Thursday, July 24, 2014

How to pray for an overseas mission trip

I am headed with a team of 9 CVCers to an island in S.E. Asia with 3,000,000 Muslims and only 100-200 believers. 

We will be camping in villages and hopefully having many gospel conversations with people. T&K, our hosts who are running a tourist business, will be introducing us to people they have found to be "persons of peace" (see Luke 10).

As God brings it to your mind, please pray for visions and dreams to precede our visit so the people will be open and prepared to receive the gospel. We hope to not only plant seeds but to do some harvesting! We hope to have at least 100 gospel conversations with people on the island.

Thanks for your prayers.

Our goals for our mission trip

1. Proclamation: To glorify God by proclaiming Christ and planting Gospel seeds in the power of the Holy Spirit

2. Friendships: To build relationships to share Gospel, sharing the good news with as many people as possible - hopefully, over 100

3. Flexibility: To persevere through any and all difficulty, conflict, tension, disappointments, disagreements, and obstacles in a spirit of joy and flexibility, which will build our trust in the Lord and will protect our unity

4. Growth: To experience God at work in, through, with, for, & by us experiencing an intimacy with Christ, the supernatural power of the Spirit, and the sense of being a Beloved Child of the Father

5. Support: To support the mission of T&K, giving feedback to T&K to help build their travel business

6. Team: To build up one another so that we all grow toward greater spiritual maturity, seeing our faith in God and trust in each other develop

7. Safety: To arrive alive – both there and back home!

8. Sustainability: To be more highly motivated, effective, and fruitful to be on mission in productive ways for Christ after we return to Northeast Ohio

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How to measure your manhood

How do you measure your manhood? Here's one way.

Denny Burke spoke at a conference this past weekend dealing with the issue of pornography. 

During one session, a friend highlighted apropos words from C. S. Lewis’ classic The Four Loves

In the following lines, Lewis explains why a lustful man ironically has no use for a real woman. He writes:

"We use a most unfortunate idiom when we say, of a lustful man prowling the streets, that he 'wants a woman.'

"Strictly speaking, a woman is just what he does not want. He wants a pleasure for which a woman happens to be the necessary piece of apparatus.

"How much he cares about the woman as such may be gauged by his attitude to her five minutes after fruition (one does not keep the carton after one has smoked the cigarettes)."

Men, our role is protecter/provider not user/misuser/abuser.

"Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men [not little boys or immature teens], be strong. Let all that you do be done in love" (I Corinthians 16:13–14).

Never forget that the only way to obey these commands is by depending upon Christ for forgiveness when you fail and depending on Christ for the power to obey. The gospel message is this: Jesus is our pattern, our pardon, and our power.

It's all Him. It's not us. Abide in Christ and He will help us act like men.

Question: How do you measure manhood?

Related posts:

How Worship Smashes the Idol of Lust
Overcoming Male Passivity
A Man's Man Is a Godly Man

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Celebrating New Life in Christ after Christopher Yuan's weekend at CVC

What a weekend at CVC!

We hosted Christopher Yuan, who has written Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God (WaterBrook Multnomah, 2013). He was once a drug dealer and estranged not only from God but also his parents. His choices led to two outcomes: prison and HIV positive status. God brought him and his parents to Christ, and Yuan went to the Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, gaining in 2007 an M.A. in biblical exegesis. He is now pursuing a doctorate of ministry at Bethel.

Christopher, Angela and Leon Yuan (Christopher's mother and father) were so good. What powerful testimonies of redemption! They are nice, approachable people.

Here is a recap of the weekend from Gregg Jacobsen, our Executive Pastor of Administration:

163 attended the Saturday morning seminar. There was lots of “positive buzz” in the foyer with a lot of people talking with the Yuans.

Sunday Service attendance up significantly from the previous 2 weeks. Attendance was 15% higher from the previous 2 weeks. We had several First Time Guests with at least one Decision for Christ. There was lots of “positive buzz” in the foyer and lot’s of activity with the Yuans.

