Archive for August, 2010

How Did He Do That?

August 29, 2010

Contributed by Russ Perkins, Elder Overseer of Communities of Image Church

Luke 14:26 – If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  [ESV]

John 6:53 – So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  [ESV]

I know it’s extreme isn’t it?  With messages like that, just how did Jesus get anyone to follow Him at all?  Who could help but wonder (I know I have)?  Let me go ahead and tell you from the outset that I will not give explanations for these tough truths — at least not in this particular blog.  Take a look a Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 (also some really hard teaching for certain).

Here is what I find truly fascinating — that Jesus was able to recruit people to His mission.  How in the world did He do that, given the difficult, at moments even apparently, repulsive nature of His message?  Humanly speaking, He was a nobody, not particularly attractive, and had little or nothing in the way of material possessions.  Yet, He called people to follow Him, and a handful actually did.  For these chosen few, it all began with an invitation that would quickly develop into an intimate relationship.  They were given a direct invite from God incarnate to simply come along and be with Him – to spend time with Jesus so that they could genuinely get to know Him.  That is what He offered so long ago and amazingly still does to/for us even still today.   

John 17:3 – And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.  [ESV]

We have a similar opportunity – we simply must choose to take it.  Just like with the first disciples, His offer still stands.  “Come and follow me.”  It’s now our turn — the ball is in our court — we each must decide.  I can just hear you now — Russ, it’s the 21st century…Jesus walked the earth some 2000 years ago…What are you babbling about…   Jesus first offers the relationship, and then He walks us through His tough truths.  He teaches us what they really mean as we read, pray and study His word, getting to know His people who are on the journey as well.  But the person (Jesus) and a relationship (redemption/reconciliation) precedes the deeper understating of many of these tough truths.

We would do well to follow Jesus’ simple example of befriending people, just helping them – being there for others as the situation dictates.  I think it’s safe to say people don’t want our theology but rather our friendship, or said another way – people might be interested in what we believe once they know we are their authentic friends in whom they can count on.  Once we have established a genuine friendship, the door might perhaps open to share our theology.  And that theology, of course, has at its center as the Gospel, and when a person finally gets a grip on what the Gospel truly is, means, and looks like, nothing is ever quite the same for them.

Mark 10:45 – For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  [ESV]

It just seems to me that for too long now much of the Church has made it clear what it thinks and not made it nearly clear enough that it honestly cares for or about others.  The truth is, it doesn’t really matter if you are right or if no one is actually listening…  The more I look at Jesus, I think I see He did things differently.  Jesus was full of grace and truth — He loved people right where they were, just as they were and offered an invitation for them to come along in order to discover true meaning, purpose and a better way to live.  Once again, I believe we would be wise to emulate His perfect example.  Not an easy thing to accomplish to be sure, but always worth our best effort as He works in and through us to achieve His ends.

A Time to…

August 24, 2010

Contributed by John Hellmund, Elder Overseer of Finance at Image Church

I know I have said this before, but I am not the type to blog.  The only time I do is when it is my turn to write the Ethos Blog.  I say that to mention the fact that when I write, I truly try to express something I am going through.  It seems like my life has been really busy the past several years, like most people in the Northern Virginia area.  Back in December, I finally graduated from college after working full-time and going to school full-time.  I don’t wish that on anybody with a family.  I then started a new job and have had a learning process there, and now I have the blessing of a newborn.  There are always going to be people or things demanding your time and attention.  We just have to put them into perspective.

I keep going back to a book that our home group went through several years ago.  It is called Choosing to Cheat by Andy Stanley.   The main premise of the book is that everybody must establish priorities.  “A priority is something you put ahead of something else.  A priority is something you say yes to even when it means saying no to other important things.”  Our priorities do not always coincide with our responsibilities.  We all have to make choices.  I am a husband, a father, an employee, an Elder, and a friend to name a few titles I carry.  These titles are not listed in order of importance, but they do each represent different responsibilities I have and show the need for me to decide where to spend my time and resources to complete them.

Andy Stanley writes, “Your problem is not discipline.  Your problem is not organization.  Your problem is not that you have yet to stumble onto the perfect schedule.  And your problem is not that the folks at home demand too much of your time.  The problem is there is not enough time to get everything done that you are convinced-or others have convinced you-needs to get done.”  This paragraph is so true.  We all have so much on our plates that we think we need to complete, but is that really the case?  Do we have our priorities straight? 

A great perspective is shown in Ecclesiastes 3:1-12:

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:  2  A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;  3  A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up;  4  A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance;  5  A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;  6  A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away;  7  A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;  8  A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.  9  What profit has the worker from that in which he labors?  10  I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied.  11  He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.  12  I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives.

God appoints seasons and times in our lives.  We have to deliberate in what choose to do.

