Posts tagged ‘cross’

July 9, 2012

All In?

by pastortimfowler

http://www.flickr.com/photos/baggis/167538086/

The biggest moment in a poker tournament is what is known as the “all in” moment. Each player starts with the same amount of chips and the goal is to win the chips from the other players over the course of many hands of poker. Usually toward the latter part of these tournaments, someone decides that they have too few chips to stay in much longer but they have a great hand and so they move all their chips into the center of the table, calling, “all in”. It is at that time that reality sets in. Either this is the hand that changes the night for better or this is the time that you head home with nothing. Going all in is a risky move.
This past weekend the youth of our church went on their first ever youth retreat to Myrtle Beach. They had some work they did helping the hosts and they had some fun time also, but they had a lesson from one of the leaders asking them if they were all in. The analogy used was different though. They were near the pool and as you know, most people ease into the pool. Usually they get in up to their knees and get a feel for the water before deciding to go all in. These guys were in to the knees with God in their role as Christians. Many of them said that they believed and had even made a decision to become a Christian but none of them had committed to that all in moment. Let’s face it; this can be scary.
Are you all in? As a Christian, have you decided to test the waters by coming to church and attending a class and even giving regularly? Some of you are thinking, “what do you mean, test the waters, I thought that was all in?” Sorry, but it is not. Church is only a small part of being a Christian, but for most, it has become what identifies us as Christians. God wants more from us than a couple of hours a week. He wants us all in.
Jesus said that if we want to follow Him, we should take up our crosses as we follow. Crosses are hard to carry. I am not talking about those gold ones around the neck. I am talking the wooden ones that they hang you on with nails. Now Jesus did not expect us to literally carry crosses, but rather to realize that this walk He took was His all in moment when He carried His cross up the hill to die for the sins of the world. And if all he would have done was to talk about it, He could have been like most of us who are only testing the waters or making safe bets that won’t put us out of the game or vault us into the lead.
Christians should be different in everything we do. Not “Bible thumpers” who yell out at every one that they are going to hell, but living examples of the Bible that was written to show God’s love for the world. Our marriages should be stronger than most because they are modeled after the one that God designed. Our work ethic should be better because we work as if God were our boss. Our friendships should be better because we want to be friends that stick closer than a brother. Our faith should be our guide because we trust God and show it in the way we act in every aspect of our lives. Reading our Bibles should not be something that we don’t have time for, but rather something that there is always time for. Praying for others should be habitual and joyful and worship should show in our faces as we celebrate the King of Glory as our Savior every chance we get. And oh yeah, our willingness to do the tough things for others should never come into question as we carry our crosses so that others might be saved.
Right now I am thinking of a list of places that I need to double-check to see if I am truly all in. We don’t stay all in all of the time. But we must be willing to fearlessly accept the fact that we have gotten back into the shallow water or are only making safe bets and we must be willing to dive into the deep or push the whole stack of chips and go all in. Its your move. Will you go all in or are you bluffing? Will you take the plunge into the deep water or play it safe in the kiddie pool? Come on…Go all in.

June 8, 2012

What’s New?

