Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Finding Joy in Tough Times

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds" (James 1:2)

Hmm, "trials" and "all joy"? These two words seem to go together like "military intelligence" or "jumbo shrimp"! How can we possibly be expected to count trials as joyful? And yet this is how the Apostle James begins his letter. Is this a cruel joke or some sort of pumped-up positive thinking? Or is James on to something? Maybe this great man of God knows something we don't?

What exactly would have to be true for us to count trials as "all joy"? What would we have to believe in the core of our being to make this a reality? To find joy in trials we have to know two things about the Lord:

1. God is in control. Only a sovereign God could orchestrate the seemingly chaotic events of life in such a way as to be for our good. If the trials of life are merely random setbacks, them we have cause for despair and frustration. But if a sovereign God has actually sent us the trials, then we can know there is reason and purpose behind suffering.

2. God is good. A demented master might take glee in the sufferings of his subjects, but a benevolent Lord only does what is good for his people. James refers to God as "the giving God" who gives generously to all without reproach (1:5). Because God is good, all the trials that come our way end up in our favor, even if the process is painful.

God has a good purpose behind the trials he sovereignly brings to us. And our all-powerful God will cause all things to work for good.

So pray for the wisdom to see his hand in all your struggles and watch God develop endurance, maturity, wholeness, purity, hope, and yes, joy in your life!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

p.s. Please check out the resources on our website for finding joy in tough times!

Made me want to watch "Babe" again...

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Lord, the Lord!

The Lord passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation."

ESV Twitter

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Great quote... "Be not dismayed by soul trouble"

"The lesson of wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble. Count it no strange thing, but a part of ordinary experience. Should the power of depression be more than ordinary, think not that all is over with your usefulness. Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward. Even if the enemy's foot be on your neck, expect to rise amid and overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saints."

- Charles Spurgeon, The Minister's Fainting Fits

Friday, March 27, 2009

EdStetzer.com

Some thought provoking ideas on "Receptive People"... (click me!)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Radical Restoration

Did you idolize a big brother or sister when you were growing up? Or was that older sibling just a "pain" to you? How do you think you would feel if your older brother started acting like he was God? What if he started traveling around, preaching and gaining disciples? Well, you probably can imagine how James, the brother of Jesus felt.

We have no indication that any members of Jesus' family had faith in him or even respected his ministry while he was ministering on earth. In fact John 7:5 tells us the "not even his brothers believed in him". In fact, Jesus' family thought he was "out of his mind" (Mark 3:20-22)!

So how did this skeptical younger sibling become a leader in the early church and write one of the first books of the New Testament? Well, his older brother didn't give up on him! Jesus got a hold of James, appearing to him after his resurrection (1 Cor 15:7)! And then, in a restoration rivaled only by Peter's restoration, Jesus raised James up to leadership in the Jerusalem church.

So, what's the lesson here? First, don't give up on the person you think would be the last person to become a follower of Christ. Jesus has a pretty good track record of making skeptics (along with cynics, atheists, head-bangers, hypocrites, and other sinners) into disciples. Maybe that "long-shot" was you!

Or maybe you think you have let Jesus down one too many times. Maybe you think you have used up your allotment of grace. Maybe you think you are out the door, or at least relegated to groveling at the threshold. Just remember, Jesus is in the business of radical restorations. Just ask David, Paul, Peter, and especially, James!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

great quote...

"Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace, nor are your best days ever so good that you are beyond the need of it."

- Jerry Bridges, Discipline of Grace (Colorado Springs, Co.: NavPress, 1994), 18

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I finished my Dmin paper...

I needed to write a paper for my Doctor of Ministry class "Empowering Leaders in Soul Care". The topic was "My Theology of How People Change". It was supposed to be 5-7 pages, but it ended up 11. I hope I don't get marked down because of length. I'll post it to the church website soon so you can read it if you want to. Now to bed!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New Sermon Series…

This Sunday I begin a new series of messages from the book of James. People have had a love/hate relationship with James's letter from day one.

On the one hand they love James because…

  • James is so very practical. No long theological musings here, just practical outworking of theology. James makes the rubber meet the road.
  • James is concise. He gets to the point and moves on. You won't get bogged down in James.
  • James uses lavish metaphors and illustrations to make his point. Images like billowing seas, bits in horse's mouths, and forest fires make his teaching easy to understand and to remember.

On the other hand people struggle with James because….

  • James is so very convicting! His practical teaching cuts us to the heart and exposes not only wrong actions, but wrong motives.
  • James seems to be at odds with Paul on the role of faith and works in our salvation and weak on the theology of the Cross. Are these accusations true or have we misread James?
  • James is very black and white. He has no time for theological nuances and grey-areas. You are either following Christ or you are not!

So, if you are ready to be pushed, prodded, stretched, and challenged, plan to join us for "Boot Camp" with James beginning this Sunday!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I just wanted to see if i could text my blog. Guess so!

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

New M-Com Pics

Check out the pictures from M-Con '09 at www.swchurchonline.org!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Website Update!

Check out our new and improving web site. Our CIO (Ryan Tindall) has been doing a great job helping us get the word out! We are still tweaking so let us know what works, what doesn’t, and what you’d like to see!

New Features:
Calendar Page
Sermon downloads and podcasts
Subscribe through RSS feeds

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why missions?

  1. God's glory demands it: "Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!"
    (Psalms 96:3)
  2. God's love compels us: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
  3. Lost people matter to God:
    "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."
    (Luke 19:10)
  4. Missions increases joy: "Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth."
    (Psalms 67:4)

Any questions?

(our missions conference begins this week!)

Big news...


After much prayer, research, appointments with 5 doctors, and many questions we have decided to schedule spinal surgery for Jonathan. For those who don't know, he has what is called "scheuermann's kyphosis". The surgery, scheduled for Monday, May 11, will correct the curvature and (hopefully) prevent pain and degeneration in the future. Thanks for all your prayers and we'll keep you posted!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sad news...


Sad news: Chester (Stephen's Mouse) died on Sunday. His demise was discovered when we came home from church. There were many tears. We gave Chester a proper burial under the gnome on the garden. We'll get a new mouse this week. Hopefully.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Why now matters

Followers of Christ look forward to the day the Lord makes all things new. New bodies, new heavens, new earth, good stuff! But what about the old stuff? If it's "all going to burn", what difference does what I do here and now make? Does the resurrection of the body render current life rather pointless, except for evangelistic purposes?

One might think so. But one would be wrong. The "application verse" that sums up the longest chapter on the resurrection in the Bible says this:

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Paul is saying that because we believe in the resurrection of the body, all of our work is fused with meaning! It's not in vain!

Our labor in the Lord is not in vain, not merely because of the fact of our resurrection (that we live forever). Our labor is not in vain because what we do will last into eternity! And this isn't just "churchy stuff". The "work of the Lord" is anything we do in his name and for his glory. That could be delivering a sermon or delivering a pizza. It's not just what we do, it's why and how we do it. Tom Wright puts it like this:

"You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that's about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that's shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that's about to be dug up for a building site. you are – strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself – accomplishing something that will become in due course part of god's new world. every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one's fellow human being…; and of course every prayer, all spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world – all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of god, into the new creation that god will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of God." (p. 208)

So, who are you working for, your boss, yourself, or the Lord? If it's not for the Lord it's just wood, hay and stubble ready to be burned up. But if it is for the Lord, then it is pure gold that will last forever!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom