The Culture of the Cross… Your Character

Have you ever been ready to cook a meal, only to notice that you are missing some key ingredients? Suddenly,you find yourself scrounging around looking for substitutes!  Or your mind starts wondering what the dish would taste like if you just altogether skipped putting those ingredients in. Maybe it will turn out and maybe it won’t, but it’s just a dinner dish, right? The truth of the matter is that we either didn’t put the effort in when it came to planning this meal, or we just didn’t take the time to go to the store and pick up the necessary ingredientsto make the dish! 

Let me ask you this. 

Do we make those same judgment calls when trying to become the individual God wants us to become? 

If I just leave this out, maybe don’t tell the whole truth. If I just substituted this for that, then maybe I can just make it all work out. Far too many Christians and Christian leaders have been substituting and leaving things out,and then when we are put to the test, we don’t pass the taste test. We look, taste and sound nothing like the recipe book (The Bible) says we should. 

Look at the litmus test placed before the disciples in choosing people to serve tables. Serving tables seems like such a mundane task. Can’t we just get people that don’t fit anywhere else and make them the servers?That’s not the way it went at all. You will find this in Acts 6:3 (Feel free to read the whole chapter in your study time). 

And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility.

Seven men who are well respected. This to me speaks that these men had to have good character. These men would be serving widows, so if they didn’t have good character they could possibly take advantage of these widows in their time of grief. 

Regardless of the simplicity of the task in which you find yourself serving in, we as Christians are to serve with integrity! It’s a marker of your character. The small thing that doesn’t deserve your integrity or your best effort, will become the ceiling of your life. If you cannot be trusted in small things, you’ll never get the privilege to serve in larger ones. 

Furthermore, as leaders we must ensure that we don’t lack character in choosing people to serve. I know the pressure of our day is to create a place for everyone to serve, and that is our duty as leaders. However, there is also a biblical mandate to ensure that we choose people to serve that are well-respected, full of the Spirit and of wisdom!

These seven men were going to serve in a hot mess!People were already grumbling and complaining! There was frustration that was being exhibited to the point that it reached the Apostles. Because of the emotions that were prevalent, these seven men were going to have to present a unified front. They needed to get along! Other people’s complaints and frustrations can be a wedge of division to those who are serving. When frustration from others begins to creep in, it will magnify the character flaws of the team. Strong character helps build team chemistry. Character is vitally important when serving a frustrated and devastated people! 

In serving one another, we should do all that we can to strengthen and protect our character. 

Myles Munroe stated, “Solid Character will reflect itself in consistent behavior, while poor character will seek to hide behind deceptive words and actions”. 

In terms of building character, what you do speaks louder than what you say. If you are serving, then serve and act to build a character that is well-respected.

The Culture of the Cross…Brings a Higher Level of Living

The Cross of Calvary can be viewed in so many different ways. The intention of the Cross was to put a life down. Every aspect of the Cross was humiliating. It was a curse to be hung on a tree. (Deuteronomy 21:23) Every part of the crucifixion was intended to be negative. I can barely stomach watching the scenes of the crucifixion in movies. The horror of it all bothers me. 

When I look at the Cross, as negative as the intention of it was, the results of it were completely positive. In a simple way, I’ve never looked at the Cross as a minus sign, but as a plus sign. The Cross was horrific for Jesus, but it was a blessing for us. I believe that was what the writer of Hebrews had in mind when he wrote, 

Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne (Hebrews 12:2). 

It wasn’t in the pain of the Cross that would bring Him joy! It was in what the cross was going to provide for each of us, a chance of salvation and relationship with Him! It wasthrough the Cross that our penalty would be paid. Jesus paid the price through pain, a price we did not have to endure. Now that the penalty has been removed, we can come into relationship. 

Look at what you would still have to carry had it not been for the Cross of Calvary. How do we know what we would be carrying? Look at what Jesus carried TO the Cross. He not only carried the Cross, but He carried so much more to Calvary.

Here’s what Isaiah said that He carried to the Cross…

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; 

it was our sorrows that weighed him down. 

And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, 

a punishment for his own sins! 

But he was pierced for our rebellion, 

crushed for our sins. 

He was beaten so we could be whole. 

He was whipped so we could be healed. 

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. 

We have left God’s paths to follow our own. 

Yet the Lord laid on him 

the sins of us all. 

He carried our weaknesses, our sorrows, our sickness and the sins of us all. Think on that for a moment. Someone else carried your weaknesses, someone else carried your sorrow, someone else was punished for things that you did, and then someone else was billed for the treatment you received for the disease you had. That sounds like a pretty good deal! All you have to do is believe in and on the Person that did that for us; however, it doesn’t end there. That’s just a few of the things that are taken out of my life. If it ended there, it would be a minus sign. Remember, the Cross is a plus sign! The writer of Hebrews conjures this thought up of what was added to us by The Cross of Calvary

But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises. 

This new way is so much better than the old way! The old way, before the cross, was about your sacrifice and obedience to the rules, regulations and requirements. Everything was dependent upon your success or failure of keeping the unkeepable. The new way that the Cross provided was dependent upon the success of Jesus. He, stated it was finished, completed, and then brought back keys that showed the victory was in His hand. In Jeremiah 31, it speaks to us that this new way wouldn’t be written on stones like the old way, but it would now be written upon our hearts. It would no longer be about the external, but rather the internal. Meaning that everything God would require out of us, His grace put into us! 

The old way produced death, but the new way produces right standing before God. The old way produced an inaccurate view or veiled view of God, the new way,although still veiled, gives you a more accurate view of God. (2 Corinthians 3:6-13)

Before my sin was stirred up and used against me, it produced within me wrath. I was condemned and living in bondage. Jesus carried all of that away, and now I have forgiveness, liberty, mercy, faith, truth and life more abundantly. (Further study: Romans 8:2,12; Romans 3:24, Romans 10:6-10; Romans 11:27; John 14:6; 

2 Corinthians 5:18; Galatians 5:1) 

For everything that He took off me and cleaned out of me, He placed and provided something so much better to take its place. 

I once carried a yoke of guilt and condemnation. Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I may still have a yoke, but it isn’t heavy and it isn’t a burden. The Cross took away everything that caused me to be down, and brought me up to a higher level of living. The Cross will always lead you up! 

 

 

 

 

Cross Culture… How to Find Your Purpose

One the most frequently asked questions of Melissa and I is how do I find my purpose? It’s often worded in different ways, but the crux of the question is always the same. How do I find out what I am supposed to do or be doing? The answer, well, I wish it were as simple as me telling you exactly what it is that you are supposed to be doing. 

Let me tell you of my experience. I grew up in church but we didn’t have the all the teams, kids ministries and youth ministries that most larger churches have. We had ushers, but they were the older gentleman in the church, andwe had a Pastor! Other than that, one of the only other opportunities was to be a musician.  So, I picked up playing the guitar. Essentially, I just picked up a guitar. Playing it? Well, that is highly questionable! Nevertheless, I wanted to play the guitar because I wanted to be involved and I wanted to make a difference. After a few years of that, my church started a puppet ministry! I got involved, but I wasn’t even qualified to be a puppeteer. No, I got to be the background scene changer extraordinaire. Ok, so I was the guy who changed the background out after each song. Nonetheless, I was involved. It wasn’t fancy, but it was what I could do. 

Who would have ever thought that being the background changer would lead to being the Senior Pastor of Southern Illinois Worship Center? God! Let me briefly show you the path. It’s a cold fall night in Northern Indiana… oops, I did say briefly. Okay, back to the story! One night, we had a power failure during the puppet show and somebody needed to stall the service so we could reset the power. I got the summons to head out front, and stall. Called from the backstage of the puppet ministry to right out in front of the crowd. The pastor of the church where we were putting on the show, watched as I stalled the crowd for the power reset. In that moment, God opened a door for me. A little over a year later, I was the new youth pastor at that church. 

