Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Didn't Learn This in Seminary- Or Did I?

We have had a busy couple of weeks at Cottrell Corners Community Church. Among other things, the family that rents a home on the property moved out, so we need to find a new renter and get the place ready to be lived in again.

As a result, I've done things that I don't normally do. I've met with carpet people and hardwood floor people. I participated in a workday where we painted just about everything. I've shown the unit to various people who were interested in seeing it. I've fielded phone calls from people who wanted to know all the details (especially the price). And I just accepted a security deposit and wrote a receipt.

Somewhere in the middle of doing all of these things related to the property I had a thought. My thought was that I didn't learn about property management in seminary. But not too long later I had another thought. I realized that my seminary training had indeed equipped me to deal with these events. Even though there were no classes on "Landlord 101" at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD (an excellent place to attend, by the way), the professors there had indeed helped me prepare. The way that they helped me prepare was by giving me lots of work and lots of deadlines to meet. During my time in seminary I took around 18 credits per semester. Plus I had two simultaneous internships. I was also teaching a home Bible study. Did I mention that I was already married and working 30 hours a week? It was a busy time. And my classes forced me to be organized and hard-working.

So even though seminary classes can never prepare anyone for all of the things that they might face, the experience of seminary itself will prepare you for dealing with much of life. And the classes that one does take will hopefully prepare that person to study and communicate the Bible- which is a far more important part of the job of pastor than the landlord stuff is.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Three Pronged Approach

At Cottrell Corners Community Church we summarize our goals with three short words: up, out, and in. We desire to reach up to God through worship. We want to reach in to the church through discipleship. And we want to reach out to our community and our world through evangelism. Our guest speaker reminded us about evangelism on Sunday, and that reminder caused me to consider how we are doing on all three of our goals.

This congregation has advanced significantly in the area of worship. Of course we gather every Sunday morning to worship God as a group. Recently our worship team had the priviledge of attending a conference together. They have been putting some of the things we learned into practice in recent weeks.

I have been pleased with the growth of our church in the area of discipleship. Discipleship is simply teaching people how to live more like Jesus. We do this through a host of Bible studies, sermons, children's programs, and special meetings. We intend to add a Youth Group next month to help our teens grow in their faith as well.

This church was established based on reaching out in evangelism. And our guest speaker on Sunday reminded us that we need to get back to work in that area. He reminded us that we all know people that the rest of us in the church don't know. It is our responsibility to use our relationships in a way that encourages our friends to trust Christ as their Savior from sin. I hope to have more teaching about this topic in the coming year. And I hope on a personal level to do a better job in developing relationships with people outside of the church.

One thing that we all realize will assist us in reaching up, out, and in will be a new building. The Building Committee is still working and praying diligently toward that end. We have made plans. We have toured other buildings. We have begun to raise money. We have contacted builders and engineers and architects. We have investigated financing. But there is still more to do. Please continue to pray that God would provide our congregation with a building that would indeed help us to accomplish our three pronged approach of reaching up, out, and in.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stinky Trash Cans

My wife and I took our five children to the Bronx Zoo on Wednesday. It was a very hot and humid day. Many of the exhibits were closed because a storm the night before had knocked over many trees. We could hear chain saws working on the trees almost the entire time that we were there. We left right around closing time at 5:00 p.m. As we walked out of the gate I purchased bottles of water for everyone- the price was only one dollar on the outside of the gate, but closer to 3 dollars inside.

After acquiring the water we began to walk about three blocks back to where we had parked. I finished my water in the first half block (did I mention it was hot outside?) and was looking for a trash can to dispose of the bottle. The first trash can I discovered was right by a bus stop where a lot of street vendors had been set up for most of the day. That trash can was piled up beyond overflowing (if that is possible). The trash was heaped at least a foot over the top of the trash can, and then the rest of the trash from the day was all around the area. It was revolting. I decided to carry my trash a bit farther rather than add to that mess. About a block later I discovered a trash can which was usable and depsited my garbage in it.

It occurs to me that our sin makes us appear to God like that trash can appeared to me- disgusting, gross, revolting, and unworthy to be used. And that trash can was not going to do anything to improve itself. It was not going to empty itself. Left to itself that trashcan was only going to get worse. Isn't that a good description of our lives apart from God's grace? We can't clean ourselves up. We can't make ourselves better. Instead, we need Jesus to clean up our sins and present us to God clean and usable. Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are able to clean yourself up. Instead, accept Jesus' generous offer to take the penalty for your sins and to clean you up so that you can be clean in God's sight. Then you won't stink.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hebrews 6:1-8 was tough

Last Thursday night I attended a prayer group from our church that meets in Sylvia's home. The leader of that group is a retired pastor. One of my requests was for clarity regarding Sunday's sermon on Hebrews chapter 6 since I was finding it to be a tough passage. When I gave the reference, immediately Rev. Mitchell and his wife both began to laugh and to affirm that they would pray hard for me since they knew it to be a very tough passage.

