Sunday, November 30, 2008

Community Group Study 11/30/2008

(Note: This is a companion study to the message called "worship fully" that Andy Sikora delievered at CVC in the Advent Conspiracy series. Feel free to adapt it and use it for your Community Group study.)

Warm-up
What is your favorite Christmas carol?
What are some things that distract us from Jesus at Christmas?

Dig in
Read Luke 2:22-33. Simeon basically said, “Don’t let me die until I see the Messiah.” There was lots happening in the Temple that day, but he was not about to miss Jesus. Why do you think he wanted to see the Messiah so badly? (See vss. 30-32.)

To worship fully, your heart must be focused on Jesus. What does worshipping partially look like? What does worshipping fully look like?

We learned, “You were made to worship.” What do you think was meant by that? Do you agree or disagree? Why?

We learned, “We worship because we want to and because we need to.” What’s the difference?

What is going on in your life right now that makes you “want to” worship?

What is going on in your life right now that makes you “need to” worship?

People who worship in spite of the pain of life are rare. “This kind of worship is a bold refusal to let the trouble that surrounds us be bigger than the God who comes to us.” What does this sentence mean to you? (See Hebrews 13:15.)

Read Psalm 22:3. The KJV reads this way: “Thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” When we sing praise, it is an intentional choice to worship God. And when we do this, God moves in close. It’s as though He’s saying, “Praise Me and see if I don’t show up.” When have you experienced something like this?

Apply
Read Romans 12:1. The Message says, “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” So, how can you apply this truth more than ever before this Christmas season?

When Jesus was born, the angels worshipped, the shepherds worshipped, the wise men worshipped, Simeon worshipped, and Mary and Joseph worshipped. How will you worship Jesus fully this Christmas?
Why should anyone plant a church?

A good friend recently wrote a nice article about the proper, biblical motivation to plant a church. And then he makes a personal commitment at the end. My heart says, "Me, too!" How about you?

***

As I study the New Testament, particularly the Gospels and the Book of Acts, one of the phrases I DO NOT find is “church planting,” but, the concept is there. The one verse that indicates the growth in not only the number of disciples, but the number of churches is Acts 16:5.

“So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.”

In the New Testament, I find only one reason to plant churches. Church planting is the natural extension of evangelism. In the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul, we find him actively engaged in personal evangelism and public proclamation of the Gospel. As people came to faith (and BEFORE they came to faith), they began to meet in small groups. Where needed, the Apostles would spend extended periods of time in a region, training indienous leadership, before they moved on. It is in obedience to the Great Commission…

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

“And he said to them, Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)

Church planting that is New Testament church planting is never for the comfort, convenience or preferences of the already converted. It is not to provide a smaller, more intimate environment for people from a larger church. It is not so folks won’t have to drive as far to “go to church”. It is not because a group of folks didn’t get their way in one place and now they are going to try it somewhere else. New Testament church planting MUST be rooted and grounded in the eternal purpose of God of spreading the Gospel to ALL peoples.

So, what is the motivation behind writing this piece? I believe it is important that the folks [in our church plnats] have a clear picture of why we exist. I realize some folks may have left other churches because they longed for a smaller church. While we are that now, with God’s help, we don’t plan on staying that way. Some of these folks long for more personal attention from church staff that what they have received in other places. I know of one family that has left [a church plant] because they weren’t getting that attention. I realize it is my responsibility as a pastor to make sure pastoral care is provided for all the “sheep” under our care, but, it does not mean that I will be the one giving that care.

As we come to the end of 2008, one of the things the Lord has burdened my heart about is the urgency for evangelism. I am convicted about my own practice in personal evangelism and concerned that [the church I am planting] is not as aggressive in this area as we should be. I am renewing my commitment to personal evangelism and will be calling [the church I am planting]to do so, individually and corporately.

***

I agree. 100%. That’s why I came to NE Ohio. To reach the lost. Shuffling people from one church to another is not my idea of being on mission. Let’s ask God to save the elect and then elect some more.

It’s easy to lose sight of the mission, however, when the administration and management necessary in leading a group of people crowd out the call. Part of the fight of being a church planting pastor is making sure that we stay connected with the original calling. Somebody will always lose their earring in the building and will be asking for help from leadership to find it. How do I love that person well and still stay true to the missional calling is a challenge.

I was recently challenged by a message I heard from John Piper about prayer and missions. He says that one of the problems we have in America is that we have a peace-time mentality instead of a wartime-mentality. He says that prayer can actually be seen as a wartime walkie talkie where we get orders for the fight from the Commander in Chief. And it's the way we ask the Commander in Chief to send the heavy artillery and the reinforcements for the fight.

In the US, we get lulled to sleep by our “stuff” – by materialism and consumerism and comfort and ease – and we forget that heaven is real, that hell is hot, that time is short, and that Jesus saves. Check out Piper's sermon Prayer: The work of missions.

I'm glad for the good words from a good friend. Make it so, Lord Jesus. Make it so.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Conversation (2)

In my email conversation with a friend who is not sure about the Christian faith, he writes:

I don’t love Jesus because I’m not sure he was who he said he was. Or if he was who others said or thought he was. If I were dying of cancer, I might very well decide to believe in Jesus because of fear and the need for hope. As it is, I am slowly dying now, but I wouldn’t say Jesus is or isn’t who he said he is/was. I don’t believe I can truly know. I might convince myself to believe, but knowing and believing are not the same. Having faith and knowing are not the same. As far as Jesus is concerned, I know that I don’t know. I once truly believed in Santa Claus and had faith he would bring me presents if I was good... I know that my hoping, believing and having faith in, doesn’t make it so. I know that I don’t know. I know that you believe you know and you may be right.

My answer:

Regarding the difference between faith and knowing, I think you are asking good questions. In other words, is salvation dependent on knowing Jesus or believing in Jesus?

The scriptures are clear that believing in Jesus is necessary for salvation. Think of what Paul told the Philippians jailer in Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

Paul tells the Romans that believing is necessary for salvation. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Romans 10:9-13).

John 3:16-18 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

And Jesus Himself said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life (John 5:24).”

The Greek word for “believe” is “pisteuo.” It means “to trust, trust to or in, put faith in, rely on; by implication, to entrust (especially ones spiritual well-being to Christ).” So, one of the most important questions any of us can ask ourselves is this: Am I believing in Jesus for my personal salvation?”

Perhaps a historical example might help.

The first of many tightrope walkers to cross the Falls was Jean Francois Gravelot, a French aerialist, who called himself "The Great Blondin," because of his fair hair. He was born February 28, 1824 in Northern France. Blondin had been walking the tightrope since the age of five. He was orphaned at age nine and on his own. He became a famous tightrope performer and practiced each new feat until he could perform it with his eyes closed. At the of twenty-seven, he joined the Ravel troupe of French equestrian and acrobatic performers on their tour of North American. By this time there were no acrobatic performances at which he did not excel. About Niagara Falls, Blondin, said, “To cross the roaring waters became the ambition of my life.”

Blondin's greatest fame came in June of 1859 when he attempted to become the first person to cross a tightrope stretched over a quarter of a mile across the mighty Niagara Falls. He walked across 160 feet above falls several times, each time with a different daring feat - once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and once he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet.

On one occasion though, he asked for the participation of a volunteer. A large crowd gathered and a buzz of excitement ran along both sides of the river bank. The crowd was in awe as Blondin carefully walked across one dangerous step after another. When he reached the other side, Blondin asked his audience: "Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?" The crowd screamed, "Yes, you are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. We believe…” “Okay,” said Blondin, "Who will get in the wheelbarrow?” And no one did.

The story of Charles Blondin paints a real life picture of what belief actually is. The crowd had watched his daring feats. They said they believed, but their actions proved they truly didn't.

It's one thing for us to say we believe in Jesus. True faith means that we put our faith and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. We say, “Jesus, I’m counting on You to carry me through this life and into the life to come. I trust You. I believe in You. I rely on You. You are my only hope and my only salvation.” Jesus has carried many to eternal life. He can be trusted!

For more about Blondin and to see a picture, look here.

That brings us to the next question that you have rasied: Is it possible for a person to believe without knowing? More on that later.
Things to think about this weekend

I had fun today watching Evan, our 15 year old, play basketball for North Royalton High School. These times will be over way, way, way too soon. I need to maximize these moments.

***

Here are some really good pointers about the importance of reading great books for your spiritual growth. Tim Challies writes, Find me someone who has changed the world and who spent his time watching television and I'll find you a thousand who read books instead.” He gives us 10 tips on how to read more and read better.

1. Read.
2. Read widely
3. Read deliberately.
4. Read interactively.
5. Read with discernment.
6. Read heavy books.
7. Red light books.
8. Read old books.
9. Read new books.
10. Read what your heroes read.


***

Some interesting thoughts from Seth Godwin from his book, Tribes: We need you to lead us.

People don't believe what you tell them.
They rarely believe what you show them.
They often believe what their friends tell them.
They always believe what they tell themselves.
What leaders do: they give people stories they can tell themselves - stories about the future and about change.


***

A nice article by Ken Connor about thanksgiving in difficult times.

***

Al Baker was a University of Alabama baseball player in 1974. I roomed with Al on a missionary baseball team that traveled to Central America. I mentioned to him that I hadn’t met “the girl” at Vanderbilt. He told me about Maryanne when we were in Nicaragua . After we returned to the states, Al introduced us. So, I owe him - big time. Al is a very God-blessed church planter. Most recently he planted Christ Community Presbyterian Church in Hartford, Connecticut.

Al recently wrote about the importance of evaluating our lives in light of the word of God and the call to holiness. Some who think they are saved may not be. We can be professing Christ without possessing Christ.

In A Sober Warning, Al writes, "Here’s the sober warning- even professing Christians whose lives are marked by immorality, impurity, covetousness, profanity, foolish talk, and sexual innuendo are in serious trouble. If this is true of you, then I ask that you soberly, seriously, humbly ask yourself, “Do I have good reason to believe that I am in Christ? Do my lifestyle, speech, actions, and values resemble those who have hearts changed by the work of the Holy Spirit?” Do not be deceived by false religious talk, when preachers say, “Peace, Peace,” for if these mark your life, then there is no peace (Ezekiel 13:10).

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Thanks
giving
2008

Happy Thanksgiving. I just want you to know that I'm thankful for you and that I appreciate the kind of community we are beginning to share on this blog. You’ve helped me just by being interested in the things God is teaching me. Thanks for reading. Maryanne and I pray that you, your families, and your churches have a blessed Thanksgiving!

What are just a few things I am thankful for?


  • My wife, Maryanne. She is a true gift of grace - unearned and undeserved. And our three sons, Alan, Ryan, and Evan. And our daughter-in-law. Love 'em all. Lots. And my mom who lives in Florida and my dad who is now in heaven.

  • My two brothers, Bill and Jerry and their families.

  • Heaven! And the promise through Jesus that I will be reunited with my dad someday. Randy Alcorn has really helped me learn to long for heaven more.

  • Cuyahoga Valley Church. God did this!

  • The elders, staff, and volunteers at CVC. So hard-working and generous. Amazing. What a privilege to serve Jesus with a great team.

  • That we at CVC are planning to unveil a Love God-Love One Another-Love The World discipleship strategy soon. We are going to go deeper into the Lord than ever at CVC by encouraging everyone to go 3 for 3.

  • The men in my Northcoast Family Foundation Forum. They keep me encouraged and accountable.

  • The One Year Bible reading plan and the L. O. V. E. journaling method.

  • That we at CVC are a church planting and missions-oriented church.

  • The Advent Conspiracy at CVC. The ornaments are flying off the Advent Tree in our church foyer.

  • Food. Can't wait for the cornbread dressing. Maryanne has the best southern recipe for it - ever!

  • Shelter. A warm house is nice in Cleveland.

  • Health. I take it for granted way, way, way too much. And I just found out that my friend, Randy, who has had some really difficult health challenges in recent days, is doing better.

  • Baseball. So many life-lessons in that game.

  • That the Vanderbilt football team is bowl-eligible for the first time since 1982.

  • That the Cavs look really, really good so far.

  • That the Browns painful season is coming to an end.

  • That there's always hope for the Tribe!

  • Google reader. Andy Sikora taught me about it and it's really nice to have all the blogs you read in one place.

