A Church of Vision: Part 4

I love anything to do with history—especially with war. There is something about learning about the past that has always caught my attention. Documentaries, television shows, movies, books, all draw my attention. I especially love reading and watching history that tells a story. For example, we have all seen the movie, or read the book, or heard the story of the soldier trapped behind enemy lines. They have intel that is vital to their mission, so another mission is set in motion to rescue the trapped soldier. The mission of the church is very much the same kind of story. We are not trapped (though some of us might feel that way at times) in this world but born. Christians have been given a message and attached to that message is a mission. The mission is clear and simple—it is to take that message to every person in every nation. Doing this is what many of us call evangelism.

Part 4: The Evangelistic Church

The Church of the Lord Jesus has been given a mission—an evangelistic mission. We are to take what we have been told and believed in and persuade others to do the same. Mack Stiles in his book on Evangelism, says evangelism is “Teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.” I love that definition because it is simple but precise. When we go out we tell people about Jesus. When we tell people we teach them,  the truths of the gospel and persuade them to trust in Christ for salvation. The true church of Jesus is not set of selfish reasons but on selfless desires to see others come to the knowledge of the truth. 

I think about the first time I thought about the  Church’s mission as evangelistic. I was young, and it was during the time God was preparing me for ministry. It was the first time I really read the great commission.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.— Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)

It was clear and simple just like Mack Stile’s definition of evangelism. We are called to go. We are called to make disciples. We are to work hard and not give up. Our walk through the Gospel of Mark on Sunday mornings has taught us this principle through the example of Christ. He goes and teaches, and he heals. When the crowds amass and the day grows short, he stays and he teaches and he heals. 

An evangelistic church is a church that hears the Master’s call. It is a church that is set on a mission to rescue the captives from the prisons of sin across our state, nation, and world. We are called to go and make disciples—crystal clear from where I sit and from what I read. So let us be encouraged in our mission here in Enid. The missions we love to watch and read about are often fought on foreign battlefields. God’s people are called to fight in places that are not our homes, and to rescue people and safely deliver them to God’s grace and Kingdom. That is what an evangelistic church does.

I pray that we would rally around these truths and God would use us to reach our community for Christ and the Kingdom of God.

Bro. Jesse

Fleeting Wisdom

Wisdom is more than wits and head knowledge. This week the Lord brought to my mind Proverbs 2. It is the words of advice from a father to a son and his desire for him to grow to know the fear of the Lord and wisdom. When I come to this chapter my mind is flooded with a life of trying to catch and hold onto this slippery and fleeting characteristic. 

Childhood memories of fathers, and mothers, grandfather and grandmother, preachers and teachers all attempting to bestow some kind of wisdom on a young mind. Yet chiefly, I am reminded of John Bunyan’s Christian, the man who set off from the City of Destruction to find the one who might relieve him of the burden he carries. In Christian’s pilgrimage, he encounters many people who will encourage him or hinder his journey. But one that always stood out to me was Mr. Worldly-Wiseman. I often return to this part of the story and think of the advice he gives to poor Christian and his words that are the very same words that are spoken today by his successors. 

What was his advice? It was basically to not listen to the “honorable” Evangelist. His advice was to avoid his counsel for “there is not a more dangerous and troublesome way in the world, than unto which he has directed.” Worldly-Wiseman was not completely wrong in his assessment of Evangelist’s counsel. He said that if Christian was to follow along the path directed, it would lead to wearisomeness, painfulness, hunger, perils, nakedness, sword, lions, dragons, darkness, and death. All these are true to one who carries the name Christian.

What was so wrong with Worldly-Wiseman’s counsel? What was so wrong with his advice? In the larger picture of the story, it is fleeting wisdom. It is a wisdom that is not wisdom at all, but one that encourages one to follow a path away from the true knowledge and wisdom. 

I think of what Solomon says to his son in Proverbs 2,

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;  yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,  if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;  —Proverbs 2:1–6 (ESV) 

I love the way the father appeals to the son in the protasis clause. It is the if clause in this chapter. It is an appeal for the son to seek after wisdom. If you receive my words; if you call out for insight; if you seek it like it like silver and search; if you do these things, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find knowledge of God. It is God through his Word we find knowledge and wisdom.

