What If… Every Believer Gave?

May 27, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Did you ever play the “What if” game?   You know what I mean, “What if you had a million dollars?” Or, “What if you were a superhero?”   Sometimes it’s just fun to let your imagination run wild.

As a pastor, I occasionally play the same game.  You know, “What if every member of Hollywood Community Church attended on the same Sunday?” Or, “What if I could preach to a packed crowd at Dolphin Stadium?”  One of my favorite  “what if” questions is, “What if every faithful attender at HCC gave generously?”

Quite frankly, I do not look at the giving records of our members, so I do not know what each individual family gives.  But, I am familiar with national statistics.  Relevant Magazine recently reported that only 10-25% of the normal congregation gives a tithe.  The average Christian only gives 2.5% percent of their income to the Lord’s work.  By the way, that is less than Great Depression Christians who gave 3.3%.

My point is not to invoke guilt, but rather to ignite a passion. What would happen if all HCC attenders were to increase their giving to a minimum of, let’s say, 10 percent?  Here are some goals we could accomplish with the additional giving.

1.  If every member gave we could upgrade our facilities

I mention this point with fear and trepidation, because I don’t want anyone to misunderstand.  Our goal is never to invest major money into our buildings; they are only tools to be used to reach people.  Nevertheless, we must be good stewards of the buildings that we have.  For example, we currently have more than ten air conditioning units that need replaced.  There are 12 bathrooms that need renovated.  Our nursery and Kidz Rock rooms need updated, and as you know, we desperately need a new Sound System for the Worship Center.

Those needs, though, are not nearly as important as the next ones…

2. If every member gave we could make a HUGE impact on our community.

I am so thankful for the people in our community who are already being helped by HCC:  Some 100 families are given food each week; benevolence donations are regularly given to needy families, and the families that stay in Hope House are fed and cared for.

Nevertheless, there is so much more we can do.  For example, we would like to take our Community Outreach Ministry off campus.  In a different facility we could house Operation Feeding Families, a food bank that serves food pantries throughout Broward County.  We could also offer career training for those who are presently looking for work, family training for single mothers and English classes to foreign residents.

In addition, we are planning on adopting a neighborhood next to the church.  There is no limit to what we will be able to do with those families and in that community.  We are so excited about this possibility!

3. If every member gave we could meet the needs of our missionaries. 

Every month we receive requests from our missionaries to help with special needs.   In just the last few days, we have heard from a missionary in Israel asking for help with summer evangelistic campaigns.  Another missionary in Asia asked us to help with the reconstruction of a church building that was recently destroyed.  A third missionary in South America needs additional financial support.  Although all of these needs are worthy of our support, we do not have the funds to help with all of them.  We could, though, if every HCC family gave.

All of those are worthy projects that are presently on hold because of the lack of giving by our HCC family.  So, why don’t we give more? The real problem when it comes to giving is not that we don’t have enough money.  No, the real problem is our heart. Matthew 6:21 states, “Where your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”  Quite frankly, our hearts are often pursuing the wrong treasure.

What are you pursuing?  What is the passion of your heart?

Why Are You Not Serving?

May 19, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

In yesterday’s sermon at HCC, we addressed the importance of the believer’s involvement in Christian service.  Although I am not certain of the exact numbers for our congregation, Evangelical researcher George Barna states that more than 50% of all believers have not volunteered for ministry in the last 12 months.  28% have never volunteered for service in their local congregation.  That is an astoundingly disappointing statistic! If that is true, only half of all believers are using their gifts and abilities to advance the Kingdom.  What a loss for the work of God!

Why are so few Christians serving?  How is it that a person can declare himself to be a follower of Jesus and yet not serve Jesus and others?  John 21 gives us several clues as to why some believers serve and others do not.

1.  Servers recognize the miraculous.

In John 21 after the recommendation by the “stranger” on the shore resulted in a great catch, John immediately recognized the unknown man as Jesus.  He realized that the huge haul of fish was not the consequence of coincidence or the know how of a local fisherman.  It was the work of the mighty, all-powerful risen Lord.

What was the last miracle God did in your life?  Sadly, many believers, myself included, often fail to recognize the miraculous power of God in their everyday lives.  Maybe we are waiting to see God part the waters or move mountains and we miss the smaller miracles. Or, maybe we are just so busy with the normal aspects of life that we fail to recognize the miraculous.

