Tuesday, April 26, 2011

This is My Story

    The story of the resurrection is celebrated by almost two billion people around the world. We pause and remember what happened to our Lord when he entered Jerusalem for the final time 20 centuries ago. However, if we are not careful, the Easter story can be glossed over, and we can forget the surprise and shock of the resurrection. Let’s never forget the “aha” moment it really delivers. Re-read Mark 16:1–7 and let it surprise you again.

    Sunday, I asked you to think of your life as chapters in a storybook. You have an introduction (the set up), the body (the plot) and the ending (the significance).

Chapter One: My Life – Found Guilty

    All humans share the same story because we all have the same sin DNA. The crime has been committed and we are separated from God. There is an old saying that says, “We all stand equal at the foot of the cross.” Romans 3:23 says, "There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."

    Chapter One is pretty bleak and is leading to a bad ending.

    But stories don’t end at chapter one. In the grand courtroom drama – Satan stands as the accuser, with a lot of ammunition to find us guilt and worthy of the death penalty.

Chapter Two: God’s DefenseThe Cross

    Jesus enters the courtroom, not as a defense attorney, but as a substitute. He does not declare us innocent; he receives our punishment. He doesn’t carry a briefcase full of notes; he carries a cross. He doesn’t even cross exam the witness against us; he takes on the shame for us.

    The cross is not pretty – it is painful. It is ugly and full of death. But it is at the cross where wrath and grace meet. Think of it, through the death of One Man, all the sins of the human race are fully paid for—past, present and future. When Jesus died, he took our place and suffered the penalty meant for us. He who was innocent paid the price so that we can go free. This is truly beyond human understanding.

    But this chapter has two parts, and the second part contains the resurrection.

    Without the Resurrection, Good Friday is simply a tragedy. Without the resurrection, Jesus is just another mad man. Without the resurrection, there is no hope in our eternal destiny.

    This leads us to chapter three.

Chapter Three: The VerdictReconciliation, Justification and Freedom

     He restored our relationship with The Father - Study Ephesians 2:14-18

     We are justified - Study Romans 3:22-25

     We are free - It doesn’t matter how many sins we’ve piled up in our lives. It doesn’t matter how guilty we are. It doesn’t matter how many skeletons rattle around in our closets. The death and resurrection of Jesus is God’s answer to our deepest needs.

    That is what theologians mean when they talk about the "finished work" of Jesus Christ. It’s not just a slogan; it’s a profound spiritual truth. When Jesus cried out "It is finished" (John 19:30), he meant that the penalty for sin had been paid in full.

    Freely His,

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What a Celebration

I am reading the many tweets from pastors around the country celebrating how many they had in attendance and how many were baptized and converted. There is no doubt that souls are being drawn to the Savior and that God's spirit is moving in great ways.  I am excited about the Kingdom.

I love to see the Body of Christ come together and move forward with the work of redemption. Today at Centerpointe, the church came together for worship and then celebrated with a community outreach. From what I can tell, we had over 100 guests for the service and hundreds more that came from the community for our after service outreach event. I watched as many families which live close to the church walk up to join us.

I am proud of our pastors, volunteers and church family. They worked so hard to make this incredible day come together, and they treated everyone like an honored guest. 

My favorite part of the day was during the worship time. We baptized three people and several others made commitments to become Jesus followers. It really is why we do what we do - share the gospel the best way we know how and pray that people will respond.

I expect there will be many more days like today.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Words are Inadequate

    Words are inadequate to describe how I feel about yesterday (Sunday). Centerpointe Church was given a clear mandate to impact Fairfax County for Christ. 

    A good day in church consists of connecting with God through worship, Word, and giving. It also consists of connecting with people and watching them grow in their faith. But a great day in church is when we get a chance to connect people to God for the first time. YESTERDAY WAS A GREAT DAY! From what I know at this point, six people gave their hearts to Christ and others came back to Him. Two people, from another faith, came to me and said, "I want to be Christian." I love my job! 

    When I drive into Fairfax every Saturday from Baltimore, I am overwhelmed with the amount of people that live here - over one million and growing. I ask God every week, "How can so few make a difference in the lives of so many?" Yesterday gave me the answer: If we work to consistently connect people to Jesus and teach them what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and continue to honor Jesus in everything we do, we will make a difference. I guess you could say it is all about Jesus.

