Sunday, October 31, 2010

A missionary cleverly disguised as a teacher - missional living

Here's a great story from one of our CVCers who teaches in the Cleveland Public Schools. God really used our CVC daily Bible reading through the New Testament and the Loving God Journal approach in her life. As you will see, she is a missionary cleverly disguised as a teacher.

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On Tuesday at school, as my [students] were coming nto class, I overheard several students laughing about the tape on one of the boy's shoes. I saw that Alex had the bottoms and sides of his shoes all taped up with BRIGHT GREEN TAPE to keep them from falling apart. He sat down - literally hanging his head in embarrassment.

I asked one of the students (who just made another comment about the shoes) what he had just said. The student laughed and said "Nothing". I said, "I know what you said, and if you don't have the guts to say it out loud in front of an adult then you are acting like a coward and should be ashamed of yourself!" I went on a bit more about treating everyone with kindness, then went on with my lesson.

At the end of class, after everyone left, I pulled Alex aside and said I noticed his taped shoes and said he looked like he wore the same size as my son, and asked what size he wore. He said 10 and I said, "Yep that's the same size." I said my son just bought a pair of shoes that he decided he doesn't want and wondered if I could bring them in for him (Alex). He agreed and thanked me.

On the way home, I stopped at Payless and hoped to get a nice pair for about $20. Surprisingly, most of the Payless shoes were about $40, and I really didn't like how any of them looked. I was about to leave and go to a different store, when I looked in the 11's and saw a pair size 10 1/2 - with a perfect design for a middle school kid (black, with wide white soles and a cool design around the heel) Plus, they were on sale from $39.99 for $19!!! I couldn't wait to give them to Alex!

Then Wednesday morning's reading in Timothy led me to this verse in Matthew - "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40).

I thought, "Thank you God for providing these shoes, and letting me be a part of giving to someone in need." I wasn't going to tell anyone, because the Word tells us not to even let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. But the story is cool, which is why I wanted to share it....

Wednesday morning, I privately gave the shoes to Alex, and if you could have seen the look in his face, you would have cried. I never felt so humbled. He was so thankful, and the shoes fit him perfectly! Again, I thought "Thank you God for letting me help this kid in this way."

On Thursday morning, after reading from 1 Timothy, I wrote verse 6:18 "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous and willing to share." Then I was led to this passage in 2 Cor "Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously." More encouragement from the Lord! (Not that I feel $20 is "generous")

When I got to work that day, I saw that one of the special ed teachers was absent -with no sub scheduled to show. The principal asked if I would cover for the teacher (basically keep the students with me all day as they did their work). It's not the ideal situation, but its better than having to split the kids up all day between different classes. Anyway, I agreed and part of the deal for taking a class is that you get the substitute teacher's pay for the day - n top of your regular pay.

The money for the shoes had been reimbursed... plus extra! Now I can look for other ways to spend the extra money that God provided!

I thought this was too cool of a God Story to keep to myself.

***

She's right. It's a cool God story.

Now, how about you? Are you reading the Bible daily? Are you journaling? And are you on mission for Jesus on your job?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reading through Screwtape Letters

Calling CVCers. We are starting a series on spiritual warfare called ARMORED from Eph 6. I 'm challenging you to read through "Screwtape Letters" by C. S. Lewis with me. There are 31 chapters in the book. There are 30 days in November. I will be blogging on the book throughout the month. Let's have a conversation about spiritual warfare right here this next month.

inspiration

Alan, Evan, and Tom Sawyer collaborated on a new project. I am proud of these guys. Check it out:

Praying the promises

It is a good thing to use the promises of God in your prayer life. Would you lay claim to these promises from Isaiah for CVC? Promises from Isaiah:

The Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.  And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. 60:2-3

Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.  Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. 60:4-5

I will beautify my beautiful house. 60:7

In my wrath I struck you, but in my favor I have had mercy on you.  Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut, that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations. 60:10-11

The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, the cypress, the plane, and the pine, to beautify the place of my sanctuary, and I will make the place of my feet glorious.  60:13

The sons of those who afflicted you shall come bending low to you, and all who despised you shall bow down at your feet.  60:14

Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, with no one passing through, I will make you majestic forever, a joy from age to age.  60:15

Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.  60:18

The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.  60:20

Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I might be glorified.  60:21

The least one shall become a clan, and the smallest one a mighty nation;  I am the Lord; in its time I will hasten it.  60:22

Friday, October 29, 2010

joy-full (7)

Drawing near – being filled, finding joy – requires an outward movement, an upward movement, an inward movement, and a downward movement.

I’ve learned that sometimes the people who claim to be the most spiritual are the people who think they usually have it right and that others ought to cave into their ideas. But I want you to notice a very important cause and effect of being Spirit-filled:

21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21

True worship – drawing close – will always make us humble and broken – yielded to God and also to each other. It’s the submissive ones who get closest to God and find the most joy.

So, if you want to know how close you are to God and how full you are of His Spirit, check out your level of submission to others.

Submission has little to do with who’s higher or who’s better. It has everything to do with who’s filled with the Spirit of Jesus. If the Greatest One who ever lived, Jesus, said, “If you want to be great, go downward; be a servant” then so should we.

Drawing near – being filled, finding joy – requires an outward movement, an upward movement, an inward movement, and a downward movement.

In 1796, Christianity in Norway was not heart-felt. It was all tradition. Ethics and spiritual life were nearly non-existent. Norway was a poor, backward nation with starving people and moral decay.

But a young 25 year old man named Hans Hauge went out into his field and had a profound encounter with God. He worshipped in song. He later wrote:

“I was working out in the open one day, singing [a] hymn. After I had sung the second verse, ‘Strengthen me powerful in my soul so that I can find out what the spirit can do. Gladly I would lose my life and all that is mine, if You alone will live in my soul. Then that which disturbs my inner peace will finally creep out of the door.’ I almost lost consciousness.”

He began to share his faith. He taught about a personal relationship with God through Jesus. Within days his family trusted Christ, then his neighbors. People felt the presence of God when they heard Hauge.

And Hans Hauge was used mightily by God to transform Norway. It is not an exaggeration to say that he revived the faith in most of Norway.

Hague was a catalyst that sparked economic as well as spiritual growth. He saw that the people of Norway needed justice and jobs – that Jesus cared about the poor. So, he created businesses by helping farmers and starting factories and mills.

This man made a difference. And it all began when he was out in a field in close proximity to God… singing. God filled him with His Spirit. God gave him a power he didn’t have before. And Han Hauge changed history. And that brought him joy. He knew that nearness to God brings happiness in God.

On one of our trips to Ghana, West Africa, we were so very tired. And then we made our way down from the north to the coast. It was an all-day drive over very poor roads in an old semi-air conditioned van. It would have been easy to grumble. And, in a good-natured way, we did a little of that. But toward the end of that long day, Henry Sennyo, one of our African hosts, taught us a Ghanaian song. “Things are getting better. Things are getting better. For the Lord is on His throne. Things are getting better. Things are getting better. Things are getting better.”

And we started singing with Henry. Outward. Upward. Inward. Downward. And we began to draw closer and closer to God through worship. And we were more and more filled with the Spirit. God kept us from sinking into grumbling, complaining, griping, whining. Instead, He puts a song in our heart and on our lips.

Ready or Not: Here They Come! A 5-part Series on Partnering with Our Sons and Daughters for a Great Commission Future

Ready or Not: Here They Come! A 5-part Series on Partnering with Our Sons and Daughters for a Great Commission Future

Being a peacemaker

10-29-2010 Loving God Journal

Learn -

17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. Philemon 17-20

Observe -

Here is a case where a servant who ran away from his responsibility is being restored.  And Paul is asking Philemon, the one who has been offended, to receive Onesimus, the one who did the offending.  He did so on the basis that Onesimus has grown, has seen the error of his ways, is now following Jesus fully.

So, Paul has had ministry in Onesimus' life.  Now, he wants to see reconciliation and restoration of relationship.  

When seeking to be a peacemaker and bridge builder, remember these principles:
1) remind people of your partnership v. 17a
2) appeal to others' respect and appreciation for you v. 17b
3) put your credibility and reputation on the line vv. 18-19b
4) remind others of their spiritual debt to you v. 19b
5) ask for a personal favor "in the Lord" v. 20

But note: all this can only be done when you are convinced that true life-change has happened in the individual for whom you are making the appeal.

Value -

Be willing to make an appeal for restoration and reconciliation.

Express - 

Father in heaven, You are the great Author of peace.  You sent Your Son as the Prince of Peace.  You break down walls by Your grace and for Your glory.  I worship You as the One who has all authority to reverse the curse of division and disunity in the body of Christ.  You reconcile.  Where there is pride, bitterness, resentment, misunderstanding, and confusion, bring about Your humility, Your lovingkindness, Your appreciation, Your understanding, and Your clarity.  Give us grace to build bridges to one another.  And do this in such a way that the world may know that we follow Jesus, the Prince of Peace.  Help me be a peacemaker, Lord.  In Jesus' name, Amen.  

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ready or Not, Here They Come! A 5-part Series on Partnering with Our Sons and Daughters for a Great Commission Resurgence, Part Two

Ready or Not, Here They Come! A 5-part Series on Partnering with Our Sons and Daughters for a Great Commission Resurgence, Part Two

joy-full (6)

Drawing near – being filled, finding joy – requires an outward movement, an upward movement, and an inward movement.

… singing and making melody… with your heart… Ephesians 5:19c

The opposite of "singing and making melody with your heart" would be singing and making melody with our lips and whatever willpower it takes to make our lips move. But "with your heart" means that we mean it and that we feel it.

This is why here at CVC we are so resistant to rituals and rules and regulations and forms of religion and liturgy. God wants our worship to come not only from the mind, but also from within, from the heart.

Now this doesn’t mean that you always have to be all pumped-up and excited. It might mean that. Maybe you want to have more passion. So, you come to God with a “want-to.” That counts, too, as being from the heart. Maybe you’re sad that you lost something with God that you had before. And that sadness offered to God is heart-felt worship, too.

Nobody’s heart is as passionate as it ought to be. But we come to God with our true, authentic selves. And we offer our hearts to Him. And He is pleased.

"Music and singing are necessary to Christian faith and worship for the simple reason that the realities of God and Christ, creation and salvation, heaven and hell are so great…
… that when they are known truly and felt duly, they demand more than discussion and analysis and description; they demand poetry and song and music.
Singing is the Christian's way of saying: God is so great that thinking will not suffice, there must be deep feeling; and talking will not suffice, there must be singing."
John Piper

Worship comes from roots that are so deep in God and are so deep in the human heart that we take our expressions of joy seriously. We are serious about finding joy in worship!

Some of us can look back at times when we were enthusiastic about God. But life has been hard. There’s not enough money, not enough love, not enough time to get everything done. You are wondering where God has been. You’ve not been moved by God as much anymore. Jesus and His promises don’t seem to matter as much. He’s here. He’s saying, “Remember what it used to be like. Offer your cold heart to me. Just obey. Sing. Draw close. And watch Me give you back your joy.”

Nearness to God brings happiness in God.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

joy-full (5)

Drawing near – being filled, finding joy – requires an outward movement, and an upward movement.

Ephesians 5:19 begins with "…addressing one another…" But the ultimate direction of our movement is upward.

… singing and making melody to the Lord… Ephesians 5:19b

It is possible to be addressing one another and singing to the Lord at the same time. Both are needed.

"To the Lord," means that our worship is to be God-centered. Everything we do in worship is to be done toward God - in the presence of God. We know that God hears us and sees us. We want Him to be pleased and honored and delighted in what He hears and sees.

So, when we sing, a lot of our songs are sung directly to the Lord. Sometimes, we sing indirectly to the Lord ("Our God will reign forever and all the world will know His name”). Sometimes, the songs are indirectly to the Lord and directly to the Lord (“With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings, You are my everything and I will adore You”).

But lots of our songs are in the second person singular. We often sing “You” or “Thee” rather than “He” (“Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy praise”).

… singing and making melody to the Lord…

We draw close to the Lord when we sing to the Lord about what we think and feel in response to who He is and what He has done and what He promises to do and what He promises to be for us. Worship is fundamentally upward.

Why? Because we know that God is sovereign in His goodness to us. Look at verse 20:

… giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 5:20

Worship gives thanks always and for everything? That’s ridiculous, right? Who can do that?

God isn’t asking us to have a silly “praise Jesus” approach to pain. The Bible says, "Weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15).

We hate the fact that we live in a fallen world where sin and death and injustice happen. We must resist evil and the effects of the fall. But in the midst of it all, there is still reason to give thanks – to draw close to the One who is working and will one day reverse the curse. “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20). When we cannot trace His hand, we trust His heart. And that’s why we can thank Him always for everything.

A griping, grumbling, complaining, murmuring spirit is not from the Holy Spirit. But a grateful spirit sure is!

Ask a grateful person how things are going and you might hear something like, “Better than I deserve.” Grateful hearts count blessings rather than make wish-lists.

You say, “I don’t have much to be thankful for. My life’s a big mess right now.” Let me remind you that if you are a true Christian, what greater gift could God possibly give you than forgiveness, eternal life, a relationship with Him forever? Would you trade all that for a winning lottery ticket? Aren’t you still dazzled with the wonder that God in His love has stooped to save you?

Every weekend at CVC some people are dealing with extreme trauma and tragedy. And when these people still find a way to worship God together with all of us so that in a supernatural way we all share their burdens, then we all draw each other closer to our all-knowing, all-loving, all-sufficient God who is working for them in and through all the pain.

This is why "Blessed be Your Name" is almost like a theme song for some of us. I remember standing in the sound booth one Sunday a few years ago. I saw a couple who had two kids. They tragically lost their son at age 20 and then their daughter at age 25. Yet there they stood singing, “You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, Blessed be Your name.” And I was deeply moved. They get it.

Nearness to God brings happiness in God.

Investing in young leaders

10-27-2010 Loving God Journal

6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Titus 2:6-8

This is instruction for me, even today. I am meeting with younger leaders today, like Andy Sikora and Chad Allen.  I can ask, "Where are you having your greatest struggle with self-control?" I must model good works for them.  I must teach with integrity - actually living out what I teach.  I must teach with dignity - not casually.  I must teach with sound speech, shaming and silencing opponents.  This is the way to invest in the next generation of leaders.  Help me pour into their lives.

Invest in the best young leaders for tomorrow.

Father, You are the One who has called me to invest in future leaders. You sent Your Son, Jesus, to model for us how to invest in the next generation of leaders.  Give me grace to see who it is that You have for me to lead.  Give the next generation the grace to be led.  May the light that shines from the church - from CVC - be brighter in the future than it has been in the past.  And do this for Your glory, Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

joy-full (4)

Drawing near – being filled, finding joy – requires an outward movement.

When we sing together in corporate worship, it’s an expression of being full of the Spirit and it fills us even more. And when we are full of the Spirit we bear the fruit of the Spirit and one of the fruits of the Spirit is joy!

… addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs… Ephesians 5:19

This is one of the clearest commands for community-wide worship in the New Testament. You can't obey this verse by yourself. God commands us to speak to one another in song.