I am convinced that many of Jesus’ followers do not serve because they have forgotten that He still performs miracles.  The supernatural is no longer natural.  The mundane as become the norm.   What if, like John, we truly recognized the work of Jesus in our lives?  What if we regularly recognized His provision, His power or His protection?  I am convinced that the more we see God at work, the more we will want to participate in His work.   Let me challenge you to look for the miraculous.

2.  Servers are revived by spending time with Jesus.

I love the part of the story in John 21:12 when the disciples are sitting around the fire with Jesus.  Although He hadn’t yet identified Himself, they knew t was the Lord.   As I read that verse, I sense giddiness on the part of the disciples.  They were so excited to be with their Friend, their Confidant and their Teacher.   His mere presence with them lifted their spirits, fanned the flames of their commitment and reminded them of their call.

Once again, I am convinced that many Christians experience a lack of vision, a lack of excitement and an unwillingness to be involved in the work of God because they don’t spend enough time with Jesus.  The more time you spend with Jesus, the more your heart becomes enflamed with a desire to serve Him.

3. Servers are motivated by love.

Three times in John 21 Jesus asks Peter if he loved Him.  On each occasion Peter answered affirmatively.   After each of Peter’s responses Jesus replied the same way, “Feed my sheep.”  What did that mean for Peter and how does it apply to us?

The greatest motivation for the believer’s Christian service is not the fact that there is a physical, emotional or spiritual need, nor is it that the church or the pastor asks for your help.  No, the greatest motivation for Christian service is your love for Jesus.  If you love Him, you should serve Him.

So, are you serving?  If not, let me challenge you to look for the miraculous in your life.   Where is God working?  Also, spend more time with Jesus.  The more time you spend with Him, the more you will love Him, and the more you love Him, the more you will desire to serve Him by serving others.

Lessons from Haiti

May 5, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Last week I had the unique opportunity to travel to Haiti and visit with our sister church, 10291276_10203869548484290_8807864881462341212_n    The Corail Baptist Church.  For almost 20 years HCC has partnered with this wonderful congregation.  Although we have sent many teams to Corail, this was the first time one of our pastors was able to make the trip.  Even though we went for the purpose of encouraging and blessing them, it was us who were blessed.  Below are some of the lessons God is teaching me as a result of this trip: 

  • I am incredibly spoiled!

That statement does not shock those who know me.  Like many of you, I am accustomed to living with a certain degree of comfort.  I like hot showers and cool temperatures.  I hate bugs and love cleanliness.   I prefer to sleep in the air-conditioned comfort of my own bed and not in stifling heat under a mosquito net.   Wow!  Does that sound terrible! How spoiled am I?

When I returned from Haiti I was deeply convicted by my complaining spirit.   Why was I unable to happily experience for a few days what many people live out every day?  Why is my level of contentment so dependent upon my circumstances?  Quite frankly, I have much to learn.  My prayer is that, like the Apostle Paul, God will teach me to be content with whatever I have, be it a little or much (Philippians 4:11, 12).

  • We are sheltered

10256945_10203869555324461_5189805194614759442_nWe live in a bubble that is called the United States of America.  As such, the poverty, hunger and heartache that much of the world experiences are foreign to us.   Although the daily news programs remind us of the world’s tragedies, they seem so distant from us.  Since we do not personally experience them, we are disconnected and do not relate or feel the weight of human suffering.

How tragic!  As Americans it is so easy for us to live out our lives oblivious to the suffering of others.  Yet, is that the way God expects us to live?

When Jeremiah, from his mountaintop hideout, observed the suffering that was being experienced in Jerusalem, he made a powerful statement.  In Lamentations 3:51 he said, “My eyes bring suffering to my soul.”  In other words, the things he saw deeply affected and changed him.

Like Jeremiah, I trust that the things I have seen in Haiti and other countries will profoundly and permanently affect my soul.  How can malnourished children not affect me?  How can I ignore the needs of a remote city and an impoverished church?  The answer is that I can’t and neither can you.

I am more determined than ever to not live a sheltered life.  As a church we must not be oblivious to the needs of the world in which we live.  Let’s burst the bubble, tear down the shelter and realize that we have been called to change our world.

  • We must be more focused on the way we do ministry and missions.  10291202_10203897003410646_2462469246281067704_n

I am convinced that in order to change our world we must change the way we do ministry.   For years, churches like ours have taken a shotgun approach to ministry and missions.   Like buckshot our ministry is widespread, sending little pellets of help to the far off reaches of the world.  Yet, how much are we really accomplishing?   Is it enough to just support missionaries and not get personally involved in changing their communities? 

In the next few months our Elders, Pastors and Missions Team will be working on a strategy that will enable us to focus on a few areas where we can concentrate the majority of our efforts and resources.   This needs to be done both locally and globally.  As one pastor stated, this needs to be a “glocal” strategy.   Here are a few things we would like to do…

Þ  Adopt a neighborhood close to HCC and minister to the spiritual, economic and relational needs of its residents.

Þ  Develop a partnership with foreign communities with the purpose of impacting them for the cause of Christ.

Þ  Send missions teams to Corail, Haiti, Burkina Faso and other places were we can make a long-lasting impact.

It amazes me how taking a short missions trip heightens awareness and bring things into focus.  Let me encourage you to take a trip to the mission field.  I promise you that, like mine, your life will never be the same.

It’s the Monday After Easter, Now What?

April 21, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

WOW!  What a tremendous Easter weekend.  Here at Hollywood Community Church, we are still tabulating the numbers, but I am confident that our church had its highest attendance in years.  Even more importantly, though, God spoke to the hearts of many people, and there were more than 60 new families that visited our church for the first time.  Praise the Lord!

So, after such a tremendous weekend, what’s next?  I mean we planned, worked and prayed so hard for this weekend’s services what are we supposed to do now?  Be assured that we are not the only ones asking that question.

The Monday after Easter is traditionally known by a variety names.  It is referred to as Bright Monday, Renewal Monday, Wet Monday (because family members wake each other up by pouring buckets of water on each other), and Dingus Day (large polka festival).  Quite frankly, I am not inclined to do any of those things, even though the polka festival does sound intriguing.

Many churches have large attendances on Easter, but few are able to take advantage of their one-day success.  We have continually stated that our goal for Easter was to reach new families, not to have a big attendance.  So, how can we guarantee that what we experienced this past weekend is not a “one-week wonder?”

1.  We must be passionate about the resurrection every week.

Repeatedly, throughout the book of Acts it was the truth of the resurrection that ignited the early Church.   For them, it was not a once-a-year event.  No, the resurrection of Jesus was the topic of their messages and their witness.

Acts 2:32 – God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.

Acts 3:15 – You killed the Author of life, but God raised Him from the dead.   And we are witnesses of this fact!

Acts 10:39, 40 – And we apostles are witnesses of all He did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem.  They put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross, but God raised Him to life the third day.

Acts 26:22, 23 – I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen – that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.

As you can see, the message of the early church was the resurrection of Jesus Christ.   It so much impacted their lives that they could not keep silent. That should be our testimony as well.  What would happen if we daily testified and witnessed as to the power of the resurrection?  I believe we would witness the same effects – For it is the power of the resurrection that continually changes our life and will change others as well.  Let’s preach Jesus crucified and risen again!

2.  We must follow through with those we invited.

I am afraid that too often we treat fishing for men as a “catch and release” program.  Once we get them to church or get them to “make a decision” for Christ, we release them as if our job was done.  How tragic!

It was John Maxwell who said, “The fruit is in the follow up.”  More importantly, Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not just to get people to church.  So, today we thank God for many first-time visitors, but we must realize that our work has just begun.  We must follow through with each of them.

Be assured that HCC will follow up with each guest.  Our staff will write personal notes, and we will call all of our visitors.  But, the job of follow up is not just for us.  It is for you too.   Here are a few things you can do.

  • Take your guest out for a cup of coffee and ask them how they experienced the service.

Today, I spoke with a lady who I invited for Easter to see whether she enjoyed the service.    With tears in her eyes, she shared how the experience dramatically impacted her.  As a matter of fact, she stated that after the service she sat in her car and wept.  WOW!  The Holy Spirit is at work.  If I had not followed up with her, we would have never known how God moved in her heart.  She didn’t fill out a visitor card.  She didn’t go by our guest services booth.  She didn’t get a visitor bag, but God did speak to her.

  • If you invited a guest last Sunday, invite them again this Sunday.

Yes, it is important to invite them again.   Obviously, don’t be pushy or obnoxiously forceful, but let them know that you would love to have them attend with you next Sunday as well.   Who knows, they might come back again.

3.  Pray as diligently this week as you did last week

James 5:16 says, “…the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  That reality is not just true for Holy Week.   It is true every week and every day of our lives. 

What would happen if every week we prayed for our neighbors to come to church with us?  How would God move if every week we prayed so passionately that His presence and power would be present?  How many people would come to Christ if every week we prayed for souls to be saved?

For the believer, every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday.  We know that to be true, we just don’t practice it.   So today, Easter Monday, let’s make a commitment to work, invite, evangelize and pray with the same diligence we did last week.

The Problem with Hell

April 8, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

For American Evangelicals, hell has become a problem.  In this day of extreme cultural and social sensitivities, hell is no longer politically correct.  A recent Harris poll shows that only 58% of Americans believe in the devil or hell.  That, by the way, is an all-time low, down 12% in the last ten years.  Here in South Florida, which is one of the most un-churched areas of the United States, the percentages would be even lower.

Quite frankly, we must take some of the blame. Many churches and pastors have intentionally ignored the topic of eternal punishment.  Several years ago, then SBC President Paige Patterson said, “You can traverse the entire United States on any given Sunday morning, and you very probably will not hear a sermon on the judgment of God or eternal punishment.”  He continued, “Evangelicals have voted by the silence of their voices that they either do not believe in (the doctrine of hell) or else no longer have the courage and conviction to stand and say anything about it.”

Such reluctance to speak about hell and eternal punishment has not always been the tendency of the Church.  For more than 18 centuries hell has been a part of mainstream Christian theology.  Almost all of the ancient Church Fathers addressed their belief in hell, literal fire and eternal damnation.   Here are a few examples…

Justin MartyrJesus shall come from the heavens in glory with his angelic host, when he shall raise the bodies of all the men who ever lived. Then he will clothe the worthy in immortality; but the wicked, clothed in eternal sensibility, he will commit to the eternal fire, along with the evil demons. (A.D. 151)

Irenaeus – The penalty increases for those who do not believe the Word of God and despise his coming. . . . It is not merely temporal, but eternal. To whomsoever the Lord shall say, “Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire,” they will be damned forever (A.D. 189)

Those are just a few illustrations.  Yet, in the past 50 years, the subject of eternal punishment has become more than just a controversial topic, it has become a problem.  Why is that?  Why do we shy away from addressing a topic that the Bible clearly teaches?

We have allowed Culture to affect our thinking

The timeless truths of Scripture that have defined Christian thought for so many centuries are no longer accepted by postmodern culture.  Unfortunately, we live in a culture with very few absolutes.  The Bible is no longer the standard for our beliefs and our practices.  Society has become the ultimate judge of what is right and wrong.

Sadly, though, instead of standing up to such an affront to biblical truth, pastors have looked for ways around it.   I am afraid that the Church often attempts to teach truth in a non-offensive way.  We would rather avoid confrontation than hit it head on.  Pastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church said, “I don’t think fear, as a tactic, really moves people toward faith these days, so, tactically, I think there are better ways to interest the uninterested in the claims of Jesus Christ.”

 We have become afraid to offend

We must not, though, water down the truth of the Gospel to make it palatable.  Paul said that the preaching of the cross is foolish to the Greeks and offensive to the Gentiles (I Corinthians 1:22, 23).   The simple truth is that the Gospel message, both positively in the work of Christ on the cross, and negatively in the judgment associated with those who do not believe, will offend.  Let us not be afraid to share the truth.

As pastors and leaders, let’s not be influenced by culture or inhibited by fear.  Let’s make a commitment to teach and preach the whole counsel of God.  After all, sharing the whole truth about heaven and hell with love and compassion is not insensitive nor is it offensive.  It is what we have been called to do.

Who Do You Know That is LOST?

March 25, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

To me, the word “lost” is one of the most heartbreaking words in the English language.  Its usage generally carries a sense of conclusiveness or finality.   For example, a basketball team is eliminated in a tournament and LOSES its chance at a championship.  Or a man misplaces his wallet and soon realizes that his cash and credit cards are forever LOST.  A loved one tragically dies and we grieve over the fact that we have LOST that person.  Yes, to be LOST is tragic.

