Tuesday, March 7, 2017

“The Door”


The Door” – John 10:1-21 by Pastor Tim Dodson
at JF Believers Church in Menomonie Wisconsin on Sunday, March 5th, 2017

John 10:1-21  "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2  "But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3  "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4  "And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5  "Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." 6  Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. 7  Then Jesus said to them again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8  "All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9  "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10  "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. 11  "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12  "But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13  "The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14  "I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15  "As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16  "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. 17  "Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18  "No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father." 19  Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. 20  And many of them said, "He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?" 21  Others said, "These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"

 Again, as we begin this section of scripture, let us remember that the chapter breaks were added by man…not by divine inspiration. There was no ‘commercial break’ between chapters 8 and 9, nor between 9 and 10. Jesus is continuing with the conversation that had begun at the end of chapter 9 while still in the presence of the man who had been healed of a lifetime of blindness, perhaps even a continuance of the dialogue that was happening back in Chapter 8. But for sure, these Pharisees were being “schooled” by Christ and as usual, His correction wasn’t received well! Apparently, what Jesus was to say was not contingent upon ‘how the message was received.’ I take notice of that fact.

 These guys had sat through years of church services and had done a lot of stuff for God, so naturally…in their flesh, they felt they were in good standing with God. No one would argue that these boys had religion ‘down pat.’ They looked good! They wore their piety and orthodoxy on their shirt sleeve, and walked amongst the ‘mere mortals’ as if they were cut from a different bolt of cloth. So I am sure it was hard for these men to hear this stuff. It was hard for them to entertain that perhaps they were blindly on the wrong road: that God was not pleased with them. After all, they had exerted a great deal of labor and effort on behalf of their status! They were committed to their cause and would rabidly defend their beliefs: just as many folks today who are equally lost and uniformly blind. Jesus told them such and He did so bluntly without reservation at the end of chapter 9.

I would suspect that few if any of these men ever responded to what He was saying. I don’t know that for sure, but I make that conjecture based upon my own personal experience with talking to Pharisees. Seldom is such an individual ‘waved off’ from that overt and imminent danger. It seems that to entertain the incredulous idea that they are not right with God…well, that is just too much to wrap their minds around. Too much time had passed, too much water under the bridge. They were ‘old wineskins’ (Luke 5). They were gone: lost in the fantasy of religious elitism and special holy standing. Scriptures records very few of these folks who ever pulled up…Nicodemus and Saul (who became the apostle Paul) are a couple.

These fella’s had made up their minds about God: how He works and what it took to be part of the club. And that worked pretty good until Jesus came along. And now, to make matter worse, there was this guy who was blind and at the hands of Jesus could now see. This man wasn’t ‘in the club!’ He didn’t have the breeding or social status to be noticed by God! This man was throwing a wrench into everything they believed in! They had to act or their house of cards would crumble and fall. There is something about a so-changed individual…living and breathing and seeing right in front of you that takes the wind out of your sails!

Jesus spoke to these men in simplistic terms. It seemed He went out of His way to be clear and not to speak ‘over the heads’ of those who were listening. The picture that He drew for them was unambiguous. His point was that many folks had come onto the scene over the years who claimed to be sent by God, but the fruit of their lives and ministries said otherwise. Their actions were designed to ultimately gain prominence, position and power over people, and they sought labels and titles that exerted that authority, one that was never simply “servant.”  Philippians 2:7 tells us that Jesus “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant…”

The ‘sheepfold’ in the story is that special place of care in the life of the believer. The realm of safety and blessing that a true believer…a true lamb of God, lives out his or her life in Christ. Throughout the ages there have been innumerable attempts to find one’s way into that “sweet spot” in some other way than actually being a sheep. It is the created nature of man to desire that realm and that circumstance, but our flesh battles the surrender that is required. So man has busied themselves trying to find another way in…another way to gain that fortune without the personal cost expenditure. They all have been the inventions of men…claiming all the benefits and qualities of the real thing, but are still just cheap imports…knock-offs of the name brand. They can include church attendance, a plethora of good works, or a religious morality. They can go so far as to offer other ‘doors’…exalted religious leaders, bodily exercises or diet, special clothing and vaulted acts. Read this book, or bow this many times, or attend this seminar or that class: all ultimately designed to gain entrance into that special sheepfold of divine favor. And yet still we find that “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few that find it.” (Matthew 7:14)

