A letter for 2012 from Pastor Ken

An open letter from Ps. Ken for 2012:

Dear Spirit Life Community,

The New Year never ceases to bring with it a sense of hope and the feeling that what lies before us is filled with God-provisioned opportunities and possibility. My prayer and earnest belief is that this will prove to be especially true of the coming year—the winds of change are blowing and I’m more excited about our future together than ever!

The shift in the dynamic of our church’s culture that began taking root last year will flourish in 2012, ushering in a renaissance of ideas and strategies, building servant leaders, renewing our sense of corporate purpose and fueling the drive towards our mission.

I believe our community is at a critical mass of believers who, like myself, insist the season of saint-oriented church is over. The time for church politics is over. Our new mantra is culture and building the sort of New Testament community we’re striving to become will require a great collective of effort and cooperation.

1 Corinthians 12:12
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12

Over the coming months our departments and ministries will continue to be evaluated and purposeful, poignant reforms will follow. Too often we continue the status quo in perpetuity for no good reason—this is mental laziness at best and narrow-mindedness at worst.

Change is never easy but I believe we are up to the challenge! Focus on the big picture in 2012 and let the wisdom of God order your actions accordingly. Each person that supports this community financially or through serving in a department is vitally important to our success. Know that your sacrifice is not overlooked or under-appreciated.

Together we achieve greatness.

– Ps. Ken

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Ken is the pastor of Spirit Life Church in Piqua, Ohio. Visit the Spirit Life Church website to learn more about Ps. Ken and listen to his messages online.

His Strength is Made in Perfect Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV:
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12:9 is an incredible verse of scripture that reveals the anatomy of a believers success in Christ. A fundamental requirement for serving God is understanding your own weakness. When a believer is faced with conflict, if they enter the battle filled only with unmitigated self confidence, they are setting themselves up for a great failure. We cannot trust ourselves for the wisdom and strength for even the smallest task—our victory comes not by might or by power, but by His spirit! The person who desires to truly serve God must understand it’s His way, His strength and that He will never accept their service. The simple fruit of the earth the Lord casts away, He only accepts the seed sown from heaven, watered by grace and grown by His deep love for His people. In the simplest way I know how to express it, God will only bless what He controls.

I am not suggesting that believers are to strive to stay weak and immature and I do not believe this is what Paul was suggesting to the Corinthians either. It simply reveals to us all that we must understand our limitations and depend fully on God for every need. Only He can supply our needs according to His riches in glory! The man that trusts his own armour is foolish. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through Christ and only after He empties us completely can He fill us with what He has.

In the Old Testament we see the theocratic acts of God in people such as Samson, who slew a thousand Philistines armed only with a jaw bone. The secret was in God’s ability in Samson, since no man could accomplish this feat in his own strength. Some attempt to relegate these as stories of antiquity designed to inspire children about God, but I say the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the same God we serve today! I believe God wants to do miraculous things in and through the lives of believers today, but this is possible only when we are willing to understand our carnal limits and allow God to use us as empty vessels, full of weakness, to bring Him glory.

So many Christians desire to do great things for God, instead of allowing God to do the great things in us. He does not want you to perform a miracle, He wants you to become a miracle! This is the greatest obstacle to becoming more than victorious in life—allowing God to do the work in us.

Take opportunity to introspect and find your greatest weaknesses. Maybe it’s the fear of death, failure or rejection. Whatever the case, allow that weakness to be eradicated by the divine working of Gods power. Only then will you understand how His strength is perfected in weakness.

Live life with passion, love strong and only believe.

– Ps. Ken

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Ken is the pastor of Spirit Life Church in Piqua, Ohio. Visit the Spirit Life Church website to learn more about Ps. Ken and listen to his messages online.

Building a Culture

Culture is the shared set of attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes a group of people. Every group of people has a unique culture. In the corporate world, companies spend millions of dollars and work tirelessly at establishing a culture that helps them meet their goals, organizing teams around a common mission and shared set of values.

In the religious community, we think changing up our dress codes and removing some of the old hymns makes us progressive or relevant in some superficial way. We focus on revising the most trivial aspects of our church cultures and hope that somehow this will trick the world into embracing us. However, simply modifying our dress or updating our music will never establish the kind of culture that produces fruit and changes lives.

Most churches I’m families with have great faith for a harvest of souls but little understanding of the the culture they are seeking to impact. We have been so fearful of becoming “worldly” that we have no idea of how to reach anyone beyond our little niches. Despite this trend among contemporary Christians, the most culturally relevant person in human history was without a doubt Jesus Christ.

He understood His target audience. His message was incredibly effective and accessible to large crowds and small groups alike. He could speak to the hearts of anyone He came across—from prostitutes to tax collectors or the sick in body, there was no one He couldn’t minister to. Though Christ in no way condoned their behavior, He never made them feel uncomfortable in His presence.

In fact, the only people who didn’t receive Him was His own. The religious community gave him trouble on every level. He was the Messiah, the change agent the earth was waiting on, but they never accepted Him because He didn’t look anything like what they expected.

So often people rally around the idea of change. The concept of change is applauded but implementation is often met with entirely different emotions. The Jews wouldn’t have had a problem with Jesus if He could have conformed to their ideology and tradition—this is an example of a rigid culture standing in the way of purpose and plans of God.

Culture shock is something we understand from the stand point of the differences between geographic regions—the culture in African countries differs radically from the culture in America and adjusting to a markedly different culture often provokes unpleasant emotions and anxiety. The real question becomes is this the reason people in the church community are so afraid to deviate from their tradition and liturgy? Maybe it’s about preserving our comfort and predictability.

I don’t understand all of the apprehensions Christians have to change but one thing is certain, fundamental changes to church culture must come if Christianity is to remain the religion of this nation. Although the great reformers of history came from England, now England, and the rest of Europe, is post-Christian. The city of London is experiencing an explosion of Muslim followers, building thousands of mosques to accommodate this growth. You might believe such a shift could never happen in this nation, but I’m certain Spurgeon and Wesley thought the same of England not long ago.

We must being willing to allow God the opportunity to speak to us all concerning how He wants His church to function in contemporary culture. What is clear is that church has to be more than singing, preaching and offerings—the maintenance of the saints can no longer be our primary objective. While this is part of the local assembly’s role, we cannot allow pursuing the comfort of the saints trump our work on the Great Commission.

Why shouldn’t we change, with purpose, to better reach the lost? We know who it is we are to reach, so why can’t we reach them? If we truly understood our target audience as Jesus understood His, we would get the same results. After all, it is His church and He set the ultimate example we should follow.

Taking the gospel to the lost in an effective, relevant way should be our greatest goal. To do it, we have to build a strong culture in our churches that places connecting the lost with Christ as a greater priority than entertaining the saints. Part of my commitment this year is to build a culture in our church that is conducive to carrying out the great commission, energizing the saints and organizing our efforts to reach the lost.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll introduce the core values that will anchor our culture to this mission. The first of these values is we don’t save seats. To create a culture that emphasizes the lost, we must be more concerned with the people we are trying to reach than the people we are trying to keep.

– Ps. Ken

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Ken is senior pastor at Spirit Life Church. Listen to his messages online at the Spirit Life Church website.

His Love Answers All

In this series of blogs from 1 John 4:7-21, we have already observed several wonderful facts concerning God and His love for us. In this blog, I’d like to take a moment to outline a few more truths that will help us to identify God in all things at all times, for His love is the answer to all of our human problems, struggles and questions.

Acts 14:15-17, NKJV:
And saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, 16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

1) His love explains creation.

Everyone has wondered why God created the world at one point or another. Why did He create us? Does the earth testify to the existence of God or are we here by chance?

If God is love, He cannot exist in lonely isolation—He must have someone to love and someone to love what He has made. Acts 14:15-17 speaks of all God made from Heaven and Earth to the sea and all that’s in it. When He created, He wasn’t willing to leave us without a proper witness to His handiwork. This is why there is a natural theology where all that God has done testifies to His great love for us.

2) It explains free will.

