Monday, February 28, 2011

How to talk to your kids about the pastor's message

From Joe Holland, a pastor in Virginia. Here are some great insights for parents in engaging the hearts of their kids with the Lord after a Sunday message.

***

They sit there next to you and their feet don’t even hit the floor.  You’re thinking, “What, if anything of this guy’s sermon is sinking into my kid’s head?”  And with that little thought you’ve already decided not to engage your child about the sermon.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Let me introduce you to the most important rule when talking to your kids about the sermon: They retain more than you think they do.  The second most important rule is like it: They understand more than you think they do.  

In the interest of these two truths I’m writing this brief guide on how to talk to your kids about a sermon.  I’m writing it both as a preacher and as a parent of four boys under the age of 8.  I’ve failed, succeeded, and failed some more at talking to my kids about Jesus.  Hopefully the tips you find below will help you as they’ve helped me.  

At the heart of the gospel is Jesus introducing us to his loving Father.  In worship we get to make a similar introduction—we get to introduce our kids to Jesus.  Don’t miss that opportunity.

8 Tips for Talking to your Kids about the Sermon

1. Remember the outline.  It doesn’t matter if you keep written notes or not.  Remember the gist of what is being taught.  If your pastor preaches for 40 minutes, then try to make a mental note of what you’ve covered at the 20 minute point.  Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get every point.  Get as many of the big ones as you can.

2. Know the one, main point.  Every passage and every sermon—no matter what your pastor says—has a main point.  Grab it when you see it go by and don’t let go.  And as a word of caution, every preacher has a bad day.  Sometimes the structure of the sermon looks like a piece of abstract art.  If so, do the best you can.  But don’t let the guy close in prayer without having a main point in your head. 

3. How is Jesus the hero?  Now that you have an outline and main point, make sure you have Jesus too.  How was Jesus the hero of the sermon?  Kids are incorrigibly self-centered—and so are a few adults.  Make sure you have a ton to say about Jesus, no matter what the passage or where the preacher went with it.  Without an emphasis on Jesus your little saints will grow up thinking that the Bible is all about them.
   
4. Engage your kids with open ended questions.  You know the outline and you can keep to the main point.  You know you’re going to talk a ton about Jesus.  Now engage your kids with any kind of question you can think of… except ones that can be answered, “yes” or “no”.  Here are some examples:

In the story questions:  “What would have thought if you were an Israelite soldier and saw big ol’ Goliath walking up to little David?”
Emotions questions:  “If you were blind, how would you feel if Jesus put his hands on your eyes and fixed them so they could see?”
Leading questions:  “The rich young ruler was wrong because he thought he could earn God’s favor.  Why is it silly to think we can earn God’s favor by doing enough good things?”
Action questions:  “What would you have done if Jesus had made a hurricane turn into a cool breeze right in front of you?”
Application questions:  “If Jesus has forgiven you, do you think you can forgive Tommy when he wings a Tonka truck at your head?”
Use your imagination questions:  You know your kids best.  Make up some questions.  

5. Make sure the gospel is clear.  Jesus died for sinners.  It’s very simple and can get very complex.  But no matter the passage, don’t you dare teach your kids moralism.  Tell them that Jesus has done everything necessary for them to know that God is overjoyed with them.  When you tell them to do something, feel something, or think something, show them how those things are motivated by God’s love and not by fear, guilt, or pride.
   
6. Be the first to pray and confess.  Talking to your kids about the sermon is as much letting them watch you learn from the sermon as it is teaching them about the sermon.  If the preacher is helping your congregation diagnose sin, show your kids how it affected you.  You could say, “You know, sometimes, daddy struggles with being angry.  And it’s then that I realize I really need Jesus.”  And when it comes time to pray, let them pray after you.  Model for them what it looks like for a Christian to talk to God.  

7. Chase rabbit trails.  Your kids will lead you down them.  Go with them.  You’ll find out a ton about how they think.  And you may just enjoy the unexpected stroll off the beaten path.

8. Remember the first two rules.  After all this, it may be you feel like it was a complete waste of time.  It’s at that point you must remember the first two rules:

They retain more than you think they do.
They understand more than you think they do.
 
And I promise you this, they will remember these times with you.  They will forget a ton.  But they won’t forget Sunday afternoons with daddy and mommy talking about Jesus.  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ditch It (3)

What does it mean to really follow Jesus? To ditch the American Dream for the Kingdom dream?

faith, not fear ... Luke 12:22, 29, 32

What if? What if?

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.

29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Through these verses, Jesus weaves His reason why givers need not be worriers. Did you see the reason? It’s because you have a Father. We need not worry because God is our Father!

Worry and fear are marks of a person who basically doesn’t think that God isn’t a Father who can be trusted. And that’s a slap in God’s face, “I can’t trust You.” Now, if you think God is unpredictable, vindictive, and uncaring, that’s understandable. But not trusting God is unthinkable if you think of God as Jesus described Him – the best Father ever.

Faith, not fear.

Thy Kingdom, not my kingdom...Luke 12:30-31

30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.
31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

In Matthew 6:33, verse 31 here reads this way: “Seek first His kingdom.” “Seek first” means a lot of things. But don’t miss this: one thing for sure it means is seek Him first with your finances. Jesus knew something about the Jewish principle of giving the firstfruits to God.

When harvest-time came, the ancient Jews would bring to the Temple or to the synagogue the first grapes, the first wheat, the first olives. Why? To support God’s work and to care for the poor. It was a way to demonstrate to God that He comes first – that He is priority.

Jesus is saying to seek God’s kingdom. And then all these things – the food, the clothes, the shelter, the things you need to make it in your culture – will be added to you.

Some of us have been praying more than ever for God to bail us out of tough economic times. We want God involved in our finances. Jesus is saying, “Here’s the way to get God involved. Seek Him first.”

Seek His kingdom with your leftovers and God says, “You’re tying My hands here when it comes to My personal activity in assisting you financially. But if you will seek Me first, then you need not worry and be driven by fear – even in tough economic times – because I will see to it (sometimes in miraculous ways) that your needs will be met. You’ll have whatever you need to do My will. And, after all, isn’t that really what matters most?”

What’s normal for the average Christian is to give out of the surplus to the church. And that way everybody still gets to live the American dream. But Jesus says, “It's more important to live the Kingdom dream.”

Are you sure you want to live the American Dream? Is that really the norm for the Christian?

I remember being on a mountain in Colorado. I was praying for CVC. And I had this leading, a nudge from the Spirit of God that said, “What would it take for CVC to be a part of starting new churches on every continent of the world?” It’s happened in Africa. It’s happening in the Ukraine. What’s next for us? We are praying right now about the next unreached people group God would have us focus on for the next decade. And in my journal I am asking God to allow us to give away $1,000,000 dollars to mission causes outside CVC. Last year we gave away over $300,000 dollars. I am proud of you for that. But for us to see transformed lives on every continent, it will require a massive laying aside of the America Dream.

What if you capped your level of living so you could increase your level of giving? What if…

This is better than the American Dream option. Why? You’re going to give an account. What is it going to be like when you see Jesus? A sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? Or holding your head up with confidence?

Thy Kingdom, not my kingdom

giving, not grabbing...Luke 12:33

33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.

Here at CVC, we talk a lot about generosity. We want to be a church that overflows with generosity. This is a giving church.

We talk about priority giving. “Seek first the kingdom” (Matthew 6:33). “Honor the Lord from the first of your wealth” (Proverbs 3:9). We write the check to the Lord first. I don’t want to give God leftovers.

Mortgage. Transportation. Taxes. Insurance. Food. Clothing. Utilities. Cell phone. Medical. Entertainment/recreation. Education. What does God’s kingdom get? Leftovers.

Our family? We have set up an automatic bank withdrawal with Key Bank. Every week, the money comes out of our account and goes to the church. Priority giving.

We talk about percentage giving. “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions... Bring the full tithe...” (Malachi 3:8, 10). A tithe is ten percent. A long time ago, I learned to give a dime out of every dollar to God. You say, “I can’t give ten percent!” Start somewhere. Start at 3% or 5% or 8%. When we updated our will we decided that when Maryanne and I die and if there’s anything left over, then Alan gets 30%, Ryan gets 30%, and Evan gets 30%. What about the other 10%? CVC gets it. Priority giving. Percentage giving.

And we talk about progressive giving. “Grow in grace” (II Peter 3:18). Shouldn’t we grow in the grace of love, the grace of joy, and the grace of peace? Of course. Why shouldn’t we grow in the grace of giving? Some of us have been giving 10% for years. Why not give 11% or 12% or 15% and beyond? Priority giving. Percentage giving. Progressive giving.

This is the way generous people think. And we all know that generous people are happy people.

The Christian rapper Lecrae says, “Anything you own that you can't give away actually owns you.”

Giving, not grabbing

heaven, not here...Luke 12:34

33b Provide yourselves with… a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.
34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Heaven, not here

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

ADVANCE! Praying for Your Pastor (and me!)

My friend, Randy Chestnut, Miami Valley Baptist Association Church Planting Strategist, posted on his blog some really kind words about a message I gave on Monday.

***
One of the highlights of the year for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio is our Annual Evangelism Conference at Cedarville University. This year, the conference was entitled "Momentum!" I just returned from the conference and it was excellent. I want to give my personal word of appreciation to all of the SCBO Resource Team Members for the great job.

This year's conference held several special blessings for me. One was to hear my friend, Rick Duncan preach. Rick is the Founding and Senior Pastor of Cuyahoga Valley Church (CVC) in Broadview Heights, OH, which is a suburb of Cleveland. Rick and his wife, Maryanne, started CVC with another couple in 1987. Today, CVC has five worship services every weekend with a combined attendance of 1,800. In addition to their congregation, CVC has sponsored several other church plants in the Greater Cleveland area, including the church Denise and I had a part in planting, Church of the Hills. Rick is an amazing communicator and faithful expositor of God's Word.

Rick's message was taken from Ephesians 6:19-20...

"...and (pray) also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak."

In Ephesians 6, Paul using the imagery of the Roman soldier's armor and the ancient battlefield to call us to preparation and action in Spiritual Warfare.

In the beginning of the message, Rick asked this very penetrating and convicting question, "It is possible for us, in Spiritual Warfare to be armed and NOT dangerous?" If we are going to be hell-emptying and Heaven-filling soldiers of Christ, we need to have a faithful group of folks praying for us. "Too many of us pastors, " said Rick, "have been neutralized and are no longer on the front lines in the Army of the Lord, advancing His Kingdom".

To storm the gates of Hell, and take ground back, pray that I...

... get God's Word, v.19a
... open my mouth, v.19a
... be more bold, v.19, 20
... spread good news, v.19b
... pay any price, v.20

As a soldiers of Christ, we want to be on the offensive, armed AND dangerous!

I would consider a great blessing if you would plead with the Father on my behalf, in asking Him to give me this holy boldness. Time is short. "The night is far gone and the day is at hand" (Romans 13:12).

Thanks, Pastor Rick!

***

And thank you, Randy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ditch It (2)

Some CVC'ers left service a few weeks back thinking, “I know that I ought to invest in the spiritual – to give more to God’s work in this world. But I’m worried. Will there be enough money at the end of the month?” You are traveling down the “what if?” road. “What if someone gets sick? What if the car breaks down? What if a filling falls out?”

That’s why Jesus gives us some words about worry.

A few weeks back during weekend services at CVC in the story about the guy who wanted to build bigger barns for all his stuff, Jesus was speaking to the affluent. But here, He is speaking to those who are not. Jesus spoke to the rich about their preoccupation with “getting ahead.” He speaks here to those who are anxious about “getting by.”

I want you to think about how radical these words are:

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.
23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!
25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?
27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.
30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.
31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old…
… with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.
34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Luke 12:22-34 (ESV)

I’ve been reading a book called Radical by David Platt.

I’m wondering if we as Christ followers in American churches have embraced values and ideas that are not only unbiblical but that actually contradict the gospel we claim to believe.

Platt encourages us to put ourselves in the shoes of the followers of Jesus in the first century. Here’s what they heard from Jesus, “You have to give up everything we have to follow Me. You have to love Me in a way that makes your closest relationships in this world look like hate. And I will tell you to sell your stuff and give to the poor. Want to follow me now?”

Today, when we hear words like these, we don’t want to believe it applies to us. We are afraid of what it might mean for our lives. 


Platt writes:

And this is where we need to pause. Because we are starting to redefine Christianity. We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with.

“A nice, middle-class, American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, He loves us just the way we are. A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, and who, for that matter, wants us to avoid danger altogether. A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream."

“But do you and I realize what we are doing? We are molding Jesus into our image. He is beginning to look a lot like us because, that is whom we are most comfortable with. And the danger now is that when we gather in our church buildings to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshiping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead we may be worshiping ourselves.”


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Prayer for the persecuted

Pray for Said Musa

From Tim Challies
02/20/11

On Sunday I often post a prayer here at the blog. Today I want to ask you to pray. You may have heard of Said Musa, a man imprisoned in Afghanistan and awaiting execution. His crime? He converted to Christianity from Islam. He needs our prayer.

Here is what Denny Burk posted yesterday. “Said Musa is married and the father of six young children. He has been a Christian for eight years. Compass Direct News reports:

In the two-page letter, a copy of which Compass received in late October, Musa addressed Obama as ‘brother’ and pleaded with the international community: ‘For [the] sake [of the] Lord Jesus Christ please pray for me and rescue me from this jail otherwise they will kill me because I know they [have] very very very cruel and hard hearts.’

Musa wrote of being sexually abused, beaten, mocked, spat on and deprived of sleep because of his faith in Jesus. He wrote that he would be willing to suffer for his faith in order to encourage and strengthen other Christians in their faith.

So why don’t you pray for our brother, that the Lord would spare his life. And if that is not the Lord’s will, that Said would be willing to face death bravely and with his faith intact.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Is it "going well" with your family?

2/19/2011 Loving God Journal

Learn

Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! Deuteronomy 5:29

Observe

These are the words of the Lord after the people of God responded to receiving the 10 Commandments through Moses. They said to Moses, "Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it" (Dt. 5:27).

Every spiritual leader must seek the Word of God to speak the Word of God. When that happens, then the people of God can have such an attitude, "We will hear and do it." May this be the norm at CVC! The bar has been set high for both leaders and people.

Now, note the Lord's response. It's emotional. "Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever" (Deuteronomy 5:29).

"Hear and do the Word of God" is the mindset that pleases God. It flows out of a reverence and respect of God - the fear of God.

And note the promise that accompanies this mindset. It will go well with them and with their descendants forever. "Go well" is a Hebrew word yatab. It means to "be good, be pleasing, be well, be glad, be well placed, be well for, be pleasing, be pleasing to."

I certainly want to claim this as we have welcomed our grandson Ethan into our family.

Value 

Be an example of hearing and doing the Word of God so it will go well with you and your family.

Express

Lord, You are a God who cares about the response of Your people. We matter to You. And You are not silent. May I be one of those people who get grace from You to hear and do all Your holy will. I have not always done so. Now, Lord, I claim the grace and mercy found in Jesus. May I experience the forgiveness for failing and the power of Your grace to hear and do more and more in the future. And, Lord, please may it go well with my sons, my daughter-in-law and my grandson. We are hopeless and helpless without You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ditch It (1)

Last week I had lunch with two people who have lived the American dream. Emery and Clara Lazslo. They are members of our church. Emery and Clara grew up in Hungary in Eastern Europe. It’s the dream of many, many people in Eastern Europe to come to America to pursue the American dream. And that’s exactly what they did.

Clara was a speech therapist who worked with disabled children. Emery has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in chemical engineering. When they came to America, he got a job as a research chemical engineer here in Cleveland at Pavco, Inc. They had a nice house in a suburb here in NE Ohio. Their lives were full with 5 kids and 5 grandchildren, and they were serving Christ. They started a Hungarian Church here in Cleveland. Friends and family members still in Hungary looked at Emery and Clara with a longing in their hearts because they wanted what the Lazlsos had. Living the American dream.

Is that your goal in life? What are some of your ideas of the American Dream?

There’s something good about the American dream if we’re talking about freedom and opportunity and justice. But if the American dream is an excuse for selfishness, indulgence, materialism, consumerism, greed, comfort and affluence then we need to ditch it!

A few weeks back, Pastor Chad said we will be audited by the God of the universe.

We have a Dilemma - we are on earth only a little while, we could die suddenly - and there are people in our home, town, city, nation and world that don’t know Jesus. There are unreached people who haven’t even been engaged yet! “What shall I do?”

We have a Decision to make – we can live a life of storing up for ourselves and “building bigger barns”, or we can start to use the resources God gives us in this life to try to help those who are hurting and to populate Heaven with more souls.

The decision we make reveals our true Desires in life – We will live to either accumulate the material or invest in the spiritual.

Our Desires will be weighed and evaluated upon our Death… we will be “Audited” we stand before God to give an account.

If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord – if you have a real relationship with Jesus – then, your salvation is settled.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Promise Keeper

2/16/2011 Loving God Journal

Learn

Do not contend with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as for the sole of the foot to tread on, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. Deuteronomy 2:5

Observe

Esau lost his birthright and his blessing to Jacob. Yet God promised him a land. And here God keep His promise even to one who is not part of the covenant with Abraham.

The ESV Study Bible says, "God has given land to Edom, Moab, and Ammon and forbids Israel to attempt taking that land, presumably because of the blood relationships through Esau and Lot. The point is God's ability to give and protect land, thus encouraging Israel to trust him."

God is a God who keeps His promises. We can trust Him. When He says, "I will never leave you," He means it. When He says, "You have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places," He means it.

If God kept His promise to Esau, how much more will He keep His promises to those children who have drawn near to Him through His Son, Jesus?

Value

Live in confidence and hope in God as a promise-keeping God.

Express

Lord God, You have plans for everyone and for every nation upon the earth. You direct. You orchestrate. You are always in control. You are sovereign and holy and justified in all You do. You keep Your promises to Your people and to all nations. Cleanse me, Lord, for ever doubting that You will work all Your holy will through me and through CVC. Show us what land to take and what land not to take. Today, let us live in light of Your promises. Let us live in hope and confidence. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Like Wildfire (5)

Recently at CVC we heard from someone who has decided to live life as a missionary and it's made a big difference in her life.  Her name is Lauren, and here is some Q & A I had with her as we were privileged to hear how the Lord has made a difference in her life as a missionary:

Rick:  What prompted you to want to go on a mission trip?

Lauren:  Back in August of 2005, I was vacationing in southern Florida and experienced Hurricane Katrina first hand as a level 1 hurricane. After I saw the destruction it did while in the Gulf, I signed up to go down and volunteer in Slidell with a group of other Ohio State students. I have always loved volunteering and serving others whenever I could, however I never went on a trip with God as my sponsor or my main reason for going. So in January of 2010 when I saw that CVC was forming a missions team to head to Slidell for a 5 year anniversary sort of thing I knew I definitely wanted to be apart of it.

Rick:  What obstacles came up to tempt you not to go?

Lauren:  Well since graduating college I have not found a permanent job yet so I started babysitting locally watching 2 families here and there. So I had plenty of time to go on mission and I already had the desire to go. The main obstacle that stood in my way was the application packet, which had somewhere between 10-20 pages in it. It included background checks, reference letters, essay questions, and wanted you to give all of your personal information. I mean, wasn’t it enough that I wanted to go and said that I would? My family and I have been going to this church for over 20 years; can’t I just get the green light to go?

Rick:  How did you push through those?

Lauren:  After praying about the trip, God pointed out to me that I spend hours on the computer week after week filling out job applications but yet here I am hesitant to fill out this application for a missions trip to serve Him. So I did everything that was required and went on this trip not knowing anyone else who had signed up.

Rick:  How has Christ changed your life?

Lauren:  While on the trip I was never called to verbally share the good news with anyone down there, but the fellowship and unity I had with my group was amazing. The biggest lesson I learned was that God has a plan for me, plans to prosper me and give me hope and a future. And that I need to stop trying to control my own life and stop listening to what the world tells me…get a job, move out of your parent’s house, etc. Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or wear, but seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all of these things will be given to you.” I fully trust that God has my best interest at hand and I have changed my perspective on my lifestyle. I constantly ask myself what it says in Galatians 1:10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” I now see myself as a babysitter cleverly disguised as a missionary. I look for opportunities to read Bible stories to the kids I watch, to rent Veggie Tales at the library, to tell them that God made them special and that He loves them. I believe that God has placed me into these families’ lives so that I may get the chance to plant seeds in the children I watch. And in addition to babysitting, I have become a more active member at CVC by volunteering and serving right here in the community.

Rick:  How would you challenge others?

Lauren:  Fill out the paperwork and go on a missions trip! Trust that God’s plan for you is better than your own and act on it. And overall believe that wherever you are in life, that’s exactly where God wants you to be to love and serve Him.

Rick:  Thanks, Lauren!

We’re heading to heaven and taking as many people with us as we can.

I know that nothing will jump-start your spiritual life like experiencing a short-term missions project. I urge you to participate in a short-term missions project ASAP! You’ll get more joy, more vision, and more closeness to God. It could very well be one of the most significant events of your life.

If you care, you’ll share. Have you completed your mission? Not if you’re still alive. If you’re still alive, your mission is not completed. There is somebody here, there and everywhere for you to reach.

Jesus once said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” If you’re not fishin’ you’re not followin’.

Some of you are seekers, just checking things out. You might be thinking, “I’m not even sure I buy this.” I hope you’ll go on to say, “But I’m intellectually honest enough to check it out.” Great. We are glad to have you on this journey. Some of you are new believers. I’m excited for you because you are going to get off to a good start in following Jesus. Some of you are lukewarm. You’d say, “I call myself a Christian, but I’m not really very close to God. And I’ve been really honestly living for my own plans and not God’s.” This is a good time for you to ask God to light up your life. Some of you are blazing brightly. You can go be even hotter for Jesus - even more on fire for God – and bring others along, too.

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been.”

Why not try to spend a little time asking the Lord for a vision – to show you who He wants you to reach and who is saying, “Come over and help us.”

Here is a prayer I put together that may help you in asking that...
"Father, I pray that You light a fire in me that will cause meto truly want to fulfill the purposes for which You made me. Give me the grace today to embrace that purpose, my mission to tell others. I want You to use me– anytime, any place, any way – here, there, and everywhere. I want You to use me to bring others to You so You can set them free and make them whole and take them home to be with You forever. I want to be a part of what You are doing in the world. I want You to light us up and spread the fire here, there and everywhere. Use me to spread Your love like wildfire in this world that so desperately needs You. In Jesus name, Amen."

Blessed to be a Blessing

Blessed to be a blessing: 9 tips for church planters...
  1. Find expressions of radical prayer. God loves it when we prove our dependency. Psalm 50:15
  2. Live the life you are inviting people to live. May your righteousness, faithfulness, and fruitfulness exceed your wildest dreams. Hebrews 12:14
  3. Claim the promises of God. Spend time in passages like Isaiah 40-66 and ask God to fulfill His promises to His people and gather glory to Himslef. Hebrews 11:6
  4. Make a commitment to be a church planting church. God's resources are mobilized when we exist for those beyond ourselves. Acts 13:1-3
  5. Seek to adopt an unreached people group. Consider all the mosasaurs about God's heart to reach the nations. Matthew 24:14
  6. Be committed to practical, relevant, excellent Bibke preaching. Find models to emulate and find trusted, loving people to evaluate each message. Colossians 1:28-29
  7. Get clarity on your uniqueness as a pastor and as a church. Celebrate and protect with a fierce commitment the unique DNA of your church. Ephesians 2:10
  8. Wake up each day and ask the Lord, "What would You have me be and do today to grow Your Church, particularly the church I am planting for Your glory?" Proverbs 3:5-6
  9. Tell stories about changed lives through your ministry. And remind people that it is their participation and giving that make it possible. Psalm 107:2

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Growing in the assurance of your salvation

Today, I had the opportunity to give the Lord's Supper to a young couple in their home. They have a 2 1/2 year old son. The husband is fighting a courageous battle with cancer. It was a real privilege for me to share some time with them.


