The Sermon I Wish I Could Preach

There’s a sermon that’s been boiling in my soul for a few months. It’s one of those topics that, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t completely wrap my arms around.

How do you describe God and His love for us?

It’s stronger than any love story depicted in a movie, or book, or fairy tale. It lasts longer than the Energizer Bunny, or Old Spice Deodorant (yes, that’s a compliment to Old Spice). And it’s completely personal and unique for each and every person on this planet–God created you for a specific purpose. He spent time creating you, he designed every detail down to your unique set of fingerprints.

Does that describe God’s love for us?

Not even close.

If I were going to preach a sermon about God’s love, I would start with His character. I’d have to use big words like omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. What if we really understood and believed these words?

God is everywhere at the same time. First, I should probably stop sinning when no one is watching. Then, I have to understand that God is with me through every situation–through the highest highs and the lowest lows. Through pain and through joy, God is always by my side.

God is all knowing. When my situation looks grim, when I’ve done everything right and I still can’t catch a break, God has a plan. God knows the outcome of every situation. Even when I miss out on “the opportunity of a lifetime”, God’s hands are working in the background. Sometimes, God knows what you don’t, and the opportunity you thought you deserved, you thought you had earned, wasn’t the opportunity he had planned for you. Trust in God and His will for your life.

God is all powerful. There’s no fight that God can’t win. Not politics, not war, not disease, not famine, not death, not persecution. Nothing can stop God from executing His plan and spreading His love throughout all the world!

There’s three words which describe the character of God. Next, I would eloquently string together some epic scriptures that describe God’s promises to us, His children.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” –Jeremiah 29:13

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” –Romans 8:31

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11 (Yes, I totally just separated the consecutive verses, hoping you wouldn’t notice)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” –Proverbs 3:5-6

Finally, I would close by painting (literally painting) a heartwarming picture that would knock your socks off! A picture of a wonderful, loving Father wrapping his strong and mighty arms (#SWOLE) around his beloved son. Then the son, faced with a choice, would choose to cling to his father with the rock solid faith that his father would never drop him and never let him fall into the hands of the enemy. The son would be completely satisfied with the will of his Father (wherever it may lead), knowing that the Father wants good things for his son.

The title of this sermon would be ABBA Father.

This isn’t a salvation message, it is a challenge for everyone. Can you embrace God’s love? Can you put complete faith and confidence in His will for your life? Do you believe that God designed you for a purpose and he wants good things for your life?

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May 2-4-1: Beautiful God and Grocery Store Lines

Welcome to a brand new segment of my blog. It’s called the 2-4-1, where you get two peices of advice for one low price. These two topics may be completely unrelated. One may be serious, the other funny. You may hate one and love the other–or hate both, it’s completely your choice.

The topics for April are Beautiful God and Avoiding the Turtle at the Grocery Store.

Beautiful God

My hero, Jon Acuff, recently wrote a blog post about the beauty of God. It’s one of those articles that I consumed in about 5 minutes but am still thinking about many weeks later. God’s work is beautiful, and no one told him how to do it.

I wish I could take complete credit for the projects that I complete. But the truth is that everything I create has been inspired (ok, stolen) by another person’s idea or creation. Even if my work turns out to be beautiful, I wasn’t the one who originally dreamed up the ideas and the plans.

I can bake pretty good chocolate chip cookies, but I have to follow a recipe. On the flip side, I serve the God who created beauty. When God puts on his designer’s hat, he forms and shapes things with intricacies and details that we could have never imagined, nor understand.

God didn’t have to make beautiful sunsets (they could have resembled the light switch in my house). God didn’t have to give birds a song to sing every morning. God didn’t have to commit to creating over 7 Billion different sets of fingerprints. God didn’t have to extend the details of his design into the molecular world. Likewise, God didn’t have to create expansive galaxies, so large that even our most powerful telescopes will never reach the edge of God’s creation (could you imagine reaching the edge of creation, just like you reach the edge of a map in a video game).

God didn’t HAVE to create beautiful things. Instead, God CHOSE to set the bar for beauty–and he set it really high! Let me encourage you to enjoy, and appreciate, and maybe even mimic God’s beauty. Revel in the beauty that surrounds you and know that you were created by an amazing and powerful God who loves you more than you could ever imagine!