This means that we should get together and sing. The whole church should sing. Together. We should sing in each other's hearing. We should want to be heard by each other.

This means that it’s OK that some of our songs are not sung directly to God, but to each other. We can encourage one another and, in a way, preach to each other in song.

This means that it’s good for us to hear special songs sung by soloists, duets, trios, quartets, groups, or choirs. All of us singing together should be the main thing, but when gifted artists sing to us about the glory of God, we can say “yes” in our hearts.

Being together and singing to each other, and not just alone, intensifies our joy in God and unifies us as we share common experiences in music. When we worship with others, we will all draw one another to a closer proximity to God.

So, we address one another. How? Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

One scholar, Ralph Martin, says, “It is hard to draw any hard-and-fast distinction between these terms; and modern scholars… agree…that the various terms are used loosely to cover… various forms of music…”

Why different kinds of music?

God is infinite. Who God is can’t be expressed with just one kind of music. God does different things in our lives at different times in our lives.

One man felt the peace of God in spite of the death of his four daughters and wrote "It Is Well with My Soul." Another man was overwhelmed with the truth of the incarnation at Christmas-time and wrote "Joy to the World." Another man was stunned at the marvel that he was saved and wrote "Amazing grace! How sweet the sound . . ." A Sunday School teacher wanted to teach her students a profound truth in a simple way and wrote, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. . ."

John Piper writes, “God meets us… in thunderously glorious ways; He meets us in quiet, intimate ways. He meets us in complex ways and simple ways… There are aspects of God's character… that can be uniquely expressed with… music like Handel's Messiah, and there are aspects of God's character… that can uniquely be expressed with [a rap song].

Maybe you’ve had more than your fair share of challenges lately. Your kids are showing you disrespect. Your spouse has shut down. Your health has been challenging. You’ve been showing up at church, surrounded by people drawing closer to God through worship. But you’ve been unmoved. You won’t join in. And there’s no joy in your life. God is saying for you to move. Move outward. Join in addressing one another. Find your heart being filled. Find others helping you move closer to God. Find more joy “in spite of.”

Nearness to God brings happiness in God.

Entrusted and commanded to preach

10-26-2010 Loving God Journal

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior.  Titus1:1-3

These verse remind me of some important truths about my calling.

1.  I am a servant of God.
2.  I have been sent by Jesus.
3.  My calling is to assist the faith of the elect.
4.  My calling is to help the elect know the truth.
5.  My calling is to call the elect to godliness.
6.  My calling is to help the elect gain the hope of eternal life.
7.  I have been entrusted to preach God's word.
8.  I have been commanded by God to preach His word.

Now, which of these 8 means the most to me?  7. Is most challenging to me?  5.  Am I worst at?  4 and 5.  Am I best at?  3.  

Remember that you have been entrusted and commanded by Jesus to preach the word of God so that the elect will come to faith, know the truth, grow in godliness, and gain a sure hope for heaven.

Jesus trusts me to prepare His elect for heaven.

Jesus, You are the Great Commander of Your preachers, trusting them to care for Your elect.  What You command, You enable us to do.  What You entrust, You believe I can and will perform.  Grant that I might trust You to do Your will through me - save the elect, teach them truth, grow them in godliness, and help them gain entrance into heave.  And please do this through me, Your servant.  I am not enough for these things.  I fail to help CVCers attain enough growth in godliness.  So, I throw myself onto You and Your grace.  I believe that You have commanded me to do, You will nab,e me to do.  In Jesus name, Amen.    

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Churches must plant churches

J. D. Payne offers some great encouragement to churches regarding the importance of church planting. J. D. is a National Missionary with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and an Associate Professor of Church Planting and Evangelism in the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A. where he directs the Church Planting Center.
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This is the third post in my present series to assist pastors in leading their churches in church planting. For more information on the previous two posts, see the links below:

Part 1 – How Churches Grow: The Other Wing of the Airplane”

Part 2 – 7 Reasons for Leading Your Church in Church Planting”

Today, I wish to share with you a few resources to provide you with some assistance in this area. Please note, while there are numerous resources available on church planting, few resources exist on leading an established church in this area of ministry. The following are specifically related to the established church.

Unfortunately, I was unable to locate links for some of the resources listed below.

Books:

Phil Stevenson, The Ripple Church: Multiply Your Ministry by Parenting New Churches (Indianapolis, IN: The Wesleyan Church, 2004). If you can only afford one book, this would be the one that I would recommend.

Here is my review of Stevenson’s book.

Ralph Moore, How to Multiply Your Church: the Most Effective Way to Grow (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2009).

Rodney Harrison, Tom Cheyney, Don Overstreet, Spin-Off Churches: How One Church Successfully Plants Another (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2008).

Jack Redford, Planting New Churches (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1978). This book is long out of print. However, it contains helpful information on working with the established church to plant churches.

Rodney Harrison, Seven Steps for Planting Churches, Partnering Church Edition (North American Mission Board, 2004).

While I do not offer a complete book on the topic, two of the chapters in my work Discovering Church Planting address the role of the mother church in church planting. Ed Stetzer also offers a chapter on churches planting churches in his book Planting Missional Churches. Aubrey Malphurs includes a chapter on the need for new churches to plant churches in his book Planting Growing Churches (2nd ed).

On-line Links:

“Addressing Objections to Church Planting”

“The Art of Vision Casting for Church Multiplication”

“The Great Commission and Church Planting”

“The Mother Church and Church Planting”

Workbooks:

Paul Becker and Mark Williams, The Dynamic Daughter Church Planting Handbook (DCPI, 1999). The section addressing how to overcome objections to church planting is worth the cost of the resource.

Resource Kits:

North American Mission Board, Church Planting Starter Kit (North American Mission Board). This is an excellent resource that includes workbooks and video resources for adults, youth, and children. While it was written for Southern Baptist Churches, it includes a great deal of information that is relevant to other groups.

Robert E. Logan, Churches Planting Churches (Church Smart Resources). This resource contains a workbook, audio, and video sessions.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Talking about why bad things happen to a 12 year old

A woman at CVC is facing many very severe family problems. Her 12 year old unchurched grand daughter recently received a flu shot. The next day she woke up with half her face paralyzed. She has bell's palsy and is now asking, "Why are so many bad things happening to our family?"

Here are some of the words I shared with her tonight:

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Here are three possible responses. Pray about the response you think might be best for your grand daughter.

1) The first answer I would give is “I don’t know for sure why bad things happen.” It would be presumptuous for us to say what God is doing in someone else’s life. What I do know is that God is good and that He will somehow use our pain for our good and His glory. It doesn’t make sense for us to close ourselves off from the very One who wants to help us through.

2) To help people with “Why do bad things happen?” I sometimes just try to tell people the overall story of the Bible: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. I’ve included the story below. Just read it through and then share it in your own words.

3) You can also look at “Why do bad things happen” this way (I think I learned this from Rick Warren):

God allows “bad things…”

… to inspect us. He’s testing us to see what’s inside us.

… to direct us. He’s using the pain to point us in new directions in life.

… to connect us. He’s using the pain to help us connect to Him as we cry out to Him for help.

… to protect us. Like a mom or a dad that allow a child to experience a little pain to save them from greater pain in the future, God sometimes uses pain in that way.

… to perfect us. James 1:2-4 tells us that trials and troubles are used by God to build character, perseverance, faith, and hope.

In all these things, Romans 8:28 will be seen to be true. I then encourage people to ask God what He’s doing in their lives – to listen to His voice in their hearts.

Please pray for this family and especially for this 12 year old grand daughter.

***

Here is an extended version of the story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.