Below is a prayer that I composed for my mom that I adapted for them. It is designed to help with accessing and enjoying an assurance of our salvation.
If you need to grow in your assurance, you might want to read and pray a paragraph or two each day. You might want to look up the verses and read them before praying. In so doing, you will gain a greater and greater assurance and confidence in Christ.

***

Prayers for the Assurance of Salvation

Lord Jesus, I honor You as the one and only Savior. You came into the world to save sinners. That means that you came to save me. I know that two things are true: 1) I am a great sinner, and 2) You are an even greater Savior. You grace is greater than all my sin.

Today, one more time, I put my faith and trust in You. When You died on the cross, You bore my sins in Your body on that tree, that I might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus, You paid it all. Sin had left a crimson stain, but You washed it white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).

***

I have asked You, Jesus, to come into my heart – to be my Savior and Lord. Your Word says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9). I have confessed and I do believe. Therefore, I do believe that I am saved. You said, Lord Jesus, that whoever comes to You will never be cast out (John 6:37). And that includes me. You will never cast me away.

You have caused me to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. I now have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading kept in Heaven for me. I am being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed (1 Peter 1:3-5). So, I rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8).

***

Lord Jesus, when the devil and his demons whisper their lies to me that would cause me to doubt my salvation, give me the grace to wear all the armor of God.

I wear the helmet of salvation for I am saved. I am justified – saved from the penalty of sin. I am sanctified – being saved from the power of sin. And I am glorified – will be saved from the presence of sin. I wear the breastplate of righteousness for You have made me righteous in Christ (II Corinthians 5:21). I wear the belt of truth and the truth is that everyone – including me – who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). I wear the shoes of the gospel of peace because I have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). I hold the shield of faith knowing that I am saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8, 9). I use the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, to claim the promises in the Bible regarding my salvation.

***

Jesus, I know that I am the apple of Your eye (Psalm 17:8). I know that You rejoice over me with gladness and exult over me with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). I am Your workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). I have great worth and value to You because Christ gave His life for me and imparted great value to me.

Since I have the Son, I have the life. Since I believe in the name of the Son of God, I know that I have eternal life (1 John 5:11-13). You have given me eternal life and I will never perish and no one can snatch me out of Your hand (John 10:28).

***
Thank You, Lord, that I passed from death to life (John 5:24). Thank You that I will not come into judgment (John 5:24). Thank You that my salvation does not depend on my works, but on Your mercy (Titus 3:5). Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul. Thank You, Lord, for making me whole. Thank You, Lord, for giving to me Your great salvation so rich and free.

You love the world – and that means me, too – so much that You gave Your only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). I look away from myself and unto You and know I am saved.

Like Wildfire (4)

When it comes to spreading the fire...

… we have two things to do. We have to do them both. It’s not an either/or deal.

1. … we send

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.   Acts 13:1-3 (ESV)

179 people prayed to receive Christ this past year and 96 people were baptized at CVC.

Right now, CVC is sponsoring 9 church plants (8 are active with 1 to begin public services this spring). Our church plants are engaging about 275 people in worship and community.

500+ individuals actively involved in missions

8000+ meals provided to homeless through Care On The Square (COTS)

516 units of blood donated at 2 CVC-sponsored American Red Cross Blood Drives.

Last fall, 707, CVC's young adult ministry, wanted to help provide loans to start businesses in third world countries to lift people out of poverty. The Reckoning invested an initial $1120.00 invested in 707’s Life Groups. They made stuff and had benefit concerts and turned that into $8540.68 in 12 weeks! And lives will change in Jesus’ name in the third world.

A young woman started coming on and off to CVC/707 based on conversations with a friend. She dropped in one weekday looking for someone to talk to, as she now found herself unmarried and pregnant, considering abortion. A CVC pastor made himself available and listened while she shared her story. Then he in turn shared his story, emphasizing how God uses life and His plan for her yet unborn baby. The woman left. This same young woman attended a Christmas Eve service this past December. Seeing the pastor she had spoken with earlier in the year, she went up to him and asked if he would like to hold her baby girl. Praise God for changed lives.

Recently, I received a letter from the missionary we support in Ghana, West Africa. His name is Frank Archer. He was thanking me for the funds we sent to put a roof on one of the 33 churches he’s started over the last 10 years:

Hi Pastor Rick, We started worshiping there [in the new church] after the completion of the roof. The membership has since increased from 38 to about 60 today to the glory of God. The pictures that show the people standing in front of the congregation were new converts at the time. There is a growth and the church is doing well. Frank

We send and…
 
2. … we go

A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.  Acts 16:9-10 (ESV)

One day we are going to stand before God and He’s going to do an audit of our lives and He’s going to judge if we really learned to love or if it was all just talk. This Bible says that one day Jesus is going to separate people into two groups: sheep and goats. And he’s going to say:

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.  Matthew 25:35-36, 40 (NIV)

When you give a cup of cold water to someone who is thirsty, when you give food to people who are hungry, when you give a shoe box of gifts, Jesus said, “It’s giving it to Me.”

Being a follower of Jesus means healing hurts and helping people

Look at the opportunities to go…

If you start living out your mission in the world, it’s going to cost you. It will cost you time and energy and effort and money and maybe even your privacy. But it will break you out of your self-centeredness and earn you eternal rewards.

I love how one pastor puts it. You’ve got four possible responses:  “Not me.” “Who? Me?” “Why me?”
“Send me.”

You will never regret saying “Send me” to God. Because God will use you to change someone’s life and destiny.

We send and we go.

This is not either-or, but both-and. Lots of people go on a vacation, but not a mission trip. Do you really want to stand before God and say, "Lord, thank you for sending me on that cruise, but not sending me on a mission trip."

We’re heading to heaven and taking as many people with us as we can!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Like Wildfire (3)

Being on mission to join with Jesus in setting captives free is the greatest privilege we've ever been given. We are making history.  And just where are we supposed to be there missionary witnesses?

We are all called to be missionaries...

… there (…in all Judea and Samaria – regionally)

I start at home to the people closest to me. I go to people nearby who are culturally different.

It’s not enough for us to care about the people who are around us. We must dare to reach beyond our own little world. Love demands that we move beyond our comfort zone to people with different backgrounds, different educations, different languages, different cultures. Jesus says…

… you will be My witnesses… in all Judea and Samaria…  Acts 1:8

Our mission has such eternal consequences – heaven and hell hang in the balance – that we must be willing to takes risks cross culturally to get the message out.

If you had the cure for AIDS, you’d be shouting it out. It would be criminal to keep it a secret. But we have something even more important than that. We know the way to eternal life.

We don’t just seek to reach people who are like us. We build bridges, not walls. We must dare to reach beyond our world.

When you read about Jesus, it’s pretty clear that Jesus cared for the underdog – the people in his world that others wanted to ignore:  The powerless. The poor. The left behind. The prisoners. The orphans. The widows. The aged. The mentally ill. The social outcasts. The sick.

If Jesus was physically walking on this earth today, He’d be caring for the people that most others turn their back on.

Now at CVC, we are fortunate because dozens and dozens of people are reaching beyond their own little world. They are not just telling their friends. They are reaching out to people who are different from themselves to show God’s love – to be Jesus with skin on to hurting and needy people.

These are people in our church who said, “You know what? I’m going to break out of the suburban bubble where every lawn is manicured and I’m going to do something like Jesus would do. I’m going to reach beyond my world and reach out to those who are overlooked by other people.”

Sometimes, we just need a little push to get going. Volunteering can be the thing that can get the momentum going for you if you’re stuck.

Being on mission to join with Jesus in setting captives free is the greatest privilege we've ever been given. We are making history. And just where are we supposed to be there missionary witnesses?
We are all called to be missionaries...

… everywhere (… and to the end of the earth – globally)

I start at home to the people closest to me. I go to people nearby who are culturally different. I go to those who everybody else wouldn't.

I dare to reach my world. I dare to reach beyond my world. I dare to reach the whole world. Why? God cares about the whole world. Jesus says…

… you will be My witnesses… to the end of the earth.  Acts 1:8 (ESV)

He says to His followers, “Go everywhere because I want the whole world to hear the good news.”