Respond:

What do you find beautiful? What beautiful things have you created?

Avoiding the Turtle at the Grocery Store

We’ve all been there. You’ve got 3 minutes to spare, 5 lines to choose from and you park your cart in the SLOWEST line on Earth.

Have no fear, an expert is here!

Like ’em or not, here are three simple rules I’ve developed to help ease the pain of your next shopping trip. Hopefully, with these tips, you will be able to avoid the slow lines at the grocery store, thus increasing the time you have to pursue more worthwhile things; like building a successful business, ending world hunger, discovering a cure for cancer, or taking your dog for a run!

  1. Multi-Generation Cart Loads: Family reunions are a great thing, but they almost never work out at the grocery store. If you see Momma chasing a baby, kids playing jungle gym on the shopping cart, AND Grandma doing donuts in the hoverround, RUN AWAY!
  2. The Coupon Lady: Coupons aren’t the problem here. If someone lays a couple coupons on the conveyor belt, you’ve got nothing to fear. The problem occurs when you spot the lady with a COUPON CATALOG. These are the pros. They know every price, every discount, every trick. If something rings up wrong, they will stop at nothing to get it fixed. You get behind this person and you are NEVER leaving the store!
  3. The Diet Soda Cart: I’ll admit that these ones are tempting. You scan the line and it looks innocent enough. You think, “All they’ve got is 50 boxes of diet soda, can’t take that long.”–and at that moment, you are wrong. These people are weird, there’s something wrong with them. At all costs, avoid the people that have a lifetime supply of diet soda in their cart.

Respond:

Who should I watch out for at the grocery store?

Lay Ministry for Dummies, Grand Finale

Whelp, it’s raining outside, which makes it a good time for writing. Today I’m going to wrap up my series on Lay Ministry and I must apologize for the long break in between posts. I wish I could say that I’ve been building the suspense, but, in all truthfulness, I was just lazy. If you’re just joining us (errr, me) here’s a link to the rest of the series.

Part 1: What is Lay Ministry

Part 2: Main Points–Credibility, Identification, Modeling

I figure that if you’ve stuck with me for this long, then you are ready to be challenged. Part 3 of this topic is all about applications of lay ministry. We know what it is, we know why it’s important and why it works so well. Now we need to apply these “theories” to real life.

Today’s blog is more of a brain storming session because the truth is that I’m on the learning curve along with everyone else. I’ve listed a few of my ideas below and I hope that you’ll add to the list!

  • Seek to glorify God with every action: Lay ministry effectiveness is built on the principle of credibility (if you’re a fake, people can smell you from a mile away). If every action you make glorifies God then every part of your life can be used for ministry (this opens up a lot of ministry possibilities). Let me put it another way–No segment of your life should be separated from the will of God. There doesn’t need to be a separation of work and church, or a separation of fun and church. I challenge you to be the most successful person at work WHILE glorifying God. I challenge you to be the funnest person at the party WHILE glorifying God. When people see the genuineness in your lifestyle, they will take note. Your actions will always speak louder than words.
  • Focus on WHO you know: Paul became all things to all people. He knew that if he was going to truly change people’s lives with the Gospel of Christ, he had to make a connection with them, he had to reach them on their level. If you want to witness to people, then look for people who are in the same boat as you. Evaluate your skills AND your scars. Often times, it’s the valleys of life that bring people together (think about how many strangers you talked to after 9/11, everyone became neighbors through the tragedy). I’m always amazed at how we can mess up, we can bring negative consequences upon our lives and God can still use those experiences to help us connect to others.
  • Grow a team: Paul was never a one man show. He was always planting, always growing. Why? Because he recognized the ginormous size of the work that he was called to do. Develop a list of people whom you are growing to fill your ministry positions and people whom you admire and hope to become.
  • Don’t stop at obstacles: A life spent serving God is almost guaranteed to bring obstacles. Paul was shipwrecked, beaten, imprisoned, fell out of an airplane … When you encounter these obstacles, do not be discouraged. Put your hope in the Lord and know that you serve a God who is BIGGER than any obstacle!

Now let’s here from you. How can we apply Paul’s model of Lay Ministry to our lives?

A Love Story for Valentine’s Day

Here’s a love story that’s BIGGER than yourself … and one other person. It comes from a chapter in the Bible appropriately named the “Love Chapter”.

Yes, I know. We’ve all read this chapter and probably pseudo-memorized the words. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it doesn’t leave the toilet seat up …” (read it for yourself–1 Corinthians 13).

Beautiful words for Valentine’s Day, but the story is not complete. The trick is that we started reciting the chapter at verse 4. Now if this were Psalms 119, then that would be no big deal. But this chapter only has 13 verses to it. We missed an entire quarter of what Paul has to say about love.

The truth is that I never understood WHO this chapter applies to until I started at the beginning. Paul’s purpose for writing this chapter is to teach on spiritual gifts–which is Christianese for “witnessing tools”. In other words, if you’re going to build a house, then you need tools: a hammer, saw, tape measure … that should be enough. If you’re going to witness to people, then you need tools as well; which God has provided us!

Paul talks a lot about “witnessing tools” in 1 Corinthians. And when he gets to chapter 13, he decides to unveil the best tool of all. Any guesses?

Love!

The conclusion is that LOVE trumps all other tools. In fact, without love, all of our other tools are useless. It would be like owning a beautiful set of cordless power tools, but no battery charger. Take a look for yourself:

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

 1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Human eloquence is reduced to a creaking gate. No matter the size of my talents, faith and actions, I am bankrupt without love. (By the way, anyone notice my flawless transition to The Message? 😉 )

Life changing, isn’t it? All of a sudden, this chapter is transformed from a mooshy-gooshy love story into an action item. Do you want to impact people with your talents? Do you want your words and teachings to be meaningful? Do you want to spread God’s Word throughout the world, throughout your community?

Then you have to apply LOVE!

Now read the rest of the chapter, the part you almost have memorized, and ask God how you can APPLY this love to everyone you encounter!

Happy Valentines Day!

Lay Ministry for Dummies, Level 2

Congratulations on advancing to level 2! I wish I could use some boolean logic (yes, that’s a cool word) to send all you cheaters back to level 1. But since I’m not nearly that sophisticated, here’s a link to the first part of the series.

Today, I’m jumping into the main body of our study on lay ministry, as I seek to answer one simple question: WHY?

Why did Paul choose lay ministry?

Why is it so effective?

Why should you seek to apply it to your own life?

Paul’s ministry model is built on 3 key principles.

1. Credibility

Raise your hand if you’re sick’en tired of FAKERS–now put it down because you look silly. Poll ten random people, from all walks of life, and they’re all gonna tell you the same thing. They want the REAL DEAL! Unless, of course, they’re buying handbags in New York.

One of my favorite tv shows is Pawn Stars. Every day, people line up to bring in their most prized possessions and hawk them for big money. The climax of every new article is when they determine if it’s real or not. Doesn’t matter if it looks authentic, smells authentic, has the perfect patina… If the expert determines that it’s not genuine, then it ain’t worth squat!

Nobody wants a fake, and that’s exactly what Paul understands when he sets up his ministry. Paul gains his credibility from the community by self supporting his ministry through tentmaking. In doing so, he removes the conflict between his own interests and the Gospel of God. There is no financial motive for his ministry. When he preaches, there is no offering plate and there is no audience that he has to satisfy. He is free to teach the entire word of God without having to worry about how his “supporters” will recieve his message.

Furthermore, when Paul ministers, it costs him. Time that he spends ministering is time that he could have spent working, enjoying family, walking the dog, you name it. Every peice of time that Paul spends ministering is a sacrifice of his personal time, a gift of love–now that’s Gospel Authenticity.

2. Identification

Who was Paul?

A Jew would identify him as a fellow Jew.

Upper class citizens could identify him as being highly educated, tri-lingual, a Roman citizen.

A working man would identify Paul as a laborer, a tentmaker.

Paul chose to become “all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9:22) so that he could reach and identify with as many people as possible.

How can you minister to the poor if you know that at the end of your shift, you’re going to get in your fancy car, with four doors and a full tank of gas, and drive back to the safe side of town?

How can you minister to the hungry if you just left a plate of food at Applebee’s?

I know these aren’t easy questions to ask, but if we want to see results in our ministry, then we have to ask the following: Who am I trying to reach? How do I identify with these people?

3. Modeling

 There are two distinct benefits that came out of Paul’s decision to model his “Christian life” in the marketplace. I’ll talk about them below in separate bullet points because I want to to be able to identify both.