  • Christian rap - all three of our boys love it and Alan writes and performs it! Check out Alan C. Duncan and Alan and his wife, Joanna, as they perform together as Three Strands. And believe it or not, even if you don't like rap, you might have to admit that the theology of our boys favorite groups is really pretty good. Check out the Ambassador, The Crossmovement, and Lecrae.

  • The goodness of God. Everything He does in our lives is loving. He is too loving to be unkind.

  • The wisdom of God. Everything He does in our lives is not a mistake. He is too wise to make a mistake.

  • The power of God. Everything He does in our lives is part of His sovereign plan. He is too strong to fail.

  • The grace and mercy that came through the Lord Jesus Christ. Every good gift we ever have enjoyed has come from above through the sacrifice of God's Son. Without that, we'd all be objects of wrath. Thank You, Jesus!
***

The following is adapted from John Piper's sermon, "Proud People Don't Say Thanks."

Proud people can't be grateful. So here are three very humbling truths for the sake of your thankfulness. Proud people don't say thanks, but people who believe these three truths do. 1) We are utterly dependent; 2) we are depraved sinners; and 3) we are redeemed and forgiven through contrite faith. If this penetrates our hearts today, we will be emptied of pride and filled with thankfulness to God.

***

My friend John Alan Turner shared some nice Thanksgiving Thoughts that I thought I would pass along:

"I was having a lovely quiet morning the other day — thinking about life and how things are going — thinking about the holidays and what I’ve got to be thankful for — thinking about next year and what I’m hoping for — thinking about old friends and new friends.

"And this list jumped out of my pen into my journal. I think I may have stolen it from Stephen Mansfield who probably stole it from some Puritan theologian from the 17th Century who probably stole it from some Catholic monk from the 11th Century.

"Regardless, it’s quickly become a very precious list of priorities for me. Within a few hours of jotting the list down, I found myself bringing these things up in conversation after conversation. Perhaps you’ll find them helpful as well:

1. Rid your mind of worry.
2. Rid your heart of hate.
3. Simplify.
4. Expect less.
5. Give more.

***

Finally, Mark Batterson reminds us, "Our Thanksgiving tradition traces back to the Pilgrims. And their journey to America was motivated for religious reasons. They sought the freedom to worship God as they believed the Bible taught.

"One of my favorite pictures [see the painting he's referring to at the top of this post] in the rotunda of the Capitol is the embarkation of the Pilgrims. They are kneeling on the deck of the Speedwell. That is the ship they took from Holland to England. Then they hopped on the Mayflower. The centrality of the Bible is so symbolic.

"Their journey to America was brutal. They spent 66 days on the high seas and finally landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts on December 21, 1620. Their first winter was harsh. 45 of the 102 immigrants died and were buried on Cole's Hill. It was the next fall that the Pilgrims hosted a three-day festival celebrating their first harvest. They invited their Indian friends, including Massasoit. And in the words of William Bradford, 'Besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys.'

"So here's a thought. As you're eating turkey today, don't forget why we eat turkey at all. That tradition traces back to the courageous pilgrimage of God-fearing believers that landed them here in the first place. And many of the religious freedoms we enjoy as Americans can be traced back to the sacrifices made by those Pilgrims that first winter."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Conversation (1)

I am in email conversations with a friend about the faith. Here's a sample of our recent dialogue.

***

Hi Rick,

I was thinking of Christianity last evening and I believe it would be hard to debate it in the negative. It has always been religious leaders’ misinterpretation or blatantly abusing the bible by that has caused problems.

The problem with Christianity is not the bible, it is preachers who misinterpret the bible or abuse their position. It’s not the herd, but the herders that are most responsible for the wrong done in the name of Christianity.

Now we're back to [pastors and preachers]. I don’t hate them. I don’t like who they are. They are not my enemies, but the enemies of Christianity.

***

Good morning,

What matters most to me is not that you like me – I hope you do – or that you like [pastors] or any preacher.

What I want most is that you passionately, fervently, truly love Jesus. He’s all that matters. Love Christ. So, maybe you could reread the gospels and just ask yourself, “Is He worth loving?”

Whether you love Christianity or not is not most important.

If you love Jesus, though, He changes you and puts love (not necessarily like) in your heart for others - even pastors and preachers. You become like Him – the One who came to save the very ones who would reject Him.

“For God so loved that He gave…” “As the Father has sent Me, so send I you.”

Keep thinking. Praying now and then wouldn’t hurt either. Let's keep the dialogue going.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Your 2009 plan for reading and meditating on the Bible

Are you thinking yet about your plan for Bible intake for 2009?

This next year, my dream is that many, many, many people at CVC will be reading the same Bible passages in 2009 – that the One Year Bible reading plan is the only one that the church body is encouraged to use.

The One Year Bible reading plan will take all of us at CVC through the New Testament and the Old Testament once and through the Psalms twice within a year’s time. (And since the Psalms is basically a prayer book, I believe that the Spirit can and will use the Psalms to teach us how to pray.) The One Year Bible reading plan includes an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, a reading in the Psalms, and a reading in Proverbs.

Following a comprehensive, systematic Bible reading plan is important for developing the personal spiritual discipline of Bible intake that is necessary for us to mature as followers of Jesus. Reading through the Bible year after year will give us a greater knowledge of God’s will and His ways. When our knowledge of God increases, our love for God will grow.

We can access this particular plan in several ways.

1) There are several online plans. Check it out here and here.

The second online plan uses the ESV and also has a “listen” feature. It’s nice at times (maybe all the time for auditory learners) to hear a good reader read through the passage. It will take anywhere from 10-15 minutes a day to listen to the passage being read. Get up a little early and listen before you leave home. Or get to the office a little early and listen before you begin your business day. This can be a real encouragement for the rest of your day.

2) You can purchase The One Year Bible. We’ve had it for sale in the foyer of CVC in various versions in previous years. I think some are still left at the information desk.

3) The Loving God Journal uses the same Bible reading plan as the above two options do. You can purchase a LGJ at CVC in the foyer at the information desk.

Now, here’s what else I’m asking you to consider: As you use the One Year Bible reading plan for all of 2009, try to use the Loving God Journal “as prescribed” regularly for at least the first quarter of 2009. If you like using another journal (such as the moleskine notebook) then at least during the first quarter of the year use the L.O.V.E. acrostic “as prescribed” on pp. 5-8 in the Loving God Journal. If, after 3 months, the Loving God Journal approach doesn’t work for you, then do something else that does work for you. But please give it a trial run for at least 3 months.

What do you have to lose? If you are used to reading more, then read more! If you are used to reading less, then how could it possibly hurt you to step up your Bible reading?

Here’s why I’m asking this: When we join with other followers of Christ who use the One Year Bible reading plan and similar way of recording our thoughts, a unity and a mutual growth will occur. Having this plan in common means that all CVCers will be able to share the nuggets that we have received with others at CVC. A more true form of Christian fellowship will take place when many believers are reading the same sections of Scripture. Individual believers will become excited to share with others what the Lord is saying to them. Think of it; husbands and wives, moms and dads, CG leaders and CG members, brothers and sisters, staff and volunteers all reading the same things and discussing what God has been teaching them.

I can’t wait to see what God might do to unify and grow us with this approach.

Feedback?
Encouragement from college

A young man who grew up in our church and who is now away in college, wrote to me a very encouraging email. I'm encouraged because he's even wanting to listen online to the messages from CVC. (Thanks, technical arts ministry - especially Jeff Ziolkowski - for making it possible!) And I'm encouraged that this young man is passionate about what Jesus is passionate about.

***

Hey Pastor Rick,

Just wanted to let you know that I listened to your November 16th message online today and loved it.

It was about having joy in the midst of difficult financial times by cultivating habits of simplicity, finding liberty in the Gospel, and being generous.

I thought it was a message that we all needed to hear. You're right--we are very much products of our materialistic, greedy culture, and those things just entrap us.

As the Church, we can give profound witness to the non-materialism of the Gospel by rejecting our culture's patterns of consumption, but we so often look just like the culture.

I loved how you tied it into the upcoming Christmas season and the opportunity it holds for us to be countercultural.

So I guess I just wanted to thank you for the message.

I'll be in town for most of this coming week for Thanksgiving, and I think I'll be at CVC next Sunday! Hopefully we'll run into each other!!

***

I hope I do run into this young man. And I hope you do, too. This world needs more like him.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Drilling for gas at CVC

If you look in our parking lot, it's a mess. And it will be for a few weeks. Why? I said yesterday at services that we have officially become the "Beverly Hillbilly Church." We have contracted to drill, not for oil, but for natural gas.

The Stewardship Team made a recommendation to the Elders that we accept the offer to look for natural gas beneath our property. We get about $20,000 up front, get some free gas for heating the building from our own well, and get payments based on the productivity of the well for the next 20 years. It's a shrewd move. We hope to use the proceeds to help pay off our mortgage on the building more quickly. So, pray that we strike the natural gas motherload!

After the big mess, the drilling company will clean things up and do some nice landscaping. So, we are pretty sure that it won't be a big eyesore. The location is in the front parking lot because if has to be a certain distance from other wells on adjacent property.

One of our Saturday night "UpClose" attenders, Doug Johnson, was inspired by my "Beverly Hillbillies" comment, sat down, and wrote a song to be sung to the tune of "The Ballad of Jed Clampett." Hilarious!

***

Come and listen to my story ‘bout a pastor named Rick.
Elders come up to him said, “We’re bound to do the trick.”
We can get some extra money that can pay a lot of bills
If we let ’em in the parking lot and then they start to drill.

Gas that is, All Natural, clear profits.

Well the next thing you know, there are tanks everywhere.
The members in the services have all begun to stare.
They’re talking to each other, “Boy, we’re trying to be kind
But it kinda looks like Pastor Rick has finally lost his mind.”

Round the bend, Flip City, finally jumped the shark.

It was just a few months later and it finally settled down.
The drillers did their work and then packed up and left our town.
But they left some cash and natural gas for all posterity.
And it goes help the members as they do their ministry.

Reaching out to the world, Loving God, The great commission.

Y’all keep faithful, hear?--

Sunday, November 23, 2008

More thanks!

Joe Sanson, our Missions Director at CVC, read the last post on this blog - the one about some of the mission/church planting/evangelism work we are doing as a church. He had a few things to add.

So, here goes.

***

This year, 10 people were baptized in El Salvador and 50 people were baptized in Ghana.

There are also about 250 people who attend the church that we have planted at Plantenia. Plantenia is a squatters community in El Salvador near the Love and Hope Children's home. We have distributed about 13,000 meals to that church’s attenders. There are also about 75 young adults/teens who attend the church/youth group that is right across the street from Love and Hope Children’s Home.

Back here at home we have several volunteers who faithfully - night after night - pick up excess food from places like Trader Joe's. Joe estimates that through various ministries (most notably Care on the Square, a ministry to the homeless in downtown Cleveland) approximately $350,000 worth of food has been distributed to people in need. Joe says that this estimates out to about 70,000 meals.

***

Thanks be to God to the many people at CVC who make all this happen.

When you write a check to CVC or make an online donation to CVC through your bank’s bill pay, you are playing a part in funding the salvation of people here at CVC, in those churches we are planting in NE Ohio, or in El Salvador/Ghana. You have realized that you have more than you need to help people in need. And you’re making friends jsut like Jesus tells us to do in Luke 16:9.

And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanks!

It’s Thanksgiving season, and I am thanking God for the people of CVC. And I thank the people of CVC for their generosity.

If you are a member or attender of CVC, you need to know that your giving is changing lives.

It occurred to me this week that it’s often hard for any of us to see the big picture about how God is using CVC to build His kingdom – to love the world. So, I spent a little time thinking about the big picture.

Last weekend, there were 14 people baptized at CVC. I don't have the final stats for the year, but I think that we've baptized 80-90 people this year. Each baptism represents a changed life.

And even though we’ve sent lots of great people out from CVC to do church planting in other communities throughout NE Ohio, we’re still growing at CVC. Our attendance is up a few percent over last year.

We are currently involved in planting 6 new churches; Church of the Hills in Nordonia Hills area, The Village Chapel in Slavic Village, Northpointe Community Church in Westlake, Mosaic (a church for internationals downtown), Mercy Hill Chapel (for young Ukrainians) in Parma Heights, and New Song Community Church in Fredricktown, Ohio. Add it all up and that’s about 300 people attending churches we’ve planted over the last couple of years.

We are focusing on two countries with our overseas missions efforts. In El Salvador, we work with Teams to the Nations to support the Love and Hope Orphanage with 28 children. A church has been planted there, too. And in Ghana, West Africa we are working in the Nzema region. When we first started serving there, it was classified by missiologists as an unreached people group. Right now there are 28 churches in the Nzema region and we have started or restarted 26 of them. We are expecting two more to be started this year which will give us 30 altogether. There are about 800 Nzema people attending the churches we’ve helped to start there.

And this doesn't even include the local mission/ministry organizations that many, many CVCers are serving throughout NE Ohio.

So, CVCers, your generosity is making a difference. You’re building the kingdom of God. We are part of a revolutionary movement. The flywheel is turning. Faster and faster. And I just want to say, “Thank you!” and thanks be to God.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Things to think about this weekend

I really like this encouragement to pray from Scot McKnight.

Check out President-elect Obama's interview about his spiritual views with Cathleen Falsani.

Read about an abortionist who has become pro-life.

Do you think abortion is only a women's rights issue? Check out Abortion Changes You.

Mark Driscoll has done the church at large a great favor by making available an online book for people who struggle with pornography.

Want to watch a well-done video about "Generation WE" that gives you a feel for what the next generation is passionate about? My question: What will we do to reach this generation for Jesus?
Follow the leaders (5)

Here is the last portion of my message to one of our church planting congregations, the Mercy Hill Chapel, upon the occasion of the ordination of their pastor, Oleh Zhakunets. The topic was how a church is to honor God by following godly leadership.

***

Refresh his heart.

Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Hebrews 13:17b


Notice the goal that the writer to Hebrews wants a congregation to have for itself. It’s an “advantage.” Followers - members of a congregation - ought to be concerned about gaining an advantage for their souls. How do you do that?

Hebrews 13:17 says to let your pastor serve you - lead you - in a way that gives him joy, not groaning. The word “groaning" ("grief" in the NASB) conveys the idea of groaning over a thankless task. There are many men whose ministry is thankless labor. There are many men whose congregations give them grief.

“Joy” and “grief’ express the two extremes of emotions that can characterize the life of a Christian leader. A pastor’s greatest joy is to see people come to know the Lord, grow in their relationship with Him, and then join in building the Kingdom of God. But one of the greatest sadnesses for any pastor is to see people in churches who do not grow or mature in their Christian walk, who divorce, who live immorally, and who want to fight and divide over secondary, non-essential kingdom issues.

George Guthrie wrote in the NIV Application Commentary, “When the members of a congregation fail to submit themselves to the leadership, the leaders end up working under an emotional burden that gives them a life filled with sighs. Such a condition is [“unprofitable” - NKJV] to the congregation.”

And John Gill wrote, “It is the interest of hearers that the account their ministers give of them may be with joy, and not with grief. If faithful ministers be not successful, the grief will be theirs, but the loss will be the people’s. Faithful ministers have delivered their own souls, but a fruitless and faithless people’s blood and ruin will be upon their own heads.”

Often, one of the most grieved group of men are pastors who deal with stubborn congregations that will not submit to them. That robs them of the joy of their ministry. And it is unprofitable to the people.

So, to apply the truths about following your spiritual leaders that are found in Hebrews 13:7 and 17, ask this: Am I recalling my leaders' words? Am I repeating my leaders' faith? Am I respecting my leaders' lead? Am I refreshing my leaders' heart?

***

I started this series of posts remembering a conversation with a young woman in ministry who was just about ready to leave the ministry because of bad experiences with difficult congregations. She really wasn’t sure she wanted to continue on in the ministry.

I never want to have a conversation like that with your spiritual leaders. Whether I do or don’t have a conversation like that depends in a large part on you – the members and attenders of your local church.

I am reminded of discussions I have had over the years about certain churches. Some churches have reputations as "preacher-eaters." Pastors can only last a couple years at such places. That's not good. I encourage any young leaders I know to run from such churches.

So, what will it be for you? Will you give your leaders joy or grief?

Give your pastors joy and you’ll be glad you did when you stand before Jesus on The Day.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Follow the leaders (4)

More from the ordination message given at Oleh Zhakunet's ordination on how to follow a spiritual leader.

***

Respect his lead.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.
Hebrews 13:17a

The spirit of today is self-rule, not submission. We virtually demand our liberty to do as we please. Any limit on doing what is right in my own sight is seen as bad. Why? Self is king. That spirit is what makes this verse sound outrageous to our 21st century American ears: “Obey your leaders and submit to them.”

We all know that sometimes pastors/elders/overseers can go bad and can teach wrong things and can do wrong things. It’s wrong when a leader abuses his authority to manipulate, It's wrong when a spiritual leader uses people to enhance his status and line his pocket. That's why there are books being written like "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.”

And that's why in I Peter 5, Peter tells us that pastors/elders/overseers should be good examples to the flock and should not be “lording it over the flock.” “Lording it over” means using power without a servant’s heart and without a passion for the good of the people.

Watch out for that. These kinds of leaders are to be avoided. Run the other way fast if you sense that any spiritual leader is "in it" for the wrong reasons. Jesus Himself warned us that we should beware of false spiritual leaders in Matthew 7:15-20.

But these things do not negate the truths found in Hebrews 13:17

John Piper has written that the word for “obey” in Hebrews 13:17 is a very broad word and means “be persuaded by” (Hebrews 6:9), “trust” (Hebrews 2:13), “rely on” (Luke 11:22). It encourages a good relationship of trust that calls for the people to be swayed by leaders. The word for “submit” in Hebrews 13:17 means “make room for.” It encourages the people of God to "yield to" their spiritual leaders.

A church should have a bent toward trusting its leaders – to have a happy inclination to comply with their instructions. The flock should follow good leadership.

When a leader sets a good example and does not lording it over the people and when the people trust and follow their God-given spiritual leader, it is a good thing and a godly thing.

Think about it: Submission is not ultimately to a pastor, but to Christ. After all, Jesus is the One who gave the pastor to the church (Ephesians 4:11-12). Jesus gave the church spiritual leaders to do what? To lead! So, members and attenders should follow.

John Gill wrote: “Christians must submit to be instructed by their ministers, and not think themselves too wise, too good, or too great, to learn from them; and, when they find that ministerial instructions are agreeable to the written word, they must obey them.”

The pastor is like a spiritual father; and children should obey their parents. The pastor is a shepherd of the flock; the sheep should follow his lead.

To follow the leader, ask yourself, "Am I recalling his words? Am I repeating his faith? Am I respecting his lead?"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Follow the leaders (3)

More thoughts from Oleh Zhakunet's ordination:

***

Repeat his faith.

Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7b

The word translated “imitate” is a word from which we get our word “mimic.” We are to mimic the faith of our leaders.

So, consider your pastor's life. Look at the call of God on his life. And follow his example of faith. As John Piper says, This doesn't mean that you follow "every little thing he does." If you try to imitate the details of his life, you become a religious fake, a spiritual counterfeit. And this can be frightening when you see people who learn the form of godliness and know nothing of true faith. Instead, look at your pastor's life and find for yourself what made him what he is: his faith.

Faith in what? The next verse says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” You pastor trusted Jesus yesterday. He’s trusting Jesus today. And he will trust Jesus tomorrow.

Now you, today and tomorrow, go on trusting Jesus like your pastor.

To follow your leader ask, "Am I recalling his words? Am I repeating his faith?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Follow the leaders (2)

Here's more from the message at Oleh Zhakunet's ordination.

***

Recall his words.

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God.
Hebrews 13:7a


Recall your pastor's preaching. Recall his praying. Recall his private counsel.

Don’t be an “in one ear and out the other” church. Treasure up in your memory the truths, the doctrines, and the exhortations you’re going to hear from your pastor. He’s going to spend time in the word and in prayer. He’s going to be asking God, “What do you want this flock to hear?” He’s going to hear from God for you. And he’s going to speak God’s word to you. Don’t you think you ought to figure out ways to remember it?

I have a good idea. Take notes. Review them.

Ask yourself: Am I recalling my pastor's words?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Follow the leaders (1)

Recently, I spoke at the ordination of the pastor of one of our church plants. Oleh Zhakunets is a recent graduate of Moody Bible Institute. The church plant is called Mercy Hill Chapel. It's for Ukrainian speaking young adults. They have been planning this church plant for over a year and they started 3 Sundays ago. They had 40 at their first service.

When I spoke at Oleh's ordination, I gave what's called the "charge to the church." In it, I encouraged the people of Mercy Hill Chapel to help this young leader get off to a good start in ministry.

Below are notes from my message.

***

I was just on the phone recently with a young woman who graduated from Malone College with my son, Alan. She’s 27. She has worked at three churches since graduating. None of the experiences have been good. And she said, “I’m not sure I ever want to work at a church again.”

I don’t think I would want to be in those church members’ shoes on The Day. Think about it. Jesus calls a man or a woman to serve Him in ministry. And the people that the man and woman serve make life so miserable for them that they don’t want to ever serve in a church again. What do you think that the Lord of the church will say to them on The Day?

We talk a lot about the importance of leadership. But what about “followership”? Who ever talks about that?

Business leader Warren Bennis said, “In many ways, great followership is harder than leadership. It has more dangers and fewer rewards, and it must routinely be exercised with much more subtlety. But great followership has never been more important.”

Very few books on leadership have chapters on followership. Peter Wagner once wrote in Leading Your Church to Growth, “Followership is not even in the abridged dictionary. There seems to be a curious assumption that while leaders need special instruction for exercising their role, followers need no such instruction.”

I want to point you to two passages where God gives very clear instruction to followers. These passages tell church members and attenders how to live their lives in relationship to godly leaders.

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7 (ESV)

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Hebrews 13:17 (ESV)

***
More on "following the leader" tomorrow.

Friday, November 14, 2008

CVC budget planning for 2009

Should we be nervous in these tough economic times about the church and the future of our church? Well, in light of Matthew 6:25-34, not really. As a church, we will have all the resources of heaven to do all the God has called us to do. And in that sense, we have reason to be excited about the future. Here's a shout out to Craig Groeschel for encouraging me with these thoughts.

When others are fearful, we can be confident for two main reasons:

1) Christ is the head of His church and He will provide for it (Matthew 16:18 and Philippians 1:6, 4:19). The church of Jesus Christ has always been resilient. The church has survived persecution, poverty, terrorism, genocide, and wars. A slow or crippled economy will not hinder the work of the church of Jesus Christ.

2) In tough times, many people often turn to Christ. Here in the USA, most of us never have had to pray, “Give us today our daily bread…” because our cabinets have always been full of bread. In many ways, our blessings have interfered with our sense of having a need for the Giver of the blessings. In these hard times, we can pray that many people will turn to Christ.

Instead of being paralyzed with fear, we can be filled with faith for how God can use us in these rocky financial times.

But let’s face the reality that many churches will face financial challenges. Giving to CVC could suffer in 2009.

Here is what I pray will be true for us:

First, let’s not become less aggressive in reaching people – just financially more aware. The ways we spent money in 2008 may not be wise in 2009. As leaders at CVC, let’s not let off the pedal of our passion, but let’s apply the brakes some when it comes to spending.

Second, let’s remember that modeling good stewardship to our church is important. Let’s allow the church to see us cutting back some in hopes they will follow in their personal lives. Even though we might be able to afford some things, it’s still wise for our ministry teams to find ways to creatively cut back.

Third, let’s pray. Let’s pray. Let’s pray. The church of Jesus Christ advances on its knees, not on the basis of a budget. We can and will accomplish all that Jesus wants us to accomplish. He says in the Psalms, “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” Let’s open our mouths wide and ask Him to fill it – to restore our first love, to give us a zeal for worship, to help us be radical about holiness, to cause us to truly disciple one another to love God /one another / the world, and to see a massive harvest in winning the lost to Jesus.

