Monday, November 29, 2010

Celebrating & Serving

I love this time of year! As I sit here tapping away on the keyboard I have Christmas Carols playing in my office and I am probably singing along to some of them without really realizing it!

During this season of Advent, of preparation for Christmas we have a wonderful opportunity to reflect and stand again in awe of the amazing gift of the Christ child.

As we move through this season at The Orchard Church we are taking time each week to celebrate the wonder that Hope has come, Peace has come, Joy has come, Love has Come - because Christ has come and all this and more is found perfectly in Him.

However these next few weeks may be shaping up for you, I plead with you to take time to celebrate the coming of our Savior.

This is also a wonderful time to remember that because we celebrate that Jesus Christ has come we can also celebrate the privilege of serving Him because we have been freed, forgiven and redeemed to do so. Another reason why I love this time of year is because at The Orchard we hold our Annual Vision Banquet. This is a time that we set aside to enjoy a great meal and a fun time of fellowship. It is also a time that we take to celebrate all that God has done in our midst over the year that has past and to look forward to the year ahead and the ministry that He has laid on the heart of our Elders. The incredible truth that we celebrate as we serve, is that were it not for Christ, were it not for the incarnation - God taking on human flesh and dwelling amongst us - we would have no hope. There would be no celebration of changed lives, no rejoicing in His abundant blessings, no joy at being on mission with Him to take the good news to a world that desperately needs to hear.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"
Peace on earth and mercy mild, "God and sinners reconciled."
Joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic host proclaim, "Christ is born in Bethlehem."

We get to celebrate the wondrous gift of God and we get to join the host of heaven in declaring the good news, "Glory to our King!"

Friday, October 29, 2010

Who we want to lead us should be who we want to be!

I don't know if you are as tired of all the campaign ads as I am, but I am definitely looking forward to November 3. It seems like in every election cycle the negative campaigning just goes from bad to worse.

This fall, as I am travelling through the Bible in 90 days, I read about a week ago about the life of King Solomon. When given the opportunity by God in 2 Chronicles 1, to ask for anything he wanted, Solomon asked, "Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?" Accordingly God answered his prayer and Solomon became the wisest man ever to have lived.

Over these past few days I have also been reading of another Old Testament saint, Job. Despite the trials that afflicted him he refused to compromise his integrity or speak evil of God or of his less than encouraging companions.

To be wise is in essence to live life well before God, taking full advantage of what He has made available to us. Integrity is consistency of character, it is about being whole-hearted, entirely consistent and unswervingly committed to that which is good and right and true.

Men of wisdom and integrity seem to be in short supply in our day. I do not say that to add my own jab at our political candidates but simply to point out that most people don't even seem to have these two characteristics on their radar screen.

This election season let us pray that God would me merciful and give us these kinds of leaders, people of wisdom and people of integrity. However, let us also reflect on the reality that often what we desire in others is what we give a free pass to ourselves on. Too many followers of Jesus live each day looking no different whatsoever than anybody else. If we profess to be disciples of Jesus Christ then to live the same way as someone who is not is to be a person of compromise, a person who lacks integrity. Likewise a follower of Jesus Christ who does not seek after God, taking advantage of the resources that He has provided for us by His Spirit in every decision and every moment is what the Bible refers to as a fool!

Let's pray this election season for leaders who lead with wisdom and integrity, but more than that let's seek, by the grace and power of God to live ourselves as people of wisdom and integrity.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Freely we come

This fall I'm part of a Growth Group at The Orchard that is attempting the lofty goal of reading through the whole Bible in 90 days. So far we're almost 2 weeks into it and I am on track (only 10 more weeks to go!!).

Anyone who has ever read the Bible from cover to cover knows what a rich experience it is. They also know how challenging it can be to get through the first few books. Genesis usually goes pretty smoothly as does the first half of the book of Exodus because they are filled with narrative, but then the going starts to get a lot tougher. We find ourselves slogging through long and detailed explanations of how the tabernacle is to be constructed and long lists of sacrifices and offerings that were to be made. Not a few people have found themselves giving up or skimming quickly over these sections.