by pastortimfowler

http://www.flickr.com/photos/darrentunnicliff/3717968862/

Change is a natural part of life and yet so many people fear and even loath change. If change never happened, we would spend much of our lives beating on vending machines…get it? Change? Vending Machines? I kill me. But seriously, change gives us butterflies, frogs, ice, and a new diaper.
Recently my wife has been feeling like it is time to change. No, not husbands. No need to lower her standards. Her job has been a real pain in the neck and even a few months before the recent stretch of difficult times in her office, we have been talking about how perhaps God was leading her to go elsewhere.
Changing jobs can be quite nerve-racking in the best of times, but throw into the mix a bad job market and it gets even more difficult. But when my wife told me that she had turned in her two weeks notice, she said that she felt peace about it. I knew then that she was hearing from God. The Bible tells us that God gives us peace in difficult times as a way of knowing that we can trust Him. I know my wife is a woman who prays about things and listens to God for direction. This is no different.
There have been many times through the years that we have had to make tough decisions about jobs that did not make the most sense to some at the time it happened. Early in my ministry I also ran my own VCR repair business. Yep, I said VCR. It was during the time in my ministry when I was only getting part-time pay as a youth pastor and was feeling like I was not being effective in my ministry. At the same time I had an opportunity to expand my business to become a part of a national company and the money part of it was quite awesome. In the same week I learned that the church was cutting my part-time salary and that God, through my prayer life was telling me to close my business; you know, the one that just showed promise of a national account. But I had been asking God to make something happen and that I would trust Him when he did. I had peace about my decision and my wife supported me, so I closed the business and within a week was called to interview for my first full-time pastorate.
I had never thought about moving from the town we lived in. It was home and it was where my church was and all was fine. I had been at my church for almost 4 years and it was growing. But in my prayer time I felt like God was telling me that another change was coming. Within a few months there were things that happened that caused me to resign from my church and spend almost a year not being a pastor of any church. It was one of the toughest things I had ever done, but I knew it was right. One day I got a call from a church in the town I currently live in wanting to interview me for the pastor of their church. I had no intention of moving to another town and neither did my wife,but after the interview I had a peace about it that I couldn’t understand and within a month the move was on.
My wife was an executive at a major cellular company. It was a job that most people only dream of and the financial part of it was incredible. But shortly after taking the church, she began to feel like she needed to leave the company. Although we both knew that this meant dramatic financial cuts, we also knew that God was behind it because we both felt a peace about it. So she took early retirement and resigned. Because of that, she was able to work with me at the struggling church that hired me. We were leading it through bold changes and I needed her management skills like never before. Because she listened to God, we were able to lead the church through a change that resulted in the church that I currently pastor. This is a church where we are seeing people’s lives changed on a daily basis. It has grown from a church of barely 30 people who worshiped on Sunday morning to a place where over 150 people worship on Sunday morning. Not only that, but the amount of people who have gotten saved here is incredible. This all happened because of making tough decisions about changing jobs at weird times and trusting God instead of what logic says.
So I am excited to see what God has in store next for My wife and I. She has so many skills and gifts that can be used in so many ways that I am having a hard time imagining the awesome experience that is coming. Sure, there may be a few challenges along the way, but that is why God gives us the skills that we have and the peace that comes from His promise to provide all of our needs according to His riches in Glory!
Something new is on the way. I like new! I am made new by the power of God and what Christ did for me on the cross. In heaven, everything will be new all the time and that is hard to understand. So, new is good and new can only come with change. God says that He will change us into new creatures in Christ and lead us through the change every day. How can we go wrong. I am excited about what’s new!

May 29, 2012

One In A Million

by pastortimfowler

 

Four of us left out Saturday morning on our motorcycles for Washington DC to participate in the 25th Rolling Thunder, Memorial Day Parade of Motorcycles. This was my third time going and another guy’s 17th and the other two of them were going for the first time. It is impossible to describe what it is like to be in the Pentagon parking lot with one million motorcycles and their riders and passengers. We left out for our 410 mile ride to DC with anticipation of having some great fellowship and hopefully sharing Jesus with someone while we were there. At the end of our ride we were looking forward to a meal and a good night’s rest before the parade on Sunday.
Sunday morning we headed over to the Pentagon at 8am. When we arrived the lines of bikes stretched for what seemed like miles. We finally made it in to the parking area where over half of the parking lot was already full. It was barely 8:30am and the parade did not start until noon. So we got off our bikes and began taking pictures and talking to others who were parked beside and around us. We met people from all over the country and Canada and Australia. I don’t think the Australians rode their bikes there.
At twelve noon we hear the roar of motorcycles as the parade through the historic DC areas began. Bike after bike rolled out and the sound of the motors was like the name inferred, rolling thunder. After an hour and forty minutes of bikes leaving the parking lot, it was finally time to crank ours and head out through the parade route. Then another 20 minutes passed and the route came to an end. So we parked the bikes and did the tourist thing, looking at the different monuments and allowing the rich history of our country to sink in. After about two hours of sightseeing, the parade was about over. Motorcycles were finally ending the continuous flow from the Pentagon through the parade route. It was an incredible thing to be a part of.
All of this was incredible to see and hear and be a part of. The patriotism and fellowship with other veterans and the memories of those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom was worth it all. But that was not the most amazing thing that happened.
Out of the millions of people who were there that day, we met one fellow who seemed to be quite lonely. After an introduction and a short talk, he was asked about his thoughts on who Jesus Christ is. He did not know the answer but said he would be happy to hear anything that would offer him hope. He was told about the man who died for the freedom of humanity and the sins of the world. He appreciated the concept and related to what Jesus did. After a few more minutes of talking he asked to receive Jesus as his Savior.
Jesus was more than a one in a million. He is the only one who could do what He did on the cross. But He did it so that he could make a difference to anyone who would believe, even if you are the one in a million in the Pentagon parking lot for a parade on Memorial day.

