Monday, November 30, 2009

Yesterday I preached one of the hardest messages I think I’ve ever had to preach. As I was preaching, I was constantly tempted to lighten the message and not preach the bold truth. My fear of man was tempting. Yet, I believe God gave me grace to preach His Word faithfully and boldly as I talked about the danger of becoming too familiar with God.

This is, in my opinion, one of the most dangerous places for people to be. And I believe that we are often too easy-going with God.

My text was Leviticus 10:1-3: Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the LORD spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.'" So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.

I gave three warnings in my sermon so as to not become too familiar with God. The danger with becoming too familiar with God is that it presumes His grace and His forgiveness when He never needs to give a second chance—ever. Nadab and Abihu found this out the hard—yet the just—way.

After the three warnings, I gave four consequences of becoming too familiar with God:

Consequences of Being Too Familiar with God:

  1. God may discipline you as sons (Heb 12; Prov 13:15)

  1. God may kill you if you disobey (1 Cor 11; 1 John 5)

  1. God may thrust you into hell as a hypocrite (Matt 7:15-23; Matt 23:13-15; cp. Lev 10:3)

  1. God may pound you with greater judgment (Matt 23:14; Mark 12:40; John 19:11; 2 Pet 2:21; Jude 13)

Then I gave six helpful and practical ways to prevent from becoming too familiar with God:

How to Avoid Becoming Too Familiar with God:

  1. Read Your Bible Afresh Every Day (Lev 10:2; cp. Lev 1-7 and the methods of offering)

  1. Study the Attributes and Character of God Often (Isa 6; Ex 34)

  1. Daily Think about The Torments of Hell and the Glories of Heaven

  1. Loathe your Sin (Psalm 5:5; Psalm 97:10; 101:3; 119:104, 128; Ps 139:21*; Amos 5:15)

  1. Repent of Your sin Daily (Jer 8:4; 15:7; Ezek 14:6; Matt 4:17!)

  1. Take Radical Measures to Get Rid of Sin In Your Life! (Matt 19:7-9)

You may listen to it here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankfulness and Contentment this Thanksgiving

I am reminded again this day of how good God has been to me and my family. I am so undeserving of His grace and yet He has superabundantly lavished it upon me. I am commanded to “give thanks to the LORD for He is good” and my response, this morning, is “His love endures forever!”

We are commanded to be thankful for all things (cf. Phil 3:1; 4:6). Furthermore, we are to be “content” as well. Paul writes to Timothy saying:

1 Timothy 6:6-8 6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

I am reminded of this prayer from the Valley of Vision entitled “Contentment”:

"Heavenly Father, if I should suffer need, and go unclothed, and be in poverty, make my heart prize Thy love, know it, be constrained by it, though I be denied all blessings. It is Thy mercy to afflict and try me with wants, for by these trials I see my sins, and desire severance from them. Let me willingly accept misery, sorrows, temptations, if I can thereby feel sin as the greatest evil, and be delivered from it with gratitude to Thee, acknowledging this as the highest testimony of Thy love.

When thy Son, Jesus, came into my soul instead of sin He became more dear to me than sin had formerly been; His kindly rule replaced sin's tyranny. Teach me to believe that if ever I would have any sin subdued I must not only labour to overcome it, but must invite Christ to abide in the place of it, and He must become to me more than vile lust had been; that His sweetness, power, life may be there. Thus I must seek a grace from Him contrary to sin, but must not claim it apart from Himself.

When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me by showing me that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch, but in Christ I am reconciled and live; that in myself I find insufficiency and no rest, but in Christ there is satisfaction and peace; that in myself I am feeble and unable to do good, but in Christ I have ability to do all things. Though now I have His graces in part, I shall shortly have them perfectly in that state where Thou wilt show Thyself fully reconciled, and alone sufficient, efficient, loving me completely, with sin abolished. O Lord, hasten that day."

One of my favorite Thanksgiving hymns has been around since 1636, Now Thank We All our God:

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Praise God that He is near us and with us and in us because we are in Christ. What a marvelous blessing we as true, redeemed sinners have! What joy ought we to have bubbling in us everyday—especially today! Let us remember that today is a day when we can leave the “thankful façade” at home and allow the unshakable joy and deep-rooted contentment—that only comes from knowing our sins are forgiven because of Christ’s sacrifice and death in our place at Calvary’s cross—emanate from us as we gather with friends and family today.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hey folks from CCC (and anyone else),

Join us THANKSGIVING MORNING (Thurs, Nov 26th, 2009) for an all-out game of schoolyard football (no tackle for you old guys).

Time: 9:00am
Duration: till you die...
Where:WVCA schoolyard behind CCC
Purpose:to hang out and work up an appetite before we all eat like real football players.

Excuse for not showing up: none.
*Don't think you're too old or too large to play football, you can be a blocker or QB*

RSVP to me by today so we know how many people are coming!

Hope to see you there with your game-face on
Last night we finished our study on the Fundamentals of the Faith for our Tuesday night Bible Study at Church.

I have posted the entire syllabus online for you to download and read if you wish.

It has been a profitable study delving into the Word of God and seeing some of the fundamental doctrines and beliefs of the Christian faith as revealed in God's Word.

Download it here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

One of the blessings of being in a PhD program and being a pastor of a church is that my mind swims in new thoughts all the time. From the practical to the heady; from the counseling to the grammatical—and I love it! Here are just two thoughts I’ve mused the last few days.

In a marriage relationship, what should the believing wife do if she is married to an unbelieving husband who is abusive, violent, and harsh—physically?

Quite simply, what if someone’s (=the wife’s) life is even on the line? Consider with me the following thoughts.

I understand the responsibility of the local government to step in and take action (Rom 13; 1 Pet 2). But aside from this, we must recognize why we often feel uncomfortable for the wife in this particular situation. Think about it, if the good of the body (i.e. protection, health) is the “highest good”, then we must bring back missionaries who are out on the mission field in dangerous places who wonder if they will wake up alive the next morning. There are many missionaries who serve in places where they are daily living with the reality that death may capture them. And note: they do this for the gospel’s sake. They want to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who may be hostile—and even violent!

Follow my thinking, if we hold missionaries in such high esteem because of their boldness for Christ and willingness to lay their (physical!) life on the line, why can’t someone do that in the marriage relationship too [note: I am not prescribing anything, just describing my thought]? If a wife wanted to remain in a marriage relationship—even though her life may be in constant danger from a husband who is violent, physical, abusive, and life-threatening—she could be just as much of a godly witness to her husband as Jim Elliott was in the Amazon.

Why do we qualm when we shift gears from the missionary who is overseas putting their life on the line every day to the believing housewife who wants to stick it out in the marriage relationship to a (obviously unbelieving) husband in hopes that God may sovereignly transform his heart because of her tremendous witness for Jesus Christ?

Again, I’m not prescribing that a wife must remain in the marriage relationship even with a violent or abusive husband. What I am prescribing is that the Bible gives no grounds for divorce (or even separation!!) because of a violent spouse. None. Search the Bible and you won’t find it. Therefore, if we can walk individuals through 1 Peter and show how Jesus was mistreated and violently abused (though he did right) and yet a wife wants to follow in the footsteps of her savior and be a witness to her husband, even if she suffers (physically!) for doing what is right, she is blessed (1 Peter 3:14).

Too much babbling on my first thought… I’ll write my second tomorrow. :=)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Kirkland family - November 2009

Obedience—An Essential Mark in the Life of a Christian

I argued last night that a true believer will evidence Godly fruit in his/her Christian life. If not, then the words of Jesus ring true that he will be cut off and thrown into hell (Matt 7:15-23). I specifically noted last night how hard it is to be saved and that there are scores of people who think they’re saved but are sorely deceived. I destroyed the (all-too-prevalent) ideology that one can be a “Christian” yet live a life no different than the world. To put it positively, if one does NOT live bearing good fruit then there is no way he/she is a believer. These are the stern words of Jesus in Matt 7:15-21. Call it bold. Call it hard. Call it exclusive. But according to Jesus, a good tree cannot produce bad fruit; and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit.

Listen to the sermon here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tomorrow night I have the privilege of preaching the second to last sermon in our 13-part Fundamentals of the Faith course at Church. It's been a tremendous study for me and for everyone, I trust! Tomorrow, however, is our study on obedience and just how important this issue is in the life of the "Christian."

