Friday, January 28, 2011

The Master's School of Prayer

For those of you who can join us at New Beginnings this Sunday, let me encourage you to read Matthew 6:5-13 and Luke 11:1-13. It has been sweet and challenging to spend so much time meditating upon the topic of prayer. My hope is that our time on Sundays will be glorifying to God and helpful in leading us to be better students of prayer. If you're in the area, we'd love to have you join us! By the way, this will be our last service before renovations begin in our worship area. Come check out all the great work that has been done!

"...Lord, teach us to pray..." Luke 11:1

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Making a Difference - Part One

Something that our people here often is that our mission is to make disciples who make a difference for the glory of God. You could call that our mission statement here at New Beginnings. It's certainly biblical. The Lord gave his disciples (and we are his disciples!) their "marching orders" when he said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus clearly identifies the work of making disciples as an essential, urgent task for his followers.

An important question for us becomes this: How are we doing in this area of making disciples? And further, what kind of disciples are we making? You see, there are many churches that are growing in their numbers of attendees or participants, but are they producing disciples? Some churches are very "programmed" and keep their people busy, but are they equipping and releasing their people for their calling as witnesses of Christ? These are important questions. A true disciple of Jesus Christ is one who is growing in their relationship with God. This growth is marked by loving devotion to God and willing obedience to what God commands. A disciple is one who daily discovers more about who God is, who they are in Christ; and one who faithfully seeks to introduce others to God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus said that the world would identify his followers by the love they displayed (John 13:35). [Notice that he didn't say "By how many Bible studies or church services you attend.] Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15). Are we working with God's Spirit to produce people who love and obey the Lord? How can we improve in this vital area and purpose as a church?

Check back in few days to read more about our mission of making disciples.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More Renovation Photos

Hi, all! I promise I'm working on a post in the next day or two. For now, here are some photos from our renovations. Things are coming along nicely! Please pray for the formal permits to be issued by the week's end. Thanks!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sanctity of Human Life

Tomorrow is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. We will be challenged from God's Word about the dignity and value of life, as well as our personal responsibility to be engaged in the "silent struggle". Today I wanted to share a few verses and other thoughts that have come up during my preparation for tomorrow's service. May these challenge you to action for those who are hurting or helpless.

"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness...So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." - Genesis 1:26-27

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; you works are wonderful, I know that full well." - Psalm 139:13-14

"Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, 'But we knew nothing about this,' does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?" - Proverbs 24:11-12

There is a little guy waiting to appear
Curled up inside his mother's protective atmosphere.
He's the one they didn't plan on, an extra mouth to feed
A little inconvenience neither of them need.

He's doctor's bills and formulas, He's sleepless nights and stress,
He's wet and dirty diapers in a house that's a mess.
He could have been a newer car or a cabin with a view.
Or a cruise or clothes or fancy shows or other dreams come true.

So they talk about abortion as the alternative
For that fetal imposition--he would change the way they live.
He isn't really human. He doesn't even breath.
He's just a misadventure they happened to conceive.

They sit there in the waiting room with papers they must fill,
The waivers and consent forms, the arrangements for the bill.
They know it's what they have to do, there is no other way,
But once or twice they wonder, what this little guy might say.

"I wish you wouldn't do this, I've got so much to do,
I have to learn to walk and learn and tie my shoe.
I have to learn to whistle, I have to learn to run,
I have to learn to say my prayers when the day is done.

I have to watch for daddy with mama at the door,
I have to ride in carts when they take me to the store.
I have to blow out candles on a lot of birthday cakes,
And pose for all the pictures that mommy always takes.

But if you let them do this, I'll never learn to wave.
I'll never have a birthday, I won't even have a grave.
I'll never play a game, I'll never laugh or cry
I won't even have a name and I'll always wonder why."

- Author Unknown

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Helping Hands

"Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us...If a man's serving, let him serve..."
(Romans 12:5-7).

The renovations are well underway...(boy, is it loud around here!). What a blessing to have dedicated people who love the Lord and desire to use their talents and gifts for the glory of God and the good of His church!

This is a tremendously beautiful truth about the church: Every single person is valuable and has an important role to play. The Apostle Paul thought this way so much that he wrote two very similar sections in his letters (Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12) which talk about the wonderful unity of the body of Christ as well as its diversity. The dynamic unity of the church is strenghthened by the diversity of gifts and personalities which are found in it.

