My Church!

Recently I had the privilege of representing our district as a delegate to the General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene held in Indianapolis. The week long event happens every four years and involves multiple worship services, workshops, community interaction, children and youth events, training, and business/legislative sessions. Delegates are sent from districts from all over the world. It was a privilege and a joy to be part of all that was taking place. And as I listened to reports how God has been working through our church these last four years, I was so proud of a church that has sought to fulfill the Great Commission of spreading the gospel around the world. Here are some facts reported:

  • The Church of the Nazarene is now operating in 162 countries.
  • Membership in the Church of the Nazarene has grown to 2.471 million.
  • Weekly worship attendance in the Church of the Nazarene is 1.5 million.
  • The growth rate in the Church of the Nazarene over the last four years has been 14.91%.
  • AND, every day through the ministry of the Church of the Nazarene worldwide 300 people come to know Jesus Christ!

As I reflected on this, and so much more, I was proud of my church and the way God has led the church to be a movement for Him. I am proud that we are serious about reaching all people with the good news of the gospel. I am proud that we seek to reach all people of every race, culture, and social standing. Some people worship under trees. Others worship in modern facilities. Some services are very traditional while others are contemporary. Yet when we came together in Indianapolis there was a great spirit of unity and the presence of the Holy Spirit was evident in all the services, business, and activities. I am proud to be a part of the Church of the Nazarene and what it is doing to reach people for Christ and help them in spiritual growth. We are a great church, both here and around the world. May God continue to use us both here and in every corner of the world!

Significant Gathering

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In just a few days the General Conventions and General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene will be held in Indianapolis (June 22-29) at the convention center. This historic gathering of Nazarenes from all over the world only happens every four years and this year will be taking place in our back door. There will be open worship services each evening June 22-24 (Thurs.-Sat) at 7:00pm with one of our General Superintendents preaching. Sunday services, June 25, will be at 10:00am and 4:00pm with one of the General Superintendents preaching in each service. Business and legislative sessions will be Monday-Thursday (June 26-29). I would encourage you to attend any of these services possible and especially be praying for these important services and meetings. Pray also for safe travel as many will be coming from all parts of the world. We are expecting 20,000+ people to attend. Our prayer is that God’s anointing will be on this time in such a way that a spirit of revival would break out and would go with those in attendance back to their corner of the world. Wouldn’t it be great if a spirit of revival would take over this gathering and spread around the globe in our churches?

Also, pray that God’s spirit will be in all the business and legislative sessions. This body of delegates will be electing two new General Superintendents to replace two who are retiring. This body will also affirm the doctrines and beliefs of the Church of the Nazarene. I am personally thankful for the biblical doctrine of our church. We believe that man is sinful and needs the forgiveness provided through Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. We further believe that we are called to live holy lives which can only be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit filling and cleansing our hearts. We believe that our Lord will return and that we will all stand before Him to give an account of the life we have lived. It is important what we believe. If we do not know what we believe and why we believe it, we are subject to many false teachings. There seems to be an attitude today that you can believe anything you want. We hold that the Bible holds the truth that we need for living, salvation, and eternal life with God. I thank God for the doctrines of the Church of the Nazarene and ask you to join me in praying for God to bless these important meetings.

Storms!

We are in that time of the year when serious storm threats have come to be expected. Recently, we had a day or two when my phone was repeatedly sounding storm and tornado alerts for our area. People were watching the skies and looking for safe places to occupy. Generally speaking, these alerts are fairly accurate with the time of their arrival and their severity. These alerts help you to prepare for what may be coming. These storms are a necessary part of life. They produce rain which is necessary for growth.

Storms are a part of life. Unfortunately, they often come our way without advanced warning. Sometimes people interpret storms as God punishing them or being angry at them. In the life of Job, it was the enemy that brought trouble and distress into his life. Though he did not understand the why, he remained faithful to God through it all. With our limited understanding and insight, often we do not understand the troubles we face in this life. Ultimately it comes down to our faith and trust in a God who loves us. Just as storms are necessary to provide the rain which produces growth, God desires that we will use our life storms for personal spiritual growth. My prayer for you is that your trust in God will be cemented as you allow Him to lead you through whatever storms you may be facing.

Why?

In just a few days we will be celebrating the greatest day of all time. Easter! We will celebrate that God’s plan of redemption was made complete when He raised Jesus from the grave. We celebrate that God’s plan of salvation was now complete and we can be restored to a right relationship with Him. Yes, many people will search for new outfits, new clothes, eggs filled with candy. But the true message of Easter is a story of God’s love for us and a plan for forgiveness and restoration to Him.

 

On Easter Sunday, more people will be in church than any time of the year. Why? Because we have a message of hope. We have a message that offers life transformation. We have a message that demonstrates love beyond comprehension. We have a message that demonstrates the power of God! Some of the greatest words in all of Scripture are found in Luke 24:6, “He is not here; he has risen!” In a world in desperate need of transformation and hope, we have the answer. It is the powerful message of the resurrected living Christ! It is not just a message to be proclaimed. It is a message to be lived out. The power of the message is when we live out the hope, love, and transformation that is found in Jesus Christ. So, come and celebrate Jesus on Easter Sunday. And then live out His message every day.

Share Your Story

I recently had the privilege of having a part in the funeral of the last living relative in my father’s family. Uncle Duane was one of seven children, six boys (5 served in WWII) and a girl. He was 101 years old and still had a sharp mind. Duane always had a story to tell. One of my favorite stories was when he was in the Navy during the war serving in the South Pacific on board ship. One day he felt very uneasy and troubled in his spirit. He went    below deck and got his Bible and read Psalm 91 several times and prayed. A calmness came over him. At eight o’clock in the evening he began his watch duty on deck of the ship until midnight. He said it was a bright clear night and the ocean was calm. It seemed like you could see forever. About eleven o’clock he said suddenly heavy clouds appeared from nowhere and it became pitch black until you could hardly see your hand in front of your face. Shortly after that the radar of the ship picked up eleven enemy bombers passing right over their ship. The heavy dark clouds prevented the pilots from seeing the ship. When the planes were gone, the clouds disappeared and it was clear again. He told me that God gave him that scripture that day for assurance, and God was faithful to His promise. I cannot imagine how many people have heard my uncle tell that story. He was always eager to tell it to anyone who would listen.

You have a story to tell. There have been times when you have seen the hand of God work in ways that can only be explained as God. Your story may be about how God saved you, or protected you, or provided for you. When you share your story about what God has done, you are making an IMPACT. As we come to the close of this sermon series on our life making an IMPACT, I am challenging each of us to be more intentional to IMPACT the lives of others for Jesus Christ. God does not want to waste your story. Tell it! Others will be impacted.

Nothin' but Net!

Though I am not much of a fan of the NBA (yes, I love baseball) I have to admit it was certainly fun to watch the Indiana Pacers when Reggie Miller was playing. I still love watching the video clip where he scored eight points in nine seconds to beat the New York Knicks. One thing we all knew was that Reggie was the “go-to” guy for the Pacers. If the game was on the line, the ball was going to be in his hands. If a bucket was need to stop a run by the other team, the ball would go to Reggie. When it mattered, when the game was on the line it was Miller time. Of course we understand that it was through countless hours of practicing shooting, fundamentals, film study, and preparation that enabled him to be the “go-to” guy. Every good team needs a go-to person.

 

 I wonder how many of us are the “go-to” person for God. When a prayer warrior is needed, are you the “go-to” person. I am not talking about praying a prayer, “God help them.” When spiritual warfare is taking place and a warrior is needed to break through, are you the “go-to” person. When God needs someone with courage to speak truth, are you His “go-to” person? When God needs someone to speak to an unsaved person about knowing God, are you His “go-to” person? When someone is desperately in need of encouragement, are you the go-to person? Each of us have been given specific gifts and abilities. They have been given to us by God our creator. However, it is up to us to develop those gifts and abilities in a way that we can be God’s “go-to” person. So the game is on the line. The battle is raging. Have you prayed, studied, and developed your God given gifts so you can be God’s “go-to” person? The clock is ticking. The game is winding down. Develop your gifts. Get in the game. Be the person God can count on to give it your all. Be the best you can be. God’s team needs you at your best and He wants to be able to count on you.

Where to Start

I suppose by now you have given some thought to making some New Year’s resolutions. Many people commit to being nicer, having daily devotions, breaking a bad habit, and of course all of us commit to losing those dreadful pounds we gained over Christmas. Yet studies have shown that most resolutions are broken within just a matter of days. I am sure these resolutions were made with good intent. We soon discover that good intentions do not take us very far. Change takes more than good intentions.

