Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why Join A Local Church?

At the church I pastor we have several people coming who have never actually joined the church. They all have various reasons, some I know of, some I do not. Some have asked me why they should join, as they have come from a background where one does not formally "join" a local church. Since ours is a congregational run church, the reason I ususally give runs along the lines of "since we are a congregational run church, you must be a member in order to cast a vote or hold an office, so being a member means you have a "say" in the direction of the church and its ministries."

For some reason I have never felt comfortable with that reason. It's a good reason. It's the truth. But I have always felt there was more to it than that. There was something that I was missing.

Then I ran across an excerpt called, "The Importance Of Joining A Church" written by Ben Patterson, from a church leadership book.

When I read what he had written it was like getting a Holy Spirit "bullet" right between the eyes! He hit the nail on the head! I realized that this is what I had missed in answering the question, "Why should I join a local church?"

So, I took what he had written, tweaked it a bit, added a bit of my own, and then printed it up for our church bulliten tomorrow. I believe it is so important, that I thought I would share it with the blog world.

Now before someone jumps to conclusions, I just want to add this. To the many brothers and sisters who have been coming faithfully to our church, but who have not put down "membership roots", I want you to know that you are a blessing to me and to every member of the church. We do not, nor will we ever see you as second class believers just because you have not actually joined our local church. I thank God for you and pray for you every chance I get. I thank you for making the decision to worship with us and to allow us to get to know you. Of course part of my prayers include you making our church your "offical" church.

And now for the answer to the question:


Why do we emphasize joining Loma Rica Baptist Church?

Because every Christian is a member of the church, that’s why. “The same act which sets us in Christ sets us also in the society of Christ,” says P.T. Forsyth. When a Christian joins a particular congregation, he or she merely bears witness to a union that has already happened spiritually.

So if we are already spiritually joined together in the body of Christ, what’s the big deal about membership in a local congregation? What can a membership at Loma Rica Baptist Church add?

Paul’s metaphor of the church as the bride of Christ can help us here. Can you imagine a man saying to his fiancee, “Dear, we are spiritually one. Please, let’s not spoil it by having a public ceremony and moving under the same roof and making love and opening a joint checking account and getting all organized to live together. Let’s keep this lovely thing spiritual.” The fiancee might well doubt the future of their relationship.

In the New Testament, the reality of the spiritual is measured by the degree to which it becomes physical. To join a particular part of the body of Christ is not to bring something into existence that was not there before. It simply makes obvious what is spiritual to prove that the spiritual is real.

It is true that a name on a membership roll is meaningless in itself. But how seriously can we take a person who says he wants to be part of the church but doesn’t want to sign his name publicly?

It is true that the organized church has many problems, and Loma Rica Baptist is no exception, but are those who shun a commitment problem free? Yes, the church is blemished. But Christ still loves her, says Paul, not because she is without blemish but that he might one day present her so. He sees the church, warts and all, and knows that he must first love that which he would change.

Loma Rica Baptist is not the church it should be, but it is the church that will one day be all that God has called it to be. To go public and join is the first step in loving it as Jesus does.

Ok, so there's that.
Pastor Dave

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Do You Believe God.....Part 2

Ok, yesterday I talked about the difference between believing God and believing in God, and today I just want to build upon that point.

Too often we thank God for being good when our prayers are answered the way we think they should, but the truth is that God is good no matter what answer we get, and therein lies one of our biggest problems.

We think that just because we don't get the answer we want, that God has not answered our prayers, when the reality is that God has answered, but not the way we want.

Our problem actually comes down to one of idolatry. We want a God that we can predict, one that makes sense to us all the time, one that will fit neatly in our back pocket and we can whip him out whenever we need him, and then gently fold him back up and slide him back in our pocket when we want to take control of our lives again.

But God doesn't work like that.

I have had to wrestle with this in my life. I came to the conclusion that I believed in God way more than I believed God.

Now, I have come to believe God.

When I pray and feel like my prayers go no further than the ceiling, I believe God hears my prayers.

When people I love refuse the love of Christ, I believe God knows the heartache I feel.

When I have more questions than answers, I believe God knows all.

When tragedy strikes and I am hurt, confused and depressed, I believe God is in control and aware of all things.

What it comes down to is that I believe that God not only hears my prayers, and I believe that God knows my hearache, and I belive that God knows everything, and I believe that God is in control and aware of all things, but even more than that I believe that God is who He says He is.

I believe that God is loving, generous, slow to anger and abounding in love. God is good. All the time. He longs to give us good gifts, even those things that we are afraid to ask. He will not always give us what we want, but will always give us what we need.

I pray that today, you will move from belief in God, to believing God.

Ok, so there's that.
Pastor Dave

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Do You Believe God?

