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A Mack Family Update

15 Sep

It’s been a while since we sent out an update. If you are interested, go here. 

How to Keep Going

13 Sep

I am getting older.

As I look to the future, I don’t want to become spiritually tired. Physically tired is going to happen. But if God allows me to live a long time, I want to go out, with a greater passion for Jesus and the gospel, than I had at the beginning.

But how?

If there’s one person you might think had an excuse for slowing down and giving up, it might have been the apostle Paul. When you look at his ministry, it seems like all he faced were challenges. And yet, Paul didn’t lose heart.

What kept him going?

Obviously, the Holy Spirit.

But in terms of Paul, what kept him from growing discouraged?

Convictions.

In Ephesians 3:7-13 we find five convictions that drove Paul and that must grip us if we are going faster and faster in the face of difficulties.

1. The message matters more than me.

Paul describes himself as a servant of the gospel.

2. It’s a gift to be able to do anything for Jesus.

In spite of all the suffering he faced, Paul describes his ministry as a gift from God, and as a demonstration of God’s grace.

3. I am nothing and I deserve nothing.

The fact that God saved him never got old to Paul. He describes himself in this passage as the very least of all the saints.

4. Jesus is more valuable than anything.

Paul wasn’t just preaching an idea. He was preaching a person. And he loved that person and he saw Jesus as being worth more than the whole world. You can hear his heart here as he says he was given the privilege of preaching to the Gentiles, ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ.’

5. God’s got a great purpose for the church. 

While individual churches might look ordinary, God’s plans for the church are truly extraordinary. For example here, Paul tell us that God is using the church to demonstrate his manifold wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

These convictions gripped Paul. Do they grip you?

If you are growing spiritually tired, take some time, and go back to the fundamentals.

Do you appreciate what you have in the gospel? What a privilege it is to do anything for Jesus? What you actually deserve? How precious Jesus is? And what God’s actually doing in the church?  

Thoughts on Leadership

12 Sep

It’s hard to think of many men I have personally known who have had as much worldwide impact as John MacArthur.

So it was a tremendous privilege at the Legacy Conference to have him visit with us and share some of the lessons he has learned over the years about leadership. Here are a few of things I scribbled down as I was listening.

  1. Leadership involves being able to accomplish things through others.
  2. Leadership is about influence. It is not something you can demand. It is granted to you.
  3. There are several different ways a person might attempt to get others to follow him. One is by causing them to fear, another is by manipulating them. Don’t! The best way is inspiration.
  4. To have a sustained influence in other people’s lives there needs to be a consistency.
  5. Virtually all leadership is verbal. If you want to inspire others you must be able to articulate the vision and articulate it with clarity.
  6. Emphasizing the importance of verbal communication is not minimizing the significance of personal integrity. If there is a disconnect between what you say and what you are, people will believe what you are.
  7. Selflessness needs to dominate. Your whole life as a leader needs to be a battle to advance your people. Don’t worry about your ministry. But always think about glorifying God and protecting His people.
  8. Leaders need to see what others don’t. What makes a leader is trust. They trust that you are able to see what they can’t in a critical situation.
  9. Authenticity is being true to biblical convictions. It’s being willing to deny yourself and do what is right for the glory of God. Leaders must define morality biblically and confront fake authenticity.
  10. Attitude is more important than skill in looking for future leaders. Hire good attitude and train skill.
  11. Leaders must work hard. They must be the first to serve. The currency of success is energy.
  12. Kindness and joy are invaluable. Self-interest and consistent negativity are destructive. You want to give the people following a sense of sanctified fun.
  13. You want to create an environment where good ideas are recognized and where they thrive by being willing to listen and promote what works best even if it comes from people other than you.

Who is Jesus?

23 Apr

What is the Church to Do? Gather! Part 5

22 Apr

It seems so ordinary.

Get in your car. Gather with a big group. Sing some songs. Listen to someone talk. Spend time with other people.

Week after week after week.

Why is gathering as a church so important?

The reason it is important is because we all are sinners who deserve God’s punishment but in His grace this God sent His own Son into the world to die in our place that we might be forgiven of our sins and this God who has done all this will one day be revealed as Judge over the entire world and everyone of us will stand before Him and be evaluated by Him. 

If this were just about, a nice place to meet people, or if this were just about, a weekly time to sing, or if this were just about, hanging out with your friends, or, if this were just about, a time to sit and here someone talk for a while then, there are a lot better things you can do with your time.  But you are going to die and stand before God and you need to make it. You need to persevere in your faith, because if you don’t, then you are damned. 

In Hebrews 10:26, writer warns, “If you go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume the adversary.”

And how are you going to keep that from happening? What do you need to do?

You can’t just depend on yourself and say, hey, I can do this.