We are wrestling with the issue of Lordship Salvation. Can a person be saved and have Jesus as Savior but not have Him as Lord? To that question, I will answer a hearty and authoritative
NO because that's how Jesus answered that question. We will be looking at Matthew 7:15-20 and a number of insights from the passage showing who false prophets are and what they are like. Here are my points:

Matthew 7:15-20:

Insights Gleaned from this passage:

  1. NonChristians look good on the outside but inside they are destructive (15a) (keyword: Hypocrites)

  1. You will discern a true Christian by the way he lives his life (16, 20) (keyword: Obedience)

  1. True Believers cannot live patterns of sinful lives (16b, 18) (keyword: Repentance)

  1. The fruit a person bears is outward evidence of the spiritual condition (17, 19) (keyword: Fruitbearing)

  1. Every person not bearing spiritual fruit will be cut off and thrown into hell (19b) (keyword: Seriousness)

  1. Many people think they’re going to heaven but, in fact, are headed for hell (21a) (keyword: Deceived Ones)

  1. The one who enters heaven proves his spiritual condition by his good works (21b) (keyword: Transformation)

  1. Many do spiritual things for God and are involved in spiritual things but end up in hell (22-23) (keyword: Works-Salvation)

Therefore, if you call yourself a Christian and yet you live like a pagan, stop calling yourself a Christian because Jesus said you will be known by your fruits. Furthermore, many--many--people will think they are Christians and on the road to eternal bliss in heaven till they stand at the threshhold of heaven calling Jesus 'LORD, LORD' (note 2x for emphasis!) yet he wags his head in shame and utter contempt because He has never had an intimite and saving relationship with that person who is "religious" on the outside yet corrupt on the inside. This is a characteristic of false prophets and there were plenty of them in Jesus' day, in Paul's day, in Luther's day, in our day, and in our pews. Don't be deceived. If you are NOT living a life bearing good fruit--then you cannot be a good tree. If you die in that state, Jesus said you will be cut down and cast utterly and finally into the blazing furnace of fire where you will be tortured forever by the personal and furious hand of God Almighty. Yet if you repent and believe in Christ and acknowlede Him as LORD and submit, surrender, and devote your entire life to Him as LORD, he will never cast you out.

Repent and be saved today!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Elder Board Meetings that Do Something:

by Jim Elliff

Elders’ meetings should not be an exercise in futility. Rather, to be effective for the church and interesting for the elders, some thought must be put into your time together.

Some suggestions:

1. Plan for meeting together more often and for a longer period of time.

We find meeting for at least four hours weekly is about right, 6-10 pm. Even then we find that we want more time. In fact, before one of our elders changed jobs, we would meet from 5-10 pm. The “once-a-month elders’ meeting” is the kiss of death for most elder teams. It usually means that the elders do not understand their responsibilities and are mere figure heads. Don’t die from pastoral atrophy.

We like to make our meetings enjoyable. We start out by eating an inexpensive meal together, for instance. We might do this in a restaurant or at one of our homes by bringing in pizza. Sometimes we include our wives, so that they can enjoy visiting with each other while we meet. Occasionally, the entire family of each elder joins us. The elders then pull aside in a separate place for their meeting. The meal cost is on the church in order to provide us extra time to be together. It’s a reasonable perk for hard working elders.

If a man cannot make this time commitment (and there is more ministry time needed besides this) then he should not be an elder. There are many good men who do not have the time to serve as an elder. You are not really pastoring people if you don’t do the work.

2. Challenge each other spiritually.

Again, if you only meet a short time, you will miss this important element. We sometimes ponder six characteristics of leadership: Character, knowledge, skills, affection, faith and enthusiasm. Give an honest report of your lives. Challenge each other with insights from Scripture and experience. Be honest. Repent in each other’s presence. Be direct with each other. Good men will love it. Petty men cannot stand it. But petty men are not to be elders.

3. Discuss the state of the flock.

I know that every church is not set up the same, but most healthy churches share actual pastoral oversight responsibilities among the elders. This usually takes means that a segment of the church is under each elder’s direct care, such as might be accomplished through home cell groups of some kind. For us, we divide the entire church into several “congregations” each led by a pastor. The congregations have between 15 and 35 people, depending on how new the group is. If you do not have such a breakdown of the church, it is nearly impossible to actually shepherd the people.

We find that taking some time to talk about issues among the congregations is our pastoral responsibility. We share our insights about how to handle certain problems that come up, or how to stimulate those under our individual “charge.” This takes quite a bit of our time together (usually 45 minutes to an hour), but it is well worth it.

4. Have an agenda.

Not everyone is organized. One of our elders is better at this than the rest of us. He enjoys putting together the agenda of items to work through each week. Find out who does this the best and let him lead you. Other elders can shoot agenda items to him by email or phone call so that he is fully prepared. This does not mean that all discussion is led by this elder, but only that he moves you through the evening. Forget Robert’s Rules of Order, which is great for running the legislature but lousy for running churches and elders’ meetings. The church is a family, not a nation. It is helpful for the group to make assignments with end dates for the agenda keeper to highlight to the group. Having an agenda makes sense, but don’t let the group slide into acting just like a management team at your work.

5. Actually pray for individuals and issues being faced.

The elders must be pray-ers. This is a portion of your time together that is so important it cannot be overlooked. It is not tacked on to the end of a meeting, but a major reason you are coming together. We find praying about “one item at a time” is best, with the freedom to pray as often as we wish. Sometimes we ask each elder to pray about members of his own group particularly. If necessary, we can walk and pray, or do something else to give us focus and keep us energetic.

If all the rest of the church prayed like the elders pray, how effective would your church be?

6. Study together toward a unified position on difficult issues.

This is the most often missed facet of elders working together. It is the responsibility of every elder to be “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

We’ve used this time for much profitable discussion concerning vital biblical issues. Our longest study actually lasted two years, more time than most will want to spend on an issue. But this study has turned into a book that we hope will be of great use to the churches. Usually a study on a particular subject will take months, however.

Start with reading over the biblical material on the subject of interest. For instance, you may wish to come to a conclusion about who should take the Lord’s Supper, or what the Bible has to say about the prerequisites for joining a church, or about women’s roles in the church, or about divorce and remarriage, or who is allowed to be an elder, or what the real responsibilities of a deacon should be. Once you have an issue that is of pastoral importance, try to find every biblical reference to it. Go through that material first as carefully as possible, painfully working through each word and phrase. Decide on a “scribe” who can take notes carefully.

Next, you may wish to read a couple of books on the subject, perhaps on various sides of the issue. There may be one or two elders who read even more broadly on behalf of the group.

Attempt to craft a position statement on the subject. It might be short or long. You should labor over the wording until you are all in perfect agreement, reading and rereading it. This is not wasted time. It serves to get the position deep into each elder.

Following this, take the men of the church through a biblical study of the subject. Read slowly and carefully through your position, looking up the passages and talking about every aspect. Listen to their input and reshape the document as needed. If it won’t fly among the men, it won’t fly in the church as a whole. If it is received on this level, it will likely be enthusiastically received by the church.

Finally, present the document to the church as a whole. Or, if it is a matter pertaining only to the elders, keep your findings in your own notebook of positions about various issues of leadership and oversight. When appropriate, post these position statements on your website. This will help incoming members and guests to understand better what is expected and what the beliefs and actions of the church are. It will also demonstrate that the church is interested in being biblical above being pragmatic.

Usually an hour and a half of our meeting is devoted to such study, or more if possible. One of our men is particularly good at shaping what we talk about into a draft to discuss and perfect.

You will find that elders will own these studied positions and will be able to carefully lead others with conviction and biblical insight.

7. Make these meetings non-optional.

Every elder must make meeting together a priority. Some men who travel might not find it possible to be in town for such meetings on a regular basis. Consider changing your travel schedule or stepping down from leadership. The meetings are too important to miss. It is disappointing to the whole team for one member to fail to be there. It often means that critical issues will be misunderstood.

There is much more to do as elders than meet together. But it is nearly impossible to do the work you are called upon to do without meeting. It would be akin to asking a man and woman to parent a family when they never talk about what is needed or expected. It simply cannot be done correctly without prolonged and intimate discussion.

Copyright © 2008 Jim Elliff

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

CCC Music Ministry Philosophy of Ministry

Geoffrey Randall Kirkland | Associate Pastor | Christ Community Church

Purpose: The CCC music ministry exists to glorify God by using the talents that God has sovereignly bestowed upon individuals in order to play skillfully, enhance the music, and aid the believers in corporately worshipping Jesus Christ in Spirit and in truth.

Philosophy: The philosophy of the CCC music ministry is to provide, play, and impress upon the minds of true believers hymns and worship songs that are theologically accurate and musically profound songs that will lift the true believer to the very Holy of holies in worship of Jesus Christ.


Our music ministry is founded and grounded upon the following distinctives:

  1. Christ-Centered Music—We will choose music which focuses on Jesus Christ—the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
  2. Christ-Exalting Music—We will choose music that lifts high Jesus Christ as the absolutely Sovereign Savior who is the God-Man who died in place of His children and is the soon-coming King and Judge.
  3. Gospel-Driven Music—We will choose music that is consumed with the gospel of Jesus Christ: the total inability of man to save self, the utter sovereignty of God in the deadened sinner’s salvation, and the joyful life and obedient conduct that will follow as the Christian pursues Jesus Christ till the day faith becomes sight.
  4. Thought-Provoking Music—We will choose music that is thought-provoking and poetically rich. We prefer musical and lyrical depth rather than shallow and overly-repetitive lyrics. We prefer music that invokes the mind to consider the glories of the gospel in all its magnificent and manifold brilliance.
  5. Melodically Rich Music—We will choose music that is balanced and symmetrical and easy to sing as opposed to hard to learn, obscure, and melodically shallow music.
  6. Theologically Accurate Music—We will choose music that is theologically and biblically accurate. We take this to be of extreme importance as music aids believers in remembering lyrics, phrases, themes, and stories. Therefore, we recognize that the message presented through the words must be theologically accurate and biblically edifying.

