New Sermon Series

This Sunday, September 18, 2016, at Adrian Christian Church at 9:30 am I will be starting a new sermon series.

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September 18 “Brothers in Arms”
September 25 “Cover Me”
October 2 “Purple Heart People”
October 9 “Friendly Fire”
October 16 “Not Forgotten”

I would love it if you could join us for this powerful series of sermons. www.adriancc.org

Just Glad to Know I Am Not Alone

Most days I really let myself down. I start off the day by saying, “I will not do that today.” Maybe it is more personal like “I will not think like that again.” Either way, I frequently plan to have a day that I think will make God proud of me. I pray for it in the morning. I plan for it as the day gets started. I swear to it in the deep recesses of my spirit.

Then it happens. I step into the darkness of my own soul. I do that thing I swore I would never do again. Upon realization of my thoughts and actions, I slip into the despair of another failed day. I let myself down and I let God down.

On a day like this, my mind goes back to a piece of scripture. It is from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome. He is talking about a life of faith, the gift of grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. In that passage, he says something that I cannot escape.

Romans 7:15-20 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (16) Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. (17) So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (18) For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. (19) For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (20) Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (ESV)

I know there is a deeper understanding of this passage than what just lies at face value. Yet, I read the words clearly without any commentary other than my own life.

“I do not understand my own actions.” Oh yes.

“I know nothing good dwells in me.” How very true.

I quickly take comfort in the fact that one of the greatest Church leaders struggled some day just like I do. He felt the burden of our flesh’s desire to do that which is contrary to God’s will. He felt the burn of the flesh as he did those things he despised.

I know that feeling. And sometimes, I just want to know that I am not alone in my struggles. There are times that I think no one will ever understand what I am thinking or feeling. There are times I feel all alone in my depravity. Then the scripture reminds me that I am not alone. God’s people have struggled with sin since the very beginning. Even God’s greatest people were a total mess, all the way from King David to the Apostle Paul.

The human struggle against sin is real. We all have been there. We are all there right now.

Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Everyone has been there. Just do not give up. Instead, throw yourself on the grace of Jesus over and over. No believer is perfect, just forgiven.

New Mercies Everyday

Lamentations 3:22-23 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; (23) they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (ESV)

I learned this verse through an old hymn that we sang in Church. Some of you might know the song “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and remember it too. It was written as a reflection on this verse and has a great line, “morning by morning new mercies I see.”

For some reason, this line was going through my head when I woke up the other morning. The strange thing for me was that I had not sung that song in probably 20 years. But there was this hymn running through my head in the darkness just before dawn. I began to think of all the wonderful things that each new day brings. I thought of the great mercy God has on me just by giving me another day to live.

1.Each day I get to live in the grace of Jesus.
I am keenly aware of the fact that I am a mess. I honestly believe God has every reason to punish me in some way. But through the grace of Jesus, I am made new. My sins are washed away and I stand clean before him. Every day I am newly thankful for the mercy of God.

2. Each day is a chance to start over
Yesterday is gone along with all with all of its mistakes and failures. Today is here and it is full of new possibilities for good. God has given me today and I can use it to start new and do whatever he wants me to do. I am so thankful for each new day.

3. Each day is an opportunity for me to serve the Lord in some way.
I love the fact that I do not know where today is going. Someone may walk in my office and I can share the message of Jesus with them. I may encounter someone at the store that needs to hear a kind word. I may write a lesson that will help someone understand the Bible. God only knows what great opportunities this day will bring.

4. Each day I get to experience love.
I am blessed to have the love of my parents, my spouse, and my children. I am also surrounded by people who love and support me. I am thankful for every day I get to spend with them.

5. Each day holds new chances for learning and growing spiritually.
Today I will read articles, stories and posts that will teach me. I will spend time reading my Bible. I will talk to people and hear their ideas. In those experiences, I will get to know God more and learn of his ways in the world. Each day brings so many new lessons.

I believe that each day is filled with great opportunities for so many wonderful experiences. Each day is a gift of God in his wonderful mercy. Morning by morning new mercies I see. Will you look with me today?