David had more than good intentions when he cried out to God in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Any change that is lasting has to begin with God doing a work in our heart. Any sin in our life comes from our sinful nature. David realized a pure heart was the right place to start for a life that would honor God. Then he prays for a steadfast spirit. David is praying for consistency in his spirit. So often we start out good with great intentions, yet our actions display an inconsistent pattern. A pure heart is the first step toward a steadfast consistent spirit.

I challenge you to begin 2017 with this prayer and to pray it repeatedly throughout the year. Put in on your mirror or your refrigerator. Perhaps you could put it on your electronic calendar to pop up each week for you to pray. If you pray this prayer and mean it with all your heart, God will lead you into a deeper walk this year and your life will make a greater impact for Him.

Lessons From Christmas

There is probably one Christmas that sticks in my memory more than any other. We never had a lot when I was a young boy. So when Christmas came around, we always had some gifts but nothing was extravagant. This particular Christmas, we all knew that things were tight. My brother and I had each expressed how much we wanted a particular gift. In fact, we let it be known that if we got that gift we would be very excited if it was our only gift. By the few small packages under the tree, we knew the gift we had requested was not there. So on Christmas we opened the few little packages. After we all had opened our gifts our parents asked if we were happy with Christmas. Knowing finances were limited we both said we were, even though we were disappointed not getting what we had hoped for. Quietly my father slipped out of the room and came back in carrying the two gifts these two boys had longed for. We knew our parents had sacrificed to bring joy to their children.

There were two very important lessons I learned that Christmas. Though at that age I may not have understood it completely, the actions of my parents taught me the sacrificial love a parent has for their children. That Christmas was also a demonstration of the love of our heavenly Father. The Messiah had not come. Things were dark and hopelessly disappointing. Expectation was low. Yet God knew what the world needed. They needed a gift. A big gift beyond expectation. And so God made the sacrifice of sending His Son to be the light of salvation to those in darkness. Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

I have reflected on that Christmas memory many times and it still tugs at my heart. And I also continue to reflect on the love God showed in giving us Jesus, and it still tugs at my heart as well. Experience the Joy of a Fathers love this Christmas and let it change you.                                                                                                                                                          

This One Thing...

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We live in a time of unprecedented uncertainty. Many people wonder from week to week if they will still have a job to support their family. Terrorist activity seems to be increasing and expanding. I know people who refuse to watch the evening news before they go to bed because they want to be able to sleep at night. The divisions and distrust in our land have never been greater. Most of us are fearful of what our children and grandchildren will face if we continue on the path we are going.

In the face of all that is happening scripture reminds us, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27). Most of what happens is out of our control. You and I have no control over corporate decisions. We do not have a voice that is heard by politicians who run our government. We feel personally helpless in the fight on terror. We feel like our Christian faith is ridiculed. And we do not see things trending toward improvement. Yet scripture instructs us that in whatever happens we are to conduct ourselves worthy of the gospel of Christ. There is not much in this world that I actually have the power to change. Companies and governments will do what they choose with no regard for you or me. The one thing that we can do is to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. That is so much more than going to church on Sunday or associating with Christian people. It means the fruit of our lives must demonstrate Jesus. It means our actions and words must be like those of Christ. Whatever happens in your life or things around you, our call is to live worthy of the gospel of Christ.

GOLD......or not?

Many of us have spent the last few weeks watching the Olympics. These athletes from around the world have devoted their lives to intense training for a moment that in many cases would last a few seconds or minutes. Their goal was to be able to stand on top of the award podium with a gold medal around their neck. Unfortunately, we have seen that several of those athletes who succeeded in winning the gold medal in their sport disappointed us in their character and would receive no medal in the way they live their life. Their lifetime of training and moment of glory faded quickly in the exposure of their character.

Scripture reminds us that the prize we are seeking to obtain is not a passing moment of fame. We are on a journey to win a prize that is an eternal celebration. How we live in this life does matter. We live this life for the glory and honor of God and the reward we receive will be forever with God and the heavenly gold. The Apostle Paul expressed it like this: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil.3:14) While it is worthwhile to have some earthly goals we should be reminded that they are temporary and fading. Live your life every day to win the heavenly prize. Do not disqualify yourself with things that are only temporarily fulfilling. Press on for the reward that will last. There is a reward out there and you can have it. The heavenly crowd is on their feet cheering you on. Go for the gold!