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…   Matthew 28:19a (NASB)

Today, the world is smaller than it’s ever been. With ships and planes and internet and email and websites, the world is smaller than ever. Through the web, you can communicate to all the world from your home, from your coffee shop, or from your office.

The truth is that you’re only just a few hours away from an international mission project. This year, we hope to sponsor trips to Ghana, El Salvador, and Ukraine. People all around the world are hungry for the good news.

life with no fear

2/8/2011 Loving God Journal

Learn

13And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today... 14The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:13a, 14a

Observe

The people of God had seen God perform 10 amazing miracles to deliver them from Egypt. Yet here they are still afraid that the Egyptian army would overtake and slaughter them.

So, Moses, the leader, gives them a message designed to increase their courage.

1) Fear not.
2) Stand firm.
3) See the salvation of the Lord. 
    a) He will work for you today.
    b) He will fight for you.
4) Be silent. 

I presume that this silence doesn't refer to crying out to the Lord for salvation, but that this silence refers to the complaining and expressing of fear that the people were doing. 

Crying out aloud for salvation is something that God encourages in many places in the Bible. Psalm 77:1-2a says, "I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord..." Crying aloud in this way shows dependence. And then when God rescues, He gets glory and everyone knows that our Father is indeed the Lord of heaven and earth.

But expressing fear and complaining are things that demonstrate that we do not believe our God is bigger than our problems. And how can God get glory from that?

So, the leader's job is to help people live in faith, not in fear.

(It's noteworthy that I read this today in light of the message I hope to deliver at CVC this coming weekend from Luke 12 about how we are not to worry about our finances, our provision.)

Question: Where am I most tempted to live in fear - not standing firm, not looking for the Lord's salvation, and not being quiet in His love?

Value

Make statements of faith, not fear, that will result in greater glory given to God.

Express

You, Lord are worthy of trust. You have never let Your people without protection and provision. You are the God who brought Your people out of slavery in Egypt by Your outstretched arm and mighty power. To lead them, You put a cloud before them by day and a pillar of fire before them by night. You parted the Red Sea. You caused that sea to swallow up their enemies. And You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. If You provided for and protected them, You will provide for and protect me, my family, and my church. Cleanse me of all Godless fear. Cleanse from living like I do not have a mighty God in heaven. Cleanse me from a life that detracts from the glory due Your name. Thank You so very much for the cleansing blood of Jesus that forgives and for the righteous life that covers me. Now, help me trust You to provide for my mom as she lives with us, for my sons as they grow into adulthood, and for my wife as we start to think more and more about our own elder years. Help me to not fear, to stand still, to see Your salvation, and to be silent when it comes to expressing my fears to a watching world. I want You to get much glory from my life. Today, I yield to You as my Provider. In Jesus' name, Amen.

One for Your City

Alan C. Duncan - One For Your City from DUNCAN CLAN PRODUCTIONS on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Like Wildfire (2)

Being on mission to join with Jesus in setting captives free is the greatest privilege we’ve ever been given. And just where are we supposed to be these missionary witnesses?

We are all called to be missionaries…

… here (…in Jerusalem – locally)

I start at home to the people close to me.

Jesus says…

… you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem…  Acts 1:8 (ESV)

I must share with those in my world. Where does your mission start? Right at home.

Now, why in the world should I take the time to do that with somebody else? Here’s why. It’s the reason your heart is still beating.

Think with me. Why doesn’t God take us to heaven the moment we become believers? We can worship in heaven. We can fellowship in heaven. We will be like Jesus in heaven. We will have a ministry of serving God in heaven. But what we can’t do is tell people who don’t have a hope of heaven how Jesus can get them there. What we can’t do is share the good news with people who don’t know it yet.

The only reason we are left on this earth after we have come to Christ is because God wants us to share the good news with people who haven’t yet come to Jesus.

Jesus Christ was stretched out on the cross dying a cruel death and He says, “This is how much I love you… and all the people you work with… and all your relatives… and all the people in your neighborhood. I love you this much!”

Every once in a while, people will say, “Rick, isn’t our church big enough?” And I think, “Well, part of me agrees with you because my job was a lot easier when we had 150 people coming here.” We don’t grow for our benefit. We grow because more people need Jesus.

“Aren’t we big enough?” Wrong question!

How can we help more people meet Jesus, be forgiven, be set free, become passionate followers of Christ?” Right question!

When we forget we are missionaries – when we fail to evangelize – we are saying to the world, “Hey! I’m in. Best of luck to you. Hope you make it!” But that’s not the spirit of this church.

I thank people here at CVCC. Some people are coming here on Saturday nights to worship at 5:30 even though it doesn’t feel as much like church to them because you want to make room for people on Sunday mornings who still need to be set free. Thank you. Some people are getting up early on Sundays to come at 8:15 or coming late at 11:30 to make room for people at 9:30. Thank you. Over 1500 adults and teens and over 300 children are at CVC on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings. Over 300 young adults are at 707 on Sunday nights. People are being reached for Christ. And you have sacrificed money and personal preferences to help all this happen. Thank you. This is a church on mission.

This year, we are exploring ways we can reach more people. Should we open up a satellite campus? We are praying about that.

Why do we do this? Aren’t we busy enough? We care because Jesus cares. We want to go to heaven and take as many people with us as we can.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Where is the love?

I am liking these lyrics from the Black Eyed Peas. They are asking a question more of us should ask.

The unique claim from Jesus is that He is the answer to that question. I John 4 tells us that God is love. And Jesus said, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). He also said in John 14, "if you have seen Me, You have seen the Father. If God is love, then Jesus is love. So, the answe to the question in the song is Jesus.

Our job? Live the Jesus life. Truly.

So many people blame religion for the lack of love. Including Christianity. And, sadly, lots of Christians don't live like Jesus and give the detractors if Jesus reason to blame religion.

Let's have relationship, not religion. Let's love by letting Him love through us. And let's, by grace through faith, prove That Jesus is really the answer to the Black Eyed Peas question.

Here's the third verse and chorus. Grerat question. Jesus is the answer.

I feel the weight of the world on my shoulder
As I'm gettin' older, y'all, people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin'
Selfishness got us followin' our wrong direction
Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinema
Yo', whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness in equality
Instead of spreading love we're spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading lives away from unity
That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' under
That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' down
There's no wonder why sometimes I'm feelin' under
Gotta keep my faith alive till love is found
Now ask yourself

Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?

Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love?

Sing wit me y'all:
One world, one world (We only got)
One world, one world (That's all we got)

A visit to Renew Communities in Berea

A few thoughts about Renew Communities and the Feb 6 Sunday morning informational gathering at Polaris Career Center:

This was the first time some Launch Team members had been at the location of Sunday gatherings.

The Polaris Career Center is behind the SW General Hospital and is, therefore, easily accessible from Bagley and is attractive and has lots of room for growth. 

The was energy, hope, and optimism in the building. Although, I did not get a number, there were lots of young children and young families in the building. 

Andy wanted everyone to get a feeling where everything is before their first preview service. They also wanted to see how long it would take to set up and tear down. (The custodial staff set up the stage and chairs for the church.)

Andy gave a short talk from Acts1: 
"Why do we think the gathering is important? We don't want the central gathering to be the most important thing we do, but it is still important.  Acts 1 says:

"'So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight' (Acts 1:6-9).

1) They come together.  We don't 'go' to church. We gather together. We ARE the church. 
2) They celebrate the resurrected Savior and His work in our lives. 
3) Jesus equips them. We want to be equipped to do what He's called us to do the other 6 days and 22 hours.
4) Jesus empowers them. 
5) Jesus sends them back out.

"This is what we hope to accomplish at our gatherings.

"After we start services, some will look at us and say, 'Now, they are a church.' No. The central gathering is important, but not the only point. We have to be 'in' the community.  We exist for the benefit of others. Nevertheless, we need to take the central gathering seriously."

Andy then asked his staff to share insights about their area.