Andy suggest that we take inventory of our lives and see what we are struggling to get done to the best of our abilities.  We then have to look at that list and see what it is we are cheating.  Are we cheating God and not spending the time with Him as we should?  Are we cheating our families and not spending the time with them?  As I am writing this, my two older sons have been coming to me begging for me to play with them.  My first instinct was to tell them that I was busy, and I would play with them later.  As a matter of fact, that is exactly what I did.  Then I got slapped upside my head with conviction that I was making the same mistake I am writing about.  Yes, writing this blog is important, but it can and is currently being written now that my boys are in bed.  I feel that I made the correct decision in putting this aside for a few hours to spent time with my family.  This is just a little example of choosing to cheat.  I did not cheat my kids, and I am not cheating my responsibility to the church, but I am cheating myself of a little TV time.  A wise friend of mine always says something along these lines…We cannot cheat God; we cannot cheat our family; we cannot cheat our jobs, so we must cheat ourselves. 

This is true, because we must put God first.  We have to protect our time with our family, and men must be the Godly leaders of the home.  We have to provide for our families, so we must keep a steady job.  The one main thing we can cheat is ourselves.  How much time are we spending watching TV, playing computer games, or sleeping in?  We all must choose to cheat something.  “When you choose to cheat in accordance with God’s priorities for your life, it is an invitation for Him to bless you in ways you never dared to imagine.”  Colossians 3:23 says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men. “

Seven Things I Learned from the Book of Daniel

August 15, 2010

Contributed by Toby Ward, Elder Overseer of Service at Image Church

Recently, I had the good fortune to preach the Word at Image Church for three consecutive weeks, and it was a blast. I am so humbled and honored that God would use someone like me to bring His Word to His people. I am constantly amazed what God can do when we are willing to be used by Him. When we have faith in Him and obedience to His Word and direction, supernatural things happen. That’s what God does!!  The supernatural. The miraculous. The things that cause non-believers to stand up and take notice of a Sovereign loving God.

There are many great examples of this in Scripture, and a good one is the life of Daniel. God led me to preach through Daniel 1-6, and there were 7 resounding themes that kept jumping out at me. Here are the 7  things I learned from the life of Daniel that impacted me greatly:

1 – God is Sovereign over all NATIONS and INDIVIDUALS

  • Whether it was King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1-4), King Belshazzar (Daniel 5), or King Darius (Daniel 6), God’s control was evident over them at all times.
  • God ALLOWED Israel to fall to the Babylonians (Daniel 1:2), and later to the Medes/Persians (Daniel 5:31) to accomplish His purpose for His chosen people.
  • God is still in control today. Even though as Christians we may not always agree with our Government, KNOW that God is sovereign and places in command the person He wants for His purposes.

2 – God will be with us through the trial’s of life

  • God promises us multiple times in Scripture that He will walk with us through the trials of life. Never did He say that He will prevent the trial, but He does promise to be there with us.  Keep in mind that we worship a Man who died in His early 30’s, and gave His life in one of the most horrific ways of all times.
  • Daniel experienced God’s protection when he first came to captivity, and not eating the Kings food. (Daniel 1)  He again experienced God’s protections by interpreting King Neb’s dream (Daniel 2), and in the Lions Den. (Daniel 6)
  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego also experienced this when Jesus Himself showed up in the Ore smelter. (Daniel 3:25)
  • As Christians, we RUN from the trials when we ought to embrace them.
  • If God has promised to show up when we are tested, then why would we want to miss His presence?!?!?!
  • In Acts 5:41m the early Apostles REJOICED at being counted worthy to suffer in the name of Jesus – right AFTER they had just suffered a medieval times beating!!!
  • Are you willing to suffer in the name of Jesus much less rejoice in it?

3 – Pride blinds you from God

  • King Neb, Belshazzar, and especially Darius were all blinded by their own ambition and pride that they could not see the miraculous work of God all around them…especially Darius.
  • Darius took a liking to Daniel, but fell to flattery (Daniel 6:6) and pride by allowing the “worship me only” decree to go out.
  • Belshazzar was partying while his enemy was at the gate and allowed Babylon to be taken captive by another country. (Daniel 5)
  • King Neb was probably the dumbest of them all, because he ignored the veggies (Daniel 1), Daniels interpretations (Daniel 1&4), and the deliverance from the ore smelter (Daniel 3).
  • Pride and especially ENTITLEMENT in our life will keep us from seeing Jesus. We are ENTITLED to nothing!!!!! It is only by God’s grace that we are His children, so who are we to EVER have ANY pride or ENTITLEMENT towards Him?!

