Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Church in HD: A Better Perspective

As early as 1862, images were transferred across a series of wires. This test would lead to what is now the television. In the first half of the 20th Century, the TV became somewhat popular, and when color TV became available to the public in the 1950s, a new craze was born. But the early TVs with their rabbit ears and generally poor reception did not have a great picture.

Fast forward to 2009, and the government imposed that all television viewing must be digital. With that switch, the high definition television was in high demand. With higher definition came a picture that was not distorted as the size increased, so the 32-inch television (which was a good-sized TV in the first decade of the 21st Century) gave way to 40, 48, 55, 80 inches, etc. Now, we have Ultra High Def which has brought about an even brighter and more vibrant picture. We can say that the digital revolution has brought about a new perspective.

God wants to give us a new perspective as well. The perspective He desires for us is one that aligns with the life of Jesus which is recorded in His Word. A part of that perspective relates to the Church Jesus promised to build. Jesus promised to build the Church. He commissioned the the Church to do the work, and He gave a promise that Holy Spirit would empower the work.

But, before we are ready to partner with Him in that work, we may need to change our perspective on the Church. A part of that perspective is based upon our previous experiences, but a part of our perspective is based upon our personal ideas of what the church is or what it should be. That is what this series is designed to help us overcome. We need to get our own ideas out of the way and see what God’s design is for the church.

It is like the rhino who was painting a picture. Its perspective altered the true nature of the landscape he was trying to paint. If we are not careful, we will let our thoughts dictate what God’s church should be like instead of letting Him build what He has planned. Sometimes we have to get ourselves out of the way in order to see clearly.

Spiritual Formation Comes From Obedience (Acts 2.37-41)

Last week, I mentioned that Peter preached a great message. What made it great was that it got the attention of those who heard it and they desired to know what to do because of it. Peter told them what they needed to do and they did it. Repent. Be baptized. And they were. Now, we think of baptism as an event within the life of the church, but in the Jewish custom, baptism was not just getting dunked. It was a matter of identifying with something or someone – in this case Jesus. It was setting aside what was formally important and re-defining one’s life. In this case, the life would now be defined by Jesus. This obedience to repent and then to be baptized was the first step towards spiritual formation.

Obedience Leads to Spiritual Formation (Acts 2.42-47)

Yes, these first two points are saying the same thing. But the point must not be overlooked. In the first instance, their obedience was to be saved, now their obedience will lead to growth in their salvation. Notice what happened to this new group of Christians. Before this day of Pentecost, we know that approximately 120 were in the upper room (Acts 1.15). Now 3000 more souls were added to the church. What did they do? They became devoted to the teaching of the apostles. We do not know exactly what they taught or when they taught it, but we can have a very good idea. In the Great Commission, Jesus instructed His closest followers to “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Notice what these three thousand people did immediately after choosing Jesus. They engaged in:
  • Fellowship – they desired being with one another (Oct 7 – Unite)
  • Breaking of Bread – they desired to eat together, mealtimes are great for discussions
  • Prayer – certainly to understand what God wanted for this new group
  • Unity – they had all things in common (not uniformity as we will see later) 
  • Sharing – they cared for those in need
  • Daily Time Together – again, a desire existed to be together and to learn and to talk
  • Praisedaily worship
  • Including Others – more people believed; invited others to see what God was doing

The apostles also did signs and wonders. The apostles did great things which got people’s attention, but the idea is not just what they did because, as Jesus said, we are salt and light.

The point is that their obedience to what the disciples taught caused them to engage in discipleship, fellowship, worship, ministry, and evangelism – the five focal points of a kingdom-focused church. For Fairfax Baptist Church, those five focal points are represented by the:
  • OObserve (Discipleship)
  • UUnite (Fellowship
  • RRevere (Worship)
  • NNurture (Ministry)
  • EEngage (Evangelism)

Ultimately, the work of the apostles was to make disciples and that is what they did. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide His followers into all truth. In other words, the goal of making disciples was spiritual formation which leads to transformed lives.

Consider for a moment how much time you waste in a week. Thankfully, in Atchison County we don’t have stop lights, but each day in cities all over this nation, consider the collective number of minutes lost while sitting at a stop light. Or what about junk mail? It is called junk for a reason. But how much time is lost, let alone how much money is spent on sending it out. If I get the mail by going out through the garage, most of the time junk mail doesn’t even make it into our house. It goes straight into the recycle container.

The point is we waste a lot of time doing things that do not matter at all. When we stand before Jesus, He will not ask about how well we read our junk mail. Yet, junk mail, and other time wasters keep us from doing what He wants for us – to be transformed through spiritual formation. And, one to two hours per week of church do not lead to spiritual formation. Spiritual formation comes from our being obedient to Christ and, in turn, allows us to be spiritually formed to become like Christ. And this is where I have to get really ugly because of the high definition focus.

Last week, I mentioned a question that would be prominent through this series. That question was, and is: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church? I cannot answer that for you. But for Andy Braams, the answer is to lead. If I lead well, and lead as Jesus would have me lead, it will make a difference.

Last month, while we were meeting downstairs, I confessed that despite the success of the renovations, I had not handled parts of this renovation process well. Comparing the life of David to the situation, I mentioned the 5 A’s of overcoming mistakes. Be Aware. Acknowledge. Apologize. Act. Apply Additional Generosity. At the time, I told you that I was not certain what the additional generosity should be. Well, I have a better perspective after God got hold of me this week.

Before I share that perspective, let me offer you another question to ponder. What is one thing you would change about this church? As I mentioned last week, I am not allowing myself to get ahead in this series in expectation that God will speak to me at the right moment about changes that need to be made. Well, He gave me one which ties directly into the question I asked last week.

The one thing I need to change about this church is the only thing I have control over – myself. I need to change me. God hit me over the head with this on Tuesday in such a way I could not escape it. In fact, after I went to bed, and stirred for an hour, I got up and wrote this sermon because He would not leave me alone until I got some things recorded and began to make plans to rectify the situation.

Let me share just a few items:
  • I need to pray more. We need teachers. We need leaders. We need more children in SS. I have prayed about this, but not as much as I should.
  • I need to train more. We have good teachers, but we can all be better. It is not enough to ask people to teach, it is imperative that each teacher be equipped to be the best teacher s/he can be.
  • I need to model more. I mentioned that we lack children in SS. Oftentimes, teachers show up and no students come. I can relate – it happens occasionally on a Sunday night or Wednesday to me. But will they come, if we do not go? That is, if we take the time to go make contact with them, maybe they will come to us. I need to model this better.
  • I need to equip more. Some will think of this as delegation, but the Bible is clear that those who are the leaders of the church are to equip the saints for the work of ministry. In part, this is training (like for the teachers as I just mentioned), but it is also making certain people are prepared biblically to go and do what God’s servants are to do – and that is to make disciples.
  • I need to lead more. All of these items, and others have to do with my leadership. Don’t get me wrong, we have done some good in our time at Fairfax. But what has been done is like the tip of the iceberg and what God wants to do through us is what still lies beneath. So, I need to pray, train, model, equip, guide, share, delegate, trust, encourage, celebrate, exhort, and challenge us more (and probably a few others I am forgetting). And all of that stems from my leadership. Thus, I need to lead more.

I also need to continue to improve my teaching and preaching skills – particularly making the application more readily understood so we will not just be hearers, rather we will be doers, which according to Jesus words means we are wise (Matthew 7.24).

The point is that the one thing I can do well, and have been asked to do at this time, and do for Jesus, is lead. If I do that, it will be a benefit for me, for each of you, for Fairfax Baptist Church and for God’s Kingdom. I just needed a new perspective. And I got it big! But it is one thing for me to know it and another for me to do it. Remember, the difference between the wise and foolish builders was that the wise builder was like the one who does what Jesus says. That is, the wise person is obedient. In fact, Bill Hull, claims that nothing else should matter to the Christian. In his words, “Obedience is the only sound objective of a Christian spirituality.” – Bill Hull

If we are obedient, we will keep the Great Commandment. We will fulfill the Great Commission. We will be in fellowship. We will desire to worship. We will love one another. Etc. Etc. Etc. Obedience is the fullness of what we will do when we understand what God truly wants for us and from us. We cannot be obedient until we have learned what Jesus asks of us. Matt Perman says it this way, “Coming to church is not coming to learn, it is coming to engage with God, in service, with others. But that begins with learning. The Great Commission says we are to teach everyone to observe everything He commanded. Ephesians 4 says that the people are to be equipped for ministry which requires teaching.” (1)

As we move further into this sermon series, my prayer is that we will all continue to gain a new perspective on what God wants from us individually and for this church. Some may be stubborn, but remember, God used a donkey to talk to Balaam to change his perspective. So watch out because God may surprise you by what He does to get your attention.


Remember when you were in school and you had an exam coming. Perhaps you had missed a couple of days and wanted to know what might be on the test and specifically you wanted to know how to pass the test. You found someone you trusted to get the information and/or the answers. Well, we have a final exam coming. And while I do not have all of the answers, I am the one you said you trusted to lead you and this church. My NT life verse speaks directly to my desire for people to be prepared for the final exam and yet, I have failed at one key part – wisdom.

Colossians 1.28-29 says, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

I must toil harder and longer and with more of His energy, because I want us all to pass that final exam. I want all of us to be presented mature in Christ! God has unfinished business at this church and I must use every ounce of wisdom He has given me and will give me to lead this church to become what He desires it to be. The goal is to present EVERYONE as mature in Christ. Some will not choose to be mature, but for those that want their spiritual formation to continue, my responsibility is to do what I can, which primarily includes making sure each person has an opportunity to be equipped to be more effective in his/her walk with Jesus.

JOURNEY: The JOURNEY letter for today is: OOBSERVE.

PRINCIPLE Spiritual formation and obedience to Christ are inextricably linked together.

QUESTION: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?


  • LEARN: Study more about the Church during this series. I have flagged two studies in RightNow Media to help you dig further into God’s plan for the church.
  • LIVE: Commit to serve God through His Church. Answer the question: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?
  • LOVE: Love God, love others, and love one another. See Mark 12.30-31 and John 13.34-35). These are not options, they are what Jesus expects from His Church.
  • LEAD: Assist in making some necessary changes to the church. Ask God what changes He desires to make. But only ask if you are ready for Him to say the change must start with you – because your answer may be just like mine!

(1) Matt Perman,

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Church in HD: Aligned with God?

Last week, was a great day for Fairfax Baptist Church. We were able to celebrate the new and fresh look of our sanctuary. It provided a new and fresh feeling among the people too. The day was good. The day was important. And the day was worth celebrating.


If we are honest, not everything about the church looks as nice. Again, we need to celebrate what God has done. I am thankful for last Sunday, but let’s face it, our focus was on what looks good, not on the remaining areas that need improvement. And beyond general maintenance, we have one particular area that is in need.

Our downstairs children’s area recently had some flooding and the carpet has been ripped up. That is an area where we do not want to bring focus. But if we are to be good stewards of this building with which we have been entrusted, we cannot just turn off the lights and shut the doors of certain rooms, we need to look everywhere for areas which need improvement. And wherever we find those areas, we need to evaluate the situation, make plans to improve, execute those plans, and then evaluate the results.


We also need to remember that the church is not a building. When Jesus said, He would build His church, He was not talking about brick and mortar. The materials Jesus has used for these last 2000 years is the hearts and minds and hands of His people. God’s people are the Church. We are a part of that church, and just like we want people to see the best parts of this building, we want others to see the best parts of our lives – individually and as a church collectively as well. The truth is that we all have parts of our lives that we are ok with people seeing and parts of our lives that we would rather keep hidden from others. The same is true of our houses, our church, and our lives.

So...over the next couple of months, we are going to get personal – in a corporate kind of way. We cannot clean up the church (and by church I mean people) without cleaning up ourselves individually, but as we address these issues, we will be looking at them primarily from a corporate perspective – that is, how can we do better as a church. But for us to make significant improvements as a church, we will have to make incremental improvements as individuals. Therefore, the plan is to expose some deficiencies of the modern-day Church (including this church) by comparing what the Bible says about God’s design for His people, and specifically Jesus design for His Church. Specifically, we will be reviewing the first several chapters from the book of Acts to see how the early church functioned and determine how we can best approach the biblical model while living in the 21st Century. Please be aware, the early church was not perfect (e.g. Paul sent letters to churches because they were dealing with problems), but if we cannot learn how the church should function from the written Word of God, then we have no business in allowing the living Word of God to include us in the Church He is building.