Jesus said that His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. They know His voice, because they are His sheep. Those that offer another door as well as those who follow them in an attempt to gain access to the sheep fold are, according to Christ, thieves and robbers. Certainly over the years there are been many of these who have come here amongst us with the desire to glean the fortuity and benefits of being in this community but held back their love and commitment…no willingness to actually surrender their life to Christ or to others and thus be an actual sheep. They of course never last.

They are soon enamored by some other ‘shiny object’ and drift away, or they attempt to grab all they can and then move on to the next place once they cannot go any further or gain any other position or possession. But the end is always the same…they leave us “proving they were never part of us.” (1 Jn 2:19) Not because WE shut the door, but because the gatekeeper does. Men can be fooled, but God the gatekeeper never is. Titus 3:5 says that “he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus, you see, has a unique attribute and practice that defines Him as the ‘great shepherd’, and that is that He doesn’t push, He leads.  He sacrificed first, He surrendered His life first. He humbled Himself, gave of Himself, and loved God firstly in all things. And the sheep…the real sheep, follow Him in all matters. We hear His voice and we follow. The fact is that many folks can sit week after week in church and just don’t get it. They struggle to keep up with the sheep and blend into the fold, but they are always disoriented and half lost because they aren’t following the shepherd, they are following the other sheep! They can’t actually follow the Shepherd because they don’t hear His voice because they don’t know it. They don’t recognize His voice over the plethora of other voices in this world calling and even shouting directions: a bedlam of worldly noise and chaos.

 In that day, there were often several flocks in the same area, at the same time. But the sheep knew the voice of their shepherd and naturally moved out of the masses and followed the one shepherd who was theirs. Jesus is saying that, both then and today, His sheep do the same. Do you grasp this picture? For this is one of those defining scenarios for all of us that believe ourselves to be His. Do you hear His voice? Do you follow Him?

 Jesus goes on in the story to define Himself not only as a prophet and teacher…not just the embodiment of the shepherd-leader, but as divine, as the actual door into that sheepfold. Again, the analogy plays out for us. Because many are attempting to follow, but are quite unwilling to go through the door to get there. For it is not merely a matter of doing and following but the passing through the one and only door. It is not a matter of looking the part and mingling with the other sheep. Adhering to the ‘herd’ instinct will not get you into that sheepfold. Because even if you think you are a sheep, verse 14 says that HE knows His sheep. And they come through that “narrow door” one at a time.

 Others will stand in their doors and call. But Matthew 23:4-7 says those shepherds “…crush people with impossible religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ’Rabbi.’” Our shepherd loves the sheep and gives His life for them. He is not a hireling. He’s in for duration. Verse 9 says that we must enter through Him. Not by His words alone, or by religious ‘group-think.’ This seemingly small and often overlooked element in our faith, can cost us eternity. The scriptures are clear: You must be born again.

 That language may seem normal to us, but to a very large segment of the greater “church” (and I use that term loosely and broadly) it can cause brisling and knee jerks. Using that term…the term that Jesus Himself used, can garner you a label of ‘cult’ and ‘extreme.’ Language like “you aren’t one of those born again Christians, are you?” Why? Is there any other kind? Certainly Satan hates that term. He doesn’t mind it too much if you hang out with sheep and do sheep stuff, but to use that one singular door…well, that is where he attempts to ‘draw the line.’