Do you believe God?

Let me ask you again.

Do you believe God?

You might be thinking to yourself, sure I believe in God. But that is not what I asked you. Ok, one more time.

Do you believe God?

I was reading a book the other day that posed that question. It pointed out the vast difference between believe in God and believing God.

The world is full of people who believe in God, but not nearly as many believe God. The church is not immune to this either. Take a look at the way we pray.

Too often our prayers are exercizes in being pompous, pious, and timid. Instead of boldly approaching the throne of grace we politely, cautiously clear our throats and speak as though we’re not sure anyone is really listening.

In Luke 11:9-10 Jesus says,

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened"

Too often in our prayers, we are not knocking as desperate people seeking an audience with the King of Kings; instead of knocking until our knuckles bleed, we knock quietly once or twice, and then politely slide a note under the door.

If we believe God, then we will knock loudly, and persistently. We will knock until He answers, because if we believe Him we KNOW He will answer. We need to move from hoping God will hear us, to knowing He hears us. We need to move from hoping God will answer us to knowing He will answer us. Then we move from believing in, to believing.

Continuing in Luke 9, Jesus says, "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

God wants to give us good gifts. But we must ask. Now before someone takes this and starts praying for a 5 bedroom house, with a heated pool, Jacuzzi and 3 car garage, along with vehicles to fill it, let me say this. What we think is good and what God knows is good for us are often two different things.

While we think we know what is good for us, God knows. He knows for sure and without a doubt.

The problem we have is lining up what we think, with what God knows.

And on that note, I’m going to make this blog a two-parter. I will continue tomorrow, where I leave off today, so don’t read today’s without checking back tomorrow, ok? But it will be posted late tomorrow as tomorrow night is Bible study at church.

Ok, see ya tomorrow.
Pastor Dave

Monday, February 19, 2007



It's a word that gets tossed around a lot in churches, but do most churches really have it.

In the daily reading for yesterday my eyes locked onto this verse:

Romans 15:5-6 (New International Version)

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus,so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


It made me think.

Does the church I pastor have unity in vision? Do we have unity of mission? Do we have a unity of calling? Do all our committees and programs work together for a common unity, or do we all have our own agenda?

What about your church? If you took a poll of all the members would they all agree on the reason that your particular church is doing what it does?

This may seem like a no-brainer for most of us, but I'm afraid that most churches are not in unity, rather most of our churches are more of an organized chaos. Pastors, deacons, teachers, worship leaders, committee members, and all other members too often have their own agenda, their own goal, their own vision, instead of one single solitary united vision.

Look at the words that Paul links with unity. He says "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity..." Ever wonder why Paul makes mention of endurance and encouragement when he is going to be talking about unity? It's because he knows that in order for unity to happen, God is going to have to give us encouragement and endurance. We will need both for unity to take place. When our ideas, our goals, our plans, our vision get moved aside or rearranged for the goal of a unified vision, we will need encouragement to keep going, we will need encouragement so that we know that just because things aren't going the way of our vision, our goal, or our plans, doesn't mean that the vision, goal or plan was a bad one, just that it was not the right one for this time. We will need endurance because it will take a lot of work to come together as one unit....united for a common purpose. It will take endurance to "hammer" out a common goal, a common purpose, a unifying vision.

But if a church is to accomplish more than spinning it's wheels, and just staying busy for the sake of something to do, then unity is absolutely essential.

As Paul writes, when there is unity it glorifies God.

Ok, so there's that.
Pastor Dave

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Playing Chicken With God

In my Sunday School class this morning we were learning about the Lord's Prayer and when I got to this part a thought crossed my mind:

Matthew 6:9-10 (New International Version)
"This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

I zeroed in on the your will be done part, and I thought of how we play chicken with God.

You remember that game when you were teenagers don't you? Two cars heading toward one another at a high rate of speed on the same side of the road. The one who swerved out of the way of the other car first was labeled "chicken" and the other would be the winner. Of course, no one wanted to be the "chicken" so you would wait until the last moment to swerve. I don't know where to get statistics on this game, but I wonder how many kids were injured or killed playing this game.

I think a better name for the game would be called "stupid".

And yet.....

We do the same thing with God.

Two wills are traveling down the road of life heading toward each other.

One is the will of God...the other is my will (or your will).

I'm heading for a collision unless I swerve out of the way and give the will of God the right of way.

But I'm not about to be called a chicken.

I'm not about to give up my will...after all it's MY WILL!

The problem is that if I don't give it up and give God the right of way, we will crash, and God will walk away from the crash without a scratch, while I'm liable to be maimed or crippled for life! What is up with that? Why am I so stubborn?

