What I don’t pray for…

What I don’t pray for…

pray-forIt’s an election year… good times, amiright?! No, of course not. We’re all miserable and wondering how this circus is going to end in November. I’ve got countless people in my life who know Christ as I do, that are praying that this is somehow the end of times, and Jesus is going to come back and remove us all from the scene before all Hell literally breaks loose. But I’m not one of them…

You see, as long as I’ve been a Christ-follower, the most spiritual people I’ve known have looked longingly toward the day our salvation inevitably ends being a matter of faith but at long last a matter of sight. Many of you reading this don’t share that belief, and that’s fine. You don’t have to argue that belief, just for the moment understand that I do, and in various theological flavors all “Christians” do.

Over the years, I’ve never actually said publicly anything in that vein of thought – that I hope Jesus comes soon. I’ve been a pastor for the vast majority of my adulthood, and I’ve never once prayed for Jesus to return. I’ve always been this weird kind of outlier to my more theologically fundamentalist counterparts. But that ship sailed awhile ago.

You see, I can’t do it. I can’t bring myself to ask God to usher the rapture of His church, or the beginning of the worst period of time on earth never before seen. I know prophecy beyond the average seminary grad, and I just can’t pray for that.

Don’t misunderstand me… I believe in His return. I even long for the day that I look upon Him. But when that day does come, if my current disposition holds true in that moment, my overwhelming joy will only be comparable to my gut-wrenching agony at the fate of the world I leave behind.

Most Christians say things or quote parts of Scripture to express their longing for His return. Things like, “Even so come quickly Lord Jesus!” or “maybe today [He’ll return]”. Such thoughts break me. As much as I trust Him to judge this world in righteousness, I know beyond doubt that this will result in eternal separation from Him for so many who have rejected Him. I just can’t ask God for that, though I know one day it will come. It must come.

My prayer is two-fold…

  • “God give us more time… more people know Your Son today than at any other point in history. Please, merciful God of Heaven – stay your return but a little longer while Your servants lift up Jesus across this earth.” and…
  • “God let Your Spirit fall fresh on us again. Bring revival and new life into your church. Send a second pentecost upon my city, our nation, and this world that Your Son died to redeem. Send a tidal wave of your love and grace in ways no one can deny.”

Dearest Christ-follower who’s praying for the end to come, I fear that you know not what spirit you are of. When He does show up, may He find us living, preaching, loving, and desperately compelling our communities to turn to Jesus. That would be a really great “welcome” present. Instead of praying for that return (which you and I have no influence on anyway), why don’t you pray that He send more laborers into His field? The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few, tired, and lonely. Better yet, why not join in the harvest?

Blessings,
Pastor John

Come to the Table Hungry

Come to the Table Hungry

Table hungry
I plan a year in advance for my preaching calendar.
Every October, I spend some time praying for the following year, gathering resources, and going through several messages I’ve written but haven’t preached. I also consider the state of our church and community and what God may be wanting to speak through me from His word to them. I take this burden to preach very serious.

I view preaching as application driven by nature. Preaching is intended to be far more than imparting knowledge. It’s suppose to be a catalyst for personal growth, transformation, new perspectives, and changed behaviors.

Along those lines, I’ve been preparing and studying for the next series coming this Sunday to LifeCity Church, and it’s going to be full of great content. Few subjects drive me to study the texts of Scripture more than the doctrine of the “End Times.” This subject, especially when approached from the Bible, is often met with fear and confusion. People are confused, scared or both when it comes to trying to grasp the actual meanings of the Bible when it comes to the things that are still to come.

Add to that several B-movies, and TV series that make the end of the world as we know seem more like a really poorly produced work of fiction, and the seriousness of the Bible often gets lost all together.

But I find that this is a subject that many are hungry to learn. People want answers. They want to understand the truth of what is to come, and how the Bible can help us grasp it.

What I’m trying to tell you, church, is that this is a series I’ve studied since I was old enough to read the Bible, I’ve been preparing this series since last October, it’s going to be very deep, and it begins this Sunday…

So come to the table hungry. Bring your Bible (or the free Bible app) and a notepad, lean in, listen, and write stuff down. This is going to be good – not because I’m teaching it, but because the content is so rich.

I can’t wait to share with you!