What part are you playing in God's church? Are you an active participant or simply a spectator? Are you using your unique gifts and insights in ways to bless others and strengthen the body? There are no "heros" and "zeros" in the church. We need to resist the mentality that there are "superstars" in the church who get to do everything. The truth is that everyone is special and critically important.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Embarrassing Moments

You've probably heard about or seen the video of this poor woman who tumbles into a fountain while texting. That's pretty embarrassing stuff, huh? My wife told me this morning just before I left for work that this video was even shown on Good Morning America! You have to feel for someone like this, right? I mean, why is it that we get such a kick out of the folly of others? It makes me super happy that none of my most embarrassing moments have been caught on tape!

Speaking of my embarrassing moments...a quick story: About a decade ago while a student at Liberty University, I got a call from the "Student Life Office" saying that I had been selected from the student body for a special, private luncheon with no other than our school's founder and chancellor, Jerry Falwell. The appointed date and time were given to me and when it came I was ready. Dressed in my best suit, I marched into the Executive Dining area and proudly asked where everyone was for the special luncheon. I was greeted by a puzzled-faced administrator. Then, hearing giggles behind me, I turned to see two gals who had just pulled the greatest "practical joke" on me in the history of my life. Talk about your (gullible) embarrassing moments!

There is a scene in the New Testament that captures an even more significant embarrassing moment. In Matthew 25, Jesus is teaching and giving parables. He is talking about the end of time when He will return in glorious judgment and our works will be weighed according to their worth. In His dialogue, Jesus is stating that there will be some who hear the words, "Well done, you good and faithful servant." There will be others who, expecting to receive such praise, will instead hear the words, "Depart from me, you who are cursed...for I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink...".

Let me ask you this: If Jesus showed up today, would you be embarrassed by the condition of your life? Are there things in your life that you know are out of place for someone who claims to love the Lord? Would you hear the words, "Well done" or "Depart from me"? Sometimes thinking about this sends shivers up my spine. My prayer is that not one of you will be embarrassed on that day.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Little Blessing

Several months ago at our Vacation Bible School, a young lady from our town came after seeing one of our flyers. She was one of the first to show up each night and the last to leave. Although she came alone, she instantly made new friends and was quite possibly the cheeriest child all week. She even wound up winning the grand prize on the final night--a brand new IPod. The greatest thing of all was that she also made a decision to accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.

After VBS ended, this young lady came to our Sunday services for several consecutive weeks. She came week after week with a shiny new Bible in hand and a huge smile on her face. One Sunday she informed me that she and her dad had just become homeless and, with tears in her eyes, she said that they would have to move out of town. I worked with her dad for a few days trying to locate affordable housing for them in our area but nothing came to fruition. The Lord quickly provided an apartment and job in a town about 30 minutes from our church. Without any contact information to give me, the young lady and her dad slipped away to a new town.

This morning, well before most folks had shown up for church, I was greeted by that precious little girl with a bright smile and now a slightly worn Bible. I shook her dad's hand and he told me, "She said to me yesterday, 'Daddy, can I go to church tomorrow?' I said, 'Sure, honey.' And then she said, 'Daddy, I want to go the church I used to go to, the one in Woodbury Heights.'"

I had to choke back a lump and I gave that little girl a hug and told her how much she had been missed. I showed her to her new classroom and it was as if she had never left.

If I'm honest, today was a bit of a challenge. It was the first Sunday of having the entire first floor of our building. I seemed to move from one very serious conversation to another with hardly a moment to catch my breath. We learned that a dear lady in our church just found out that her cancer is back. I felt like my sermon was a total bust. Let's just say that today won't be one of my fondest memories...

...except for this one little blessing. In all the facility talk and planning, despite all the preparations we are making to be received as a fully self-supporting church, today I was reminded, in the face of a child, about the real purpose and heart of our ministry. What a blessing to hear this little girl say that she wanted to come to our church even though it is more than 30 minutes from her new home. Thanks, Lord, because I think I really needed that today.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Facility Expansion

The Lord has been so good and so faithful over the past six years of our existence as a church. What started as a group of ten families meeting for prayer and worship in a garage has grown into a vibrant community fellowship seeking to build Christ-centered lives and to reach the lost of Gloucester County, New Jersey.

Over the past year, the leadership of New Beginnings has prayerfully sought the Lord's direction as to how to accommodate numerical growth. Just this week we signed our new lease which will give us double the floor space and, Lord willing, enable us to remain focused on reaching out.

