Pastor Jarod

Casting Your Vote

Very shortly our nation will be electing a new President.  This election differs from some of the previous elections in that I have had more people express confusion as to whom they are going to cast their vote for.  For those of you that have spent time with me over the past couple of years, you probably know that I don’t care for politics or the discourse that accompanies it.  However, many of the people that I care for and respect do.  So heading into the election and the results that follow, I just wanted to offer a few reminders to encourage you and put things in perspective.

All Authorities Have Been Instituted By God (Romans 13:1)—Whoever wins the election, take comfort in the fact that he/she is in that position squarely because God determined for him/her to be so.  God has never lost an election.  Might God be giving America the leaders that they long for and deserve in order to teach them a lesson and draw them to repentance?  Absolutely!  This is a common theme in the Old Testament.  The comfort of this passage though lies in the fact that God is in sovereign control.  Whoever wins the election will exercise his/her governing authority, only because God has appointed them to do so.

Submit To and Pray For Governing Authorities (Romans 13:1-5; 1 Timothy 2:1-3)—We are to submit to and pray for whomever God establishes as authority over us.   We aren’t to complain or whine.  We aren’t to criticize and make snide comments.  We are to humbly submit to any authority placed over us.  That doesn’t mean that we cannot object to issues that go against God’s teaching in Scripture, but we still must exercise submission as we stand for biblical truth.  We are also to pray for those leaders that God has given to rule over us.  And from what little I have seen this election season, both of the candidates for President could use some prayer.

Remember That Jesus Christ is Our Hope—There are numerous passages of Scripture that remind us that Jesus is our hope.  If our hope for a better life is in elected officials, Supreme Court justices, or in any earthly form of government, then our hope has been misplaced.  Our hope shouldn’t be in politicians to make our world better.  The only thing that will bring any lasting sort of peace, enjoyment, and comfort in this world is Jesus.  My hope for a better world is in Christ Jesus, and in his Church going out and being the Church.  Regardless of who wins an election, who we are in Christ and what he has called us to do doesn’t change.

I encourage you to pray and make wise decisions as you exercise your right to vote.  However, I implore you to spend more of your time and energy advancing the Gospel message, rather than on political discourse.  Our family, friends, and neighbors don’t need an elected official to make their lives better.  They need to know our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

 

A Heartfelt Thanks

This past July we as a church had the opportunity to gather school supplies and distribute them to families in need at Kipapa Elementary School right here in Mililani.  Recently we received a collection of thank you notes from the students and their parents for the supplies.  I wanted to include a few in this month’s messenger so that you can see how your generosity impacted these families in our very own community.

 Thanks from Kipapa Students

 Thank you for giving me free school supplies and I will do my best in learning. #Learn

 Thank you for the school supplies!  I use them well!

 Thank you for the school supplies, and I have a lot of things.  This is the best day of my life.  I love Kipapa elementary school.  Awesome!

 Thank you for all the school supplies for this year!  It will help me learn a lot.  I am very thankful for your kindness.

 Thanks from Kipapa Parents/Guardians

 Thank you for doing such a wonderful thing to help the kids/families.  As a one income family this is truly a blessing and a huge help.  You are very much appreciated.

 Thank you for your generosity, love and care for our children.  As a mother of 4, all is very much appreciated!  Such a blessing to us all and I (we) can’t thank you all enough!

 Thank you for the free school supplies.  Please keep on supporting Kipapa Elementary School.  You help a lot of students.  Again Mahalo!

 Thank you for blessing us with your donation of school supplies.  You are great!  You are caring.  Thank you for reaching out to us.  May God bless you and keep you.  May He shine on you and be gracious to you.  May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

I wanted to thank you as a church body for getting behind and supporting this effort to make an impact on the lives of the families at Kipapa Elementary School.  Thank you for the supplies you donated.  Thank you to those volunteers who participated in the school supply distribution.  Thank you to the individual who donated the plants to the Kipapa staff, and thank you to the 3 volunteers who have committed to tutoring at Kipapa as well.   I ask that you continue to pray for the staff and the children at this school, and for more opportunities for us as a church to show them the love of our Lord Jesus Christ!

 

The Greatest Adventure

What do you find adventurous? I am fully aware that some people are more adventurous than others. Some of you find things like skydiving or swimming with sharks ad-venturous. Others wouldn’t call that adventurous, they would call that crazy. For those non-thrill seekers like me, we seek adventure in other places. That may include going to Walmart after 8:00pm in our pajamas, or volunteering to serve once a year in the church nursery, or sitting in the first two rows of the worship service.

One of the things that we see in Scripture is that we as believers were made to live an adventure filled life. Living life as a Christ follower isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t boring. The greatest adventure that every believer is called to is to go and share the Gospel message of Jesus Christ with others. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). We are to be going and sharing as we are living out our lives in this world.

Many believers don’t speak of the Gospel to others out of fear. They make excuses as to why the don’t, can’t, or won’t share. And yet sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ is the most exciting adventure that we could ever hope for. There are highs and lows; there are gains and setbacks; there are great joys and there are painful rejections. It’s an adventure that shapes and molds us into who we were created to be in Christ Jesus.