Surprisingly, that is precisely the word that Jesus uses to describe those who are outside of the realm of His grace.  The word translated “lost” comes from the Greek verb apollumi, which means to perish or to be destroyed.  Here are a few verses where the word is used in the New Testament…

Luke 19:10 – For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost

John 3:16 – For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish (not be lost) but have eternal life.

II Corinthians 4:3 – If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing (lost). 

If those without Jesus are lost, what are the ramifications of such a truth?  And, how should those of us who have been found respond?

1. Those without Jesus are in grave danger

I am afraid we often fail to realize the precarious situation of those who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  They are not simply unreligious, uninterested, or uninformed.  We should not define them as spiritually lackadaisical, lazy or just too learned.  No, they are LOST! Without Jesus Christ they are headed towards a final and conclusive destruction.  In Matthew 7:13 Jesus said, “…for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.”

2. Jesus is the only hope for those who are lost

Yes, being lost is terrible and tragic.  Yet, just because an individual is presently headed for destruction does not necessitate that he be lost for all of eternity.  Although man is lost, depraved and unable to find himself, Jesus is searching for those who will come to Him.  David Jeremiah in his book Captured by Grace says that “in Jesus total depravity meets its match in total grace; one infinite value cancels out another”(Captured by Grace, p. 33).   The truth being that only Jesus can find and rescue those who are lost.

So, who do you know that is LOST?  If you and I knew that a friend or family member was headed towards physical danger we would do everything in our power to warn them.  Why do we not feel that same urgency about their spiritual destruction?  Why are we not pleading with God to save them?

What can we do for those who are lost?

  • Make a list of friends and relatives who have not committed their lives to Jesus.
  • Pray for them everyday, that God would make their hearts sensitive to Him and that He would draw them to Himself.
  • Love them as Jesus loves them.
  • Look for a God-given opportunity to invite them to church, share your testimony or tell them about Jesus.

How to Pray for the Missions Conference

March 10, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

This week our church, Hollywood Community Church, celebrates its annual Missions Conference.   We regularly say that this is one of our most exciting weeks of the year.  And we mean it!  Although we emphasize and highlight the Great Commission all throughout the year, this is the one week in which local and global missionary endeavors get our undivided attention.

Just hosting a Missions Conference, though, does not guarantee its success.   We can bring in the most experienced, dynamic and inspiring missionaries, but without personal and spiritual preparation it will not be successful.  Thus, like any ministry or special event, this conference must be bathed in prayer.

Here are a few personal petitions for which each of us can be praying…

1.  Pray for availabilityHCC Missions Conference

We frequently say that God cannot speak to you or touch your heart unless you are present.  Your presence is vital to this conference being a success in your life and in the life of your family.  Thus, pray that nothing unexpected happens (sickness, extra work, car trouble, etc.) that would hinder you from participating.

2. Pray for sensitivity

Lamentations 3:51 states, “My eyes bring suffering to my soul…” That’s what we want God to do in our hearts this week.  As you see the missionary presentations, as you hear their testimonies, as you are made aware of the spiritual needs that exist around the world, ask God to break your heart.  Pray that He gives you a huge burden for those who do not know Jesus.

3. Pray for receptivity

Undoubtedly, God will speak to you this week.  I guarantee you that the Holy Spirit will use the testimonies and the preaching of God’s Word to say something to you. The question is how will you receive the message you hear?  Pray that God makes your heart receptive to His message.

Matthew 11:15 – Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!

4. Pray for obedience

James tells us that it is one thing to be a hearer of the Word, but something else to be a doer of the Word (James 1:22-25).  As God speaks to you this week, pray that He gives you the conviction and the determination to actually do what He says.  If He asks you to pray more, then ask Him to give you the determination to pray.  If He asks you to give more, then pray that He makes you willing to give.  If He asks you to go to the mission field, then ask Him to make you willing to go.   Pray for obedience!

Will this conference be a success in your life?  That is totally dependent upon your availability, sensitivity, receptivity and obedience.    Would you make a commitment to pray that God does a work in your life?   If you do, I promise that this will be one of the most exciting weeks of the year.

