5 Questions That Have Changed My Life pt. 1

For much of my time in ministry, I always felt like my job was to teach people as much as possible in the smallest amount of time possible.  I have come to realize that as we gather in biblical community (Koinonia Groups at Anchor) we can actually learn and be edified greater by listening to each other.  Therefore, when I began to develop what our small groups would look like and do, I tried to figure a way for people besides just the “leader” to talk.  How would I do this?  Ask good questions.  Since we began our K-groups, we have asked the same five questions most every week.  This has been a great tool for helping every person in the group hear struggles, celebrate victories, study the Bible, and set goals. I have shared these questions with a few people who have asked.  They always encourage me as to how much they feel the questions will help them as they seek to make disciples.  Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to share the “5 Questions” as we call them.  I will also share a little bit of the foundation for each question.  You can take and use them or you can just call them “dumb” and use something else.  This will be a 5 part  blog that I will try to post over the next couple of weeks.  Now to question number 1:

“What has been your biggest struggle this week?”

In 1 Kings 19, we see Elijah with a huge struggle.  Jezebel is out to kill him.  He is questioning God’s plan and finds himself in a very dark place.  What was his response?  He ran away from everyone.  Now, the Lord is good and He sought Elijah and had a very special time with him.  But, we know that the tendency of people within community is to run when hard times come.  As strange as that seems, we want to be alone when we need encouragement the most.

So, every week as we gather in K-groups we put all our cards on the table as the very first thing.  We want to remove all mask from the people in the group.  We want to flee from masquerading around behind something that is gripping our life.  I will tell you, just be ready.  Everyone in the group should be ready.  Because this will lead to a necessity for shepherding by all the people in the group.  Their will be brokenness, tears, anger, fear and even the tendency to hold back.  But, we must be honest with our brothers and sisters and allow them to shepherd us.  After all, the Gospel is for all situations. Stayed tuned for part 2 in the next couple of days.

5 Questions That Have Changed My Life pt. 1

Meeting God

A few years back I came to grips with the fact that God was calling me to plant a church. After much prayer (and argument with God), I realized that He was calling me to plant in Sikeston. This was not my first choice, not even in my top 10. There are many churches in the town. I have relationships with many of the pastors, heck, I love most of them! I even had a friend who planted a church just 2 years prior in Sikeston. Why Sikeston? As I surrendered to where He was calling me, I began to try and figure out what a church plant was. Here are some things that I either thought or heard people say:

1) Get a building, start a service, do it better than anyone else. 2) Focus on community. Build strong relationships within the core group. 3) Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Find out problems in the city and be good news to those issues. 4) Have great publicity.

There were many other things that I do not want to bore you with. But, these were the prominent ones. And, I say AMEN AND AMEN to most of them (except #1). But, as I have been praying, preparing, studying, fasting and seeking God, it has been revealed to me why God has me in Sikeston. It is the fact that our city needs to meet with God. More than anything else, Sikeston needs to encounter God! More than they need another church or another service organization or another voice for change, WE need to see Him face to face! And, God has called us here to be a part of that. Hear me, a PART! God has and is using the churches that already are in the city and for that I am thankful. God is working in the city and for that I praise His name. So, I am praying that in all places that call themselves church in our city, let us seek to meet with God. Not focused on having the best worship, the best preaching, or the coolest service…but focused on MEETING WITH THE CREATOR! That is why God has us here. He makes all things new and I believe our city will be better for a pursuit of God by His children. I believe seeking God will do away with petty arguments. I am confident that if we are seeking God, those who are far from Him will be interested in that venture as well. And the cool thing is, when it all comes down to it, we realize we will never find Him because HE FINDS US!

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:1-3 ESV)

Meeting God

God’s Power in my weakness

“The secret of the life of holiness comes to those who do not seek it, but only seek Jesus.” -Andrew Murray

Over the last several weeks, I have been struggling with discouragement, anxiety, and worthiness in terms of seeking God’s mission for my life and the ministry he has given me. I so easily fall in to the trap of feeling unable to complete the task at hand. “Lead a student ministry – I’m not very good at that!”. “Start a mission in Sikeston – I have no idea what I am doing!”. Lead my wife and kids towards Christ – definitely stink at that!”.

