Friday, January 30, 2009


This is good. My friend David Wayne posted this on his blog. As I have said in services at CVC lately, please pray for David, a PCA pastor in Maryland, who was a high school kid in the FCA program in Jax, FL when Maryanne and I served there. David is fighting cancer. Obviously, you can see from the above cartoon, he hasn't lost his sense of humor.
Discipleship at CVC (12)

Since the mentoring meetings between disciplers and disciplees are so key to our process, what will the Mentoring Meetings look like?

These one-on-one meetings can take place at any time and at any place as long as they are mutually beneficial for the mentor and the Community Group leader.

We are working hard to make sure that we utilize existing relationships between mentors and Community Group members. We want this discipleship process to nurture heart-to-heart relationships.

A set of questions have been prepared that will be used to guide the conversations. While not every question will be asked every time the mentor and the Community Group leader meet, over the course of the year, each question will be addressed.

Mentors will seek to know the heart of the person he or she is discipling. Mentors will let the Community Group leaders know that he or she will do his or her best to listen with curiosity before offering advice or correction. Mentors will say things like, “I am on this journey with you and I do not see myself as an expert. You can ask me anything that I ask you. Everything we say and do will be done in the context of safety and confidentiality. I will not report anything you say without permission (unless it is a safety issue). I will commit to pray for you and your heart. Please pray for me and my heart as we seek to connect.”

Again, the goal is not to get through every question at every meeting. But mentors will let the Community Group leader know that he or she is committed to helping the leader grow in his or her love for God, one another, and the world.
Bible version wars

I haven't had a question in a long, long time about why we don't use only the King James Version of the Bible at CVC. I thought that fight over what I consider to be a non-essential was over. But one of our members is having to defend the non-use of the the KJV.

Many, many years ago, the elders of CVC adopted a statement about CVC and Bible versions. Here it is. I've added a few references to the ESV since it was not a version available when our statement was adopted.

***

CVC and Bible Versions

A position paper by the Elders at Cuyahoga Valley Church - 6/20/95

At CVC, we are solidly committed to the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. We believe it is the Word of God. Our statement of faith begins with these words: "The Bible is the inspired and infallible Word of God, without error in its original writings. "

Concerned Christians want to be sure that they and others are reading and studying accurate versions of the Bible. From time to time, the trustworthiness of some of the newer versions of the scriptures is questioned. Usually, those who raise such questions desire that churches only use the King James Version of the Bible, believing it to be the most reliable of all the translations.

We are familiar with the arguments raised against the modern versions of the Bible. Many of these arguments are simply saying that we should use only the manuscripts that were used to produce the King James Version and ought not use the thousands of ancient witnesses to the text of the Scriptures. Others of these arguments, we have found, arise from an incomplete understanding of the Hebrew and Greek language, grammar and vocabulary, and of the principles of Bible translations. Still other arguments that we have heard regrettably employ tactics of guilt by association or quoting material out of context.

The King James Version (first translated in 1611) is a good English translation of the Bible. However, its original text was based only on a few of the early Greek texts. Today's English translations like the English Standard Version, the New American Standard, and the New International Version are based on many more Greek manuscripts, and far earlier ones, that have been discovered more recently. We have complete copies dating from the fourth and fifth centuries, and papyrus fragments (with complete books) as early as AD 200. The translators of the KJV did not have the advantage of these more recent discoveries.

We do, however, now have access to many thousands of ancient copies of the Greek New Testament (in whole or in portions) so that by comparing the copies we can conclude with relative certainty what the original wording must have been. Because so many more manuscripts have come to light in the last century, and because the ESV, the NASB, and the NIV based their translations on an objective comparison of all known manuscripts, we are confident that we are indeed as close to the original as we can be.

Often the objections to the use of the ESV, the NIV, or the NASB boil down to the fact that it is translated from the Critical Greek Text. A Critical Greek Text is simply the editors' best scholarly opinion of what the wording of the original document must have been, in light of the variant readings that exist. Those who believe that churches should only use the KJV want to use the Textus Receptus, a Greek text used by a 16th century scholar. The fundamental question is, whether the best witness to the original Greek text is a handful of late manuscripts from a single text-type (the Textus Receptus), or the combined witness of several thousand manuscripts ~ including all the text-types and some very early parchments (the Critical Text).

There is not one single place in the entire New Testament where the acceptance or denial of any doctrine related to our salvation or security in Christ, stands or falls on a disputed phrase where the manuscripts differ. The concern of the Critical Text and of the ESV, the NIV, and the NASB is to present the best reconstruction of the original text, based on all available evidence. The Greek Text of 1522 (the Textus Receptus), which underlies the KJV, attempted to do nothing more nor less. Today, though, we have thousands of manuscript witnesses, where the KJV translators had but a few twelfth century manuscripts.

We do not find that the modern translations are the product of those who would deny our Lord and the effectiveness of His work in saving us. Rather, the new translations are the result of careful scholarship. There are places where these new translations read differently from the familiar King James Version. In practically every instance, the difference is in the Greek copies used to translate the New Testament. The King James Version is ultimately based on a handful of late (12th century) manuscripts from a single geographical text family, while other translations, including the English Standard Version, and the New American Standard and the New International Version, have considered literally thousands of manuscripts, from every test family, including many from the fourth and fifth centuries and a good number of papyrus copies from as early as the middle of the second century .

Seeking an honest solution to the variants in known Greek texts does not make one a liberal or a heretic. Arguments that attempt to draw textual conclusions from a prejudicial selection of not immediately relevant data, or from a slanted use of terms, by a slurring appeal to guilt by association, or by repeated appeal to false evidence are not only misleading, but ought to be categorically rejected by Christians who, above all others, profess both to love truth and to love their brothers in Christ. Adoption of the Textus Receptus should not be made a criterion of orthodoxy.

CVC is not asking anyone to give up their KJV. Everyone is welcome to continue to use it for personal reading and study, to bring it to Bible studies and public worship. It is still a good translation, although we contend that there are better ones.

The Living Bible and the Today's English Version are not literal translations from the original Hebrew and Greek. They are not appropriate for serious study, and we do not use them as such. The ESV, NIV, NASB, and KJV are all generally literal translations. We can honestly recommend any of these four for private study. We must realize though, that no translation does a perfect job in communicating precisely from one language into another.

In conclusion, we reaffirm our belief in the inerrancy and authority of the Bible as God's Holy and inspired Word. To imply that the use of translations other than the KJV means that we are moving away from this commitment is false and divisive fellowship with one another.

We can trust our Bibles. If you prefer the NIV, use it. If you prefer the KJV, use that. But do not call another Christian's doctrine or orthodoxy into question on the basis of their choice of version.

We should not permit the usage of a particular version to become the basis of personal and ecclesiastical fellowship. God hates those who "sow discord among brethren" (Proverbs 6: 19). Rather, He instructs us "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). If a person who uses only the KJV declares as heretical another believer who chooses to use the ESV, the NIV or the NASB, then that first person is disrupting spiritual unity. Loyalty to Christ and the inspired Word of God should not be measured by the version which a believer chooses to read or to use in public ministry.

Leadership lessons (1)

Today, I was working out and talking with a strength and fitness coach, Brian Lebo, about baseball. Brian played baseball at Youngstown State. When we were young, we found out that we both devoured a book, The Science of Hitting, on hitting a baseball written by Ted Williams, the Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer.

In the book, Williams talks about being selective - choosing a ball in your zone to hit.

He wrote, "My first rule of hitting was to get a good ball to hit. I learned down to percentage points where those good balls were. The box shows my particular preferences, from what I considered my “happy zone” - where I could hit .400 or better - to the low outside corner - where the most I could hope to bat was .230. Only when the situation demands it should a hitter go for the low-percentage pitch.

"Since some players are better high-ball hitters than low-ball hitters, or better outside than in; each batter should work out his own set of percentages. But more important, each should learn the strike zone, because once pitchers find a batter is going to swing at bad pitches he will get nothing else."

The discussion about Ted Williams and his book made me think about something I tell potential leaders, "You have to know your strengths. And lead from there. Be selective about the opportunities you take. Only take those opportunities that fit your passions and your gift-mix. It's the difference between being an OK as a leader and being exceptional as a leader. Only swing at a pitch in your "hot zone" to hit... unless you have two strikes. Then, protect the plate."
So, what's "the zone: for you? What are your strengths?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Why study theology?

As a part of my spiritual growth plan, I'm checking out sermons from various leaders. One guy I'm checking out is Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church.

In a message on January 4, 2009 Matt was encouraging his church to grow spiritually in 2009. He had some great thoughts about why it is important to participate in environments where you can learn the attributes and character of God; i.e., to study theology.

His thoughts from his sermon are below, edited slightly by me.

***

Let’s say... my wife is at home and let’s say I’m shutting down my computer with a picture of her fine face right there on it. For whatever reason, I see it and get stirred up in my affection for her. Like, all of a sudden, I’m just so aware of my love for her that I’m almost hurting.

And so I get in my car; I bang through some traffic; and I get home. And I walk in and there she is, just as fine as she could be sitting on the couch. I walk up and get down on my knee in front of her, grab her hands and go, “Baby... after all these years I love you so much. When I see your black hair and those green eyes of yours, something just happens my soul.”

Right now some of you ladies are asking their husbands, “Why don’t you talk to me like that?”

Let me explain to you why that’s going to go bad for me. Despite the fact that that would be legitimate affection, let me explain why that’s going to go bad for me: My wife has blond hair and blue eyes.

So, correct affection applied wrongly is not a win.

Now, some of us have affection for God, but we have no idea what His attributes are, what the gospel is, what the Scriptures say He is and He isn’t, what He’s responsible for, and what He’s not responsible for. [We don't know theology.]

[Some of us view] theology and doctrine... as some sort of killjoy, some sort of love-robbing, man-made contraption to [lessen] your affection for God. What people do on this side of things is they like to look at theology and the Bible as some sort of cold, dead orthodoxy.

But let me tell you what you’re doing. It’s the same as me walking up to my wife going, “It’s your black hair and green eyes that stir up my affections.” To which my wife would respond, “I don’t have black hair or green eyes.” But then I go, “Don’t you tell me who you really are. I want you to be what I want you to be. Get contacts and dye your hair. That’s who I love.”

Now is that love? That’s a ridiculous version of love that those on the... nonintellectual side of things try [to use] as an excuse to [not study the nature and character of God].

Maybe you have genuine affection for God, but you don’t know anything about His attributes, you don’t know how He works. Maybe that’s where you are.

But He clearly says, “Love the Lord with all your heart and mind." Know... about God, about how He’s disclosed Himself to us in the Scriptures... If you don’t possess that [knowledge of God], then you’re running on a juvenile version of love [for God] that suffering or difficulty will eventually snuff out.

And I think a lot of us have that type of relationship with the Lord. We just don’t know anything about Him. So we’re constantly saying, “Well, God wouldn’t do this...This is who God is [to me].”

And God’s going, “[Hey, get to know Me. The real Me.] Because I don’t have black hair [and green eyes].”

***

I like his argument for putting yourself in environments where you can learn some theology.

If you are at CVC, you really need to check out some of our classes like Truth Matters I and II. Get an ESV Study Bible and read the notes at the end entitled "Biblical doctrine: An overview." Get Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology and actually read it. If you want to study on your own, you can go to the Worldwide Classroom and take some theology courses.

Whatever you do, get to know God. That goes for me, too. Again, whatever you do, get to know God so you'll be loving the Real Deal.
The One Year Bible reading plan

Please keep using the One Year Bible reading plan.

Last week one of the Community Group leaders I am mentoring shared insights from his entries in the Loving God Journal. I was so blessed.

And one of the guys I am mentoring said about the One Year Bible reading plan, “I am especially enjoying using the reading in the Psalms as a guide for my praying.”

What a great response! The Psalms is an ancient prayer book.

Let’s pray it together. Today... Psalm 24!
Discipleship at CVC (11)

How will CVC deliver this kind of 3 for 3 discipleship where peopel are actually growing in lvoe for God, one another, and the world?

We believe that the best delivery point for full-fledged discipleship for us is through our Community Groups. Churches with effective Community Group systems don’t need to create another delivery system for discipleship. The Community Groups need to become little greenhouses for growing disciples. Community Groups need to be more than just fellowship groups. Helping each member of a group go 3 for 3 must be the goal of each group.

Therefore, church leaders must invest in the Community Group leaders so that they actually become the best disciplers in the church.

Church leadership must do vision casting with our Community Group leaders. Community Group leaders need to increasingly understand what the church is seeking to produce in the lives of the people. They must increasingly see that their role is critical for the church’s responsibility to seek to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

The strategy for discipleship, therefore, includes accountability and encouragement for our Community Group leaders to make sure they are fully equipped and engaged in a holistic discipleship process.

Church leaders, including me as the senior pastor and all pastoral staff members, will invest one-on-one time in meeting with Community Group leaders. We will call these meetings Mentoring Meetings. These meetings will take place at least monthly.

Our pastoral staff and our most mature volunteer leaders must deliver the care, encouragement, and accountablity to the Community Group leaders. Our span of care will need to be somewhat limited. But the entire pastoral staff – including me! – has to be involved in meeting with a few Community Group Leaders to make sure that they are being cared for and led well. Staff people focused on our Community Group area can handle more responsibility in terms of meeting with more leaders. But our entire pastoral staff team has to be in this game.

We are up to the task. We have to be. This is what Jesus has called us to do.
Discipling our leaders at CVC

I’m so excited about a mentoring process we’ve begun with our Community Group leaders at CVC.

I am enjoying meeting with those I am mentoring. We are using a set of discipling questions desigend to help us grow in loving God, loving one another, and loving the world. I am using the questions with those I am mentoring and they are giving me a nice framework for conversations.

In February, we are launching a series called “stories.” We’ll be talking about the fact that we need to be interested in the stories of those who don’t know Christ (“their story”). We’ll be talking about how important it is for us to be able to tell our story (Your story). And we’ll wrap things up by giving some instruction on how to tell the story of Jesus (His story).

Given the fact that we are using the “stories” series to help us “Love The World” better and given the fact that we are seeking to point our people to get to a Missions Connect on February 22, we are strongly encouraging our mentors over the next few weeks to focus on using the “Loving The World” questions as they meet with the people whom they are mentoring.

We don't want them focusing entirely on the LTW questions, but we want them to make sure that this is prominent in what you are asking with those they are mentoring.

Below are the questions we have adopted for conversations about Loving The World.

Who are you currently praying for who doesn’t know Christ? How are you currently building bridges into his / her life? What’s the logical next step to reach him / her? How are you planning on sharing your faith story (your testimony) with him / her? When did you last invite someone to a CVC service / event / program? How are you currently loving the world – the poor / hungry / needy / orphan / widow / prisoner / oppressed? What are your plans to go on mission (locally, regionally, globally)? What would be the logical next step for you?

Of course, as we ask these questions, we will be indirectly holding ourselves accountable because the person we are mentoring has the right to ask the question right back at us!

That happened to me last week. One of the guys I’m mentoring turned the questions right back and asked me, “So, Rick, who are you currently praying for who doesn’t know Christ? How are you currently building bridges into his life?” And it was a good thing! Being asked prompted me to get going – to make a lunch appointment this past Monday with a new friend. I heard some of his story. We are meeting again soon. I’m praying for that open door to share my story with him. The ultimate goal, of course, is to share the story of Jesus.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Discipleship at CVC (10)

What’s an indispensable ingredient for successful discipling?

One problem with discipleship in many churches is that the discipling leaders act like “travel agents” rather than “tour guides.”

What’s the difference between “tour guides” and “travel agents”? “Travel agents” say, “Go there. That will be a good experience for you.” “Tour guides” say, “Come with me. I’ve been there. Let’s do this together.”

It’s been said that when Jesus discipled His followers, He used a process:

1) I do; you watch.
2) I do; you help.
3) You do; I help.
4) You do; I watch.

This is a "tour guide" model. And it has been used effectively by those who seek to disciple others.

The discipler must lead the way with the “I do” part. Effective disciplers must be “tour guides,” not “travel agents.”

When it comes to Love God, Love One Another, and Love The World, our elders, our staff, our Community Group leaders, and our members must be “tour guides.”

Leaders at CVC must be able to say just as Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1). So, our dream is that leaders will model Loving God, Loving One Another, and Loving the World. Leaders absolutely must go 3 for 3. This is what it means to be a “tour guide.”

Only then are our disciplers actually qualified to disciple anyone.
Goodness and mercy every day

I have a friend who has recently taken a huge step of faith and things aren't going as well as he would like. I tried to encourage him today. Maybe my words to him might encourage you.

***

I’m sorry... to hear of the struggles.

I was in Psalm 23 today. The verse that jumped off the page to me was Psalm 23:6. I can sometimes start feeling forgotten by God when things aren’t going as well as I would like with my family or the church. But I was reminded today that His goodness and mercy will follow me (actually chase me down) all the days of my life. That means every day – every single day. So, I confessed my failure to see His goodness and mercy daily.

I pray that He will show you His goodness and mercy today and that you will very clearly see it even in these difficult times.

Psalm 86:17 is a prayer that I pray for you. “Show [him] a sign of your favor, that those who hate [him] may see and be put to shame because you, Lord, have helped [him] and comforted [him].”

I know that the struggles you are going through doesn’t make sense. But you know this: He loves you. He cares. He has planned good works for you to do for Him. You are gifted, talented, and godly. And you have dedicated your gifts to serve Him. He knows that and won’t forget it.

Meanwhile, I know you will give [your ministry] your very best. You stepped out in faith... And Hebrews 11:6 says that He rewards faith. Let’s see what He has in store.

I pray that He will do some things that can only be explained by this: “God did it” and that this test will be something that will add to His glory and to your growth in grace.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Discipleship at CVC (9)

If our focus on discipleship is helping people go 3 for 3 in Loving God, Loving One Another, and Loving the World, are we no longer seeking to grow disciples through the classic spiritual disciplines?

One of the books we've promoted a lot at CVC is Donald Whitney's book, The Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life. In the book, Whitney guides us through a carefully selected array of disciplines, including Scripture reading, prayer, worship, Scripture meditation, evangelism, serving, stewardship of time and money, Scripture application, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning. All these spiritual disciplines help us grow as disciples.

Here's our thesis regarding these classic disciplines of the Christian life: If a person goes 3 for 3 he or she will be actually practicing these basic spiritual disciplines.

Loving God consists of Bible intake, prayer, worship, journaling, fasting, etc.

Loving One Another consists of Christian fellowship, service, confession, etc.

Loving The World consists of evangelism, good deeds, etc.

So, this is why we say that going 3 for 3 (practicing these disciplines) will result in personal transformation.
Continuing to pray for our new President... and for our nation

As many pro-life advocates feared, the NY Times reported that President Obama repealed rules on Friday that restricted federal money for international organizations that promote or provide abortions overseas.

While I am generally encouraged by the hope and optimism for a more just society that the Obama presidency so far has fostered, I am deeply concerned that he does not presently support that same justice for the unborn.

“For too long,” he said on Friday, “international family planning assistance has been used as a political wedge issue, the subject of a back-and-forth debate that has served only to divide us. I have no desire to continue this stale and fruitless debate.”

Perhaps, I'm being simplistic. But I think the President's views on abortion are symptomatic of two primary issues, the second flowing out of the first. 1) His ultimate source of moral authority does not seem to be God's Word, the Bible. 2) Therefore, he does not believe that life begins at conception. He may be unfamiliar with what the Bible says on this subject; he may be ignoring what the Bible says on this subject; or he may be misinterpreting what the Bible says on this subject.

Please pray that our President will see, first, that God's Word, the Bible, is our source of authority. And please pray that he will see that life begins at conception. I agree with the President that debating over these issues is, for the most part, "fruitless."

Our trust has to be in our sovereign God who alone has the power to change hearts and minds. And we must ask Him to do just that in the heart and mind of our President.

Dr. Al Mohler's prayer on the day of the inauguration included a cry for God to intervene and change our President's mind on these matters. Maybe his prayer can help you shape your own.

"Father, we pray that you will change this president's heart and mind on issues of urgent concern. We are so thankful for his gifts and talents, for his intellect and power of influence. Father, bend his heart to see the dignity and sanctity of every single human life, from the moment of conception until natural death. Father, lead him to see abortion, not as a matter of misconstrued rights, but as a murderous violation of the right to life. May he come to see every aborted life as a violation of human dignity and every abortion as an abhorrent blight upon this nation's moral witness. May he pledge himself to protect every human life at every stage of development. He has declared himself as an energetic defender of abortion rights, and we fear that his election will lead directly to the deaths of countless unborn human beings. Protect us from this unspeakable evil, we pray. Most urgently, we pray that you will bring the reign of abortion to an end, even as you are the defender of the defenseless."

Just in case you are unaware of the Biblical support for the position that life begins at conception, consider some of the notes from the ESV Study Bible:

"Psalm 139 speaks powerfully to the nature of unborn human life. David exults in God's omniscience and his omnipresence (Ps. 139:1–12). In verse 13 he celebrates God's intricate involvement in his own fetal development: 'For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.' The word kilyah is used to refer to the 'inward parts' (lit., kidneys). In Hebrew poetry the inward parts were typically the seat of the affections, the hidden part of a person where grief may be experienced (Job 16:13), where the conscience exists (Ps. 16:7), and where deep spiritual distress can be felt (Ps. 73:21).

"God formed David's deepest being. He wove him, or colorfully embroidered him, in his mother's womb, so that he was 'fearfully and wonderfully made' (Ps. 139:14). In verse 16 the psalmist refers to his 'unformed substance' being observed by God. David suggests that God's knowledge of him reached even to his earliest development in utero (in the uterus). No wonder the Hebrews found abortion and infanticide morally blameworthy. In addition, David's confession that he was a sinner from conception (Ps. 51:5) further testifies to his belief in personhood from conception, since only persons can be considered sinners."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Miracles

I'm preaching from the story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man in Mark 2:1-12 this weekend. And it occured to me that many people struggle with believing stories like this one.

Isn’t it unreasonable for a 21st century person to believe in miracles? Isn’t it crazy to believe the miracles recorded in the Bible are credible events of history?

Nope! Here are just a few thoughts on why I believe in miracles.

By definition a miracle is a special supernatural work of God’s providence that is not explainable on the basis of the usual patterns of nature.

I think it is reasonable to believe in miracles.

1. If you believe in God, you can believe in miracles. Why? Because God is God. God has the right to interrupt His own natural laws to make a miracle happen.

2. People say, "Well, why doesn't God perform miracles today like He did in the Bible?" Miracles mainly cluster around three time periods in the Bible. 1) The exodus of God's people from Egypt. 2) The period of time when Elijah and Elisha were prophets. 3) The time of Jesus and the apostles. God’s usual way of working in the world is through what appear to be natural means. But from time to time even today, He interupts His normal ways of working in the world to do the spectacular.

3. The opponents of Jesus did not deny His miracles. They either attributed them to the power of Satan or else tried to suppress the evidence. But they didn’t deny that He had miracle-working power. The friends of Jesus did not deny His miracles, either. Most of the disciples faced the test of death as the test of the authenticity of the miracles of Jesus, particularly the miracle of the resurrection.

See, the greatest miracle of all is that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. And to think that He did it for me - to forgive me, to change me, to save me, to make me His, to love me. Wow!

And He did it for you, too.

Trust Him. Thank Him.

Saving us takes a miracle of His love and grace.
Community Group Questions

for the week of 1/25/2009

One Month to Love series

Love widely: A lesson on Loving The World

Warm up:
If you found yourself in a crisis, even at 3:00am, which of your four friends would you call?
Who do you think might call you if they found themselves in a 3:00am crisis?

Dig in:
Read Mark 2:1-12

Reread Mark 2:3. How do you think the paralyzed man felt when his friends were bringing him to Jesus?
a. afraid
b. confused
c. powerless
d. hopeful
e. loved
f. other

Reread Mark 2:4. Why do you think that the four friends of the paralyzed man had such a sense of urgency?

Which of the problems that the four friends encountered do you think was the most intimidating for them?

What would it have taken to lower the paralytic friend down through the roof?
a. organization
b. courage
c. a good sense of humor
d. physical strength
e. good timing
f. desperation
g. the right equipment

When the crowd heard all the commotion on the roof and saw the paralytic being lowered into the room, how do you think the bystanders felt?
a. annoyed: don’t’ these guys have any respect?
b. amused: this is the best show in town
c. angry: throw them out
d. sympathy: these guys are really concerned for their friend
e. good timing

If something like this ever happened at CVC, what would the majority of the people say and why do you think they would say it?
a. this is the most excitement we’ve seen in years.
b. who is going to pay for the roof?
c. whatever it takes to get someone healed is fine with us
d. we’re used to these things
e. let’s see this never happens again
f. other

Read Mark 2:5a. Now, thinking about the whole story, identify the evidence of faith in Jesus that you can see in the lives of the four friends.

Reread Mark 2:5b. Why didn’t Jesus just heal the man to begin with? Why did He forgive him first? What insight about the kingdom and Himself might He be revealing?

Reread Mark 2:6-8. Why do you think the scribes were so upset? How do you think that affected the paralytic, the four friends, and Jesus?

Reread Mark 2:9-11. What can we learn about who Jesus claims to be from His words? (Note: In these verses, Jesus calls Himself the “Son of Man.” It’s a title for the Messiah that comes from the OT book of Daniel (Daniel 7:13-14). It’s one of the ways Jesus refers to Himself throughout the New Testament. It speaks to the fact that Jesus is both God and man, both divine and human.)

Reread Mark 2:12. What should happen when Jesus heals or forgives?

Encourage each person in your group to ask and answer this week’s daily One Month to Love questions found in the church worship guide, on the church website, or on Rick Duncan’s blog.

Wrap up:
In this story, do you identify more with the crowd, the scribes, the four friends, or the paralytic? Why?

Think about one friend you know who is far from Christ. What kinds of paralysis do you see in his or her life?

What is your biggest problem in bringing your friend to Christ?
a. I don’t trust Jesus enough
b. I don’t have a sense of urgency
c. I’m trying to win my friend all by myself
d. I give up too easily
e. other

Now, make a list of the friends of Community Group members who need to know Christ. Close out your group study time by asking each person in the group to pray for the friend(s) mentioned by the person on their right.

Friday, January 23, 2009

People are growing at CVC

Here's a portion of an email I received today. I'm pumped that God is using CVC to help people grow!

***

Your message last summer about the Parable of the Talents led me to pray in very specific ways about my own ministry. That prayer was answered very quickly and directly through my involvement with Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) in Cleveland. That message had such an impact on me, that I forwarded the link to several friends... challenging them to "take risks" for the sake of the Name.

The current series on One Month to Love has also been a real blessing for me. I had written down some spiritual goals and resolutions for New Years, and for some reason, I was resisting "The Bible in One Year." I suppose I was thinking that my BSF studies would be enough (ha!). The very next Sunday, you challenged the congregation to join in with daily Bible reading! I knew that God was telling me to "put it back on my list." So I did, and it was certainly the right thing to do.

I also had on my "resolutions" list to do better at journaling this year. And the questions you have handed out each week are exactly what I needed to prompt the self-reflection and action that I know I'm called to.

***

Wow. I'm always amazed that God would use CVC and me, a washed-up, minor league ballplayer from the sticks of Tennessee to do His work. How gracious is that?
Discipleship at CVC (8)

At CVC, we want everyone to go 3 for 3 when it comes to Loving God, Loving One Another, and Loving the World. What do we mean by wanting everyone to go 3 for 3?

In virtually every church, the numbers of people who are attending services far exceed the numbers of people who are actually engaged in ministry or engaged on mission. This follows the often-referred-to Pareto Principle – that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people.

Of the people who show up to services, many do not put their hearts into the worship experience. Even a lesser percentage are engaged in private worship through Bible intake and prayer. Many people are not involved in Community Groups. Many are not involved in serving in a ministry to the body of Christ. And even less are involved in reaching out either locally or globally.

Churches simply cannot be satisfied with the status quo.

We believe that God’s Word must be taken seriously. It is actually possible for believers to obey the commands of God. Therefore, at CVC, we believe that it is possible for every Christ-follower to go 3 for 3.

While we do not think that we will ever see 100% of our attenders actually fully engaged, we do want to have that as our goal – our dream, our vision. This means that as long as someone in our care is we will not rest until that person is going 3 for 3 when it comes to Loving God, Loving One Another, and Loving The World.

Many people who attend CVC seem to know that we want them to move from our corporate worship services into a Community Group. Our challenge is to make sure that after our people get into a Community Group, we provide an easy-to-follow pathway into a Loving One Another service opportunity. Ministry volunteerism within the body CVC should happen as a routine, fluid progression.

We also want to make sure that the each attender can engage in Loving The World service opportunities in local, regional, national, or international missions. Loving The World cannot be seen as optional. It’s not a separate goal that people can take or leave.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

One Month to Love Questions

for the week of January 25

Love widely

OMTL questions for Sunday, January 25:
Would you list the names of five of your friends who need to know Christ? Write their names in a special place like a prayer journal as a reminder to pray for them regularly. Remember that people without Christ are blind (II Corinthians 4:4), bound (II Timothy 2:26), and buried (Ephesians 2:1). So, begin to pray this way: Lord, help (name of your friend) see; set __________ free; and raise __________ up.

OMTL questions for Monday, January 26:
Look at the list of people you are currently praying for who don’t know Christ. How are you currently building bridges into their lives? It’s been said that people don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. How will you show that you care to your friends who don’t yet know Christ? What’s the logical next step for you to be used by God to help reach each person?

OMTL questions for Tuesday, January 27:
What is one item of comfort, luxury, or convenience that you can do without? It might be your daily Starbucks, the half-hour sitcom before bed, your favorite dessert, or something similar. How might you use that time or money that generally goes to this item for a larger purpose – praying for a lost world, contributing to missions, or offering your services to your church or to a ministry in order to help love the world.

OMTL questions for Wednesday, January 28:
How are you currently loving the world – the poor / hungry / needy / orphan / widow / prisoner / oppressed? What cause, situation, or people group are you moved by? Spend some time praying for these people and researching way you can serve them – using your time, your talents, and your treasure. What are your plans to go on mission (locally, regionally, globally)? What would be the logical next step for you?

OMTL questions for Thursday, January 29:
Has there been a CVC service or CVC event that has occurred recently that you wish you had invited a friend to attend? When did you last invite someone to a CVC service / event / program? What is keeping you from inviting someone to CVC? Ask the Lord to give you the insight and courage to invite a friend soon. Then call a Christian friend at CVC and ask them to hold you accountable to invite your non-believing friend to a service or event at CVC.

OMTL questions for Friday, January 30:
Do you have a written testimony of how you came to faith in Christ? If your answer is no, spend some time writing your story in three parts: 1) what your life was like before Christ, 2) how you came to know Christ, and 3) what your life is like now that Christ is in your life. Now, think about your friends who don’t know Christ. How are you planning on sharing your faith story with them?

OMTL questions for Saturday, January 31:
To help you start a conversation about Jesus, which of the following questions do you feel most comfortable asking a friend? 1) How did you arrive at the spiritual beliefs that you have? 2) Does your spiritual background help you answer questions about life? 3) Where is God in your life? 4) What has been your most meaningful spiritual experience? 5) To you, who is Jesus? Make an appointment to take a friend out to enjoy a meal or a cup of coffee. Pick one of these questions (or come up with one of your own) to start a spiritual conversation with your friend.

Discipleship at CVC (7)

How do the three areas of focus in our discipleship process – 1) Loving God, 2) Loving One Another, 3) Loving The World – work together?

These disciplines are not to be seen as practices that exist in isolation. They are mutually dependent on one another. Loving God is foundational for the other two although there may be times that involvement in a Community Group or on a mission trip might be the first contact that someone has with the church.

But if a person truly is Loving God, then God will put into the heart a love for the things He loves. So, out of Loving God will flow a desire to Love One Another and a desire to Love The World.

When we Love God, He causes us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. And when we do Love One Another, we demonstrate a love for God. I John 4:20-21 says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” So, it is clear that the practice of Loving God and Loving One Another encourage and energize each other.

We can see a similar connection between Loving God and Loving The World. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). And He commands us, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 2819) and “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). So, Loving The World is one vital way we express our love for God.

This is why we at CVC use the LG/LOA/LTW circle as a logo. Loving God causes us to Love One Another. Loving One Another causes us to Love The World. Loving the World causes us to Love God. And the cycle continues over and over as disciples grow deeper and deeper. This is a process that produces an ever-increasing spiritual maturity.

Loving God, Loving One Another, and Loving the World are interdependent. We can’t do any one in a God-honoring way without doing the others. This is why it is important for each believer at CVC to go 3 for 3.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2009 Spiritual Growth Plan for Rick Duncan

Do you have a written SPG for 2009? I wrote down my plan on 12/30/2008 in my Loving God Journal. But I finally typed out my plan today. Here it is. Pray for me, please. And why not write your plan down, too?

Overall Goal:
to grow in my love for God, for others, and for the world

Spiritually
1. regular, unhurried time in God’s word using the One Year Bible reading plan and the Loving God Journal
2. regular, unhurried time in prayer using the Prayer section of the Loving God Journal and the Valley of Vision
3. seeking to more consistently practice the presence of God / abiding in Christ / being filled with the Spirit

Relationally
1. Read and pray with Maryanne and take a marriage retreat during the year
2. Have one-on-one time with both Ryan and Evan at least twice a month; once an month with Alan
3. Have one-on-one time with the men in my small group and my direct reports – using the Discipleship Team questions

Intellectually
1. Stick with a consistent reading plan – at least one book a week
2. Scripture memory – lock in Romans 8 and selected verses
3. Listen to one sermon a week from the following list of preachers: Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Tim Keller

Emotionally
1. Gain more peace – especially when conflict arises. (I need to be able to rebuke and admonish like Jesus did.)
2. Gain more joy
3. Gain more kindness

Physically
1. Exercise 6 out of 7 days – 30 minutes a day – work out with a trainer, Brian Lebo
2. Get a physical
3. Eat more vegetables and fruits

Missionally
1. Pick a “Global goliath” to help slay
2. Help raise money for NEO360
3. Reach out to neighbors / build relationships with some NR basketball parents

To be held accountable by CVC elder, Ron Cleveland
Discipleship at CVC (6)

Stated succinctly, what do we want to see in the lives of the people at CVC?

One, we want them to Love God…
… through public worship by engaging in heart-felt worship at weekend services.
… through private worship by developing the spiritual discipline of regular, unhurried Bible intake and prayer.

Two, we want them to Love One Another…
… through Community Group involvement.
… through serving in a ministry of the church.

Three, we want them to Love The World…
… through serving in some way to reach out locally to the last, the least, the lost.
… through serving in some way to reach out globally to the last, the least, the lost. (Note: This may not be possible for every believer annually. But at some point in the believer’s experience, a global mission effort is certainly within reach.)

We want the people of CVC to be lovers of God, lovers of believers, and lovers of the last, the least, and the lost in their every day lives. This is all about having healthy relationships upward with God, inward with believers in the church, and outward with a lost world.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Praying for the President

Today, we took some time as a staff to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Then we prayed together using a prayer from the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Al Mohler.

Please pray for our President and all elected officials.

Check out Al Mohler's prayer, the prayer we used as a basis of our staff prayer for the President.

Rick Warren's invocation made me proud to be an evangelical pastor who is unashamed of the name of Jesus.

Check out the text of the benediction by Rev. Joseph Lowery during the inauguration.

Below, pastor Charles Stanley also has some sound instruction from God's Word about praying for government leaders.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, the apostle Paul says, “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

Most of us realize that we should be interceding for our country’s leaders. But sometime we have difficulty knowing what to ask. Below are a few suggestions.

Pray that our elected officials would:

1. Recognize their personal sinfulness and need for the cleansing power of Jesus Christ.
2. Understand their inadequacy for the task before them and their need to pray for God’s wisdom, knowledge and courage.
3. Reject all counsel that violates the spiritual principles of God’s Word and be willing to trust God to lead them in the right direction.
4. Resist the pressures of those who would lead them astray or tempt them to disobey the Lord and His will for their lives.
5. Work to reverse the trend towards ungodliness in our land and to restore America’s Christ-centered values.
6. Be prepared to make godly choices in the best interest of America, regardless of the cost.
7. Rely on the Word of God and prayer for strength and success.
8. Maintain dignity, honor, trustworthiness, and righteousness in office.
9. Strive to be a godly example to the men, women, and children of this land.
10. Remember that while in office, they are accountable to God for their attitudes, actions, and motives.

If God’s people pray consistently and passionately for those in authority, the entire nation will be affected. “The effective prayer of a righteous man [or woman] can accomplish much” (James 5:16).
Why should we bless God?

On Saturday night, someone asked the above question. I don’t think the person was questioning the “what” – the command to bless the Lord. Instead, I think they were questioning the “why”, i.e., why would God command such a thing since we do not have the power to bless Him and since He actually needs nothing from us.

Here are my thoughts so far:

***

This question is a theological question.

The ESV Study Bible notes say, “God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation can glorify him and bring him joy. ‘The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything’ (Acts 17:24–25; cf. Ex. 3:14; Job 41:11; Ps. 50:9–12; 90:2). God never experiences need, so serving God [or blessing God] should never be motivated by the thought that he needs us. He is the provider in everything.”

Two of God’s incommunicable attributes (belonging to God alone) are His aseity (self-existence, John 5:26) and His self-sufficiency (Psalm 50:12-13). His name “El Shaddai” (God all-sufficient, Gen. 17:1, 2) signifies these attributes. Being the great “I Am” (Ex. 3:14), God’s existence is not dependent on anything or anyone, nor does He need anything or anyone.

D. A. Carson said, "Paul (in Acts 17) actually has the cheek to say that God does not need you. It is not as if God needs you. You see, that is so different than paganism. In paganism the gods and human beings have a kind of reciprocal relationship. The gods have their needs, we have our needs. You scratch their backs, they scratch your back. You give them the right to sacrifice, and they give you the right blessing. They are like souped up human beings with their fears their loves and their lusts and their hates, and then you make them happy and the gods make you happy, you see? Thus, they have their needs. But God…doesn’t need us. Now it is important to keep saying that in our generation. Because we are so in danger of so psychologizing God that we are in danger of thinking of him as sort of up in heaven as really unhappy unless we get our praise choruses right. Do you see? Dear old God is really unhappy unless we live holy lives, [God is] miserable, miserable. Now do not misunderstand, I do not want to make God so withdrawn that he does not care about what happens. Or there is no place for his love or his wrath or his response to us. God is a personal God. But it is not as if God is a being larded with a whole lot of psychological needs, which only we can meet. So that in eternity past, dear old God was really quite lonely up there and decided to do something about it. It is just not the way the God of the Bible is presented, you see?"

Pastor A. W. Tozer wrote The Knowledge of the Holy. In the book, he talked about the self-sufficiency of God: “Christianity has put God on charity… God does not need our help… God has no necessary relation to anything outside Himself; God has a voluntary relation to everything He has made.”

How is it possible that we – stupid, stinkin’ stubborb sheep - can bless the name of God? It seems backwards, reversed, in the wrong order. The Supreme, Majestic God is the One blesses me. I am lowly and needy. Why would He want me to bless Him?

When God "blesses" us we are helped and strengthened and made better off than we were before, but when we "bless" God He is not helped or strengthened or made better off. Rather, when we bless God it is an expression of our praise and thanksgiving. When the OT speaks of blessing God, it does not indicate that we can in any way help or strengthen Him. Blessing God is an exclamation of gratitude and admiration.

If God is the "blesser," then He must be above all others in a "blessed" state. He is the source of all "blessing." Since this is true, our natural response is to say, "You are blessed, O Lord!" We must recognize and pronounce God's blessedness like a child rises up and blesses his mother. And like a mother’s heart is truly touched by a thankful child, so God’s heart is moved by us, the creatures who bless the Creator.

Teach us, O God, that nothing is necessary to You. If You needed anything, You would be imperfect like us. If nothing is needed by You, then no one is necessary, not even me. I am in awe that You seek me even though You do not need me. I seek You because I need You, for in You I live and move and have my being. I bless You, God, You who are eternally Holy, self-existent, self-sufficient, complete, and unchangeable in Your Being. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me. Bless Your holy name. Amen.

***

And check out John Piper on why it is important for us to bless and glorify God.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Discipleship at CVC (5)

If a disciple goes 3 for 3 in Loving God, Loving One Another, and Loving the World, then what do we mean at CVC by the phrase "Loving The World"?

Obeying the Great Commandment to love God and love one another is not enough. Jesus also gave His followers 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” (Matthew 28:19-20). True disciples seek to fulfill the Great Commission by making not only better disciples, but also more disciples.

We believe that serving / loving the last, the least, and the lost in practical ways not only provides us with the opportunities to share Christ, but is also transformational in nature. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). Believers change and actually become more and more like Jesus as we go on mission like Him and serve like Him. Therefore, we view Loving The World as essential to discipleship, not optional. We do this by praying for those without Christ and by serving them in practical ways.

We do good deeds to create good will so we can share the good news. While evangelism is not our ulterior motive, it is our ultimate aim. We desire to share the gospel with people who do not know Christ. People desperately need to know that God loves them and that Jesus died on the cross to save them from their sins.

In Acts 1:8, Jesus commanded us to be His witnesses “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). We believe that every Christian can and should engage in hands on ways in some type of local, regional, national, and / or international mission projects.

We believe that every believer is uniquely gifted to serve. We believe that there is some cause that resonates with the heart – the passion – of each person. We believe that each person has areas of expertise that can be leveraged to minister to those who have less.

Our job as leaders is to help each person at CVC find a place of service in the great missionary cause of God. Annually, everyone can serve locally. And at some point in a believer’s life, we believe that he or she can participate in regional, national, and international missionary efforts.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

He did it!

Our son, Alan, preached his first message at CVC. And I, for one, am hoping it won't be his last.

Just as I am super-proud of Ryan and Evan, I've been proud of Alan before as he has loved his family in practical ways, scored touchdowns in football, pinned opponents in wrestling, graduated from high school and college, produced a Christ-honoring rap album, acted in drama at church, edited a moving video piece...

But this was different. He preached a convicting sermon from John 13. He said, "Why don’t we fill this church, this city, this nation with people who know Jesus personally, who are secure in their place in the family, who look for feet to wash, and then who give up their lives loving each other? Let’s become those people. This passage has convicted me. And God has placed some things on my heart that I need to do to love like Jesus."

One man told me that he could see my face just beaming as Alan preached. Maryanne said, "I just sat there and listened and thought, 'Wow, that man came out of my stomach!'"

Check out the message here.

Look for:
Love Sacrificially - Saturday, January 17, 2009 - Alan Duncan.

Friday, January 16, 2009

His very first message

I'm excited about this weekend's services.

My son, Alan, is teaching from John 13 on Saturday night in our One Month to Love series. Please pray for him. It’s his first message.

I'll be teaching on Sunday morning at all three services.

Here’s a suggestion from a previous post as you pray for him. (And me!)

***

Preachers need your prayer

Want to know how to pray for your pastor on the weekends when he is preaching?

Here's an adaptation of a prayer for preachers and their preaching that can be found at Kingdom People. If you go to CVC, please, please, please print this, put in your Bible, and pray this for anyone teaching at a weekend service.

***

Dear heavenly Father,

My pastor is expected to preach this weekend. But in his own energy, he will go weak and needy to his task. So, fill him with Your Spirit and let Him abide in the only True Vine, Jesus.

We ask that all Your people who hear the Word through his lips will be edified with divine truth and that an honest testimony will be given for You through his words.

So, give my pastor Your great and holy assistance in preaching and in prayer. May his heart be uplifted with grace and passion.

Help him to have insight into Your Word. Give him a fullness of truth and clarity of thought, proper expressions, fluency, fervency, a deep emotion to accompany the words he speaks, and grace to apply them to people’s consciences.

Keep him conscious all the while of his sins and weaknesses and let him never gloat in pride over his preaching.As a result of his proclamation of the Word may sinners be left inexcusable in neglecting Your mercy. Please bring the lost to our church from the north, the south, the east and the west. And as our pastor preaches, awaken those who are dead in their trespasses. Release those who are bound by sin. Let them see their need for a Savior and let them see the beauty of Jesus as the only and sufficient Redeemer.Give him freedom to see the sorrows of Your people and to set before them comforting consolations that are found in Your Word.

Give Your power to the truth preached and awaken the attention of any slothful listeners.May Your people be refreshed, melted, convicted, comforted. And help him to use the strongest arguments drawn from Christ’s incarnation and sufferings that Your people might be made holy.

He needs Your support, comfort, strength, holiness that he might be a pure channel of Your grace and that he might be able to do something great for You.

Give him refreshment among Your people. Help him not to treat Your excellent truths in a defective way. Help him not bear a broken testimony to so worthy a Redeemer. Help him never treat Christ’s death, its design and end, with a lack of warmth and fervency.

And keep him in tune with You as he does this work.

In Jesus' name, Amen.
One Month to Love Questions for the week of January 18

Love sacrificially

OMTL questions for Sunday, January 18:
How often do you thank those around you for what they contribute to your life? Who would you want to thank today if you only had one month to live? Make a list of the people in your life for whom you’re most grateful. Try to think beyond the obvious ones—family and friends—and consider the people who contribute to your life each day yet tend to be overlooked. Whether it’s your child’s teacher, your assistant at the office, the bus drive on your commute, or the barista at the coffee shop, make a point to thank them today.

OMTL questions for Monday, January 19:
Who is important to you but lives far away? Write a letter, send an e-mail, or call someone who’s important to you but lives far away. Recall the last time you were together, and tell that person what it meant to you.

OMTL questions for Tuesday, January 20:
Who in your life needs you to listen more to them? Try a twenty-four-hour media fast (no television, radio, computer, or newspaper) to help you tune out distractions and really listen to the people in your life. After your media fast, write down how it affected you.

OMTL questions for Wednesday, January 21:
What person’s feet need “washing” (see John 13) in your life right now? What is an unpleasant act of service that you’ve been avoiding? Is there an act of thoughtfulness that you can perform today? What small act of kindness would you perform for the people around you if you knew you only had 30 days to live? Why are you waiting?

OMTL questions for Thursday, January 22:
Right now in your life do you have a relationship in which the lines of communication are really breaking down? Was there a lack of communication, a miscommunication, or a discrepancy between words and actions? How have you responded to this person? What can you do to rebuild a bridge into this person’s life?

OMTL questions for Friday, January 23:
Describe one person in your life who consistently rubs you the wrong way. How have you attempted to relate to him or her in the past? IF you knew you only had one month to live, what would you want to tell this person? What’s keeping you from speaking up today?

OMTL questions for Saturday, January 24:
Presently, what person or persons are you serving who can offer you nothing in return? Who in your life needs you but may not be able to reciprocate? What prevents you from giving of yourself to them? Think through the people in your life right now. Choose one new acquaintance to befriend, someone who needs you more than you need them. Look for a way you can serve this person. Make a list of “empty vessels” in your life right now—people around you who need your input, resources, love, and attention. Whose need seems most urgent? Pray for God’s leading, and look for a way to pour yourself into this person’s life this week.
Community Group Questions

for the week of 1/18/2009

One Month to Love series

Love sacrificially: A lesson on Loving One Another

(Note to Community Group Leaders: There are likely more questions listed below than you will have time to use. Please select questions that will best minister to the members of your group. Also, please challenge your members to use the One Year Bible and the OMTL questions for the week of 1/18/2009 inside the worship section of the CVC program as a part of their personal devotional lives.)

Warm up:
What were the “special” meals in your family: Thanksgiving? Sunday lunch? Birthday dinners? Christmas? What was usually served? Who in your family was the most humble servant?

Dig in:
Read John 13:3-5, 12-17, 34-35.

What does Jesus know about Himself that enables Him to love others well (v. 3)? What about “Who Jesus is” makes it even more impressive that He washed the disciples’ feet?

Assuming the disciples were aware of the custom of footwashing, why didn’t they wash one another’s feet when entering the home?
a. you can’t wash your own feet
b. they forgot
c. it was the servant’s job
d. it would be humiliating

Jesus is the obvious leader in the room (v. 13). What do you look for in a leader? Rank these qualities in order of their importance from 1 to 10.
___ toleration: accepts differences of opinion
___ task oriented: reaches for goals
___ motivation: able to inspire confidence
___ unselfish: puts others first
___ courage: willing to take risks
___ flexible: able to make midcourse corrections
___ initiative: self-starter
___ pragmatic: practical and resourceful
___ intelligence: high I.Q.
___ action oriented: try anything once

Why do you think Jesus washed his disciples’ feet?
a. to shame them
b. to show his deep love for them
c. to teach them a lesson in servanthood
d. to give them a new model for their lives together
e. to show them real leadership

If Jesus were to wash your feet today in a new and meaningful way (knowing your needs as he does), what would Jesus do?

Why do you think people in the church do not regularly practice the equivalent of footwashing?
a. we don’t want to get too close
b. we’re too busy meeting our own needs
c. it’s not really okay to have needs
d. overwhelmed / don’t know where to start
e. we’re too proud to serve one another

How did Jesus expect the disciples to follow his example?
a. by washing each other’s feet
b. by serving each other and those for whom the message is intended
c. by counting themselves no better than Jesus
d. by being willing to suffer all the shame Jesus would suffer

What are some practical ways we can “wash feet” today in the 21st century?

In your spiritual life, who is one person who has demonstrated what it means to “wash feet”? What did he or she do?

Which reminder from the life of Jesus as He washed the disciple’s feet did you need to hear the most? Why?
a. Be more secure.
b. Take up a towel.
c. Do not delay.
d. Connect to Christ.

Who is the “John” – the one closest to you – who needs to be loved/served? Who is the “Peter” in your life – the one who is often frustrating to you – who needs to be loved/served? Who is the “Judas” in your life – the one who perhaps betrayed you – who needs to be loved/served?

Read John 13:34-35. We learn more about what it means to love one another by understanding all the other “one another” passages in the New Testament. Look over the “one another” list. Which “one another” do you do the best? The worst?
Comfort one another. I Thessalonians 4:18
Encourage one another. I Thessalonians 5:11
Build up one another. I Thessalonians 5:11
Live in peace with one another. I Thessalonians 5:13
Seek what is good for one another. I Thessalonians 5:13
Stimulate one another. Hebrews 10:24
Confess sins to one another. James 5:16
Pray for one another. James 5:16
Not complain against one another. James 5:9
Not judge one another. Romans 14:13
Not consume or devour one another. Galatians 5:15
Offer hospitality to one another. I Peter 4:9
Prefer one another. Romans 12:10
Edify one another. Romans 14:19
Receive one another. Romans 15:7
Admonish one another. Romans 15:14
Care for one another. I Corinthians 12:25
Greet one another. I Corinthians 16:20
Serve one another. Galatians 5:13
Submit to one another. Ephesians 5:21

Wrap up:
Specifically, how will you “find some feet to wash” and put Jesus’ teaching into practice in at least one relationship this week at home, work, or church?
Discipleship at CVC (4)

OK. It's 3 for 3 at CVC. Love God. Love One Another. Love The World.

How are we wanting our people to grow as disciples when it comes to Loving One Another?

After Jesus said that loving God was the greatest commandment, He said, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). This secondary aspect of the Great Commandment must be taken seriously by the church of Jesus Christ. True disciples grow in their love for one another.

To love one another well, people must be biblically informed about relationships and how God wants us to live together in unity – praying for one another, encouraging one another, admonishing one another, etc. Therefore, our strategy / process deals with the issues of how to teach people to grow in their sanctification – in their capacity to relate to one another in godly ways.

Loving One Another is certainly not optional. Loving One Another is an evidence that we are truly born again. I John 4:7-6 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Just to keep things simple (and somewhat measureable) we've said at CVC that Loving God consists of two basic ingredients - 1) public worship and 2) private worship. So, too, Loving One Another consists of two basic ingredients - 1) involvement in a Community Group and 2) service to the body of Christ.

Involvement in a Community Group

An important element of Loving One Another is meaningful involvement in a strong, well-led Community Group. This is why we believe that the leaders of our Community Groups are key in our discipleship strategy. And this is why significant investment in their training and development takes place at CVC. Community Groups are where we believe we can learn to practice the "one anothers" that are mentioned so frequently in the New Testament.

The New Testament teaches that we must minister to each other. Every believer is to participate. We are not only to have someone minister to us, but we also need to minister to and with others. We minister through the full range of the “one another” ministries of the New Testament. Lovin One Another encompasses all of these ministries. We are told to:

Comfort one another. I Thessalonians 4:18
Encourage one another. I Thessalonians 5:11
Build up one another. I Thessalonians 5:11
Live in peace with one another. I Thessalonians 5:13
Seek what is good for one another. I Thessalonians 5:13
Stimulate one another Hebrews. 10:24
Confess sins to one another. James 5:16
Pray for one another James. 5:16
Not complain against one another. James 5:9
Not judge one another. Romans 14:13
Not consume or devour one another. Galatians 5:15
Offer hospitality to one another. I Peter 4:9
Prefer one another. Romans 12:10
Edify one another. Romans 14:19
Receive one another. Romans 15:7
Admonish one another. Romans 15:14
Care for one another. I Corinthians 12:25
Greet one another. I Corinthians 16:20
Serve one another. Galatians 5:13
Submit to one another. Ephesians 5:21

The best place for these kinds of relationships to be built is in the context of a small group. In fact, it’s almost impossible to practice the “one anothers” of the New Testament in a large gathering. One Christian leader, in emphasizing the value of small groups in relation to large meetings, said, “We impress people from a distance. But we impact them up close.”

In Community Groups, we experience what is commonly called Christian fellowship. It’s enjoying others who follow Jesus! At CVC, a Community Group is a group of people (6-12) who regularly come together to help each other grow to be passionate followers of Christ.

Meaningful service to the church

Another fundamental element of Loving One Another is meaningful service to the church – the local body of Christ. This service should be in the areas where people are spiritually gifted. We believe that significant investment must be given to make sure people are engaged in volunteer positions within CVC that are energizing.

So, how are you doing when it comes to Loving One Another?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Discipleship at CVC (3)

If being a disciple at CVC is going 3 for 3 - meaning Loving God, Loving One Another, and Loving the World - what does a disciple look like in each area?

Let's start by thinking about what it means to be Loving God.

One time, Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” And Jesus answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).

If loving God is the greatest commandment, then a failure to love God must be the greatest sin. Surely the discipleship process at any church starts with helping people obey the Great Commandment by providing encouragement for them to develop a genuine love for God.

To love God, we must know God. We believe that as our people at CVC learn to know God better, they will love Him more. Therefore, our strategy / process deals with the issues of how to teach God-saturated, Christ-centered theological content to our people. This is done in a way that that results in obedience to God’s Word since Jesus said, “He who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me” (John 14:15).

A vital component of Loving God consists of 1) private worship – spending regular, unhurried time with God in prayer and the Word. This is what a Passionate Follower of Christ looks like at CVC.

Another essential element of Loving God involves 2) public worship – being fully present and fully passionate about weekend services – our time of corporate celebration. This is also what a Passionate Follower of Christ looks like at CVC.

We're not talking about something clinical. Love has to involve your feelings. We’re talking about a heart-felt devotion. We’re talking about enjoying a Person - Jesus.

Today, I hope that you will examine your heart. Examine yourself, “Do I love Jesus Christ?” I want to ask you that question. It’s of primary importance.

Jesus once said, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me" (Matthew 10:37, NASB).

Are you Loving God like this? What is the condition of your love for Jesus? Every relationship has an ebb and flow. How devoted are you to Jesus? Is He more precious to you than your hobbies? Than your job? Than your health? Than your career? Than your family?

The sinful woman of Luke 7 wept on the feet of Jesus, wiped His feet with her hair, kissed the feet of Jesus, and poured ointment on His feet from an alabaster flask. It was not customary for any woman to appear in public like this. And among the Jews, it was a shameful thing for a woman to let down her hair in public. But she did it.

This is the nature of true love: You don’t care about who’s watching. You’re willing to do anything. You don’t care what anyone thinks. You’re given over. You’re expressive. Why? You are in love!

What do you really get fired up about? Do you have that same kind of emotion / commitment / devotion about Jesus?

What is the alabaster flask of ointment you will pour out for Jesus? What are the tears of love you will shed for Christ? How will you kiss the feet of your Savior? The real evidence of Loving God is an unrestrained, authentic devotion to Christ.
Is God the same in the OT and the NT?

I received a great question from someone who is reading through the OT using the One Year Bible reading plan.

***

I am reading from the Old Testament like we are suppose to be doing and I have lots of questions.

