Friday, February 8, 2013

Transformation Series Post #3

My beautiful wife, Jodi, on our wedding day!
 This week we're talking about our union with Christ! I'm constantly blown away by the reality of this relationship. I can kind of think in terms of a marriage relationship because I am married. When Jodi and I dated, I recognized certain strengths in her and I knew I had certain strengths I was going to bring to the marriage. For instance, when we married, we agreed I would handle keeping up with the finances. I obviously thought she was cute, had a great personality, and a thousand other things that certainly told me I was marrying up! We each brought a certain amount of strengths (assets) and weaknesses (liabilities) to the marriage.

Our union with Christ has many similarities. We bring a lot of things to the relationship. However, if we're honest, none of them are assets. We bring sin, death, struggle, and a lot of things that we think make us good people. All of these are liabilities to coming to faith in Christ. The good news is that Christ brings everything we need into our relationship. He brings forgiveness, hope, life, wisdom, power and more! We have hope and life because Jesus has given them to us, not because we had something awesome to offer.

There's one more thing I want to mention before I end this post. Marriage is more than a ceremony! Marriage is without a doubt the most crucial relationship, between two human beings, on the planet in my mind. It is not a time and place where people gather to hear two people profess their love and make a lifelong commitment to each other. The marriage is the relationship that follows the ceremony. It doesn't end with a ceremony! It really just begins at that point. So is a relationship with Christ. Many people today when asked if they're a Christian, say yes and share about how they "asked Jesus into their heart" or had some other religious experience at an earlier point in their life. However, their is no practical outworking of their faith at all. They have no love for the Lord, no desire for obedience toward Christ, and no willingness to be in community with God's people. Salvation is not a date on a calendar 25 years ago, but it works itself out in a practical daily walk with Christ now. Imagine getting married and them moving out, never calling, never spending any time with your spouse, hooking up with all kinds of other people and then telling people you were married so everything was fine. That's crazy! Please don't be persuaded that just because you prayed a prayer or raised your hand when a preacher talked that you've trusted Christ. The reality is that many have had an experience, but have no concern for Christ and think they'll be in Heaven because "they're good people." If you've been around me for any amount of time, you already know what I think about that! In the paragraph above this one I dealt with what we bring to our marriage with Christ and what he brings. Our stuff is nothing...it's all baggage! It's all liabilities and frustrations! Christ brings everything we need for a relationship with him. If you're hope is in a prayer and your own self assurance that you're a "good person" I encourage you to repent and turn in faith to Christ today! The bridegroom is waiting! Trust Jesus today!

I'm praying for you as you rest in Christ, knowing that transformation is possible through your relationship with him! Email, Facebook, text, or call if there's anyway I can help you this week.

Billy


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Transformation Series Post #2

Perspective Matters! My dad used to love to go to yard sales. He consistently said, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." I know that quote isn't original from him, but it seemed like his yard sale "philosophy". He constantly reminded me that you'd never find anything if you didn't look for it. When we'd be out looking through yards and garages, dad would pick up a lot of things, most of which I thought was junk. However, dad would occasionally see something and he'd buy it and take it home. I remember one occasion when he spent time digging through boxes of records. (I'll gladly go on record as acknowledging I know nothing about records, except what they look like and that there's more than one kind.) However, he picked up a couple and decided they had to go home with him. I'm sure this story would be a lot better if I could remember exactly what they were, but I don't remember. Use your imagination and pretend like they were the one's you're still looking for!

What if we viewed our lives in the same way Dad viewed those records. I saw them as only junk: outdated, useless, impractical, uncool, pointless, and a waste of time. Not Dad, he saw them as enjoyable, usable, worth sharing with others and worth spending the time and money on. Sure, they might need to be cleaned and they might skip sometimes, but all in all they were a treasure. Do you only see the problems, frustrations, negatives and want to give up? Or do you see your life as a treasure that God's given you? Sure it'll require some work and some time, but God's doing something big in your life!

Can you see and believe that God is at work? Do you have hope knowing that God is working to change you for his glory? Dad was willing to spend the time on the record because he knew the sound it could make. God's working in your life because he knows, by the Spirit's power, you can and ultimately will glorify Him. He's at work! Have hope!

Here's a couple of additional questions (not in your Life Group questions already) that you can ask yourself. These are taken from the "How People Change" study guide. Read Philippians 1 before answering these questions.