To begin our study, let us consider how the six basic questions – who, what, when, where, why, and how – relate to the Church in general.
  • Who? The Church consists of God’s people.
  • What? The Church is exists to make disciples – going, teaching, and baptizing others who will then do the same.
  • When? The Church began at Jesus word, and persists because Jesus said it would.
  • Where? The Church exists anywhere God’s children are gathered.
  • Why? The Church was created as a tool to do the work of ministry and expand God’s kingdom.
  • How? This is the question we must ask and attempt to answer for ourselves over the next several weeks!

Our goal in answering the How question is not to find the perfect answer (because one rarely exists); rather our goal is to use the Bible to explore options on answering the How question as best we can as Fairfax Baptist Church. To do that, we may have to look in some hard to reach places and see things that we might otherwise not see. I honestly have not looked ahead on this, so I am interested to see what God will expose to us as we shed His light on this church. For today, let us consider three areas which must be true for us to be properly aligned with God.

1. To be aligned with God, we must use His building design, not ours.

In Matthew 16, Jesus said, “I will build my church.” As I mentioned a moment ago, that means a focus on people, not blueprints that include bricks, doorways, and rooms, let alone carpet and  pews.

Consider the passage from Genesis 11.1-9. The story is often simply referred to as The Tower of Babel. We focus on the tower and the eventual dispersion of the people after they begin to speak different languages. The problem was that their purpose in building this mighty tower into the heavens was that they were seeking to make a name for themselves, not for God. But we cannot overlook one important verse. Take a moment to read verse 6. God said the people were united – just as we should be. And because the people were united, God said that they could succeed – nothing will be impossible for them – that is, they will be able to accomplish anything!

Imagine this, the people had a unified vision and thus they were destined to succeed. The only problem was that the vision they had was not the vision that God had. Imagine if their vision had been aligned with God’s vision. Imagine if their work had been aligned with God’s work. Imagine if their lives had been aligned with God’s desires for their lives.

To keep this in perspective, we must ask are we, that is, those who say we are God’s people (i.e. the Church), aligned with what God wants to do? I will not limit God to one particular vision idea, but if we look at our vision statement, it is certainly aligned with God. It must be because our vision statement is not something made up by man, it is straight from the Bible. Our vision statement is firmly based upon Matthew 5.13-16 which speaks of our need to be salt and light and to do our good works to that others might see our good works and give glory to the Father who is in heaven. So, our vision statement as a church is shiny and new and worth showing off to others. But, if we look in the cracks and in the hard to reach places what will we find? Are we aligned with God in our attempts to fulfill that directive from Jesus or are we too busy trying to promote our own agenda (i.e. seeking to make a name for ourselves rather than allowing God to get the glory)? Again, we will seek to better answer that question for this church in the coming weeks, but hopefully that question gives each one of us a reason to pause and answer the question for ourselves.

2. To be aligned with God, we must focus on His work, not ours.

Again, in Matthew 16, Jesus said, “I will build my church.” Earlier, in Matthew 4, Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” But after Jesus died, and even briefly after He had returned from the dead, His closest followers were back doing their own business. For instance, we find in John 21 that several disciples followed Peter back out to sea to fish. At daybreak, Jesus was on the shore, but despite having already appeared to them (notice the “again” in verse 1), they do not expect Jesus – and do not even consider the possibility it is Jesus when they see Him OR hear Him (v. 4, v. 7)! Now, before I go on, this passage does not mean that we cannot, or should not, be engaged in work apart from the church. But it does mean that we should consider all of our work as a part of our ministry to God.

The key for us here is that Jesus said He would build His Church, but His people went about their business without considering it was them who would help to build it. But Jesus pulled Peter aside and said, “Feed my sheep” which also meant, “It is time to quit fishing for food from the water and start giving others the food that I have given you.” And that is exactly what they began to do beginning in Acts 2 after receiving the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised in Acts 1.

In Acts 1, Jesus was leaving, but having promised to build His church, He gave the command for the apostles to do the work so it could be built (i.e. Matthew 28, Acts 1.8). But with that command came a promise that Holy Spirit would empower the work. In Acts 2, we see the Holy Spirit empowering the apostles, and the work beginning to take shape. The essence of that work will be better defined next week , but a large part of the work the Church is to help people with their spiritual formation, and that is what we find throughout the book of Acts and the letters which were written to the various people and churches in the New Testament.