Blessings,
Pastor John

You’re not a Bad Person

You’re not a Bad Person

BadPersonThis past Sunday, I preached a message as part of a new series called, Made New. You can check out the message below. One of the main thoughts I shared was this:

You’re not a bad person.

We tend to judge ourselves as “bad” or “good” based on our perception of ourselves in comparison to our perception of others. This gets tricky on several levels. Because I know my faults far better than anyone else, I can be far more critical of myself. We all do this… we compared our “behind the scenes” to everyone else’s “highlight reel”. You’re not a bad person. That’s not your greatest problem. Your greatest problem is – outside of Christ – you’re a dead person.

Ouch. That was direct! Maybe even abrasive, huh? Well please don’t be offended at me. I’m not even the one pointing it out. In Ephesians 2:5 the Apostle Paul writes, “even though we were dead in transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ—by grace you are saved!”

The bad news is – you’re not bad – you’re dead apart from Christ. If you were just bad, you could do something about your condition. You could work harder, get your life cleaned up, cut some bad habits, start some better ones, get all “religious”, and help yourself get right with God. A bad person could get better…

But a dead person is pretty helpless. You’ve never seen a dead person perform CPR on themselves, or warm up a defibrillator to shock their heart back to life. No, because dead people need outside help – they need a Savior. Someone who is not dead themselves, who can breathe life back into the lifeless, change their heart, and restore them to new life.

And that’s exactly what Jesus does for us. He squared off with death and dragged it kicking and screaming into it’s own grave… but He walked out victorious over death on the third day. Now, the One who came back from death offers to breathe His new life into our tired, broken, dead souls.

Have you experienced a new life in Christ? Have you placed your faith and trust into the only one who can bring a dead soul back to life? I invite you to do so today.

Blessings,
Pastor John

https://vimeo.com/139879206

Preaching on sex

Preaching on sex

preach on sexThis Sunday at LifeCity Church we begin a new series on sex. Yes, you read that correctly. If you are one of the many people who think that subject is too taboo for a church to talk about, I offer you five thoughts as to why we are committing a whole four week teaching series on the subject of God, sex, and sexuality…

  1. The Bible talks about sex. A lot, come to find out. Song of Solomon, when translated correctly, reads like a steamy novel of a young married couple. Jesus spoke on sex. The apostle Paul spoke on it. Sex is mentioned, described, and instructed on extensively in the Scriptures. And here you thought the Bible was boring…
  2. God created it. We didn’t create sex. It wasn’t man’s invention. So if God is the author of sexuality it means that it’s good and that God has the right to give us guidance regarding our sexuality.
  3. The world is confused. This goes without saying, but still needs to be said. The world, while talking a lot about sex and using it as a marketing tool every time we blink, has horribly misinterpreted the true power, beauty, and value of our gift of sexuality. As a result, we’ve often connected sex with “dirty” when in reality, sex is beautiful… just not in the shallow ways we’ve been taught to think of it.
  4. People are searching. People everywhere are left with feelings of hurt, regret, betrayal, loneliness, and grief because of how sex has been misused and misunderstood. People are looking for real answers to real hurts, but they seldom know where to turn other than to the next partner.
  5. The church has chickened out. My generation grew up in a church culture that mostly avoided the subject of sex. Like junior high kids snickering when the word “sex” was ever even spoken out loud, the American church has largely blushed and hid when the subject ever gets brought up. The only counsel offered being – “DON’T!!! Unless you’re married…” Conversation over. But we needed to hear more than that. We needed more than a one-line “Thou shalt not” declaration – we needed wisdom. Understanding. And someone to turn to when we had questions or made a mistake. It’s time for the church to get over it’s fears and help people redeem their sexuality and live it out in a better, healthier, more God-honoring way.

We invite you to join us at LifeCity Church this Sunday, 10:30am for a tasteful, tactful look into what God actually says about sex as we begin a new series we’re calling The Birds, The Bees, and The Bible.

Blessings,
Pastor John

How I Preach: Series Planning

How I Preach: Series Planning

HIP2A little while back I wrote about how I generally write my teaching outlines. You can learn more about that here. In line with sharing how I preach, I wanted to talk about sermon planning in regards to a year-long preaching calendar. That’s right – a year’s sermon planning at a time. Don’t be scared. It’s not that bad. (more…)