Lessons from the Guatemala City Garbage Dump

March 3, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

 Garbage dump 2

Vickie, Mark and I just returned from a four-day trip to Guatemala City.  While there, we were able to see our son Justin and his wife Jenny’s ministry in the Guatemala City garbage dump.  Believe it or not, there are 11,000 people who reside in or by Central America’s largest garbage landfill.   These individuals not only live there, but the majority of them make their living from the trash.

There is no way you can sugarcoat what life is like for these people.  Every day these individuals go into the garbage dump and scavenge for food, clothing and things they can fix up or sell.  They are literally professional scavengers.  Their life is garbage.

I must confess that I am still processing the sights, sounds and even the smells of our day in the dump.  It was an experience that I will not soon forget.  Here are a few of the things that God is teaching me through this experience…

1.  Every individual is born in the garbage dump of sin

As I met some of the residents of the garbage dump, I came to realize that in many ways they are just like me.   We share many of the same struggles.   Living in the garbage dump makes them no more sinful than living in middle-class America makes me holy.  All of us were born in sin!  All of us have mounds of garbage in our life.   All of us need Jesus!

2. God has a plan for the life of every individual

As I walked the streets of the garbage dump neighborhoods, I repeatedly asked God why I was not born or raised in a neighborhood like this.  Why was I born in the luxury of the United States?  Why was I born in a family with a loving and active father?  Why are these people there and not me?

1973693_10203450159681451_1481327143_oThere is only one answer.  It has nothing to do with chance, kharma  or a previous life, as some would have us to believe.  No, I was born in Canton, Ohio and my new friends Don Aaron and Don Vidal were born in the Guatemala City garbage dump because of the sovereignty of God.  Don Aaron’s life and Don Vidal’s life are just as intricately planned by God as mine.  I was not born in the USA because I am more loved by God.  No, all of us are equally loved by God and are equally where God desires for us to be.  Proverbs 16:9 says,  “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. “

3.  This realization should humble me and not make me proud

As Americans our affluence and our lifestyle tend to make us feel like we are better than the rest of the world.  Like the Pharisees of the New Testament, we can erroneously come to the conclusion that God loves us more or that somehow we deserve what we have.  That simply is not true.

Our time in the garbage dump allowed me to meet individuals who love their families and love God as much as I do.   They are no less deserving of God’s gracious provision than I am.  I have no reason to arrogantly feel privileged or deservedly blessed.  I deserve nothing.  I am what I am and have what I have because of the grace of God, nothing more.

James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

4.  God provides extra so that I can be a blessing to others

Why do I make so much more than my Guatemalan brothers and sisters?  We have already established that it is not because I deserve it.  If I don’t deserve it, then I should not hoard it.  Very simply God has blessed me so that I can be a blessing to others.   God has given to me so that I will give to others.  And, I would add that God has blessed you for the same reason.

For more information on the Guatemala City Garbage Dump and how you can be involved go to…

http://www.pottershouse.org.gt

www.burkholders.org

God Delights in Giving us the Kingdom!

February 19, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

I must confess that browsing the little girls’ clothing section of a department store has never interested me.   Admittedly, the dresses and outfits are adorable, but there was never any reason for me to be attracted to them.  That is, until my granddaughter, Isabella, was born.   The other day, Vickie and I were out shopping, and I spent 15-20 minutes looking at all of the little girl outfits.  I wanted to buy Isabella all of them.   Why, if I could have, I would have given her everything in the store!

That is exactly the way that God feels towards us.  As His children, He takes great delight in giving us what we need and often what we want.  He desires to lavish the best on us.  Why, He takes great delight in giving us the Kingdom (Luke 12:32).

This past Sunday, we taught from Luke 12:13-37.  What a powerful and convicting passage! Jesus teaches us that we should not be greedy. Material possessions should mean very little to the believer.  Our greatest desire should be to develop a rich relationship with God.   We also were exhorted to trust and not worry.  If God can feed the ravens and exquisitely clothe the lilies, then He can take care of us.  Finally, we were exhorted to seek God’s Kingdom above anything else.  After all, our heart will follow after that which we treasure.

The passage really spoke to my heart.  But, verse 32 seemed to confuse me.  I couldn’t grasp what Jesus meant about giving us the kingdom and how that connected with selling our possessions and giving to the poor.   I confess that I can be spiritually dense and a little slow.  Sometimes it takes me a while to pick up what others already understand.  Here, though, is what the Lord taught me about verse 32.