Bethany Solyntjes - First Impressions - What will the guests see? Ultimately, parking lot attendants. 2 Greeters each Sunday, handing out programs and directing people who have kids to the children's area. 2 ushers in the main area helping people find a seat, pointing people to the coffee area. A Welcome/connections area for sign up for "the city," the communications data base for the church. 2 areas for people to hang out and eat. 2 people in the coffee area. We will have signage. Greeters will walk the people with kids to the kids area. 

Josh Landis - talked us through the preschool and children's area. He's creative and has lots of energy. The school trains people to serve children, so they have a very large and well-equipped children's area. He wants kids to experience the Bible, so he will have lots of hands-on creative activity. They have build dividers for the main room. They initially have programs set for Bed Babies through 4th grade. They are using a curriculum called "orange" that is designed to help learned be the primary disciplers of the children.

Chris Solyntjes - We will need 4-5 guys for set up. It will take 45-60 minutes top. Set up starts at 8:00. We want to plug and play. We want the launch to be a full band. But our goal is not to be perfect. Where does the trailer live each week? Back parking lot at CVC. We will remove the side tables in the large room to make sure the room is not cluttered. Renew has been given some curtains that they will use to make the room look less cluttered. They will have 2 flat screen TVs on stands. The TVs will make it less grand and epic and less focused on a center point so it's more intimate. 

Andy made children's invites and other invite flyers available. They aren't doing a big mailing. So, the guests must come because of personal invites. Andy said, "God is making me a lot more aware of surroundings" and then told a story about a lady he invited.

Andy then led everyone to break into groups to pray.  He said, "Pray about what is going to happen in this room. People may hear the gospel for the first time. Marriages may be saved. They may come here looking for friends, answers, renewal. God has blessed us with a really incredible space. Give thanks and pray that we are good stewards."

This walk-through was great. It's a best practice that I will encourage future church planters to follow. 

Andy's staff is energetic, visionary, and competent. 

I am excited about what God is going to do through Renew.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Why God sometimes delays His rescues

2/5/2011 Loving God Journal

Learn

1b "When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely. 2 Speak now in the hearing of the people, that they ask, every man of his neighbor and every woman of her neighbor, for silver and gold jewelry.” 3 And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh's servants and in the sight of the people. Exodus 11:1b-3

Observe

In this chapter, we are told that there is only one more plague to come. And we see here more reasons why God delayed the release of the people of Israel. 

1) Instead of merely allowing the people to go a short distance away to worship and serve the Lord, Pharaoh now would be motivated to "drive [them] away completely." (Although Pharaoh would change his mind, his decision to drive them away completely allowed for the people to leave Egypt with riches.)

2) As a result of the 9 previous plagues, the people of God were seen as people that God protected. So, the Egyptians favored them and showered them with riches before they left Egypt.

3) The delay allowed time for the leadership credibility of Moses increased even as the leadership credibility of Pharaoh decreased. The ESV Study Bible says, "The plague narratives show Moses continually maturing in his role as Israel's leader, as one who is called to act in light of the Lord's promises even though he does not know exactly how and when the Lord will bring Israel out of Egypt."

Bottom line: God has divine reasons we cannot fathom for His delays in rescuing a person, a family, and a people.

Value

Trust God when His deliverance is delayed. He works in ways we cannot see. Be observant throughout the process because He will reveal His reasons for the delay. He is gathering greater glory to Himself and is doing greater good for His people. What a God of power and love!

Express

Lord God Almighty, You are indeed the great Rescuer of Your people. Your delays are not Your denials. But You delay to gather up greater glory for Your self and greater good for Your people. Cleanse me of my lack of faith in Your perfect plan for my life and for the lives of those I love. Give me the gift of trusting You more even when it seems that You are slow to move in our behalf. Today, I give myself to Your will and Your plan. Thank You for loving me. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Like Wildfire (1)

To spread like wildfire = to spread or disseminate rapidly. “The virus spread like wildfire throughout the Internet.” “News spreads like wildfire when people are excited.”

My dream is that the good news about Jesus will spread like wildfire here in NE Ohio and around the world. And what if the fire started here? In your heart and mine?  If you’ve even wondered, “Is there a purpose for me?” then I might ask you, “Is your heart beating?” If your heart is still beating, then God has a purpose for your life.

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.  Acts 1:8 (ESV)

Look at that word witnesses. Jesus is not looking for defense attorneys. You don’t have to defend Jesus. And Jesus is not looking for salesmen. You don’t have to sell Jesus. What He’s looking for are witnesses. A witness is someone who just says what they’ve seen. “I saw this and I saw that. That’s all I know.” That’s what Jesus is looking for. He says, “I just want you to tell people what’s happened to you. Tell people what I’ve done in your life. Tell them about the difference I’ve made in your heart.”

Around here we say it this way:

I am a missionary cleverly disguised as a ________________.

Why does God want us to do be missionary witnesses? Because people need Jesus. People are hurting and wounded and enslaved.

And God is building a family of healed and whole and free people. He wants more and more people to be forgiven, to be His children, to love Him, to glorify Him, to spend eternity with Him. He wants people to be set free from addictions, from past hurts, from sin and selfishness and Satan. That’s why Jesus came.

God has chosen you and He’s chosen me to complete the mission of Jesus. He’s saying, “I want you to finish it!”

Maybe you’ve heard the story about Jesus returning to heaven after dying on the cross and rising again. An angel comes to Jesus and says, “OK, now what? Who’s going to fulfill the mission now that you’re here?” Jesus says, “I left my followers to carry on the mission.” And the angel says, “Your followers? They are so unreliable. What if they don’t get it done? What’s plan B?” And Jesus says, “There is no plan B.”

We’re it. Being on mission to join with Jesus in setting captives free is the greatest privilege we’ve ever been given. We are in on making history.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

God's sovereign rule over Egyptian leaders

2/2/2011 Loving God Journal

Learn

18The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So there were gnats on man and beast. 19Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said. Exodus 8:18-19

Observe

This is the first plague that the magicians of Egypt were not able to mimic in some way. So, they recognized that this plague was not a trick performed by Moses and Aaron. Instead, they saw it as being from "the finger of God." They saw it as supernatural. And to them, it gave credibility to the demands and claims of Moses and Aaron.

However, Pharaoh would not listen to them. What was evident to his magicians was not evident to them. Why not?

It's that last phrase in verse 19 that explains Pharaoh's blindness. "He would not listen to them, as the LORD had said" (Exodus 8:19b).

The Lord had promised Moses that Pharaoh would not respond so that the people remained in bondage. In other words, the Lord was the author of Pharaoh's spiritual blindness and the resulting continued enslavement of God's people. 

The Lord made sure Pharaoh would not listen and respond. Sound unfair? We may not like this, but who are we to question God's wisdom and ways?

Romans 9:14-18 says, "14What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.' 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills."

As Francis Chan writes in "Crazy Love," "When you get your own universe, you can make your own standards. When we disagree, let's not assume it's His reasoning that needs correction" (p. 34).

Value

Everyone will not respond even if a supernatural act of God screams that they should. I must stay faithful to my calling and trust that the unfolding of God's plan, even if God's people are hurting in the process, will result in His greatest glory and my highest good.

Express

You, Lord, are the God in the heavens who accomplishes all Your holy will. No one will thwart Your plan. All the kings of the earth accomplish Your will. (Even the current President of Egypt, clinging to his power, is unwittingly accomplishing Your plan.) Cleanse me of any doubt that You are in control. Cleanse of any fears and complaints about the plan that You are unfolding in my life and in the world. Thanks for the gospel of Jesus -the shed blood - that forgives my doubts and fears and whines. Help me see and trust in Your sovereignty. May my family, church, and community see You as big and ourselves as small. May we live in complete confidence that Your plan is perforce for Your glory and our good. I yield to Your kingship, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Jerry Rankin on reaching the unreached peoples and prayer

My notes of Jerry Rankin's message at the Desiring God Pastor's Conference. He spoke on Spiritual Warfare and Missions.

***

I find my sermons on prayer trite.

The vastness of lostness overwhelms our missions strategies. There is no church adequate to reach the 7,000 unreached people groups.