Wisdom is a term not thrown around anymore. We are moving away from the wisdom of fathers and grandfathers to a time of head smarts. People assume you are wise if you have you have degrees and risen high in your career. People assume you are wise if at the end of a battle of the wits you are last one standing. But rest assured, these things are by no means a sign of wisdom. The Bible is clear on the way to achieve wisdom and its source—it is by the narrow road that leads to wisdom and our God. People do not seek wisdom anymore. It is because it fleeting. You have to pursue it. You have to chase after it. You have to seek it like silver and hidden treasure. It takes a lifetime of pursuit and by God’s grace many will find it. 

So where do we go from here? How does the Church respond to the words of a father to a son? The answer is to seek God and along the way, we will find wisdom. God knows the hearts of his people, and it is a noble pursuit to seek wisdom. God knows the hearts of his people and will reward wisdom and discernment to his people through his Word and by experience gained pursuing our him. I pray that our church would be one of wisdom. Wisdom that is not founded in our own minds or experiences; wisdom that is not found in culture or Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, but in the Lord our God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.—Proverbs 2:6 (ESV)

Bro. Jesse

A Church of Vision: Part 3

Good news is always better than bad news. It is a general truth that we all love to hear and experience. Is it better to be the recipient or the giver of such news? It’s like the old phrase, “It is better to give than receive.” I know that this is debatable depending on who you talk to but most people prefer to receive than to give.

Now, I love to give gifts. I also love to receive gifts. I think we can all agree we enjoy both, but who doesn’t love receiving gifts? It is just in our nature, especially when we know the person and the meaning behind the gift. I reflect on the idea of good news and live with the fact that I am in the giving business. I am in the giving of the good news business. I think about the supreme calling all Christians have been given and the urgency in that calling. We are flawed sinners, prone to wander like sheep, but it is by God’s wisdom he uses us to bear witness to the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ and to tell others about the gift given to the world.

Part 3: The Gospel-Focused Church

The gospel-focused church is one that is serious about its mission. It is one that addresses the overwhelming reality of sin in our lives. A gospel-focused church faces the hurts and pains of this life and provides relief by focusing itself on and around the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Throughout my life, I have had the privilege to serve in several churches. I have learned and grown through the helpful guidance of many godly people and pastors. I have watched pastors from a distance, those that lead the large churches with the skills and resources all young pastors wish for but are usually out of reach. To acquire those it often takes a lifetime of faithfulness, work, and ultimately God’s grace.  But often pastors and churches lose sight of their mission and the vision that they set themselves on at the beginning of their ministry. We do not want to be a church that loses sight of the vision God has set before us. 

We have a goal and a vision. It is not complicated nor hard to achieve. We wish to be a church worthy of our Savior. To be Christ-centered and gospel-focused means to take seriously the message that truly is good news. We have to be givers of the good news. We have to tell people about the good news. We have to be clear about sin, not beating around the bush like so many churches do today.  Sin is bad, and no matter what shape or form it comes in, it leads to death and hell. It leads to an eternity separated from the God of the universe. We have to tell people about Jesus and his death and his atoning work for all who would believe in him. And we have to call people to live in obedience with that good news. The Gospel is not a “get out of jail free” card message. It requires actual life-changing actions. A gospel-focused church focuses on those things. 

My vision for us, and I believe it to be God’s as well, is to grow into a church that is saturated with gospel-truth. We teach and preach the gospel that was “ once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).  I know if we run with endurance towards the prize of Jesus, striving to look like Jesus always, we will surely finish the race. Pray that God will aid us in our vision and the days ahead. Pray that God would send leaders to lead his people. Pray that God would send out gospel messengers from among us, for his glory and honor. Pray that we will grow to be a gospel-focused church. 

Bro. Jesse

For our Children

Today is the day. It was announced earlier this morning that President Trump will reveal his nominee for the Supreme Court. The President has said that it his belief that the most important decision a sitting President can make is selecting a Supreme Court Justice. I sit here reflecting on this day and the impact that it will have for future generations. I believe that he is right in thinking that one of the most important and future-shaping decisions that can be made by a sitting President is the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice. But why?

The answer is because our children’s lives are a stake. Many of you might read this and say, “not my children.” I know that many who read this are Christians. They have loved their children from the moment they saw the test read positive. They rejoiced and prayed and thanked God for his grace and love. But that is not the case for our country and our world.