4 – Living in a secular culture is God’s will for our lives

  • God soverignly placed His entire nation of chosen people into captivity under the reign of pagan worshippers (Daniel 1:2).
  • He then used 4 men (Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) as agents of change in this pagan land.
  • These 4 men allowed themselves to be educated in the pagan ways, AND allowed their names to be changed to that of pagan gods. This did not define them. They took stands ONLY when it was going to go against God (Daniel 1).
  • They EMBRACED their culture rather than RUNNING from it, and God showed up multiple times astonishing the pagans.
  • As Christians, God has soverignly placed us in the time and age that we live, and He desires for us to RUN HEAD ON INTO  ITS CULTURE!!
  • Jesus Himself was called a drunkard (He was not, by the way) because He associated with drunkards. He came to heal the sick. (Luke 5:32 & Luke 7:34) 
  • How are we ever going to heal the sick if we are constantly running from them?
  • Get out of your bubble, and crash head on with the culture all around you. That’s EXACTLY what Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did!!

5  – Love your enemies

  • This is pretty much self-explanatory.
  • Daniel served multiple kings for 70+ years of captivity, and he did it faithfully, and loyally.
  • He even showed concern for King Neb (Daniel 1&4) most likely because he was praying for his repentance to God.
  • I can’t imagine a worse life than being captive under a religion you KNOW despises God.  Daniel never complained. 
  •  He showed great concern and affection for whomever he served.

6 –  The closer you get to God, the closer He gets to you

  • Daniel prayed three times daily (Daniel 6) and was undoubtedly close to God.
  • God sent an angel to Daniel on two occasions – in the lion’s den (Daniel 6) and in prayer (Daniel 9).
  • In Daniel 9, Daniel is praying for his nations deliverance from captivity, and the angel Gabriel shows up.
  • He then tells Daniel “you are loved” (Daniel 9:23).
  • A consistent, humble prayer life will endear you to God.
  • God just doesn’t send angels to everyone. Daniel saw this TWICE in his lifetime!!! That’s a man who was close to God through prayer!!!

7 – Everything flows from faith in and obedience to God

  • In Gods’s covenant promise to Israel, He promised to be with them, and protect them if they did two things – have faith in me, and obey my commands.
  • They failed to do these two things, and it led to their downfall.
  • Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, however, experienced MIRACULOUS acts of God because they simply were faithful and obedient.
  • We make this Christian journey through our temporal home so hard because we are arrogant, prideful, self-sufficient creatures by nature.
  • It’s only through dependence on God, by His grace, those attributes are stripped away.
  • Faith+Dependence=Obedience.
  • Obiedience+Prayer=GODS MIRACULOUS WORK ALL AROUND US IN AND THROUGH US!!!!!!!!!!

Rest in Him

August 8, 2010

Contributed by Chad Seidler, Director of Ministry/Assistant to the Lead Pastor of Image Church

I like roller coasters.  I do not, however, like emotional roller coasters, and I’ve been riding one for a solid week.  So, I’m officially taking myself off of this current coaster.

I have come face-to-face with some suppressed memories this week.  Memories that bring feelings of inadequacy, uselessness and guilt.  Memories that were crafted from my selfish and arrogant actions.  Memories from which I thankfully have been forgiven, but sometimes find a way of creeping back into my current thoughts.

I thank God daily that I have an incredibly loving wife, solid friends, and a great church family that encourages me and strengthens my walk.  I rely on my faith in God and my relationships with these people a great deal.

I’m also thankful for truth exclaimed throughout God’s Word and the real-life experiences of other Godly people.  I’m currently reading “When Life Is Hard” by James MacDonald.  I had the privilege of hearing MacDonald speak earlier this year at the Whiteboard Sessions in Virginia Beach.  He’s the pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago.  He and his family have experienced numerous trials and gone through a lot of pain the past few years.  This book is an account of those experiences and what he learned through them.  The central verse that MacDonald uses throughout the book is from the life of Job.

Job 23:10 – But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.

God is in control.  He’s not surprised by what I’m going through.  My feelings of inadequacy, uselessness and guilt are part of the process that is refining me into gold.  This week has reminded me to get out of the way…and rest.

Tonight, coming home from a wonderful dinner with my beautiful bride, I was, again, reminded to rest.  We were listening to “Church Music” from the David Crowder Band.  (If you haven’t yet downloaded this album, do it…the songs are rich with truth and encouragement.)  The song “Shadows” came on.  I needed the reminder…

When shadows fall on us
We will not fear
We will remember

When darkness falls on us
We will not fear
We will remember

When all seems lost
When we’re thrown and we’re tossed
We remember the cost
We rest in Him
Shadow of the cross

I can’t get the song out of my head, and that’s OK.  I need the constant reminder and encouragement.  And tonight as I finish these thoughts, I am resting – resting in Christ and the shadow of His cross.

I rest also in the truths of two Scriptures that I claimed many years ago and strive to claim each day.  I share them with you, that you might be able to find rest.

2 Timothy 1:7 –  For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 – He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

Don’t fear.  Remember that God is faithful.  God is refining us right now.  Rest in Him.