 Again herein, we read of both the absolute aspect of entrance by and through Jesus, while still pointing out the area of human responsibility. I have to enter through that door. Jesus will not make me, but He will lead me to that place. But I have to move from the realm of the lost arena and enter though Him into the sheepfold. We have to enter via Christ alone and then follow Him. THAT is the definition of a Christ sheep. Acts 4:12 says “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name (and no other door) under heaven by which we must be saved.’’

False shepherds will use whatever is necessary to get you to follow them. They will lie, cheat, steal, spread gossip and rumor, and lull you into apathy. They will chip away slowly over long periods to draw you into places and positions that will over time steal your heart and passions. They will attempt to get you to compromise and pridefully ‘run with scissors.’ They will get you to just listen to them “a little bit” and put you places and in situations that are not only dangerous to you…even if you don’t readily see it, but situations that tell others by our actions that such practices are perfectly fine and safe.

 And those voices will never stop calling you for your entire lifetime. You will never be safe away from the close protection of the true shepherd. Because the fact is, “they ARE out to get you!”  They will never wear a sign that says “false shepherd.” They are often smooth and inviting and offer great ‘fields of green lush grass’ to entice you to just move away from the shepherd a little bit. Many are not overtly nefarious, but misguided and wrongly motivated. Often it is motivated by having lots of people in the pews and a big church building! And with that, we have made full circle back to the Pharisees! They are in it all for self-gratification and because they are therefore just ‘hirelings,’ they will move on when they fail to get what they want.

 The ‘good shepherd’ is one because He “lays down His life for His sheep.” It’s not about HIM but about the “Doorkeeper.” It’s about the Father. And that same scenario plays into the description of any “under-shepherd,” and it would greatly behoove me to remember that fact! Such is a daunting call.

 Jesus said that He would “lay down His life” for HIS sheep. They would not take it, He would give it. We can often lose track of that fact in the language of “they crucified Jesus.” Oh yes…they did the actual work, but Jesus died on purpose so His sheep might live. Jesus could have “slipped away” once again from the garden that night if He had wanted to. He did so many times before when His earthly work and message was not yet complete. In Matthew 26 Jesus spoke at His arrest in the garden saying to Peter “…do you think that I cannot appeal to the Father, and He will at once send me more than 12 legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

So let’s get this straight: Jesus…the door through which we all must pass in order to ever know salvation, to ever know the peace, safety, and blessing of His sheepfold, died for us His sheep. Passing through ‘that door’ therefore calls us to embrace the same. Not to hear it, or to believe it in our heads. But to actually pass through that door…allowing Him to be the “way” into that place of redemption and care. Romans 6:3-4 says “…have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.”

Mark 8:35For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.” Colossians 3:3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

This is the door that we all must pass in order to be called one of His sheep and to find life in the His sheepfold.

Verse 9 : “If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved,
 and will go in and out and find pasture.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

YOU ARE THAT MAN!


 


David was King. It was his job, you know? Scripture evens records such in chapter 8 of this book, verse 15... "So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered judgment and justice to all his people." David was a leader of men...a teacher of teachers, a guide to the blind... a light to those who are in darkness. (Rom 2:19) But while David felt he could see just fine in order to direct others, what He couldn't see was himself! No doubt over the years of judging Israel...just as this story expressed, David passionately executed judgment upon the people around him...condemning sin...and correcting wrongs...and directing lives.

I have no doubt that being a "man after the heart of God" that David did a fair amount of scripture quoting over the years. He would have been...as he was in this chapter, quick to tell people what was wrong in their lives, and what God wanted from them, and what eternal error it was to ignore God's correction and negate God's sovereign power over them. In the story that Nathan presented, David responded by pointing out the lack of pity, the wicked heart behind such a sin, and the penalty that this 'man' deserved for such an act. We too are quick to point out such to others. Whether it be in our family devotions, in a home study somewhere, in the jail correctional ministry, or even at our workplaces...we are quick to teach righteousness when the light of introspection is not on us! We want to believe we 'are the man,' without realizing that "we are that man!”
It seems that all of us are or have been self-deceivers at some point in our lives. We are prone to it, capable of it, and never more likely to be in its grip than in those moments when we are sure we are not. Self-deception occurs when people who are committed to certain values act against those values while convincing themselves that what they are doing does not in fact violate those values. The disciple Peter, for example, told himself (and others) that he was strong and would never desert his master. He desired to be a person faithful unto death. Yet he was not that person. He valued something else more: his own skin. Until his moment of truth, until he faced the fact that not only could he not live up to his ideal of faithfulness but that he did not want to, he was self-deceived. Self-deception is thus like a narrative that finally fails to do justice to the facts. (Lloyd H. Steffen, associate professor of philosophy and religion and chaplain at Northland college in Ashland, Wisconsin)