Let's not forget that God is moving in unprecedented ways. The last decade of the 20th century saw more advances in the gospel than the previous 200 years. God has done more in the last decade than in my lifetime.

God is using natural disasters, economic uncertainty, and political unrest to prepare hearts.

This mission is not without danger. The events in Egypt in these last days remind us of other events in the past. In one country, the US citizens were told, "All non-essential personnel should come home." The missionaries said, "We are not coming home. We are essential personnel. These are the time when people are most responsive. Besides, it's too cold at home."

I was at a prayer meeting in the old Soviet block, I heard someone pray, "Thank you for the 70 years of communist rule." What? The man explained, "God broke down the defenses of godlessness through communist rule."

Once in a region i asked, "How many people groups have been evangelized?" "So far, we have reached 23 people groups." "How many have yet to be engaged?" The regional leader didn't respond. When he looked up tears filled his eyes. "We can identify 300 people groups have never even heard the name. We have to decide which of these people groups will be deprived. By what criteria should people be deprived of hearing the good news of Jesus?"

The tsunami in Asia affected me more deeply than any other thing. Instantly, a quarter of a million people were swept into hell. Not because they rejected Jesus. But because we didn't get the message to them.

O Lord, stay Your hand. Do not allow such tragedy to get the gospel to every people.

One day there will be a remnant form every tribe gathered around the throne of God.

Give and pray and go. Although the SBC has 5,000 missionaries that is only one missionary for 1.6 million people. Is that all God would call out of our denomination?

Psalm 2:8 is often used to motivate us to pray. This wasn't a promise of redemption to the nations. It's saying that the Son will be the standard of all people. God the Father says to the Son, "Ask of Me. You will break them with the rod of iron." This Psalm is reminding us of the consequences to those who don't know Him.

Do we pray because prayer will stimulate a passive God?  Why would an Almighty, sovereign God make His salvation dependent on the prayers of His people? Isaiah 14:24, 46:11. 

I have seen an amazing display of God's providence. He didn't need Jerry Rankin, the IMB, SBC.

Revelation 7:9. One day there will be people from every tribe around the throne worshipping the Son.

He calls us to be aligned with His mission. The gospel will be preached and then the end will come. The knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth.

Why bother to pray? Can't God do this without our prayer? Matthew 7:7. Mark 11:23. John 16:23. I John 3:22. 

The SBC has been talkingnabout A Great Commission Resurgence. We ought to be doing more. This is quite a threat to churches and denominational structure. We need a revival and renewal and an outpouring of God's Spirit. But I ask, "Why would God pour out His revival in light of our disobedience?" 

Is it not God's will for people to know Him? Do we pray for God's will for our own selfish interests to prosper our local churches to the neglect of His global purposes?

It is a challenge to stay focused on the local and the global. If we don't take the gospel to the Muslims, who will? We have the words of eternal life.

We have allowed Satan to dupe us into a self-centered ministry. Satan is opposed to the spread of the gospel. He knows that once the people hear the gospel, his end will come. Could it be that Satan has duped us to applying the promise of God in a very self-centered way?

Will we plead and knock on behalf of the people groups of the world? 

We should be praying for the nations for God's will to be done. 

God has not called us to success and personal fulfillment but to obedience.

It's out of communion and relationship with God that we pray.

Jesus felt it necessary to spend time with the Father to keep aligned with God's will. 

Why pray for unreached people groups? So we would be burdened to be involved in reaching them.

Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers. Couldn't God raise up laborers? The first command was not to witness was to look. Remember the conversation with the woman at the well was to look. Until we are willing to look, we will never be motivated to go and reap the harvest.

One man asked me, "I have been praying for laborers? Why isn't God answering my prayer."  God is calling out the laborers but the laborers are not responding. Too many pastors are closed. We allow our hearts to be indifferent and callused. We focus on our needs and our ministries.

Luke 18. The persistent widow. Don't lose heart. "Will not God grant justice to His elect?" When God answers our prayer, where is the need for faith? Our God is not like an insensitive judge. God readily wants to meet our needs. What greater injustice is ther than for us to have the gospel of Jesus Christ while multitudes are deprived? The point of the parable is not how long we pray. We know God will respond. Faith is the victory. Believing the promises of His word is the point.

Ps 86:9. Relationship with God through prayer is far more important for His will being done than objectively responding to our requests.

Phil 4:6. The passage says nothing about answering the prayers. No, it's about a relationship with God.

I once was asked by my daughter what my life verse was for the year. Psalm 37:4. She asked, "Daddy, what are the desires of your heart?" I wanted to say to reach Asia. But let's get real. Lose weight and get more margin of my life. But that year went on, as I meditated on the verse, I began to see that whe we delight in the Lord, the desires of our heart becomes the Lord Himself. 

If it is God's will and if prayer brings us into intimacy with God so we want to do His will, what are the results?

In my computer the word "Unreached" was not in spell check. It was corrected with the word "unrelated." Those who are unreached are those who are unrelated to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. 

Why go? He is being deprived of the worship and praise that He deserves.

Prayer is what motivates us to remove the self-centered focus on ourselves. 

Isaiah heard the voice of God. He heard it in a personal way. He took the initiative. If You need someone go to people in darkness, "Here am I, send me." 

Why did Isaiah hear the heart of God? Isaiah had a worship experience. God had every right and claim on His life. I would be willing to go, but God has not called me. Do you have the same Bible that I have? Don't blame God for why you don't go.

Greg Livingstone once was given 5 minutes to give a testimony during the Iran hostage crisis. How many are praying for those 58 Americans to be set free? All raised hands. How many of you are praying for the 58,000,000 Iranians to be set free from darkness? 

One missionary who had to come home chided people for praying that God would bring them home.  He said, "We were praying that God would allow us to stay." We pray for safety and comfort. 


Less than 15 percent of pastors read the IMB magazine. One oastor said, "I knew if I ever opened those pages, I would be responsible for doing something about it."

One doctor left a thriving medical practice to go overseas. Peole asked, "Don't you know what you are giving up?" He said, "To sacrifice is to give up something of value. How could I consider it a sacrifice to go to India when Jesus considered it a privilege to go to Calvary for me."

When the Son of Man comes, will He find us faithful in praying and believing and not losing heart?

I am finding a wave of missionaries who are obsessed with the glory of God among the nations, not because they are begrudgingly going.

A young woman called to missions and who died on the field wrote to her pastor in Bakersfield, "Pastor, if you are reading this, I am not coming home. No regrets. His glory is my reward. His glory is my reward." 

That's what will motivate us to reach the nations. It comes only in a prayer relationship with God until His passion is ours.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Joel Beeke on Family Worship

Joel Beeke on Family Prayer and worship

Joshua 24:14-24
14“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” 16Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods, 17for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. 18And the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.” 19But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive 
your transgressions or your sins. 20If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” 21And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD.” 22Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.” 24And the people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey."

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
4“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.[16] 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

No doubt just as we fall short in personal worship and prayer, we fall short in family worship and prayer. So, this message is not to induce guilt, but godly motivation.

When it comes to family worship, it is important to engage your children in conversation. I once was asked to preach on family worship. I studied the Scottish reformers and was blown away. I had to go to my three year old, "Please forgive daddy, but I have not been leading family worship the way I ought."

I had to thank my dad for Sunday night family worship. He read Pilgrim's Progress. Family worship time is the most important things I do in my life. It doesn't always go perfect or well. But it is critical to do this.

Rick Husband was an astronaut and commander of the Challenger. Rick made 36 devotionals, by video, before he left on the Columbia. There were 18 for his daughter and 18 for his son, one for each day he was to be gone. So each day his daughter and son had their own "devotion with Dad" by video. What treasures they must be to his children. He thought, "I'm going to be gone for 18 days but I did not want to go for 18 days without leading family worship."

We must seek our families to be little churches for they serve as a backbone of the visible church.  Family worship is the backbone of the nation.

1) The duty of family worship.

Our God is a family God, a Triune God. He has an inter-Trinitarian relationship. He deals with homes and family through the principles of covenant relationship. Genesis 18 In the NT we see whole families converted together. Family religion 

Joshua 24:15. We will worship the Lord. Joshua enforces the service of God in his family. Joshua is going to do what He wants every other household to do. He says he will worship the Lord. He is over 100 here.  His leadership will soon be over. He's going to die. We will (future tense) serve the Lord. He knows his family will be swimming against the stream. He instilled it there. 