Why so much detail? Why so many offerings and sacrifices? Why did the priests have to where certain clothes and wash themselves in the prescribed ways. It all seems so foreign to us, so irrelevant even. But, while it may seem foreign it is more relevant to us today than we can even begin to imagine, because these seemingly endless lists of procedures have to do with the absolute "otherness," the perfection, the holiness of the God who the Israelites were approaching. The reality is that nobody could perfectly meet the requirements of the law, nobody can by their own efforts earn their way into the presence of a holy God. Instead, when we read about the law and the sacrifices of the Old Testament we come as the Israelites were meant to do, face to face with the reality of our own sin, our inability to relate to a holy God and our desperate need of a Savior. Certainly there is much more to learn from the law too - but without a comprehension of what it is that we no longer need to do, it is hard for us to keep rightly in our minds just how incredible the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf is. He is our spotless lamb, He is our atoning sacrifice, He is our righteousness.

Practicing Jews have recently celebrated Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I encourage you to read about it in Leviticus 16 and to take time to reflect on how freely we now come to God, how freely we can take a hold of forgiveness and how great is the Savior who once for all time has given Himself for us. Hebrews chapter 10 is a great place to turn after you've spent a little time reflecting on Leviticus 16 - as you read these chapters don't rush away from them but instead, allow yourself to celebrate before God the atonement that is ours because of His grace!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eleven Ways to Pray for Your Friends

As we look ahead to the fall, for most of us this is a time of getting back into a routine after the events and activities of summer.

In this new season take time to pray for your friends and coworkers who don't yet know Christ, and plan to invite them to church. At The Orchard we'll be celebrating our fall kick off on September 19 and we're gearing up to welcome new families into our midst. But how can we be praying for these friends of ours?

Below you'll find a list of 11 ways to pray for your friends that I've taken from my Gary Rohrmayer's blog ( Why not jot down the names of a couple of people that you know and begin to pray for them right now!

1. That God draws them to Himself

Jn.6:44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him …”

2. That they seek to know God.

Acts 17:27: “God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”

3. That they believe the Scriptures

1 Thess. 2:13: “And we also thank God continually because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God …”

4. That Satan is bound from blinding them to the truth

Mt. 13:19: “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.”

5. That the Holy Spirit Works in them

Jn. 16:8-13: “When the Holy Spirit comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment…..He will guide you into all truth…”

6. That God sends someone to lead them to Christ

Mt. 9:37, 38: “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”

7. That they believe in Christ as Savior

Jn. 5:24: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

8. That they turn from sin

Acts 17:30-31: “God commands all people everywhere to repent.”

Acts 3:19: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

9. That they confess Christ as Lord

Rom.10:9-10: “if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

10. That they yield all to follow Christ

2 Cor. 5:15: “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

11. That they take root and grow in Christ

Col. 2:6-7: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thankful Citizens

I followed a pickup truck through town this morning on my way to the office. It proudly displayed an American Flag waving in the breeze above the drivers side window and a United States Marine Corp flag waving above the passenger side.

Such proud displays of patriotism are not unusual, especially from vets who served the nation honorably, but as I followed him, I found myself thinking about our citizenship as Christ ones.

Hebrews 12:28-29 tells us: Therefore since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us give thanks offering acceptable worship to God, for our God is a consuming fire.

For those who are followers of Jesus Christ we are receiving a Kingdom, a blood purchased inheritance, and as such we are according to Scripture, citizens first and foremost of the Kingdom of God.

We live in a world that desperately needs us to put our citizenship on display, because when we do, people will gaze in wonder and perhaps be drawn to the King through us. However, I'm not talking about putting our citizenship on display by waving a flag from a car and certainly not by attaching a fish to the trunk, rather we ought to put our citizenship on display by living with confidence, knowing that the Kingdom that we are receiving cannot be shaken, it is certain and secure. We ought to live give thanks to God for the peace that we have in His promises and to display our citizenship by worshiping Him.

How do we do that?