As sovereignly appointed as the minister of music at Christ Community Church, I commit to keeping this purpose, this philosophy, and these distinctives at the forefront of my mind as we as a worship team endeavor to exalt God, edify the saints, evangelize the lost, and enthusiastically worship Jesus Christ by singing with our whole hearts and minds aided by the Holy Spirit who indwells His very own children.

2 Chronicles 5:11-14 11 When the priests came forth from the holy place (for all the priests who were present had sanctified themselves, without regard to divisions), 12 and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their sons and kinsmen, clothed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps and lyres, standing east of the altar, and with them one hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets 13 in unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice to praise and to glorify the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice accompanied by trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and when they praised the LORD saying,"He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting," then the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.

Note this quote from Charles Spurgeon on singing with joyful worship:

When God fills us with joy we ought ever to pour it out at his feet in praise, and all the skill and talent we have should be laid under contribution to increase the divine revenue of glory!”

—Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David, 2 vols., 1/2:294

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I’m preaching tonight on Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (yes, no lightweight subject) and tomorrow night on the solution for depression from Psalm 43.

Excited. Prepared. And ready to unleash.

Jeremiah 20:9 9 But if I say, "I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name," Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it.

Tonight at our Elder Board Meeting, we're presenting the upcoming Truth and Life conference at The Master's College with the theme: "The Church."

I trust it'll be a great conference and how great would be if all the Pastors and Elders from our church joined us for this marvelous event focusing on what God's Word has to say about the Church.

Join us and sign up here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Will Your Good Works Get You to Heaven?—Are You Sure?

Yesterday as I was coming home from seminary I met a young man who was mocking me as I was reading my Bible next to him on the bus. You never really know who you’ll meet or what they have to say on the LA metro. But anyway, I could tell he was mocking me and laughing at me as I was reading my Bible next to him. So finally he leaned over to me and said: “Are you a Mormon?” I answered: “No, I’m a Christian who believes the Bible to be true.” He laughed to himself again in a jeering sort of way. Then I said: “What about you? Are you a Christian?” He said: Well, I’m Catholic…so I’m both—Christian and Catholic.” I nodded.

Then he said: “What do you do?” I told him: “I’m a pastor of a church down the road and we preach that the Bible is true that no one can work his way to heaven. But that the good news of the Bible is that Jesus Christ has earned everything that we could never earn and He died in our place if we believe in Him.” Unimpressed, he looked away and began to mock yet again. (Ironically, because he said just a few minutes ago that he was a Christian and a Catholic!) He then leaned over to me and said: “I believe that too.” Then I said to him: “So if you’re a Christian, do you know where you’re going to go when you die?” He said without hesitating for a moment, “Oh yes, I’m 99.9% sure I’m going to heaven when I die.” I said with a smile: “That’s great—how do you know that?” He said, “Well, I’ve never really done anything bad and I’m actually a very good person.” I said: “You don’t believe that!” Shocked and with a ridiculing tone he said, “Why don’t I believe that?” “Because you just told me you’re a pretty good person and that’s why you’re so confident that you’re going to heaven.” I said: “The Bible doesn’t allow for that. The Bible says you must be perfect if you want to get to heaven—and that’s why Jesus had to come.” Sorely unimpressed with our conversation and where it was headed, he got up, mid-conversation, and walked off the bus at the next stop without even responding or saying bye. As he departed, he had his familiar mocking smile painted on his face.

I thought to myself, what a sad state for that young man. We must be faithful to preach the gospel even if people mock, ridicule, and jeer. For that man did not really mock me, he mocked Jesus Christ. And that man would have been much better off had he mocked me, but because he mocked Jesus Christ, I fear for that man. I pray that Jesus Christ would so radically grip his heart and irresistibly and overwhelmingly conquer his hard-hearted spirit and impart regeneration so that he won’t stand before the Judge on that final day and hear: “Depart from me you worker of lawlessness into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Reader, be warned!

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