  • God generously gives to us

Originally, I tried to interpret the term “Kingdom” from purely an eschatological point of view, i.e. God desires to give us heaven or the millennial Kingdom.  But I do not believe that is what God has in mind.  The interpretation is much more simple and practical.  God desires to give us everything that we need.  Just as I delight in buying gifts for my granddaughter, God delights in giving gifts (His Kingdom) to His children.

What an amazing truth!  Beginning with the gift of His Son, God has lavished the very best on us.  He doesn’t hold anything back.  He freely gives us everything that will benefit us in our walk with Him. Romans 8:32 states, “Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all won’t He also give us everything else?”

  • God’s generosity to us should eliminate any fear of us being generous to others.

Often, we fail to be generous in our giving because of fear, fear that we will give away what we need, fear that we will not have enough, fear that someone will use our gift unwisely.   God’s example, though, blows all of those fears out of the water.  If God is excited about giving us everything we need, why should we fear being generous?  Why should we not be as generous as God?  We can be generous because God is generous.  We can freely give, because God has given us the kingdom.

“Don’t fear!” Jesus says, “Sell your possessions and give to those in need.”  The elimination of fear frees us to give joyfully, abundantly and without hesitation to those in need.  What a liberating truth!  We can be as generous as Jesus.

Luke 12:34 teaches us that our heart pursues that which is important to us.   We invest our time, talents and treasures in that which we deem to be important.   As a church, let’s make a determination to seek God’s Kingdom.   Let’s be extravagantly generous to others, believing that God will give us the Kingdom.

Additional Thoughts on the Good Samaritan

February 11, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

This past Sunday we studied Luke 10:25-37, which many of you know is the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The traditional interpretation promulgates the idea that Jesus addresses the man’s question as to who his neighbor is by exhorting him to respond like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:36,37).  In other words, everyone is His neighbor and he should show God’s love to everyone, whether he likes them or not.  I certainly agree that every follower of Jesus Christ should love unconditionally.  BUT, I do not believe that to be the only interpretation of the passage.

Let me remind you that the young expert in religious law did not ask a sanctification question.  His initial interrogation was about salvation.  He asked,  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  As Tullian Tchividjian postulates, this was a vertical question and not a horizontal one. (http://tinyurl.com/kzbr4bh). This truth is further emphasized by the fact that he tried to justify himself by asking, “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus’ response, then, is dealing with his salvation and not his Christian service.  This man first and foremost needed to realize that he like the beaten traveller needed to be rescued from his sinful condition.  He could never be good enough.  He needed Jesus!

Here are a few additional truths from this wonderful teaching.

  • Man is justified by faith and not by works.

If not carefully exegeted, the traditional approach to this passage lends itself to a work based interpretation.  Why would Jesus tell this man who is asking how he might inherit eternal life to go out and do good works?  That would contradict everything He and the New Testament teach about salvation by grace.

Romans 3:10 – For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands.  The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

Galatians 3:11 – So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law.  For the Scriptures say, “it is through faith that a righteous person has life.

No, the point of the parable is that we like the beaten traveller are in need of grace.  We need Jesus to come to our rescue.  It is only after we have been rescued that we can be the good neighbors that God intends for us to be.

  • Sanctification is the result of justification and not the cause of it.

If we are not careful it is easy for us to get the order of how God works out of sequence, i.e. being a good neighbor will grant me favor with God and eternal life.  I do not believe that is what Jesus is saying.   Sanctification never precedes justification.  It is the transformation that occurs as a result of justification that causes the believer to love the despised and the rejected.

David Platt in his book, Follow Me states, “As we trust in Christ, He transforms our tastes in such a way that we begin to love the things of God that we once hated, and we begin to hate the things of this world that we once loved.” (Follow Me, page 29).  How true is that?  Through the work of grace in our lives, God enables us to love the unlovely and to do the unthinkable.

  • The justified believer will become like Jesus

For the believer, becoming like Jesus is not an option.  It is a reality.   When we trust Christ as our personal Savior, we not only receive the forgiveness of sins, but we receive the Savior.  He indwells us!  He lives inside of us and changes us.   We become like Him!  Thus, it is only when we turn to Jesus that we are transformed from the beaten traveller to a representative of the Good Shepherd, a representative of the true Good Neighbor.