While evangelistic outreach programs in the church can be highly successful, they have also served to move Gospel sharing out of the individual realm into the corporate realm. Gospel sharing isn’t as much a programmed church event on the weekly calendar as much as it is a part of our everyday lives. We are all expected to share the Good News with the people that we inter-act with on a regular basis.

A Focused Effort

Earlier this year we made the decision as a church body to reduce our cooperative program giving, and to divert that money to more concentrated efforts to reach our own community for Jesus Christ.  Back in March some of that money went into our Easter outreach.  Recently we held our children’s water day where we saw almost 70 children come and splash around on a hot summer day.  

Then in June God allowed us the chance to partner with Kipapa Elementary School, here in Mililani, in an effort to minister to the students and their families.  We as a church collected a large number of school supplies to donate to families in need at Kipapa.  We were even invited to help distribute these items to these families at the school.  In addition, we were able to provide some needed classroom supplies to one of the teachers at the school.  We look forward to partnering with Kipapa Elementary School in other ways in the near future.

 The purpose behind focusing some of our mission efforts right here in Mililani is to let those within our very own community know that we care about them, and that we love them.  God has placed this wonderful fellowship of believers here to reach this community with the love of Christ.  We will continue to serve, go, and support other mission efforts across Oahu, throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and to the ends of the earth.  However, we believe that opportunities abound right here in Mililani to reach out and minister to others, and ultimately to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

How can you help in this effort?  First, be in prayer.  Pray for God to open up more opportunities for our church to serve right here in Mililani.  Second, identify.  Identify any needs that you see in our community.  Needs often lead to ministry opportunities.  Third, discern.  We can’t be involved in everything and meet every need.  It’s important that as a church body we discern where God is leading us to get involved and to prioritize those things that he is calling us to do.  Finally, get involved.  We aren’t just looking for avenues to serve; we are looking for laborers to go out into the harvest in order to make disciples of Jesus Christ. 

This is an exciting time here at Mililani Baptist Church.  We look forward to what God has in store for this body of believers in the days ahead!

Equipped to Teach

The teaching ministry of a local church is a vital component to the overall health of a church. Teaching is a part of the mission that Christ himself gave to all believers in Matthew 28:18-20. We are to go out and make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching as we are going. We are responsible for sharing the good news of the Gospel with all, and then we are to teach those who exercise faith in Christ biblical truth that enables them to mature in their faith, so that they in turn can go out and make more disciples. Gospel proclamation and biblical teaching go hand-in-hand, and these actions haven't been just tasked to a select few, but rather it is what all believers in Christ should be doing.

In regards to the teaching ministry of the church, it is critical that we are training and equipping people to carry out this mission given to us by Christ. Everyone is to fulfill the role of a teacher in some respect. It is not something reserved for pastors, bible scholars, or Sunday School leaders; we all have the responsibility to teach the truth of God's Word to others. I have repeatedly heard people say to me over the years that they don't feel qualified or led to teach, but the biblical reality is that we are all responsible to teach the truth of Scripture, and if we aren't qualified then it is up to us to make sure that we get the training needed to effectively teach others.

Therefore, this summer here at MBC we want to provide those within the congregation with the tools and resources necessary to help them teach others. We want to equip the members with what they need so that they can fulfill their part in the Great Commission. Some people are naturally gifted in the Holy Spirit to teach others, but all of us can learn the skills needed to properly handle and administer the word of the truth. We also desire to provide an opportunity for our current teachers to continue to hone their skills and improve in the roles that they fill.

From July 10-August 7 we will be offering a 5-week teacher training course here at MBC from 4:30-5:45pm on Sunday afternoons. Each week we will be covering a different component of teaching within the church. You are welcome to come to all sessions, or you can pick and choose the ones that are of more interest and applicable to you.

On July 10 we will begin by looking at Teaching in the Home. We want to assist parents and grandparents within our church with resources and information to help them provide biblical instruction within the home. It is God's intention for the family, not the church, to provide the primary biblical instruction for a child. The church was never intended to teach children spiritually on behalf of the family. The church was designed to help supplement that which was already being taught in the home. However, in our world today the church has had to take up this mantle of responsibility as more and more families leave their children's spiritual development up to the local church. Our desire is to assist those families interested in taking more ownership of their children's spiritual education. It may scare you to death of teaching your 4-year-old, or your 3rd grader, or your teen from God's Word, and that's why we want to assist you in this endeavor.

In subsequent weeks we will be looking at the role of Teacher as Disciplemaker. We will examine what discipleship is and how we as teachers can actively be a part of producing reproducing disciples. We will also look at various Teaching Methods and Learning Preferences and How to Teach Various Age Groups within the church, ranging from infants through senior adults. The last week will look at some ways that we might look at Organizing and Administering the Educational Ministries within the church for those who might like to be a part of the larger and long-range vision casting of the educational ministries here at MBC.

It is my desire that we as a church would be a place that is actively involved in training and equipping fully functional disciples of Jesus Christ who are actively serving and teaching others within their families, as well as within the church. And this course is designed to do just that. Whether you have a desire to teach, but just have never felt ready to do so, or if you have already been teaching and desire to improve upon your teaching skills, or if you just want to be a better teacher in your own home, we look forward to seeing you this summer!

Praying for Church Leaders

Coming out of our weekend of spiritual renewal, I am excited about what lies ahead for us here at Mililani Baptist Church. I look forward to moving ahead as one body, focused on that task to which we have been called in Christ Jesus. Often when I get excited in ministry, I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head that I don't know where to begin. However, with age comes experience, and with experience comes some wisdom, and one thing that I have learned is that wherever God is taking us as a church, we must proceed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and with much prayer.

I am currently reading a book by Elbert Smith called, "Church Planting by the Book." In it, Smith identifies common threads that were essential components of the earliest churches founded in Scripture. Prayer played a vital role in the foundation of the first church in Jerusalem and led to the spread of the gospel and the establishment of other churches throughout the Roman Empire. Read through the first 10 chapters of Acts and you will see that prayer wasn't something that the earliest Christians talked about doing, rather it was an integral part of their daily lives and helped guide them during the growth and expansion of the 1st century Church.

Last month in this space I encouraged you to pray for unity amongst our members as we moved toward our weekend revival. This month, in addition to continuing to pray for unity, I humbly implore you to pray for the church leaders here at MBC. One of the strangest things about churches in this age of consumerism and egocentrism is that churches are often one of the most exceptionally brutal places to serve within. It's a challenge to please everyone's needs when our culture places a premium on having our individual needs met before anyone else's. I've learned from experience that pastors tend to be some of the most sensitive, thin-skinned people of all. Combine that with the fact that they have their own sin issues, and their own family, marital, and health problems they must contend with…well it becomes easy to understand why pastors leave for other churches so quickly, and while many end up leaving the ministry altogether. Thom Rainer, in his book "I Am A Church Member" talks about the life of a pastor. He writes, "His day is filled with mountaintops and valleys. He is adulated by some and castigated by others."

God called out pastors to shepherd his flock, but it is also the responsibility of the flock to minister to their shepherd. So pray for you pastors. Pray for their preaching as they teach from the Word of God every week. Pray for their families. I've realized that my wife takes comments and criticisms of me twice as hard as I do myself. I once had a lay leader in a church who wanted me gone tell me that while they didn't care for me very much, they really liked my wife. My wife didn't take that as a compliment by the way. I responded by telling this individual that I really liked my wife too and that if and when God ever called me away that I was taking her along with me. Pray for your leaders and their families; pray for their protection. Most of all, pray for their emotional well-being, and for them to find rest in and draw their strength from the Lord.

Now in order to avoid sounding self-serving, I don't want you to just pray these things for your pastoral leadership. Pray for all of the leadership in your church. There are so many faithful people serving in leadership here at MBC that need your prayers. It's not easy to step up and lead, when that opens you up to the criticism of others, and yet so many here have chosen to serve regardless of the cost. Pray for those who teach and lead Sunday School classes and Bible studies. Pray for our Nursery Director and those who lead out in our various children's ministries. Pray for our youth leadership as they give up so much time away from their own families to pour into the lives of others. Pray for our deacons, who serve in a variety of ways that aren’t often even seen. Pray for those who are serving as committee heads, as they deal with important issues in the life of the church. Pray for them and their families.

We are all in this together as one body in Christ Jesus. As we move forward in a rapidly changing world may we continue to show love, grace, and patience to one another. May we lift each other up in fervent and heartfelt prayer. I desire to see this very church be a catalyst in the expansion of the gospel throughout Hawaii and the rest of the Pacific, but before that happens we need to make sure that we are filled with the Spirit and making prayer a priority within this beautiful bride of Christ.

Spiritual Renewal

I hope you enjoyed our time of spiritual renewal this past weekend at MBC. It was truly a special time to be together as a church family. From the wonderful messages that our guest speaker Mike McQuitty shared with us, to the joyous time of fellowship that we had, it was easy to see God moving in the hearts of people.

One of the things that I took away from this weekend was that we as a church family aren't special because of who we are or because of what we are doing; rather it's because of who God is. The messages from the book of Acts reminded me that God is accomplishing so much more than we sometimes even dare to dream of. We often settle merely for what we think we are capable of doing.

The early church saw God break down barriers and move in mighty ways, even in the midst of strong opposition. The church flourished in the midst of persecution, suffering, and strife as they continued to proclaim the truth of the Gospel at every turn. Threats from rulers didn't keep them from proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Renewal is great, but we have been called to something even better. We must continue to push against boundaries that rise up before us. We must strive to walk in purpose of unity. We must steadfastly speak of what Jesus Christ has done. We must continue to seek God's will in all things and allow Him the opportunity to accomplish that will in and through us.

The future is bright at MBC, but it's not because of who we are, it's because of who Christ is in us!

Are We Successful?

There is so much going on in the life of Mililani Baptist Church right now. It's exciting to see things from my perspective. There are always activities going on, but there is a strong sense of purpose, fellowship, and unity that is pervading the members of the body lately. It's been a blessing to see the changes gradually taking place within our sanctuary as part of our Operation Church Beautification Project. Early in March it was great to see a wide variety of people come together to help construct our new stage. On Monday, March 21 we had a day of prayer and fasting amongst the membership here at MBC. It was neat to see the number of people that turned up for the corporate prayer time on that Monday evening, and to hear about how many participated in the fast as a whole. On Wednesday, March 23 our Senior Adult Ministry got together with some of our staff to help stuff over 3,000 Easter eggs for our Easter outreach event. There is indeed a buzz amongst this body of believers.

I'm hoping that excitement continues to build towards our Revival that is coming April 29—May 1. That event and the time leading up to it provide a tremendous opportunity for every individual within our church, as well as the church as a whole, to examine ourselves and see where we are at in our relationship with Jesus Christ, and with one another. There is a lot that we can be praying for leading up to this event, but I believe that one of the most important things needed here at MBC is unity in the Spirit! A church without unity is floundering, but a church unified is one that reflects the very nature of Christ, and is thus capable of more than we can imagine.

One of the questions I have asked myself over the years is what makes a church successful? Success can be measured in a number of ways, but I am confident that two elements are essential above all else.

Staying true to the biblical text. More important than church size and friendliness is a commitment to standing firm upon the Word of God. Having a firm grasp of the Gospel message goes along with this. God looks upon our hearts, not at our outward appearance. I believe this is true for churches as well as individuals. While it's great to be friendly and to have lots of activities, and a beautiful building, all of that pales in significance to being grounded in Scripture.

Unity within the church body. Unity is so critical to the life and health of the church. It also happens to be a concept that is misunderstood by many within the church. Paul urges the Ephesians to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (4:3). The Spirit gives unity to us and it is our responsibility to maintain it. Unity should permeate the total atmosphere of the church. In those churches where it isn't, that typically means that the seeds of discontent are being tossed about, and that disunity is spreading liking a virus. One of the reasons why unity is so hard to achieve in churches today stems from the fact that individualism has infiltrated our churches. We have believers operating within churches who are bent on having their own needs met first and foremost. They make decisions based upon what is best for them or the areas of ministry that they are involved in. They often use words like "I think" or "My" a lot. "I think so and so needs to do this/that." "This is what will benefit my children, or my family, or my ministry, or my Sunday School class the most." These people have gradually turned the church into a consumer driven entity where it's all about satisfying and entertaining them. They often claim to want unity, but really what they are saying is I will be unified with the rest of the body as long as I get "my" way, or only if I get to have "my" voice heard.

Having unity doesn't mean that we are going to agree with one another on every issue. It does mean though that at times we will each have to stomach decisions that are made that we don't agree with. Unity means that regardless of what decisions are made we are unified in the mission to stand firm upon the truth of the Bible and to take the Gospel out to people who have yet to receive Christ as their Savior and Lord. It's remaining committed to one another and working together for the greater good of the body of Christ, even if that means it's costly to our own comfort or desires.

Mililani Baptist Church will impact the world for Christ as far as we are willing to commit to the biblical text and stay unified as one body in Christ. To that end, I'm excited by what I've seen in recent months here at MBC. Continue to pray as we move through this period of spiritual renewal this Spring leading up to this month's revival. A church grounded in and living out the Word, and a church striving to maintain the unity of the Spirit is a beautiful and glorious entity to behold. May the beauty of this church family and the glory of our God radiate from within us throughout this community and the rest of the world in the days ahead!

A Savior Who Knows Our Pain

One of the hardest things that I experience as a pastor is watching other brothers and sisters in Christ going through extremely painful circumstances. It's difficult for me to witness the suffering and agony they are experiencing, and it's challenging to know how to help them through those trials without having all of the answers. We all know what it is like to struggle through something, and that makes it all the more difficult to watch others we care about go through the valleys too.

Let's face it; this world can be a flat-out cold and cruel place. It seems that human beings have no limit on how horrible they can be to each other. Sometimes I want to run away and hide so that I can protect myself, and those around me, from the cruelty of others. I want to keep others at arm's length so that they can't hurt me. However, the reality is that this is the world in which we live. We can't seclude ourselves indefinitely, and so we must learn to navigate the heartaches of life. We must learn how to live in the midst of the fiery furnace.

One of my favorite authors is Timothy Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Keller writes as a grounded theological scholar, but also with the heart of a pastor. In his book Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, Keller writes, "Nothing is more important than to learn how to maintain a life of purpose in the midst of painful adversity." That is the key! How do we move forwards toward Christlikeness when everything is falling apart around us? How do we press on when we are firmly imbedded in the belly of the furnace? How do we continue to grow and extend ourselves to others when the world feels as if it is against us?

Suffering is a way of life for Christ followers. Jesus himself said in John 16:33, "In the world you will have tribulation." It isn't optional; it's a way of life. We don't get to simply grow in peaceful times. We have a choice. We can either get swallowed up in the agony and despair we face, or we can continue to become more and more like Christ Jesus Himself. Suffering can be wasted if we don't commit ourselves to depending upon and trusting in God through those experiences. Those times don’t have to be a waste though. Instead, while painful, those experiences can provide meaning to life and help us to live it well. We don't need to rejoice in the actual suffering, but neither should we run away from it. We need to remain patient in the midst of it, allowing God to work out his will in our lives and in the lives of others around us. It is only through patient endurance that we grow, and we can only patiently endure when our focus is on continuing to live out our faith in Christ, even as we bear the full brunt of this painfully cruel world.

As we suffer in this world, it is important for us to remember that we will never experience any kind of suffering that Jesus himself didn't experience. Jesus knows full well what it is like to suffer...what it is like to be brutally mistreated by others. Luke 22:63-71 tells us what Jesus had to endure on His way to the cross. He was beaten and mocked. He had vile insults hurled at Him while he received blow after blow. He was known as a prophet, so the men who were tasked with guarding Jesus decided to put His prophetic skills to the test. They blindfolded Him and punched Him, and then they challenged Him to guess who it was that had struck Him. Jesus was the recipient of the worst that humanity had to offer.

Yet He endured. He stayed the course and pressed onward, because He was focused on His Father and on His will. Likewise, we too need to keep moving forward in the midst of our suffering. The only way to do that when everything is crumbling down around us is to take the focus off of ourselves and place it upon Jesus Christ, who endured for our sake and promises peace, comfort, and rest in Him. Jesus' resurrection offers us a future hope that is greater than anything this world has to offer, and greater than any sorrow we may experience. What a wonderful and beautiful Savior we have in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Growing in Spiritual Maturity

Spiritual growth was a concept I struggled to grasp in my early years as a believer. I had spent my entire life in church and had given my life over to Jesus Christ, but as I entered adulthood it became increasingly obvious to me that others around me were far more spiritually mature than I was. I wondered what I had done wrong, and what others had done right. I became envious of the relationship that others had with Christ, and of their knowledge and understanding of Scripture. I realized that a change needed to take place in my life and so I began a journey in college that would end up leading me on the path towards spiritual growth.

During those years in life I was fortunate to have a campus minister come alongside and disciple me. The first and most important step that he challenged me to take was to begin to study and wrestle with the Word of God on my own. Now by this point in my life I was familiar with the Bible. I had been in church for my entire life, listened to countless sermons, and sat in numerous Bible studies. However, my friend taught me that we aren't as apt to grow in our faith and in our knowledge of God's Word unless we learn to study the Word of God on our own. I had for so long relied on what others (pastors, parents, Sunday School teachers, etc.) had learned and then subsequently taught about Scripture that I never really took the time to learn things on my own. I could recite biblical facts that I had heard, but I had never learned to really think about what I was reading in the Bible.

Many believers fall into the same trap that I once did. We think that attending church and sitting in a Bible study will help us grow in our faith. While we might learn things in that setting, that time isn't a substitute for our own personal examination of Scripture. We must learn to study the Bible on our own, think critically for ourselves, and apply the truths of Scripture to our own lives. This isn't to say that there isn't a place for corporate Bible study in our lives. In fact, it is extremely important to be plugged into a small group Bible study of some sort. As we personally learn and grow in our knowledge of Scripture, being a part of a group Bible Study gives us the place and the opportunity to share what we have learned, to work out our theology, and where we can put into practice what we are learning by ministering to others. When I began to study the Word of God on my own, it just so happens that I became more of a participant in Bible studies instead of an attendee. There were questions that I had or issues that I struggled with in my own personal Bible study, that I was able to bring to other believers in small group settings. There they were able to help me understand and grow as they shared what they had learned from three years of spiritual growth. I can't overstate this enough, but learning to study the Bible on my own was the single most influential step in my own spiritual development.

Once I got that spiritual discipline down, then I was prepared to grow in other areas. As I learned more and more about what God was saying to me in his Word, my prayer life began to change radically. I learned how to pray, what to pray for, and how to make sure I was allowing God to speak to me through His Spirit and through His Word.

The more I grew in my understanding of Scripture the more I realized that God calls his disciples to live out their faith in a public way and to be his witnesses in this world. So as I studied God's Word I started looking for opportunities to live out what I was learning. My life became more missional as a result. From there everything else began to fall into place in my spiritual development. I became more interested in fellowship with other believers. I began to understand the importance of unity, accountability, and of tithing. Once I laid a strong foundation upon God's Word everything began to flourish from there.

With that in mind, one of the things Pastor Alan and I wanted to establish here at Mililani Baptist Church was a class that would help believers lay a strong spiritual foundation from which they could build upon and grow in Christlikeness. Beginning on February 21, at 4:30 on Sunday afternoons we will be offering a spiritual foundations class to assist believers in their spiritual growth. This 5-week course will cover the spiritual disciplines of studying God's Word, prayer, living on mission, and much more. This is an excellent opportunity for new believers to get grounded in the faith and to lay a foundation early on to help them to continue to grow in spiritual maturity. It would also be good for those who are like me! Perhaps your story is similar to mine in that you may have been a believer for many years and you are looking for something to help you take that next step in your relationship with Christ, but you just aren't sure where to start. Finally, even if you have grown in spiritual maturity and you have these spiritual disciplines down, this class allows you to keep your skills sharp through additional training, and it also gives you the opportunity to come alongside younger believers to help them grow as you share from your own experience and wisdom. Therefore, this class is open to all and we encourage you to join us beginning Sunday, February 21. See you there!

What's Mine is Mine

The concept of generosity has been on my mind a lot lately. Perhaps that’s because over the past month I have been reading through 2 Corinthians. In chapters 8 & 9 of that letter, the apostle Paul reminds the believers in Corinth of the importance of giving generously. Paul essentially says in that passage of Scripture that we as believers are to give willingly, cheerfully, and sacrificially.

Perhaps another reason this notion of generosity has struck a chord in my own heart recently is because of the Christmas season we have all just celebrated. After being a believer for 26 years, I am still in awe of how much God gave of himself so that we could experience a personal relationship with him. God didn’t just give a part of himself. Instead, he gave fully of himself when he came to this world as a man. In addition, the Christmas season also gave my family and I the opportunity to be the recipients of your profound generosity. We were astounded by the many wonderful gifts you blessed us with this Christmas season. My wife and I want to thank you from the depths of our hearts. We are grateful and honored to be serving in a place amongst such generous believers.

The most prominent reason I have been thinking more about generosity lately though is because of my own handsomely sweet sinful son. Over the past month Yadier’s new favorite word is “mine”. Whenever his sister starts to play with a toy, he likes to come over and take it away and tell her, “It’s mine!” He has even started using this word more with my wife and I. He sees everything as his own to be used whenever and wherever he wants. What he hasn’t learned yet is that if it wasn’t for the grace and generosity of his mother and I, he wouldn’t have toys to play with, nor would he have a place to enjoy them in. All of the things he has are because of the kindness and generosity of others.

Now because of our inherent sin nature, it’s natural for all children to go through this phase and learn similar lessons. What is unfortunate though is that as some people grow up they never outgrow this attitude of what’s mine is mine. People typically fall into one of two categories when it comes to generosity. They will look at their possessions and wealth as something that belongs solely to them, or they will see all that they have as a gift that has been given to them. The former will hold on dearly to what they have because they see it as something that they have earned or accumulated, while the latter give more generously because they recognize that what they have is all because of God’s grace and generosity. 

It really comes down to a heart issue. Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If we treasure things like money or material possessions then we will find it challenging to live generous lives. However, if our treasure is tied up in things of eternal significance, and if our hearts are truly turned over to God, then the things of this world will no longer seem as important as they once did.

As believers, we are called to live generously. We have been blessed in order to bless others. We must examine our own hearts and honestly evaluate where we have laid up our own treasures. A verse that has helped me to keep my heart in the right place over the years is James 1:17, which says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” Everything good that has been given to me in my life is squarely from God. I didn’t earn or receive it based upon my own merit or hard work. It’s all from God, and so therefore, it all really belongs to him. Everything…my finances, my possessions, even my wife and kids…are all gifts from God. What’s mine really isn’t mine after all. All of those things are God’s and he has entrusted me to be a good steward of that which he has blessed me with.

We believers often like to play a game where we divide up what belongs to God and what belongs to us. We give God a portion (a tenth-our tithe) of what he as given to us, and then we decide that the rest is for us. If we want live generous lives though…if we want to make sure that our hearts are in the right place…we must remember that everything in our lives belongs to him. We have the freedom to give joyfully to him and to others, because he has and will continue to provide for us out of his rich abundance. My hope and prayer is that it can be said for all of us what Paul says about the believers in Corinth in 2 Corinthians 8:3For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord. May we all live generous lives, whereby we are willingly, cheerfully, and sacrificially giving to others according to our means and beyond!

The Joy of Anticipation

As a child, the Christmas season was one filled with excitement and anticipation. There was so much to look forward to. We got to decorate the house, listen to Christmas music, and eat Christmas goodies, open presents, and so on. It was always a joyous time of year. I must admit though, as I have gotten older, I don’t as much look forward to this time of year, as I do to just getting through it. There are all of the Christmas parties and programs to attend, along with the shopping, traveling, and spending time with in-laws. It just seems like a relief when it is all over. Afterwards though, I am often left asking myself where that joy of Christmas I once experienced has gone.

Thankfully, the Bible always sets me straight and reminds me of where my joy is to be found at this time of year. It’s not in all of the holiday trappings. Nor is it in the giving or receiving of gifts. It’s not in the happiness of our children or even in the remembrance and celebration of Christ’s birth. It’s not that we cannot find joy in those things, but there is a deeper and more fulfilling joy to be found elsewhere. That joy comes from what Christ’s birth means for us and what it points to in the future.

Long before Christ came into this world as an infant, people had been anticipating his arrival. Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Then a couple chapters later in Isaiah 9:6 it says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The people had been looking forward to the day when this child would come into the world and grow up and establish his kingdom.

Likewise, our joy at Christmas comes as we anticipate Christ’s second coming into this world. While there was tremendous joy when Christ first came as a baby, it won’t compare to the joy we will experience when he comes again. Christ’s second advent is truly something to anticipate with joy. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 gives us a brief picture of what we have to look forward to: For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

We can anticipate Christ making a grand entrance when he returns. He will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel speaking, and with the trumpet of God. We can also anticipate meeting our Savior in the air and remaining with him forever! Finally, we can anticipate the return of Christ, because we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is going to happen. Just as Christ’s first advent into this world was prophesied in the Old Testament, the New Testament is filled with promises concerning his second coming. John 14:3 says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Christmas truly is a joyous time of year. It is a celebration of Christ’s birth, but more importantly it’s a glimpse of what is to come and the joy we will experience when we see our Savior face to face. Take time this Christmas season to reflect upon why Jesus came into this world, and upon the fact that one day soon he is coming again to receive you unto himself. Wishing you a merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

A Most Beautiful Relationship

As many of you have gotten to know my family over this past year, you have come to learn that I like to make a lot of jokes at my wife’s expense. Based upon what you hear me say sometimes, it may surprise you to find that there is no one that I love and respect more on the face of this planet. My wife is my best friend and there is no one other than Jesus Christ himself that I adore. It’s great fun being married to her.

I am a big fan of marriage. In fact, I believe the marriage relationship is the single most important and powerful relationship there is, outside of our personal one with Christ. The marriage relationship is the centerpiece of our families, and it is a picture of the relationship that exists between Christ and his church. Paul’s teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5 is so beautiful and rich. It is in these verses that Paul lays out the case for this relationship to take priority over all other familial relationships.

In Ephesians 5:31, Paul quotes Genesis 2:24, where he says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife.” This verse helps us to see that our marriage relationships should supersede all of our other earthly relationships. We are to put our greatest energy, time, commitment, and devotion into our spouses. As strong as bonds with parents might be for some, those relationships are to take a back seat. We must no longer be driven by the wishes and expectations of our parents. It is the desires and hopes of our spouses that we should seek to meet first and foremost. It’s great to honor our parents, but if we are more concerned with pleasing and honoring them than we are our spouses then we are guilty of not following the biblical command to leave and to cleave.

Paul emphasized the need for husbands and wives to hold fast to one another. While it may be a struggle for some to put their spouses ahead of their parents, the far greater danger to marriages in our culture today is when parents make their relationships with their children a priority over their marriage. God’s command in Scripture was for husband and wife to hold fast to one another, not to their children. Many marriages struggle because parents over-commit to meeting the needs and taking care of their children.

Yes, our children need us. They need us to be there almost every step of the way early on. My wife and I are experiencing that now in our own family. They also need us, as they grow older, to answer important questions and teach them meaningful lessons. But what they need most, and I cannot not emphasize this enough, is to see each of us making our marriages a priority. It’s great to be at every sporting event, recital, and school program, but that doesn’t give our children a full view of what a healthy family is. That comes when we show them that sacrificially taking care of and meeting the needs of our spouses is of the utmost importance. Healthy families tend to naturally flow from healthy marriages. A strong marriage relationship helps children to feel more secure, confident, and loved. The best way to be a great parent is to be a great spouse.

We are to get our primary need for love and affection met through the marriage relationship, not through the parent-child relationship. If we love our children more than our spouses then the entire family will be pulled out of joint and everyone will end up suffering. Are you giving your marriage the priority it should have? Christ himself set forth the example for us to follow. Ephesians 5 tells us that Christ made his relationship with the church a priority. He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and give himself up for his bride so that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (vv.26-27). Make your spouse and your marriage a priority today. While it will be challenging at times, if you do, you will begin to get a beautiful glimpse of the love that Christ displayed and has for his church and for you.

It's Fall Carnvial Time!

When I first came to Mililani Baptist Church a little over a year ago I had someone tell me that the Fall Carnival was the one event in the church that everyone joined together to be a part of and help put on. True enough; almost every ministry or group that exists here at MBC was represented in service on the night of the carnival. It was exciting to see so many people come together to pull off such a big event.

As we look toward this year’s carnival, already so many people have signed up to help serve. There are still positions to be filled, but so far the response has been tremendous. If you are interested in serving the night of the carnival, or perhaps at the carnival prep-night the evening before, please sign up in the breezeway. If you are still undecided about being a part of this wonderful event, then let me share with you some of the fantastic benefits that come with this tremendous outreach opportunity:

  1. We Get To Know Others In Our Church—One of the best ways to get to know others in your church better is to serve alongside them. The Fall Carnival gives you the opportunity to work with people in your church you may not know as well. You might see someone you thought was intimidating, and then see him/her working with kids at the Fall Carnival and think, “Hey, maybe that person isn’t so frightening after all.”
  2. We Get To Meet New Families That Don’t Attend MBC—The Fall Carnival is an outreach event. It’s a chance for our church family to welcome and show the love of Christ to families that don’t usually go to church. As you see people that evening that you may not know, say hello to them, get to know them, and tell them about some of the ministries available to them here at MBC.
  3. We Get To Have Fun!—Nothing strengthens fellowship better than serving alongside and having fun with your brothers and sisters in Christ. The Fall Carnival is a time when the child in all of us can come out and have a great time. So come out and have fun with the kids, bounce in the bounce house, and grab some cotton candy while you’re at it.
  4. We Get To Have Candy—Yes, the candy is for the kids. However, sometimes we can’t help it if a small piece or two or ten accidentally falls into our pockets. Seriously though, the candy is for the kids (wink, wink)!
  5. We Get To Wear Costumes—Unless you’re a professional wrestler or a superhero, it’s not usually cool to wear a costume out in public. However, the Fall Carnival just so happens to be on Halloween each year, so therefore it’s completely normal for everyone to dress up on that evening.
  6. We Get to Stick Around and Help Clean Up Afterwards—Staying after to help clean up not only helps to return the church building back to its beautiful self, but it also allows you the chance to spend extra time with your brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as with your pastors. This even gives you the chance to secretly take some leftover candy afterwards.
  7. Most Importantly...We Get To Reflect The Best Of Who We Are In Christ—The Fall Carnival is one of the best ways that we can show people that God loves them, and that we as a church are here for them. I’m proud of this church body. I’m grateful for the many servants with caring hearts that make up this fellowship of believers. I’m excited for the people of Mililani to see us at our best in Jesus Christ, as we serve our community and give God all the glory for what takes place.

Keep Your Word!

As we are wrapping up our look into the book of James on Sunday mornings here, we recently touched on this verse out of James, Chapter 5:

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (v.12)

This verse is a direct reference by James to something Jesus himself said in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:33-37). What both Jesus and James were trying to convey to their audiences was that believers are to be people of such noble character, of such integrity, that the words they speak match up with the Word they live by. We are to be people who keep their word at all times—people who honor their commitments and promises.

When we don’t keep our word, we break the confidence and trust of others around us. When I was in college, the campus ministry I was involved with had different ministry teams the students were encouraged to serve on. Someone approached me about serving on the team that oversaw the setup and tear down of our technical equipment as part of our weekly worship service in one of our campus lecture halls. I made a commitment to show up 3 hours early each week to help setup and to stay for 30 minutes after the service to help tear down. Well over the course of the semester I settled into the habit of only helping out when I wanted to. If I got busy or something better came up I just simply didn’t show up. There were even times when someone would call me the day of to remind me, and I would turn around and decide not to go and help after telling them that I would. Eventually, the others on the ministry team decided to stop reaching out to me for assistance, or for any other matter.

Here are 3 good habits to develop as we all seek to be people who keep their word:

  1. Stop Looking For Loopholes—Jesus encourages his audience to keep their word/commitment in response to people in his day questioning the grounds for divorce. People were searching for a justifiable reason to follow through with a divorce. Jesus’ response was to stop looking for a way out. We are to spend our time and energy trying to keep our commitments, instead of searching for a way out of them. Jesus’ point was that he wanted his followers to take their vows more seriously, taking every measure to fulfill them.
  2. Realize That You Have To Live With It Until You Live Up To It—A professional athlete signs a contract for a lot of money. Over time, as the athlete performs, they typically want a better contract for even more money. The reality is though that they usually don’t get more if they haven’t lived up to their current contract. We as humans are so quick to break our commitments if we see something better or more attractive elsewhere. If we think we can have a more lasting and fulfilling love with someone else, we can break the commitment in our marriages. We don’t like what our church has to offer us, we can go and become members elsewhere. What we often don’t realize though is how damaging it is—how much of a toll it takes—when we break our vows and don’t keep our word. We justify it and tell ourselves it is no big deal, when deep down we know we aren’t being and doing the things that Christ has called us to be and do. We must not abandon our commitments. Instead, we must live up to them...we must break our backs trying to keep them, because if we don’t then we have to live with the consequences until we face the truth of what we have done. Just as an athlete won’t get more money unless he lives up to his current contract, God won’t bless us with more responsibility and others won’t place more trust in us, until we live up to our commitments with one another and with God.
  3. Be Careful When It Comes To Making Promises—Don’t make promises that you don’t intend to keep. It is better not to make promises at all than to break a commitment to someone. Back in college I had a pastor at my local campus ministry ask me why I made a commitment to serve in the first place when I had no intention of keeping that commitment. Even though I wouldn’t be serving in an area of interest or where my spiritual gifts could best be utilized, I had made a commitment that I never needed to make in the first place. It was a humbling experience for me, and it was one in which I disappointed and broke the trust of several brothers and sisters in Christ. However, I made sure to learn from that experience, and more importantly from God’s Word. I learned to be careful with the promises that I make and to make sure that I do everything I can to keep my word. Nothing destroys integrity more than dishonesty. The key isn’t to make more promises, but to keep the one’s we do make. The next time someone asks you to make a commitment, ask that person for some time to think and pray over it. Don’t go all in unless you are ready to give your all to keep your word.