October 27, 2011

Take Me To Your Leader

by pastortimfowler

Who do you know that you would follow anywhere? Maybe a quick answer would be your spouse, but remember that I said anywhere. Would it be a policeman? How about your child? Now I want to ask, who would follow you anywhere and Why.
I am getting ready to read Dave Ramsey’s new book about leadership. It came highly recommended at a conference that I recently attended and because I like his approach to money and admire what he has done with his company, I want to see what he teaches about leadership. This is a subject that try to read at least a book or two a year about and I don’t think I can ever learn enough about the subject.
I often use the question, what kind of person must Jesus have been to have thousands of people follow Him into the wilderness without any food? Remember that they did not have drive-throughs, then, and restaurants were hard to come by in the wilderness. These people must have been crazy to follow a man they barely knew out into a hostile environment unless he had some pretty amazing qualities. This is the same man who told 12 men to follow Him and they left their jobs and did it for 3 years even though He continually told them that He was going to a cross to die.
As Christians, we are supposed to lead people to Jesus, and sadly, that does not happen with most of us in any great numbers. Sure, it is not an easy task in this present age, but I believe that there is one thing that is consistent that makes it easier, Jesus. He has not changed and He gives us the guidelines that allow this to happen. Maybe we should focus on those rather than what we are currently trying to do.
Leading others is something that takes a willingness to be bold and take the first step. But it also takes an ever-present awareness of watching the steps that we take as others are watching us. If we lead others in the wrong paths, who needs a leader? We must be willing to keep heading in the right direction even if people aren’t immediately following us. Sometimes people want to see if we believe that we are heading in the right direction before they tag along.
Another key to leading others and this is important, at least to me, is that they see joy in you as you head to where you are wanting to lead others. One of the promises of Jesus said that He would give us His joy. He did not say that he would make us happy or let us find joy, but rather He would give us the joy that He already had. To often I see Christians walking around as if they had lost their puppy or something. Even in church where we gather to worship, I see long faces and people afraid to act as if they believe that God is real. And after church if you go to a restaurant you will hear the church folks talking about long-winded preachers, bad music, and that hideous dress that she was wearing. To top it off, many waitresses will tell you that Sundays are their worst days for tips. Oh yeah, baby, follow me to life eternal! Where is the joy?
Leadership is not limited to CEO’s and Government officials and pastors. If you are a Christian you should take the lead. An old friend of mine once said that you only have to be one step ahead to lead. The challenge is to act like we want others to follow. Most people like the spotlight of leadership when there is a title and a pay-check involved, but Jesus tells us that the treasures in this world will go away, but the treasure in heaven are never-ending.
If you had to lead someone to a place that was as miserable as the wilderness of Israel, and you had no food, you had better be a dynamic person. Jesus was. But He did not say lead people to the wilderness, He said to lead them to Heaven, via Him. If McD’s was giving away free Big Macs and fries to everyone that you brought to them, you would have no problem putting on the smile and enthusiastically having people follow you there, even if it were the one across town. Jesus offers the Bread of life and Living Water and a place to stay in His mansion for all eternity to everyone you bring to Him. And, you won’t have to lead them far. Just take them to the cross.

October 24, 2011

Was It A Tree?

by pastortimfowler

Quite often I will get questions about things that people read in the Bible that catch their eye, or perk their curiosity, and in some cases, even cause doubt. These are always great teaching opportunities and I always welcome these questions. Here is one I received the other day; When speaking of the crucifixion, I have heard songs that mention a tree, and others a cross and even the Bible uses these two terms. Why?
There are a couple of places that come to mind where the Bible uses the term tree for the crucifixion. Deuteronomy 21:22-23 (KJV)
22 And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree:
23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
Galatians 3:13 (KJV)
13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
In both of these the word tree is translated from the Hebrew word in Deuteronomy, and the Greek word in Galatians, from a word that means timber, wood, or plank. That definition makes it pretty easy to clear up any confusions, seeing how the cross was definitely made of wood. Some modern translations use the word pole in place of tree. I think the confusion comes from what we know as a cross and a pole. Let me try to enlighten you.
There is some debate among biblical scholars about methods of crucifixion because of these words. Some think that people were hung on a single pole, with their hands directly overhead. There are some recorded instances of this method being used, but not so much in the area and time that Jesus was crucified in. But my opinion is that the traditional cross, with two pieces was used.
The crosses were stored unassembled. Just piles of wood or timber. Everyone knew they were there for the making of crosses, but until needed they were just poles or trees. No one in those times had any confusion about what was meant when a tree was mentioned in context with crucifixion. Much like today if I were talking about baseball and the batter put some wood on the ball, we would not think that he had a pine tree in his hand, but rather a baseball bat, even if the bat was aluminum.
Either way the crucifixion was a cruel and humiliating way to put someone to death. It was where our sins were put to death by our Savior Jesus Christ. He hung on the tree so that we didn’t have to. Have took our curse, and gave us forgiveness and eternal life. He was not left on the tree, He was put in a borrowed tomb and rose from the grave three days later. The tree or cross was only a way of displaying to the world that sin had been nailed to cross, left there when Christ’s body was taken away. I know you don’t see the sin when you see the cross, but that is because the blood of Jesus covered the sin of humanity.
And one last thing, the verse in Deuteronomy 21:23, that is listed above, is another reason that I say that believers should be buried and not cremated. It is part of the law and we were never told to stop obeying the law. God ahead, blast back at me if you want too.