In order for love to be genuine, it must be freely given and freely received. If God was only law then He would have made the world to obey, like robots, responding without genuine feelings. But where is the love in that? By definition, love has got to be a free response that comes from the heart.

So God, as a deliberate act of self-limitation, made man with a freewill, so we could freely choose to love Him, as an autonomous response to the fact that He first loved us. We can’t help ourselves as it relates to salvation because we were all dead in trespass and sin—we can, however, respond to the love of God when we hear the gospel message. This is the only way God could have a true, loving relationship with His creation.

3) It explains His providence.

God plays an active role in the administration of the earth. He takes pleasure in the lives of people and the care of all created things. This is so much better than the deistic view of a God who exists on autopilot, not giving care or attention to His creation! People seek to indict God by pointing to the bad or evil in the earth, but remember God is not capable of evil—all good and perfect things come from above. Believers can trust in the providence of God and that He takes care of all that belongs to Him.

4) It explains redemption.

If God were only concerned with law and justice, He would have left us to ourselves, resulting in the consequences of sin crashing down on us. Jesus would have stayed in Heaven and we would die in our sin and be eternally separated from Him.

Thank God for redemption! Because God is love, He came to seek out the lost and offer salvation. He provided the remedy for sin, redemption.

5) And, God’s love explains eternal life.

If you’ve ever lost a loved one, you understand how difficult it can be to imagine life without them. If God were simply a creator, then the fate for men would be death. All created things would cease and God would, again, be in isolation. But thankfully, because of His love, God has offered us the gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ.

To all who have accepted this sacrifice, physical death is merely a doorway into His eternal presence.

For me, it truly is God’s love that causes things to make sense. So many of the questions that trouble us fade away when we shift our focus towards the love of God and embrace a relationship with Him. I hope something I’ve written here will help make sense of something for you too.

– Ps. Ken

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Ken is senior pastor at Spirit Life Church. Listen to his messages online at the Spirit Life Church website.

He’s a Very Present Help!

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I’m continually amazed by the lengths that God goes to protect His children! My wife and I were in a car accident a few days ago. The roads were slick from snow and ice and as I moved to the outside of our lane for a passing car, my truck lost traction and went off the road. I’m more than a bit ashamed to admit I wasn’t wearing my seat belt. As our truck went airborne I heard my wife say, “Father, have mercy!”

As our truck flew through the air, seemingly picking up speed as it went, we struck a telephone pole, a mailbox and finally a large tree stump which brought this terrifying experience to an abrupt stop. My wife’s prayer wasn’t a long one, but like I said during our church’s midweek Bible study, short prayers work just as good as long ones! Little did I know how quickly this truth would be put to the test.

Once the reality of our experience had a second to set in I looked over at my wife and made sure she was alright. She told me she felt fine to which I responded, “am I okay?” It’s hard to know up from down in a situation like that!

Psalm 46:1, KJV:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Despite immense damage to our vehicle, both my wife and myself walked away from the accident completely unharmed, thanking God for his faithfulness. Coming through an experience like this you can’t help but be reminded of the providential nature of our God and His active role in taking care of His own. The Lord isn’t far off and He truly is a very present help in time of trouble!

We’re all imperfect. This is a consequence of sin and evil existing in the world. If we’re not careful, sometimes we fall into the attitude that God’s performance is similar to ours. How far from the truth this thinking is. The reality is that God never changes—His character and attributes never increase or decrease and we can always count on His care and loving kindness because he loads us down with benefits each and every day.

2 Corinthians 4:7, KJV:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

I find the most difficult and trying times of my life are when I realize the greatest benefit of all: If God be for us then no person or evil can prevail against us. I praise God for His grace and favor in my life, because I haven’t done a single thing to deserve it. Take time in this season to renew the spirit of thanksgiving in your own hearts for all He has done. Share His love with others and rest in the assurance that He is always present and looking out for His people.

Thank you all for your prayers. Be blessed!

– Ps. Ken

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Pastor Ken is the senior pastor of Spirit Life Church in Piqua, Ohio. Listen to his messages online at Spirit Life Church’s content page