Tuesday, April 30, 2013

An Open Letter to the Pastors in the Cedar Rapids Metro Area:

Pastor friends,

And yes, I mean friends. I have served in the area for almost 3 years. When I arrived, I was 29 years old. I was called to pastor a church of 65 people (80 if we counted the stuffed animals in the nursery) that didn't, and still doesn't, have a permanent church facility. I was and am a small church pastor.

And yet, I have been loved, blessed, and served by dozens of pastors in this area. You have coached me on church leadership. You have prayed for me. You have bought me lunch. You have challenged me. You have shared your building and facilities with my church family in times of need. You have cared for me.

I love that pastors in this area work against "sheep-stealing." Instead, when people attempt to move churches in the area, we call each other and make sure godliness and grace are at work.

I love that pastors of different theological stripes can lovingly disagree with one another on the minor theological differences, and yet we cling fiercely to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I love that we gather our churches together to pray for this city, care for its citizens, and share Christ graciously and winsomely.

To be honest, I am so impressed by the godly pastors, churches, and ministries in this area. God has set a rich banquet of goodness in the heart of Linn County. You are mighty men and women of God. You have great churches. You are great preachers, shepherds, and servants. I feel bad for anyone trying to choose a good church in the area...because they have lots of great choices. Thanks for making the work of "church shopping" so difficult. Thank you also for preaching against church shopping.

I wouldn't want to serve in another area. This is home.

I'm excited to lock arms with you for the sake of Christ and this city for years to come.

Your indebted friend and servant for Christ's sake,
Pastor Matt Proctor
Cornerstone Church, Marion (www.cornerstone-marion.org)
April 30, 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

In God's economy...

You can do more on 6 days of work and one day of rest (the Sabbath) than in a 7 day work week.

You can do more with 90% (or even 75%) of God's money in your pocket than with keeping all of it. The giving of tithes and offerings releases the God who likes to take loaves and fishes and prepare a feast.

You can do more by serving others than serving yourself.

You can do more through forgiving enemies than holding onto bitterness.

You can do more through having seasons/days/hours of no food (fasting) than in living a life marked by always having your stomach filled.

You can do more with a vehicle and home you can afford than a vehicle or car that puts you in great debt. God says to owe no debt than the debt to love one another.

You can do more on a regular pattern of good sleep (7-9 hours) than refusing to go to get good rest. Allow the Sovereign God of the universe to take care of the details and go to bed.

And yet, you can do more on losing 30 minutes of sleep to engage in Bible study and prayer than you can if you spend those 30 minutes under the covers.

Most of all, you can do more by confessing your sin and turning to Christ for salvation than by taking the road most traveled, a wide road of rebellion against God, that is fraught with peril, pain, and ultimate destruction.

Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 16:24-26 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Monday, April 22, 2013

I want to quit making this mistake...

As a Christian, one of my primary goals is to help others become followers of Jesus Christ too.

And yet, I keep making the same mistake over and over again. And it's a big one...

**I fail to ask people to turn from their most besetting sins and receive Jesus as Savior and Lord.

What do I mean? Simply this: one of the greatest joys of being a disciple of Jesus is that we can turn from sin. Christ is so amazing, so wonderful, so gracious, and so beautiful that He attracts us to Himself and all that is good and simultaneously away from that which is evil, destructive, and deadly (sin).

We do a disservice when we let people hold onto their "pet sins." Because these "pet sins" are actually vicious monsters that are eating our bodies and souls piece by piece, day by day. When I preach the Gospel (especially to someone I know), I call them to Christ and from their most besetting sins.

To the rich, young ruler, Jesus told him, he had to get rid of all his material wealth and come follow Him. The rich, young ruler had to leave behind worldly riches to find the One who was richness in the flesh.

To the woman caught in adultery, she had to leave her life of sin.

To Saul (also known as Paul), Jesus said he had to quit persecuting the church and start serving the church.

To Peter Jesus demanded that he had to leave his (seemingly successful and difficult to leave) fishing business --a summons that had to be repeated, which suggests Christ will have to call us to leave behind our besetting sins more than once.

What about the people in our world?
  --To some men, we'll need to tell them they need to leave the netherworld of pornography and adultery and come follow Jesus.
  --To some women, we'll need to call them to leave behind vanity and fashion for Jesus.
  --To some adults, we'll need to challenge them leave behind a life of gluttony and drunkenness for Jesus.
  --To others, they will need to quit fornicating, stealing, being lazy, etc.
  --To others, they will need to get rid of their 401K and "financial stability" and cling to the true Rock, Jesus Christ.

Warning: Jesus says "Judge not, lest you be judged." This doesn't mean we cannot call sin sin, and call for repentance in the lives of others. It means, we ought not point out another person's sin without being fully honest of our own sin. And not just honest, but willing to confess it as sin and commit to repent, and keep repenting as more and more sin is made known to us.

Praise God, when someone challenged me to follow Jesus, they told me I had to quit stealing. They told me my pornography had to go. They told me I had to quit lying. In the end, my turning from sin didn't save me. But Jesus Christ empowered me to turn from sin and to find salvation in Him. Each day, I have more to repent from, and yet each day, I see that the way of Jesus is so rich, wonderful, and joyful that I don't want to sin. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me, a sinner.

More on the topic of repentance here: http://mattproctor.blogspot.com/2013/03/repentance-everyones-favorite-word.html

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Books Finished mid-Feb through March

Ten Keys for Unlocking the Bible by Colin Smith (best summary of the story-line of Scripture in miniature)

Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman (great little book on the importance of membership in a local church - best line: "God doesn't command you to join a church but to submit to a church.")

Portraits of a Radical Disciple edited by Chris Wright (an interesting compilation of about 40 friends of John Stott, writing about his life and ministry--I'd suggest finding a different biography unless you are a lover of all things Stott.)

Harry Potter (books 5-6)

Ongoing Books:
Les Miserables
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Toxic Charity
Lectures to My Students
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters
Center Church
Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down
The Sower
Harry Potter #7

We'll see if I can actually finish some of these books in the next month or so :)

Monday, April 08, 2013

Grappling with the Marriage Equality Debate, Some Reflections

Because of all the press the “marriage equality” debate has caused, I want to say a few things here and then encourage you to read four more reflections if you desire.

First, I pray that as Christians we are marked by love whenever we engage in this debate (Matthew 22:34-40).

Second, I pray that Christians allow God’s Word to be the final authority on what is right and fair. Our task is not to make the Bible work for our lives; rather, our task is to make our lives fall in line with the Bible.

Third, as Christians, we must first take the log out of our own eye. Admittedly, we have failed in our own marriages. We have failed in God’s call for purity and intimacy. Let us confess our failures and sins, and receive God’s forgiveness and power to live the righteous life. God does not leave us in slavery to sin, but changes us into new people who can live a new life with power to say no to sin and yes to righteousness (1 Cor. 6:9-11; 2 Cor. 5:17; Romans 6:1-23).