Well, the writer of Hebrews goes on to give us some examples of how we can live as citizens of the Kingdom, worshiping God in a way that pleases Him. It's right there in the text in verses 1-6 of Hebrews chapter 13 (don't let the poor chapter division in our English texts fool you!). Take some time to read through it today, and let's proudly put our citizenship on display- not because we're boasting in it, but because we know that it is through Christ and Christ alone that we are receiving it, and that others can receive it too!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A View from the Side Lines

Some of the folks at The Orchard Church may well have been asking, "Where's Pastor Tim?" It's been about a month since I last spoke on a Sunday morning at church. While I love to proclaim God's Word, sitting amongst the congregation has been great, because along with everyone else at the church I have been able to enjoy the ministry of others.

Not only has Pastor Scott stepped up to the plate to preach this past month, but so have a couple of our elders. What's more it hasn't just been in the pulpit where we've seen others step up and use their gifts, we've enjoyed guest worship leaders too. In fact when I look back over this past month, from the Sunday morning worship services, to the parades in McHenry and Wonder Lake, to the mission trip to Tennessee and many other places beside, I have seen men and women and children from our church serving others and using the gifts and abilities that God has given them.

One of our core values at The Orchard is empowering leadership, it speaks of our desire to be a church where our leaders are equippers, coming alongside, resourcing and releasing God's people for service. While we always have room to grow, it's been great to see how with a diversity of styles and personalities that is exactly what has been happening at The Orchard. While it's easy to notice when someone different steps up on stage to serve on a Sunday morning, it's not always as easy to see how many people there are serving week in and week out behind the scenes. Thanks to all of you for the way that your service ministers to me!

It's been great for me to take a seat on the sidelines for a couple of weeks (although I've been busy with some other projects), but I'm ready to jump back in with both feet. Whether you've been coming to The Orchard for a while or are new to the church, if you're sitting on the sidelines, I sure hope that you're enjoying the view, but it's really about time you jumped in to the game!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Problem with Independence!

I'm sat writing this as I sit at Boston Logan airport after spending two weeks in the city on a course.

While my schedule over these past few weeks has been busy, I was able to take a day in Boston to see the sights and sounds. I saw where the lamps were hung (one by land, two by sea). I passed Paul Revere's house, and I even took a boat ride past the place where the Boston Tea Party took place. It is a nice city with steeped in the history of this nation and while it is proud of the role that it played at anytime of the year, they are preparing to celebrate July 4 in grand style.

For many the annual celebration of this nations rebellion, oh, I'm sorry, I mean independence is one of the highlights of the year. But, while it is true that we enjoy great freedom here in the United States, there is a problem with independence.

The problem with independence is that it has spread far beyond what our founding father's ever expected it. We have bought into the lie that in our independence we have no need to depend even on God. Solomon speaks of the result of our independent living in Psalm 127, where he writes:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
Those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
The watchmen stay awake in vain.
In vain you rise early and go late to rest,
Eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Solomon, the wisest man to ever live came to understand the utter vanity, the worthlessness of our own effort when it is independent of God. However, he also knew of the blessing, the rest and the provision of God for those who live in dependence upon Him.

As we prepare to celebrate July 4, and enjoy the height of summer and freedoms that we have, let us pray for our nation that we would once again recognize our dependence on God. Even more, let those of us who name the name of Christ remember as we celebrate, that we are children of God first, subject to Him, and citizens of this nation as a very distant second. Only then will get our priorities right and recognize that all we are and all we have is in Him and Him alone. We depend on Him!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Standing on the Promises

People make all kinds of promises, often times without thinking about what they are even committing to. Well, that is probably at least in part because we often have so cheapened the idea of a promise.

Nevertheless I was thinking earlier today of the words of the old Hymn, "Standing on the Promises." It's not one that we sing at The Orchard Church, but my wife and I have sung it with our children during our family worship time, and the truth of the words come back to me often.

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring!
Glory in the highest I will shout and sing
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail;
By the living word of God I shall prevail
Standing on the promises of God

Standing on the promises I cannot fall
Listening every moment to the Spirit's call,
Resting in my Savior as my all in all
Standing on the promises of God.

How incredible it is that the God of the universe has made promises to me, and that unlike the cheap and thoughtless promises that are sometimes brandished around, that His promise is faithful and true (in fact that is His very name!).