No God in His grace has designed a means to keep you safe and to help you make it so you can stand before Him in Christ and that is the Christian community, this gathering together on a weekly basis, as a church. 

One of the reasons God sent Jesus into the world was to make you part of a new community, and one of the reason He commands you to be part of this new community is to help you cling to Christ.

When we talk about responsibilities of the church, like gathering together, I hope you understand it’s an expression of God’s undeserved kindness to each of us.  This is not meant to be a burden on your back.  There’s heaven.  There’s Jesus.  There’s the privilege of access.  There’s relationships that are deep and full of joy.  And there’s hell.  And there’s judgment And God in His grace has given you means, tools, helps to keep you safe, and to enable you to enjoy His goodness and kindness forever and to protect you from falling away and experiencing His wrath, and one of those means, tools, is regular, gatherings of the church. 

 

What is the Church to Do? Gather! part 4

8 Apr

Christians get together.

Over and over and over and over again.

Week after week we meet as a church. Why?

We are looking at Hebrews 10 and we’ve seen that one reason has to do with God. A second reason for our gathering together is found in verse 23, and it has to do with you.  

The writer of Hebrews says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

We have this amazing future salvation in store for us, that’s part of our basic confession, but right now, there are a lot of things that can tempt us to lose sight of that hope or give up on that hope. 

I picture it a little like being in the middle of the ocean hanging on to a plank of wood, waiting for the plane to come rescue us, and we know it’s coming, but sometimes we get tired, treading water out there, and we want to give up and give in, and a big part of the purpose of this book of Hebrews is to encourage us to persevere. 

But this persevering isn’t only an individual thing, to keep hanging on to our hope, God’s given us help, and one of the primary helps we have is each other. 

This is something the writer says more clearly back in Hebrews 3, verses 12 and 13. 

He writes, “Take care brothers lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.”

Which is a warning.  Take care.  Watch out.  There is a danger you face. 

What is that danger you face?  

It is that you develop an evil, unbelieving heart and what will that heart do, it will cause you to fall away from the living God. 

How do we take care then?  How do we watch out?  

He tells us. 

“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today…’ 

Deep, biblical, relationships, that’s how you watch out that you don’t develop an evil, unbelieving heart. 

How serious is this though?

What happens if you don’t develop these kinds of relationships?

The end of verse 13, 

“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

What happens if you are not exhorting one another day after day is that sin lies to you and it lies to you so much that your heart which once might have been soft towards the truth slowly grows harder and harder until you can characterize it as evil and it leads you to fall away from the living God, in other words, you stop holding fast to your confession of hope. 

There are some people who think of themselves as really strong spiritually, but if you don’t have regular relationships with other believers, where you are gathering together to remind each other of the truth, then it doesn’t matter how strong you are right now, it’s not going to be too long until you are fairly weak.

I could be the strongest guy in the universe physically, but if I don’t eat for two weeks, you know I am not going to be that strong any longer, and the same is true spiritually, we gather, because you need these gathers if you are going to hold fast to your confession of hope. 

A third reason we gather is each other.   

When the New Testament talks about why we get together, the primary reason it gives is to help each other grow spiritually.  

We might think the primary reason is to worship, and of course it is to worship, but we can worship God anywhere, obviously and we need to, one of the specific reasons this gathering is so important is because it is a unique opportunity to grow spiritually as believers. 

Here we see it put like this, 

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…”

And how do we do that?

He tells us one, “we can’t stop meeting together, and we need to keep encouraging one another.”

So in other words, one of the primary ways we obey this command to stir up one another to love and good works, is through this weekly gathering that we have. 

This is how Paul when he talks about spiritual gifts and the way they operate in the church, this is how he saw the purpose of our gatherings. 

He says in 1 Corinthians 14:12, “So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in the building up the church.”

Then later when he talks about what’s going on there in the corporate worship, he offers a summary principle.  1 Corinthians 14:26, “Let all things be done for building up.”

This is why we do what we do when we gather.  It’s for helping each other love God, obey God, and do what’s right. 

In fact, this is interesting and I think we sometimes miss it, but this is a big part of why we sing.   

You say, why do I sing in church?  To praise God.  Yeah of course. 

To encourage myself. 

O.k.

But Paul tells us also, it is to help each other grow. 

Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

“Singing is for teaching.  Praise is for instruction.  Adoration is for admonition.”

I think we have all met people whose basic approach to life is that of a taker.  Every relationship, their default mode, is to take and they don’t really think outside of that, about how they can serve the other person.   And there are people who approach these gatherings that we have as a church like that.  This getting together is about them.  If they feel like it they come.  A good time on Sunday is when they had a good time on Sunday.  That was good worship service because it made me feel good.  They, what they want, their perspective, it is the lens through which they view everything, they are takers.  But that’s not the right way for us to approach this gathering, this is about helping each other, love more, obey better.  You come here as a believer for each other. 