How does all this occur? How can we be so blind? No doubt it stems from the stance that we believe we don't have to answer to the same spiritual and moral mandates that others do...that we are somehow 'special' or have 'special reasons' for our actions. Or we don't think we are fudging on such and that we aren't actually failing in that which we have so historically and quickly pronounced in the past as "upright and godly." Sometimes it is a highbred of both excuses. But ironically, everyone else sees us clearly, even when we don't...and therein lies the greatest problem in all of this.

The most disturbing aspects of the past 2 decades of ministry for me have not been the evil and narcissism of the world at large. Because it is clear that they are lost and they are blind. No surprises there! In fact, no falsehoods either. For those folks are so often openly and bravely lost sinners! No, the most troubling aspect is how we have developed as the greater church...as the body of Christ on earth. How we can bring such overt shame and recourse against the church, by being hypocrites and liars, and even can go beyond such by sanctioning ourselves and justifying our sin?
The fact is, many of us are so quick to teach others, and then go out and do the very thing we condemn them for! Paul saw such behavior even in his day. He spoke in Romans 2 about those who 'knew God's will'...and approved of "the things that are excellent," because they were knowledgeable. They had been well instructed in the things of God. Because of such a background both then and now, they were and are those who were "confident that they themselves were guides to the blind, and lights to those who are in darkness." That they are "instructors of the foolish,...teachers of babes."

But Paul recognized that there was something else here...something so damnable and damaging to the souls of men and to the street cred of the kingdom of God.  He asked these men..."you who teach others, do you not teach yourself?" "You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?" "You who say, "Do not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?" "You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?" "You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?" And he went on to point out why he was asking all of this, saying because of their hypocrisy "the name of God is blasphemed ...because of you."
Surely the damage done by someone who stood for a certain lifestyle and preached a certain living, that went out and decided that he or she was 'special' or had a special dispensation to sin, will echo for years in the permissions the unsaved will give themselves, and the ridicule they will heap on a false church and a lying church, and yes, even the church that did not participate in such. Sadly, we will all be lumped together! Why would they want such a ruse as a faith that looks like that? They don't, and the 'blood is on our hands' …those who practice such and yet refuse to see that "we are that man."

The phrase "it is a sad thing to see" hardly does justice on this account. It pains me to such a degree because I am beyond embarrassed and I factually find myself ashamed. How can I apologize for this to those I seek to minister too? How do I explain the bible studies these folks taught and therein called for submission to authority, hearing the council of others, humility in the service of God, honesty amongst our brothers, not to mention the importance of thankfulness, loving each other, loyalty and commitment to their word, only to have that teacher publically break them all out of his idolatry and lust? I'm not suggesting that we that lead will ever find ourselves in the realm of sinless-ness! No...sadly we are often the best examples of how to screw things up. But we are God's examples... men "after the heart of God", only when we can admit our sin and repent of such. When we justify and dig in, we are the examples of the most sinful of men. We are therefore not Apostle Peters, but rather we are in fact Judas'.
1Samuel 15:23 says clearly that "...rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king."

When we follow Saul's footsteps, God will reject us also from being what He called us to be! We will not be the exception. No, you do not have a 'really good reason', and no, God is not calling you to do this. If He had, He would be a liar and a deceiver. And when we portray Him as thus, we stand in the gravest of places...we like David have ‘...despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight...." (12:9)
Are you "that man?"