Based on Philippians 1:3-11, what do you think God wants you to see?
As you consider your own life in light of Philippians 1, how is this moment a step toward the destination God has in mind for you?

I'm praying for you as you meet with your Life Group this week!

Transformation Series Post #1

Welcome to the Transformation Series. I'm praying for you as we journey together through the process of Gospel-Centered life change. If you were at the Mid-Week Gathering then you've started the How People Change Study. These posts will supplement those studies and our Life Group Curriculum. I want to give you every tool possible to help you as we go along. These blogs posts will mostly be modified portions of the study guide that goes along with "How People Change." My hope is that these posts will help you as you think through the Life Group questions and begin making application to your life and others. Let's get started with the first thing I want to cover.

Tim Lane and Paul David Tripp write, "Human beings are 'meaning makers.' We are constantly searching for answers and seeking meaning and purpose for the events and activities in our lives." Isn't this true for all of us? It seems like the first questions I ask myself when I don't know what's going on or if something doesn't go the way I planned is "Why did this happen? What's the purpose behind it?" I want to know "why" as quickly as possible. If I can find an answer to the "why" then often I can figure out how to handle the situation. Lane and Tripp say, "The answers we give ourselves--the meanings we give to our thoughts and actions--are what keep us on a certain path or move us in a radically different direction."

If we don't think it has meaning, value or significance, we're quick to discard it from our lives. Many people do this with being involved in community, being a part of a local church. They think that if the pastor's not talking about an interesting enough topic or the music isn't catchy enough, then the church has no significance.   The problem for most of us is that we often look for the wrong purpose in things. If we're honest, we find ourselves being selfish. We're often trying to fix other people and situations instead of seeing that God may be using these things to change our lives.

When we're crying out for an answer about an injustice or a misunderstanding, we're declaring the need for change. We all know things aren't the way they're supposed to be and we all know something should be done differently, yet we don't usually know what to do differently. Here's where we often find ourselves in trouble. We don't recognize that God is using the very things were so frustrated about. God is using the things we want changed in an effort to bring out change in us.

Lane and Tripp correctly acknowledge "it doesn't come naturally to us to connect the ways we think, feel, and act in the midst of struggle with our ultimate destination of life in heaven with Christ. It is a work of the Spirit in our lives." On this journey together, it is my prayer that we would begin to connect that and know that transformation can and will happen in the midst of these life situations. God's grace is able and sufficient to bring about change in your life.

Together, we can pray for and encourage each other along the way. As we move through the next several weeks, prayerfully, we'll see how God is at work in our lives and we will love and trust Him more.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Real Disciples

On Sunday I spoke about the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and talked about God's plan for our church in the coming year. If you weren't there, you can take a listen here. We're the people of God on the mission of God! We're confident in the truth that Jesus has all authority! We're commanded to share the good news, making and teaching disciples, wherever it is that we're going! We're comforted to rest in the promise that our God is with us every step of the journey! Churches are talking a lot about sharing the gospel and making disciples, yet it seems as if many are wondering, how is this supposed to happen?

Thinking about making disciples leaves me pondering one thought: life change. No one can come to faith in Christ without experiencing a changed life. No one can become a follower of Christ, a learner, or disciple, without their life being changed by God. The gospel is not about attracting a crowd. Making disciples is not about getting people to attend classes. Both are grounded in life change. This is what I believe God's desire is for us to focus on this year. Since we launched in 2010, I have consistently encouraged those who attend to love people and build strong relationships for the purpose of sharing the gospel. I know and you know that if we don't have relationships with others we'll never have an avenue to share the life-changing message of Jesus Christ! I want to see God do amazing things through our church (as individuals and as a whole).

I know God desires for those who attend Encounter Life to continue to grow as disciples! As we grow in Christlikeness and have greater love and trust in the Lord, we'll desire His Kingdom, both in the here and now and the then and there. That's why the year of teaching is laid out the way it is. We want to spend most of the first part of the year talking about personal gospel-centered life change and the second half of the year we want to talk about how God desires to use his children as tools to reach and help others. I believe it's going to be a great year and God has great plans to work in our lives. I'm praying many will join us on this journey. If you're not a regular at Encounter Life, I want to invite you to worship with us at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday Morning. We meet at 1006 Oakdale Street in Manchester, TN. It's right next to Westwood Elementary School in the old Westwood Baptist Building.

The new series "Transformation" will kick off January 27. I plan to write another post explaining each part of the study and share with you other exciting things that will happen around the series. As always, let me know if you have any questions. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!