September 1, 2011

The Un-used Bible

by pastortimfowler

My Bible is falling apart. The cover is ragged, the pages are stained and tattered and the stuff that binds the pages to the cover is no longer working. There are coffee stains, sweat stains, blood stains, and some I am not real sure of. A few pages have been taped back together and that little piece of ribbon the is used to mark pages is frazzled.
When I was a kid going to church I always wanted a new Bible. They just looked like something I could be proud of. I remember that we had one on our coffee table in that room that no one played in. It was big and had pictures and a four-leaf clover in it. It was really too big for me to carry around and mom wouldn’t let me touch it anyway. I liked the Bibles in the pews, but they were there for the “poor people who didn’t own a Bible” as Mema said. Plus if I were to take one from the pew and claim it as my own I would go to Hell for stealing and I would not need a Bible there. I think that the preacher liked our Bible that we never used because he had one just about like it that he never used sitting on that table that no one ever used in the front of the church.
There were times when I would sneak into the room that no one ever used and look at the pictures in the Bible that no one ever used. It helped when Mema would tell us stories from the Bible to be able to check out the authenticity of what she was saying. After all, pictures never lies and neither did Mema. Once I even snuck into the church while other folks were in class and looked to see if the un-used Bible on that un-used table in that church had any pictures, and it didn’t. When mom caught me she told me I could go to Hell for that. I can only imagine what would have happened if I had done something really stupid like stole it. I probably wouldn’t go to Hell, it would have come to me and burn me up right there in the parking lot of the church.
So, many years later, after I became a Christian, I was in a church where the pastor used this really old Bible to preach out of. He had one of those un-used Bibles on his un-used table and it looked brand new, even though it had been there for years. But this Bible that he was using was rough-looking. What first caught my eye was that when he would pick it up to shake it at the congregation it was very limp. It was like holding up cloth instead of a book. Then as I became more interested in what was in that Bible, any Bible, not just his, I started attending a class that he taught. I would sit next to him as he turned through his Bible and saw the miserable shape it was in. I felt sorry that our preacher was using such a raggedy looking Bible when he a an almost brand new, un-used one out on that un-used table. I almost went out and grabbed it for him but I did not want to go to Hell.
One day I asked him why he didn’t get a new Bible. He told me that he did have others, but this one was special. It was the first Bible that he ever preached from. He said every time he saw the ragged cover it reminded him of Jesus’s body as it was on the cross. He said that the coffee stains and tear stains and other stains remind him of our sins and how when the word of God was applied to them, somehow the stains became battle scars from a victory won. He said the taped pages were a reminder that God puts us back together every time we fall apart. He said the limpness as he held it out reminded him that Jesus’ limp lifeless body was taken off the cross as our sins were left on the cross.
From that day forward I wanted a Bible like that. I couldn’t take his because, you got it, I did not want to go to Hell, so I got my own. It was brand new when I got it. Paid cash, didn’t steal it, cause I didn’t want to go to Hell. Then I started reading it every day. I read it in good times and bad times. I carried it with me to schools, prisons, and other places that often caused it to wear and stain and tater. I cried sometimes as I read about God’s love and even spilled coffee one morning as I banged the table in disgust as it revealed sin after sin in my life.
One day I was preaching and I held my Bible out to make a point and it fell limp in my hand. It may have done this other times before, but at that moment, I realized why my old pastor loved that old Bible so much.
So I got rid of the un-used Bible and that un-used table in my church and refused to have an un-used Bible in my house. Un-used Bibles make beautiful displays that no one reads. Worn out Bibles make beautiful lives that everyone reads.

July 27, 2011

What Jesus Looks Like

by pastortimfowler

I had the honor of doing a funeral today for my friends, the West family. It was for a member of the family who just happened to have been homeless most of his adult life for one reason or another, and why is irrelevant. Often I am challenged to think about different things as I prepare for a funeral and too often I am struck right between the eyes with things that I need to make right or rethink.
My biggest fear of doing funerals for people who I don’t know is that I am not sure of their eternal destination. Let me rephrase that; I have no personal knowledge of their profession of faith, because the bottom line is, we can only present evidence to the world of our salvation, we can never prove it.
I like to think that people can look at me, my life, and how I live it, and determine that based on the evidence that shows, they can tell I know Jesus. After all you can tell a tree by the fruit it bears. But anyone can look at a tree full of peaches and say that is a peach tree, it takes a deeper look if there is no fruit. So what I am saying is that in the dead of winter, a peach tree is still a peach tree even though there is no fruit or even any leaves.
I have tried to convince people of this fact for as long as I have been a pastor. Too often, Christians try to judge what a Christian should look like based on the perfect conditions of being a Christian and over look the fact that none of us continually live under perfect conditions.
So as I was searching for scripture to use for the funeral I came across one of those eye-opening things that happens to me from time to time. The kind of thing where God says, HEY! Your are missing ME in all this. So I started reading and I saw Jesus in a homeless man…here is what I’ talking about.
Luke 9:57-58
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to Jesus, “I’ll follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus told him, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to sleep.”
Matthew 25:42-45
42 I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink.
43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me into your homes. I needed clothes, and you didn’t give me anything to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t take care of me.’
44 “They, too, will ask, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or as a stranger or in need of clothes or sick or in prison and didn’t help you?’
45 “He will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you failed to do for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant {they seemed}, you failed to do for me.’
Jesus said in Lk. 9:57,58 that He was homeless too. Earth is not our home it is our journey to eternity. Then in Mat. 25:42-45, He says that He was the hungry, thirsty, sick, and in prison. He did not say that as a joke, He said it to make a point. Remember the peach tree? Not only will it not bear fruit in the winter, but it will not bear fruit when it is hungry, thirsty, sick, or not planted in a good place. These are the trees that need the most attention. These are the ones that God says He would die for and that need the help the most.
I like to have my pretty Jesus. You know, the one that is a good-looking, with hair flowing in the breeze, smiling ’cause He’s happy, and all is right with the world. But the Jesus that took my sin to the cross was a prisoner, condemned to die for sins He did not commit. He was stripped of His clothes, hungry and thirsty. He had no home. Few recognized this Jesus, but that is the one we all meet first in the path to salvation. Only after we are saved can we see the resurrected and glorified Jesus.
Few would think that a Christian is that homeless guy, strung out on drugs, begging for a dollar to buy a drink or a smoke. Few would think that a Christian would not have a good job and nice clothes to wear to church, like I have. But aren’t we all forgetting that we are not supposed to look like Christians, we are supposed to look like Jesus.
And I believe that sometimes Jesus saves the homeless and downtrodden and allows them to stay that way for those of us who look good to have a real look at the cost of sin. Jesus looked even worse when He took all of our sin the day He died on the cross. And He died for sinners, not saints.
I think I might have had a chance today to get a better picture of what Jesus looks like.