As I spend time alone with The Lord, I found myself asking for him to help me seek holiness. I need holiness. I need to be an example of holiness to the students, the community at Anchor, and to my family. They need to see me being holy so they can be holy. Well, I have learned that I stink at being holy as well.

Then, I read this from Andrew Murray this morning! Listen, I know that you all may think I am crazy, but it is so elementary! I do not need to seek holiness! I need to seek Jesus! I need to trust the power of the Spirit to continue saving me from myself. So, as I follow Christ and as you follow Christ, may we seek Jesus to make us holy!

God’s Power in my weakness

No, I don’t sell duck calls!

Every Fall I begin one of my favorite Winter hobbies. I quit shaving and let my beard grow. I usually keep it on about a 4 or 5 on the beard trimmer setting. Last year, I decided that I wanted to let it grow without trimming. After lovingly convincing Crystal this was going to be fun, I put the trimmers away and let it grow. Remember, this was September!

In October, I decided to give a new T.V. show that everyone had been talking about a look. I flipped to A&E and watched my first episode of Duck Dynasty! I immediately found out what all the press and popularity was about! It was hilarious and became a favorite of mine. Remember, this was October!

Well, it has now been 9 months of beard growth. The beard is coming along nicely and my wife actually seems to like it. But, with the joy of beard growth has come a problem that has started to drive me crazy! Everyone thinks I am growing my beard to try to be like the Robertsons. Here are few examples:

“Good morning uncle Si!” (from a long time friend at the gym several times, including this morning).
“Hey Duck Dynasty guy” (from a Scott County Deputy while I was doing chaplain duty last week).
“You trying to be on Duck Dynasty?” (9,000 people during the month of May).

And the examples go on! Let me be clear, my beard has NOTHING to do with my love of Duck Dynasty! Okay, so with this being said, I started thinking: “How come no one ever ask me, ‘Hey, are you trying to be like Jesus?'”. Why doesn’t my life raise speculation that I am striving to do everything possible to live Christ-like? I mean, I have never been accused of having a heart like Jesus, only a beard like Jase.

So, as my beard journey continues, I am sure the “Duck Dynasty” comments will continue. I will continue to grin and accept the recognition of having a sweet beard! But, as my Christian journey continues, I hope to seek after Jesus and let Him been even more visible, more amazing, more life changing than a Robertson beard!

1 John 2:6 – “Whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked”
1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ”
1 Peter 2:21 – “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.”
Ephesians 5:1-2 – “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

No, I don’t sell duck calls!

Thanking a Veteran

Today is a day set aside to say “Thank You” to those veterans who have served or are serving for my freedom to sit and write this! What an incredible gift your service has given and for that I celebrate you!

Being Sunday, today is also a day that believers will gather in buildings with the intention to celebrate Jesus, who gave His all for us. Many call what they are doing this morning “worship”. I am 100% confident that this is true. But, the question I ask myself this morning is “Who am I worshipping.” See, I have a tendency to think this celebration I will attend this morning is about me! Therefore, my whole attitude is determined on whether I like the style, the preaching, the music, the time it takes to get it all done, etc…! If just one of these things is not correct, my worship is hindered and I am not celebrating, but lamenting. Am I alone in this?

But as I think about it, this mindset is like celebrating myself on Veterans Day, which would be ridiculous! See, I have not fought the battles in the deserts or in the jungles. I have not faced the challenge of boot camp! I have not left my pregnant wife to serve my country. Therefore to celebrate myself on Veterans Day would be disrespectful and arrogant.

In the same way, only Jesus went to the cross for the reconciliation of man to God! I did not face the humiliation of being beaten to nothing. I did not have nails stuck through my hands and feet! I did not have a spear stuck through my side. BUT HE DID! Then He died!