3. To be aligned with God, we must be His Church, not ours.

Again, Matthew 16 says Jesus will build HIS church. Thus, point number three should be obvious, but it is much harder to make it true. A few months ago, a particular blog article captured the idea by sharing three common types of church models – all of which are deadly. Ultimately, the problem with each of these types is that the church quit being the church and started acting like a church. Scripture is clear that we must be before we can truly do. When we try to do things with the wrong motive, we often convince ourselves we are better than we are. For instance, if we try to be a Christian, we might think we are one, but if we do not believe, we can act all we want all the way to hell. Let me briefly share the three ideas the author conveyed about these deadly church models.(1)
  • Business Model: Budget and Bylaws are the most important items. The Bible is important, but wherever the Bible interferes with money, finances win.
    • Truth – Being good stewards and having strong church documents is important, but these are not solid foundations on which to build a church.
  • Political Model: Identification is with a political party, not Jesus. If the other party is in power, sermons and lessons talk about persecution. If the favored party is in power, “God is in control.”
    • Truth – Moral and social Issues must be confronted, but not because they are political issues, but because they are biblical issues.
  • Family Reunion Model: Focus is on trying to get back to the “good old days.”  The good old days ended when Adam was booted from the Garden.
    • Truth – Jesus said He would build His Church. If He has not returned, He is still building which means what it was or is still has room for improvement and growth if aligned with Him.

Again, all of these models are unhealthy. The only model that counts is a model based upon the Bible. Jesus will identify with a healthy church because a healthy church identifies with Jesus. Therefore, to align with God, we must focus on being the Church He wants us to be, not just acting like another type of model that pretends to be a church.

I am thankful that Fairfax Baptist Church is a church built on a biblical foundation. But just because we are built on the Bible, does not mean we are perfect. This understanding means we need to seek ways to improve who we are and what we do for the reasons why Jesus gave us whenever and wherever He wants us to. As for the How, we are given many options. The Bible gives us a lot of the what and the why, but is mostly silent on the how. So, as we seek to align ourselves to God’s design, God’s work, and His purpose for His Church, let us explore how we can best do it given the gifts, abilities, and skills He has given to each of us individually and all of us collectively.


The goal in this series is to expose whatever needs to be exposed in this church to ensure we are aligned with God. A church can be moving in the right direction, following Jesus, and then with one major issue or a series of small ones that are not dealt with in a timely manner, we can begin to go adrift. Consider a car. We can get our wheels aligned, but after driving through Fairfax for awhile, the alignment begins to shift just a little. It isn’t too bad so we live with it. But eventually it puts more wear on the tires and we either have to get new tires, get the car realigned, or both.

We may not be mechanics who know how to realign the car, but we do have a manual that can help guide us to find any areas where we, as Fairfax Baptist Church, may need to be adjusted. To fix a car, a mechanic needs to do more than look at the outside of the nicely washed car; s/he must get a little dirty or greasy. Church, over these next two months, we may find ourselves in some unpleasant thoughts as we get a little dirty and greasy allowing God to expose any shortcomings we have. But if we want to honor God, if we are truly followers of Jesus, then we will allow Him to work in us individually and collectively to become what He desires for us to be.

JOURNEY: The JOURNEY letter for this week is: JJESUS.

PRINCIPLE: Jesus promised to build His Church. We must choose to work or against Him.
QUESTION: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?


  • LEARN: Study more about the Church during this series. I have flagged two studies in Right Now Media to help you dig further into God’s plan for the church. We are also going to study this concept on the next 5 Sunday nights in place of our usual E.Q.U.I.P.
  • LIVE: Commit to serve God through God’s Church. Answer the question: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?
  • LOVE: Love God, love others, and love one another. See Mark 12.30-31 and John 13.34-35). These are not options, they are what Jesus expects from His Church.
  • LEAD: Assist in developing new documentation for this church. Updates will be made to team descriptions and goals, to ministries and positions of service, as well as the policies and procedures that will guide FfxBC into the future.
(1) Three Deadly Church Models – LifeWay Pastors blog on April 2, 2018, now at Facts and Trends,

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Celebrating “Mission: God Possible”

Each year on New Year’s Eve, an estimated one million people gather to watch “the ball” drop to ring in the new year. In addition, millions more in America, and many more around the world watch on television to celebrate the passing of one year and the arrival of another. It is the start of something new and the excitement is intense.

Now imagine a gathering that is not an annual event, but one that has been planned for years, and in some way anticipated by generation after generation for nearly 500 years (see 1 Kings 6:1). The event does is not shown on television, not posted to social media, and will be forgotten by most over time. However, this singular event, which occurred nearly 3000 years ago still influences religion, politics, and daily life to this very day. The event is the day the ark of the Lord entered the temple.

Today, we celebrate a much lesser significance, but one that has been expected for 18 months, and began as a conversation some six years ago. While the celebration of our sanctuary renovations being complete – platform, carpet, and pews all completed – it is a new day for us and we do share some commonalities with the people of Israel who gathered on that great day so long ago.

A couple of weeks ago, we reviewed 2 Samuel 24. The census of Israel violated the glory of God. The punishment was harsh, but David knew God’s mercy was great and believed God would ultimately spare His people. When the three days of pestilence passed, David honored God by building an alter and making sacrifices on the location where the temple would be built (1 Chron 22:1). It was at this location several years later where God made His glory manifest among the people.

1. The People Were Gathered Together (1 Kings 8:1-2)

A celebration can take place with few or with many people. While the dedication of the temple and the placing of the ark was truly an observance, the people gathered expecting something great to happen. After months and years of preparation, the day arrived with everyone ready to do their part.

A. Solomon made certain that the preparations were complete. (1 Kings 7:51)
B. The leaders were prepared to serve before the people.
C. All the men of Israel waited (their anticipation almost certainly at a peak).

They waited. The expectations had to be running high. Consider the stories that had been passed down for generations of how God had rescued this people from Egypt. Stories of how God parted the Red Sea and led the Israelites into the Promised Land where He gave them such great victories. But now, a new generation waited with expectation to see what God would do on this day!

What are your expectations of God? Is He still worth celebrating? Today is an easy day to celebrate as we look at the changes in this sanctuary and we consider how God has made this possible in such a short period of time with no debt. We have been waiting for this day for a few months, but will we still be waiting for God to do something great next week, next month, next year?

As the people waited, the next part of the story set the stage for God’s glory to be on full display!

2. The Ark Was Put in Place (1 Kings 8:3-9)

The ark represented the presence of the Lord. The tent of meeting was its temporary home although it had existed from the time of Moses. Now, with a permanent structure, the presence of God could have a permanent home. What could be more deserving of a celebration? The people could not take their eyes off the process (note the poles being seen from the Holy Place – v. 8).

A. The leaders brought the ark and holy vessels to the temple.
B. The people offered innumerable sacrifices showing how important this day truly was.
C. The ark was placed in the Most Holy Place with everyone as a witness.

Imagine the anticipation as each leader brought another object into the temple. Piece by piece the temple was being filled with items the Lord commanded be present. It must have been like a parade with these leaders carrying pieces of gold one by one past the people who watched with eagerness. Small children up on their father’s shoulders. Infants being held by their mothers. They may not remember being there, but the stories their parents would share of the greatness of God would be remembered for decades and told to the next generation as well.

What about us? Do we get excited enough to tell others what God has done? Many get bored listening to stories from the Bible. “Well, the pastor is preaching about that again today. I have already heard that so no need to pay attention.” Yet, interestingly, the two most attended days of the year usually involved the most well-known of stories among church-goers – the story of Jesus birth at Christmas and of His overcoming death on Resurrection Sunday.

But Isaiah reminds us that God is doing a new thing (Is 43.19). If we do not expect it, He will still do something new, we just will not realize it. But if we are ready, and if we are expectant, we may experience something we have never experienced before. And that is what happened on that glorious day in Jerusalem some 3000 year ago.

3. The Lord Responded! (1 Kings 8:10-11)

The people of Israel did not need an unplanned surprise to gather for this holy day. However, unexpected outcomes often lead to great times of celebration. The people planned for the ark to be put in its proper place, but when would the Lord make His presence known? What happened next is truly awe-inspiring.