Some questions I have been praying about and God has been answering them for me but I have one big question and I'm hoping you can answer it for me.

In the Old Testament, there is a lot of really bad things that some of the prophets are doing and God seems to be OK with it.

For example, Jacob, he tricked his father while his father was on his death bed and made him think he was Esau and received his fathers blessing. Then God gave Jacob many blessings after that. Plus, what about all the wives they had and all the woman he was sleeping with. And, then I don't understand why the woman would give their husbands their slaves to sleep with. One such is Sarah, how she told Abraham to go to her maid and have a child, so he did. Then Sarah got Jealous and made Abraham send Hagar away with her baby. Why would God bless Sarah after doing something so mean? and why didn't Abraham take Hagar as his wife after sleeping with her? And one other instance is when Abraham and I think Isaac both lied about being married to their wives and almost allowing other men to sleep with their wives. In one instance, the Lord afflicted the Pharaoh with plague because Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife. Why would God do that to someone else who didn't know that Sarah was Abraham's wife?

These are questions I have because God in the New Testament seems so much different from the way God is in the Old Testament. What we learn is that God never changes. How come there seems to be so much change in the way God wants us to be now and the way great Prophets were back in the Old Testament?

***

Good question. I only have time to give you a very succinct response.

I think there may be a fundamentally flawed premise in your question. Here it is: God should bless those who are good and punish those who are bad. In a sense, you’re right. The problem is that no one is good. No one should be blessed.

You are right in thinking that Jacob's conniving and Sarah’s jealousy are evil. But so are Esau’s impulsiveness and Hagar’s pride. All of them suffered consequences for their sin. In both OT and NT, we reap what we sow, more than we sow, later than we sow (Galatians 6:7).

But God in His grace – not because of their goodness, but in spite of their badness - decided to bless Jacob and Sarah and not Esau and Hagar. Why? Just because.

Romans 9:10-16 speaks to this very issue. “When Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’ What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:10-16, ESV).

The ESV Study Bible from Romans 9 says, “The promise given to Rebekah (Gen. 25:23) was that God had chosen the younger Jacob over the older Esau. One of the themes in Romans 9–11 is that God works in surprising ways, so that no one can ever presume upon his grace. The citation of Mal. 1:2–3 also shows that God set his saving love on Jacob and rejected (hated) Esau. “Hated” is startling, but as a sinner Esau did not deserve to be chosen by God, who remains just in not choosing everyone. The salvation of anyone at all comes only from God's mercy. Since God chose Jacob instead of Esau before they were born, without regard to how good or bad either of them would be, the question naturally arises: Is God just in choosing one over the other? God is just because no one deserves to be saved (cf. 3:23), and the salvation of anyone at all is due to God's mercy alone, as the citation of Ex. 33:19 affirms.”

So, the God of the OT and the God of the NT are the same. He doesn't have to bless anyone. No one is deserving. But we can rejoice that we have been made objects of His free, electing, sovereign grace.

And let’s pray for those we know that they will be objects of that same grace as well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Discipleship at CVC (2)

We are calling discipleship at CVC a "discipleship process." Why?

Discipleship

The word “discipleship” is used because it describes the great task of the Church in terms that Jesus Himself used in Matthew 28, Luke 14, and other places.

We know that the word “discipleship” carries with it a lot of baggage. Many believers have definitions that can be limiting. They see discipleship as curriculm-based. Others see is as something very relational and organic. We sse the word as describing something that is all-encompassing when it comes to describing spiritual growth.

The church has used a variety of words to describe the process of spiritual growth. Words and phrases like “edification,” “a changed life,” “transformation,” “growth in godliness,” “the pursuit of holiness,” “spiritual maturity,” and “spiritual formation” all express the concept of discipleship.

Process

The word “process” conveys the ideas of development and progression. In other words, the task of growing as a disciple will never be completed in this life.

So, we use the term “discipleship process” to encompass the various ministries of the church. Every ministry, every program, and every department must be about the task of discipleship.

Churches must be busy about what Jesus said we should get busy about: Making Disciples. That’s our business.

Again, a disciple is someone who is Loving God, Loving One Another, Loving The World. These aren’t just words / slogans to us. We desire that our staff and our volunteer leaders actually seek to live this way. We are seeking to be a church filled with people who will surround ourselves with people who seek to live this way. We want CVC to be filled with people whose lives are so transformed that they actually live this way.

Ultimately, true success in ministry happens when we grow disciples - when lives change, when people are actually becoming more and more like Jesus.

Are you growing as a disciple?
Marriage restored

I received a very encouraging note this past week.

***

As you know our marriage was in trouble and we almost didn't make it.

But through it we learned that God can restore and even make relationships stronger then before. I've learned that God is always there for us and when I stop trying to do it on my on, and literally cry out to Him He will answer. I've learned that my wife has an incredible faith, and when you have nothing left in you God will keep His promise.

Now that I have gone through this I am trying to support others in this area.

In the song The Voice Of Truth by Casting Crowns they sing about how we "Tried before and failed" "but the voice of truth says do not be afraid" "THIS IS FOR MY GLORY"

I know now that even the tough things can be used for His glory.

Rick, I thank God for the influence you have been in our lives, and the lives of our children. Thank you for the encouragement, wisdom and coaching you have provided us over the years personally and through your messages.

***

This is why pastors do what we do. We serve a King who never gives up on HIs people. And when they reach out to Him, He heals. I praise His name.

Here are the words to the song my friend mentioned:

Oh,what I would do to have
the kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown
Where Jesus is,
And he's holding out his hand

But the waves are calling out my name
and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
time and time again
"Boy, you'll never win, you'll never win."

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
the voice of truth says "do not be afraid!"
and the voice of truth says "this is for my glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Listen here:

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reading the Bible

How are you doing reading through the One Year Bible?

I know that some of the people at CVC really have been resisting using the One Year Bible plan. But some of you are using the plan anyway because I put on the "coach hat" and asked you to do it.

I got an email this past week from a woman who was, at first, not all that enthusiastic about the One Year Bible plan:

“To be perfectly honest with you, I had no intentions of [reading] the bible in a year again this year. I had just come off doing this for 2008 and was so looking forward to just following my own plan this year.

However, after your talk on Sunday, I felt God speaking to my heart.

[My husband] suggested that I download the daily podcast to my iPod and listen to it on my bus ride in the morning. So, since Monday I've been listening to the daily bible every morning on the bus. It's actually been perfect use of my time. The timing is perfect, it ends right when I get to public square (do you think that's a coincidence!?)

So, I just wanted to thank you again. I felt convicted to not call my own plays! Thanks for being [my] Coach!"

***

If you haven't started reading the Bible this year, please start. If you've started but gotten behind, don't beat yourself up. Just start on today's reading. If reading portions in the OT, NT, Psalms, and Proverbs seem too much for you, then just read the NT and Psalms portions. Remember, reading something is better than reading nothing.

Just keep reading. And have conversations with other CVCers about what you've read. You won't regret it.

And in case you've forgotten about all the ways you can access the One Year Bible, check out the links below.

You can access the One Year Bible in several different ways:

You can purchase a One Year Bible and follow along with the daily readings.

You can download A Printable One Year Bible Reading Plan to keep with your Bible.

You can buy a Loving God Journal at CVC and use the reading plan outlined in the journal.

You can read the One Year Bible On Your Mobile Device.

You can listen online as The One Year Bible Is Read for you.

You can read The One Year Bible Blog.

You can download The One Year Bible As A Podcast onto your iPod.

You can add a One Year Bible Widget to your desktop, website or blog.

All this makes Bible intake extremely convenient since you can access the One Year Bible in so many different ways - from your Bible, from the Loving God Journal, from any computer connected to the Internet or from any web-enabled phone.

There are really no excuses - not for someone who aims to be a passionate follower of Christ. If you make it through the readings for a day, you can make it through a week. If you can make it through a week, you can make it through a year. And if you make it through a year, I guarantee that you won't regret it. You will not be looking at the same person in the mirror at the end of 2009. Jesus will change you. And as He changes more and more of us at CVC in 2009, our church will be different, too. We'll be more and more pleasing to Him. And that's a very good thing.

Please join us in reading through The One Year Bible this year. I’m looking forward to seeing how God speaks to all of us through His Word in 2009!

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