So we celebrate heroes today! My uncle, my cousin, many friends, I say “thank you”! Jesus, I say “thank you”!

And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord , call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. “Sing praises to the Lord , for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. (Isaiah 12:4, 5 ESV)

ONE LOVE, ONE GOD, ONE WAY
JD

Thanking a Veteran

My Wife and Family

As I sit here writting this blog, my wife is sitting at home watching our two kids, one who is sick and the other who is 10 months old. I am amazed at how God uses her to raise them. As the wife of a pastor, she has a hard job and the pay stinks. Thankfully, she does not do it for the money! She is an amazing woman and she deserves full credit for how great our kids are! This blog is very short, but very needed! Therefore, I say…”CRYSTAL, YOU ARE AMAZING!”

ONE LOVE, ONE GOD, ONE WAY
JD

My Wife and Family

Understanding Forgiveness

I have never really understood why Jesus told Peter to forgive 70 times 7. I mean, should we really forgive someone over and over and over again? Won’t that make me look like I loose the battle or that I am the weaker person?

When you look at Matthew 18:23-35, you begin to see what Jesus was telling Peter. It is in this parable that we see a King offering a servant forgiveness of a very large debt of 10,000 talents (1 talent was equal to 20 years worth of wages for labor). When the king went to the servant to collect, the servant could by no means repay this amount. It was impossible. Instead of holding the servant until he could pay, the King forgave the debt. Now check this. The king forgave a debt that was worth 200,000 years worth of labor. Lets cross the bridge to today’s money:

If 1 year salary = $50,000 than 200,000 years worth of salary = $1,000,000,000
So, for our setting, the King forgave a billion dollar debt. WOW! Now, once the servant was set free, he went out to collect on someone that owed him 100 denari (or 100 days worth of salary). When the person that owed him could not pay, he went nuts. He demanded payment without forgiveness. Let’s look at what the fuss was about.

If 1 year salary = $50,000 than 100 days worth of salary = approx. $13,700.00

Do you see this? The servant was forgiven of a debt for 1 billion dollars but would not forgive a debt for thirteen thousand. Why? I believe that he did not understand how much he had been forgiven. He had taken it for granted.

What about you? Do you realize how much you have been forgiven? We owed a debt, just like the servant, that we could not pay. The King above all kings sent Jesus to pay our debt. We have been forgiven. So why don’t we share that forgiveness? Why do we shy away from sharing the love of Christ? Why do we groan and complain when things in the church aren’t going like we want them to? BECAUSE WE DON’T UNDERSTAND THE FORGIVENESS WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN!

Consider your debt and how much you have been forgiven. Search for those who are also in debt and tell them how they can be forgiven. The blood of Jesus should be our theme!!!!

ONE LOVE, ONE GOD, ONE WAY
JD

Understanding Forgiveness

My Most Recent Sermon

“TAKING A RISK TO FOLLOW GOD”
Acts 11:1-18
Introduction
My heart was pounding. The excitement was building inside of me. For several years my cousin has been a season ticket holder for St. Louis Blues hockey. In all those years, I have been trying to convince him to let me borrow the seats for a game. We could never get the dates to work out and I had never been able to make it to a game. Then, just last week, he called with exciting news. He had come across some extra tickets and wanted me to come. I could hardly contain myself. I was on the verge of yelling with excitement. Then I asked, “What is the date”? As he told me the date, I felt the excitement level go from 100% to 0%. He said, “March 16th”. This would be fine, except that my second child is due the very next day. I knew there was no way that I was going to be able to go. With disappointment in my voice I explained to him that it would be impossible for me to make it to the game.

Maybe you have found yourself in a similar situation. You are so excited that you were able to go to an event or that you were able to take part in something, that you could not wait to tell people. You purposely would try to come in contact with people so you could share with them the joy you had from your experience. Then, you tell them the exciting news and their response is anything but interesting. As a matter of fact, they could care less about what you were telling them. All that comes to your mind is, “how can they not be excited?” Maybe you have been the one who takes the excitement away from someone else. Either way, we all have been apart of something like this.

