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A Meditation On Mattering

Everybody needs to mean something 

To somebody. 

We all want to matter:

To our parents when we’re young;

Daddy, watch this!

Teens want to be liked,

By those who are alike. 

Then many seek a mate,

Settle down and procreate,

To find meaning for a time

In family matters. 

Others strive

to be recognized

For their money and success. 

We all want to matter

In this ephemeral life. 

However, until I realize

I matter to the eternal God,

Nothing really matters.

Meaningless, meaningless,

Saith the Preacher,

All is meaningless. 

No Longer

I’m no longer young, 

And not too pretty;

Not much fun

Or terribly witty.

I would smile more, 

But my smile is crooked, 

And my heart is torn.

Often overlooked, 

Better to be with those who mourn.

Don’t much appeal

To a post-truth world. 

But I try to be real.

A banner unfurled,

Blowing in the Spirit-wind,

But not the spirit of the age.

Build the House

Build the Lord’s House
Not a building, a Church

“Do you not know that you (all) are God’s temple and that God’s Sprit dwells in (among) you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)

“And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple” (1 Pe 2:5, NLT).
The people of Israel sinned against their God and worshiped idols, so the Lord disciplined them by sending Nebuchadnezzar to destroy their temple and take them as captives to Babylon (2 Chron. 36:15-21).

The LORD promised through His prophets that a Remnant would return, however (Isaiah 10:20-22, 11:11, Jer. 23:3).

A Remnant of Israel returned from Babylonian exile to their land under a command from Cyrus of Persia (Ez. 1:1-4).

The purpose for this Remnant’s return to Jerusalem was to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:3-5)

Zerubbabel and Jeshua led the return (Ez. 2:2).

Cyrus gave the temple articles back, and many people offered gifts for its rebuilding (Ez. 1:6, 2:68)

Shortly after they arrived the Remnant rebuilt the altar of “Israel’s God” and offered sacrifices according to the Law (Ez. 3:2-3).

Then they bought materials for the temple and laid its foundation (Ez. 3:7) 

There was a great celebration when the foundation was completed (Ez. 3:11-13)

Then the people who worshiped false gods alongside YHWH (2 Kings 17:24-28) offered to help build the temple but the builders rejected such help (Ez. 4:3). 

These people who been transplanted into the land of Israel by the Assyrians many years earlier (Ez. 4:2) are called “enemies of Judah and Benjamin” (Ez. 4:1).

So, the idolators and their leaders began to vigorously oppose the rebuilding of the temple (Ez. 4:4).

The Remnant gave up building the temple.

The priests continued offering sacrifices on the altar, even though the temple was still in ruins.

The Remnant was not bothered by this, for they had turned their attention to their own homes.

God tried to get their attention by keeping them from succeeding at their selfish pursuits, but they continued to divert their limited resources to building their own homes and lives.

The Remnant was failing in their personal lives because they had failed to fulfill the purpose that brought them back to Zion.

Enter Haggai, the first authentic prophet to speak since the exile.

To Z & J: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to build the House of the Lord.’ (v. 2)

The people had taken opposition to be a sign that it was not yet time to build the temple.

To the Remnant: “Is it time for you to live in nice houses while my House lies in ruins?”

These were not bad people. They had not returned to idolatry… yet. Although, later some of them began to marry idolators, which is a major compromise leading to unfaithfulness to the Lord.

To the Remnant: “Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood to build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified.”

Hag 1:7b-8

The response: “Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God.” Hag 1:12.

The foundation was laid in 538, but opposition followed by apathy and indifference caused building to cease until 520. 

That’s 18 years… 

Do you see our church in this story yet? Have you seen yourself?

The Temple is not a building any more. It is people; it is the church of Jesus. “Do you not know that you all are the temple?” 

The church is not an ambiguous entity. It is local groups of believers called out from the world and called together to worship, fellowship, become like Jesus in discipleship, minister to one another and preach the Gospel to the poor.

18 years ago the Lord sent me out of the traditional, institutional church to build a people for his great Name. I started with high hopes.