Our story starts with creation. At creation, all was well. Adam and Eve were on mission. God loved them and they loved God. There was no fear of God and no shame before Him. They loved one another. They had no secrets. They didn’t hurt each other. They helped each other live fully and abundantly. They loved the world. They cared for God’s creation with respect and lived in harmony with everything (Genesis 1:27-31). They lived in a way that gave God glory. There was no sin, sickness, pain, hurt, disease.

How about now? No one thinks that the world is perfect. We can all agree it’s broken. War. Famine. The AIDS pandemic. Sex trafficking. Poverty. Oppression. Injustice. Crime. Broken relationships. Clean water shortages. Lack of education. What happened?

When we decide that we are in control, instead of God, a cataclysmic collapse takes place. Because we have disobeyed God, we are separated from Him and hide from Him. We no longer love one another. We hurt and blame one another and live in shame. We no longer care for the world. And the whole world pays the price (Genesis 3:1-19). Sin and disease has entered the human race.

The world is broken because of sin; our failure to love and obey God. Each person on the planet contributes to the problem. We were designed to love and to give God glory, but we all tend to seek our own good above the good of others (Romans 3:10, 23). And we all pay a price.

We know things have to change. We hunger for a better world. So we try and fix it. We try to be good and do good. We try to care about justice, the environment, the poor... We try religion.

People think, “If we can only do enough good things – enough religious things – then maybe we can get right with God and we can fix our world.” But nothing works. Religion often disappoints and always divides.

The problem is we can’t fix the problem (Romans 3:20).

The Bible tells the story about the God who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. God loved the world too much to leave it broken so He entered into the darkness and pain of this world (John 3:16).

God sent His Son, Jesus, to show us how to live. Jesus lived a perfect life as the one who shows us how to love God, love one another, and love the world.

Jesus entered into the evil of this world and suffered with us. And then He died on a cross. He died in our place – paying for our sins, forgiving our personal failures to love God, love one another, and love the world (Romans 5:8).

As a result of His work on the cross for us, a miracle happens. We can be reconciled to God, to each other, and to the world. Change happens when we turn from our sin, trust in Jesus, and seek to follow Him (Acts 3:19-20, John 1:12). Our selfishness dies with Jesus, and through the resurrection of Jesus, we are restored.

We can have a new life and be the people we were originally created to be (II Corinthians 5:17). Jesus sends His Holy Spirit to live in us and empower us to love. God, love one another and love the world. Now we can. It can only happen through Jesus (John 14:6).

The Bible also tells us the end of the story. One day, Jesus is coming again to make all things right – perfectly and forever.

But for now, we still live in this fallen world. Sin and disease and injustice still happen. Jesus asks us to join with others in a community called the Church. We are sent together to heal - to love God, love one another, and serve the world. As God’s love works through us, we can point the world to Jesus so that others, too, can be restored to God (II Corinthians 5:18-21). Together, we can live in a way that gives God glory (Romans 11:36).

And although the world won’t be perfect until Christ returns, we can join Him in His mission to help rid the world of injustice, oppression and evil (Micah 6:8). Jesus is still looking for followers who want to be His agents of change in the world.

So... where are you in this story?

What questions or concerns do you have about this story?

Would you like to receive the forgiveness and healing Jesus offers?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Read the Bible

Last night at our elders meeting, Dale Piscura was sharing that not enough of our people at CVC are simply reading the Bible. He said that lives don't change from imbibing media. He is right. We must be people of the Book. The word of God is sharper than any two edged sword. Reading the Bible will change your life.

Even business blogger Seth Godwin recognizes that too much TV is bad for us. Here are his words:

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Deliberately uninformed, relentlessly so [a rant]

Many people in the United States purchase one or fewer books every year.

Many of those people have seen every single episode of American Idol. There is clearly a correlation here.

Access to knowledge, for the first time in history, is largely unimpeded for the middle class. Without effort or expense, it's possible to become informed if you choose. For less than your cable TV bill, you can buy and read an important book every week. Share the buying with six friends and it costs far less than coffee.

Or you can watch TV.

The thing is, watching TV has its benefits. It excuses you from the responsibility of having an informed opinion about things that matter. It gives you shallow opinions or false 'facts' that you can easily parrot to others that watch what you watch. It rarely unsettles our carefully self-induced calm and isolation from the world.

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Bottom line: People, if you want your life to change, turn off the TV and read your Bible!

Tim Keller - Learning to pray

I learn from Tim Keller. He is pastor of Redeemer Pres in NYC. Here he teaches us how to pray in a more biblically-informed, theologically-rich way. Check out his words.

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Years ago when I wanted to become more skillful in public prayer, I was fortunate to come across the collects of Thomas Cranmer, the writer of the original Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. The “collects” (the stress is on the first syllable)that Cranmer wrote were brief but extremely ‘packed’ little prayers that tied together the doctrine of the day to a particular way of living. They were prayed by the minister on behalf of the people, or prayed in unison by the whole congregation. 
 
As I have read them over the years they have brought me two great benefits. First, they have given me a basic structure by which I can compose good public prayers, either ahead of time, or spontaneously. Cranmer’s collects consist of 5 parts:
1. The address - a name of God
2. The doctrine - a truth about God’s nature that is the basis for the prayer
3. The petition - what is being asked for
4. The aspiration - what good result will come if the request is granted
5. In Jesus’ name - this remembers the mediatorial role of Jesus
 
See this structure in Cranmer’s famous collect for the service of Holy Communion: 
1.Almighty God
2.unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid,
3.cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit,
4.that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name,
5.through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen. 
 
See how the prayer moves from a doctrinal basis (why we can ask for it) to the petition (what we want) to the aspiration (what we will do with it if we get it.) It is remarkable how this combines solid theology with deep aspirations of the heart and concrete goals for our daily life. 
 
As time has gone on I have come to use Cranmer’s collects in my personal devotional time (this is the second benefit.) I take up one collect at the beginning of each new week. I read Paul Zahl’s volume The Collects of Thomas Cranmer (Eerdmans, 1999) that provides a very short explanation and meditation on the prayer. Then I pray that prayer to God reflectively every morning for the rest of the week as I begin my personal time with God. I commend this practice to you. Here are a couple of my favorites: 
 
Blessed Lord, who has caused all holy Scripture to be written for our learning; grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them; that by patience and comfort of thy holy word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of eternal life, which thou hast given us in our savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
 
Almighty God, who dost make the minds of all faithful men to be of one will; grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise, that among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may be surely fixed where true joys are to be found, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 
 
God, which hast prepared to them that love thee such good things as pass all man’s understanding; Pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we loving thee in all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve, pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy, forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid and giving unto us that which our prayer dare not presume to ask; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity, that we may obtain that which thou dost promise, make us to love that which thou does command; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

joy-full (3)

18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery… Ephesians 5:18a

Getting drunk with wine means being controlled by wine. And that leads to “debauchery.”

debauchery – asotia
a- not + sotia - saved, made whole
a non-saved life, a non-whole life, a ruined life, a thrown- away life, a wasted life

Getting drunk is getting wasted, literally. It’s wasting your life. And it won’t bring you joy. What will?

Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
Ephesians 5:18

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is compared to being drunk. "Don't get drunk with wine.” Booze masters you and makes you feel and act in wasted ways. In a similar way, being filled with the Spirit means being controlled by the Spirit so that you feel and act in certain ways. When you are full of the Spirit, you bear the fruit of the Spirit and one of those fruits is joy.

How can we be filled with the Holy Spirit? Well, how do you get drunk with wine? The answer is: by drinking a lot of it. And that’s the way it is with the Holy Spirit. Drink a lot of the Spirit.