The great Bible character, Peter, had this very thing happen to him. In Acts 10 we find Peter receiving a vision from God. Through this vision, Peter was called to the group of people known as Gentiles. This was a challenge for Peter because he knew that the Jewish Religious group would be extremely harsh towards a decision to break bread with the unclean. In the vision, God made it clear that His grace was available to whoever would accept it. Therefore, Peter was called to this unclean group in order to share the message of Jesus Christ and redemption through His death, burial, and resurrection. The end result was the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles. Lives were changed. The lost were brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. As we look at this occurrence, we can understand that Luke noted the importance of this event because it is important to the non-Jew, which includes everyone here today. First, had the Holy Spirit not come to the Gentile, none of us would be able to have a relationship with the Father. We are the Gentiles. Second, the risk that Peter took to share the Truth had definite consequences. We can not underestimate the fact that obedience to the Father can come with harsh consequences. Today, we are going to try and understand how we can be sure that we are being completely obedient as we take risks to follow God. The key is that, WE MUST BE LED BY GOD!

Read Acts 11:1-18
As we look at this passage, the response of the religious people to the falling of the Spirit on the Gentiles is very interesting. Luke writes that, “when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision CELEBRATED with him”. Is that what your bible says? NO! The scripture says that “when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision CONTENDED with him” (11:2). How sad it is that the religious people refused to celebrate what God was doing in the midst of the lost Gentiles. Instead, they chose to hammer Peter for taking a risk.

Surely we would never do this, would we? Just last week I sat on an ordination council during the questioning of a candidate that was being ordained. If you do not know what that is, well it is when a bunch of preachers and deacons take a future preacher in a back room and scourge him with a cat of nine tails and kick him while he is down. No, not really. It may seem that scary sometimes for the candidate, but it is a great thing. We talk to the candidate about things he needs to know. The council helps the candidate talk through things dealing with theology, marriage, scripture, and life. During this council, the issue of drinking was brought up. The candidate stated that he “chose abstinence” with regards to consuming alcohol. Yet, the conversation continued about alcohol and the status of drinking with regards to sin. What I heard next from a deacon amazed me. He said, “Well, if one of my friends wanted to talk and I had the chance to share the hope of Jesus with them, but I had to go to the tavern to do it. I guess you would see one of your deacons in the tavern”. My initial response was surprise. But I truly believe the deacon made a good point. But, many would advise him that this is not the best thing to do. Many would say, “A good Christian should never be seen in the tavern”. I came to the conclusion that if God is leading, then we should trust him.

Peter realized that he was going to have to explain himself. He realized that he was going to be forced to let the religious people know that he was being led by God. The points he made are key for us to understand how we can be led by the Spirit.

A. Peter knew he was being led by God because he had communication with God (vs.5)
1. The first thing that Peter mentioned as he recounted this amazing story was the fact that he was PRAYING. Surely the religious people could not dispute the fact that Peter was praying. I mean, this is a staple in the religious circles. Good religious people pray. This is when Peter caught the vision. If Peter was talking to God, then God surely would have been talking to Peter, thus presenting this vision.

2. If we want to be led by God then surely we must understand that we have to communicate with Him. It is extremely difficult to hear from someone if you are not communicating with them. The problem is that what many believers call “communicating with God” is actually asking Him for what we want. We come to Him and ask Him to bless our food, provide us money, heal our aunt Betty, and protect us from the evil one. These things are all good, but we need to understand that we must stop and let Him speak to us. In his book Crazy Love, Francis Chan has a chapter entitled “Stop Praying”. In this chapter, Chan explains how we as believers need to step back and stop praying like we do. We need to enter in to a time of communication with the Heavenly Father with an understanding of His greatness. Many times we just need to come to the Father and not even say a word because He needs to speak to us.