America leads and often the world follows. We have been a beacon of hope and prosperity since its inception. The words "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” have been echoed across the world and heard by those searching for a better life. We have been founded on a general truth, that all people are created equal, that all people are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have shown the world what a democracy can do for a people and how it can help and shape the world. But sadly we have lost our way, and instead of leading we have fallen.

Regrettably, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are denied to the unborn. At the altar of culture, we have sacrificed our children to the god of convenience and an easier life. We have sacrificed our children to the god of women’s rights and political agendas. We have sacrificed our children to the god of this world. But what the old belief that it is the hard things in life that build character and a future? What about the rights of the child and the belief that the higher power supersedes political agendas? What about the actual God of this world and his plan for all children, born and unborn alike?

Today’s decision will shape our tomorrow. A war is coming and it will be in the name life, and equality, and culture. There will be causalities. If the President does, in fact nominate a conservative, and that nominee does make it past the Senate, and Roe v. Wade is overturned, a war will break out and our nation will be divided even more than it is now. If it goes the other direction, there will still be unrestricted abortion across our nation, and each day more children will be murdered and added to the already staggering sixty million bodies already laying at the altar. 

But where will the church stand? The world says that the Christian Church is on the wrong side of history. The world says that we should get in line and accept that the times are changing. But one thing that the world does not understand, is that we remain firmly planted just as our God stands. He rules and reigns and will soon return to right every wrong, and avenge every child killed in the name of culture. 

So I ask, are you prepared to be on the wrong side of history? Are you ready for the war that is coming? The war will claim many lives. There are many hills to fight and die on, and this one of them. Pray that God would step in and save our nation. Because we know, that our faith is not in a President or a political party—our faith is not in a Supreme Court to save our children, but in the God who knows all things and hears all prayers. So pray for strength in the hard days ahead. Pray the world would believe in the Gospel and know that all life is to be cherished and protected. Pray that the sin of abortion would be seen and Roe v. Wade would be repealed. We pray these things for our nation and for our children.  May God have mercy on us in these days ahead.

 

—Bro. Jesse

 

A Church of Vision: Part 2

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting. It was a blessing to be able to participate as a messenger and represent Trinity at this year’s meeting. I listened and watched and voted knowing, how this being my first year, I was a small fish in the giant sea called the Southern Baptist Convention.  These past few months had not been pleasant for many in our convention, due to the behavior and ill advice of some in leadership within our seminaries. The media was hard, and the world’s judgment was even harder. Many thought, “how can we ever recover from such a disgrace” or “has the #metoo movement finally reached the mighty SBC?”

As I listened and observed, I thought to myself that many of our churches and leadership have forgotten the nature of the gospel and the love it requires of all of us in the service to the Lord Jesus. That led my thoughts throughout the meeting, back to our vision and our goal to be a church that is always Christ-Centered and Gospel-Focused.

Mark 2: A Church that is Christ-Centered

At the heart of our Vision, and any church that desires to be healthy is Christ himself. The world, and sadly many Christians judge a church’s health by many things other than Christ being centered. Many will look at a church, and the size of their building, their yearly budget, how many people attend their services and judge to themselves that this is a healthy church. Yet, size, budget, and attendance are never ascribed as a means to judge the health of a local church.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus himself speaks to the nature and health of the local church. In each of the churches that he commends, each is one that the name of Jesus is firmly planted and centered among them.

To the church at Ephesus, Jesus says,

“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.”— Revelation 2:2-3

And to the church at Pergamum he says,

“I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.” —Revelation 2:13  

And to the church at Philadelphia he says,

 “I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. —Revelation 3:8–9  

Each of these churches that Jesus commends, his name is at the center of their tribulation, suffering, and ministry. If we were to look at the other churches in the list, Jesus speaks harshly to them because many of them have forgotten their first love, or turned from the name that had saved them.

Looking at these examples in Scripture, a local church can be content in the size of their building, or their meek yearly budget, or the size of their congregation. We can be content because Christ doesn’t look at those things to judge the health of a local church—the world might, but not the Lord. 

I believe our Vision is strong and solid. I believe this because our Vision is not built on our own skills, or wisdom, or finances, but instead on the Word of God. And because of this foundation, we strive each week to be a church that puts Jesus at the center of everything we believe and do. There may be many things the church will answer for on the last day, but let us not be found lacking in this area. 

Let us learn from the words of Jesus when he says in Revelation 3:1-2, “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “ ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.”