While at that church I met Melissa, who was friends with the pastors son and daughter in-law. Melissa and I married and I moved to Portland, Indiana where my new in-laws pastored a church. I joined the ministry staff there. At that place, I served in numerous areas including Children’s ministry, youth ministry, jail ministry, nursing home ministry, vacation bible school, and then we began a ministry of serving the city. I lead and served in every ministry that I could. 

All that time I was serving in the church, God was training and preparing me! Not only at the church, but also at the company I worked for. Every opportunity that my company presented, I took it. Some were fun, some were miserable, some I loved, and some I couldn’t wait to love something else. It was the same thing in the church! Every opportunity that came, I took it! Some I loved, some not so much. The opportunities I loved, I stayed with! The opportunities I didn’t love, I found somebody else to love it because there is always someone that loves what you don’t. That allowed me to spend more time on what I did love and have a passion for. 

In other words, I served until I found where I actually belonged. I wouldn’t have known what I liked or didn’t like, unless I had at least tried it. From those experiences, God was preparing me for the place I am now. I can tell you I served my way into being Senior Pastor. 

The area where I serve today, touched every area that I served in earlier in my life. I absolutely believe that had I turned down being the background changer for the puppet ministry, I wouldn’t be where I am today. That began the proverbial domino effect in my life. Each time I would serve God opened another door, and each door was one step closer to the ultimate purpose God had for my life. 

If you want to find your purpose, serve your way into it! The bible says whatever you are doing, you should do it as unto the Lord! When you serve like that, God will properly position youto fulfill the purpose He has for you. 

No doubt, like me, you’ll have some serving places you love and some not so much. The ones you love are an indicator that you are in your purpose spot. Serve there with all your heart. You will find fulfillment when you serve in your purpose. Serve until you find your purpose and once you find it, you won’t call it serving anymore! You’ll call it living! 

 

Psalm 16:11 “You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.”

Jeremiah 29:11 “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’”

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Ephesians 3:20 “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

Philippians 2:13 “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”

Romans 8:28 “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

John 10:10 “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

 

Cross Culture… Find Your Purpose

Over the last few days, I’ve been sharing with you that we are a church that is on purpose across the aisle, across the street and around the world. The statement is true, but the church isn’t a building. It isn’t Southern Illinois Worship Center, it’s you and it’s me. We are the church! If the church is going to be a place that is on purpose, then we must be on purpose. In order for that to happen, we must first know our own purpose.

If you don’t know who you are or what you were born to do, you will always live in limbo, frustrated, and even depressed. In the back of your mind, there will always be questions of what if? The I could’ve, I should’ve or I would’ve, are the statements of people that don’t know,or won’t go, after the purpose of and for their life. 

Mark Twain stated, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.” While Mr. Twain was speaking in the natural, the same is true in the spiritual. The two greatest days in your life is the day you are born into the Kingdom, and the day you discover your purpose in the Kingdom! 

When Pilate asked Jesus, If He was a king

John 18:37 (ESV)

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world. 

Now literally everywhere Jesus went and spoke about His purpose, people struggled to see that Jesus was the one! He was the one to change the very nature of mankind.They struggled to see that Jesus was the Messiah. His purpose boggled the mind of those who were around them. Could it be they couldn’t see the forest for the trees? 

There was one moment when Jesus was speaking that he laid out some serious truths! Just in this little stretch of ministry, Jesus lays out the parable of the sower, the parable of the wheat and the tares, the parable of the mustard seed, the parable of the leaven, the parable of the hidden treasure, the parable of the pearl of great price, and the parable of the dragnet. 

After He speaks all that truth, He leaves that place and comes back into His own country, his hometown.He taught them in their synagogue so that they were astonished and asked, Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 

Jesus is walking out His purpose, but they cannot overcome their view of the person to see the purpose.

Here comes the doubt, the familiarity, the disbelief. Mark wrote about this same incident and stated that Jesus could not do any mighty works for their disbelief. 

Here is Jesus, from their own hometown! He was born to be the change they had prayed for, but because of familiarity they missed out on the benefits of His purpose. 

I wonder how many people have been praying for an answer, a change, or a blessing, but when it comes we turn it away because of the package, the vessel, or the person that God used! 

Just maybe you have rejected the answer or the purpose because it included you. 

You have become so dissatisfied, disgusted, or disenfranchised with yourself that you reject the notion that you can be the change others and yourself have been praying for. 

Many will forfeit the real destiny over their lives because they reject that they are the one. Not only do we forfeit our purpose because of self-rejection, but others will reject us as well. So, we stop doing or we never start our purpose because of what others, mainly those who are close to us, say or what we perceive they will say. 

Our example is Jesus! He knew His purpose, He fulfilled His purpose, and He handled those who rejected Him. Not all people are like Jesus when it comes handling rejection. He fulfilled His purpose regardless of their rejection. Look at the powerful response that Jesus gave to those that were in His hometown and rejected Him. He stated that a prophet is not without honor except in His own country. (Matthew 13:57)

We should keep in mind that we are human and when we reject or criticize, or make fun of people because they are launching out into their purpose, the impact of that rejection can often be too much to overcome. And what happens is people with purpose then sit on the sidelines and never fulfill what they were born to do. 

Can you imagine if the rejection that Jesus suffered in His hometown had derailed His purpose? This happens more often than we care to admit when people are trying to find their purpose. They either reject themselves or others reject them, and then the church is robbed of the benefits of their purpose. The world is robbed of their purpose. Can you imagine what the world would be like if you found your purpose and then fulfilled it? But maybe you’re the one asking, how do I find my purpose? We tackle that question next!

We are a Church on Purpose… Around the World

Acts 1:8… But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

In this text in Acts, we see the clarion call of Jesus to be witnesses of Him in three areas: first Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria and then to ends of the earth. You could take that as Jesus giving a mandate to spread the Gospel locally, nationally and then internationally. We take that verse and describe it like this: We need to be a witness to those who are across the aisle, across the street and around the world. 

From the beginning of our pastorate at SIWC we wanted to be a church that wasn’t internally focused only, but also one that was externally focused. The Father’s business is one of growth. Growth comes through witnesses who have received the power of the Holy Spirit, traveling purposefully to the areas where hungry people are waiting. 

For too long the church has been satisfied with shining our light into places that are already lit up with the Gospel. The purpose of the church and the reason you have the power of the Holy Spirit, is to take your light and spread it into the dark places. Light stands out much better in the darkness. More people can see the light in dark places than when it is just blending in with other light. 

We have the power in us to fulfill this mandate of Jesus. Don’t be afraid of dark places, for you are the light of the world. When light comes in, it dispels the darkness and all that it represents. The reason the world is so dark is that all those who have light are huddled within the four walls of the church. When we break out of the church, we will break the stronghold of darkness!When we decide to be on purpose across the aisle, across the street and around the world, the world will be a brighter place. 

Spreading light into the darkest of places takes a purposeful mindset. This task, at times, can seem daunting and the needs endless. Often, people disqualify themselves out of missional work for a lack of experience!  The mandate Jesus gave us, was to share our experience with Him, to others. That’s the simplicity of the mandate, witness! A witness simply tells others what they saw, heard, felt and touched. If you have an experience with Jesus, then you can be a witness. Whether you witness locally, nationally, or internationally, you are fulfilling the mandate given to us. 

In 2019, there will be opportunities for you to head out and be the light! That’s the sign you were waiting on! Now you must do it, and do it on purpose. 

 

 

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