90 people attended Christopher’s Q and A on Sunday afternoon. About a third had NOT been to a service or heard his testimony. Chad Allen, our Lead Pastor, had to cut off questions. People that attended told Gregg they wished it could have gone on for at least another hour. 35 people attended Leon and Angela's Sunday afternoon session. Lots of people were looking for the handouts for the Saturday morning sessions since they weren’t able to attend. We had them out on the Yuan table.

17 people signed up indicating an interest in a Same Sex Attraction LifeGroup. Yesterday, I personally talked with a dad who said, "I was so challenged by the faithfulness and perseverance of Christopher's mother in fasting and praying for her son for 8 years that I am going to fast on Mondays to pray for my daughter & make a list of blessings God gives to her." I am sure many others will increase their passion for prayer for their children as a result of Angela's example.

Our opportunities for further ministry are great.

All of Christopher’s Saturday sessions and the Sunday services are on our website. Christopher also has much more on his site.

Question: If you are a CVCer, how did the weekend impact you? 

Related posts:

Monday, July 21, 2014

How to develop a greater passion for the salvation of souls

So many people we know -teens, young adults, friends, neighbors, co-workers - pursue pleasure, popularity, riches, reputation, health, fame, convenience, personal peace, and so much more at the expense of their souls.

And in the end there is hell waiting for them. Jesus said, "40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:40-42). What a price to pay for momentary, fleeting pleasure.

An old song unwittingly poetically describes not only how unnecessary death is in this life but also in the life to come.

"They found him slumped up against the drain
With a whole lot of trouble running through his veins.
Bye-bye Johnny, Johnny bye-bye.
You didn't have to die, you didn't have to die."

You didn't have to die.

How we should pray that those who don't know Christ will find the way of escape before it is too late.

God takes no pleasure in a wasted life and in a wasted eternity. No one has to face an eternal death away from God.

"Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?" declares the Sovereign LORD. "Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die...?  For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone," declares the Sovereign LORD. "Repent and live!" Ezekiel 18:23;30-32

So, what's the answer? How can  your family and friends not die unnecessary deaths? How can anyone live eternally?

"God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." II Corinthians 5:19-21

Make no mistake about it. There is an eternal night with no hope of a morning awaiting those apart from Christ.

But good news! There is an eternal morning with no threat of night for those who find New Life in Christ.

Everyone you know will either experience an eternal death without a resurrection in Gods hell or an eternal resurrection without a death in Gods heaven.

What will it be for the people you know?

Do you care? William Booth once prayed, "Lord, help me lift the lid off hell and hold Your people over its flames until they catch fire to win souls."

I believe you do care.

Be an ambassador today. They don't have to die. Not if you tell them. About Jesus.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

How to set behavior expectations for a mission trip

Our Team's 10 Values/Norms of Behavior for Our Trip to Pearl Island, Indo

At a team prep meeting, we used markers and a Post-it note to made a collaborative list of the expectations we have of how we are going to live and behave on our trip.

The exercise was a team building, energizing way to gain "buy in" on the norms of behavior that we can encourage one another to live out. It's a better way to set expectations of behavior than if a leader comes up with the list on his/her own.


We will seek to be continuously Spirit-filled so that we can and will be...

Caring, Loving
​​​​​​​Polite, Kind
Assertive w/out being aggressive
Attentive, ​​​​​​​Listening
​​​​​​​Helpful, Servant-hearted

This is the way that we will seek to live as a team toward each other, as servants to our hosts, and as friends of the people of Indo.

This list is similar to the list in Galatians 5 describing the fruit of the Spirit. Because we know we cannot bear this fruit on our own, we will resist the works of the flesh by seeking to constantly live in a God-dependent way. We will pray, "Father, search me. Jesus, cleanse me. Spirit, fill me."

Friday, July 18, 2014

How listening to the music - His music - makes us smile even in the darkest of our days

Yes. The news has been bad lately.

A commercial jet shot down in the Ukraine. Israel being hit with missle attacks. Israel striking back. Boko Haram gunmen killing villagers in Nigeria. 5,500 civilians killed in Iraq this year. So many deaths all around the world.

The bad news is thick, heavy, weighty, hard, sad.

I know you have your own heavy load of bad news to carry, too. We all do.

We hurt with those who hurt. We have been told to "weep with those who weep." We've been told to serve the last, the least, and the lost and to "give a couple of cold water" in Jesus' name. We must alleviate suffering, injustice, and depression whenever and however we can.

But we've also been told to rejoice.

"David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy" ( I Chronicles 15:16).

But why? With the world in such conflict, heartache, and disarray, why rejoice? Why make music?

It's because we know the end of the story.

"I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away'" (Revelation 21:3-4).

I think the old song might be close to being right.

"Don't you feel it growin', day by day.
People gettin' ready for the news.
Some are happy; some are sad.
Oh, we got to let the music play.

What the people need
is a way to make 'em smile.
It ain't so hard to do if you know how.
Gotta get a message; Get it on through.

Oh, oh, oh, listen to the music...
Oh, oh, oh, listen to the music...
Oh, oh, oh, listen to the music
All the time..."

So, remind yourself that even in the hardest of hard times, because of Jesus and His gospel, those who repent and believe have a reason to listen to the music. His music. 

And, by the way, spread the news to those who don't know. In a world gone crazy, they need to listen to His music, too.

"I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O Lord, I will make music" (Psalm 101:1)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How to stand your ground

Where and how might you be cutting corners, compromising, losing heart, or giving up ground?

We are all tempted to slip and slide away from the truth, away from righteousness, and away from Christ Himself. But the great leader Paul encourages us.

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (I Corinthians 15:58).

An old song says:

I know what's right
I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin' me around
But I'll stand my ground
And I won't back down
There ain't no easy way out
I will stand my ground
I won't back down

Just make sure that if you are attempting to stand your ground that you are doing it in the strength of Christ and not on your own. Only in Christ, will you have the power to NOT back down.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand , therefore..." (Ephesians 6:10, 13-14a).

You can do it today. You can stand strong today. In His strength alone by His grace alone for His glory alone.

This is the way to be God-dependent. When the world pushes you around, you can stand your ground.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

7 Leadership Lessons from the Life of Jane Rutti

It's rare for a staff member to serve at the same church for 25 years. At CVC, we have had the privilege of serving with Jane Rutti. We hired her as our 2nd pastoral assistant back in 1989. She's been serving Jesus faithfully at CVC in a variety of roles since then. Our church would not be the same without her. 

We celebrated her 25th anniversary of service last month and I had the joy of sharing a few insights about Jane to thank her. Here are my notes.


On the occasion of her 25th anniversary of employment at CVC, I want to share 7 leadership lessons from the life of Jane Rutti.

One, be a servant.

Jane has learned the discipline of servanthood. Recently, I peeked into our worship center to see a new podium we had built. As I looked inside, there was Jane, all by herself on her knees taping and then posting directional signs for our Seek Night, a night of prayer. I thought, “How many menial, selfless acts of kindness has Jane performed for our congregation over the past 25 years?” Truly, there are too many to count.

Two, be diligent.

Jane is an example of hard work for all of us. She literally comes in early and stays late. No doubt, it’s too much at times. (Ask her family about that, especially her daughter!) But if you want to get something done – and done right – ask Jane. She’s effective and she’s efficient. I have always appreciated her “can do” spirit. She doesn’t think first why something won’t work. She has an uncanny ability to figure out a way to get things done.

Three, be flexible.

Countless times over the years, I’ve asked her to tweak this or change that for me or for the church. And she does.  Without complaint. For example, we made some changes in how we are going to organize the New Life LifeGroup curriculum. She didn’t even blink. The changes will be made. Seemingly effortlessly. Jane is able to “roll with the flow.” I love that about her.

Four, be a confidant.

How many confidences has Jane kept for me and for others over the years? In her role, being discreet and trustworthy are absolutely indispensible ingredients. And she has those ingredients. As we drove back from a staff trip to NC, Alan sent me a text picture of the ultrasound of his and Joanna's new baby. I was sitting next to Jane as Leigh-Ann drove the car. I wanted to tell Jane that we had another grandchild on the way. But Alan had asked me not to tell about the baby yet. I thought, “I want to tell Jane, but I can’t violate a confidence to tell a secret to someone who values keeping confidences so much!” Now, why did I want to tell Jane? It’s because she’s walked through lots of our family joys, sorrows, and challenges over the years and always kept things confidential.

Five, be compassionate.

Jane is a busy person. She has lots of moving parts in her life, in her family, and on the job. Yet she still finds time to check in with friends and church members who are hurting on in need. Recently, I walked past her. We were both busy. But she stopped me. She had found out (because Alan and Joanna had finally said it was OK) that Joanna was pregnant. Jane asked a simple question that shows how much she cares, “How is Joanna doing?” Over the last 25 years, we’ve all seen her compassion in action. She loves with the love of Christ.

Six, be a learner.

Jane is smart. Really smart. Think about all the technology changes, church-size changes, vision statement changes, and staff changes we’ve experienced in 25 years. Yet Jane has managed to learn and grow through and with them all. She’s constantly reading, especially history and biography. As we developed our New Life LifeGroup curriculum, she said, “Maybe I need to go through this material myself.” Jane has a hunger to learn. Learners are leaders. She is proof of that.

Seven, be a friend.

A friend will let you vent. And then offer support and perspective. Jane has done that for me over and over for 25 years. She does that with all our staff. You often can walk by her office and see someone in there pouring out problems. How many times has Jane listened to me vent about a problem with our 3 boys? She’s a go-to friend for me and for countless others.

There are more qualities in Jane’s life. Many more. I’ll add 18 more to the 7 already mentioned for a total of 25. One for each year. Here we go…

Perspective. Competence. Honesty. Faith. Youthfulness. Curiosity. Perseverance. Wisdom. Grace. Honor. Loyalty. Hope. Family. Positivity. Devotion. Balance… I mean, appropriate passion. Joy. Worship.

I am very, very, very grateful for Jane Rutti! She’s a leader worth following because she’s a diligent, flexible, compassionate servant; a person who is constantly learning; and a trusted confidant. I am a better man because I can call her my friend. Our church is a better church because we can all call her our friend.

Thanks for the 25 years, Jane Rutti! We love you!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

10 lessons leaders can learn about restoring relationships from the Dan Gilbert & LeBron James story

If you are in leadership, you will, no doubt, hurt someone with words and decisions and someone will hurt you. Conflict and crisis can set you and your organization back. Big time.

The reunion of LeBron James and Dan Gilbert has been reported here by USA Today. In the article, I see some great lessons for leaders who find themselves at odds with others in their ministry. Whether Gilbert knows it or not, he followed some Biblical principles in restoring a wrecked relationship. 

1. When you're in an emotional state ... wait. Gilbert's angry and ill-advised letter after James' departure from Cleveland 4 years ago was written in haste. Plus, Gilbert did not allow enough of his confidants to give him input about the letter. 

2. Follow the advice your trusted colleagues give you. Evidently, two people gave Gilbert advice NOT to send the angry letter. He sent it anyway. And it became a huge barrier between him and James that might have totally derailed any hope for a reunion. 

3. Take the initiative to repair the relationship. Dan Gilbert flew in a private plane to meet James to seek to repair their relationship.

4. Think through your reconciliation process carefully. Gilbert made notes about things to say to James, things, he said, that he had been thinking about for four years.

5. Humble yourself. Gilbert didn't see himself as a billionaire Detroit businessman or an NBA owner. He was "every guy seeing his ex-wife after the divorce, every teen guitarist seeing a former friend who broke up the band."

6. Clear the air man-to-man. "Gilbert entered that private home meeting by himself, no assistants, and sat down at a dining-room table across from James and a few associates."

7. Seek a reconciliation with no strings attached. Gilbert said, "I'm just glad we're here, whether you come [back to Cleveland] or not, LeBron. This has been hanging over my head." 

8. Don't blame the other person; own your own stuff. Gilbert said, "It really is an incredible relief. You can do 999 out of 1,000 things right, and the one wrong thing is who you become. It was a burden. But I couldn't blame anybody else." He admitted that writing the Cavs would win an NBA title before James "was stupid. How could I be so dumb as to write that?"

9. Realize that building bridges is better than building walls. "On this planet," Gilbert said, "there is no perfection. If you chose to end relationships because of one mistake, you're going to be alone."

10. Celebrate the blessings of restoration of the personal relationship more than the professional relationship. USA Today reported that the elephant was off Gilbert's chest. That LeBron said yes "was considerable icing on an already sweet cake."

Monday, July 14, 2014

How to bring closure to a discipleship huddle

Last night, I watched the final Harry Potter movie with our youngest son, Evan. At the end of the movie, I looked at him and said, "That's a satisfying ending." The Harry Potter myth follows the classic story line that points us to God's True Story: creation, fall, rescue, and restoration. There's a beginning, middle, and an ending.

A well-run discipleship huddle will also have a strong beginning, a dynamic middle that will include some conflict and tension, and a satisfying conclusion.

Often we are better at starting discipling relationships than ending them. We start with fresh vision and energy. We proceed with passion and hope. Sometimes, though, the group experiences conflict along with tension and finally fizzles.

Recently, the discipleship huddle that I have been leading for the last two years ended. One of the men in the group had ended his own discipleship group a few weeks earlier. He shared what they did to bring the group to a satisfying conclusion. I thought what he did was outstanding. So, we ended our group in the same way.

It's a three fold a strategy. One, encourage. Two, admonish. Three, envision.

1) Encourage. Each person in the discipleship huddle thinks of 3 to 5 encouraging words or phrases that express the strengths and positive qualities about every other person in the huddle. What do you see in the life of the others that will encourage you and inspire you to be more like Christ?

2) Admonish. Each person thinks of one or two words or phrases that express the growth opportunities that you see in the life of the others. What do you long to see in the lives of the others that will help them experience more life in Christ or more usefulness in the kingdom?

3) Envision. Each person picks out a verse for every person that will inspire the others in the group to be and do more for Christ. What might be a good life verse for the others that will give them greater vision for who they can be in Christ?

It's helpful to spend some time in prayer as you think through these things. You're wanting to be the voice of Christ to the other person's heart. So, you're asking Jesus to speak through you to the other person.

It's also helpful to write these things down before the meeting. The Holy Spirit will speak to you as you prepare for the meeting. Then, at the meeting you can read your words and phrases but also trust the Spirit to inspire and amplify your empowering words to the others. If you write things down, you could pass your words along in written form to one another.

After each person prayerfully does this homework, you simply come together for your last meeting and share your insights about each other. Pick one person and stay focused on that person for that segment of the meeting.

This is a powerful and moving way to end your discipleship huddle. Men, especially, don't typically take the time to build up and encourage one another. This kind of meeting is uncommon, but supernaturally beneficial. Long after the meetings are over, the words of affirmation and challenge will be ringing in hearts and lives.

Close your meeting in prayer, thanking God for the many words that have been spoken during the life of your discipleship huddle. Many things won't be remembered with the mind but will be remembered in the heart. Ask God to help each person forget in their spirit what has not been beneficial but to remember in their spirit what has been edifying.

At the end of the last Harry Potter film, we see Harry and his friends sending off their own children to school to Hogwarts where their adventures had begun so long ago. In a sense, the ending was a kind of beginning. New adventures would be on the way.

And so it is with discipleship. The end of a discipling relationship is really a beginning. God has greater things that are yet to be done in, through, with, for, and by each person. We will still be spiritual friends. We will still be serving together. We will still get together from time to time for coffee or lunch, for check-ups and tune-ups. We will still pray for one another, email one another, call one another, text one another. We will not forget our time spent together in helping to shape each other's lives spiritually. The point of discipleship is to prepare one another for new opportunities and challenges.

At the end of your discipleship huddle, you want each member looking at the others and saying, "That's a satisfying ending... and the beginning of our many new adventures for Christ."

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