Let us be found alive when Christ returns or calls us home. May the Name of Jesus be gladly praised in every room of our church. May Christ be the center of every sermon, every Bible study, every song, and the center of every life. 

May Jesus Christ be praised. When morning gilds the skies, My heart awaking cries: May Jesus Christ be praised! Alike at work and prayer, To Jesus I repair; May Jesus Christ be praised!

Bro. Jesse

A Church of Vision: Part 1

Earlier this year, I set in motion a Vision for this church. I saw the love our church family had for our community and the desire for us to grow into a healthy church that was committed to reaching the lost for Christ. In our vision for Trinity, I set us on a path to grow into a healthy church by the means of six marks. This series, I wish to expound these six marks and show how they will help us grow into a healthy church that magnifies the Lord Jesus in all that we do. 

Mark 1: A Church Founded on the Word of God

The first mark is one that looks at the Bible as the foundation for our church vision. I like to think of our vision as a roadmap. On the map, there are all kinds of destinations and places we could go. Looking through the lenses of our vision, we can see all kinds of exciting possibilities. But if we move along with our vision, recklessly doing all these exciting things, we run the danger of falling off the map. If we don’t have a compass leading us on the correct heading, we can easily get lost, and even forget where we came from.  That’s where God’s Word comes in—the compass to our map.

It is intentional that God’s Word is key to the first mark in our vision. Apart from God’s Word, we are lost, roaming aimlessly in a world that is constantly trying to find its way. God foresaw our need for a proper heading and he gave us the Bible to help us keep the right direction. The Psalmist says in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” The Church is working in a world of darkness, and the Bible is the lamp to help us not misstep, and alight to keep us on the correct path. Like a compass, the Bible keeps us going in the right direction. Whether it is a church vision, or how to raise our children, or how we treat one another—the Bible is there to instruct us along the way. In fact, it tells us the way to our destination. In order to grow into a healthy church, it takes a body of believers, day-in and day-out, building on the foundation of God’s Word. 

Because it is essential that we always look to the Bible for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16), we saturate ourselves with God’s Word each week. Sunday Mornings, we are walking together, verse by verse through the Book of Mark. Each week we look at Mark’s gospel, and the authority Jesus has as King of the Kingdom of God. By walking through books of the Bible, we allow the Bible to teach us and instruct us—we allow the Bible to direct us on the path that leads us to Christ. On top of that, we are studying Sound Doctrine. This is an intense study of God’s Word and what it teaches us about God, Scripture itself, ourselves and so much more. We study each week, in a more comprehensive way, these six marks, drawn from Scripture to help us grow into disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

All of this is intentional. We want to be a church that grows in numbers. We want to be a church that is respected in our community. But most of all, we want to be a church that glorifies our Savior. As we go forward with our vision, think about your commitment to God’s Word. Is it the foundation for your life, or do you use it only as a crutch when times get hard?

Hopefully, we can all come to the point where we see it as not just a crutch but the always present lamp to our feet, and a light to our path. May the Word of God always be the foundation to our Church and its vision. 

 

Bro. Jesse

Why a Church Website?

 

Today we live in a world dominated by the exchanged of information. News agencies make or break based on their ability to effectively communicate information to their readers. Our entire economy depends on a stock market where information informs investors and traders to acquire more shares to increase the value of their companies. This ultimately affects everything from the clothes we wear to the burger you bought for lunch today. Presidential administrations can safely bet whether a second term is in the future based on its ability to communicate to the nation.

In church life, the idea is still very much the same. We are in the information business, even though the word “business” is a terrible word. The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ has been saved and called with a purpose in mind—to Glorify our God and enjoy him forever. This idea is central in everything we do. To glorify our God, and bring others into the understanding of enjoyment, we communicate to them in whatever ways we can the message of the Gospel.

A church website is just one many ways we can communicate the gospel to our community. It tells the community who we are. It tells our neighbors what we believe, and what to expect when they visit us. It relates to whoever might cross our pages, the vision of Trinity Baptist Church and our love for all.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “ So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I would think that a church website would fit into the “do all” category. So as we go forward together as a body of believers at Trinity, the website is just a baby step in the right direction. To some of us, it might be a great leap into the 21st Century. To others, it is just part of our vision of glorifying God in all that we do. Pray that small things like a church website would lead to seeds planted, growing fruit, and an eventual harvest.