  • Paul modeled Christianity for the first time in history. This was 1 A.D. No one had ever seen a Christian before. They didn’t know that you have to wear skinny jeans and raise your hands when you worship. So Paul decided to show people how to live out the gospel–not just in the church, but in the marketplace. That’s right! Paul went to work every day and put in 8 hours of hard, honest work. Do you think that when you hired the apostle to fix your tent you got cheated? Or overcharged? Or the project was finished late? Are you a good example of a “Christian” in your workplace?
  • Paul invents “lay evangelism“. New converts have it tough. They must immediately become unpaid, full time witnesses to the people around them. They go to church, make some crazy decision to follow God, and everyone at church is supportive of their decision. But then they leave the church and they immediately have to sell their new lifestyle to everone around them–their family, their friends, their coworkers. People are sure to ask them tough questions, doubt their sincerety and try to tempt them back into their old lifestyle. This is the working definition of lay evangelism. One of Paul’s purposes in ministry was to provide a tool set for new Christians–which included every single believer in that day. Paul sought to encourage these new believers and provide a model for them to follow as they went to battle every day.

Book Review: Radical, by David Platt

Would you like to feed yourself something challenging?

I know, it’s a trick question. If you say “no” then you have to admit how lame you are. And if you say “yes” then you have to take action.

My latest read was a book that has the following description on the front cover “Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream.”

Scary, right? All this time I thought the “American Dream” was God’s dream . . . let’s be honest, everyone knows you don’t pickup a book like this and then justify a jet-ski purchase in the same month.

The themes for this book are: Truth and Challenge. You’ll be hard pressed to find a teaching of Platt’s that’s not grounded in the Word of God. And yet, his idea’s might seem a little different from what you were taught in Sunday School or see modeled at church every week. That’s not a slam on the church, but an acknowledgement that this book is challenging. I read the book, agreed with the ideas, and then I looked at my own life and said “Uh-oh!” This book is gonna require change. This book is gonna require growth in God! 

My favorite part about the book is that at the end, Platt provides a 5 step dare. He backs up all the challenging teachings and ideas with 5 tangible things that you can do in the next year to grow closer to a radical life for God.

I flipped a coin and tails won. Guess you’ll have to read the book yourself to discover the 5 dares.

Enjoy!

Lay Ministry for Dummies

You haven’t truly made it in life until you’ve written a guide for DUMMIES.

Today I’m going to talk about a ministry strategy known as lay ministry. This type of ministry mobilizes normal people to spread the word of God throughout every structure of society. In other words, work with a rough group of people who would never put on their Sunday best and visit church? Congratulations! You are now their missionary.

The principle is simple. Who can minister to a doctor better than a fellow doctor? Who can minister to a professional clown better than, well, another dude with big feet and a red nose?

The apostle Paul is the stud who first models this type of ministry for us when he chooses to be both a full-time tentmaker and a missionary. I call it a “ministry strategy” because Paul was very intentional about the connection between his professional work and ministry.

There is a lot that can be written about lay ministry, but in keeping with the spirit of the title, I’m going to keep this as short as possible–even at my shortest, this article is going to be posted in 3 parts.

Part 1: The preface will provide a crash course on the logistics behind lay ministry.

Part 2: The main body of this article contains my three main points, which seek to answer one question: WHY? Why did Paul choose this ministry model?

Part 3: Finally, the conclusion will provide applications for lay witnessing in today’s culture.

PREFACE: Paul’s ministry was successful because he was intentional in everything he did. The questions below will illustrate how Paul’s ministry worked. As you read them, I hope you notice that Paul wasn’t just a dude working at Quick Trip, who also happened to be a Christian. Instead, He was a Christian who chose a profession that would compliment his ministry style and allow him to travel the world spreading the gospel.

Why did Paul choose tentmaking?

The word which translates as “tentmaker” is thought to mean a leatherworker. If Paul had been a weaver, his profession would have been described by different words. The distinction between weaver and leatherworker is important because a weaver would be required to carry a loom with them wherever they traveled (and everyone knows that it requires at least three camels to move a loom). A leatherworker, on the other hand, could perform their job with a sharp knife, an awl, and a big curved needle. Also important, is the fact that tentmakers repaired tents for traveling traders and armies. Therefore, Paul’s skills were in demand all over the world. The point: Paul’s ministry was mobile and his chosen profession allowed him to move easily from one place to another. 