 

What's Going On?

Unless you have been in hibernation to avoid the heat and disconnected yourself from all electronic devices and social media, you have to be wondering what is going on. The violence, lawlessness, and unrest in our country and around the world has reached unparalleled levels. We have seen examples of those who think they are above the law and others who want to take the law into their own hands. Terrorist activity has escalated. Police officers are being murdered in our streets by hate groups. While we were on vacation a police officer where we were at was murdered conducting a simple traffic stop. Often we find ourselves wondering what kind of world our children and grandchildren will grow up in.

All of us have ideas for solutions to our chaos and the answers are not found in the government or with politicians. (In fact the broken system they have created is part of the problem). Most of these problems are directly related to the breakdown of family and home. It is in the home that we should be taught respect for authority. It is in the home that we should be taught the value of every life. It is in the home that children and youth should be taught responsibility for their actions. In the home our young people should be taught there are consequences for our actions. In our homes our youth should be taught that God should be first in their lives. Unfortunately, many parents are either absent or neglectful when it comes to these responsibilities. We need fathers and mothers who will take the responsibility which comes with the birth of a child to train and teach that child and also live what they teach. Scripture clearly puts that responsibility on parents (read Deuteronomy 6). 

As Christians, we have a tendency in times like this to withdraw, isolate, and pull away from all the chaos. However, the great need is for us to be bold and courageous, crying out to God strength and wisdom and for Him to intervene. In these times of chaos, we need to be the light of God showing the way in the darkness. We need to be on our knees crying out to God for help. Our homes need to be strong pillars for others to see. Take responsibility to be the example God calls all of us to be. When you do, it will impact the lives of others.

Gold!

In just about one month many of us will nd ourselves glues to our television screens. (No I am not talking about the political conventions!) People from all over the world will be traveling to South America to participate in, support, or watch the Olympics. Millions of dollars have been spent in preparation for this event and millions more will be spent by the host, participating countries, and spectators. For many of the athletes, they have dedicated their lives in preparation for this event with one goal in mind. The ultimate goal is to stand on the top of the award platform and to have the gold medal placed around your neck recognizing you as the very best in the whole world at the event you participated in. No athlete just walks into the Olympics, participates, and wins the prize. There is a life time of preparation and faithful training that leads to the victory. When Paul was near the end of his life he wrote to Timothy (II Timothy 4:7-8), “I have fought the good ght, I have nished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” There is a prize to be won: heaven! The prize is not just given to one person. Everyone can win the gold. But we do not get to just walk in unless we have prepared to get there. We must receive Jesus Christ as our Savior. We must become true followers of Jesus Christ. Just as the athlete prepares their body and their skills for their event, we must discipline ourselves with God’s Word as our training manual so that we can receive the prize. When the event of my life is over I want to be able to receive the crown of righteousness and hear the Lord say,“Well done!” I challenge you to prepare every day to receive the prize. Go for the Gold

Make Your Mark

In February I had the opportunity to attend a preaching conference in Florida. Not far from where I was, the Detroit Tigers players were reporting to spring training. (You know my love for baseball and especially the Tigers). So having a little free time I decided to pay a visit to camp. I saw a few players come and go from camp and snapped a few pictures. While I was there the staff meeting ended and coaches and staff began exiting. Among them was my childhood hero and one of the all-time great players, Al Kaline. He certainly made a mark on my life by enhancing my love for the game and most definitely influencing how I played the game. As he walked my way, he was kind enough to give me an autograph, pose for a picture, and engage in a brief conversation. 

In April and May I have been preaching a series of messages on Making Your Mark from the Book of Acts. As much as I appreciate the baseball mark Al Kaline made on my life, I am eternally grateful for those individuals who have made a spiritual mark on my life. I am thankful for a praying grandmother who could seem to pray heaven and earth together. I am thankful for Godly parents who set an example before me. I am thankful for Godly people who I have watched live their lives totally sold out to God. All of these and more have left their mark on my life influencing me to live for God. So as followers of Jesus Christ, each of us should be asking, “Who am I making a mark on for Christ?” Will anyone be compelled to live for Jesus because of the influence of my life? As we see in the Book of Acts, the secret to making your mark is the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. The truth is we are all making a mark. The question is what kind of mark are you making? I urge you… let it be the mark of God!