March 23, 2011

How much is it worth?

by pastortimfowler

Over the last few weeks I have spent about $750 getting my motorcycle ready for this riding season. With the price of gas steadily rising, I figure that I will save that much over the summer, especially if it gets any higher. I had someone ask me if I would really save that much and I was beginning wonder myself. So my question is, how much is it worth?
First of all there was an electrical problem that had been temporarily fixed last year by disconnecting some emergency cut off switches. These have nothing to do with gas but everything to do with safety and my life if worth more than the $200 that fixed that problem. Then there was a problem with the carburetor that was causing it to run really rough. That was costing me gas and the danger of getting stranded somewhere which really tests my nerves and you can’t put a price on sanity, so I think that there was a good use of $200 spent on that one. I needed a new speedometer cable because the old one had begun to make some weird noises. If that were to break I could get a ticket for speeding costing me hundreds in fines and increased insurance costs. Another well spent $25 dollars. My rear shocks were bad causing uneven tire wear and a rough ride. I enjoy riding and if the ride is rough I lose enjoyment and what is the price of that? Tires are very expensive as you will see next, so saving on wear and tear is worth the $25 spent on shocks and, these were replaced for much less than what brand new ones would have been at nearly $800. I had to replace my rear tire, $180 for tire and mounting. Because there are only two tires between me and the road, it only makes sense to have good ones. Worth it. Then there was the brakes that needed replacing. As much as I like riding, I like stopping even better, especially when everyone in front of me is stopped. $150 was worth it.
So I figured that if I rode out 35 tanks of gas on my motorcycle this season instead of truck, I will make back every dollar spent on these repairs. Add to the fact that I like riding the Holy Kaw and there is cost for upkeep in most everything we do, I think it was worth it.
Wouldn’t it be cool if we kept such good accounts of how much our salvation is worth and what it cost to obtain it? Imagine if we had to justify the time that we went to church, shared our faith, services that we did for others and even our money that we give to the church and others in the name of our salvation. Would you be able to say it is worth it? Did you get a good deal? Is it valuable enough to do the things that we know will make us better, stronger, and yes, even safer? Here is a real important question. Are we treating our salvation as if we were saving gas, or are we treating it as if we enjoy it and look for reasons to put into action all that we know?
Considering the fact that salvation cost Jesus Christ total humiliation and death on the cross, and our only cost is humbling ourselves enough to ask for forgiveness, can we justify the life we live when someone asks us, How much is it worth?
I could have let most of the things I mentioned go for a bit longer, but my motorcycle would not be everything I wanted it to be. It was worth everything I did to get the most out of it.
Our lives as Christians are far more valuable than motorcycles. If our lives are not what they should be, it may cost someone else to question if it is worth it too. Let’s count the cost, defend our faith, and enjoy the ride. It is worth it!

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