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Invincibility: Life or Death… I’m Good

Paul went from persecuting the church to being a persecuted apostle of the church. After his arrest in Jerusalem, during his first imprisonment, he wrote a letter to the Philippians in which he boldly declared this short but profound line…

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (1:21)

In other words… “If I live, I get to be all about Christ. If I die, I get to be with Christ, so either way, I’m good.” Here’s the thought that hit me – Paul was pretty much invincible at this point. Kill him and he’s with Jesus. Let him live and he’ll just live for Jesus. You can’t really hurt Paul.

I can think of plenty of things that could hurt me. Take away all my money, my time, or worse yet, take away my family and I’d be hurting. But I’d only hurt temporarily, or physically, or emotionally. Eternally? I’m good. We’re good. I won’t take money home with me and my family will meet me there.

Let me ask you an extremely important question… if someone took your life, would they be hurting you? If they let you live, would that cause pain for you too? Or are you firmly grounded and settled in an eternally secure relationship with Jesus?

As far as eternity is concerned, I’m invincible. Seems like I’ve always wanted that special power!

Why Grace Hills Church Is In Jeopardy

Thin IceGrace Hills Church is eleven Sundays old, officially, and about eight months old, unofficially. And we’re in trouble. If we don’t do something, all of our effort will be in vain and all hope of planting the kind of church Jesus had in mind will be lost.

No, we’re not out of money. God has provided every step of the way. No, we’re not losing people. In fact, we’re seeing new attenders every week. And no, we’re not losing our leaders. We’re seeing new leaders emerge as each week passes. But I still contend that we’re in jeopardy of losing everything important to us… if we don’t fight for it.

Churches do not automatically thrive. The American church, as a local institution, has proven that it can coast along in almost-dead mode for many years. But there are no churches that are effectively reaching and changing their surrounding culture by accident. Recently, Rick Warren wrote a brief piece on Pastors.com about breaking three common barriers to church growth. In the comments, a troubling attitude emerged that is probably not too uncommon among believers in American churches – that growth is up to God (which I wholeheartedly agree with) and so any intentional effort to cause growth is somehow wrong (which I couldn’t disagree with more).

We’ve been having “good Sundays” at Grace Hills, but I’m still very much on guard. In fact, I sometimes find myself troubled at the rising threats against our success, not from any force outside of our fellowship, but from within it. Let me elaborate on some ways I believe the mission is in jeopardy even now…

If we fail to intentionally be the church, we will unintentionally just do church. And that’s true, no matter how much we say we’re going to “be the church.” Doing the Sunday gathering thing is what we’re good at, and even though we spend a lot of time and money on it, it’s still easier than scattering to be the church in our community.

If we fail to intentionally make disciples, we will unintentionally just make fans. I believe in making Jesus famous and bringing people into the enjoyment of His glory, but our mission is more than increasing the popularity of the church. The mission is to help people become reproducing, sold out Jesus-followers.

If we fail to intentionally be authentic, we will unintentionally just perform. I’ve performed before. In fact, I’m a recovering performer and have struggled with an addiction to the approval of others, so admitting my weaknesses is tough, but essential. I no longer trust my autopilot to lead me into genuine authenticity. Being real takes effort, and if we aren’t real, nobody heals.

If we fail to intentionally embrace all people, we will unintentionally play favorites. And the apostle James warned us about the danger of insulting the cross by picking and choosing those with whom we want to do ministry. Rather than hanging out with only the “churchy” people, of our color, of our political persuasion, of our cultural background etc., the gospel itself demands that we purposely break free and seek out new friendships for the gospel’s sake.

If we fail to intentionally be generous, we will unintentionally consume everything. By default, we spend it all, and we tend to spend pretty much all of our resources on ourselves. Churches tend to fall into the trap of sustaining their institutional machinery, maintaining their buildings and budgets, and begging for more volunteers and bigger offerings to keep the snowball rolling. Generosity requires purposeful sacrifice (if we can even use that word in light of the cross).

Grace Hills is in jeopardy of existing for us rather than them. We’re in jeopardy of growing the institution of the church rather than the people of the church. And we’re always in jeopardy of becoming a well-liked brand rather than pointing the culture to the infinite goodness of God.

So what should we do? How do we stop our drift and shift out of autopilot? With focus, intention, and effort, we need to:

  • Check our hearts and our motives.
  • Remind ourselves of the mission often.
  • Repeat the vision regularly.
  • Keep Jesus at the center.
  • Put people before the organization.
  • Do it all with a sense of desperation.

After all, if we fail to take the reins, we’re already as good as dead no matter how long we keep the doors open. So… go.

Jesus’ Finest Hour

If you were given one week to live and you knew the end of your life was just days away, what would you do? How would you spend that time? Jesus did know that his hour was coming. He knew His time was nearing. How did He spend His time? Too much material is devoted to His final week to detail it all here, but this is what Jesus’ calendar looked like about a week before the cross…

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Ron V. Mitchell – A Hero Goes Home

Ron V. MitchellI learned today that Dr. Ron V. Mitchell has ended his battle with cancer, going home to be with his Savior. This news floods my mind and heart with fond memories of the short time that I knew Dr. Mitchell. First, some biographical information, via the Baptist Trumpet

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What Will Be Said at My Funeral?

Today I attended the funeral of Larry Markum who served as a Pastor, Missionary, and Church Planter. I was amazed by the number of friends and family who attended from several states to pay tribute to his life and testimony. When I moved to Northwest Arkansas, Bro. Markum called me up just to have prayer with me, and he called me periodically just to check in. The service was moving, a blessing to everybody who attended.

Earlier this week, my wife and I watched parts of the funeral of Jill Attebery, whose life also impacted so many. Angie and I had a conversation about these events in which we grappled with the question, “What would be said about me at my funeral if I died today?” It’s a huge question.

I remember listening to the funeral of W. A. Criswell online and Dr. Mac Brunson spoke of the word “influence” being made up of two words meaning “in flow.” That is, our influence speaks of those who are “in the flow” of our lives.

Let me ask you, who is downstream from you, and how are your choices each day affecting them? What kind of influence do you have and what kind of mark will you leave on the world you leave behind? All of us will leave some kind of legacy. What would you want to be said of you at your funeral?

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