Built Strong...AFCStrong

How do you measure strength? Some would measure strength by how much weight they can bench press. Others would measure strength by the amount of horsepower under the hood of a vehicle. In our socio-techno world you might measure strength by the power of your signal (can you hear me now?) or by the number of friends you have on Facebook. The strength of a church can be measured by the impact it is making in the lives of individuals and in the city or community it serves as it seeks to carry out the Great Commission of spreading the gospel both locally and around the world. Over the last one hundred years the strength of this church has been demonstrated in many ways.

Most of us are aware that we maintain strength by continually staying actively involved in our regular activities. Confine someone to bed for a couple of weeks and there will be considerable loss of strength. The process of regaining strength can be painful. So as a church it is essential that we stay actively engaged in carrying out the Great Commission so that we remain strong in doing the will of God.

In a few short days we have the opportunity to demonstrate strength in our presentation of Tragedy into Triumph, March 13-16. This simulcast will have a strong appeal to many who do not attend church. It offers hope and transformation. The testimonies of those who have overcome addiction, loss, adversity, and the pain of abortion will speak to so many who are looking for hope. As we seek to be #AFCSTRONG going forward and each commit to winning someone this year, I URGE you to use this tremendous opportunity as an outreach to connect to those you are seeking to reach and minister to. This outreach will help you in your effort to engage your friends in spiritual conversations.  Do not miss this opportunity to demonstrate strength as you reach out to people who need to know Jesus. Extend an invitation and trust God to work through the message. Let’s be AFCStrong!

Got Power?

It started out as a typical winter Sunday morning in Hoosierland. Sure, we were getting a little snow, but that is expected in Indiana in January and nothing that a native Hoosier could not handle. By 8am the early prayer troops had arrived and then for the next hour and a half people were arriving and going about their responsibilities and taking their places in Sunday School. About ten minutes into Sunday School a major power outage hit a large portion of our city which included us. Many people found themselves in pitch black class rooms. Fortunately, many people began to turn on the flash lights on their cell phones so that people could find their way out of the darkness. Most people gathered in the foyer where there was natural light waiting for the power to return. Unfortunately, it became evident it would not be on and I had to make the disturbing announcement that we have no power and we are done for the day.  

Later I reflected on the words in that announcement. “We have no power.  We are done for the day.” My prayer then became a plea to God that this would never be said of the church or of us as individuals. The truth is that without God’s power at work in our lives, we are done.  Without His power we are hopeless against temptation. Without His power we are defeated by the enemy. Without His power our testimony is lifeless and meaningless. Without His power our witness has no impact.  Without His power we are done. As that is true in our individual lives it is also true of the church. Without the power of God we are done. We must, as Paul challenged Timothy in II Timothy 1:6, “fan into flame the gift of God.” Acts 1:8 reminds us, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” Let’s keep the power on and see the things God wants to do.

How Do You Smell?

10…9…8…7…6…as everyone anxiously awaits the arrival of the New Year! Many will stay up to see the clock turn midnight. Some will gather with family or friends to celebrate the passing from one year to the next. Unfortunately somecelebrations will create a lack of memory. Some will be glad to close the book on this past year while others will reflect on it as the best days of their life. Some will makeresolutions which will be forgotten within the nexttwenty-four hours. So much emphasis, excitement, and expectation is placed on that moment when the countdown reaches zero.

However, more importantly is what you will be doing on February 1st or April 1st (or 15th) or June or August. Many start the year with great intentions which soon fade away with busyness, the influence of friends, neglect, laziness, and on and on the list goes. Paul said inII Corinthians 2:15 that we are to be “the aroma of Christ.” Have you ever walked past someone and picked up the aroma of their perfume (or lack of it)? Scripture is saying that everywhere we go people should pick up the aroma of Christ as they pass by us or stand in our presence. That is not just a New Year’s aroma when people are prone to making resolutions. There is not a perfume-free area for this aroma. We are to radiate the aroma of Christ everywhere we go every day of the year. It is not an aroma we put on. It is an aroma that comes from what we put in. When we put Christ in our heart, His aroma will radiate to others. I am planning a sermon series to begin the year I am calling “Starting Right.” Plan to be here every Sunday. Let’s be the aroma of Christ to Anderson.