That’s why I preach and why you should listen, you should be listening so you can learn better how to love God and other people throughout the week.  That’s part of why you give so I can study all week long, so I can help you be better at loving God and others. 

That’s why the guys lead the singing, they are thinking how can we encourage the people who come to hold on to their hope, to see the glory of God, how can we lift them up. 

That’s why some of us clap our hands when we sing, we are thinking, how can I help this other person focus on God better and feel more comfortable to express their love for God. 

That’s why many of you get here early, so you can talk to others and get to know them.  That’s why some of you have developed the cd ministry and done bulletins, you are thinking how can I help my brothers and sisters in Christ.  That’s why some of you try to talk to people who are new here for the first time, that’s why you invite people to your gospel communities, that’s why you stay around for a little while after church because you want to see how you can be an encouragement. 

I don’t want you to think of these gatherings on Sunday as a show that you come to watch, because a show doesn’t care about you, if you are there or not, it doesn’t matter, someone is going to fill the seat.  Instead, think of these gatherings as a meeting of the family, and so you don’t usually go to family gatherings in order to be entertained or to get your needs met, you go because you love the people, and you want to be of help to them.  

Specifically, the writer says you need to consider how to spur one another on. 

That’s part of why don’t give up on gathering with your church family.  

What he’s saying is you need to have a group of believers, whom you are specifically thinking deeply about helping.  That you are so committed to, that you are willing to put yourself out so they can move forward in Christ, and obviously obeying this command is not going to end with our gatherings on Sundays, but it needs to start here.  

It must. 

What is the Church to Do? Gather! Part 3

26 Mar

We are to get together as a church on a regular basis.

But what for?

After reminding us why we gather in chapter 10, verses 19 through 21, the writer of Hebrews, draws out three implications for our life together as a church in verses 22 through 25.  And I think those three implications give us a good grid for what’s supposed to be happening when we gather as a church. 

The first purpose we get together has to do with God.    

He writes in verse 22, “Let us draw near.”

To whom?  

To God. 

If we have the right to free access to God and that right has been purchased for us at such a high price, the blood of His Son, then we ought to use it. 

That’s the point. 

Can you imagine if God had said to Adam after he was kicked out of the garden of Eden, that he had the right once again to go back into the garden, where he would enjoy that special access to God, what would Adam have done, of course he would have gone back in?

And can you imagine and Israelite, walking around the tabernacle and being told, he could enter into the holy of holies in order to enjoy God’s special presence, what he would have done?  He would have been frightened I think, but what a privilege. 

And the writer of Hebrews is saying in a sense, that is what God has done for us through Christ, he’s made it possible for us all to enter the special presence of God, through the work of Jesus and of course, with this kind of privilege open to us, we should use it. 

We gather together for God-centered reasons. We gather together to commune with God, to approach Him, to worship and pray.

We need this more than we need anything else in our lives, we need to be with God, to draw near, and how we do that, exactly?  

A big part of how we do that is through community.  That’s why these commands are tied together here.  It’s not just drawing near in your prayer closet, though you need to do that, but here it’s us drawing near. 

Now, that I hope should be pretty obvious. 

But, what I like as I look at verse 22, is how the writer gives us some specific instructions on the way we should approach God as we gather. 

Let us draw near with a true heart. 

Let us draw near in full assurance of faith. 

With our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  

In other words, when we gather to approach God, our worship should be sincere.  

Draw near with a true heart tells us that we are not gathering together to manipulate or fool God into giving us what we want through our religious activity.  

This is a drawing near that should start with a sincere desire for God and a willingness to obey Him.

I would hope that would mark our weekly get togethers, that we are coming to God with people who are done with playing games. 

Second, our worship should be confident.  

Draw near with full assurance of the faith tells us that we are not gathering together because we are frightened about God’s attitude towards us.  

This is a drawing near that is motivated by a confidence and certainty that God is for us because of what we know is true from the gospel. 

And third, our worship should be based on a genuine, existing relationship with God.  

He says, draw near with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water, and honestly that is a little bit of a complicated phrase, what does it mean, but at the very least, notice it is past tense which means it is something that is done and it is imagery, we are talking about people who are forgiven – their hearts have been sprinkled clean and who have been identified as Christians – their bodies have been washed with pure water – which may mean the same thing as hearts sprinkled basically, it could be synonymous, or it could mean they have identified themselves with the body of Christ through baptism. 

Obviously, we love if people who aren’t Christians come and join us on Sundays, that is great, they have a chance to hear the gospel, but this gathering, is primarily for Christians.

Our goal isn’t to get a lot of non-Christians to like what we do on Sundays, instead, the first reason we come together as believers is to worship God and to be changed by God so that we can go out from here to share the gospel with the lost and make disciples.