These are exciting times for us at CVC. Let’s lead with boldness, confidence, and zeal.
Things to think about this weekend

I have talked to numerous people who are distraught about the election. Pastor Mark Chanski of the Reformed Baptist Church in Holland, Michigan has a thoroughly Biblical perspective for those people who are distressed. Read his "Therapy for Post-Election Blues." A sample: "The children of God have every reason to rejoice in their Father’s undisturbed and sovereign reigning over the events of the November election. The Bible is clear. The decision was ultimately the LORD’s. 'For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation; but God is the Judge; He puts down one, and exalts another' (Psalm 75:6-7). Maybe the church in America needs a serious sanding down of unspiritual rough edges that have arisen over many years of pampering prosperity. Maybe God’s people need to be placed in the fire in order to get rid of a careless lukewarmness. Maybe the worsening of evil in American society will enable the gospel to grip with an even better traction." Either we believe in the sovereignty of God or not. I believe; therefore, I trust. He knows what He's about.

I once heard Pastor Stephen Olford say, "Beware the barrenness of a busy life." That statement has stayed with me for almost 30 years. The idea is that busy-ness can keep us from God. Now, C. J. Mahaney says that busy-ness can be a sign of laziness. In "Are you busy?" he writes, "The sluggard can be busy—busy neglecting the most important work, and busy knocking out a to-do list filled with tasks of secondary importance." Check it out. How are you going to seek first His kingdom this weekend? How will you keep the main thing the main thing?

CVC is looking to hire the best Co-Teaching Pastor in the world. If you’re him, send an attention grabbing, experience loaded resume to our Pastoral Assistant, Jane Rutti, at jrutti@cuyahogavalleychurch.com . (She’ll reply if she thinks you might be the one. If she doesn’t think you’re the one, she may not have time to respond… thanks for understanding.)

Here's a question for your weekend: What has God been saying to you lately in the worship services of the church you attend? What He's been saying to me at CVC is that I have lost some of my radical edge that I had when I came to NE Ohio as a 33 year old. I'm asking God to give me back that revolutionary/counter-cultural passion. Please pray for me! (By the way, one of my staff members wrote to me, Maybe get an earring and shave your head to help with the radical thing." What do you think?)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mission or missional?

I think this conversation posted on the link below about what it means to be "missional" is hilarious.

I must admit that in the past I have been guilty of arguing with a fellow pastor about the use of the word "missional." I said, "I see 'mission' in the Bible. But where is the word 'missional' in the Bible?"

It's good to see someone having some fun with the conversation about mission and missional... and making a good point.

So, check out Ed Stetzer and "Conversations with Al."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rebuilding the wall and standing in the gap

Yesterday, in reading the One Year Bible reading, I came across a sobering passage. I shared it with the leadership team at CVC today.

The priests, the prophets, and the princes of Judah were not leading well. Instead, disobediance, greed, oppression, and injustice characterized their lives. They said, "My message is from the Sovereign Lord," when the Lord hadn’t spoken a single word to them (Ezekiel 22:28).

Here's what God said about that. It's really sad.

"I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one" (Ezekiel 22:30).

God found no one? No one. So, destruction came.

Matthew Henry wrote, "Sin makes a gap in the hedge of protection that is about a people at which good things run out from them and evil things pour in upon them, a gap by which God enters to destroy them. There is a way of standing in the gap, and making up the breach against the judgments of God, by repentance, and prayer, and reformation. Moses stood in the gap when he made intercession for Israel to turn away the wrath of God. When God is coming forth against a sinful people to destroy them he expects some to intercede for them, and enquires if there be but one that does; so much is it his desire and delight to show mercy. If there be but a man that stands in the gap, as Abraham for Sodom, he will discover him and be well pleased with him. It bodes ill to a people when judgments are breaking in upon them, and the spirit of prayer is restrained, so that not one is found that will either give them a good word or speak a good word for them."

I think God is still looking for those leaders who will rebuild the wall and stand in the gap. When God looks for someone to rebuild the wall and stand in the gap, I want Him to find me. And to find the staff of CVC. I do not want destruction to come from the hand of the Lord to our families, to our church, to our city, and to our nation.

Would you pray that our staff at CVC will be rebuilders and gap-standers?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

I’m excited about an opportunity we’re going to have as a church to join with a bunch of other churches in America to prove that we are seeking God first in this tough economic time. The Advent Conspiracy is a way for us to decide to spend less on ourselves at Christmas, to connect with family and friends in deeper ways, and to give more to people in real need.

This past weekend we played an AC video during all our weekend services when I talked from Matthew 6:33 about having confidence in our heavenly Father's provision even in tough economic times. If you didn't check it out, you really ought to see the Advent Conspiracy intro video.

Some of us might worry about our kid's reactions. The pile of presents under the tree might not be as big this year. But I really do think our kids can get this. Probably better than moms and dads. I think our kids will be excited about getting less while knowing, for example, that some little child in West Africa will be able to drink safe water so that he or she doesn't get sick and die.

Less treasure under the tree can equal more treasure in heaven as we give to meet the needs of the poor, the orphans, the unborn, and those who do not have clean drinking water.

There is no correlation between having many things and being very happy. If you’re a teenager or young adult, please learn this quickly. And if you’re older, like me, please get this before it’s too late. A life of simplicity, a life that controls our spending, and a life lived with a passion to advance the kingdom through generous giving will be a far happier life than a life of luxury.

So, at CVC in the weeks ahead, you’re going to see an Advent Tree in our church foyer with many giving opportunities. Get ready. Check out adventconspiracy.org. And start getting your family ready to seek first His kingdom this Christmas.

Jesus is calling us to be radical, revolutionary, counter-cultural – to be liberated from materialism, consumerism, selfishness, greed. He wants us to see us put the Father’s kingdom first. Join the revolution. Join the Advent Conspiracy.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Things to think about this weekend

Want to know about missional church leadership without having to buy a bunch of books? Check out J. R. Woodward's "Primer on Today's Missional Church." This is a truly outstanding compilation of some of the best links available. If you're a church leader, you might want to add this link to your favorites. Great stuff.

At CVC, we've been in a series on family called "Clean House." Both Gary Nave (It's still us) and I (It's us) have talked from Ephesians 5:21-33 about what the Bible says about different roles for husbands and wives within marriage. At Scotsdale Bible Church in Arizona, one of my favorite theologians, Wayne Grudem, has delivered a great message God's Wisdom for Wives. Check it out.