You see, when it comes to playing chicken with God we will always lose no matter what. God is not going to change. He is not going to let us go headlong on our own path without running into us, and He will always come out of the crash in better shape than we will.

Sometimes I will even think I am doing the will of God, and then crash! It's like His car had a cloaking device (if you don't know what that is, ask someone who watches Star Trek), and wham! There I am, a casualty of another game of chicken with God.

So what do I do. The answer is really quite simple.

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

My mind needs to be renewed. And the only way it can be renewed is by reading and studying the word of God. There's no shortcuts. No cliff's notes. No readers digest version. No comic book version (well actually, my son has a comic book version of the Bible....but you really need more than that).

So I encourage you to read your Bible. Study your Bible. Call your pastor with the questions....because if you read it you will have questions.

And the next time you feel tempted to play chicken with God, you'll know it's a losing game, and you'll give up before the game even begins.

Besides, life opposing God is not a game after all, it is serious business.

Ok, so there's that.
Pastor Dave

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I'm Baaaaacck!

To everyone who has been wondering where I have been for the past week or so, well, I'm back. As to where I've been....just dealing with life.

About a week ago I came down with a flu type bug. It knocked me down, and with all the sickness at home, problems at work, and stuff in general, I just had a little pity party for awhile (I sent out invitations...didn't you get yours).

The light began to shine again when two brothers and I went to see a concert by a guy named David Crowder. Now, first let me say this. If you don't have any cds by David Crowder, go out and buy one tomorrow. He's that good.

Second, one song in particular moved me emotionally and spiritually. Some of the lyrics are:

And He set me on fire
And I am burning alive
With His breath in my lungs
I am coming undone
And I cannot hold it in and remain composed
Love’s taken over me and so
I propose the letting myself go
I am letting myself go

This began a revival in me that is burning today. I am more stoked about being a child of God than ever before! Part of me wants to shout it from the rooftops or go running down the street yelling and jumping and leaping...but I don't want the men in the nice white clothes to come and take me away.

I want to just thank all my friends and brothers and sisters for all their prayers in this past week. God is listening. I am proof.

Like Paul did in some of his letters, I want to thank a few people by name. You may not even know what you have done to help bring me to this place of personal revival, but you have been a part of it.

Deena, my wonderful wife and best friend for life. I have truly been blessed by God with you.

Steve and Bob, we are truly brothers from different mothers. I cannot think of any other brothers that I would ever want to journey on this faith road with. Thanks for walking with me.

Gail M., thanks for thinking about me at work and praying for me.

Fran, thanks for being my friend through thick and thin. What can I say but, "Nyuk, nyuk nyuk."

All at Loma Rica Baptist Church, I could not thank you all individually, even though you each in your own individual way mean so much to me, but I'm afraid I might forget someone, and so I want to thank you all for allowing me the privilidge and blessing to be your pastor. The past two plus years has been the ride of my life, and I'm hanging on, 'cause I beleive we haven't seen nothin' yet.

and last, but in no way least,

Jesus, thank you for without you I would not be.

Ok, so there's that.
Pastor Dave

(p.s. Steve, ya got your fix now)

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

How Does This Happen?

Yesterday I read this passage of scripture:

Judges 2:8-13 (New International Version)

"Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths."

And I have to ask myself, "How does this happen?"

How is it that one generation can be so far removed spiritually from the previous generation? What went, or what goes wrong?

I wish I had the answer to that question.

I think my parents did a real good job of raising me in church and teaching me the things of God as best as they could, and yet I still wandered away from the Lord for about ten years.

Our oldest daughter is following the same pattern, and I constantly hear from other christian parents whose children have done the same.

I know the well meaning phrases we tell one another during these times, things like:
"They will come back." "You know the scripture says, If you train up a child in the way they should go, they will come back when they are older." and others like it.

The only problem I have with these well meaning statements is that I have seen many children grow up in good christian homes, and some don't come back. Some have died at an early age.

To watch my daughter, and others I love, live a life away from the Lord is harder than anything I have evere done, and it has made me appreciate my parents even more, as I have realized what I put them through all those years ago.

As with so many things that I find in the Bible that I don't understand, I will leave this in the hands of God.

I'm sorry if this post is not as entertaining as some, but sometimes the scriptures leave me with more questions than they do answers.

I will still hold onto Jesus and the Word, because, to paraphrase what Peter told Jesus, where else could I go, only Jesus has the words of eternal life.

Life is hard. God is good. The questions usually outnumber the answers. But God is good...all the time.

I leave you with the lyrics to two different songs, with the same title. The first one is written by Michael Been and I first heard on a Russ Taff album in the 80's. The second one is by Jeremy Camp. Both have comforted me when the questions arise.