One way to drink a lot of the Spirit is to read and meditate on and believe what the Spirit has inspired, the Bible – the Word of God. In a parallel passage in Colossians 3, being filled with the Spirit and letting the Word dwell in us are connected. You want to be filled with the Spirit? Read the Bible. Hear it. Think about it. Memorize it. Apply it.

So, be filled with the Spirit. Everyday, all day, practice spiritual breathing. Exhale the bad – confess your sins. Inhale the good – ask God to fill you with His Spirit.

And what will happen? You’ll draw close to God. You will worship. The command to be filled is followed by what Greek scholars say are participles of command. A participle is a verb with an “ing” at the end.

addressing one another
singing and making melody
giving thanks
submitting

Scholars argue about whether these are participles of cause or participles of effect. Is this telling us “how to be filled with the Spirit” or is this telling us “what happens when we are filled with the Spirit”? I think these participles are both cause and effect.

To be filled with the Spirit, there must be addressing one another, singing and making melody, giving thanks, and submitting. And when we are filled with the Spirit, the addressing one another, the singing and melody-making, the thanksgiving and the submitting just flow.

These participles describe movements that we must make if we want to draw close to God in worship that brings us joy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

joy-full (2)

Proximity. It’s a word that describes a closeness. Are you close to God? The Bible says that we can be people who honor Him with our lips, but our hearts can be far from Him. Are you a person who draws near to God in worship?

Several years ago, a friend said to me, “I don’t like the word ‘worship.’ It’s not something I want to do.”

But let’s face it. We all worship. My friend that didn’t like the word “worship” was tempted big-time (like all of us) to worship money, sex, and power. We all have something that we think about a lot, something that we think will give us life, something that is really on the throne of our hearts, something that we think will give us joy. But when we get what we worship, we find it doesn’t really satisfy.

I remember a scene in C. S. Lewis’ book, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Edmund has met the White Witch. She is evil. And she asks him what his favorite thing to eat is. Edmund tells the White Witch that his favorite food is Turkish Delight, and she uses her wand to give him several pounds of the treat. Edmund begins to eat the best Turkish Delight that he has ever had, but the food is enchanted, and he ends up with an insatiable desire for more.

If we worship the wrong things, we will go on eating and eating, but we will never be satisfied. This is why drawing near to anyone or anything other than God will never bring a fullness of joy.

We need a proximity to God through worship.

The word worship comes from the Saxon word weorthscype, which later became worthship.
"To worship God is to ascribe the proper worth to God, to magnify His worthiness of praise, or better, to approach and address God as He is worthy. As the Holy and Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, the Sovereign Judge to whom we must give an account, He is worthy of all the worth and honor we can give Him and then infinitely more…
If you could see God at this moment, you would so utterly understand how worthy He is of worship that you would instinctively fall on your face and worship Him."
Donald Whitney

Ephesians 5 gives us some keys to drawing closer to God. And as we come near to Him, we will more and more true, lasting joy.

18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Ephesians 5:15-21 (ESV)

joy-full (1)

Are you joyful? The word literally means “full of joy.” Are you filled to overflowing with joy?

I remember a friend once asked me a similar question: “Are you happy?” I said, “Yeah, I guess.” He replied, “Well, tell your face!”

I said I was happy but my face said something else. The people closest to me knew that I wasn’t.

Are you joyful? What would your mom or dad say about you if I asked them if you were joyful? What would your brothers or sisters or husband or wife or co-workers or neighbors say? The old song says, “If you’re happy and you know then your face will surely show it.” Does your face (and, more importantly, your heart) show that you are filled with joy?

My guess is that a lot of us would have to say, “No. I’m really not all that joyful. And why should I be? My income is low and my debt is high. My car is messed up. I don’t have a job or a girlfriend or a spouse or a house. Someone I love just died.”

I have learned that joy is not a function of “what,” but “where.” Joy does not flow out of our “situation,” but our “location.” When it comes to joy, “where you are” is more important than “how you are.” Let me show you what I mean.

In Psalm 16, a man named David is praying to God.

In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11b (ESV)

Where can we find joy even when life is not working out the way we’d like? In God’s presence. At His right hand. Nearness to God brings happiness in God.

Maybe the reason we aren’t joy-full is because we are too far from God. So, we need to learn to come closer to God. And when we do, we’ll find greater and greater joy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Idols in our hearts

Steven Furtick gives us some great questions to help us recognize the idols in our lives. Don't think you have idols in your heart? Read it and weep!

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One of the things I most wanted to do was help people move from simply knowing what idolatry is to knowing what idols are actually in our lives. For the people in the Bible, it was easy. They could visibly see what they were bowing down to. Our idols are in our hearts, and we’re usually blind to them.

So to help, I went through a list of fifteen questions that’s a combination of questions from both Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll. I promised I would make these available so our people could process through them throughout the week, but I think these would be good for you to go through even if you’re not a part of Elevation.

Obviously the answer to any one of these questions doesn’t automatically qualify it as an idol. But if you begin to see a trend of similar answers, you’re on to something.

What am I most afraid of?
What are the primary things I spend my money on outside of necessities?
What do I long for most passionately?
Where do I run for comfort?
What do I complain about most?
What makes me happiest?
How do I explain myself to other people?
What has caused me to be angry with God?
What do I brag about?
What do I want to have more than anything else?
What do I sacrifice the most for in my life?
If I could change one thing about my life, what would it be?
Whose approval am I seeking?
What do I want to control/master?
What comfort do I treasure most?
In the sermon I gave some practical applications for how to diminish an idol. If you weren’t there to hear them,  you can check them out every hour on the hour at the Elevation Experience.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The mysterious workings of God

Tim Challies shared insights from George D. Watson, a Wesleyan minister who did the bulk of his ministry in the early 20th century. These are wise words for Christian leaders. I want to read and think about these periodically.

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If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25

If God has called you to be truly like Jesus in all your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. He will put on you such demands of obedience that you will not be allowed to follow other Christians. In many ways, He seems to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.

Others who seem to be very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and scheme to carry out their plans, but you cannot. If you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others can brag about themselves, their work, their successes, their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. If you begin to do so, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others will be allowed to succeed in making great sums of money, or having a legacy left to them, or in having luxuries, but God may supply you only on a day-to-day basis, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, a helpless dependence on Him and His unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward while keeping you hidden in obscurity because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade.

God may let others be great, but keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit, but He will make you work and toil without knowing how much you are doing. Then, to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work which you have done; this to teach you the message of the Cross, humility, and something of the value of being cloaked with His nature.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch on you, and with a jealous love rebuke you for careless words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over.

So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own, and that He may not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you.

God will take you at your word. If you absolutely sell yourself to be His slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and let other people say and do many things that you cannot. Settle it forever; you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue or chaining your hand or closing your eyes in ways which others are not dealt with. However, know this great secret of the Kingdom: When you are so completely possessed with the Living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven, the high calling of God.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Praying for your leaders

Want to know how to pray for your pastors, church planters, and missionaries? The reading today from the One Year Bible was a prayer from Paul in II Thessalonians 3. And in several other places in Scripture, Paul also asks for prayer. And from his asking, we can gain right instruction about praying, So, see if you can build a prayer list for Christian leaders from Paul's prayer requests.

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2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Colossians 4:2-4

18b Keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
Ephesians 6:18-20

1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, 2 and lthat we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful.
II Thessalonians 3:1-3a

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Creating margin in your life

Tim Stevens at Leading Smart has some great thoughts about creating margin in our lives. I am very, very convicted that I need more margin. A lot more. How about you?

His words follow:

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I’ve been thinking a lot about margin.

