from different denominations were located a couple of blocks from each other and they decided to combine efforts in order to have more resources for ministry and be more effective. So they decided to merge and become one united body rather than two struggling congregations. It was a good idea on paper but they couldn’t agree on many things because they were both set in their ways. The problem? They couldn’t agree on how they would recite the Lord’s Prayer of all things. One group wanted “forgive us our trespasses” while the other demanded “forgive us our debts.” So the news paper reported that one church went back to its trespasses while the other returned to its debts!
It’s one thing to stand firm in major issues clearly set forth in Scripture. It’s another thing to pick fights over jobs and titles. People can be so petty over things that really don’t amount to a hill of beans in the final analysis. Many times we go down paths that we think heaven is holding its breath over. I saw a phrase the other day that said, “We negotiate eyeball to eyeball, and each side is unwilling to blink.”
There is a passage that speaks to the fact that people are going to approach ministry different than you. It is not a matter of doing it right or wrong, it is a matter of different styles. It is found in the book of Mark. I believe there are many churches that can become territorial and think they are the only ones that can do it right. If they are doing it in Jesus’ name, it has Biblical depth, and people are being transformed into Christlikeness, then it is good.
38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” 39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. Mark 9:38-41
I want to encourage you to give a cup of cold water to those who need it today. When you see another person doing it in Jesus’ name, then celebrate that there is another one serving others for the cause of Christ. It may not be the way that I do it but that is not up to me. I need to be faithful in the way that God has called me to. When you look at life through that lens, it will be more fun to travel alongside of you.
Please remember the Twice Blessed Sale this week as you are out and about. This can possibly be an opportunity to introduce someone to the love of Jesus that will make all the difference in their broken world.
May you serve the Lord with passion today as you follow Jesus with all your heart. I am looking forward to a great day on Sunday as we worship the King of kings and Lord of lords. Remember to also come prepared to vote for next year’s leadership in between services.
Joy in Jesus!
“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:11-12
Today is a sad day in Barrington, Illinois and many churches across the world. Founding pastor, Bill Hybels, stepped down as pastor from Willow Creek Church last night. He was planning to retire in October of this year but due to accusations of sexual misconduct, he stepped down early to take the distraction off of him and put it where the church needs to focus. He didn’t admit to any wrongdoing, he and his wife, after much prayer, decided it would be best for all involved that he step out of the way of future ministry opportunities for the church and the Willow Creek Association where 11,000 churches are a member.
I have followed Bill’s ministry for over 30 years and have only been amazed at what God was accomplishing through his selfless ministry. He was the founding pastor and led the church for 42 years. The Elder Board did investigations into all the allegations and found no fault and wanted to continue with Bill as the pastor. The only thing that Pastor Bill regretted was the way he reacted to the allegations. This has been a very high profile story and the media has kept it alive for years.
I am not going to weigh in on what I think happened or all the details, I just want to speak on how they are handling it. I admire Bill for his candor and how the church has openly dealt with this volatile situation. They have not hidden anything from their congregation or the world for that matter. It is all on their website and they have had several church meetings that are available to re-watch and dissect as much as you want. No stone was unturned in their process. Bill could have chosen to stay in the position that he was in and finish out to his planned retirement, the board would have supported that, but he didn’t. Through much prayer and deliberation, he chose to step down so the church can move on to an agenda of saving souls for Christ. He chose to take the high road and let God be God. I don’t know if we will ever know all the details of the accusations, we do know that God will still be God and He will grow his church.
God has ordained three institutions: The government, the family, and the church. The enemy is going to attack all three. The government has been infiltrated with a political flavor that keeps biting everyone in its path. Our government leaders are not able to accomplish many things and it seems like God is being pushed out of congress. The family has been assaulted through divorce, affairs, and bitterness resulting in gender confusion, other lifestyles, cohabitation, and a lack of trust in the marriage institution. The church continues to be assaulted in many different ways. I still go on record in saying that the church is still the hope of the world. When the body of Jesus is bathed in prayer, led with integrity, and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, God’s name is glorified. This church (Findlay First Naz) will always be led with that in mind.
My heart grieves for the Willow Creek Church and for Bill Hybels. But my God is still on the throne. Through difficult times the church has always grown closer to God and more people come to faith. I pray that people will not go to social media but they will turn to God in prayer. When we attend the Global Leadership Summit this August led by the Willow Creek Association, it will be different without Bill Hybels giving direction. I have always looked forward to seeing him lead in good and difficult times. But I will walk in confidence knowing that God will continue to be the Lord of the Summit and of all who attend.
Joy in Jesus!
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. - Ephesians 6:10-18
We have been looking at the armor of God that is available to every Christian. It is to be put on each and every day in order to defend ourselves from spiritual attacks. We are also to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. It is not a suggestion but a way of life. We are called to pray without ceasing. Just like a soldier on the battle line has to keep in constant communication with his commanding officer, so we must be connected to the Lord. You can be fully equipped with all the armor, but if you are not connected to your headquarters then it could lead to isolation which leads to being vulnerable for a major attack.
Praying in the Spirit is not praying in tongues. It means that the Spirit helps us communicate with the Father, interceding for us. The Spirit knows what to pray and we are to be in the Spirit. It is the same as Jesus telling the woman at the well to worship God in Spirit and truth. It’s not about repeating the same thing over and over again, but praying from the depths of your soul. The Holy Spirit wants to guide us in all truth. He empowers us to be victors in Christ. As we rely on Him daily, we become transformed into the image of Christ.
Another part of praying is listening. We rest in the presence of the Almighty and we listen. God speaks and we respond. He will lead us to accomplish His holy purposes that can bring complete freedom and confidence. On Sunday, we had a time of response at the end of the service. There were several people who came down to empty themselves of something that was standing in the way of freedom in Christ. Whether it was an oppressive situation, thought, or major foothold, people came down and laid it on the empty tomb. This morning we took each one of the sticky notes and prayed for each one of them. We are so blessed that God has raised up prayer warriors to pray for our needs every Wednesday morning.
Satan is going to do all he can to keep you from wearing the armor of God and praying by getting you so busy that you will not even try. Don’t fall for his lies. Saturate in the word of God and always be alert. Many are just one prayer away from shedding the weight of the world.
This Sunday we will be baptizing several people. If you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and have not been baptized, then consider coming on Wednesday night at 6:30pm, across from the offices, and learn more about what Believer’s Baptism is and how God called us all to step through the waters of Baptism. You will be glad you came. It is always good to hear stories of how God is at work. May God continue to work on your heart as you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Joy in Jesus!
Rev. Mike McClurg
Senior Pastor, Findlay First Church of the Nazarene