Please be in prayer for many volunteers from the church as we band together to clean up and renovate our building. These are exciting days and, again, we are grateful to God for seeing us through each step of the way.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Q & A on Prayer

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened...If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" - Matthew 7:7-8, 11

I am currently pouring over some terrific books and resources on prayer in preparation for a mini-series that I'll be preaching at New Beginnings starting this Sunday. Last week I had the great honor of sharing at our Community Men's Prayer Breakfast on the topic of prayer. From some of the responses, it seems that God really spoke to each of our hearts during that time and the Holy Spirit brought conviction over the condition of many of our prayer lives.

I want to do some research here as well, and I hope that you will help me out and participate. Below you will find several questions about prayer. I would be blessed if you would read over these questions and maybe post your replys/insights/further questions in the comment section below. If you prefer, you can also send an email to me directly at You have my word that your name will not be used in any illustrations, etc., unless you give me direct consent.

1. How would you rate your prayer life on a scale of 1 to 10 (1=non-existent and 10=consistently passionate)?

2. What topics do you find yourself praying for most often (ex. sickness, friend's salvation, thanksgiving, etc.)

3. What are the greatest obstacles to your prayer life?

4. Why is prayer important for a Christian?

5. Have you discovered any specific resources that help you in deepening your prayer life?

Please feel free to post any other related thoughts and/or your own questions on prayer. Thanks for helping out!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Facebook Christmas

So I know that Christmas is over, but Laurie just showed me this video and I thought it was too unique not to share. Technology is truly amazing! Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Good Gifts

Another Christmas has come and gone. The packages have all been opened. The bags (and bags) of trash have been taken out to the curb. You may have even had to stand in a return line or two. Christmas enters with a roar and exits, it seems, so quickly and quietly that you almost miss its leaving.

I have been thinking today about all the gifts that are exchanged at Christmas. It's precious to be able to give tangible things to your children that make their little eyes shine and their tiny hearts jump for joy. Gabbie and Luke, my two oldest, are both at the stage where they are basically pleased with anything that they are given. You don't really have to break the bank to get a great reaction.

There is the joy of giving and the joy of receiving. I'm reminded of how the Bible tells us that God, our Heavenly Father, loves to give good gifts to us. James 1:17-18 states, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created." Jesus himself said that it is more blessed to give than it is to receive (Acts 20:35). In the context of the his great Sermon, Jesus says, "...if you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him" (Matthew 7:11).

Can you imagine the joy that God has over filling your life with "good gifts"? The happiness that we experience when our children say "thanks" is but a pail shadow of the eternal joy that God has when we genuinely appreciate our eternal treasures. It is very sad how quickly we forget that the gifts we receive from God are the most precious and greatest gifts of all.

Take some time right now to say thank you to God for the gifts He has given to you.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


res-o-lu-tion: (noun)
1. a formal expression of opinion or intention made, usually after voting, by a formal organization, a legislature, a club, or other group.
2. the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc.

These are just a couple of the pertinent definitions of a word that is virtually synonymous with New Year's Day. You can see the rest here. I'm sure that somebody out there is keeping track of things like what percentage of people actually make a resolution (or resolutions) each year. That percentage, whatever it may be, is not likely to be far off from the percentage of people who fail to keep their New Year's resolution.

At the same time, there is something to be said for the idea of having a clean slate, a fresh start, a new page on which to write the next chapter of our own little story. This is the time of year when we decide to "be nicer to others", "to lose those extra pounds", or "to pray and read the Bible more". Most people are elated at the idea that we can restart, rewind, or redo life.

One of the tragic realities of our day is that so many people fail to see that Jesus Christ has come to give them something far more permanent than their New Year's resolution. Every day with Jesus is a "New Day". Galatians 6:15 says, "...what counts is a new creation." Having faith in Jesus Christ (i.e. a commitment to Him) brings to us the peace, security, and fresh hope that no human resolution can bring.

I found this quote while doing some research this week. I think that it expresses well the proper perspective that one should have as we enter a new year.

A New Year’s Prayer

May God make your year a happy one!
Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes;
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy to travel any path;
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking fear from your heart;
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows;
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you when people and their causes need you most,
and by making you anxious to be there to help.
God’s love, peace, hope and joy to you for the year ahead.

Don't get me wrong; it's not a bad thing to have a resolution. Just be mindful that your hope is placed in Christ and that you move ahead with a commitment to trusting Jesus for the kind of change that pleases the Lord.

Here's a crazy thought: What if we all resolved to be more like Christ on Dec. 31, 2011, than we are today? Now that's a resolution worth making!

What is your New Year's resolution?