A margin is the portion of the page that you intentionally leave blank. You don’t write all the way from the left side of the page to the right side—no, you typically leave space all the way around, and we call those margins.

Yet in life, everything in our culture is telling us to ignore margins. Spend more money than you make and you will have no financial margin. Fill your schedule from early morning until late night—and you will have no time margin. Surround yourself with needy people and be constantly reactive to their expectations—and you will have no emotional margin.

Mark Batterson wrote, “You need margin to think. You need margin to play. You need margin to laugh. You need margin to dream. You need margin to have impromptu conversations. You need margin to seize unanticipated opportunities.”

I want to live a life with margins.

When I live on less than I make, I have the financial margin so an unexpected expense won’t capsize me, and so I can respond in the moment to someone else’s real need.

When every moment of my life is scheduled, I don’t have the margin to stop and listen to someone who needs an ear; I don’t have the time to jump in and help a neighbor fix their sprinkler; or don’t have the flexibility to go to my kids sporting event that was scheduled at the last minute.

Margin makes you pleasant; no margin makes you grumpy.

Margin allows you to be generous; no margin makes you Scrooge-like.

Margin helps you listen; without margin, you come across like someone who doesn’t care.

Margin gives you the space to learn, grow and dream; without margin and you become stale and empty.

Margin increases the chance you will hear the still small voice of God when He speaks;  without margin and you might continue through life without the blessing of God.

Where are you feeling the lack of margin in your life? What should change?

Passion for having both head and heart engaged in worship

On the second Sunday John Piper preached at Bethlehem Baptist Church, he shared the following thoughts about the importance of engaging the mind and the heart as Christians. These two should never be at odds with one another.

This weekend at CVC we are going to take a look at Psalm 100. And we are going to discover that there are things we should know in we are going to worship truly. In other words, we can'leave the mind behind when we worship God, when we come close to Him.

Piper says it better then me. Here are his words:

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For many people the work of the head and the overflow of the heart are at odds. Thinking and feeling are like oil and water; they repulse each other.

Whatever the reason for this tension that exists in so many people, my own experience, my awareness of the experience of others in history, and my understanding of the Bible teach me that it is neither a necessary tension nor a healthy one, at least not to the degree that most people experience it. My goal is to help us all become the kind of folk for whom sound thinking kindles deep feeling and for whom deep feeling motivates sound thinking. Most of the opposition we feel between the heart and the head is, I think, due to learned behavior patterns which do not necessarily result from the nature of our emotions or our thought. We have been warned so often about not becoming a cold intellectual that we have trouble imagining the possibility of intellect that lights fires instead of putting them out. Or on the other side we have been taught to be so wary of fanatic emotionalism that we can scarcely believe that a tear in someone’s eye might be coming from a holy syllogism instead of a pathological passion.

God has given us minds and demanded that we use them in understanding and applying his Word. And God has given us emotions which are equally essential and which he has commanded to be vigorously engaged in his service.

If we neglect the mind we will drift into all sorts of doctrinal error and dishonor God who wills to be known as he is. And if we neglect the heart we will be dead while we yet live no matter how right our creed is. “This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me.” So my goal for us is that we put together what so many keep apart to their own hurt. Let us be clear in our heads and warm in our hearts. Let us feel with all our might and think with all our might.

Preparing to preach:Francis Chan

Lots of CVCers are reading Francis Chan. Me, too. He recently spoke at the Desiring God conference. Jonathan Parnell gives us a summary of what he had to say about preaching.

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In his message at the National Conference, Francis Chan highlighted the importance of loving the people to whom he preaches. He mentioned seven questions that he asks himself in preparing to preach. Here are the seven questions:

Am I worried about what people think of my message or what God thinks? (Teach with fear)

Do I genuinely love these people? (Teach with love)

Am I accurately presenting this passage? (Teach with accuracy)

Am I depending on the Holy Spirit's power or my own cleverness? (Teach with power)

Have I applied this message to my own life? (Teach with integrity)

Will this message draw attention to me or to God? (Teach with humility)

Do the people really need this message? (Teach with urgency)

Blessing is the payback for evil

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing.
1 Peter 3:9

Great thoughts on forgiveness from Stephen Furtick:

Forgiveness is the central element of the Christian life, not a side bar issue. Or as I’ve said before, it’s the operating system of Christianity, not an app.

This is obviously true of our relationship with God, but it is just as true with the people around us. The reality that you are going to be sinned against is as inescapable as the reality that you are going to sin against God yourself.

And when someone hurts you, you really have two options. You can give them back what they gave you. Or you can give them back what God gave you.

Your natural inclination will be the first. You will want to return the pain they caused you with pain. Hate. Bitterness. Revenge. You’ll think that by doing so it will get rid of the weight they placed on you.

It won’t. If anything, it will probably increase it.

In order to be free of the weight of your sin you had to receive the forgiveness of Jesus. In order to be free of the weight of someone else’s sin you must give the forgiveness of Jesus.

If you’re in a position right now where you need to forgive someone, it isn’t easy but the best option you have is to give back the better gift. Graciously give back to them what Jesus has already so graciously given to you. And then move on in freedom.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Leadership


Here are some good thoughts about leadership from George Barna. He has written a new book entitled, Master Leaders. Which of these thoughts challenge you the most? This one grabbed my attention: Leaders get what they measure and what they tolerate.

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Great leaders motivate people by seeing and retelling compelling stories that relate to the vision to which they are committed

A leader rarely changes a person; he/she simply figures out how to get the best results out of who they are, and who to team them with for the greatest productivity

Leadership analysts tend to focus on how leaders articulate their ideas; yet leaders more often succeed because of how effectively they listen than because of their speaking prowess

The world is increasingly complex and challenging: leaders help make sense of the world, often by reducing the complicated and misleading to a simpler, logical understanding

Individuals who are popular pander to public opinion; genuine leaders expect to become unpopular, choosing to do what’s right and necessary rather than what’s expected and safe

The probability of success increases if the focus is on the outcomes rather than who gets credit for those results

If you are not clear about your vision and values, and passionate about the corresponding convictions and goals, success is not likely

No leader is the “complete package.” There will be times when the chief leader must allow other leaders to provide direction under given circumstances to compensate for the chief leader’s weaknesses

Leadership is a collaborative process; it’s less about what the leader does than about what he/she facilitates through others

Great leaders recognize that all people have great worth; the leader’s task is to maximize their delivery of the unique value each person brings to the party

Leaders get what they measure and what they tolerate

All great leaders believe they have a moral responsibility to take care of people

Do not attempt to lead people unless you are prepared to pay a significant emotional, physical and spiritual price

Church Planting Centers

This post regarding church planting is from Ed Stetzer. Right now, CVC is sponsoring 8 church plants: The Village Chapel, Mercy Hill Chapel, Church of the Hills, Alive, New Song Community Church, Renew Communities, Mosaic, and Rockpoint. Pray for the churches and the planters. Thanks!

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The North American Mission Board Missional Networks team has been researching Church Planting Centers and shares their findings in the document linked here. By church planting centers, they mean "environments where multiple disciples are intentionally selected, developed, and sent with support to make disciples - resulting in new churches. They examine four types of centers: the Church Planting School (EBI in California), the Church Planting Church (Fellowship Associates in Arkansas), the Partnering Church Network (DCN in Alabama), and the Disciple Making Church (Soma Community).

Concerning the document they want you to know: "This document reflects our learning about church planting centers to date and therefore, is not a completed work. The questions raised here are the driving force behind our research which has been conducted in the first half of 2010. If you have comments or would like to contribute to this discussion, please feel free to contact John M. Bailey at NAMB. (jmbailey@namb.net)

Reconciled (8)

Some of us don’t know what to say to accomplish reconciliation. We don’t know how to say words that help bring down walls. So, I thought about sharing some sample words of reconciliation:

"I know that we haven’t been as connected as we could be. I’ve been thinking lately about how Jesus is a Peace-Maker. I am asking Him to be a Peace-Maker for me and for you. I’m hoping and praying that we can become closer. If possible, I’d like to see us move toward oneness. I’m hoping and praying that Jesus will break down any walls between us and that He’ll help us put an end to our conflict. What steps do you think I need to take to help make this a reality?"

Try. It’s going to take guts. You’re going to feel like you are jumping off a cliff with no parachute and no rope around your waist. But that’s faith, right? Remember, the secret is not in the “how,” but in the “Who.” It’s all about Jesus. Step out in faith. Do the next right thing and trust in the Who, in Jesus.

Remember: Reconciled people reconcile people.

People who have been brought near bring others near. People who were two but are now one help others become one. People who know what walls coming down feels like help walls come down. People who have found an end to hostility help hostility end. Reconciled people reconcile people.

For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14, ESV).

Peace can be found only in one place, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, because He alone can deal with our sin problem. If you are in Christ and I am in Christ, then He Himself becomes the source of peace between us.

What if we developed a culture of ongoing reconciliation? What if more and more of us said, "We will give ourselves to a regular lifestyle of confession and forgiveness”?

I know what it’s like to have a wall go up in a relationship. Over a decade ago, a friend here at CVC asked me to love him better – to give him more in our relationship than I felt I was able to give. And I said to him, “I’m sorry, I don't think I can give you what you’re looking for.” I hurt him and he later left the church. I always regretted his leaving. I felt responsible.


Well, just a couple of years ago, we sat down together in his home in another state for several hours and talked about old times. We ate together, laughed together, shared some ideas. I didn’t want to leave. But I had to get back to Cleveland. I sent him a thank you note for the visit and I later received a note back from him. In his note, he gave me grace. Here's part of what he wrote:


"Rick... It was great seeing you too. I did get the sense, however, that you've been beating yourself up over things you think you didn't do well when we were together. I understand that. But whatever didn't happen was just as much my fault as anyone's... probably more. Looking back, I can't believe how screwed up I was. But I'm thankful I'm giving myself the same grace I'm giving others. And I want to encourage you that I truly have nothing but good thoughts and feelings when I think of you... and of your family... and of our time in Cleveland. So do me and yourself a favor and bury whatever it is that you wish had been different... and live in the grace of what God did in each of us, as well as through us. We both have so much for which to be thankful."


When I received that note, I felt reconciled – brought near, two becoming one, walls down, any minor, lingering hostility killed. Reconciled people reconcile people.

Will that be you? And me?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reconciled (7)

Peacemaking and reconciliation is not going to be easy.

When Nelson Mandela took office in South Africa, Mandela's head of security Jason Tshabalala made a request from Mandela concerning the security team. He asked for more men to keep a secure lookout for the president.

The existing team was made up of four black South Africans. Mandela's response was to hire four white Afrikaners, ex-Special Branch men led by Etienne Feyder. Upon their first meeting, the black South Africans and the white Afrikaners immediately clashed due to their racial hang-ups. Not surprisingly, the black body guards simply did not trust the whites. In fact, Jason Tshabalala thought that Etienne Feyder and the white guards might even be dangerous to Mandela. The blacks suspected that the Special Branch men Mandela wanted to use were the ones who persecuted, tortured and maybe even succeeded in killing anti-Apartheid fighters.

But Mandela was interested in leading by example in terms of racial equality. Mandela, true to his Christian convictions, called for reconciliation even though he knew it would be difficult. In a conversation with Jason Tshabalala, Mandela said, “The Rainbow Nation starts here. Reconciliation starts here. Forgiveness starts here, too. Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon. Try, Jason, try.”

This story illustrates that reconciliation may be hard. But it’s right. And, in Christ, it’s possible.

John MacArthur says, “Peace comes only when self dies, and the only place self truly dies is at the foot of Calvary” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Ephesians [Moody Press], p. 76).

So, start each day with reminding yourself that you have been reconciled to God.

There was a broader distance between you and God than you and anyone on this earth. If He brought you and God near, He can bring you and that person near.

There was more keeping you from being one with God than there is keeping you from being one with another person. If Jesus can make you one with God, then He can make you one with that other person.

There was a higher wall between you and God than there is between you and anyone else. If Jesus can break down the wall between you and God, then He can break down the wall between you and anyone else.

There was more hostility between you and God than you and anyone on this earth. The Bible says that You were His enemy. If Jesus can kill the hostility between you and God, then he can kill the hostility between you and anyone else.

Since we’re always sinners married to sinners – since we’re always sinful parents in relationships with sinful kids, since we’re always sinful brothers and sisters living with sinful brothers and sisters – reconciliation has to be a lifestyle for any healthy home.

And so I want to ask you a question: What do you need to do to live out the truth of God’s reconciliation in Jesus Christ? What changes do you need to make in the way you relate your family?

If Jesus can bring together Jews and Gentiles, He can bring together brothers and sisters, moms and daughters, dads and sons, husbands and wives.

In faith, what if you started moving in that direction and then watched Him work?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Reconciled (6)

As our Peace-Maker, Jesus breaks down walls.

Where have the walls gone up in your family? With Jesus, they can go down.

Ephesians 2:14 says, “For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility .”

Jesus single-handedly tore down a much greater wall than the Iron Curtain.

The most visible example of the division between Jews and Gentiles was still standing when Paul wrote these words. It was the barricade around the temple! In ancient Jerusalem, a wall had been built around the temple that said to everybody who was a non-Jew, “Don’t come in here!” A sign was posted at the various entrances through that barricade.

It read like this: “No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.”

There was no “Come on in, y’all! You’re welcome here” sign. It read, “Stay out, or you die.”

If Jesus can overcome that Jew/Gentile divide, then there is no alienation, no separation, that He can’t cure.

The church – this church – is to be the living, breathing, walking, talking manifestation of how Jesus has broken down the walls of separation between all who trust in Him, whether they’re from Cleveland or Pittsburg; whether they’re Buckeyes or Wolverines; whether they are Republicans or Democrats; no matter what their socio-economic class; no matter what the color of their skin.

If people are in Christ, they are our brothers and sisters. And so when they are with us they are home. And it’s our business to make sure that they feel at home when they’re with their brothers and sisters.

The dividing wall is down.

As a dad, maybe you’ve said some hurtful things to your 20-something son or daughter. They are having a hard time launching into adulthood. And to their face, you’ve said some harsh things about that. Some of it might even be true. But the way you’ve said it… the tone, the attitude. It’s been judgmental and harsh. You’ve laid down the law and laid on the guilt. And the walls have gone up between you and your son or daughter. God is saying, “That’s enough. It’s time for the walls to come down.”

Where have the walls gone up in your family? Will you let Jesus bring down those walls?

As our Peace-Maker, Jesus ends our wars.

I’ve heard that when football coaches are looking for linebackers, they are looking for men who are mobile, agile, and hostile.

Unfortunately, those terms describe some people in our families. Maybe yours. Mobile. Agile. Hostile. But Jesus wants to kill the hostility in your home.

Ephesians 2:16 says that Jesus came that He “…might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

Hostility. The word is echthra. It’s enmity. It’s treating someone like an enemy. It’s a hatred directed toward a foe.

Jesus brought together all different kinds of warring people to God through His death on the cross. Since He died, we die with Him and our hostility toward each other can die, too.