When did Paul fit in his spiritual ministry?

Paul didn’t just work 40 hours a week so that he could go home and be a Christian. Instead, he learned to effectively integrate “full-time ministry” with “full-time job” (And this doesn’t mean that you get to plan you Sunday School lesson while on the clock at work). Paul teaches us to have personal integrity and honesty, quality work, and to develop caring relationships (Col 3:23-25, Eph 6:5-9, 1 Thess 2:7-12). Additionally, Paul used his free time to continue his ministry for God. Outside of work, Paul was an active preacher, teacher and church planter.

Why did Paul choose not to receive financial support for his ministry?

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul describes “The Rights of an Apostle.” Read the chapter all the way through, then read it again–my favorite verses are 25-27. Paul makes it clear that a servant of God deserves pay for their works, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain” (v. 9). He also makes it clear that it is the church’s responsibility to provide a living for their ministers (v. 14). However, despite all these truths, Paul choses not to accept pay for his ministry works. Paul’s decision is based on a personal conviction he has on his life, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.” (v. 16-18).

The defining factor for lay ministry is REWARD. Paul wasn’t rich. He didn’t make a lot of money and then give it all away. He didn’t owe anyone a weekly sermon. But he found reward in preaching the gospel free of charge. He considered it a blessing and a gift that he could both provide for himself and be a living witness to others. What do you find rewarding? How can God teach you to have reward in ministry?

Does My WORK Please God?

Dig down deep into your mind and try to recall that little thing called your work, your job, the thing that pays the bills every week. . . ok, who are we kidding? Work is a HUGE part of our lives. It’s the single largest consumer of our waking hours. Anything as large as work begs the question, IS MY WORK PLEASING TO GOD? Afterall, if the thing that you’re doing for 40 hours each week is not pleasing to God, then don’t you need to know, like, IMMEDIATELY!

I suppose this question wouldn’t be so hard to answer if your full-time job title was “Missionary to Africa”, or “Christian Musician”, or “Director of Local Homeless Shelter”, or even “Public School Teacher”. Some jobs have a clear connection to ministry and a clear opportunity to make positive impacts in other people’s lives. However, other job titles aren’t quite as clear. Does God need/want businessmen? Does God need accountants? Does God need laymen?

I’m convinced that the answer is YES! And with that statement comes a disclaimer: Just because God needs workers of all professions and job titles, does not mean that you are SERVING GOD with your work. The only way to know for sure is to like this article, and follow me on twitter, and buy my personalized coffee mug 😛

The bullets below are my thoughts, which lead me to believing that our professions can be used to serve God and fulfill His great commission.

  • Garden of Eden Effect: Work is a consequence of sin

God did not create us to be workers. God’s original intent was (and still is today)that we would walk with Him and glorify Him in EVERYTHING we do. It wasn’t until sin entered the world that work would become a necessary part of our lives. After sin, there was sickness and we needed doctors. After sin, the ground was cursed and we needed farmers. After sin, the toilet became plugged and we needed plumbers.

While we were not created to be workers, we have no choice. You have to work to survive. Even though the following points will illustrate how we can used our skills and services to please God, we should never mistakenly identify our purpose as … “being the best mechanic to ever walk this planet”. Your original purpose is to glorify God.

  • If your work is fulfilling and provides wealth, consider it a blessing from God

When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God (Ecclesiastes 5:19)

Basically, what this verse says to me is that if God has blessed you with a skill that you enjoy and a job that provides more than you need, then you shouldn’t be ashamed. There’s no need to go hide your successes under a rock. Instead, you should embrace the success and roll it into God’s plan for your life. If God has given you more than you need, then how can you use it for your original purpose: to glorify God?

  • Workers support the Church

We all know that God has instructed us to give 10% of our work to the church as tithe. Have you ever thought about what your tithe enables your church to do? First and foremost, you put food on your pastor’s plate so that he can feed YOU. We all need spiritual food to continue growing in our relationship with God, and the church is one source of food. But more than your own selfish needs, look at the other ministries in your church to see what your work is enabling.

Look at your church’s involvement in the community. The church is able to reach many more people each week (through children’s services, youth groups, and community outreaches) than you could come into contact with on your own. Next, look at your church’s work abroad. Missionaries rely on the support of churches so that they can take God’s word to the ends of the earth.

Chances are that the tithe from your work alone cannot enable all of this to happen. But when a whole group of workers join together and form a church, amazing things can be accomplished for God’s kingdom. God’s church needs workers, and lots of them!

  • God commands us to work wholeheartedly at whatever we do

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men (Colossians 3:23)

The Bible is clear to honor honest, hard, trustworthy work. This isn’t the ultimate purpose of the Bible, but it is an important aspect of our relationship with God. God commands us to work hard when no one is looking, to be honest when everyone else is cheating to get ahead, and to do all these things with reverence, or worship, for the Lord.

I think this command extends beyond our workplace and into our homes and communities. When you are stuck in traffic or waiting in line at the grocery store, do so with all of you heart. Do so as if you are working for the Lord. What does that look like?

  • Paul was a tentmaker, Jesus was a carpenter

I like this bullet point a lot because it is part of the Bible that we often forget about. Jesus was a carpenter. Do you think he built strong buildings that withstood the test of time? Paul was a tentmaker. Would you leave your tent with Paul and trust him it fix it in time for your trip the next day? (okay, I don’t really know what tentmakers did)

My point is that each of these heroes possessed skills that allowed them to interact with, understand, and earn respect from the people in their community. While we remember them for their ministry, their professional skills/work undoubtedly influenced the effectiveness of what they accomplished for God. Paul was able to find work in every city he travelled to because he possessed a skill, and he must have built a reputation for being good at it. Might I add Luke into the mix–Luke was a doctor (I think) and his skills as a physician and for writing precise medical notes (I’m sure that was the most exciting part of his job) provided us with two beautifully ordered and detailed books of the bible: Gospel of Luke and Acts. These men used their professional skills to further the kingdom of God.

The true reason I chose Jesus and Paul for the bullet title is because both men represent uniquely different approaches to ministry. Jesus stopped working as a carpenter so he could devote all of his time to ministry. Paul chose to minister and spread the Gospel while he continued to work full-time as a tentmaker. There’s a lot more to write about lay ministry, which wouldn’t fit in my post. But right now, I wanted to identify two different approaches to ministry that are modeled for us in the Bible.

  • A Lesson in Semantics (God doesn’t need us, we need HIM)

I want to end this article with a final caution about the danger of your work. Throughout this article, I’ve thrown around terms like “God needs” and “God wants” and “Your skills enable God to do _______”. I use these terms loosely to communicate my thoughts, and I’ll end with the cold, hard truth–just so there’s no confusion.

The truth is that God doesn’t need any of us. God doesn’t need missionary doctors to spread his Gospel around the world. God isn’t dependent on a “God-fearing United States of America” to fund His missions. God isn’t waiting for a church full of skilled and wealthy professionals to get on fire and change their community.

David Platt, author of Radical, states his conclusion about God’s power, “… The church I lead could have the least gifted people, the least talented people, the fewest leaders, and the least money, and this church under the power of the Holy Spirit could still shake the nations for his glory.”

The final truth I want to share with you is that WE NEED God. No amount of works, or skill, or knowledge can quench our need for God. This study on works isn’t about boosting our power or our own abilities. It’s about learning to use the skills and talents that God has given you to further his kingdom and to serve his purpose.

Faith Without Works is Like a Screen Door on a Submarine

Welcome to the beginning of my newest series–which I am quite excited about. This study focuses on WORKS!

Why works?

Isn’t the Bible clear that the only way to heaven is through FAITH in Jesus Christ? This is true, and rest assured that I have no hidden agendas or back door entrances into heaven. Works CANNOT earn you salvation.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

Ironically, while works aren’t even in the equation for eternal life, they are a HUGE part of our day-to-day lives. Almost as big as the role that faith plays in our lives. (Which one is more prevalent in your life? Works or Faith?)

That’s why I say, errr Rich Mullins says, “Faith without works is like a screen door on a submarine.” Work’s are important! If we’re going to put our faith to work, if we’re going to show people the love of God, then we have to understand the role of works in our lives. This study will dive into the works that God has called you to complete and the role that you play in advancing His kingdom.

Look for my first post of the series this Thursday at 9:02 am. Thanks!