I've been in a cave
For forty days
Only a spark
To light my way
I want to give out
I want to give in
This is our crime
This is our sin
But I still believe
I still believe
Through the pain
And through the grief
Through the lies
And through the storms
Through the cries
And through the wars
I still believe

Flat on my back
Out at sea
Hoping these waves
Don't cover me
I'm turned and tossed
Upon the waves
When the darkness comes
I feel the grave
But I still believe
I still believe
Through the cold and through the heat
through the rain
And through the tears
Through the crowds
And through the cheers
I still believe

I'll march this road
I'll climb this hill
Upon my knees If I have to
I'll take my place
Upon this stage
I'll wait till the end of time
For You
For people like us
In places like this
We need all the hope
That we can get
I still believe
I still believe
Through the shame
And through the grief
Through the heartache
And through the tears
Through the waiting
And through the years
I still believe

Words and music by Michael Been and J. Goodwin
1986 Neeb/Tarka Music/Ascap, Tileface Music (BMI)

"I Still Believe"
by Jeremy Camp

Scattered words and empty thoughts
Seem to pour from my heart
I've never felt so torn before
Seems I dont know where to start
But its now I feel Your grace fall like rain
From every fingertip washing away my pain

I still believe in Your faithfulness
I still believe in Your truth
I still believe in Your Holy word
Even when I dont see I still believe

Though the questions still fog up my mind
With promises I still seem to bear
Even when answers slowly unwind
It's my heart I see you prepare
But its now that I feel Your grace fall like rain
From every fingertip washing away my pain

The only place I can go is into Your arms
Where I throw to You my feeble prayers in brokeness
I can see that this is Your will for me
Help me to know You are near

Letting God hold me,
Pastor Dave

Monday, February 5, 2007

My Dysfunctional Family

Several years ago we all began hearing the term “dysfunctional family”. It was tossed around like it was the answer to what is wrong with many families. At the time I didn’t give it much thought. After all, these things were defined by people with lots of letters on the diplomas that hung on their walls. What did I know, I was just a regular Dad trying my best to make sure none of my kids tried to insert a peanut butter sandwich into the slot on the VCR. Dysfunctional families? Made sense to me.

However, what I have since discovered is that the idea of the dysfunctional family is nothing new. In fact, I believe that the dysfunctional family is the normal family. Now before you freak out, let’s look at the definition of the word “dysfunction”. The dictionary says it means:

1 : impaired or abnormal functioning
2 : abnormal or unhealthy interpersonal behavior or interaction within a group

Is there a family out there who doesn’t have someone in it that would fit that description?

Not only is it true in our days, but way back in the Bible times it was true also. Take a look at the chapters I read in Genesis today. In chapters 20 through 23 we find Abraham lying to someone by telling them that his wife was really his sister. This is the 2nd recorded time that Abe did that….and then he tries to make excuses by saying how it really wasn’t a lie, it was just "sorta" a lie (see /Genesis 20:12), then he sends one of his sons away from home with the boys Mother, and they would have died if God had not intervened. On top of that he then went on to offer up his son Issac as a sacrifice, which God had instructed him to do, but then God stopped him as it was only a test of Abe’s faith.

Talk about dysfunctional! Abe could have wrote the book! He was a habitual liar, an absent Father, guilty of abandonment, and the little thing with Issac would have messed up any kids head. I think of all the kids who complain about how their parents have “forced” religion on them…and then you have Issac who was almost sacrificed for the religion of his Father. Whew!

But then I think back even further…Adam and Eve had one son who killed another son…sounds a little dysfunctional to me! And let’s not forget Joseph, whose brothers wanted to kill him, but instead decided to make a profit off of him and sell him into slavery.

You see, dysfunctional families are the norm, because we are dysfunctional people! The only way for us to move from our dysfunctional state to a functional state is to put our faith and trust in Jesus to save us from our dysfunction (sins).

Even then, as long as we live on this planet the way it is, and live in these bodies, we will constantly deal with our dysfunctional lives. One day, either when we go to be with the Lord, or He comes to be with us, we will shed our dysfunctional bodies and this dysfunctional planet and be all that we were created to be.

I look forward to that day more and more as I get older. I’m tired of being dysfunctional. I’m tired of hurting the ones that I love, of arguing with those closest to me. I look forward to the day when sin is no more and our relationships with one another are full, complete and perfect. No more arguing. No more mean spirited words out of our mouths. No more spiteful comments. No more insults.

Most of all, I look forward of being face to face with my Lord and Savior, Jesus, and I look forward to not hurting Him anymore with my dysfunctional life.

Until that day though, I will continue my journey here on this dysfunctional planet, in this dysfunctional body, following Jesus and allowing Him to turn my dysfunctional life into a functional one.

Ok, so there’s that.
Pastor Dave