Two Sides of the Same Coin

Scrolling through the daily feed on my Facebook page I noticed several articles about the same events. Because I have a diverse group of friends the links that many of my friends shared were opposing sides of the same story. One event and two groups of people saw it completely different.

That reminds me very clearly. Some people love you. Some people hate you.

It doesn’t seem to matter what you are doing or what you are going to do. There will be people who stand beside you. There will be people who stand opposed to you.

One group will bring you joy and the other will bring you grief.
One group sees the best in you and the other sees the worst.
One group inspires you and the other discourages you.
One group energizes your day and the other sucks the life out of you.

Which of those groups is going to occupy your mind today?

Will your day, your week, your month or your year be occupied with trying to please people who really don’t care for you? Will your critics win your heart by their negative comments? Will you spend countless hours replaying your successes or your failures?

Honestly, the choice is up to you. Choose wisely.

Eight Things That Bring This Preacher Joy

The other day it was brought to my attention that October is “Pastor Appreciation Month.” For anyone who knows me, you know that I am not a fan. I think it was the creation of a pastor who had an inferiority complex to make himself feel important, but I digress.

While I do not enjoy Pastor Appreciation Month I do have things in my ministry that bring me real joy. These are the things that keep me going as a preacher.

1.When Someone Follows Jesus
It just never gets old seeing people come to me and want to follow Jesus. Hearing them repeat a confession of faith and being a part of their baptism is truly a highlight of any week.

2. When Someone Prays for Me
This shows me that we are on the same team. We are both wanting to see God work in our Church. We want him to use me for a greater impact for his kingdom.

3. When Someone Steps Up to Serve
I love seeing people work in every area of our Church. When someone selflessly gives their time to help with the kids, work on our building, lead worship or one of a thousand things, it is a wonderful investment of time.

4. When Someone Generously Supports the Church Financially

Words cannot express the depth of appreciation I feel when someone supports the Church with their finances. This giving not only pays for the building needs, it also pays for me to give my life to full-time ministry. Without people giving, I am not able to lead this ministry.

5. When Someone Blesses the Life of Another Church Member
I feel like people do things for me out of obligation, but there is no real reason for them to help each other. The only reason is that they want to live like Jesus. When people are kind to each other it is the kingdom of God present on earth.

6. When Someone is Kind to My Wife.
My wife and most pastor’s wives do so much without any recognition. They give countless hours to the church with no expectation of reward. I am thrilled anytime people go out of their way to show their love and appreciation of her with no strings attached.

7. When Someone Makes a Change Based on My Teaching

I work hard to put a sermon together. I spend hours in Bible study, research, and preparation. I think what I am saying is not only good teaching but also good advice. I do my part to present the material, but that doesn’t mean anyone has to do it. So when people take my words seriously in their life, it is a high honor.

8. When Someone Brings Their Friends

It is kind for people to tell me they like the Church or the program or even the sermon. It means even more when they tell their friends about it and bring them. In fact, it may be the highest compliment anyone can pay me.

I really don’t want this article to be self-serving in any way. Yes, I enjoy it when people do nice things for me, but the real joy is found in my ministry when the Church acts like the Church.

Five Unexpected Signs of Christian Maturity

I want to see all believers move from being new Christians to being mature believers. Most of the time we define mature believers with the usual standards such as Church attendance, Bible knowledge, prayer time, service and giving. I still believe those are good ways to start measuring growth but I want to suggest to you five other possible signs.

1. You Have Made Hundreds of Mistakes

A mature believer is not perfect, they are just forgiven, over and over again. Their maturity has come from falling to sin, making stupid mistakes, lacking faith at times and then getting up again. I think of the Apostle Peter who frequently put his foot in his mouth. He would deny knowing Jesus, but would also preach the first Christian sermon at Pentecost. Failure is only bad when you do not learn from it.

2. You Know to Not Take Stories at Face Value
Often when we fail we create a story to make it not seem that bad. We try to tell of our failures in a way that paints us in the best possible light. We know this is true of ourselves and eventually we learn that it is true for everyone. Therefore, because of our mistakes, we have learned the truth about other people. We know that other people are struggling with issues greater than they will ever tell us.