Are you really ready to face Christ on "The Day"? Matthew Henry said, "It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for that day." One person who I think is ready is Billy Graham. The Plain Dealer had a nice article today entitled "In daily grief, prayer, Billy Graham approaches 90." And John Piper also writes about Billy Graham in a tribute. Read these articles. And they will inspire you to be as ready as I John 2:28 encourages us to be ready.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Post-election posts

Here are some thought-provoking blog posts that I have read after Tuesday's election.

Mark Driscoll writes on the topic "In God we do not trust."

John Alan Turner posts on how he intends to support President-elect Obama and on how he intends to challenge him in "Onward."

Eric C. Redmond, an African-American Christian leader, who in "Living Sola Deo Gloria Under Obama" starts with a quote from John Calvin and ends by talking about how he wants to be Christ0centric rather than Afrocentric.

Margaret Buckley writes an open letter to President-Elect Barack Obama.

Josh Harris tells us how to pray for a our President-elect in Praying for President Obama.

J. D. Greer shares his "Thoughts on the election."

John Piper tells us what the Bible says about praying for those in high positions in a post called "Grateful for (Almost) any Government."

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Forgiveness

This week, a person who listens to CVC's messages presented me with a scenario from their life that related to the topic of forgiveness. The message from the Clean House series that they heard that prompted the question was "It's you."

The scenario:

Person A hurts and offends Person B. Person B retaliates in defense. Later Person B comes back to Person A and asks for forgiveness for all the stuff that Person B is responsible for. In return, Person A tells Person B how wrong Person B was and recounts the hurtful things Person B did and has just asked forgiveness for. Person A doesn't admit to any wrong doing on their part (even though Person A caused the whole thing to begin with) and doesn't ask for forgiveness. Now, Person B feels like complete reconciliation has happened.

Person B is left feeling hurt and unloved and has to use every bit of strength to keep it under control not to get angry about the whole thing over again. And sometimes Person A now uses this against Person B by saying Person A can't trust Person B.

How does Person B handle the hurt and all the stuff that piles up with that? Person B knows the Jesus says in Matthew 18 to forgive 70 x's 7. Person B tries to forgive and move on. But Person A either is oblivious to the pain Person A is causing or doesn't care.

***

My response:

This is really tough. It's hard. But take refuge in the fact that many of David’s Psalms deal with this kind of hurt Person B is facing. It's true. For every sigh, there's a psalm.

As you said, Person B has to own his or her part of the problem. They should ask for forgiveness for his or her wrongs.

But sometimes, Person B ends up being “punished” (misrepresented, slandered, lied about) by Person A. So, Person B ends up being the bad guy. This makes a relationship very difficult because Person A won't be content until Person B admits that Person B was mainly in the wrong and that Person A is really pretty much in the right. Sometimes, the relationship becomes so difficult that real restoration with integrity cannot occur. In that case, Person B can pray for the relationship to one day be restored.

These kinds of scenarios are opportunities for a demonstration of godly character... or a lack of it.

Sometimes, Person A likes being a victim. He or she can live in what could be called the "drama triangle" – the roles are 1) victim, 2) persecutor, and 3) rescuer. Person B may have, at some point, been functioning as "the rescuer" for Person A. When Person B tries to grow toward maturity and stops being an enabler to Person A, Person B can be recast by Person A into "the persecutor" role. Why? It's because Person A tends to always see himself or herself as a victim.

Person B has to seek to step out of that unhealthy, ungodly drama triangle to a healthy, godly maturing triangle where the roles being played are biblical: 1) brother/sister in Christ, 2) fellow-child of God, and 3) discipler/mentor/parent in the Lord.

Often, Person A isn’t interested in these kinds of relationships because he or she seemingly needs the energy of the drama triangle to function. Living in the drama triangle is the way he or she has learned to operate in the world. Person A can refuse to be broken / surrendered / humbled and can refuse to own up to his or her guilt.

When that happens Person B might want to do a study of all the usages of the word “fool” in Proverbs. And he or she can look up the Hebrew meaning of the word. (Actually there are two main words translated “fool” in Hebrew.) Think about it. There are people in the world who should be labeled that way and treated as the text says to treat them. (Or else why would the verses on how to relate or not to relate to a fool be there in the text?) It’s wise (and biblical) for godly people to look out for fools. To beware of them means that Person B has to be willing to make the hard call to label (inwardly, not outwardly) certain persons as “fools.”

Other verses to consider: Titus 3:10-11, Romans 16:17-18, and their cross references.

Bottom line? Person B has to become somewhat "comfortable" with the fact that reconciliation is not always possible (as Romans 12:18 clearly implies). Yes, the hand of forgiveness must always be extended. And Person B has to keep going to the cross over and over and over to maintain freedom from resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness. But for reconciliation to take place, Person A has to own up to his or her part of the problem.

Now, here's where this unfortunate situation can be used by God for good. Person B can allow this tragic scenario to enhance worship. Prayer might look like this:

“Jesus, this hurts. The rumors, lies, and slander hurt. Deeply. I hate this. I want You to put this to an end. But I am reminded that You went through much, much worse – infinitely worse. I think of what happened to You. And You took on the rejection that led to the cross willingly, knowingly. And then to think that my sin was the reason for your cross? What love. What amazing love. I would never choose this hurt in a million lifetimes. Yet you so loved the world that You suffered it all. On purpose. For me. O, Jesus, forgive me for complaining about what Person A has done to me. It’s nothing compared to what those who rejected You did to You. And, truly, the hands that held the hammer and the nails that put You on the cross are my hands. You died for me and because of me. So, I embrace this pain as a reminder of how much You love me – how much You sacrificed for me. I embrace the rejection, slander, lies, rumors as tools in Your hands to enhance my understanding of Your great love. Thank You for loving me. I worship You, Jesus. If ever I loved Thee, My Jesus, ‘tis now.”

Hope this helps. All this is even more complicated if Person A is in your family. I hope that’s not the case for you. The question then becomes: How do I create safe space to operate in a godly way within my family without becoming enmeshed or without becoming an enabler? It’s a hard question to answer.

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