    The day continued to be incredible. At a celebration service later in the day, I was officially installed as the pastor. Larry Hickey, Bob Rhoden, George Raduano, Rob Seagears, Steve Brimmer and Bill Fraznelli spoke to the church about what the Spirit of God is doing. Each brought a word from the Lord to challenge the church to move boldly forward. I am truly humbled that these men took the time to speak into the life of the church, as each has played key roles in my life as mentors, teachers and friends. I was doubly blessed to have Brian Biondo and Miki Fields bring their extraordinary musical gifts to the occasion. Adding to the day were the staff and friends from Trinity, and personal family members that persevered route 66 to celebrate with me.

    Steve Brimmer said it boldly, “Remember Keith, you are not the first pastor of this church, and if the Lord tarries, you will not be the last.” We have to follow God in our season. I pray that when the next generations speak of this season, they will be able to say, “They were boldly faithful.”

    The day was topped off with a delicious spread of desserts prepared by ladies in the church. They went out of their way to make our guests feel welcomed. I am so incredibly proud of them. The people of Centerpointe have embraced my family and me with open arms, and I can’t help but fall in love with them.

    It’s a new chapter in my life and the life of Centerpointe Church. I feel like the first sentence was clearly written. “The eyes of the Lord are searching for a people who are calling out to Him, and He found Centerpointe Church at Fair Oaks. In His sovereignty, His favor now rests on them.”

What a way to start a journey!

PS. A very special thank you to the staff and volunteers who worked so hard to make the house ready for guests.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Where is My Hope?

Over the last seven days, our family has been through a tragedy. One of our family members died unexpectedly. Like many friends and family, I find myself speechless, and a flood of emotions still overwhelm me: anger, shock, grief, loss, confusion…

Where is God in the midst of this?

Where is God in the midst of disappointment and storms and sickness and unwelcomed circumstances?

When I got the news, I was working on a sermon about hope, but now struggle to find what it really means.

So I run to the only place I know that makes any sense during these times – the Bible.  I have to turn to scripture, because it offers hope, even in desperate times.It’s powerful in that it is honest about our feelings and our circumstances.Specifically, the book of Lamentations has a lot to say about pain and suffering. This is a book about pain as the author vividly addresses the extremes of human pain and suffering as few other authors have done in history. It expresses the hard questions that arise during our times of pain.

Lamentations gives no easy answers to the difficult questions, but it helps us meet God in the midst of our suffering and teaches us the language of prayer. Instead of offering a set of techniques, easy answers, or inspiring slogans for facing pain and grief. Lamentations supplies us with a voice for working through grief and instruction on how and what to pray. It also provides for us a focal point on the faithfulness of God and the affirmation that He alone is our portion.

Before reading it, I would encourage you to examine its context. Read why this book was written. Understand the historical setting. When you do, you will see that the writer clearly understands what we are going through as it pertains to pain.

Lamentations 3:21-26 says, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” (NIV)

The Process of Restoring Hope:

Being a follower of Jesus, I have learned that no matter what we are going through, we are people of hope. Sin has robbed this world of hope, but Jesus has restored it.
Here are four things that I trust will help:

1. Remember:
“Yet this I call to mind.”  Literally says, “Make return to my heart.”
Even though everything around me lies in a heap, and countless lives have been lost … Even though everything I knew and loved has come crashing down, I have a hope.
Hebrew prayers had two consistent inclusions. The first is that they referred to God as the Creator of Heaven and Earth. The second consistent theme is a reminder that God delivered them from Egypt.

They were constantly reminded of who God is.
Fill in the blank, “God is my _______________”

2. Repent
Lamentations 3:39–42, “Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins? Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: “We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven.”

To repent is to face your failure and allow God to cleanse you. This is the only path to forgiveness and freedom. The consequences of not repenting is continual struggle and guilt without the hope of healing.

3. Refocus
Psalms 42:5, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and My God.”
The battle is in the mind. You have to intentionally fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. Don’t play for second place. Fix your eyes on what is most important.

4. Rejoice
Philippians 4:4-7, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Psalms 30:5, “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

There is no greater need than hope and no greater opportunity than now. Some men see only a hopeless end, but the Christian rejoices in an endless hope. Our hope is not built on frivolous sayings and shallow experiences. It is built on the fact that Jesus died and rose again.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NIV)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Reflecting the Heart of God

Sunday was wonderful day at Centerpointe. The atmosphere of expectation and gratitude filled the building as we talked about reflecting the heart of God. It is a privilege, and also a great responsibility, to be chosen by God to reflect the image of His Son to the world. We, The Church, are the first glimpse the world has of Jesus. 

Ephesians 3:10 says, “God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” 

The only way to be a true reflection of Jesus is by getting to know his heartbeat. The way we get a taste of His great heart is by reading Jesus’ prayers and studying his mission, message, motivation and actions. Let’s walk through them one at a time: