Tuesday, November 7, 2017

My Thoughts On The Events That Have Transpired In Southerland Springs, Texas


It doesn’t take much for me to find myself identifying with the horrific situation at First Baptist Church in Southerland Springs, Texas.


In some ways I identify with this situation because I am very familiar with Texas.  While I have lived in the New York City area for the last eleven years, I spent the first 33 years of my life in Texas.  I am familiar with some small Texas towns and I am familiar with this area near San Antonio.


I can also identify with this situation because of the fact this involves a Southern Baptist Church.  I have been a member of a Southern Baptist Church all of my life.  I grew up with my Dad pastoring Southern Baptist Churches and I have been a pastor at a Southern Baptist Church for about 20 years.  Some of the churches where I have served were not so different than First Baptist Church of Southerland Springs, Texas.


Finally, I can identify with this situation because I have a 14 year-old daughter.  I cannot imagine the immense pain that Pastor Frank and Sherri Pomeroy are facing this morning.  This couple has demonstrated tremendous faith and hope in who Jesus is and the confident Hope that we have in Him.  Still, I know that their hearts are aching with the devastating loss of their daughter and the 25 other congregants who gathered to worship together this past Sunday.


Because many of us can identify with certain aspects of gathering as a church on a weekly basis, several people have pointed out that this tragic event could happen anywhere and at anytime.  Yet, it has also been noted, that because we are a part of the greater Church, the Body of Christ, we are to identify and grieve with these dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  
We are to mourn with them and we are to grieve with them.


But, there is one more aspect of this tragic and horrific event where I can identify.  I don’t really want to identify in this way.  There is a part of me that resists thinking in this way.  


But, in the silence of this early morning, God has prompted me and convicted me to see that the same evil that was shown and demonstrated in the unfathomable events of Southerland Springs lives inside of me as well.  


I could never imagine under any circumstances, in any scenario, under the worst of conditions, that I would be someone capable of committing the horrors and the atrocities that occurred two days ago.  So, it may sound like an exaggeration to say that I can identify with evil living inside of me.


But, the truth is, I have done things that I did not think that I was capable of doing.  
I have done things that I knew were wrong.  
I have ignored what was right,
I have ignored the warnings,
I have ignored the Voice in my head,
I have ignored the conviction of my heart,
I have ignored the consequences,
I have ignored the people who loved me,
I have ignored the teachings of the Bible,
And ignored God Himself.
I have done things that I said I would never do, and not done things that I know that I should do.


I know that my actions and the sins that I have committed do not have the implications or consequences of those committed in Southerland Springs.


But, I also know that we have to be careful not to label or quantify degrees of evil.  
The Book of James in the New Testament tells us that sin begins with a thought, and that sinful thoughts leads to action, and these sinful actions lead to death.
All sin leads to death.  Every sin leads to death. My sin leads to death.


I hate and abhor the sinful and senseless murders that took place in Southerland Springs, Texas.  
I hate the sinful and senseless murders that took place in Las Vegas last month and New York City last week.


But, I have no righteousness on my own.  I am not better than any other person on this planet.


This is why Jesus matters so much to me.  
Jesus has rescued me.
Jesus has redeemed me.
Jesus has reconciled me.
Jesus has restored me.


But, Jesus has also declared me as righteous. (Romans 4:5)  
I am no longer left to my own devices, my own thoughts, and my own desires.  
I am no longer a slave to sin and I am no longer condemned.
I am rescued.  I am redeemed. I am reconciled. I am restored.


Yet, I can take no credit. I have no righteousness.    


We should pray for First Baptist Church of Southerland Springs, Texas and their entire community.


We should pray for our country to adopt measures and laws to protect each and every citizen.


But, let’s also pray that each and every person will turn from the way that seems right to us and trust in the righteousness of God Himself.
As we are praying, let’s pray that people, that all 7 billion people alive on this planet right now, would experience the freedom that comes from being rescued, redeemed, reconciled, and restored.


Jesus is the only hope for Southerland Springs, Texas.  
Jesus is the only hope for New York City.
Jesus is the only hope for the United States of America.
Jesus is the only hope for our world.
Jesus is the only hope for me.

-sterling

Monday, August 7, 2017

Park Slope Community Church Monday Morning Sermon Summary

Park Slope Community Church Monday Morning Sermon Summary

This past Sunday, August 6,  the title of my talk was “Giving Up On God”.
For many of us, there have been moments, times, or even seasons when God has not done things the way that we have wanted Him to do things or provided for us what we wanted Him to provide.  
As a result of this, we may feel disappointed, bitter, or resentful toward God.  We may even feel like giving up on God.
Yet, regardless of our experiences or expectations, there are some ways and areas of our lives where we do actually have to give up on God doing in our lives.