3. You Can Accept the Truth Without Shock
I often wonder if Jesus was surprised when a tax collector, prostitute or sinner confessed their sins to him. Did he stare at them in shock and amazement? I highly doubt it. He knew the complete foolishness the human heart and mind are cable of doing. Having made numerous mistakes myself and then hearing other people share similar stories, I am rarely shocked by the human depth of depravity. We are all sinners in one crazy way or another.

4. You Are Full of Mercy and Grace
Once you hear those almost unbelievable stories of failure you respond with the love of Jesus. You are not judgmental and mean. You are not shocked or uncomfortable. You are not angry and frustrated. You are full of compassion because you understand that people are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

5. The Longer People Know You the More they Like You
Mature believers are a joy to be around. They are full of truth and grace. Some people can fake concern (usually for selfish gain), but they can only do it for so long. People with a truly deep faith are a joy to have in our lives and they continue that way forever.

The truth is that you need Church attendance, bible reading, prayer, service and giving in order to grow in your faith. The other side of that truth is that those activities should be transforming your character to be more like Jesus. If that is not happening then you are becoming more of a Pharisee than a Christian.

What Does the Bible Say About It?

The biggest question I have as a believer about any question is simply, “What does the Bible say about it?”

This is more concrete than, “How do I feel about it?”
This is less partial than, “What is popular?”
This is more historical than, “What is currently being taught?”
This is more divisive than, “What can we all agree on?”
This is more solid than, “What does my denomination teach?”
This changes less than, “What is culturally acceptable?”

The Bible gives us an unchanging standard for faith and for practice. It is living and active in our hearts and in the world.

Before we discuss anything, we need to stand firm on what the Bible says first.

In 1 Peter 1:24-25 there is a quote from Isaiah chapter 40,

24 For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, (25) but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. (NIV)

Honestly, I don’t really care what you think, feel or even believe unless you can show it to me in the Bible. The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me.

Doing the Little Things

Recently I was reminded that the greatest revelation of our feelings is found in our smallest actions. This is a reality most of us need to get ingrained into our brains about love. I think most people recognize large acts of love. The sacrifice of money for a gift, the selfless giving of time and the big memory moment are the stuff that makes Hollywood movies. In the real world, I think that the small things people do are a greater proof of the way we feel.

1. Doing Little Things in Marriage
One way I frequently encourage couples is to pay attention to the details. I read a story once about a famous couple and the day they decided to end their marriage. They had a heated argument that started with the way she wanted her coffee. After more than 3 years of marriage, he did not know how she liked her coffee. She was heartbroken that he didn’t care enough about her little personal preferences. How great is that feeling when you go to the fridge and your spouse bought your favorite drink? How much do you feel when your spouse notices the little things that matter to you?

2. Doing Little Things in Parenting
All children want unconditional love. Many of us tell our children over and over that we love them. I think what really drives this home is when we notice the little things that are unique to them. A gift card to their favorite restaurant, a trip to their favorite store or a day doing what they enjoy are huge examples of our expressions of love. I have a list of the most memorable gifts I have ever received locked in my mind. On that list are all items unique to me, like an Earl Campbell jersey, a study Bible and a box full of items I needed for college.

3. Doing Little Things in All Relationships
All relationships need continual work, even those with are friends. I have a stamp in a frame that has almost no value. It was the last gift my best friend bought me before he died. He and I deer hunted together and we both needed to send in our applications (a requirement of the time). He went and bought himself a stamp and mailed his out and then gave me a stamp to make sure I mailed mine on time. I see that stamp as the clearest statement that he really cared for me. What would it do to your relationships if you did one small thing on a regular basis?

What would happen if you spent more time doing little things than waiting to do that one big thing? Why wait till a birthday or Christmas to have some dramatic display of affection? What would happen if we did one small thing for someone we care about every day? I guarantee you that your relationships will get stronger and more fulfilling just by doing those simple little things.

I Represent More Than Myself

Professional football player Colin Kaepernick is making headlines for setting down during the national anthem. My understanding is that he is doing it as a sign of protest against “black oppression.” I do not know all the details about his protest but it seems to be primarily directed at the police and their brutality toward people of African-American descent.