When I went back to the study on Friday, I discovered that God was again gracious and gave me clarity in thinking and allowed me to finish the sermon. I trust that the end result was a sermon that was true to the text and relevant to us today.

The first application from this passage is that every single one of us needs to make sure that we examine our lives to make sure that we are truly trusting in Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. Just being in church regularly and doing good things is not enough to save you for eternity or to make you right with God. In fact, doing those good things could be dangerous to you if they make you think that you are okay with God when you aren't. The severe warning of the passage, especiallty verses 4-6 is that people can appear to be Christians when they are not. Someone can play the part of a believer in Jesus, but not really believe in Jesus for salvation. So examine yourself to make sure that you are really in the faith.

The second application of this passage is that we need to continue to grow and mature in our faith. We are not supposed to just focus on the initial truths about Chist. Instead, we are to learn those things well, and then learn more. We are constantly to supposed to be growing in our faith and in our understanding of Christ.

How have you grown lately?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I Have Not Worked Until I Have Prayed

I have the priviledge of working at a local church as a pastor. As with most jobs, there are many things that need to be done when I am at work. There are also many things that I might have to do at times other than "normal business hours." But only a couple items are top priorities.

One of the top priorities is prayer. I recently reminded the elders that I don't ever believe that I have truly worked until I have actually spent time in prayer for the church and for the people of the church. Prayer is a big part of my job.

Early leaders of the church also saw prayer as a priority. In fact, the apostles delegated some very important responsibilities because they needed to spend their time ministering to the church through prayer and through studying and proclaiming God's message. While I am certainly not an apostle, I do want to follow the example that they apostles gave for church leaders. So, by God's grace, I pray for the church.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

God's Grace Driving Outside of New Jersey

One of the things I love about living in New Jersey is that driving is fun. One of the adventures of New Jersey driving is that most traffic lights take about 15 mintues to turn from yellow to red. So if you are in NJ and you see a light turn yellow, you are going to drive right through that intersection. In fact, the person behind you is also going to drive through, and so will the person behind them. I know two people that were rear-ended soon after they moved here because they stopped when the light turned yellow and the people behind them did not.

I am currently in Maryland with a group of people from my church. John is graciously driving us around in his Suburban. Over the course of the day yesterday we had several conversations about what to do at yellow lights in New Jersey and how different that is from Maryland. On our way back to the hotel from the WorshipGod09 Conference last night a traffic light turned yellow while we approached. John stopped accelerating, but then seemed to be considereing whether he should stop (and possibly be rear-ended) or just drive through the light (and possibly run a red light in an area where the lights might be shorter). John opted for the "safer" choice and went right through the light. But of course that yellow light was far shorter than what we are used to, and we didn't even hit the intersection until after that light had clearly turned red. We were still laughing a block later when a police officer turned on his lights and pulled someone else over who had apparently run a light going the other way.

I guess we received grace from God that we were not in an accident and that we didn't have to try and talk our way out of a ticket. So the next time you are in Maryland, remember that the lights are short. And the next time you are in New Jersey, please keep moving when you see that light turn yellow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Building Update

The Building Committee for Cottrell Corners Community Church met Monday night. We looked at three proposals from site engineers. One proposal stood out because of the references listed and because of the price. We will follow up with that engineering firm by checking those references.

The majority of the meeting time was spent listening to a proposal from a builder. This builder was recommended to us by a Bible Fellowship Church in Pennsylvania. They seem to understand our budget, so they presented a smaller building than we initially proposed. The building has about the same number of rooms that we had planned, but the rooms are smaller. It appears to be a workable building for us. There are some unknown prices are for things like electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and all of the work on the ground prior to the building going up. But the bid was placed low enough to try to compensate for those prices and still meet our budget goal.

We should hear from another builder by next week regarding a price for the exact building that we proposed.

Someone figured out last night that if we can have all of our money and financing secured by Easter, then we should be able to move into the new building by Christmas of 2010.

Please continue to pray that God would provide us with a usable building. And please also pray that we would indeed use that building to worship Him and serve our community.