Yet it seems almost equally incredible that many professing followers of Jesus live defeated lives, utterly unaware of the splendor of these promises. Why? Because we have failed to make the effort to mine the treasures of the living word of God.

As the summer warms up why not take time this month to grab your Bible, a notebook and a pen and to read through one of the New Testament Epistles (or all of them) and to prayerfully ask God to plant His promises in your heart. Then write them down in your notebook. Another idea is to slowly read through the book of Ephesians, and as you read chapters 1-3 to replace the words "you" and "our" with the personal pronouns "I" and "me". While this isn't the best Bible Study technique, it will help you to see what just what it is that God has proclaimed to be true concerning each of His children.

My prayer for you this month is that you would know, that all the promises of God find their Yes in him (Jesus). That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Cor 1:20).

Whatever storm you may face this summer, stand on His promises!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Going All In

I don't play poker, never have and never plan to but there is a phrase that's used in the game of poker that sums up what the Christian life ought to be like. As the scene plays out and the game goes on someone gathers up all their chips, pushes them to the center of the table and declares "I'm all in!" It is an expression of unreserved commitment.

This kind of unreserved commitment is precisely what Jesus calls all who would follow him to. In Luke 14:25-33 Jesus is speaking to a great crowd who have been following him and he states:

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."

On first inspection this sounds almost unbelievable. Is Jesus really calling us to hate our family? The answer is yes and no. He is not calling us to hate in the sense that we often use the word today, but rather he uses it (as it is commonly used in Scripture) in a comparative manner. That is to say, Jesus demands our highest devotion, that we should put Him first to such a degree, loving Him so completely that by comparison our love for others and self pales.

He continues stating, "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."

Jesus obviously didn't read all the latest gurus on building a ministry, because the popularly promoted approach to building a church, gathering a crowd and becoming a big name is to make the message more palatable. Jesus does none of that, he says, "you're either all in, or you're all out, there is no other option!"

The taking up the cross, the renouncing all, it speaks of our death to self and our total dedication to him. The problem is we live in a world that says you can be a Christian without being a disciple, that you can play the game without it ever having to cost you a thing. Costless Christianity is worthless religion but costly discipleship is priceless salvation!

Are you hoarding the chips, tossing in one or two occasionally but keeping the stock pile close. It's time to quit playing around, making excuses, watching from the sidelines and to courageously count the cost, pushing it all to the center of the table and shouting, "I'm all in!"

In the game of poker taking that step is huge gamble, in the path of discipleship there is no gamble in entrusting all to Him who laid down His life for you.

As for me, I'm all in!

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Problem with Easter

Easter is the most important day of the year for Christians.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians told them: If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise, if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not be raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:13-17)
Without Easter there is no Christianity, and there is no hope. So why is it that that I have such a hard time every year preparing the message for Easter Day?
1. The message is too amazing!
Don't get me wrong, I feel an incredible sense of responsibility whenever I have the honor of proclaiming God's Word, because who He is and what He has done on our behalf is amazing. However, the message that Jesus Christ, God Himself in human flesh would lay down His life for me and then take it up again rising from the dead to conquer death and hell and to provide for us new life now and the certain hope that though we may die so we will also be raised with Him. Honestly I cannot begin to wrap my mind around the enormity of this, and so as I prepare the message I find myself literally lost for words.
2. It has become too familiar.
I came to Christ at the age of 14 which means that I'm coming on for 20 Easter's walking with Him. More than that, I teach on average more than 100 times a year, and am passionately convinced about the need to hold Jesus Christ front and center every time. So I confess that despite the enormity and the splendor of the message my heart can become quickly dulled. But, thanks be to God for His revitalizing touch.
3. The burden is so strong.
I am so thankful that at The Orchard Church where I serve, barely a week goes by when we do not welcome first time guests to our services. Easter however is a time when we might very well welcome 70 or 80 first time guests (by the grace of God even more). With that in mind I feel a great burden every week which is only intensified at Easter to speak in a way that effectively communicates to people who do not know and have not heard the good news, as well as to equip those who have walked with Christ for many years. Oh that many would be saved and that all would be impacted. My words alone cannot accomplish either thing, but praise be to God that the very power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead is at work and He will accomplish His purposes this Easter Sunday, and every other day besides.
Do the struggles that I have with Easter trouble you too? Do you find yourself overwhelmed by the vastness of the resurrection? Are you facing the battle against familiarity? Are you burdened for people who sit all around you on a Sunday morning?
While I confess that I struggle with Easter because of these things, I have to tell you, I can't wait! God is on the move and I'm ready to see what He has in store!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Refocus, Prepare, Worship!

While it may have escaped the notice of most evangelical Christians we are in the season of Lent.

According to definition given by the Evangelical Lutherans of America:

Lent is a forty day liturgical season that begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes at the Great Vigil of Easter. Sundays are not included in the 40-day count because every Sunday is a joyful celebration of Jesus' resurrection. Though not biblical, Lent has long been a tradition in the Christian Church, and it is thought that the tradition of the 40 days recalls the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and being tempted by Satan (Matt 4:1-11). Lent is considered a time of penance and discipline.

While often times contemporary evangelical churches, including The Orchard, where I serve make little room for tradition, the fact is that observance of the season of Lent can be a rich and meaningful thing.

Easter often feels like it sneaks up on us. We're busy willing Spring to arrive, making plans to keep the kids entertained during Spring Break and simply going about our usual hectic routine. Traditionally Christians have used Lent as a time of preparation and reflection on their own sinfulness and need of a Savior. More than that, as a time to dwell on the great price that Jesus paid for you and for me when willingly laid His life down.

Lent is like the funeral durge played at the beginning of the New Orleans funeral, but Easter, is the joyful celebration as the music strikes up and people dance because while it is essential that we take time to soberly reflect that in my place and yours - Jesus Christ died, we make this reflection, thankfully as we also celebrate that Jesus Christ is risen, and more than that, that He will come again!

It's not necessary to rub ashes on your forehead during Lent, but here are a few ideas to make this season a time of meaningful preparation for joy and the wonder of Easter.

1. Read through John's gospel and particularly spend time in chapter 13-21

2. Rent "The Passion of the Christ" and watch it with your family (beware it is 'R' rated) then take time together to discuss the movie and pray together thanking Jesus for His love for you.

3. Pick up and read a copy of "The Reason for Easter" by Lee Strobel or "The Passion of Jesus Christ: 50 Reasons why He came to die" by John Piper.

4. Read Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and take a line or a verse each day and consider journalling a prayer to God each day based upon that line or verse.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Good Stewardship, Great Impact

How we use what has been entrusted to us is a big deal to God!
Whether it be the faithfulness of God's people in giving of the first fruits in an act of worship to Him, or the instruction to the Israelites not to harvest the whole field, but to leave some for the poor, the widow and the alien, Scripture has much to say on the subject.
There is perhaps no clearer place to look however than the parable in Luke 19:11-27. Even a quick reading of the text leaves us asking, are we being faithful with what has been entrusted to us?
These are exciting days at The Orchard Church, where I have the honor of serving. Not only are we seeing God's transforming power in peoples lives, but we have recently been given the opportunity to partner with a sister church to see a new Spanish Language congregation planted right here in McHenry. When I say right here, I mean literally right here, because as our Elders discussed this partnership it was very clear to us that the building that our church calls home, belongs to the head of our church - Jesus Christ, and that He would have us willingly share it.
It certainly isn't a new concept, several different congregations sharing space. Most towns have at least one church that is already doing that, sometimes a single building being used by five or six congregations - but it is new for us, and I'm pretty excited about it.
To those who make The Orchard Church their home, thank you for your generous support and for your willingness to share the blessings of God with others. To the Lord Jesus Christ, as best as we know how, we stand ready to be obedient, to go where you would have us go, to do what you would have us do - that all the glory would go to you and not to us!
We're taking this step out of obedience to God's call, not out of any benefit it might bring, but call me old fashioned, I'm taking God at His Word... I believe that He still rewards those who are faithful with a little, and entrusts them with still bigger things. I am asking God to help us be faithful in the small things so that He might grant us the joy of seeing an even greater impact for the Kingdom throughout our region and around the world.