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Acts 29 East to West Conference Hightlights!


Here is some highlights of some of the staff's attendance at a Leadership/Pastors Conference in Prague last month! It was great and we have brought home so much info that we will be applying to OUR fellowship here at JFB!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"Continuing Education..."


"...we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. Then they said amongst the nations, 'the Lord has done great things for them.' The Lord has done great things for us and we are glad..." Psalms 126: 1b-3

Thanks to all who accompanied Sharon and I to Amsterdam and Prague for the 2015 East to West Conference! 250 people from 18 nations! We learned so much which we pray we now can bring home and apply to the context of our own fellowship community...

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

East to West Acts 29 Conference in Prague


Greetings everyone! A bunch of us from the JFB staff are in Prague, Czech Republic for the Acts 29 Conference here. We are all being blessed and learning and engaging in ways that we have not experienced for a very long time. We have been hearing from a couple of the 'stars' of this movement, but also from some of the young pastors and missionaries that are just beginning of or in the midst of the early battle of church planting and development. How refreshing! That methodology is not something we often see in the US at conferences there. The people are from 18 different countries and therefore our conversations have been rich and informative as we learn what God is doing in cultures and societies around the world. Thank you for your support and your prayers. Everyone is healthy and after a week together I genuinely still like everyone traveling with me! Good weather, good coffee, awesome architecture, and wonderful educational conversations. Who could ask for more? More to come...

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

COVENANT MEMBERSHIP


The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.” - Cyprian, "Treatise on the Unity of the Church


 When I first began to pastor, I was in many ways an idealist when it came to people and the church. I naively believed that a church could be built naturally with the right people that would love each other, support each other, participate and grow in discipleship, and they would build that church through fierce loyalty to each other and toward God Himself. I thought such a journey would be very organic and natural, and I shunned the bureaucracy that I grew up under, including that of church membership. I thought of such as unnecessary and frankly, I believed that the premise had little or no biblical support. I believed rather it was a manmade device invented for control and status.

So when I began to broach this subject of "Covenant Membership" I had to seriously seek the Lord and scripture, and I did so rather skeptically. Over time however, I had to come to the conclusion that church membership was not simply a throwback to dogma and denominationalism, but rather a testimony of both a church body as well as the individuals within it that make it up. In truth, it is also a often necessary dynamic, especially when a church reaches a certain size and a certain missional reach insomuch that there needs to be the ability to plan and organize if we truly want to viable in the kingdom battle and not waste time and resources.


So in brief today, why are we pursuing the practice of Covenant Membership?


 If you have been in any of the three classes that take place every week at JFB,  you no doubt over the last year have received a far more in depth discussion on this issue, but for our purposes today, I will attempt to be succinct and brief. Firstly, I must say that Jesus loves the church.  Not just this church, but the church as a whole...the church as a premise, a practice, a vehicle from which to launch the battle and a home for which to nurture the troops. Paul strongly teaches that living out the faithful Christian life is virtually impossible outside of a local church.


But the church today is undeniably in crisis. From the outside and from within. The onslaught from the outside is to be expected and warrants little comment as we all know it comes today, has come for hundreds of years and will only increase until the coming again of the Messiah. But the cancer from within has caught the loving local church by surprise because many that call themselves Christian today...even "faithful evangelical," appear through many colors and stripes. The title has lost its punch, its credibility, it’s criteria and now even it’s very meaning.


Thus, it is even more critical today to ask questions, seeking clarity, and calling for transparency and testimony...both verbal and physical, of the nature of one's beliefs and level of commitment. Jesus spoke of "building His church" in Matthew 16:18, and spoke of the churches power and duty of church discipline (Mathew 18:17)over those who call themselves Christian and righteously and correctly seek to be participate in a corporate local body of believers. Paul speaks in great length on the issue of the church: what it should be, how it should act, what it should do, and how it is to operate.


So many folks, whether they have sat down and concretely considered the matter, still see the church as here to give to them. To ‘do for them’, to ‘accommodate them’.  But the church is clearly and scripturally  not that at all, but a place for individual gifts to come together in unity to be a “body” in which to greater serve both the lost world and each other. 


Thus at its core…at its simplest dynamic, the question comes down to this: can we count on you? It’s not a difficult question. Even Jesus asked it. When things got hard after a lengthy period of ministry together , and the message became difficult to swallow, John 6:66 says that “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”

 

Many of those who began failed to finish. They were not all in. They were not committed for the long haul. Jesus at that point (verse 67) said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" As the years of ministry progress, it becomes very important…critical even, to know who is truly with us and who is just visiting, enquiring, searching, or even those who are shopping or even those looking to be appeased and accommodated.


There will always be those who are here only until things get difficult, or things get personal, and then they are out of here.  Unless that premise is considered and one decides before hand how he or she will respond to such, you will likely not survive it. This document...this agreement,  is an effort to provide and even cause such a personal conversation to occur. Some of those were here last year at this time, and are no longer here this year. The same will be the case next year and year after.


You know…for I have addressed it previously, that there has at times been whining and complaining in the past as to this fellowships activity schedule, so we went out of our way to stress the voluntary nature of these activities. Then there were the complaints that such events even existed because some felt bad or WOULD feel bad if they did not attend those optional events, because people might think they aren’t good Christians! But if you are just participating in church activities for that reason, wouldn’t that by very definition make you a “bad Christian?”  Because you are living a lie… and living in legalism not it grace and love!


Yet there are many here who want to 'go on.' You see, church membership is not asking MORE of you, but merely asking you where you stand and whether we can count on you to continue. No one wants to go to battle only to look around and not find any of his fellow fighting buddies! We’re not signing in blood or requiring a deposit. We are simply asking you…as Jesus did his, “do you want to leave also? Are you with me?”  And for some, the answer rings down through the ages… as Peter said “where would we go? The answers of life are here.” So covenant membership is for them. I know they are with me, and they know I am with them.


Of course such runs against our current culture. Nobody wants to promise anything these days. We are a deeply self centered society, we loath the idea of placing ourselves in any future situation where I might have to sacrifice myself and my wants, pleasures, and desires, for someone else. But you see, that is the very essence of the church…the innate core of body life. And that’s why some struggle and have always struggled to be a part of one. Because they do not love as Jesus loved…that unilateral, eternal and faithful love that is not merely professed but actually lived out in physical form. 


Another aspect is the issue of accountability. No one likes to be corrected! But again, such is Jesus Style. I don’t know that anyone has been so deeply dealt with around here that we said “get behind me Satan” as Jesus said to Peter! But may you remember that that relationship runs both ways…and we as leadership stand responsible and accountable to you also, and expect correction if we move away from scripture or the Spirit walk.


But it really comes down to the question “is all of this here that important to you?” Is it “worth it?” If the answer is yes, then Covenant membership is for you. If it is not, then again, such is not for you. For those who do not seek Covenant Membership, you are and will always be welcome here in this church! But we are all given a greater clarity as to where you stand, and that can only be a good thing, right? Christ and the things of Christ must always be presented with the greatest honesty and clarity and transparency possible.


You are not therefore a “B” list individual if you are not a covenant member. But , and I repeat myself herein, many of the people here at JFB do not want us to slide into the monument and memorial phase of "church." So many churches have done so across the country. We want to go on. We are not done yet. We want to finish well. And we cannot operate and schedule and move according to ‘bottom’ of the commitment deck. We will and we must always do so 'from the top.'  For it is and always will be our  job here to teach, disciple, mature and love you into the kingdom and then into eternity. The question we are asking is "are you with us?"

Thursday, August 20, 2015


We have as a church often addressed how God wants us to care for "stuff" but He wants us to also care for each other. When it comes to serving God and serving church community and each other, I can direct and coordinate and teach in a "how to" manner, but I cannot give you a love and passion for Christ or your fellow man. Some of you will never bridge that great divide, and will live for self and self pleasure your whole life and whose verbal epitaph will be merely "depart from me I never knew you." There must be a supernatural change of true redemption and a real grasp of the gospel, the cross, and what God did for you. If you do not spiritual clutch those ideals, you will never love Jesus enough to move you.

There must be a real understanding of these things...a real inward and outward embrace of both Christ and the community of believers that He has assigned you to. There must be a love and compassion that is generated not from duty, but wholly from a love generated by inward spiritual transformation and a very real handle on just what he saved you to and what He save you from. Sometimes it seems the ones who should have the most to be thankful for are the slowest to live like it.

Our compassion...our 'love for others' has to be more than a feeling...we know that! It requires our talents, our time, our minds. It requires sacrifice and there is simply no way around that concept. We can write a check, but it is meaningless if we aren't willing to get behind it with some sweat and blood! Sadly, because we tend to view compassion through the lens of emotion alone, we can often tend to do more harm than good. We can inadvertently lead people off the cliff while compassionately directing them away from the danger of oncoming traffic. What difference do we make then when they are still just as dead?

Through the years I have known many folks who fancy themselves as 'evangelists-at-large' but still struggle intensely with personal demons. Those of financial abuses, marital strife, bondage issues like pornography, issues of pride and rebellion against all authority, unwillingness to take their place in the body of Christ within a community and they complain about it when they do. Yet through all of this, these same folks can be the first to want to be the leader of men...to direct others to Christ, a Christ that apparently they do not effectively know personally themselves! This is evident by their lives! So where will these folks lead these potential converts? To be just like them? Jesus speaks of this in Matthew  23:15..."Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!" How we love to be "the man" but are so quick to dismiss personal servant hood, humility, participation and submission to others.

This is not said to discourage personal evangelism, nor to paint a picture of elitism on behalf of those in active ministry. However, denial of scriptural basics like humility, community involvement, transparency, and accountability cannot be dismissed on the way to the mission field! Body and lifestyle must follow our professed love, compassion, repentance and salvation!

We can just as fast resign from the battle because we want to whine about our shortcomings and failures. "I'm such a loser!...I am such a screw-up!...I can't serve God this way..." Oh..you mean like the apostles were, and most every other great servant of God in scripture was? Man, some of us need to quit whining, stop being a spiritual baby and repent and fall in love with Jesus! God can work with you, but the prideful Pharisee He will not.

Our hands must work in harmony with our minds and hearts. We must move beyond just "feeling for" the lost and needing, and begin to actually identify with them. But the cost for that is much higher, for there is no insulation nor 'personal space' allotted for that kind of ministry. It's up close, costly, and messy! It must eventually take the form of physical flesh and blood involvement. Sooner or later...no matter how much air power we send in and missiles we launch from afar, we will have to send in ground troops. There has to be 'boots on the ground.'

If we are going to "identify" with the lost, it means we will have to feel the same pain they feel. It will mean oft loneliness, discouragement, humility, and despair. It means we will have to suffer with them. And the fact remains again, that many of us are so very unwilling to go that far. We can do it under constraint of appearances and peer pressure from our fellow church mates but we don't really love them, relate to them, or have that level of compassion. And that problem originates in the fact that we are amiss in our relationship with Christ! We feel bad because we feel bad. We feel guilty because we do not truthfully have a heart for God and our fellow man. But instead of repenting and doing whatever has to be done to change our hearts, minds, and living, we prefer to sit and cry in our wet diapers of self -pity!

The bottom line in God's desire for our stewardship is not that He somehow needs us, or the whole "salvation-on-earth" thing isn't going to work without our help, but rather that through the process of growing in our love and commitment...even through the stumbles and failures, that we fall in love more and more with Him and the rest of His children.