A. The cloud filled the temple.
B. The priests were unable to serve.
C. The glory of the Lord was fully present with the people.

If we had not been allowed in this building to celebrate today, would you have been disappointed? We still could have sang songs, had a message, had our dinner following the meal and celebrated all that God has done, it just would not have been while sitting on these new pews. But pews don’t make the worship. And carpet doesn’t make the worship. And an updated platform doesn’t make the worship – the worship is made by God, it is offered by us, and it is made to God. But the pews, carpet, and platform are just a few new reasons that we can worship God on this, and every day.


Imagine standing among the people that day and witnessing the glory of God in an almost unimaginable way. These descendants knew of God and how amazing He was, but how many had first-hand knowledge of God’s glory? For all that showed up for the dedication of the temple, that question was no longer relevant.

Do we celebrate the acts of God? Do we have expectations that God will show Himself in a mighty way? Even when gathering together to worship God, do we expect to encounter Him corporately? Personally? God may not need us to celebrate Him, but we should desire to celebrate who He is and what He has done.


The JOURNEY letter for today is: JOURNEY.

I am using the whole word today because this is a new day for Fairfax Baptist Church. In a conversation with Rodney Harrison in March 2011, he charged me to help the people of Fairfax Baptist Church to see the manifest glory of God. 7 ½ years ago, I chose this same passage to preach because it is one of the most extraordinary glimpses of God’s glory that is shared by so many people. God giving the commandments to the people from Mount Sinai is, perhaps, the only other time when we know so many people were gathered and witnessed God in all of His glory.

In both of those settings, God brought about something new for His people. In Exodus 20, He established a new type of relationship with His people. In 1 Kings 8, He established a new type of presence among His people. In both situations, the people responded favorably – at least, initially. But before long, the people would turn to their wicked ways (building a golden calf in Exodus, and dividing the country in 1 Kings), both of which led to a downward spiral away from God.

Fairfax Baptist Church, today is a new day for us. We can mark this day as new because we have a new place to meet even if the general surroundings are the same. Personally, I am excited about what I have seen in this building, and it has renewed me. It is a new start for me because I have had a chance to make significant changes to my office – even if most of you may not see those changes. So, as I said, I preached from 1 Kings 8 over 7 years ago as we began our JOURNEY together. It set a course for the past, but now as we celebrate what God has done among us now, we need to set a course for the future that will not lead us astray and allow us to continue all that God is doing and what He wants to do through Fairfax Baptist Church in the future.

The question is: Who is with me?


Take time this week to love God. Celebrate all that He has done in your life. Literally, count your blessings – name them one by one. Write them down. See how many pages you can fill. I promise if you will take 5 minutes each day to reflect on all that God has done in your past, you will be ready to celebrate all that He is ready to do with your future.

Will you do that? Will you take 5 minutes each day this week to write down all that God has done. Just write. Don’t evaluate. We can evaluate later. If we write now, others will know later – and like we have been able to celebrate with the Israelites across the centuries through the story we have heard today, perhaps others will celebrate with us as we share all that God has done for us on this day, in this place.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

“Labor for the Son” Day

On Labor Day weekend, Fairfax Baptist Church went into the community to serve during the usual time of worship. We did gather for a few minutes to sing two songs, hear a word of encouragement, and have a commissioning prayer, but otherwise Labor Day Sunday was “Labor for the Son” Day.

Some members helped by cleaning up yards, others by cleaning gutters, and some made visits to homebound or to other members who were not present. In all honesty, we had more people willing to serve than we had opportunity this first time, but it was a start, and something from which we can build in the future.

After reading from Matthew 5.13-16, the following is the brief encouragement shared before praying and going into the community.

Matthew 5.13-16 says that we are to be salt and light. We are salt to the earth and light for the world. As we have heard in the past from our friend Ayo in Nigeria, if we are Christian, wherever we stand we have the opportunity to make that place salty and give light. This salt and light is not for ourselves; rather it is for the benefit of others and ultimately is to serve as a blessing to God.

Today, we go out to be that salt and to be that light and to do good works and to have conversations and to allow people to ask, “Why can't the church do this all the time?” Ultimately, we go out today to fulfill Jesus command to serve, and to share His love, so that others might see our good works and glorify the Father who is in heaven.