Over the last year I have had the opportunity to do play-by-play and color commentary for Sikeston High School sports. I enjoy this because I love Sikeston High School and I love sports. My partner and I switch of doing play-by-play and color. I enjoy the play-by-play side much more. It is easier for me to do. All I have to do is watch what is going on and tell the people listening exactly what I see. But, color-commentary is more difficult. To be a good color man you have to listen to the play-by-play and comment off of what is being said. This is hard for me. I struggle trying to think about what I am going to say while listening to another person talk. Many times I have found myself saying something that does not make sense because I was not listening to the other person. Many times, we as Christians find ourselves doing something that does not make sense because we are not listening to God.

Psalms 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God”. If we want to ensure that we are being led by God, we first must have communication with Him.

B. Peter knew he was being led by God because God is about redemption. (vs. 9)

1. Again, we find an idea that the religious people could not deny. “What God has cleansed shall not be called common, or unclean. How could the people who have been made clean by God argue this fact? They knew that God was about redemption. They had been redeemed themselves. This was a fact that would be devastating if rejected. But, this did put a wrench in one way of thought in the early church. They thought that being clean was based on their genealogy. They thought that the only way to be clean was through the connection with the Jewish heritage. But, through the statement in the vision, God opened the doors for “whosoever will”.

2. For us, we have the tendency to think that God does not want a relationship with someone unless they look or act a certain way. We have a boxed view of God that says that if the person does not stop what they are doing and act “correct” then they can not be accepted by God. Where do we get off with this idea? We must understand that redemption is about life change. If we expect the lost to start acting redeemed, they must be redeemed first. God established this through the working of the Holy Spirit. It comes at salvation to convict of sin. Then, it draws us to righteousness as we work out our salvation. Then, it justifies us through the blood of Jesus on the Day of Judgment. (John 16:8). None of this can be done apart from the Holy Spirit. None of this depends on anything that we can do.

God’s redemptive nature must be understood if we want to know we are being led by Him.

C. Peter knew he was being led by God because God had prepared the way (vs. 11-16)

1. Immediately, the vision was fulfilled. Can you imagine that? God gives you a vision and immediately it is fulfilled. Peter had three men in front of him. They led him to the house of Cornelius. Once in the house, Peter heard of what God had been doing to prepare the harvest for Peter. Cornelius explained how God had sent a vision to him. As he explained this, I can picture Peter having an epiphany has he fully understands what God has been doing.

2. As we sit hear this morning, God is preparing divine encounters for us. In fifteen minutes we will dismiss from this building and head to restaurants all across town. Most of you will have an encounter with a waiter or waitress who does not know Jesus as Lord. God has already prepared for the meeting. You ask, “How do I know who to speak to?” I say, if we have communication with God, He will show us what He is preparing.

Just this week, a good friend of mine had some encounters that he did not plan on having. Wednesday he was driving his tractor trailer in Illinois, when a vehicle crossed the center line and hit him head on. There were two men in the other vehicle and one of them actually died. My friend, through all this, has had contact with numerous doctors, family members, truck drivers, and media people. He has had the chance to share how the Lord protected him.

God is preparing the way for our obedience. When Peter obeyed, he experienced the joy of seeing life change take place. He got to be part of this grand event in history. The Holy Spirit came for the common man. It was during this time of obedience that Peter realized what Jesus was talking about when He said, “John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Conclusion

As Peter finished his story, he challenged them with this: “If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us (Holy Spirit), who was I that I could stop God?” By asking this he was implying to them, “who are you that you can stop God?” See, none of us want to stand in the way of what God is doing. We talk a great game when we say we want to let God work. But, many times we have a hard time being led by God and taking risks with obedience because it may be dangerous or messy. By refusing to be obedient, we stand in the way of letting God use us. He can still accomplish what he wants, but we will miss being a part and experiencing the joy.

How did the religious respond? They became silent and glorified God. They stopped and listened to Him. They acknowledged his greatness. The understood his redemptive nature. They finally stopped to listen for God.

My Most Recent Sermon