Only four individuals remain who were members in 1999. Several more are here who joined a year later, and a few more of you who came when we called ourselves Zion.

We came together all those years ago and offered the sacrifice of praise. And we came together to fellowship. I’ve always tried to call people to discipleship.

I led us to lay the only foundation that can be laid to build an authentic church: Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11).

However, there were idolators and doubters and even a few who wanted to build something else on that foundation. They all left. We’ve encountered opposition, at times even from former members and supposed supporters. 

What began as a fellowship of friends who loved hanging out together has become The Church That Will Not Grow.

Why?

Perhaps our small membership is not consciously stating: “The time has not yet come to build the House of the Lord,” but we are not, in fact, building this church. We simply occupy what little we’ve built. Most of us feel no more need for fellowship because we have families and friends, often times outside this church. We do not grow, friends, because we refuse to reach out. Now, I know that some of us invite people to church on occasion. Yet I wonder, have we left our first love (Rev. 2:4? Has your love for Jesus grown cold? The result is that your passion for his church and his Gospel has disappeared. You’re just going through the motions. Some of you have been attending this church for years, but your level of commitment is exactly the same as it was a year ago, five years ago, maybe a decade ago. 

You see, you are the material the Lord is using to build his church.

“And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple” (1 Pet. 2:5).

However, some of you won’t to take your place in the walls of this temple. You’re like stones that refuse to be mortared and set. You just want to sit on top of the foundation wherever you please.

As a result, we’re effectively saying, “The time has not yet come to build the House of the Lord.”

In addition to the obvious fact that our church never grows numerically, I wonder if some of you are experiencing the same issues as the Remnant when Haggai preached.

“Look at what’s happening to you! You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!”

You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, while all of you are busy building your own fine houses.” Hag 1:5–6, 9 NLT.

So, people of Lifewell, I am preaching to you today with the message of Haggai, and I pray the Holy Spirit will speak it to your hearts: “Build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified” says the LORD of Hosts.

What do you need to do in order to obey the LORD’s command?

 1.  If you have not yet been baptized into the church of Jesus Christ as he commanded, commit to do it today.

 2. If you have yet to join this church, takes steps to do so now.

 3.  If you’re not a regular giver to the ministry of this church, start today, or the next time you receive income.

 4.  If you’re not meeting in one of our small groups, choose one today and commit to meet with them beginning next weekend.

 5. If you’ve not committed to participate in our Teaching Emphasis starting next weekend, do so today:

 A. Get the Purpose Driven Life and read a chapter a day for 42 days.

 B. Partake of our worship service every week for the next 7 weeks.

 C. Participate in a small group for 6 weeks.

It will require the strength of discipline to follow through with this commitment, and it will require energy and strength for us to build this church as the Lord wills. 

What is the goal?

Next year at this time, I am praying for 500 people to be attending

with 40-50 Life groups helping to bring them to maturity and leading them to minister.

That sounds exciting, and exhausting, and it may sound impossible to you. I considered not sharing that goal because I will be ashamed if I cannot lead us to meet it. However, we will never grow beyond the vision we have.

Help me. I cannot do this alone. but I am not alone, am I? We have one another, and most importantly, we have the Holy Spirit’s presence and guidance and encouragement. “

Not by might and not by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD” (Zech. 4:6)

“Be strong, Zerubbabel. Be strong, Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people still left in the land. And now get to work, for I am with you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt. So do not be afraid.’ Hag 2:4–5.

There are blessings for our church promised when we obey the Lord. I have always wanted this church to grow according to God’s promises, not mere methods of men.

“In just a little while I will again shake the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the dry land. I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies…

“The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And in this place I will bring peace. I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” Hag 2:6–9.

The glory is the Presence of the Holy Spirit.

The treasures of the nations are people of all races and ethnicities coming here, worshiping, fellowshipping, becoming disciples of Jesus, ministering and being sent out into all the world to preach the Gospel.

We will have the money to accomplish this goal because the silver and gold are the Lord’s.

We will not have to endure the division and strife that is on the increase in the world because we are promised peace.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (Jn. 14:27)

“I have told you this so that you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)

There are also blessing that extend to your family when you have faith, obey and build this House of the Lord.