See Joshua 24:31. Most of the nation followed his example for at least one generation. The pele are worshipping God daily in our families. We will seek Him and worship Him. We will reinforce His principles in our family.

Families are impacted by the fidelity or faithlessness of the family head.

2) What are the ingredients of family worship?

A. Daily instruction in the word of God. Instructing our children about what we just read. Q and A about sacred truth. Diligently converse about the truths of scripture just like we engage with daily activities when we rise up, lie down, 

B. Daily prayer to the throne of God. Pray without ceasing implies praying with your family. We do everything to the glory of God. The food we eat must be prayed for. Jeremiah 10:25 says God will pour out His fury on families who will not worship. A family without prayer is like a house without a roof.

C. Daily singing the praise of God. You'd hear singing from the tents in ancient Israel. Singing songs and hymns, and spiritual songs. Colossians 3:15. We must implement and teach our families 

Jesus is worthy of family worship. Your conscience affirms it as your duty.

Your first congregation is your family.  Your example in worship is crucial.  You are their prophet and priest and king. 

3) How do you implement family worship?

Let's avoid an idealistic and a minimalistic approach.

It requires some preparation. Have your Bible ready. Have some aids ready. Choose some Psalms and hymns to sing. 

We move to a room with chairs. Expect everyone to be there as much as possible.

Aim at brevity. 10 minutes in the morning and 20 in the evening.

Don't indulge excuses to avoid family worship. If Jesus wasn't too tired to die for you, you should not be too tired to live for Him. What if you lost your temper 20 minutes before family worship? Confess it and ask them to forgive you.

Lead with a firm fatherly hand and a soft penitent heart. Talk naturally and yet reverently to your children. Expect great things from God.

Read the scriptures.  Have a plan. Eventually you want to bring them through the whole Bible. The whole Bible makes a whole Christian.

Account for special occasions. For example, before going on a vacation, read Psalm 91. Before celebrating communion, read Psalm 51.

Involve all the kids in reading the Bible. Use different versions and different study Bibles. Teach them to read with expression. It's a breathing book, so read it with expression.

When it comes to Biblical instruction, be plain in meaning. Aim your questions at each child according to the age. Encourage family dialogue. It's good to have a commentary or two. 

Be pure in doctrine. Aim for simplicity and soundness together.

Share experiences. Do you know what this verse means to your dad? The Bible helps us in times of need. Share positive things from church history. Sermons are to be talked about after Sundays.

Be affectionate in manner. Say something like, "My son, I am going to give you wisdom and understanding." We need to be a father friend to them. One on one knee and one on the other. There is no other way to live than to love the Lord. Convey to them the whole counsel of the Lord.

Joel Beeke's dad always prayed, "Lord, I can't miss any of the children, any of the grandchildren, any of the great grandchildren in heaven. Bring them all home."

Require attention. Never allow slouchy behavior. Phone calls interruptions? No way. Our audience with God is more impotent than

Be short in praying. 3-5 minutes when they are little. Be simple without being shallow. 5-7 minutes is enough when they are teens.

Be direct. Ask for mercy. Spread their needs out one by one before God. Friends in need? Test? Health? I want to know your needs I want to pray fro you. Let's pray. Dad will be there to pray for me. 

Be varied in your prayers as well. ACTS. Model it.  In prayer, bring in the church people, the sick ones. 

Be a trainer. Let them pray the closing prayer. At 3, whisper a few words into their ears. Then when they are 4, they can 

Sing doctrinally pure songs. The psalms were originally for singing.  Teach them to sing heartily. Colossians 3:23. What if my boys won't sing? No singing, no food. 

When you fall on your knees with your wife at night, pray for the fruit of family worship. 

4) How do you handle the objections to family worship?

No time? Time was given to you to prepare for eternity and to prepare your children for eternity.

Can't be together? Make adjustments.

Our family is too small? When two or three are together, you can do this.

Our family is too diverse? 

Not good at leading family worship? Get books that teach how. Don Whitney has one. Joel Beeke has one.  The greater problem is not ability but commitment.

5) What are the motivations for family worship?

A) The eternal destiny of your loved ones. There is always something artificial about church and school in the minds of a teen. But if they see reality in your life and home, they will most likely respond. You want a strong church, train your church in family worship. you are ushering your children into the very presence of God.

B) The satisfaction of a good conscience. Samuel Bolton said, "Dear children, I am breakfasting with you this morning and I will sup with the Lord Jesus tonight. I have taught you and prayed with you. Don't one of you dare to meet me on the wrong side of Jesus Christ on the great day." 

C) Assistance in child-rearing. This makes them more open to speak about things. Family worship sets the pattern. It gives you open communication.

D) The shortness of time. What is our life? It's a vapor. They will grow and be gone.

6) What if I have failed in the past in family worship?

Begin today. Don't beat yourself up. Help your kids to do differently. Begin with your grandchildren. If you've never done it before, fly at once to the throne of grace. "I've been lukewarm, but we are going to try again."

John Paton served as a missionary in the South Pacific. His father was an amazing influence on his life. One scene best captures the depth of love between John and his father, and the power of the impact on John's life of uncompromising courage and purity. The time came for the young Paton to leave home and go to Glasgow to attend divinity school and become a city missionary in his early twenties. From his hometown of Torthorwald to the train station at Kilmarnock was a 40-mile walk. Forty years later, Paton wrote, 

"My dear father walked with me the first six miles of the way. His counsels and tears and heavenly conversation on that parting journey are fresh in my heart as if it had been but yesterday; and tears are on my cheeks as freely now as then, whenever memory steals me away to the scene. For the last half mile or so we walked on together in almost unbroken silence - my father, as was often his custom, carrying hat in hand, while his long flowing yellow hair (then yellow, but in later years white as snow) streamed like a girl's down his shoulders. His lips kept moving in silent prayers for me; and his tears fell fast when our eyes met each other in looks for which all speech was vain! We halted on reaching the appointed parting place; he grasped my hand firmly for a minute in silence, and then solemnly and affectionately said: "God bless you, my son! Your father's God prosper you, and keep you from all evil! 

Unable to say more, his lips kept moving in silent prayer; in tears we embraced, and parted. I ran off as fast as I could; and, when about to turn a corner in the road where he would lose sight of me, I looked back and saw him still standing with head uncovered where I had left him - gazing after me. Waving my hat in adieu, I rounded the corner and out of sight in instant. But my heart was too full and sore to carry me further, so I darted into the side of the road and wept for time. Then, rising up cautiously, I climbed the dike to see if he yet stood where I had left him; and just at that moment I caught a glimpse of him climbing the dike and looking out for me! He did not see me, and after he gazed eagerly in my direction for a while he got down, set his face toward home, and began to return - his head still uncovered, and his heart, I felt sure, still rising in prayers for me. I watched through blinding tears, till his form faded from my gaze; and then, hastening on my way, vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonor such a father and mother as he had given me." (pp. 25-26) 

John Piper once wrote, "The tribute Paton pays to his godly father is, by itself, worth the price of his Autobiography, which is still in print.  It filled me with such longing to be a father like this.

"There was a 'closet' where his father would go for prayer as a rule after each meal. The eleven children knew it and they reverenced the spot and learned something profound about God. The impact on John Paton was immense.

"'Though everything else in religion were by some unthinkable catastrophe to be swept out of memory, were blotted from my understanding, my soul would wander back to those early scenes, and shut itself up once again in that Sanctuary Closet, and, hearing still the echoes of those cries to God, would hurl back all doubt with the victorious appeal, "He walked with God, why may not I?" (Autobiography, p. 8)

"'How much my father's prayers at this time impressed me I can never explain, nor could any stranger understand. When, on his knees and all of us kneeling around him in Family Worship, he poured out his whole soul with tears for the conversion of the Heathen world to the service of Jesus, and for every personal and domestic need, we all felt as if in the presence of the living Savior, and learned to know and love him as our Divine friend." (Autobiography, p. 21)

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