Who are you ticked at? What about that shouting match? Jesus came to kill the hostility. Jesus came to turn foes into friends.

Peace does not mean that peace happens automatically, even between sincere, godly believers. The Bible is realistic about this.

We recetnly read through I and II Corinthians as a church. That church at Corinth was full of conflict. Two faithful women in the church in Philippi had some sort of conflict. Even Paul, who wrote this, and a fellow missionary, Barnabas, had a sharp dispute that led them to part ways. Sometimes peace is not fully attainable. He wrote:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18 (ESV)

We have to…

Pursue what makes for peace… Romans 14:19 (ESV)

Let’s face it. Conflicts happen, even with other followers of Jesus. It takes two people in a home to reconcile with God and one another. You can’t reconcile by yourself.

But the way toward peace is for each person to have Jesus as Lord. To the extent that He is truly Lord of your life and my life, we will experience peace between us, because He does not fight with Himself. He kills hostility.

One of the marks of true conversion is when people who used to be deeply hostile towards one another begin to pursue peace with one another. That’s what happens when Jesus comes to live in each heart. He kills our selfishness and our pride.

That list of wrongs done against you that keep you ticked off? Jesus came to destroy that list and to kill the hostility.

Maybe you have a brother or a sister who’s married. And their spouse said something to your spouse that hurt. Now, you and your sibling have taken up an offense. Holiday gatherings are hard. You won’t let it go. They won’t let it go. And God is asking, “When are you going to let My Son end this war?”

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reconciled (5)

Being near to God is the foundation for being near to others. As our Peace-Maker...

Jesus makes two one.

Maybe Paul was concerned that the Jewish and Gentile wings of the church at Ephesus could split into factions. So, he reminds them about what Jesus as Peace-Maker has done.

Ephesians 2:14a says, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one…”

Jesus = peace. He makes people to be at peace with God and each other. It was important for Jews and Gentiles to remember this.

The Jewish people had the OT law. And they worked hard to keep it. They thought that keeping the religious rules made them right with God. They thought they were better than the Gentiles – than the people who didn’t have the OT.

Well, Jesus came because nobody could keep the rules good enough to be right with God. We all fall short. We all sin. He lived the perfect life we could never live and died on the cross to pay for all our wrongdoing. We are made right with God through Him. So, the need to keep the law was eliminated for both Jews and non-Jews.

So, the two groups can now be one because we both can approach God the same way. And that’s the basis of our peace. Jesus made peace. He takes Jews and non-Jews – two very different kinds of people – and makes them one. Jesus tears down the walls.

Ephesians 2:15b, says, “… that He might create in himself one new man in place of the two…”

Jesus is seeking to produce 1-ness, not 2-ness or 3-ness or 4-ness or 5-ness. Where in the ancient world could you find Jews and Gentiles thinking of themselves as blood brothers? Local Christian churches. 1+1=1. Jew + Greek (with Jesus as the glue) = 1! Husband + wife (with Jesus as the glue) = 1!

The early Christ-followers called themselves the third race. They didn’t see themselves as Jews; they didn’t see themselves as Gentiles. They were the third race. They were something new that God had made: the ekklesia, the new church.

In reconciling us to God, Jesus has reconciled all believers to one another. He’s not only reconciled God to us and us to God. He’s reconciled us to everyone else who follows Jesus.

And if Jesus can do that in the ancient world, He can do that in your home if you will let Him.

Some of you can remember a pastor saying at your wedding, “We are gathered here today to celebrate this one man and this one woman becoming one in Christ.” And that was your goal, your aim, your target. Oneness. But as the years have gone by, you’ve forgotten that goal. You’re not one. You’re two. And Jesus is reminding you now that He came to make you one. All over again. Will you let Him work?

Friday, October 08, 2010

Reconciled (4)

In Ephesus just like in the rest of the world, Jews and non-Jews didn’t mix. But in the church in Ephesus there were Jewish followers of Christ and Gentile followers of Christ gathered together in the same family of faith. We’re going to see how Jesus accomplished a stunning reconciliation then and how He can accomplish a stunning reconciliation now – in our homes.

As our Peace-maker Jesus brings us near.

We are people who were far from God. I remember as a kid singing an old song in church that had a line that said, “I’ve wandered far away from God…” Being far from God is not a good place to be. We’re away from good, from light, from hope, from help. We were Christ-less, friendless, hopeless, and Godless.

But look at Ephesians 2:13…

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

When Jesus died in our place for our sin, He made it possible for sinful people to be brought close to a holy God. Being brought near to God is one of the Old Testament ways of speaking about a person who has a saving knowledge of God. God is near to him, and he is near to God.

Blessed is the one You choose and bring near. Psalm 65:4

For me, it is good to be near God. Psalm 73:28

You can describe somebody who knows God, who has a saving relationship with God, this way: “God is near to him, to her. She is near to the Lord. He is near to God.” Ephesians 2:18…

18 For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

“Access” means “introduction.” If the right person (say… Jim Tressel or Michelle Obama) were to introduce you to a famous person, they would be giving you access (say… to the OSU sideline or to the White House).

So, here he says, we both have access. He’s saying that Jews and non-Jews alike have been introduced to God the Father by Jesus.

And this is the basis of reconciliation in the home for your fractured relationships.

We were all far from God. No one in your family deserves to be brought close. But if Jesus has brought you near to God – an imperfect, sinful person brought close to a perfect, holy God – then who are you to stay distant from her? Who are you to see yourself as better than him?

Maybe you can think back to the past when as a scared kid you used to crawl into your parent’s bed at night. Or maybe you can remember sitting close, snuggling while watching TV. But now, you don’t call them. Instead, because of hurts and disagreements, you’ve pulled away. Far away. And it hurts your mom or your dad. And God is here reminding you that He brought you close to Him. So, why not get past the hurts and do the same with your mom or your dad?

Reconciling your relationships begins when we reconcile to God.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Reconciled (3)

In Ephesians 2:16 we see the word “reconcile.”

Reconcile – apokatallass┼Ź – 1) to bring two or more people back into a friendly relationship with each other after a dispute or estrangement, to harmonize, or to make compatible; 2) to solve a dispute or end a quarrel.

So, how do we get there? That’s really not the most important question. The most important question is not “how,” but “Who”? Who can get us there to reconciliation? This is answered very, very clearly in these verses. Speaking of Jesus…

14 For He Himself is our peace…
15b … so making peace…
17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.


God wants us to focus on “Who” it is who can give us this reconciliation. Jesus is the only One who can give you true peace with God and true peace with others.

One pastor said that 50 years ago that would have been a relatively uncontroversial statement in a church in the United States. Today, it’s controversial. The politically correct police might ask, “Who are you to say that only Jesus can give peace? That’s narrow-minded and intolerant to say.”

Well, we’re not making this up. It’s not just our opinion. Our source of authority – the inerrant, inspired, infallible Word of God – is emphatic in saying, “For He Himself is our peace.” Jesus alone gives peace. His work alone accomplished peace. Jesus is the Peace-Maker.

Almost 1,000 years before, Isaiah said the same thing.

And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

Peace in the Old Testament is shalom. I t refers to our total well-being – spiritual, physical, emotional, temporal, and eternal. It even extends into the family. Jesus is the Prince of Peace for your family.

Jesus made the same claim about Himself.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. John 14:27 (ESV)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 (ESV)

Ephesians 2 is saying that Jesus and Jesus alone gives that kind of peace. Only Jesus can give you peace. Only Jesus can reconcile God to you and you to God. Only Jesus can reconcile you to others.

But we search for peace and reconciliation anywhere and everywhere but in Jesus. How are you trying to fix your family other than through Jesus? Is Jesus really your hope for peace?

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