“I am giving you a promise now while the seed is still in the barn. You have not yet harvested your grain, and your grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, and olive trees have not yet produced their crops. But from this day onward I will bless you.”  Hag 2:19.

I said this once in the year 2000 or 01, and those present were not ready to receive it by faith, so I say it to you again this day, Lifewell.

The Lord says, “From this day forth I will bless you.”

Do you receive it?

Then prove it.

Get to work!

Dpraying

Are You a Church Burn Out?

Are you bored with church? Do you feel like you’re spiritually dry? Everything seems to be the same; nothing really changes; nothing is moving? Here’s why. You are not moving toward God’s will and purpose for your life. You’re not spiritually healthy, so you’re not growing in your faith. You are not doing anything, or just doing the bare minimum. You’re in spiritual survival mode, instead of thriving and flourishing. You’re living more for the world than for God. Where is your supposed faith? Perhaps you’re doing things for God, serving at church, but you’re doing from your flesh. That means your doing it all by yourself, from your own limited resources, rather than in partnership with God.

The reality is: you have limited time, limited money, and, let’s face it, you may well have less and less interest in church or in pursuing God. Jesus said, “If you aibde in me, and I in you, then you’ll produce much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). That means, even if you’re doing something for God, you’re accomplishing nothing significant because if you’re not doing it from the power of the Holy Spirit’s presence in you. Is the Holy Spirit filling you? I’m not talking theory here, friends. I’m not asking you to go back to some time in your past when you “accepted Christ,” or had an emotional experience with God. I mean, are you filled with the power and presence of God? No? Then why aren’t you asking, even crying out, for that? “How much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13).

The Holy Spirit’s presence is the requirement for fruitful activity in the Lord. That’s the reason you’re burned out, friend. You’re full of your own effort, not the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is the Person of the Trinity who brings us into Christ and Christ into us. This is not something you work out in your head, or convince yourself of. When the Holy Spirit fills you and empowers you for God’s work, it is a real ongoing experience deep within. He perfects, affirms, strengthens and establishes you from the inside out. I’m not trying to get you to do more for God, although some of you need to do just that. I’m seeking to stir up a genuine spiritual interest. I hope you desire to be filled with God Himself.

Jesus had chosen the 12 apostles, and trained them to be his witnesses in the world. One betrayed him, so they were down to 11. Then he told them to “wait in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” The entire Christian mission was on hold, until God poured out the Holy Spirit to empower His people. The apostles were scared, timid and focused on their own little community, until the Day of Pentecost. Suddenly, they were on fire! Now they boldly spread the news about Jesus’ resurrection, and God’s offer of forgiveness for sins and eternal life. The Holy Spirit was availble to everyone who would believe in Jesus. So, why are you still doing this on your own? Why are you satisfied with being bored? Why are you looking at other means of success,  or methods of getting high? If you have really, truly given your life to Jesus Christ, if you still have the least bit of faith, then you’ll never be satisfied until you are filled with the Holy Spirit, and going into all the world to make disciples for Jesus.

“Don’t be stupid. Instead, find out what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t destroy yourself by getting drunk, but let the Spirit fill your life.”  The Holy Bible: The Contemporary English Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), Ephesians 5:17–18.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Acts 1:8.

 

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An Open Letter to Lifewell Church

Dear Lifewell Family and Friends,

We must become a healthy church in order to be a growing church. The alternative is to die a slow death. You must become a healthy Christian or you and your family will struggle spiritually, and that will have a negative effect on every area of your lives. Our culture is toxic. It is destructive to all who are not saved. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus.

The church is not a shapeless entity, or a big institution. The church is you and me, called out and called together. We are committed to each other, and we meet regularly to worship, learn together, and to support, challenge and hold one another accountable. ARE WE DOING THAT, LIFEWELL?

Attending church occasionally is not the same as being the church. I have tried and tried to plan, program, pray, preach, and prod you to do more than attend church on Sunday morning. Some of you are amazingly committed, and others are more consumer Christians, attending when its convenient and comfortable. Some of you strive to support what Lifewell does to reach out beyond our little group. Are you one of those ? Do you support Lifewell as your church?

In October, as some of you know, I went to Orange County in California to attend a conference at Saddleback Church. It was a last minute decision. You see, I’d been given the opportunity to visit a relative and that fell through. There was an invitation in my inbox to attend the Purpose Driven Essentials conference. I wasn’t interested. I’m not a conference attender. Also, been there, done that on the Purpose Driven Life. I read the book. I also read the Purpose Driven Church. I taught on the Purposes in 2012, and we did Warren’s 40 Days in the Word campaign. It was somewhat successful. However, I seem to attract a good number of contrarians and independent minded people. Some of these weren’t excited. Some left the church within the year. So, I backed off emphasizing the Purposes, even though I’m convinced they are biblical principles.

I felt led to go to the conference. It was the first time Rick Warren himself had taught it in a decade. I didn’t learn new things, but I sat for four days and “drank from a firehose.” I was immediately and persistently convinced that our church has fallen short of God’s plan for us.

You see, I too, have been a contrarian and an independent-minded thinker. I don’t like populism. I don’t jump on bandwagons. I was given the assignment to read Warren’s Purpose Driven Church over 20 years ago in seminary. I didn’t fulfill the assignment because I thought he was just reaching a bunch of rich white people in Orange County and so his methods wouldn’t work for the ministry God had called me to. I prefer to chart my own course, to make my own way. And I prefer to do everything myself. This is prideful and limiting. A pastor-teacher is called “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” I have tried. I have taught. However, I’ve also done most of the ministry myself. Pastor Craig has helped immeasurably, as have a number others. However, my eyes were opened when Rick Warren stated: “If you do it all yourself, your church will never grow above about 75 members.” Well, that’s us. To confirm this, Pastor Craig made the point the Sunday I was gone, “Pastor Darryl does everything around here.” This must change.

I believe we’ve taught people the truth. I’ve offered our church the necessary content. However, I’ve failed to consistently provide step-by-step directions for growth. The 5 Purposes of Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry, Mission and Worship are that structure. We need to follow this biblical pattern for health and growth.

I came back to Texas filled with new motivation to help our church become healthy and grow. I intend to take what I (re)learned regarding our Purposes and implement it at Lifewell. I don’t want to try to make us like Saddleback. I will not be a copy of Rick Warren, or any other pastor. In fact, Warren explicitly states that he doesn’t expect other churches to copy Saddleback. These Purposes are biblical principles to be applied in each context.

I’ve already begun a teaching series, which I’ve titled Moving to the Center of God’s Purpose for Your Life. This is more than a sermon series. The teaching on Sunday will speak to the question found in Warren’s book What In the World Am I Here For? (the Purpose Driven Life). I’ve purchased books so that you as an individual may do daily devotional readings. and so that small groups will be able to learn and discuss. I WANT EVERY SINGLE COVENANTED MEMBER OF LIFEWELL CHURCH TO PARTICIPATE. I am asking you to read daily devotions for 40 days, and become part of a small group for seven weeks. We will start this in our existing groups this month, and I’d like to have more groups form. If you are not a member of our church, you are still invited to get involved.

As soon as the material arrives I will make a mini devotional book available to everyone for free, which includes the first three chapters from the book What in the World Am I Here For? If you choose to make the 40 day commitment to learn, you’ll need to purchase the book (copies available for $10) and get into one of our small groups.

The principles we are teaching are not new, and they are not original. They are biblical and true, and if you will allow the Holy Spirit to speak God’s Word to your heart through this process, you will become spiritually healthy, and our church will too. The result should be growth. I pray 2017 is our best year yet, Lifewell!

A Death Must Come

This year a death must come,

And may it be sudden.

For the only way to live

Is to die to me. 

Beyond humility, 

This death to Self

Will set me free. 

Suicide is selfish,

And self-denial too,

So I speak of something else. 

Crucifixion!

Not mine but Christ’s, 

Which was not His,

But mine. 

Identification. 

“I have been crucified

With Christ, and

No longer do I live, but

Christ in me.”