Diagnose that engine noise

Does your car sound like a deaf marching band? Does it remind you of the vuvuzela fans at the world cup? Maybe it’s time to do something about that ruckus.

This post marks my very first web instructional–which I hope to do a few more of. Unfortunately, this one comes about out of necessity, as I recently awoke one morning to discover that my car had eaten a tiger during the night. My journey to diagnose and fix the problem turned up a few websites with really good advice. Hopefully I can compile that information into a quick diagnostic check list for the next time your car has the measles.

The problem with “car sounds” is that most people have no clue what they are hearing. Unless you’re a redneck, in which case you can name a diesel engine from a quarter mile away. Lack of knowledge means that we immediately jump to the only thing we know…”doh! must’ve thrown a rod” …What does that even mean?

The theory behind diagnosis for automobiles is process of elimination. There are a lot of systems working together in your car and if any one of those systems are broken, then you have problems. The key is identifying which systems are working properly so we can check them off the list and focus on the unknown (hopefully the unknown gets smaller as you progress through the doctor’s visit). Here’s a toolbox for diagnosing your car’s sickness the next time it’s making funny noises.

  • When does the noise occur? Do you hear it while parked, while driving down the road, while acceleration, while braking, while the car is off (in which case you may want to look outside your car)? By identifying when the noise occurs, we can identify which system contains the problem. 
  • What does it sound like? Alright, get it out of your system, make all the funny noises and analogies you can muster. This one can be a shot in the dark unless you have some idea of what your problem could be. For example, the dreaded “thrown rod” has a distinct rythm which is caused by the firing of your pistons (look it up on youtube). Internal engine problems are usually heard when the affected piston is fired and applies a large force on the bad bearing, rod, pin, whatever it is that is causing the problem. However, a bad bearing that is under constant load may create more of a constant roar (think pulleys and suspension components).
  • How does if feel? Noises are one sign of a problem, another sign is when the car does not perform like normal. Is the engine lacking power? Do you feel a disctinct jar with every rotation of the tires? Is the problem more persistent during a distinct driving maneuver, such as turning? In my case, the car drove perfectly fine and had full power–all 3,000 horses under the hood. This clued me in to the auxilary systems instead of the engine or suspension.

The first three diagnostic tools should put you in the ballpark of where the problem is. From this point, each system of the car requires a different set of logic for diagnosing. In my case, the noise was coming from smack-dab in the middle of the engine bay. The following steps are diagnostics for engine noises (aka. you can still hear the problem when your car is in park and after your neighbor has turned off his chain saw).

  • Is it inside the engine? Answering this question helps you decide whether your car will live to drive another day. As you may have guessed, internal engine problems are bad because they cost a lot of money to find and even more money to fix. A few sources suggest that about 75,000 miles is the cutoff point for fixing internal engine problems. If you’re in the 6-digit club, on about life #8, then this can be a very easy decision: You’re going car shopping!
  • Look for the obvious. Check the fluids, look and listen for loose things that may be vibrating or rubbing. Don’t overlook simple things like this …

  • Start eliminating things that move. Turn off all auxilary systems (a/c, windsheild wipers, that thump’n stereo). Remove belts one at a time, start the car after each belt removal to see if the noise disappears (please don’t remove the timing belt). If you’ve disconnected all the auxilary systems and the engine is still making noise, then you most likely are looking at an internal engine problem–get a second, professional opinion to be sure.
  • Short spark plug wires one at a time. I’m not gonna tell you how to do this because doing it the wrong way, like a newb, may cause shocking, umm, repeatedly. But the theory behind internal engine problems is that the noise is heard when the bad piston is fired and extreme forces are applied in the opposite direction of travel on the piston–thus, mashing all the moving components together and amplifying any loose tolerances or broken parts that exist. If you short the spark plug, then the chamber does not combust and the combustion forces are not applied to that piston. If you short a spark plug and the noise ceases, then you’ve found your problem. It exists in that cylinder.

There ya go, all the knowledge I have on the subject is now yours. As always, I have about 80% confidence in what I write–which is above average in the blogosphere. If its any consolation, I fixed my car. The problem was a seized fan pulley, which sits right, smack-dab in the middle of the engine compartment. Right where I thought I heard the problem . . . I’ve got ears like a bloodhound.