Here are three of areas of our lives where we will need to give up on God.

  1. Giving Up On God To Supply Something Greater Than Himself To Provide Our Satisfaction       1 Peter 1:13-15 - So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.
  2. Giving Up On God To Send Something Grander Than Himself To Provide Our Security Proverbs 3:24-26 - 24 You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly. 25 You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked, 26 for the LORD is your security.  He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap.
  3. Giving Up On God To Send Something Greater Than Himself To Provide Our Salvation Acts 4:12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Chase

About 15 years ago, I was serving as a Pastor to Middle School and High School students in the town of Pampa, Texas.  The Pastor of the church and I were headed to spend a couple of days with a church plant in British Columbia.  
We had flown into Spokane, Washington late at night and were driving the remaining distance into British Columbia.  
We were driving on a two lane road, in the middle of nowhere, without a street light in sight.  After about an hour of driving, I noticed the headlights of a pick-up truck in the distance.  
The truck came within about 50 feet of us and I slowed down and moved to right side of the road to let him pass.
But, when I slowed down, the truck also slowed down
When I went to the right, the truck also went to the right.
So, I sped up.
When I sped up, the truck also sped up.
I started driving 70 miles per hour, the truck went 70 miles per hour.
75 miles per hour.
80 miles per hour.
The truck behind us never flinched.  
No flashing lights.  No honking of the horn.  
The truck just stayed right behind us.
We finally saw a fork in the road.  
We decided that we would give the illusion that we were going to go to the left, but would ultimately go to the right.
I put my blinker on indicating that we would be going to the left and at the last second I took the curve to the right.
We watched as the pick-up truck continued to the left and breathed a sigh of relief.
We didn’t know where the road we were on was headed, we just knew that we did not want to encounter the driver of that truck.
For some of us, this is similar to our experience with God.
We may have known or remember a time when we felt like God was pursuing us and we responded by going somewhere else.
Anywhere else.
There may be various reasons on why we have resisted following God, encountering God, or believing God.
There may be reasons, experiences, or circumstances that have lead us to doubt or disregard that God is who He says that He is and He will do what He says that He will do.
So, at least some of us, have tried to do things our way.  We have resolved that we know better and that our way is the better way.
The problem is that doing things our way hasn’t worked out so well.  We still experience pain, we still experience an emptiness, and we still seem to be missing something.
This coming Sunday we will be beginning a new teaching series at Park Slope Community Church entitled “The Chase”.  
We will be looking at the life of Jonah and how in spite of God’s instructions, Jonah, was determined to do things his way.
But, we will also be looking at the love and grace of a God, who in spite of our running away, in spite of our declaration of independence, and in spite of our selfishness, still pursues and chases after us.
If you have been cynical and skeptical about the love and grace of God, please join us this coming Sunday.
If you have rebelled, run away, and disregarded anything or everything about God, please join us this coming Sunday.
Finally, if you have been chasing after that thing that you thought was going to bring the satisfaction that you have been seeking, and you are tired, drained, and powerless, please join us this coming Sunday as we begin this new series.
The Chase!
I hope to see you on Sunday!

-sterling

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The 251 Vision




Last night, Jenna and I had a chance to have an extended conversation with some of our neighbors.  We talked about a recent crime that had been committed in front of our apartment two nights before and the police investigation that followed.

After a few minutes of discussion, the subject changed to my role as the Pastor of Park Slope Community Church.  I told them about about the location of the church and they responded in a positive way about knowing where the church was located and some positive things about the church.  

They were also quick to say that they had a lot of baggage concerning their previous experiences with church and that they didn't think that they could attend any church any longer.

This is the experience of a lot of people when it comes to the church.  They have witnessed inconsistencies, experienced manipulation, or have been exposed to a powerless version of the gospel.  

Too often, people associate the church as being a closed or isolated group of people who share similar beliefs.  They also associate the church as being passionately and vocally against different issues and causes.

But, what if the message of the church, what if the message of our church was that God was for them and that we were for them?  What if the message of Park Slope Community Church was that God was for every person who lives in Brooklyn?

The truth is that God is for every person in Brooklyn and God's desire is for every person in Brooklyn to come to know the love and the grace of Jesus Christ.

Beginning this coming Sunday evening, June 4, at 6:00 pm., we are going to be looking at what it means to share and show the love of Jesus to people in our community.  I will be presenting something that I am calling the 251 Vision.  

The 251 Vision will provide some framework for our plans and desire to be a church that demonstrates that we are for our city and for our community. 

Over the next eight Sunday evenings we are going to be discussing some of the tangible ways that we can share and show this type of love to people in our community.

You see, even though Jenna and I were told by our new friends that they didn't have a lot of interest in attending the church, they did invite us to attend a party that is taking place on our block next month.  

The 251 Vision is not just about getting people to come to our church, it's also about discovering that it is just as effective and important to bring the church to the people.

The 251 Vision consists of the following:

2 Commandments
5 Values
1 Mission

2 Commandments

We want to understand and follow the two primary commandments that Jesus teaches us as the greatest commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40)

We are to love God with every aspect of our lives.  We are to love Him with all that we have.  We are to hold nothing back from Him and we are to commit to following Him with our entire lives.

We are also to love our neighbor with the understanding that every person on our block and in our community is our neighbor.  We are to love them without hesitation and without stipulation.  While we are looking to love God and love people in every way, we are also looking for tangible and specific way to share and show the love of Jesus to people in our extremely cynical and skeptical neighborhood and community.

These commandments will be the foundation of how our church influences and engages our community.  It is my prayer that we will see Park Slope Community Church emerge from not being a solitary location or the host of a solitary event, but that our church would engage and recognize opportunities for worshiping God and loving people, no matter where we may be.

5 Values

We want to see Park Slope Community Church as a church that is healthy, growing, and reproducing.  This means that our church will be functioning with these five primary values.

  1. Authority regarding the Word of God
  2. Authenticity regarding our relationships with God and with one another
  3. Appreciation regarding our understanding of gratitude toward God and one another
  4. Approachability regarding our desire to foster strong relationships that allow us to be approachable
  5. Advancement of The Gospel regarding the fact that we are church that desires to every person in our community experience the forgiveness and grace of Jesus Christ

1 Mission

We want to see Park Slope Community Church exist for the one mission of seeing people changes and transformed through the Truth of who Jesus and what Jesus has done for us.

This means that Park Slope Community Church will intently bring and share this message with people in our community, city, and throughout the world.

We have an amazing opportunity to be a church that loves the people around us, that is intent on leading people to trust Jesus, and to become people who are growing in a deeper relationship with Jesus, allowing us to live out the mission that Jesus has given.

The 251 Vision is captured in Isaiah 25:1

"Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago."

My prayer is that you will join us on this journey. If you are already a part of Park Slope Community Church, please don't miss this.  This is going to be a focal point of our church.

If you are looking for a church, please consider joining us over the next several weeks as we share some of the details of what it would like to be a part of the 251 Vision.

Each Sunday evening during the months of June and July, we will share a meal together and go over one aspect of the 251 Vision.  

Please join us for this if you are possibly able to do so. 


We are excited about all that has in store for Park Slope Community Church and our community.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Jesus Is Greater Than My Best Effort

Over the last few days, Charlotte has definitely picked up the pace in her efforts to become more and more mobile.  She is pulling herself up on the furniture in the living room and her bed.  She is also making progress in crawling from point A to point B.
As soon as Charlotte begins to move toward a particular object, we begin cheering for her.  She sets her eyes on something that she wants and slowly begins to head in that direction.  All the while, Jenna, the girls, and I are offering our best encouragement.
We say, "You can do it Charlotte!".  "Just a little bit further Charlotte".  "You got this Charlotte!".
We offer her these words and support, doing our best to help move her forward in her development to eventually do something that will be second nature to her.  
This certainly won't be the last time that we encourage Charlotte or cheer for her.  
There will be bicycles.  There will be ballet.  There will be boys.
We do our best to offer real encouragement and to offer real support to people, knowing that there are times when life gets really tough.  
There are these moments when we feel like giving up on our goals.  
There are these moments when we question our purpose.  
There are these moments when wonder if things will change, if we are good enough, and if this is all that there is.
But, there is another aspect to all of this.  
There is a moment when most of us discover on some level that our best is not always good enough.
We find ourselves in a situation or circumstance where our will-power comes up powerless.
The habits are harder to break.  The addiction is stronger than we had estimated.  The thing we want to do, we don't do.  The thing we don't want to do, we end up doing.
From the time most of us are babies, we have been taught and told that we can do anything that we set out to do.  
The skies the limit. 
Reach for the stars.    
You got this!
But, there's a day when most of us face a sobering reality that in spite of my very best effort, I am not able to save, reconcile, or redeem myself.
This coming Sunday, I will be giving a talk entitled "Jesus Is Greater Than My Best Effort."
My prayer is that no matter how successful you are or how discouraged you may feel, that you would come to know the freedom that awaits you as you recognize the greatness and grandness of Jesus.
I hope that you can join us this coming Sunday at Park Slope Community Church.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

G R E A T E R



A lot of us spend a large portion of our lives searching.
Maybe we are not all searching for the same things or searching in the same places.
But, the fact that Google recorded over 1.2 trillion searches in 2016 shows that a lot of us are searching for something.
We search for the best deal on a product.
We search for the latest information on a particular subject.
Or, maybe we are just searching for some answers to some questions.
But, for a lot of us, we are searching for something or someone that will give us purpose and meaning.
We are looking for something that will help make sense of things and to help us make sense of our lives.
We are looking for something that is real and something that has substance.
We don't want to get ripped off and we don't want to settle.
In short, we are looking for something that is GREATER.
This coming Sunday at Park Slope Community Church, we are beginning a new teaching series entitled "GREATER".
Over the next several weeks, we will be looking at specific ways and areas where we see that God and God's Love really are GREATER.
Greater than our sin.
Greater than our pain.
Greater than our shame.
Greater than our guilt.
Greater than death.
Greater than life.
Even if you are in the middle of your search, consider joining us this coming Sunday as we begin this new series.
Our meeting times this coming Sunday, April 16, will be 11:00 am. & 6:00 pm. 251 12th Street.
We would love for you to join us.

Pastor Sterling

Monday, February 27, 2017

Lessons Learned In Panhandle, Texas That Apply To New York City

Twenty years ago, I was preparing to graduate from Dallas Baptist University and move to serve at my first full-time position as the student pastor at First Baptist Church of Panhandle, Texas.

Panhandle, Texas is a town about 30 miles of northeast of Amarillo, with a population of around 2,500 people.

The church had burned to the ground in February of 1997 and we made the move to Panhandle in June of 1997.

The beautiful church building with an incredible history and countless memories had gone down in flames and was gone forever.

There was a mourning that took place concerning the loss of this building.  There were many questions about the future and many questions about the cost.

I was only 24 years old and had a lot to learn.  I was incredibly blessed to be lead and mentored by Dr. Jim Perkins.  I will never forget those years and his focus on the actual mission of the church.

The worship services were held at the elementary school.  The children and choir met at the Junior High School.  The student ministry met at the high school.  Our offices were at the local bank

Twenty years later, I live in Brooklyn, New York.  It's a long ways and a lot different from Panhandle, Texas.

Yet, there are many lessons that I learned in Panhandle that apply to church planting in New York City.

There is a certain irony regarding planting churches and replanting churches in New York City.  On one hand, we see the need for our church planters and replanters to have their own buildings.

Most of the churches in New York City are sharing space from other churches, paying a great deal of money for rent, and are limited on the times that they can meet.

On the other hand, for churches that own or have full access to a church building, the building itself can become the focus of the mission.  There is the need for constant attention to the building.  It has be cleaned, maintained, and repaired.  The building may cost more money to operate than a small congregation can afford.

With that in mind, the church will often determine to rent out the building to another church.  When this takes place, there are new dynamics involved simply to have a worship service or gathering.

In short, it does not take much to bring a church to lose sight of its mission.

Buildings can become the mission.
Raising money can become the mission.
Hosting Mission Teams can become the mission.

Absolutely anything can become the mission and focus of a church or church plant, and every pastor and church planter will deal with this issue on a regular basis.

It takes absolute resolve and commitment for a church to recognize and realize that the primary mission of the church is to see people changed and transformed through Jesus.

Most churches would agree that seeing people come to know Jesus is the most important thing that a church should focus on doing.  Most churches will even have a mission statement to reflect this as a priority or a reason for the church's existence.

Yet, if we are not careful, the church can subtly shift priorities.

It's  easy for churches to get short-sighted.  That is why it is so essential that churches are lead by strong pastors and church planters who are not going to compromise the primary mission of seeing people changed and transformed through Jesus.

That is what took place twenty years ago at First Baptist Church of Panhandle, Texas.

There were inconveniences, shared space, the burden of setting up and tearing down, and the uncertainty about the future.

But, there was no uncertainty about the mission.  Brother Jim made sure of that.

The church grew.  Offerings increased.  And, in one year, we baptized 49 people!

There are always going to be difficult circumstances and numerous distractions.  Those are not going to automatically go away or dissipate.

But, the mission of the Great Commission always exceeds every other priority and has to be the focus of the Pastor, Church Planter and church.

As soon as it stops being the focus and the priority, the church begins its downward spiral to irrelevance and death.