While he is making this stand against oppression, or taking his seat as the case may be, my Facebook feed has been full of posts to refute Mr. Kaepernick’s claims. These post have come in three basic forms. First are those that directly attack him and his claim. As a pro football player he is making 14 million dollars this year. He lives in a mansion and has more money than my entire town combined. Second, the attacks are focused on facts. In this country you are more likely to get shot by the police if you are white than black. One makes headlines and the other does not, or so his opposition claims. Finally, the last line of argument against his stance are videos and stories of police officers who have helped their community rather than oppress them. There is a video of police officers helping elderly black people in simple and profound ways. This last one is what catches my attention.

The main problem I see is that when we view a group of people our opinions are usually based on a few individuals, not actually an entire group. You see there is really no such thing as the police force as a group. Yes, there are police men and women who serve daily, but those individuals do not go hom eat night and all talk to each other. Most of them have no contact outside of work. The group is really just a bunch of individuals whose only connection is in their occupation and job title. Yet, we view the group as a whole. The interesting result is that we chose to view a group of people based on the actions of a few individuals. A person must decide if they will focus on the good stories or the bad ones.

Here is why I write all of this: The same reality exists in the Church. There is no such thing as Christians. There are individuals who follow Jesus and we have that connection, but we rarely function as a group outside of worship. The hard part is that when people think of Christians they can choose to focus on the good stories or the bad ones when drawing their conclusions. The interesting result is that people draw their conclusions about all of us based on the actions of a few individuals. The end result is convicting – each one of us becomes a representative of the whole group.

This week I wonder, “How will my actions shape people’s view of Christians?” Maybe the question is even broader, “How will your actions shape the views of people regarding Christians?”

I do not know how Mr. Kaepernick arrived at his views. I really have little control over his views beyond my own actions with people of his same racial heritage. I also do not know how people come to form their view of Christians. The only control I have in those matters is how I treat people in the name of Jesus. May each one of us act like Christ, for the good of all of us.

Around Adrian Christian Church

There are numerous things going on around ACC. Here are a few things you should know about:

1.We have officially hired Jaime Isaac as our Children’s Minister. She has a husband, Rory, and two children named Ryker, who is five and in kindergarten, and Clara who is around 18 months old. They are working on housing and then are making the move to Adrian. Please be in prayer for their transition in every way. We hope and pray they are able to join us by the first of October.

2. Last Sunday I spoke on giving and I was hoping to announce this piece of information then, but it was not ready yet. Within the next week, the Church will be able to take donations by credit card. We are adding this feature to our website as one possible way to give. We have also purchased and iPad Mini that will be hanging in the lobby as a new “giving station.” While we know this is not for everyone, we do know it will benefit many people in their act of giving.

3. I have two Sundays to go in my series of sermons entitled “Sunday Worship.” This Sunday I am talking about “Communion.” I am preaching from the book of 1 Corinthians and we will end the sermon by taking communion together.

4. Next Sunday I am speaking on Baptism. First, if you are interested in baptism then this is a great opportunity to do it. You can speak with me soon or just respond after the sermon that day. We have robes and towels on hand, but feel free to bring a bathing suit and your own towel. Whatever makes you feel comfortable to make this step of faith. Second, we are putting together a slideshow of some of the baptisms at ACC. If you have a video of one or a picture or two, please email those to me at adrianchurchoffice@gmail.com

5. Once I am done with this sermon series I am excited to announce our big fall series. Starting on September 18 my sermon topic will be “Band of Brothers.” I will be talking about relationships for all people, but primarily from a male perspective. I have always been fascinated by the bond that is created between people who have served in the military together. What if we could have those types of relationships in our everyday lives? I am excited about this series and I hope you will invite a few friends at the end of September to join us. (See below for more info)

Finally, I am so encouraged that our leadership continues to make improvements around the Church. We have upgraded my office, are working on some new technology along with the spiritual growth we hope a new staff member will bring. I believe these changes will help us to reach more people for Jesus this fall and winter and far into the future.

Lord’s blessing and thanks to all who are a part of Adrian Christian Church. It is a privilege to serve with you.

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September 18 – “Brothers in Arms”
September 25 – “Cover Me”
October 2 – “Purple Heart People”
October 9 – “Friendly Fire”
October 16 – “Not Forgotten”